Young Professionals Advisory Council
Welcome to our 2021 Young Professionals Advisory Council members!
The goal of Houston Audubon's Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC) is to engage the next generation of conservationists and to build awareness of Houston Audubon’s mission among young professionals. YPAC members have the chance to make a significant impact in the world of bird conservation and play an important role in enhancing wildlife habitat.
The inaugural Young Professionals Advisory Council kicked off in 2019 during Houston Audubon’s 50th anniversary year with 17 dedicated members. This group of passionate young conservationists launched the first ever Houston Bird Week and successfully ran a contest to determine the official Bird of Houston – the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. In the second year, the YPAC tackled great challenges with a global pandemic, and helped organize a Bird Week that was mostly virtual. They also began preparations for several other community projects.
The Young Professionals Advisory Council was started and is currently led by Houston Audubon staff members Anna Vallery and Zineera Seth. If you have any questions about the YPAC, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
YPAC 2021 Members
Click on the member's name or photo for their bio.
Vice President, Institute for Spirituality and Health
Stuart Nelson, YPAC Chair
Stuart C. Nelson serves as Vice President at the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center. He manages an interdisciplinary team that works within the intersection of spiritual/religious belief, practice, community life, and health. Stuart has completed bachelor’s degrees in cognitive science, psychology, and religious studies at Rice University, and went on to complete a master’s in religious studies at University of California at Santa Barbara. His work focuses on applying theories and methods from cognitive science of religion in the context of health systems to increase quality of care. Stuart is a musically-minded lover of hip-hop, classic rock, and classical Indian music, as well as impressionism, surrealism, and modern art. He is also an avid birder.
Project Engineer, Jacobs
Carl Nooteboom, YPAC Chair-Elect
Carl Nooteboom is a native Houstonian and graduate of Texas A&M University. He has built his career over twelve years in the Oil & Gas industry designing pipelines and associated facilities. In his spare time he enjoys camping & hiking while birding, playing Bocce ball, and is an avid DIYer.
PhD Candidate, Baylor College of Medicine
Alexander Kneubehl, Houston Bird Week Chair
Alexander Kneubehl is a PhD candidate at Baylor College of Medicine in Molecular Virology and Microbiology. Birding is his escape from work and the city, and lets him enjoy nature and meet interesting people. #teamprairiechicken
Conservation Action Analyst, Houston Zoo
Taylor Rhoades, Special Project Chair
Having entered the realm of wildlife conservation at age 15, Taylor has worked with a range of species including birds, leatherback sea turtles, brown hyenas, and desert elephants. Taylor received her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Texas A&M University in 2013 and went on to obtain her Master’s degree in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brookes University in the UK. Since 2017, she has been working at the Houston Zoo in the Wildlife Conservation Department and moonlighting as a social media consultant for the National Geographic Photo Ark. When Taylor is not busy trying to save wildlife, you’ll often find her exploring the city or watching a good movie with her two great danes!
Zookeeper II, Houston Zoo
John Scaramucci, Social Chair
John Scaramucci has been a zoo keeper for the last 10 years and is dedicated to the appreciation and conservation of our natural world. Birding has been a hobby that has given him great joy and he is looking forward to giving back to a community that has given him so much.
Senior Environmental Operations Analyst, EDP Renewables
Kelsey Baird-Campos grew up in NE Scotland, where her love of wildlife, birds in particular, really started. After earning her B.S. in Environmental Science and Biology from University of Stirling, Kelsey moved to Maryland to complete her M.S. in Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology at Frostburg State. She moved down to Houston six years ago, and during this time has thoroughly enjoyed working as an afterschool environmental engineering STEM coach and wildlife biologist. Kelsey most recently joined the environmental affairs group of EDPR where she helps oversee environmental compliance and permitting for operating wind and solar farms across the US, Canada, and Mexico. When she is not working or stealing some time to run down to the coast to bird, Kelsey spends much of her time running along the White Oak Bayou, working on one of several ongoing house renovation projects, and buying plants.
