Meet the AIMS Staff


Sara Morris, Head Bander

Since: Spring 1990
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View Sara's CV

Sara joined the AIMS team in May 1990 as a graduate student at Cornell University. From 1990-1995 she was the lead bander at the station while she was doing the field work for her M.S. and Ph.D. in Zoology from Cornell. After graduation, she joined the faculty of Canisius College, where she currently holds the rank of Professor of Biology. Sara has continued to coordinate the banding station since that time, although her time on the island is much more limited than she would like. She continues to send Canisius students to Appledore to help at the banding station, and, most recently, to study the flight calling behavior of migrant warblers. She has authored or co-authored more than 20 peer-reviewed publications and dozens of scientific presentations based on the data collected at AIMS.

Sara’s interest in birds began when she was seven and she was introduced to bird banding when she was 14 at the Jekyll Island Banding Station. Don and Doris Cohrs and Frank McCamey mentored her through high school and college and provided a firm foundation for her graduate studies. Their generosity in sharing their knowledge and their excitement about birds and bird migration continue to be an inspiration for her. She tries to share her passion for birds with the visitors and staff of the station. Even after more than three decades studying migratory birds, she is still amazed by the phenomenon of migration and all the physiological, anatomical, and behavioral aspects of migration.

David Holmes, Bander

Since: 1975
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My first time banding on Appledore was in August of 1975 as a helper to Betty Phinney. I was also on Island in August 1976, missed 1977 and 78, and have been out every fall since. By 1981, Betty could no longer manage the terrain and I continued the station. I think the first time I banded in the spring was in 1983 and I think I’ve been out every spring since then. The Dangle, Tangle, and Drudge classes were started in 1987 and bander Mary Wright was one of the graduates of that first class.

The banding "station" when I first started banding on Appledore consisted of a folding table and chairs — first in front of Celia Thaxter's garden, and later under the apple tree that we can see from the office of the current station.

Mary Wright, Bander

Since: Fall 1987
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In 1985 I went to Appledore for a bird study weekend and was fascinated by the bird banding operation. Decided I had to learn more ... maybe I could find someone in southern New Hampshire who was banding sparrows or whatever. Within a week of getting home I got a flyer from the Bronx Zoo saying a group of volunteers was going to Patagonia to band penguins and would I like to join them? So I ended up in Argentina with a handful of humans and hundreds of thousands of Magellanic Penguins. When I returned I sent penguin photos to David. He didn't remember me, but he said if I came out to the island again, I should introduce myself, which I did. David said, "You're serious about banding, aren't you?" and told me he was thinking about starting a class; would I be interested? So I was in the very first Dangle, Tangle with Mac McKenna and Phyl Hatch. Hard to believe that was almost thirty years ago.

Rebecca Suomala, Bander

Since: 1994
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I trained as a bander on Appledore and then ran a banding station on nearby Star Island (also on the Isles of Shoals) for my master’s thesis. I compared the birds captured and determined there was a difference between the islands based on habitat. Birds that prefer shrubland and open habitat were more common on Star and those that typically use large forested areas were more common on Appledore. It was such a terrific experience that I returned to Appledore when it was completed and have been banding here ever since.

Kristen Covino, Bander

Since: Spring 2003
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I recently earned my doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi. My dissertation work investigated breeding development in songbirds during spring migration and incorporated research I conducted at AIMS. I have also worked at a long-term field site in Louisiana and I am an NABC certified bander and trainer. You can read more about me at my personal website.

Andy Thiede, Bander

Since: Fall 2003
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I first set foot on Appledore on May 10, 2002. My friend, Kathy, convinced me to accompany her on a weekend birding trip to the island, arranged by Maine Audubon. I was enticed by her description that we could easily see warblers because the trees on the island were not very high – no “warbler neck”! The fee was $300 for 2 nights and 3 days on the island. Of course, I was fascinated by the banding station. I’d never seen birds up close and in the hand before. Mary Wright was the bander, and she asked who in our group would like to let a bird go. Me, I do! It was a rose-breasted grosbeak, and as I opened my hand and it flew away, my heart just sang. The following fall, September 2003, I took Dangle, Tangle with Liz. Every spring and fall since then, I’ve migrated to the island to volunteer at the station. I've learned so much, met some really great people and feel very fortunate to have found AIMS. Like so many others, Appledore holds a special place in my soul.

