If you’ve ever seen Jack DeLap lead a bird walk, you can’t help but feel his passion for everything avian. Watch him parse the sounds of the forest—bending his ear for the beat of a wing, squinting for each feathered clue—and it’s impossible to tell a line between work and play for him.
DeLap is a doctoral student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). He’s been working with Professor John Marzluff for the past few years, and his dissertation research focuses on bird community structure and change through time in response to localized deforestation and suburban development in Western Washington.
Yet as much time as DeLap has invested studying birds, he says that’s only one of his two lifelong passions. The other isn’t exactly a hidden talent, but it’s certainly not as obvious from his present line of work: Drawing.
We’re not talking about doodling during a meeting, either. DeLap started drawing as a small child, and his father, Tony DeLap, was an artist and professor of fine art and architecture at the University of California at Irvine. He initially followed his dad down that road, studying fine art at Pitzer College in California, and then at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. His next stops, though, marked a gradual merging of his interests: studying scientific illustration at the University of Washington, and then earning a master’s in wildlife biology from Colorado State University.
Now, as a Ph.D. student at SEFS, DeLap has found a perfect outlet for both passions at once. Not only does he get to study birds full-time, but he’s also working as an illustrator for Marzluff’s upcoming book, Subirdia (Yale University Press, 2014), which will contain about 40 of DeLap’s drawings.
One of those illustrations for Subirdia is the drawing to the right of a juvenile (recently fledged from nest) American Robin (Turdus migratorius). If you look closely, you can see the bird has a tiny radio transmitter and antenna resting on its lower back above the tail, or synsacrum, and held in place by a loop of thread around each leg. The depiction illustrates a component of the research Professor Marzluff’s lab is working on with urban songbirds—specifically the dispersal and survival of juvenile birds in suburban and exurban areas.
We wish we had room to showcase more of DeLap’s fantastic drawings, but at least we can offer a glimpse of his artistic touch!
All images © Jack DeLap.