Congratulations to long-time BFREE supporters, field course leaders, researchers, and board members, Drs. Jamie Rotenberg and Vibeke Olson on their recent retirement from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Extraordinary husband and wife team, Jamie and Vibeke, have been visiting BFREE for nearly two decades as professors bringing field courses, as researchers, with their graduate students, as board members, and as supporters.
Their impact on BFREE has been significant. BFREE is a better place because of Jamie and Vibeke. So from your BFREE family, congratulations! We look forward to this next chapter in your lives and can’t wait to share in a few of your upcoming adventures.
Messages from your BFREE Friends and Family:
From Judy and Dan Dourson, BFREE Staff Members 2006 – 2016 (this needs to be edited): We first met Jamie (Dr. Rotenberg to most) in December of 2006 in our first few months as field station managers of BFREE. He arrived along with close friend and cave diver, Sam Meachum, to lead the first of many expeditions into the Bladen Nature Reserve to establish survey protocols for what would be an extensive, long term study of neotropical migratory birds and the signature species, the Harpy Eagle. Jamie’s tenacity and determination were on full display when he limped into BFREE after one particularly grueling expedition, hiking over 8 hours through trailess, brutal terrain to reach BFREE only to discover a very painful broken collarbone. Dr. Rotenberg’s tireless commitment to the Avian Monitoring and Harpy Eagle study produced numerous grants to fund the study. By far the most elaborate scientific collaboration with Jamie was in 2016 when Dan became a co-investigator for a National Geographic Waitt Foundation Grant that focused on the potential relationship between land snails (Dan’s research focus) and Harpy Eagles. With over 30 participants, the expedition was a technological feat that entailed created a mobile lab to process snails, portable generators hauled deep into the jungle to provide power for advanced drone technology and elite cavers from Poland who dropped into a 300 foot sinkhole during the expedition.
While Dan’s interactions with Jamie would revolve around their shared passion for the biodiversity of this exceptional region of the world, my time spent with Dr. Rotenberg centered on the development and implementation of seven field courses. In true fashion, Jamie always knew how to shake things up and challenged me to expand my own horizons as Director of Educational Programs at BFREE leading to new field course locations like Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary or Tikal in Guatemala. I met Jamie’s lovely and spunky life companion, his wife Vibeke, working with them to plan and execute innovative course for biology and art/architecture majors focused on the art and architecture of Maya archaeological sites and structures and the biodiversity found around these anthropogenic structures. Another creative collaboration with Dr. Rotenberg focused on Environmental Psychology with both environmental sciences and psychology majors.
Our field course adventures were always informative, stimulating, sometimes challenging, and full of surprises but it was those challenges that strengthened the bonds of what is sure to be a lifelong friendship. It is with great delight that Dan and I welcome them into the wonderful world of “retirement”. We look forward to learning more about what new adventures await and how we can participate. To quote my comedian spouse, Dan, “After all, snails and birds rule, everything else drools!”
From Jacob Marlin, BFREE Executive Director: From the first time Jamie came to BFREE back almost two decades ago, he has played a key role in so many of our conservation programs. From leading our bird research and monitoring efforts, including the rediscovery of a wild breeding population of Harpy eagles, to training young Belizeans to be bird biologists. He passion for teaching brought hundreds of students from the US to BFREE on study abroad programs for over more than a decade. Jamie and Vibeka have continued to support BFREE in countless ways, believing in us and our mission. They are both true partners in conservation.
From Marlyn Cruz Sierra, BFREE Staff Member ’06-’12 (this needs to be edited) : Working along with people who share an incredible passion for what they do is one of those experiences that you will always cherish. Dr. James is that person, he transmitted this passion and love in the work and project he did when I participated as an avian technician at BFREE that it never really felt like “work.” He was always very communicative and incredibly organized. He was unselfish with the wealth of knowledge he possessed, willing to give you an opportunity for growth, and cheering you on while you accepted new challenges.
From James Abbott, UNCW Alum and (this needs to be edited) :
From Liberato “Gato” Pop, BFREE Staff Member ’06-’12 (this needs to be edited): I would like to say that Mr. Jamie has been a great mentor for me in guiding and the continuous trainings that he has taught me and that he has encouraged me to continue what I love and that’s working with nature. I want to thank Mr. Jamie and Mrs. Vibeke for their support toward our bird banding project for the past years at BFREE.
From Heather Barrett, BFREE Deputy Director: In my early days at BFREE, Jamie mentored me on presenting at professional conferences. He helped me develop the presentations, practiced them with me, and even sat front and center to cheer me on when it was my turn at the podium. Both Jamie and Vibeke have been incredible supporters of BFREE’s mission and staff over the years.
From Lisa Ramsden, UNCW Alum and BFREE Field Course Participant 2007:
Dr. Rotenberg fostered my deep love of tropical ecosystems and birds through his classes at UNCW. I am so thankful that I particpated in his Environmental Psychology course that took students to Belize and that I was able to visit BFREE. It was a truly eye-opening experience for me. I feel so lucky to have taken a variety of classes with him and to have gotten the wonderful experience to intern with him on his Painted Bunting project. Congratulations on your retirement, wishing you all the best!