Liz Burton, Bander

Since: Fall 2003
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I visited Appledore for the first time in the Spring of 2003 as part of a birding trip. Everything about the island captured my imagination, from the rocky terrain, to the 4am ear-splitting nesting-gull chorus, to the frosty spring mornings in unheated dorms (though I'll never learn to like wetting down my bed-head in a sink with separate taps for freezing and scalding). The birding group of course made regular visits to the banding station while we were there, and like many of my colleagues I was hooked immediately. I took David's legendary Dangle, Tangle and Drudge class that fall and, not satisfied with that, returned a couple of weeks later for a few more days before the banding season ended.

While I have had to miss a season here and there, I've been a regular volunteer ever since. I've met many wonderful people on Appledore and learned a great deal from the dedicated and passionate banding staff. I can't wait to get back on the island!

Peg Ackerson, Bander

Since: Fall 2007
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I started in the fall of 2007. I was hooked immediately so I returned the fall of 2008, and every spring and fall season since.

With bird banding, breeding bird surveys, working with and helping with the care of raptors at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, and monitoring nesting peregrine falcons - my retired life has become quite bird-oriented. I have also acquired a wonderful network of like-minded people and developed many special friendships.


Martha Stauffer, Bandaide

Since: Fall 1996
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I’ve enjoyed birding as an amateur since 1942 and have maintained my interest throughout the years.

When I was a student in prep school in 1952, I did my senior science project on nesting habitats of song birds on the school campus in NY state.

After a semi-hiatus from birding for nearly 45 years, I retired from my career in medicine, and promised myself that I would resume three of my lifelong interests: birding, tennis and travel, which I have succeeded in doing so far!

So, I signed up for a 1996 spring weekend on Hog Island where I had, for the first time, the pleasure of meeting Dr. Sara Morris and participating in her demonstration of banding songbirds. This gave me a key introductory idea of what bird banding was about, and could offer.

I, then, took a weekend trip with NH Audubon Society to Appledore Island where I met David Holmes who was showing a gorgeous Black- throated Blue Warbler (BTBW) to the group. That spectacular male really caught my attention!!! Even though I had seen many BTBW’s before, seeing “him” in the hand was different!!!!!

That’s when I learned of the “Dangle, Tangle, and Drudge“ course given by David and immediately signed up for the fall of 1996. As of this day, I still refer to my excellent notes on songbird ID from Dangle, Tangle, and Drudge.

I was hooked on getting more involved with the AIMS and have intermittently been helping out as a bandaid in the spring and fall as often as I can.

Appledore is a uniquely beautiful place. AIMS activities are educational, fun and provide an opportunity to meet individuals from all walks of life. Contributing to the ongoing scientific research projects is an added bonus.

Susan Lee, Bandaide

Since: 2001
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I first came to Appledore in 1998 on a weekend bird trip led by Steve Mirick and Art Borror. Having discovered the banding station, I quickly ditched the bird group and spent the rest of the weekend leaning over the shoulder of the banders. I was hooked! Not long after that I took Dangle, Tangle & Drudge with David Holmes. It was difficult to come to Appledore as much as I would have liked while I was still working, but now in retirement I have become a more regular part of the end of season closing crew. When not on Appledore I enjoy geocaching, photography, travel, and working on my life list.

Fay Melendy, Bandaide

Since: 2001
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I was lucky in the late 1990’s to spend a weekend birding on Appledore Island. Although the birding was marvelous, for me, the highlight of the weekend was the discovery of the bird banding station. I spent hours watching all the goings-on, trying to do so without getting in anyone’s way. I had caught the bug. As soon as my work schedule would permit, I signed up for Dangle, Tangle with David Holmes so that I could qualify to move from observer to participant.
Interacting with the birds has been an enormous experience. I look forward to my time on the island and working at the station. Now that I am retired, when not birding, I spend my time gardening, golfing, reading and trying to teach myself German.

Jeff Ott, Bandaide

Since: Fall 2005
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I am a senior at Harvard College hoping to enter the world of education post-graduation. I am a captain of the wrestling team, and can't think of anything that I love more than wrestling, though birding is a close second. Fun fact: my mom cooks the food that we scarf down in fifteen minute intervals between net runs.

Bill Clark, Bandaide

Since: 2006
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I retired and started working with the ‘Gulls of Appledore (Julie Ellis) in 2005. I received bander training at Powdermill Reserve and started assisting with the ‘little birds’ at Appledore as well as continuing with gulls. I enjoy excuses to canoe or kayak on Florida rivers or to travel with birders anywhere in the world.

Jason Jacobs, Bandaide

Since: Spring 2007
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I'm currently a science teacher and I love teaching my students about the extraordinary lives of birds. I started at the banding station in the spring of 2007. As a member of Sara’s lab, I started off making hummingbird bands for the station. I then teamed up with Sara and Kristen to study the migration of Blackpoll Warblers. They published a paper in the fall of 2015, Fall migratory patterns of the Blackpoll Warbler at a continental scale. I love being out on the island and I find it to be the most relaxing place I've been, even with all the work the banders and band-aides do. My most memorable experience is any time I'm at the banding station with Kristen, especially when we have stick races and sing songs. I spent seven Springs on the island as a bandaide before taking a break, but I hope to get back soon.