Police Officer, Rice University Police Department
Chris is a Police Officer at Rice University currently working night shift patrol and has served the Rice community for 9 years. Chris is also a U.S. Army Veteran who served 7 years. His love and curiosity of birding began after seeing a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak eating from his backyard bird feeder. From that point on, his birding has evolved into ways to transform his backyard into usable habitat for resident, migrating and wintering birds. After a lot of hard work and lessons learned, the positive impact on the environment is evident as his yard list stands at 143 species of birds observed and numerous butterflies, bees and insects as well.
Upper School English Teacher, The Kinkaid School
Ryan Call teaches English to ninth and eleventh graders at The Kinkaid School. During the school's Interim Term, he offers--with a fellow teacher--a birding and nature-writing class, during which students learn about and practice birding basics as well as writing about nature, all while observing the winter residents of Piney Point Village. An alum of Rhodes College, Ryan has an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University, is the author of two story collections, and received a Whiting Award. Ryan and his wife and daughters enjoy taking road trips to natural attractions and parks. His favorite bird is the Mississippi Kite.
Danielle Cavender is a multi-faceted geologist with ConocoPhillips and holds an M.S. in Geology from the University of Missouri. She grew up in the Nashville area where she frequently visited the blue macaws and lorikeets at the Nashville Zoo. Her past volunteer efforts include the HA's Native Nursery and the Mizzou's Raptor Rehabilitation program. She loves adventuring and drawing birds in her sketchbook.
Environmental Field Technician, Harris County Engineering Department
Royce Daniels is a semi-native Houstonian. He graduated with a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from The Ohio State University. Upon graduation his career took him to New York, Oregon, and Hawai’I before coming back to work as an Environmental Field Technician for the Harris County Engineering Department. In his free time he enjoys cooking, birding, biking, and spending quality time with friends and family.
Marketing Consultant, Digital Craftory
Melissa D'Mello grew up in Bahrain, a little island in the middle east. She migrated to Buffalo, New York over 16 years ago where she graduated with a triple major in Communications, Political Science and Psychology. Her work and travels have taken her to 6 continents, over 50 countries and she has lived in multiple cities in the US. Her love for nature evolved when she moved to Delaware where she would go on multi day hikes with her partner and dog Uno. When she isn't outdoors, Melissa supports local nonprofits with their marketing and operations through Digital Craftory, a company she recently started. Melissa has over a decade of digital marketing experience working with Pharmaceutical and Healthcare companies. She is an active member of her community in The Woodlands and also serves on the board of the Creekside Park Village Association. The pandemic really got Melissa to start appreciating birdlife and her favorite bird is the Great Blue Heron.
Analyst, Pattern Energy
Hannah is a native Houstonian with a degree in Economics and Business from Marquette University. After graduating, she entered the renewable energy industry at Pattern Energy, where she supports the energy management division as an analyst and trader. In her free time, Hannah enjoys hiking, photography, painting and birding.
Park Naturalist, City of Houston, Parks and Recreation Department
Cassidy Kempf is a Park Naturalist at the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. She plans and coordinates habitat restoration projects across the city and works to protect the natural resources of Houston. She studied Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Rice University and is very interested in bird conservation.
Project Engineer, Weatherford
Cameron is a Project Engineer at Weatherford, specializing in downhole tool design, and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Texas. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2012 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. A 2017 trip to bird-rich Everglades National Park reawakened a passion for birding originally fostered by his grandad, and he hasn’t looked back since. He has made up for lost time by birding all over the greater Houston region, as well as taking trips across North America, with his life list sitting at 340 and his Harris County list at 180. He also enjoys volunteering his time for conservation efforts at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. You can follow his birding adventures on Instagram @thetexasbirder.
Control Systems Engineer, INTECH Process Automation Inc.
Harshal, an avid bird-enthusiast, comes from the extremely biodiverse subcontinent of India, which posed as a primary inspiration for him 10 years ago when he started his birding journey. Back home, he was active in local bird-conversation programs and participated in several bird-counts and races. Harshal has a degree in Instrumentation Engineering from Pune, India and a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering from Lamar University, Beaumont and he now works as an Automations Engineer based in Houston. When he moved to Texas in 2016, his birding aspirations migrated with him halfway across the globe. He is passionate towards bird conservation and is always finding ways to contribute and make a difference. In his spare time, he can be found playing a variety of musical instruments, and loves traveling to new places and meeting new people. He’s a foodie as well as a sports nerd. Someday, Harshal wishes to visit the New Guinea Islands to experience the birds of paradise.
