Fall in Love with Birds

Faces: Fang-Yu Shen cover

Fang-Yu (Betty) Shen | Class of 2026 | Ph.D. Wildlife Science

1st Generation College Student | Taichung City, Taiwan

The Hatchery blog | Art-Sci fellowship | Shutterstock Artist

Birdwatching Since Youth

My name is Fang-Yu (Betty) Shen, a PhD student studying Wildlife Science in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences. My research focuses on how to better estimate bird populations and how birds are impacted by habitat change over time. Birdwatching has been part of my life since I was an undergraduate. In my free time, I create art. I’m currently on an Art-Sci fellowship. The main goal of this program is to transform the knowledge we have gained from science into an art form. For this fellowship, I am trying to combine traditional Chinese painting with watercolor to illustrate the three chapters of my dissertation. In addition, I serve as co-president of the Fisheries and Wildlife Graduate Student Association to articulate the needs of graduate students.

Scientist and Educator

I met my current advisor, Douglas Robinson (Doug), during an exchange program at National Taiwan University. Doug has inspired me to become a better scientist and educator every day. This is why I chose to study abroad and work with Doug. To enhance teaching skills, I enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT). In practice, I am a teaching assistant for the Ecampus course Systematics of Birds (FW 312). Beyond OSU, I led a birding group to share bird knowledge and teach students how to identify birds.

Benefits of Birds

My academic work is mostly computation based. I started to think more deeply about how nature links to human well-being and how human activities impact birds. Thus, I am now interested to know not only the scale of bird-habitat relationships, but also expand more on the ecosystem services dimension. Birds benefit human well-being in many aspects (e.g., pollination, seed dispersal, and culture). It is worth knowing how human activities impact habitat, as well as ecosystem services. I aim to quantify ecosystem services in economic value. I honestly think any decision that humans make will not only impact wildlife, but also human well-being. I hope my study can help stakeholders better understand economic gain or loss due to habitat change and make better decisions, striking a balance between conservation and development.

The Complications of American English

When I moved to Oregon, the most challenging thing I faced was the language barrier. The systematic way I learned English in Taiwan was quite different when it comes to daily life in the US. In Taiwan, I learned how to speak in complete sentences in English. But I often hear people say incomplete sentences in daily life. To this day, although I can guess the overall context of a sentence, I still don’t understand some slang and abbreviations.

Unafraid of Asking

The way I conquer this barrier is to be “not afraid to ask.” People around me are very friendly. They always explain those different words clearly to me. I really enjoy my study at OSU. Because I’m not only developing my professional skills, but also my language skills. Recently, I presented my research proposal in front of 230+ attendees at the 2023 Willamette Valley Bird Symposium. Not only did I try to improve speaking, but also improve my English and academic writing skills. As a result, my Master’s thesis work has now been published on Scientific Reports (a nature series journal).

Boba Tea with Friends

Regarding the most valuable part of study abroad, to me as an international student, I am eager to explore the birding world in Oregon. Thus, I volunteered to assist in the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count. I learned about the way US scientists conduct bird surveys and how those surveys are different from Taiwan’s Breeding Bird Survey. For the cultural exchange experience, I enjoy introducing famous food from Taiwan to my friends here - “boba tea,” which has popular demand.

Daunting Opportunities

I would give incoming students some advice - seize any opportunity to explore the world. I believe this world provides opportunities for us to explore. If any chance comes to you, don’t hesitate to explore that opportunity. Meanwhile, you need to trust yourself. I understand it is daunting at some points when it comes to a new situation. Of course, the road may get bumpy and challenging. But after you have completed the task, you will know everything you’ve done is worth it. Trust yourself, and do it!