Young Professionals Advisory Council
Houston Audubon's Young Professionals Advisory Council, or YPAC, is a passionate group of volunteers that help advance our mission of bird conservation through outreach and community engagement efforts, the coordination of Houston Bird Week, hands-on habitat restoration, community science, and more.
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 YPAC is a one-year volunteer commitment. In addition to general meetings, YPAC members participate on one or more project committees throughout the year. Members also get together for in-person socials, birding trips, game nights, and more, developing long-lasting personal and professional relationships beyond their term on YPAC.
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. Since then, the YPAC has been organizing Houston Bird Week every year in addition to various community projects such as Bird-Friendly Spaces, the Flock Together Photo Contest, Birdy Book Club, AviChat, park restoration projects, bird banding, and more.
Development Officer ― Southeast Region | Southwest Region | Government Relations for American Bird Conservancy
Branwen Ranck, CFRE, CVA, YPAC Chair
Branwen’s 14-year career has been defined by building lasting partnerships and raising critical funds for local and international organizations. As a Development Officer for American Bird Conservancy, Branwen serves as the lead fundraiser for the international organization's Southeast Region, Southwest Region, and Government Relations--as well as provides key input to project planning and implementation to conserve wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a unique career that has straddled the intersection of conservation and philanthropy, she has served in key fundraising and environmental roles within both the non-profit and public sectors. In addition to holding a B.S. in Organismal Biology from Austin Peay State University and a Medicinal Plants Certificate from Cornell University, she is a Certified Fund Raising Executive and Certified Volunteer Administrator. She splits her spare time between studying nature’s representation in mythology and folklore, being an avid gardener, and serving as Chair-Elect for Houston Audubon’s Young Professional Advisory Council, where she plays an integral role in the chapter’s DEI efforts, leadership development, and the planning of the region’s annual Bird Week.
Senior Manager, Jobs for the Future (JFF)
Madeleine Chaisson, YPAC Chair-elect
A Louisiana native, Madeleine is happy to call the Gulf Coast home (although her time in Texas has made the Great Tailed Grackle her favorite bird). Her current role as a Senior Manager with Jobs for the Future (JFF) connects her with workforce professionals across the country looking to increase equity in hiring practices, retention, and advancement. Her multicultural experiences studying, living, and researching abroad in southeast Asia and Latin America is supported by BAs in International Relations, French, Spanish, and Latin American Studies from the University of Arkansas, and a Masters of Public Service (MPS) from the Clinton School of Public Service. She is always searching for the next great historical fiction novel to accompany her on her travels (binoculars in tow).
Senior Environmental Operations Analyst, EDP Renewables
Kelsey Baird-Campos, Houston Bird Week Chair
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.
Field Operations Coordinator, Harris County Commissioner Precinct One
Royce Daniels, AviChat Chair
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.
Trading Analyst, Harvest Marketing & Trading LLC
Kari Shearer, Social Chair
Kari Shearer currently works at Harvest Midstream as a trading analyst. She holds a B.A. in Economics from Southwestern University. When not at work, Kari enjoys playing board games with friends, rock climbing, camping and hiking (basically anything that can also be combined with birding). Her favorite bird is the rufous motmot.
YPAC 2023 Members
Data Analyst Consultant, Acustrategy
Miqdaad is a current Masters student at Texas Southern University studying Urban Planning and Environmental Policy. He hopes to use his education to work towards creating nature-friendly cities and is passionate about creating environments where humans can coexist within the nature biome.
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.
Property Manager, KM Realty
Kerry graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.S.A. in environmental studies and from there worked as an educational park ranger in Watkins Glenn New York, and Yosemite National Park, California. She has always had a love for nature, and as a Houston native is passionate about spreading that love and appreciation for nature to others living in urban spaces. Currently Kerry is excited to have returned home and works as a Property Manager for KM Realty.
In her free time Kerry enjoys going on long walks and practicing yoga with her two kitties who insist on joining. She enjoys exploring the marshy lands around Houston, going birdwatching with friends, and loves to read fantasy novels. Kerry also loves going on back-country camping trips with her friends, and is eager to go on her first post-covid expedition soon! Kerry loves feeling apart of her community and is eager to bring her experiences and enthusiasm for the outdoors to her hometown as a YPAC member!
