Faces of AOS: Chris Balakrishnan Bio

Chris Balakrishan and Nefertiti, a 1.4 year old King Vulture at Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck, NC. She was raised by (and imprinted on) the good folks at Sylvan Heights and so she participates in all sorts of outreach and education activities.

• Email:

• Twitter Handle:

• Website/Blog/Etc:

• My position with AOS:
Diversity Committee Member

• My current full-time title and institution:
Assistant Professor, East Carolina University

• My current career stage:
Mid-Career Professional

• My lineage of mentors/labs:
Ph.D, Michael Sorenson (Boston University),
Postdoc, Scott Edwards (Harvard University),
Postdoc #2, David Clayton (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, now based at Queen Mary, University of London)

• #badlyexplainyourjob:
I study weird birds: parasitic birds, birds with 4 sexes. Mostly I study their genes, to discover why they are weird.

• My favorite bird and why:
Indigobirds: brood parasite! mimicry of host song and morphology!

• I am involved with AOS because:
To me the AOS (AOU) has been a laid-back, friendly group of people with whom to discuss birdy science.

• Birds are important to me because:
Birds are an ideal system for the study of behavior. Really fun to just watch them do what they do.

• Advice I have to offer a student (master’s level or younger) in ornithology:
Read everything (within reason, not just bird papers)!

• One ornithology question or problem I would like to solve or see solved:
What the heck is a hoatzin? (phylogenetically speaking)

• Fun random fact about myself:
I am the founder of #NerdNite

• Something else I’d like to share:
I spent the first 1/2 of my life in big cities in the North East (New York > Philadelphia > Boston), and now live and work in rural Eastern North Carolina.