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Local biology professor has ‘Big Year’ after national bird competition

Local biology professor has big year

Marian University Biology professor David Benson, Ph.D., stands out in the realm of New Year’s resolutions, surpassing most with his amazing achievement.

In 2023, Dr. Benson embarked on a quest for a distinctive and prestigious global status, and he succeeded admirably.

He secured the 12th position worldwide for identifying 611 bird species across the lower 48 U.S. states in “The Big Year” birding competition, placing him among the elite birders globally.

This competition, known as “The Big Year,” gained public attention through a 2011 movie featuring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson.

Dr. Benson, also the director of Marian University’s EcoLab, ventured into diverse ecosystems across the United States, from Indiana’s grassy fields to Maine’s rocky coastlines and the North Carolina coast by boat.

His favorite tale involves a search along the Beartooth Highway, a 12,000-foot-tall mountain road just outside Yellowstone National Park, where he identified the Black Rosy Finch, marking species #446 for the year.