Leaders & Staff: Tour Leaders

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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...


Chris Rogers

BirdNote Board Member, Chris Rogers, is CEO and Founding Partner of Point32, a Seattle-based project management firm that helps non-profits execute capital improvement planning and building projects. He was formerly the Director of Capital Projects for the Seattle Art Museum where he oversaw the development of the Olympic Sculpture Park, and prior to that oversaw land conservation transactions for the Trust for Public Land. His interests include international travel, birding, beekeeping, and ...


Brad Schram

Brad Schram became fascinated with birds as a child in the mountains of California, the start of an enthusiasm that has modified and enriched his life. He has birded on all the continents and scores of the world's oceanic islands. Since his early retirement from the business world in 1996, he has led birding tours in much of the American West, as well as Alaska, Antarctica and the subantarctic islands, Hawaii, Iceland-East Greenland, Kenya, and Trinidad and Tobago. While serving as b...


Kaz Shinoda

Kaz Shinoda has been integrally involved in the logistics and planning of VENT's Japan tours. He was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1957. From age 11 to 14 he lived in South Africa with his family and often went on safari where he learned about the fascinating world of wildlife. He later became a birdwatcher and has now been a keen birder for nearly 20 years. Kaz graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo, and then taught English to high school students for more than two decades before dedicating...


Raj Singh

Raj Singh, born in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, is a distinguished ornithologist, fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, and inveterate world traveler. His first passion in life is wildlife conservation, and his knowledge of natural history is unsurpassed. He also has a fascination with India's history, culture, and cuisine. A descendant of India's royal Kshartriya family from Bharatpur, Raj is the author of Bird and Wildlife Sanctuaries of India, Nepal and Bhutan, and Mammals o...


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 ...


Scott Sutcliffe

Scott Sutcliffe is Director of Annual Fund and Stewardship at the Cornell Lab. He's been a birder since the age of 6 when his grandfather introduced him to Cornell through a gift of Songbirds of North America, an early recording from the Cornell Library of Natural Sounds. Scott received a BS from Cornell in 1975 and an MS from the University of New Hampshire in 1980, both in wildlife ecology. Upon graduation, Scott taught 5th grade science for a year, then directed the N.H. Loon Preservation ...


Bal√°zs Szigeti

Balázs Szigeti is a dedicated birdwatcher and the director of Ecotours Wildlife Holidays Ltd. Based in Budapest, he leads tours to most of Eastern Europe and Mongolia. Balázs speaks perfect English, has a great sense of humor, and has traveled widely in Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Americas. He is a gifted birdwatcher able to imitate many European bird calls…even a nightjar…no mean feat! Balázs is also a keen wildlife photographer.


Doris Valencia

Doris Valencia, a naturalist born in Cuzco, Peru, began her study of the Manu wilderness at a young age. She has served as a volunteer park ranger in Manu National Park, and has been working as a naturalist tour guide for about twelve years. She is an avid student of the flora and fauna of Manu and has a special interest in birds. Doris is an excellent birder and leads birding groups throughout Peru including Paracas National Marine Reserve, Bajuaha-Sonene National Park, Tambopata-Candam...


Machiel Valkenburg

Machiel Valkenburg was born in 1982 in a southern province in the Netherlands where, encouraged by his parents, he began birding at an early age. During his teens he studied landscape ecology and began performing bird surveys with the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology. During this period he started traveling outside of Holland, first to Greece, Hungary, Romania, Scotland, and Morocco. Later, his birding travels took him extensively outside of Europe into Western Africa and further east to Ru...


Marco Valtriani

Marco Valtriani holds a degree in biology with an ornithology major from the University Pisa; his thesis was on the ecology of the Dunlin in the Mediterranean basin. A passionate hiker, birder, and field researcher, Marco has spent years exploring wild areas around the world, from France to Nepal, Syria, and Venezuela. He is a licensed private guide and tour planner, creating and leading itineraries for international conservation organizations, schools, and private travelers. Marco specialize...


Santiago Villa

Santiago Villa has operated his own birding tour company, Spainbirds Nature Tours, since 1999. He has also led tours for some of the well-known UK tour companies, as well the American Birding Association and several RSPB local groups. Santi has participated as an ecotourism expert at meetings and conferences in different localities of Spain such as Madrid, Cádiz, Trujillo, Monfragüe, and Doñana, as well as Lisbon (Portugal). Santi has guided tours in Chile, Argentina, Ecuad...


Milan Vogrin

Milan Vogrin is an overall naturalist and bird and reptile lover with a great knowledge of the fauna and flora of his homeland, Slovenia, and neighboring countries. He has a degree in ecology, specializing in birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Milan has led and successfully finished more than 30 ecology projects in Slovenia. He is the author and co-author of more than 500 articles in various scientific journals at home and abroad, as well as in popular journals. He has been a professional advis...


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 ...


Mimi Wolf

Mimi Wolf is an accomplished birder, artist, horse breeder, and mother who lives in Nacogdoches, Texas. She has illustrated a number of bird books, including Steve Hilty's Birds of Tropical America and Roland Wauer's A Birder's West Indies, and her pen-and-ink sketches have appeared in many other publications. She has also exhibited her paintings, watercolors, prints, and other art in numerous shows. She is especially proud of her home-raised Supreme Champion Pinto Arabian stallion, Oshquah, ...


Paul Woodruff

Paul Woodruff is an experienced guide to the intellectual landscape of ancient Greece. He has published translations of works by the philosopher Plato, the historian Thucydides, and the playwrights Sophocles and Euripides. He has written three books that present ancient Greek ideas for modern use—Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (2001), First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea (2005), and The Ajax Dilemma: Justice and Fairness in Rewards. His latest manuscript, on educati...


Rick Wright

Rick Wright, a native of southeast Nebraska, studied French, German, philosophy, and life sciences at the University of Nebraska, where he worked in the bird collections of the State Museum and served as teaching assistant to Paul Johnsgard. After a detour to Harvard Law School, Rick took the M.A. and Ph.D. in German at Princeton University. His years as an academic included appointments as assistant professor of German at the University of Illinois, reader/scholar at Princeton University&rsq...


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...

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