Janice Enos, an avian biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), received her B.S. from Franklin Pierce College in environmental science, her M.S. in biological sciences from Texas Tech University, and her Ph.D. in natural resources and environmental sciences from the University of Illinois. Before coming to INHS, she was a USDA-NIFA postdoctoral fellow with the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior at U of I. Her research broadly focuses on how social interactions influence nesting ecology and habitat selection in songbirds. Janice routinely coordinates bird-related outreach events with local nature preserves and is an avid homesteader in her free time.
What is your background before coming to work at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS)?
My Ph.D. research was on habitat selection by Illinois songbirds with Dr. Michael Ward. Since then, I have served as adjunct faculty for U of I and other local colleges, and as a research assistant for Dr. Mark Hauber at the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior here on campus. I recently finished a USDA-NIFA postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Hauber and Dr. Ward, during which I tested playback methods to protect grain corn from red-winged blackbirds.
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at INHS?
I have been involved with many bird-related research projects here at INHS for a few years now. I could never fully commit to these projects due to time or duty constraints with my previous positions. Now, I can finally commit fully to my INHS collaborations and I also look forward to making new collaborations with other INHS scientists.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
I have been an animal lover and interested in science for as long as I can remember. I credit David Attenborough and PBS documentaries like “NOVA” and “Nature” for sparking my interest. I looked forward to those programs every week.
Who or what drew you to study birds?
I had two influences. The first was the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which has big and active centers in the Greater Boston Area where I grew up. Seeing the Audubon biologists carry owls around was enough to convince me to be an ornithologist! The second was Dr. Irene Pepperberg, who is local to Boston and famous for her research on parrot cognition. Though I never met Dr. Pepperberg, I was quite familiar with her research through newspaper articles and press interviews. Her work definitely inspired my concentration in animal behavior as a graduate student.
What are common misconceptions about your career? OR What question do you get asked most frequently about your career?
I think some friends and family picture me in remote, exotic landscapes, going on arduous hikes and adventures to study birds. I would say that for 95% of my research, I am either in a parking lot or a drainage ditch looking for nests of “backyard birds.” The most common question I get is, “what’s your favorite bird?”
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career?
I have mostly worked part-time positions to stay relevant in academia. After my Ph.D, it was challenging to constantly be looking for academic positions on a semester-by-semester basis. Actually getting these positions was challenging as well, because the biology job market is highly competitive.
What advice would you give to future scientists?
I wish that more people viewed science as an accessible activity everyone can participate in, and not just those in academia or research institutions. Anyone with a keen interest in nature can make observations and try out experiments at home, or even participate in community/citizen science projects. My advice to future scientists is to talk to as many people as possible, especially at conferences and outreach events. It can be intimidating to introduce yourself to new people, especially if they are superstars in your field of study. But you never know which conversations will lead to new ideas, new collaborations, or new job opportunities.