As spring approaches and birds return from their migration, Adrian Andrei and his family look forward to traveling the state and watching the winged creatures.
Andrei is a professor of wildlife science and head of Lincoln University's Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
After graduating from Texas Tech University with a degree in wildlife science and management, he began looking for the opportunity to move to Missouri.
He said his passion for birds began as a teenager as he roamed the countryside of Romania.
"There were birds singing and building nests everywhere, and I got curious," Andrei said. "I would say it's still one of my top three pastime activities."
Andrei began his career with Lincoln University in 2005. Prior to this, he completed his master's research, which included a nine-month project in Portugal studying the protection of vineyards from damage caused by birds.
Central Missouri's farmlands and forests reminded Andrei of Romania, and he fell in love.
"I always enjoyed the outdoors — the combination of caring for the land, clean water, fish and natural resources," Andrei said.
In mid-April, neotropical migrant birds will return to the area. He finds the warblers — forest song birds — the most interesting, but he also enjoys watching hawks, terns and eagles.
"In the forest, for example, you hear a small, faint sound, and there's a little bit of a puzzle trying to find what bird it is," Andrei said.
He said birds are fascinating because they can fly elegantly and sing beautiful songs. They work hard to build nests, and some build decoy nests to trick predators.
Magpies are some of the best nest builders.
"Not only do they weave a complex nest, but they also coat it with clay and mud on the outside to protect it," Andrei said.
In Missouri, he said, birds can often be seen on farms and agricultural landscapes. The brush on the edge of farms provides homes for insects, birds and wildflowers.
Although he is not on the ground preserving these areas like the Missouri Department of Conservation, he said he feels spreading his knowledge to students is how he does his part.
"I look at my job as trying to add value to the farms and to the people of Missouri and to add knowledge and value to our students," Andrei said. "If I teach generation after generation after generation of ag specialists how to care for natural resources, biological diversity and birds then what I achieve for Missouri is the conservation of those birds."
His family shares his passion. His wife, AnnaMaria Andrei, teaches environmental science at State Technical College of Missouri in Linn. Their daughter is a freshman at LU, studying agriculture and conservation.
He said he is glad his family came to Missouri and found a home in the Jefferson City community.
"I feel privileged to work for Lincoln University," Andrei said. "I feel very fortunate to serve this community. We serve a diverse audience of students, and our work is important."