For the past 15 years, my work has been guided by a strong commitment to the conservation of native bird communities. To do this, I identify the unique threats of urbanization to both arid and forested landscapes, and then explore ways to reconcile development and bird conservation. As an urban ecologist, I focus on applying scientific information towards management and policy decisions in urban and suburban areas to improve relations between people and urban wildlife.
I am a NSF Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability Fellow (SEES Fellow), partnering with the USFS Northern Research Station (NRS) and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. I investigate ways to increase participation in implementing wildlife yards and gardens in cities and suburbs with the ultimate goal of increasing wildlife habitat and reconnecting people with nature back home. I lead the Urban Wildlife and Biodiversity Initiative with NRS through the development and integration of a wildlife habitat component for the USFS NRS i-Tree urban forest modeling software. I also partner with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and lead their Neighborhood Nestwatch project in Springfield, MA. I received my PhD from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2011, advised by Paige Warren and worked with the National Science Foundation-funded Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project, a multi-partnered approach to understanding urban ecology in the Sonoran desert of Phoenix, Arizona. My PhD research investigated how urban residents interact with native wildlife, both directly and indirectly through landscape plantings, and how these actions in turn, influence urban biodiversity. I incorporated long-term bird monitoring and behavioral experiments to evaluate the potential of yards landscaped with native plants to reverse the loss of urban biodiversity. I received my MSc in Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England. My thesis was based on the winter ecology of a small, migrant owl, Striated Scops Owl (pictured to the right) that winters in the Acacia wadis of southern Israel. Through this research, James Smith and I fully explored how desert wildlife is intricately linked to the delicate processes of a desert ecosystem.
I have a keen interest in arid landscapes and have spent considerable time exploring the bird ecology of the Arava Valley and the Negev Desert in southern Israel, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. In the mid 1990’s, I spent five years volunteering on Kibbutz Lotan, a small desert community in southern Israel. I worked on a number of environmental projects including designing and building a desert bird reserve and research station, initiating a community-based recycling effort, establishing and maintaining an organic garden, and promoting eco-tourism through birding tours. The impetus for the desert bird reserve was in response to the increasing loss of stop-over habitat for the millions of migratory birds traveling from Africa to Europe and Asia. The coastal city of Eilat, Israel, at the head of the Red Sea, had extensive salt marshes for birds to rest and refuel before continuing their journey. Like many arid cities, Eilat has experienced unprecedented growth and much of the resting habitat has been lost to urbanization. One of the main objectives of the bird reserve at Kibbutz Lotan, located about 60 km north of Eilat, was to compensate for the loss of habitat in Eilat by providing a number of different micro-habitats for both migratory and resident birds. The other main objective of the bird reserve was to provide an outlet for educating tourists about bird migration and conservation issues of the region. Kibbutz Lotan hosts hundreds of tourists each year, both from Israel and abroad.
I have an intense passion for birds and enjoy sharing my enthusiasm with everyone I encounter. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to spend the day birding with my husband James and our 5-year old son, Matan (pictured to the left, twitching a European Golden Plover in Maine, 2008, and below helping with the Neighborhood Nestwatch project in MA, 2012).