January 13, 2014

DeLap studies urban birds, sketches for book ‘Subirdia’ due out in 2014

Environmental and Forest Sciences

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.

Drawing for robin standing on ground

Jack DeLap

An American robin that’s recently fledged and left the nest wears a tiny radio transmitter and antenna on its lower back held in place by loops around each leg.

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.

All images © Jack DeLap