Marygrace Barber, Bandaide

Since: Fall 2007
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Appledore Island first called to me in the Fall of 2007. I had been to the Joppa Flats banding station (on Plum Island, MA) in the spring for a demonstration and met someone there named Liz who shared information about how to get connected with AIMS. So I got in touch with Sara, "Dangled and Tangled" with David, and have been on the island every spring since then, plus a couple of fall forays. I have made some good friends as a "bandaide" and have had some nice road trips in the quest of birds. Braddock Bay Bird Observatory has turned out to be a great connection where I was able to complete a Bander Training Course in the fall of 2015.

The great outdoors is always calling. I enjoy walking in the woods, kayaking, birding and being at our house in Maine. Four grandchildren in Boston keep us grounded there. Life is good.

Kathy Whittier, Bandaide

Since: Fall 2010
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I have been involved in banding since 2010 when I became interested in AIMS during a week of Field Ornithology at Hog Island Camp. I was trained as a bandaide by David Holmes that fall in his famous class, Dangle, Tangle and Drudge.

Since retiring from teaching, I have been traveling with my husband in our camper, spending winters in Texas and returning to Maine in the spring. I try to volunteer at AIMS in both spring and fall.

Jan Lathrop, Bandaide

Since: Fall 2011
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I grew up in Madison, WI, where one of my neighbors was Joe Hickey, an early bander and the author of "A Guide to Bird Watching." I remember going after school to their shady back yard where Joe's wife Peggy showed us a mist net and I got to see a live bird up close. I had already been birding with a friend of my grandmother's, starting when I was about age 7, and I spent many a Saturday morning birding at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum through my teens.

My first career was as a general assignment newspaper reporter in Michigan and Arizona. My editors continually had to wrest my feature story focus away from outdoors and animals: "We did sandhill cranes last month." After grad school some years later, my second career has been as a science writer, sometimes traveling the world but most recently tethered to a desk at the University of Massachusetts Amherst News Office.

Lex Hetrick, Bandaide

Since: Fall 2011
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My first encounter with birding was when I took Field Ornithology on Appledore Island - my class visited the banding station every morning and I immediately fell in love. I spent what little free time I had during the class recording data and, now and then, releasing a banded bird. The station quickly took me under their collective wing and that very Fall I returned to learn more. Now newly graduated from UNH, I plan to return for many years to come! Between visits to Appledore I teach about wildlife and NH's unique ecology.

Zooey Zullo, Bandaide

Since: Spring 2012
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I have worked at the Shoals Marine Lab on and off since 1977, starting with kitchen help & housekeeping when I was an undergraduate. For over a decade, I ran week long multi-generational marine biology camps and overnight programs for high school students from under resourced schools on Appledore. In the fall of 2011, when my professional life became more flexible, I was finally able to take Dangle, Tangle and Drudge with David Holmes. I started assisting at the banding station in Spring 2012 and I try to help out each spring and occasionally in the fall. When not at SML or working in the field of education, I work with avian wildlife at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS).

Kiah Walker, Bandaide

Since: Spring 2015
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I arrived on Appledore in Spring 2015 with the encouragement of AIMS bander Anthony Hill, a friend that I met while working on another bird project. I graduated from college that summer, and I have since been doing seasonal bird-related fieldwork on both coasts of the U.S. and in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. I've been lucky to return to Appledore in between adventures.

Sally Mack, Bandaide

Since: Fall 2015
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I think I was pretty much destined to end up on Appledore volunteering at the AIMS banding station. As long as I can remember, birdwatching was a big part of my family's life. My mother and uncle were particularly well versed in all things bird related. That our next door neighbor was an ornithologist from Yale who offered phone alerts to extra special birds was just an added bonus. I knew for sure when I trained some chickadees to eat seeds from my hand that I would one day end up with more birds in hand. Unfortunately, a number of years passed before I had the chance. On an overnight trip to Appledore with the UNH Marine Docents in 2015, I stopped by the banding station to see what was going on. It wasn't long before I traded familiarizing myself with all that Appledore has to offer, with hanging out with the bird banders. I signed up to take a Dangle, Tangle and Drudge class with David Holmes in the fall before taking the boat trip back to Portsmouth. I have happily returned to Appledore for spring and fall migration banding as a bandaide in 2016 and look forward to future visits.