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Essential bird-watching gear / Photo submitted by Laura Marsh

Name: Laura Marsh

Passion: Birding and conservation

Age: 32

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Wildest bird sighting: Bare-necked umbrellabirds in Costa Rica. They are so rare that even a team of researchers from National Geographic couldn't find them! Also, I saw a secretary bird in Kruger National Park in South Africa, which was amazing.

Bird sighting that never gets old: Cerulean warbler. They are the fastest-declining warbler species in the Eastern U.S. and are just so beautiful.

Favorite bird trivia: It's a myth that if you touch a baby bird its parents won't return. Most birds have a pretty poor developed sense of smell.

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Photo submitted by Laura Marsh/ Laura Marsh snaps a selfie with Cade, her son and young birder in training.

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Bird-watching is like an endless scavenger hunt.

"Once you start noticing the birds around you, it's like a whole new world opens up," says Laura Marsh, Chattanooga-based field ornithologist and conservation biologist.

Observing birds in the wild may be one of nature's simplest joys, but the job of protecting those birds and their habitats is more complicated.

"The realm of biological conservation is consistently underfunded," Marsh says — which hurts wildlife and scientists alike. While competing for limited, low-paying jobs, "Conservationists [become] jaded and their passion to protect nature oftentimes disappears," she says.

So, this spring, Marsh founded Nova Conservation, a global network designed to help drive economic growth in conservation. Her goal is to connect researchers and ecotourism companies with people of all skill levels interested in wildlife related opportunities.

Eventually, Marsh hopes to also host ecotrips and workshops through Nova Conservation.

But in the meantime, she is focused on creating a user-friendly website to coordinate and connect her partners — no small task.

"The website alone costs $10,000," says Marsh, who launched a Kickstarter campaign in late June to help cover the startup expenses. "Adding in the legal fees, marketing I'm hoping to raise $15,000."

To learn more about the project and its progress, visit novaconservation.com.

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Ready to get started on your endless scavenger hunt? Here, Marsh shares the gear she carries when she goes birding.

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Ornithologist Laura Marsh shares her essential gear list for bird watching.

a. LaCrosse Grange 18-inch waterproof boots

b. Foxelli headlamp

As the expression goes, "The early bird catches the worm." Birders, says Marsh, are often in the field before sunrise.

c. Nikon Monarch binoculars

d. Apron for additional pocket space

e. GORE-TEX rain jacket

f. Tecnu poison ivy treatment

g. The North Face backpack

h. Waterproof field notebook

i. Compass

j. Nalgene water bottle

k. Plastic baggies and baby wipes

"Trust me," says Marsh.

l. "National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America" and "The Warbler Guide"

m. Sun sleeves and hat for sun protection

n. Burt's Bees lip balm with SPF

o. Nutrition bars and electrolytes supplement

p. Extra socks

q. Goddess Garden Organics natural mineral sunscreen

r. Columbia PFG sun shirt

s. Repel Tick Defense

t. Craghoppers insect-repellent jacket

"Yes, I wore it every day even when it was over 100 degree F outside," says Marsh. "It was that useful."

u. Permethrin insect repellent for clothes

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Photo submitted by Laura Marsh/ Laura Marsh snaps a selfie with Cade, her son and young birder in training.
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