Burger, Joanna 1941–

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Burger, Joanna 1941–


Born January 18, 1941, in Schenectady, NY; daughter of E. Melvin (a farmer) and Janette Vivien Burger; married Michael Gochfeld (a physician), August 18, 1981; stepchildren: Deborah, David. Education: State University of New York, Albany, B.S., 1963; Cornell University, M.S., 1964; University of Minnesota, Ph.D., 1972. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Wood carving, sketching, gardening, bird and butterfly watching.


Office—Nelson Biology Lab, Rutgers University, Cell Biology and Neurosciences, 604 Allison Rd., Piscataway, NJ 08855-1059. Agent—Gail Ross, The Gail Ross Literary Agency, 1666 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009. E-mail—[email protected]


State University of New York College, Buffalo, NY, instructor in biology, ecology, and comparative anatomy, 1964-68; Rutgers University, Newark Campus, Newark, NJ, postdoctoral research fellow at Institute of Animal Behavior, 1972-73; Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, assistant professor, 1973-76, associate professor, 1976-81, professor of biological sciences, 1981—, director of Ecology Graduate Program, 1978-92; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, associate professor at Shoals Marine Laboratory, 1979; School of Public Health, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ, currently professor. Member, New Jersey Governor's Non-Game Council, 1980—; member of board on environmental science and toxicol- ogy, National Academy of Science, 1988-91; member, Endangered Sea Turtles Board, 1988-89, Tuna-Porpoise Interactions, 1989-91, Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, 1991-2001, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute; member of coastal zone management technical advisory committee for Barnegat Bay, 1989-91; member, task force Barnegat Bay, 1990-98, Jamaica Bay, 1993-94; member, Board on Biology, 1998-2001; co-chair, SCOPE committee on endocrine disrupters, 1999-2002.


International Council for Bird Preservation, American Ornithologists Union (fellow; member of council, 1981-83), American Association of University Women (fellow), Wilson Ornithological Society, Ecological Society of America, Colonial Waterbird Society (vice president, 1980-81; president, 1982-83), Society for Toxicology, Organization for Tropical Studies (member of board of directors, 1986—), Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Delta Epsilon, Tri Beta Biological Honorary Society.


Grants from Philosophical Society of America, 1973, 1974, National Institute of Mental Health, 1975-76, 1984-86, New Jersey Mosquito Commission, 1977-83, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1977-82, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1979-81, 1987-90, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1980-82, National Science Foundation, 1980-82, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 1981-83, Busch Fund, 1982-84, 1985-86, American Cyanamid, 1982, Ehrenkrantz Associates, 1984-87, Dresdner Associates, 1986-90, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1987-89, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1988-92, 1989-94, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 1988-93, Department of Energy, 1995-2005, and Hudson River Foundation, 1989; Rutgers Presidents Award, 1994.


(Editor and contributor) Behavior of Marine Animals: Perspectives in Research, Plenum (New York, NY), Volume 4 (with B. Olla and H. Winn): Marine Birds, 1980, Volume 5 (with B. Olla): Breeding Behavior and Populations, 1984, Volume 6 (with B. Olla): Migration and Foraging Behavior, 1984.

Pattern, Mechanism, and Adaptive Significance of Territoriality in Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) (monograph), American Ornithologists Union, 1984.

(Editor and contributor) Seabirds and Other Marine Vertebrates: Competition, Predation, and Other Interactions, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

(With Michael Gochfeld) The Black Skimmer: Social Dynamics of a Colonial Species, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

(With Michael Gochfeld) The Common Tern: Its Breeding Biology and Behavior, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(With D.N. Nettleship and Michael Gochfeld) Seabirds on Islands: Threats, Case Studies, and Action Plans, International Council for Bird Preservation (Cambridge, England), 1992.

(Editor) Anatomy of an Oil Spill: The Arthur Kill, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1994.

A Naturalist along the Jersey Shore, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1996.

(With Michael Gochfeld) Butterflies of New Jersey: A Guide to Their Status, Distribution, Conservation, and Appreciation, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1997.

Oil Spills, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1997.

Animals in Towns and Cities, Kendall/Hunt (Dubuque, IA), 1999.

(With Michael Gochfeld) Twenty-five Nature Spectacles in New Jersey, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2000.

(Editor, with E.A. Schreiber) Biology of Marine Birds, CRC Press (Boca Raton, FL), 2001.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Renowned Ornithologist's Relationship with Her Pet Parrot Tiko (memoir), Villard Books (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor, with others) Protecting the Commons: A Framework for Resource, Island Press (Washington, DC), 2001.

(And illustrator) Whisper in the Pines: A Naturalist in the Northeast (memoir), Rivergate Books (New Brunswick, NJ), 2006.

Birds: A Visual Guide, Firefly Books (Tonawanda, NY), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including Nest Site Selection in Birds, edited by M. Cody, Academic Press, 1985; and Reproduction: A Behavioral and Neuroendocrine Perspective, edited by B.R. Komisaruk, H.I. Siegeb, and others, New York Academy of Sciences, 1986. Contributor to Merit Student Encyclopedia. Contributor to scientific journals and popular magazines, including New Jersey Outdoors, Explorers Journal, and Natural History. Member of editorial board, Colonial Waterbirds, 1979-86.


Ornithologist Joanna Burger once told CA: "Although I am primarily a research scientist, I am a firm advocate of writing for the discerning public. I feel strongly that good science should be understandable to everyone. Only through knowledge of the ecology of the world around us will we develop the necessary appreciation to save and preserve the world's ecosystem.

