Wildlife ecologist, ‘The Home Place’ author to discuss ‘Birding While Black’ in upcoming Lawrence talk

photo by: Contributed photo

Wildlife ecologist J. Drew Lanham will discuss his love of nature — and his experience as the rare black orinthologist in an overwhelmingly white field of study — during a talk May 24 at Liberty Hall. "Birding While Black" is hosted by the Lawrence Public Library in partnership with the University of Kansas' Langston Hughes Center.

Wildlife ecologist J. Drew Lanham has made it his mission to diversify the ornithology community. On May 24, he’ll bring that mission to Lawrence with “Birding While Black,” a talk detailing his love of nature and his experience as a black man in a thoroughly white discipline.

In his 2016 book, “The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature,” Lanham calls himself an “odd bird,” a reflection of his status as one of few black ornithologists, or those who study birds.

His Lawrence presentation, hosted by the Lawrence Public Library and the Langston Hughes Center at the University of Kansas, will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24 at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. During the talk, Lanham will discuss his love of nature, birding, conservation ethics and, according to the library’s promotional literature, “what happens when a black man goes birding in rural American woodlands.”

“The Home Place” was the inaugural recipient of last year’s Nature Book of Uncommon Merit designation, now given annually by the John Burroughs Association for outstanding nature writing. The memoirs also earned Lanham the 2018 Southern Environmental Law Center’s Reed Environmental Writing Award. His book of poetry, “Sparrow Envy,” came out in 2016.

A conservation ornithologist, naturalist and hunter-conservationist, Lanham also serves as an alumni distinguished professor and alumni master teacher at Clemson University.

A book signing will follow Lanham’s talk this month, and copies of “The Home Place” will be available for purchase at the event. Lanham will also co-lead a birding tour Friday, May 25 at the Baker Wetlands with Roger Boyd, the wetlands’ senior scientist and a professor emeritus of biology at Baker University. The tour begins at 8 a.m. at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center, 1365 North 1250 Road, and runs until 10 a.m.

Both events are free and open to the public.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.