Virginia Tech Graduate Student Co-organizer of #BlackBirdersWeek

This image shows a drawing of a young Black woman with a big smile holding a pair of binoculars. Behind her is tropical vegetation and a green bird with a red throat.
This drawing by artist Casey Girard was created for and given to Amber Wendler during Black Birders Week.

Amber Wendler, a biological sciences Ph.D. student studying the behavior of tropical birds, was one of the organizers of the May 31-June 6 social media movement #BlacksBirdersWeek.

Spurred by a May 25 Central Park incident in which a Black birdwatcher was reported to the police as threatening violence, #BlackBirdersWeek was organized “to increase the visibility and amplify the voices of Black birders and nature enthusiasts and to address systemic racism and the barriers Black people face to participating in outdoor activities,” Wendler said.

Wendler, who took Communicating Science (GRAD 5144) spring semester, also participated in the two-day ComSciCon-VA Tech 2020 events held February 27-28. She said that she decided after ComSciCon to start a Twitter account  (https://twitter.com/AmberWendler) and that through Twitter she’s been able to “connect with a lot of incredible scientists.”

Some of the incredible scientists Wendler met were the founders of the   BlackAFinSTEM collective, a connection that led her to help organize the events that made up Black Birders Week.

“Across some 9 hours of livestream discussion, thousands of questions, and 50,000 viewers, themes ranged from weighty to whimsical—from personal safety to favorite bird song mnemonics,” the June 2020 issue of Cornell Lab eNews, a publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reported about Black Birders Week. “Most importantly, the discussions aired important ideas worth the attention of all birders.” (If you follow that eNews link, you’ll find a photo of Wendler in a carousel of Black Birders Week cofounders.)

This photo shows the head and shoulders of a young Black woman with long hair holding a pair of binoculars. Behind her is green grass and a forest edge.
Ambler Wendler, a co-organizer of Black Birders Week, with her trusty binoculars. Photo courtesy of Amber Wendler.

#BlackBirdersWeek received extensive media coverage—and Wendler did as well.

“I’ve been mentioned in a few news articles and featured in an article by Backpacker Magazine,” said Wendler. “I’m still in shock that they wanted to feature me and grateful for this opportunity to speak out.”

Wendler has appeared in an Earth Touch News Network story, a story in Chicago’s WTTW News, a post on Integrative and Comparative Biology (a blog affiliated with the Journal of Integrative and Comparative Biology), the Cornell Lab eNews story, and others.

“Increasing the visibility of Black people in nature is important,” she said in her Backpacker Magazine interview. “It’s important for Black kids to see other people who look like them and know they belong.”

Wendler, along with some of her graduate student colleagues, will speak at our next Science on Tap, 5:30 p.m. on July 23, about the experience of being Black in STEM fields. Closer to the date, you’ll be able to find information about joining the Zoom event at the Science on Tap Facebook page.

Thanks, Amber, for your communication, research, and advocacy!

This image shows a drawing of a black bird perched on a stick and a list of events that were part of Black Birders Week.
Some of the many events organized for Black Birders Week.
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