Whatton, James (Active)
United States National Museum of Natural History
Wildlife Biology
Jim was born and raised in Louisville, KY, where his interests in wildlife and nature were seeded exploring the woods and creek that ran through his backyard and neighborhood. When he graduated high school, his love of math took him to an engineering school, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology but after a year, he decided it wasn’t right for him. At Ball State University an entry level Biology course introduced him to the student chapter of The Wildlife Society. He joined the society and met his mentor, Dr. Kamal Islam, an ornithologist whose passion was infectious. Jim’s time at Ball State was filled with as many learning experiences as possible. Educational trips to South Africa, Belize and a semester abroad in Australia sealed his interest in birds and wildlife. This passion also provided internship opportunities, including helping set up a MAPS bird banding station in Umiat, Alaska, a remote location on the North Slope. Immediately after graduating from Ball State in 2007, he started at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as a research assistant for Dr. Richard Thorington. While he served as a research assistant he co-authored “Squirrels of the World”, a book that details all 280+ species of squirrels. While he continues to enjoy mammals and still feels connected to the mammalogy world, the Feather Identification Lab in the Division of Birds had a new position opening up, which was a dream job. Jim has worked in the Feather Identification Lab since 2009. The Feather Identification Lab has interagency agreements with the US Air Force, US Navy, and FAA to identify birds that are struck by airplanes. He specializes in whole feather identification and field work for the lab. His field work has taken him to six countries across five continents. He enjoys the challenges this job brings and the people he gets to work with. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife Megan.