Five Women Conservation Champions (You Didn't Learn About in School)

To celebrate International Women's Day, we're highlighting a few of the incredible women on our staff. Since women comprise 60 percent of our team, it's fair to say that women really move bird conservation forward for us. Read on to meet Wendy, Rachel, Callie, Aimee, and Sussy!

Wendy visiting Yanacocha Reserve in Ecuador. Photo by Dan Lebbin

Wendy visiting Yanacocha Reserve in Ecuador. Photo by Dan Lebbin

Wendy Willis, Deputy Director of International Programs

What she does: Wendy works with ABC partners to safeguard birds. One big part of her job is heading up the Latin American Reserve Stewardship Initiative (LARSI), through which ABC partners with March Conservation Fund to strengthen Latin American and Caribbean bird conservation organizations.

What she says: “I love my job and feel really privileged to work with topics important to me. Our partners are amazing — they are passionate and have so many ideas. Part of my job is to work with them on joint projects, try to help get funding for these efforts, and, overall, help bring their ideas to fruition. So at times I play the roles of leader, partner, and cheerleader.”

Rachel leads an educational field trip at North Etiwanda Preserve in California. Photo by Brian Robey

Rachel leads an educational field trip at North Etiwanda Preserve in California. Photo by Brian Robey

Rachel Smith, Southwestern Riparian Partner Biologist

What she does: Rachel works closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to deliver on-the-ground riparian restoration to private lands in southern California. This work benefits endangered bird species reliant upon these sensitive habitats, including the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Least Bell's Vireo.

What she says: “Sometimes working in conservation can be tough and isolating, but what keeps me going is remembering the amazing women who came before me, and those who mentored me in the world of wildlife biology when I was in high school and college. It was crucial to see women in roles that I aspired to. I hope I can follow in their footsteps, both in making Earth a better planet for birds, but also to be an example to other aspiring young women in this field. “

Callie leads a group at a project site in the Midwest. Photo by American Bird Conservancy

Callie leads a group at a project site in the Midwest. Photo by American Bird Conservancy

Callie Bertsch, Forest Habitat Coordinator

What she does: Callie works on habitat projects with private landowners to create nesting habitat for Golden-winged Warblers, American Woodcock, and Ruffed Grouse. She also coordinates outreach, workshops, and training with the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership through ABC's Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

What she says: “I think what is important for me is the people, both men and women, along my career path who encouraged, supported, and never doubted my abilities. Also, I follow the Four Agreements: 1. Be true to my word. 2. Don't make assumptions. 3. Don't take things personally. 4. Always do my best. And as a mom now raising a son who has Down Syndrome, it's important to instill the same qualities in him and others so that all people feel included and are empowered to do their best work. “

Aimee watches sparrows and Lark Buntings in the Chihuahuan Desert. Photo by Jeff Bennett

Aimee watches sparrows and Lark Buntings in the Chihuahuan Desert. Photo by Jeff Bennett

Aimee Roberson, Rio Grande Joint Venture Coordinator

What she does: Aimee coordinates the Rio Grande Joint Venture, a binational, public-private partnership focused on conserving grasslands, streams, and coastal habitats for birds and other wildlife in the Chihuahuan Desert, Tamaulipan Brushlands, and Gulf Coast Prairie ecoregions of Texas and northern Mexico.

What she says: “I love working to conserve migratory birds and their habitats. These species are great indicators of ecosystem health, and they give me the opportunity to work with inspiring people in Mexico, the United States, and Canada who are dedicated to conserving the ecosystems and biodiversity that support us all.”

Sussy birding in Virginia. Photo by Aditi Desai

Sussy birding in Virginia. Photo by Aditi Desai

Sussy De La Zerda, International Program Manager

What she does: Sussy supports the International and Migratory Birds teams; oversees project management, mainly in Colombia; and maintains program databases.

What she says: “There is an awesome and inspiring feeling when success stories happen due to our work, like when an individual of a Critically Endangered species is found, or when species are down-listed because they are now less endangered. It is also rewarding to know that by protecting the birds that I love, other biodiversity is protected as well, and also nearby communities. It makes the job complete! And like a friend always says, ‘You are so lucky to love your work.' And, really, I am!”

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