Robert Ridgway: When Amateur Bird Watching Became a Rigorous Science

A Road Scholar Program by Brian “Fox” Ellis

Robert Ridgway sitting

Apr 19, 2023


Olney Public Library
400 W Main St
Olney, IL 62450


Open to the public

Join Illinois’ most pre-eminent bird man as he recalls the history of the Audubon Society and the evolution of bird watching as it grew from a hobby to a scientific discipline. Hear stories that illuminate our legacies as bird watchers, namely creating a cadre of citizen scientists, encouraging the next generation of conservationists, and protecting habitat for future generations of birds.

Brian “Fox” Ellis becomes Robert Ridgway, telling the story of his transect of the western wilderness when he was still a teenager, his life-long work at the Smithsonian Institution, his birding trips into Central America and his journey across Alaska with John Burroughs, Louis Agazziz Fuertes, and John Muir. Ridgway was a student of Spencer Baird, who travelled with Audubon, creating a direct link to the lineage of America’s preeminent ornithologists. He helped to refine systematics and evolutionary theory, redefining the relationships between species, sub-species, and geography.

This dynamic program is equal parts storytelling and discussion about birds and preserving habitat. Participants are invited to discuss and plan direct actions to improve the ecological health of their community. They will be given tools to become citizen scientists and encouraged to use art as part of their appreciations of birds and Illinois ecology.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Logan Braddock at


The program will be held in a large conference room where individuals can space out to their liking.

Learn more about Brian “Fox” Ellis, this program, and how to book it.

Robert Ridgway sitting

Olney Public Library