"My interest in public education and conservation extends to include examining the effect of people on animals and ecosystems. I have worked extensively with endangered species, including the piping plover and roseate terns. I serve as a consultant to the recovery teams for these two species, and have been involved in long-term studies with these species since the late 1970s."

Burger continued: "On a world-wide basis, I organized a two-day symposium on the threats to sea birds nesting on islands. The symposium was held at the International Council for Bird Preservation meetings in New Zealand in 1990. This brought together ornithologists and conservationists from around the world to develop viable action plans."

As an environmental scientist and educator, Burger has been involved in numerous committees and served on boards for the protection of endangered species of sea turtles, birds, and other wildlife, as well as studying the environmental and health hazards presented to nature by humans. Much of her research has been published in book form. In a Wilson Bulletin review of A Naturalist along the Jersey Shore, William E. Davis, Jr., summed up Burger's dedication: "This is a very personal narrative by an author who has spent thousands of hours watching the plants and animals she describes. It is laced with appealing imagery." Davis went on: "This book is clearly a labor of love, nicely written, informative, and a pleasure to read. A strong conservation message is implicit or explicit throughout. I highly recommend it to anyone for whom the smell of salt air has a special meaning." Burger's work with birds has taken her on many ventures to protect wildlife environments. Not all of these locations are as remote as one might suspect, though. In Animals in Towns and Cities she relates her travels into common urban and suburban environments, such as golf courses, backyards, and abandoned lots, to explain the ecosystems found there.

More recently, Burger published a field guide and introduction to ornithology, Birds: A Visual Guide, which earned praise from critics. Writing in Science News, a contributor reported that Burger "takes a close look at how birds have evolved, at their unique physiology, and at their behavioral, mating, and nesting habits." Burger goes on in her text to explain how intelligent birds are, both in their ability to learn bird song and in their use of tools for nest building and other purposes. The ornithologist provides information on bird habitat, physiology, and evolution, as well as locations for birds and identifying characteristics to aid the birdwatcher in the field. For Booklist reviewer Nancy Bent, Burger's field guide for birds is a "fine addition" to any such guidebook collection that "succeeds admirably as a primer on birds."

In addition to her teaching, research, and books on the environment and animals, Burger has written about her own life. The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Renowned Ornithologist's Relationship with Her Pet Parrot Tiko chronicles her relationship to her forty-six-year-old Amazon parrot. It is not an ordinary pet book, as critics have pointed out. Carol Herman began her review in the Washington Times by calling it a "strikingly odd memoir" in which Burger "explains how over a 15-year period she and her husband came to yield perch and power to her middle-aged Red-lored Amazon parrot Tiko." Burger did not meet Tiko until the bird was about thirty-five and living with her husband Michael's two retired aunts in Florida, who taught him Yiddish. When one aunt dies, and another goes into a nursing home, Burger and her husband are left to rescue the orphaned parrot. The amusing but startling opening relates how Tiko has chosen Burger for his mate, even making a nest for the two of them five years into their cohabitation. Burger finally realizes that all that time he had been courting her, just as he would have courted another parrot.

While Burger's book shows a lighthearted journey into the life of a pet owner, a Publishers Weekly critic noted that "this isn't mere pet-owner whimsy; Burger backs up every such characterization with hard science and decades of bird study in jungles, marshes and forests all over the world. Smart, precocious, fun-loving (he slides down the banister for kicks), Tiko provides ample evidence why parrots are the third most popular pets in the country (after cats and dogs)." Burger further relates stories from her life in the autobiographical Whisper in the Pines: A Naturalist in the Northeast.



Burger, Joanna, The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Renowned Ornithologist's Relationship with Her Pet Parrot Tiko, Villard Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Burger, Joanna, Whisper in the Pines: A Naturalist in the Northeast, Rivergate Books (New Brunswick, NJ), 2006.


American Scientist, March-April, 1998, Robert Gramling, review of Oil Spills, p. 201.

Booklist, April 1, 2001, Nancy Bent, review of The Parrot Who Owns Me, p. 1439; September 15, 2006, Nancy Bent, review of Birds: A Visual Guide, p. 12.

Choice, April, 1995, L.H. Stevenson, review of Before and After an Oil Spill: The Arthur Kill, p. 1325; October, 1997, J.H. Hunter, review of Oil Spills, p. 317; November, 2000, C.E. Buckley, review of Twenty-five Nature Spectacles in New Jersey, p. 557.

Library Journal, May 1, 1996, review of A Naturalist along the Jersey Shore, p. 125; March 1, 1997, Susan Maret, review of Oil Spills, p. 96; April 15, 2001, Cleo Pappas, review of The Parrot Who Owns Me, p. 124.

Publishers Weekly, April 2, 2001, review of The Parrot Who Owns Me, p. 49.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 15, 2001, Sarah Casey Newman, "Bird Specialist Writes about the Parrot Who Owns Her," review of The Parrot Who Owns Me, p. 38.

Science, September 15, 1989, George L. Hunt, Jr., review of Seabirds and Other Marine Vertebrates: Competition, Predation, and Other Interactions, p. 1262.

Science News, October 21, 2006, review of Birds, p. 271.

Washington Times, May 6, 2001, Carol Herman, review of The Parrot Who Owns Me, p. 6.

Wilson Bulletin, December 1997, William E. Davis, Jr., review of A Naturalist along the Jersey Shore, p. 758.


Rutgers University Web site,http://lifesci.rutgers.edu/ (March 19, 2007), "Joanna Burger."

Wildlife Trust,http://www.wildlifetrust.org/ (April 1, 2006), Sharon Guynup, "Joanna Burger's 40-year Study of Toxins in Seabirds Aids Scientists at Wildlife Trust, and Beyond."