Investment Officer, Hirtle Callaghan
Catherine Lee Clarke
Catherine advises families and nonprofits on their investment portfolios so they can meet their missions. Her favorite bird is the roseate spoonbill, and she loves to combine birding with kayaking and cycling around Houston and the Hill Country. A native Houstonian, Catherine holds a BA in Philosophy from Wellesley College.
Exhibits Supervisor, Senior Biologist, Moody Gardens
Clayton Leopold grew up in a small rural community just north of Victoria. Growing up in the country, Clayton was surrounded by wildlife, which cultured a deep appreciation of the natural world. Clayton received his degrees in Marine Biology and Marine Fisheries from Texas A&M University at Galveston. During that time, he volunteered at Moody Gardens, which led him to his current position. He currently works as a Senior Biologist/Exhibit Specialist at Moody Gardens in Galveston. Clayton and his wife have two amazing children, Laiken, 3, and Cassin, 1.
Wireline Sales Engineer, Baker Hughes
Halli’s birding adventure began at the ripe old age of 20 months, when after her first word “Mom”, her second and third were “Chipping Sparrow”, while spotting one in the back yard. Having been inspired by her birding enthusiast Grandmother, a cornerstone of the Thunder Bay Ornithological society, her own passion for birdwatching began to blossom. Throughout high school she worked at several banding and bird research stations across Canada, however life had other plans and she went on to study Chemical Engineering at McGill University. Following graduation, she entered the Oil & Gas Industry as an Open Hole Wireline Field Engineer, and has since progressed on to work at Baker Hughes as a Sales Engineer. She continues to bird watch as her primary escape and her life list sits at 1726.
Texas Coastal Outreach Coordinator, American Bird Conservancy
Originally from Northern California, Kelly has always loved the outdoors, especially the ocean. This led to pursuing a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami (FL) and a Master’s degree from the University of Washington, both in marine science and policy. Her career has ranged from teaching marine ecology in The Bahamas to working as a marine policy fellow in the United States Senate, and she recently joined the bird world as the Texas Coastal Outreach Coordinator for the American Bird Conservancy. In this role, she’ll be working to reduce trash pollution along the coasts and waterways of the Houston-Galveston region in order to minimize threats to birds, as well as people and all other wildlife. As a new birder, she looks forward to getting her life list started while working with the Young Professionals Advisory Council!
Naturalist, Collections Manager, Birthday Party Manager, Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Nikki Paranzino is currently a Naturalist at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. While she primarily likes to focus on mammals and reptiles, she does have hands-on experience working with numerous animals including different species of song birds, water birds, and raptors. Raptors being her favorite.
Community Engagement Manager, Bayou Preservation Association, Inc.
Branwen Ranck, CFRE, CVA
In her current role serving as Community Engagement Manager for Bayou Preservation Association, Branwen Ranck leads collaboration efforts among Houston’s environmental non-profits, cultivates constituent relationships, and develops strategies that meaningfully engage the community with our bayous. Branwen’s decade of experience in non-profits, nature centers, state parks, wildlife hospitals, and government agencies has culminated in a personal mission of using the power of storytelling to inspire wonder in the youngest and action in the oldest. By engaging and empowering people within their own community she strives to bridge an ever-growing disconnect and help communities establish a deeper connection with the natural world. In addition to being a Certified Fund Raising Executive and Certified Volunteer Administrator, Branwen received her Bachelor of Science in Organismal Biology from Austin Peay State University in her native Tennessee. As for her favorite bird — the entire Corvidae family!
YPAC Emeritus Members
Thank you to our past YPAC members that have helped us make a difference in bird conservation through hands-on conservation work and public engagement.
|Ian Wesley Gapp||2019-2020|
We will be accepting applications for the 2022 Young Professionals Advisory Council in November 2021. If you are interested in applying to be on the 2022 YPAC, please subscribe to our email list for "Young Professionals Events" to get a notification when we start the application process.