Leaders & Staff: Directors & Associates

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Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 69 years ago at the age of eight. His travels have taken him to all the continents, with his areas of concentration being Texas, Arizona, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. He is the founder and compiler for 50 years of the record-breaking Freeport Christmas Bird Count, and served a term as president of the Texas Ornithological Society. Birds and natural history have been a major focus throughout his life. He derives great pleasure from seeing and hearing birds,...


David Ascanio

David Ascanio, a Venezuelan birder and naturalist, has spent over 35 years guiding birding tours throughout his native country, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, the Amazon River, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, Cuba, the Orinoco River, Costa Rica, Chile, and Panama. He is especially interested in bird vocalizations and has a private library containing sounds of more than 70% of all the birds of Venezuela. David combines superb birding skills...


Steve Hilty

Steve Hilty is the senior author of A Guide to the Birds of Colombia, and author of Birds of Venezuela, both by Princeton University Press, as well as the popular Birds of Tropical America, A watcher's introduction to behavior, breeding and diversity. He has also written a number of scientific papers on birds and plants, has described two species of birds new to science in Venezuela, and another, with a team of scientists, in Colombia. He also wrote the text and species accounts for...


Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an author, artist, teacher, traveler, and naturalist who has focused on birds since the age of six—earning him the odd distinction of having received the American Birding Association's lifetime achievement award twice, in 1992 and again in 2008. Kenn is a field editor for Audubon magazine and a regular contributor to every major birding magazine. He is editor of the popular Kaufman Field Guides series, which includes volumes on North American birds (both English and ...


Barry Lyon

Barry Lyon's passion for the outdoors and birding has its roots in his childhood in southern California. During his teenage years, he attended several VENT/ABA youth birding camps, which ultimately led to his future involvement with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. He holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona at Tucson where he studied history and political science, with an emphasis on environment and development politics. Barry joined the VENT team as a tour leader in 1995 and embarked on a tr...


Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field identification, and a serious addiction to migration and nocturnal birding. His travels have taken him throughout North and Central America and beyond. At home in Cape May, Michael serves as an Associate Naturalist with Cape May Bird Observatory for whom he conducts numerous workshops, and, for many years, conducted ...


Robert Ridgely

Robert S. Ridgely has made an enormous contribution to Neotropical ornithology. A prolific author and researcher, he is the author, with John Gwynne, of A Guide to the Birds of Panama, still one of the finest field guides ever published (and one of the first, way back in 1976). Since then he has traveled virtually everywhere in South America and has become recognized as one of the top experts on its birds.  In the early 1980s, he and his friend Guy Tudor began the monumental task of prod...


Bob Sundstrom

Bob Sundstrom has led VENT tours since 1989 to many destinations throughout North America, as well as Hawaii, Mexico, Belize, Trinidad & Tobago, Japan, Turkey, Iceland, Papua New Guinea, the Southwest Pacific, Antarctica, the Bering Sea, and the Galapagos. When not on tour, Bob keeps busy as lead writer for the public radio program BirdNote, heard on over 200 radio stations nationwide (visit www.birdnote.org). With a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Washington, Bob enjoys ...


Andrew Whittaker

Andrew Whittaker, a senior member of the VENT staff, has led VENT tours since 1993 throughout Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, Europe, and Antarctica. An avid birder from an early age (thanks to his father), he later became a licensed bander/ringer. Andy immensely enjoys sharing his fascination and deep knowledge of birds, animals, and all aspects of nature in a really fun way. Since 1982 Andy has worked on birds around the world, studying migration at bi...


David Wolf

David Wolf is a senior member of the VENT staff and one of our most experienced tour leaders. After birding the U.S. and Mexico for over a decade, an interest in the wildlife of Africa led him to East Africa in 1975, where he spent over a year studying the birds and other wildlife of the African continent. Soon after his return to Texas he began leading Rockport Wildlife Weekends for VENT, at that time a new company, and he hasn't stopped leading tours since. In addition to Africa, David has ...


Louise Zemaitis

Louise Zemaitis is an artist and naturalist living in Cape May, New Jersey where she is a popular field trip leader teaching birding workshops as an Associate Naturalist with New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory. She also enjoys leading birding groups and lecturing at birding festivals and is known for her enthusiasm for all natural history subjects. Louise and her husband, Michael O'Brien, have been guiding young birders at birding events and conferences for many years. In addition...


Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in North and Central America, but his travels have taken him throughout much of the world, including such exotic locales as Japan, Russia, Madagascar, Africa, and New Zealand. Barry is a longtime member of the New Mexico Bird Records Committee, and served on the Texas Bird Records Committee for 12 years. He has coauthored three books: Birds of the Trans-Pecos, A Birder's Guide to the Rio Grande Valley, and B...


Kevin Zimmer

Kevin Zimmer has authored three books and numerous papers dealing with field identification and bird-finding in North America. His book, Birding in the American West: A Handbook, deals with finding and identifying birds in the western United States. Living in Alaska contributed to his affection for the Far North, where he has anchored VENT's tour program since 1986. For the past 30 years he has concentrated his attention on the Neotropics, particularly on Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and...