Amber Wendler, a biological sciences Ph.D. student in the College of Science studying the behavior of tropical birds in the lab of professor Ignacio Moore, was one of the organizers of #BlackBirdersWeek, a social media movement that took place from May 31 to June 6.

Spurred by a May 25 Central Park incident in which a Black birdwatcher was falsely reported to the police as threatening violence by a white woman, #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) this past spring semester, also participated in ComSciCon-VA Tech 2020, a two-day science communication event held Feb. 27-28 that was hosted by the Center for Communicating Science housed in the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment (ISCE) and supported by the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

Wendler said that she decided to start her own Twitter account after ComSciCon, and that 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.

The official schedule for #BlackBirdersWeek, an event that took place from May 31 to June 6.
The official schedule for #BlackBirdersWeek.

“Across some nine 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,” read the June 2020 issue of Cornell Lab eNews, a publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Most importantly, the discussions aired important ideas worth the attention of all birders.”

Since the social movement kicked off, #BlackBirdersWeek has received extensive media coverage — as has Wendler. “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 also 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), a 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.”

— Written by Carrie Kroehler