Meeting Coordination Committee

The NAOC2020 Meeting Coordination Committee oversees and facilitates the organization, logistics, and overall running of the conference. This includes working closely with other NAOC committees to ensure that the conference runs smoothly, that it is inclusive for all, and that the transition from an in-person conference to virtual is successful.

Colleen M. Handel | Co-Chair

Research Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.A.)

Colleen is an ecologist interested in the factors that govern population dynamics in birds. She leads the Alaska Science Center’s Landbird Research Program in a broad array of projects, ranging from the effects of climate change on distribution and population dynamics in the boreal-Arctic transition zone to the etiology and effects of an epizootic of beak deformities. Her research also includes the breeding and migration ecology of arctic and subarctic shorebirds. She earned a B.A. from Harvard University and M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California Davis. She was co-founder of Boreal Partners in Flight and the Alaska Shorebird Group. She is an elected Fellow and past Councilor of the American Ornithological Society (AOS) and serves as Deputy Editor for The Condor: Ornithological Applications. Most recently she served as Local Chair of the 2019 AOS conference. She is also a long-standing member of many other ornithological and scientific societies.

Mike Webster | Co-Chair

Professor, Cornell University (U.S.A.)

Mike is the Robert G. Engel Professor of Ornithology at Cornell University and Director of the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. His research focuses on the evolutionary causes and consequences of communication signals, such as plumage color and song, in Australian fairywrens and North American wood warblers. Mike also active in the American Ornithological Society (AOS) and is currently chair of the AOS Meetings Coordination Committee.

Jameson F. Chace

Professor, Salve Regina University (U.S.A.)

Jim is Professor of Biology with joint appointment in departments of Cultural, Environmental and Global Studies and Biology and Biomedical Sciences at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. He earned his PhD at the University of Colorado-Boulder studying cowbird-host interactions in human modified landscapes. He currently studies abundance and distribution of wintering sea duck populations, stopover habitat use in an urban riparian conservation easement, breeding ecology of the Canada Warbler, and cowbird-host interactions.

Patricia Heglund (Pat)

Chief, Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning, USFWS (U.S.A.)

Pat holds a BS from the University of Minnesota and an MS and PhD from the University of Missouri. She has held positions with the USGS’s Alaska and Upper Midwest Environment Sciences Centers, and the University of Idaho. She currently serves as the US Fish and Wildlife Service-Midwest Region’s Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning Chief for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Her research interests include wildlife-habitat relations, studies of the protected area system, decision analysis, and conflict transformation. She has over 50 publications and has edited a book on species distribution modeling. Pat is an AOS Fellow, a former Cooper and AOU Council member, a former Young Investigator for the national Academy of Science, and received the Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award from the Society for Conservation Biology in 2017.

Erin Morrison

Clinical Assistant Professor, New York University Liberal Studies (U.S.A.)

Erin is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Liberal Studies at New York University. She is an evolutionary biologist who studies how trait architecture contributes to its patterns of diversification. Her research focuses, in particular, on the role that metabolic network structure plays in the diversification of carotenoid compounds in birds. Erin received a BA in Biology from Amherst College and a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. Following her PhD, Erin was a postdoctoral fellow in the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History. She served as the volunteer coordinator for both the 2018 and 2019 AOS conferences.

Chris Mulvaney

Member Services & AMS Coordinator, American Ornithological Society (U.S.A.)

Chris has been with the American Ornithological Society since 2017. Previously, he served thirteen years with Chicago Wilderness, a regional conservation alliance of more than 200 organizations, where he helped to foster partnerships, facilitate regional biodiversity recovery strategies, and develop and monitor metrics toward collective impact.

Melinda Pruett-Jones

Executive Director, American Ornithological Society (U.S.A.)

