If you’ve ever seen Jack DeLap lead a bird walk, you can’t help but feel his passion for everything avian.
Watch him parse the sounds of the forest – bending his ear for the beat of a wing, squinting for each feathered clue – and it’s impossible to tell a line between work and play for him.
DeLap, a University of Washington doctoral candidate at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, has been working with Professor John Marzluff for the past few years, and his dissertation research focuses on changes in Western Washington bird communities because of localized deforestation and suburban development.
Yet as much time as DeLap has invested studying birds, it’s only one of his lifelong passions. The other is drawing.
And we’re not talking about doodling during a meeting.
DeLap started drawing as a small child. His father Tony DeLap is an artist and professor emeritus of fine art and architecture at the University of California, Irvine. DeLap initially followed his dad down that road, studying fine art at Pitzer College in California, and then at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.
His next stops, though, marked a gradual merging of his interests: studying scientific illustration at the UW and then earning a master’s in wildlife biology from Colorado State University.
Now, as a UW doctoral candidate, DeLap has found a perfect outlet for both passions at once. Not only does he get to study birds full time, but he’s also working as an illustrator for Marzluff’s upcoming book, “Subirdia” (Yale University Press, 2014) that will contain about 40 of DeLap’s drawings.
One of DeLap’s illustrations, for example, is a juvenile American robin with a tiny radio transmitter and antenna on its lower back. Among other things, the Marzluff lab studies the dispersal and survival of juvenile song birds like robins in suburban and exurban areas.
All the illustrations for Subirdia are being drawn freehand on a computer, although he also uses traditional ink and pencil to sketch. As a freelancer, DeLap draws wildlife and illustrations beyond birds and offers freelance illustration services for other research and art projects.
DeLap sketch: Towhee
Male spotted towhee in hand showing identifying leg bands. Jack DeLap
DeLap sketch: Warbler
Black-throated-gray warbler forages for insects. Jack DeLap
DeLap sketch: Jay
A European jay inspects light and dark morph peppered moths in a forest with soot from industrial pollution. Jack DeLap
DeLap sketch: Noisy Miner
A noisy miner calls near a roadway in suburban Australia. Jack DeLap
DeLap sketch: Peregrine falcon
Peregrine falcon perches near the Duwamish River in industrialized Seattle. Jack DeLap
DeLap sketch: Pine siskin
Pine siskin in the talons of a Cooper’s hawk. Jack DeLap
DeLap sketch: Woodpecker
A red-headed woodpecker in nest cavity. Jack DeLap
DeLap sketch: Swainsons thrush
A Swainson’s thrush lines nest with skeletonized leaves. Jack DeLap
DeLap sketch: Feeding urban birds
Urban nature exemplified by children feeding rock pigeons and variegated squirrels in Coasta Rica where DeLap, Marzluff and UW's Marc Miller teach a UW study abroad course. Jack DeLap
All images © Jack DeLap