Matthew Dodder is the Executive Director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society – but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Matthew’s journey into the world of nature conservation and education began with a blizzard in Massachusetts. Matthew’s journey took him through seminary school and into a career in graphic design and marketing in Silicon Valley.
He never lost his interest in birds and ecology, spending his free time teaching birding and ornithology, and creating fantastic art work and bird-oriented products. Eventually, the preparation met opportunity, and Matthew was able to transition his career and take on the challenge of leading one of the largest Audubon chapters in California.
This episode covers all of that, how COVID-19 is causing Audubon to change and adapt, and much more, including how to use a melon to avoid a deadly bird encounter. Yes, you read that correctly – be sure to stay tuned for that!
1:20 – How Matthew caught the birding bug – the 1977 and 1978 Northeastern blizzards, and his “spark bird”.
3:35 – Matthew’s first hummingbird, scarlet tanager, snowy owl, and more.
5:50 – Birding as a life-long pursuit. The process of learning and discovering what you don’t know.
8:30 – How Matthew grew his depth and breadth of birding and ecology knowledge. Note: RBA = Rare Bird Alert, a means by which birders report and find out about rare birds seen in their region.
11:10 – Matthew’s cross-country move to California and how it contributed to his artistic interest.
14:40 – Matthew’s artistic medium – colored pencil, larger than life
17:00 – How drawing and teaching forces a deeper understanding.
20:10 – Matthew’s education and career background.
21:45 – How Matthew made the leap from hist graphic design career to Executive Director of Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society.
26:28 – Aubudon’s mission
29:05 – Importance of getting involved in elections, and even your local HOA, for example, getting native plants into your community.
31:04 – Audubon’s education focus
32:45 – Santa Clara Valley Audubon’s outsized influence due to being in the heart of Silicon Valley – influencing multi-national corporations landscaping practices.
34:18 – New technology and tools – eBird, Birdcast, Merlin – and how it will impact Audubon.
37:52 – How Matthew uses eBird to contribute to citizen science and to research birds, and how eBird drives curiosity and learning.
40:00 – Positive side effects of staying local during the COVID-19 pandemic.
42:04 – How COVID-19 is pushing Audubon to adjust and increase virtual and remote engagement
44:15 – Matthew’s influential books
48:05 – One actionable step everyone can take to help advance conservation and environmental action.
49:30 – Where to find Matthew and Santa Clara Valley Audubon online
51:30 – Amazing and Dangerous encounters with Yellow Rail and Southern Cassowary
People, Places, Organizations
Listed in chronological order
Jacques Cousteau – famous deep sea explorer
Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom – long running wildlife and nature documentary TV series
David Sibley – birder, artist, and field guide creator
Matthew’s Blog where he posts some of his art
Cassowary House – a wonderful north Queensland, Australia birding-oriented guest house. They offer regional tours as well.
Books and Things
Note: product links are affiliate links.
Listed in chronological order.
Dunning-Kruger Effect – overestimating one’s ability or knowledge
Birds of the Eastern Forest by Livingston and Lansdowne
Primary projection and bird ID
eBird – Cornell’s wonderful citizen science bird tracking site. Don’t let this description fool you – there is so much to learn here, where to find birds, what time of year, how the migrate, find local “hotspots”, and much more.
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, by Scott Weidensaul – Matthew’s influential book about the wonder of migration.
Natural History of California, by Allan Schoenherr – a detailed dive into the abiotic and biotic factors that impact ecology in California. I can’t recommend this book enough, and wish every state had an equivalent. Side note: if in Arizona, check out A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert.
Ecology of Western Forests (Peterson Guide)
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Life on Air, by Sir David Attenborough
King Tides – the highest tides that occur when the sun and moon are aligned and in closest proximity to Earth, to amplify the tides
Birds and Other Animals Discussed
Listed in chronological order
Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed
Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed
Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/