Melinda applies her decades of executive experience leading mission-based organizations committed to conservation action, science education, and research excellence through substantial growth and strategic change to advance AOS’s bold vision for ornithology. She works to foster an organizational culture that drives excellence and innovation, engages and diversifies constituent groups and audiences, cultivates and guides cooperative partnerships, and secures funding to sustain the Society. Prior to joining AOS, her roles included Executive Director of Chicago Wilderness, VP for Applied Research at Chicago Zoological Society/ Brookfield Zoo, Director of Major Gifts at The Field Museum, and Academic Coordinator for University of California’s Natural Reserve System. Melinda serves on a number of regional and national committees and boards. While her current area of inquiry involves organizational life cycles and network governance, her research background is in the social behavior, ecology, and population biology of birds.

Crystal Ruiz

Director of Operations and Administration, American Ornithological Society (U.S.A.)

Crystal has been with the American Ornithological Society since 2015 and holds a BS/BA degree in accounting and Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential. Prior to AOS, Crystal worked as an administrator at a regional-based environmental non-profit and as an international accountant in a private firm. She enjoys looking at the big picture and figuring out how to successfully roll out programs while keeping the lights on and people smiling. Photo by KayBee Photos.

Peter Saenger

The Acopian Center for Ornithology, Department of Biology, Muhlenberg College (U.S.A.)

Peter G. Saenger was raised in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania and was first attracted to and enjoyed studying birds during a second grade field trip to nearby Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. From then on his interests in birds continued to increase and were nurtured at a professional level when he was selected to work on a research project to study the birds of Armenia at Muhlenberg College in the 1990s. His bird expertise resulted in his current appointment as an endowed research ornithologist and collection manager in the bird museum within The Acopian Center for Ornithology, Department of Biology, Muhlenberg College. He has been the president of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society for the past 16 years and currently serves as the membership chair for the Wilson Ornithological Society.

Christine Schmidt

Communications Specialist, American Ornithological Society (U.S.A)

Christine joined AOS in June of 2020. For more than 25 years, she’s worked as a communicator and marketer, developing communications plans for various organizations, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and both private and publicly traded corporations. She has co-developed and deployed NASA-mission-based STEAM curriculum in K–12 and institutional environments across the U.S., while mentoring a new generation of female science educators. When she’s not avidly enjoying the Colorado outdoors, sustainably gardening, or practicing yoga in her free time, she’s likely working on illustrations for her children’s books about birds.

Allison Shultz

Assistant Curator, Ornithology, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (U.S.A.)

Allison is an Assistant Curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. She is an evolutionary biologist who studies the processes that produce patterns of biodiversity at different evolutionary timescales. Her main research focuses are the evolution of plumage coloration, host-pathogen co-evolution, and urban evolution. Allison received a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, MS from San Diego State, and a PhD from Harvard University. Allison is an elected member of the AOS, where she serves on the Meeting Coordination Committee and Collections Committee.

Matthew Shumar

Program Coordinator: Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative, The Ohio State University (U.S.A.)

The Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative (OBCI) is a collaboration of non-profit groups, businesses, state and federal government agencies advancing avian conservation in Ohio and the region. Prior to working with OBCI, Matthew was the Project Coordinator and co-editor for The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Ohio. Matthew’s research interests include landscape ecology, particularly anthropogenic effects on Neotropical migrants. He is also interested in engaging the public into citizen science efforts and exploring new opportunities for collaborative efforts between academia, agency professionals, and amateur ecologists. Matthew is on the council of the Association of Field Ornithologists (AFO), where he serves as webmaster and co-chair of the Communications Committee.

Jennifer Smith (Jen)

Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, University of Texas at San Antonio (U.S.A.)

Jen is an applied avian ecologist, and her research aims to evaluate the effects of global change on the spatial ecology, demography, and behavior of birds and, on occasion, other taxa. Her research often takes a mechanistic approach by incorporating field observations, experiments, and statistical and geospatial analyses. Much of her work addresses the effects of land-use and management decisions in rural landscapes but has recently expanded to consider urbanization. Overall, her objective is to conduct research that informs policy and promotes sustainable land uses that consider the conservation of wildlife and human well-being. She completed her undergraduate at Cardiff University and her PhD at the University of Birmingham (both in the UK). Jen is an elected Council Member for the Association of Field Ornithologists (AFO) and Associate Editor for The Condor.