Director of Operations, Parkside Capital
Lauren Ferrante is a native Houstonian with a deep respect for Texas ecology. She graduated from Southwestern University and the University of Amsterdam with a degree in Urban Sociology which fostered her interests in understanding how built environments influence human behavior and our relationship to nature. She worked two years as a video producer and account manager for a communications consulting agency and deepened her roots in Houston’s private public partnerships with clients such as the Houston Parks Board, Houston Endowment, and the Texas Medical Center. The past decade she has served as the Director of Operations at Parkside Capital, a private equity commercial real estate company. She is also the co-founder and owner of a third wave coffeeshop in the Galleria area as well as a restaurant in the East End. In her free time she camps, birds, and experiments with re-prairieing her yards.
Project Engineer, Weatherford
Cameron is a Project Manager at Weatherford, specializing in new product 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 436 and his Harris County list at 208. 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.
PhD Candidate, Baylor College of Medicine
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
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.
Educator 2, Downtown Aquarium
Carrie is currently an Educator 2 at the Downtown Aquarium. In this position, she teaches people of all ages about the animals at the aquarium and hopes to inspire people to care about all animals near and far. She holds a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior from the University of Texas. Previously, she has worked in husbandry of birds in a wildlife facility and zoo. She absolutely loves birds and hopes to inspire others to love and care about them as much as she does. In her free time she loves visiting parks, learning about native plants and going to the gym.
Senior Manager of Marketing and Development, Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Christine is the Senior Manager of Marketing & Development at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies. She has always been passionate about nature and the environment and has been working with nonprofits in Houston's conservation and environmental education community for over 10 years. When she's not working, Christine enjoys birdwatching, gardening, exploring natural spaces, and spending time with her dog Noah.
Financial Accountant III, Plains All American Pipeline
Jordan B. McInnis
Jordan moved to Houston from Mississippi in 2018 with her husband and three cats. She is a graduate of the University of Mississippi with a Master of Accountancy and a Bachelor of Economics. She has earned her CPA license and is currently a financial accountant at Plains All American Pipeline focusing on equity-method investments, asset retirement obligations, and special projects such as acquisitions and divestitures.
In her personal time, Jordan enjoys reading, visiting coffee shops, and generally just being outdoors—which is what led her to discover a love for birding! She also enjoys volunteering at the Houston Botanic Garden and attending South Main Baptist Church. Jordan is passionate about community involvement and is excited to share knowledge of and enthusiasm for birds with the Houston community.
Conflicts Analyst, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP
Conor McKinney is a native Houstonian currently working at Baker Botts LLP as a risk management professional. He graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio with a degree in Economics, History, and Political Science (whew). Outside of work, Conor creates and hosts weekly trivia nights at a local craft brewery and helps lead their run club. He is also an (amateur) art collector, board and tabletop gamer (Wingspan and DND, to name a few), hiker, rock climber, and marathoner.
Naturalist 2, Harris County Precinct 4
Bayard Nicklow is a Naturalist 2 with Harris County Precinct 4 at Kleb Woods and John Paul Landing. He holds a B.S. in Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Management from Colorado State University though originally from the Houston area. He has a particular fondness for coastal salt marshes and prairies and enjoys exploring them through fishing, birding and photography.
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.
General Aviation Account Manager, bp
Joan Marie Sanborn III
Joan Sanborn currently works for bp as an account manager for their jet fuel business. She has a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines and has held various positions in the hydrocarbon trading space. Joan always enjoys trying new hobbies, but regularly finds time to read, hike, and cook for friends. She also volunteers her time with the Houston and Chicago operas. She and her husband have a young son with whom they look forward to sharing their love of the outdoors.
Geophysicist, Hess Corporation
Abra Ziegler is an integrated exploration geophysicist with Hess Corporation and holds an M.S. in Geophysics from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Before the hydrocarbon industry, she worked for the USGS and NGA and was involved in varied climate and conservation science projects including for wind energy, threatened and endangered species, and carbon sequestration. She loves categorizing and cataloging, loves knowing things, loves searching (and of course finding); thus a birder she became.
This birder was born in the high desert in the American West; her topography was formed over geological time. Begin in the Colorado Rockies where the Laramide orogeny built the very mountains that built her own foundation, also solid, also metamorphic. Move next into the Rio Grande Rift, its widespread extension manifesting her own broadening, of place and of mind. Quickly run through the Basin and Range, its parallel faults leveling out below the surface (she'd like to think hers did too, as graben linking to her horst). Finally now in the Gulf Coastal Plain, formed from the weight of accumulation and the breaking of boulders into sand, she too was deposited here. The days left in front of her will watch her get older as the sediments now surrounding her grow younger.
She hopes the birds she has searched for and found through all of her own time, first as constant, then as augury, will be there still to herald the next epoch and the next and the next.
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|
|Catherine Lee Clarke||2021-2022|
|Taran M. Jensvold||2022|