Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Alan Braddock

Committee Member

Daniel Cristol

Committee Member

Andrew Fisher


This dissertation examines how birders in the mid-20th century created an institutional culture and national community autonomous from ornithology, working to define birding as an activity which blended practices and ideas from science and sport. The negotiations over the relative prominence of science and sport inform contemporary dialogues about citizen science and how to involve recreationists/amateurs in scientific work. While this story is often told from the perspective of scientists, the reality is that birders borrowed from science but also pursued their own goals and practices. Birding, which sits at the crossroads of science and sport, presents a unique case because as birders worked to define their activity and build an institutional culture they were beset by debates not merely about best practices, but about the fundamental nature of birding. Was it science, or sport? And if it was a mix of the two, what was the appropriate ratio and which element should be dominant? These were the questions that birders in the mid-20th century struggled to answer, and the debates about how to answer them defined birding culture and practice in ways that continue to reverberate through not just birding, but ornithology, bird conservation, and citizen science.



© The Author

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