Atlanta Audubon recently elected Joshua Gassman, Gus Kaufman, Emmeline Luck, Paige Martin, and LaTresse Snead to the Board of Directors. The board also welcomed Robin Lanier, who joined the board in August, filling a vacant position. These individuals will serve a three-year term that began on January 1, 2020.
Current board members Angelou Ezeilo, Jairo Garcia, Melinda Langston, and Amanda Woomer were also re-elected for a second term. Additional Atlanta Audubon board members include Charles Bowen, Gina Charles, Linda DiSantis, Leslie Edwards, Shannon Fair, Evonne Blythers-Lapsey, Charles Loeb, Ellen Macht, Rusty Pritchard, and Esther Stokes.
“We are excited to welcome Joshua, Gus, Emmeline, Paige, LaTresse, and Robin to the Atlanta Audubon Board of Directors,” says Esther Stokes, board chair. “These individuals bring a wealth of talents and experiences to the Atlanta Audubon Board that will help the organization fulfill its mission of building places where birds and people thrive.”
For nearly 20 years Joshua Gassman has led interdisciplinary teams focused on sustainable design, including net positive water and net positive energy projects. He has successfully managed a broad spectrum of projects, ranging from large research labs for major universities to interpretive and education centers, many of which are nationally-recognized and LEED certified. In his current role as the sustainable design director at the architectural firm Lord Aeck Sargent, he leads the design team for The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design at Georgia Tech, which aims to be the most sustainable building ever built in the southeastern U.S. Other projects on which he has worked include the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, Chattahoochee Nature & Discovery Center, the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, The Bascom Visual Arts Center, and the High Museum of Art: Child and Family Education Center.
Gus Kaufman, Jr., is a familiar face to many Atlanta Audubon members who have attended one of his bird walks. A licensed psychologist whose practice is with Oakhurst Psychotherapy Associates, Gus’s love for nature and birdwatching began as a child growing up in Macon, with an Eagle Scout father and a Girl Scout leader mother. Living next to the largest tract of forest in Macon provided the Kaufmans with ample opportunities to hone their bird identification skills. After college, Gus made his way to Atlanta in the fall of 1968, where he was a public school teacher in addition to writing under the pseudonym Smokey Kaufman for the Atlanta-based underground newspaper, the Great Speckled Bird. He later received his master’s in humanistic psychology at West Georgia College and studied psychotherapy in Boston, receiving his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the Fielding Graduate University. Gus is a member of the Greater Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Birders (The Gaggle) and, in addition to birding, he still plays soccer (badly, he says) and engages in social activism.
Robin Lanier works in Georgia Power’s Environmental Affairs Organization as the environmental regulatory and strategy manager. In her current role Robin manages the development of Georgia Power’s environmental compliance strategy for all facilities, leads the development of strategy and planning related to the company’s environmental capital budgets, and provides leadership in environmental regulatory activities pertaining to matters before the Georgia Public Service Commission. Robin graduated from the University of Georgia holding a degree in agricultural engineering with an emphasis in structures and structural systems. She has received her Engineering In-Training (EIT) license in the state of Georgia and is also a Certified Energy Manager (CEM) through the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). In the community she actively participates on the Young Professional Board for the Atlanta Children’s Shelter and is a mentor in Georgia Power’s Women in Engineering program. Robin joined the Atlanta Audubon board in August 2019 to fill a vacancy.
Emmeline (Emme) Luck has worked as the Policy Associate for the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) since June 2018. In this role, she tracks local, regional, and national policy trends and developments to keep stakeholders informed about the evolving state of energy efficiency in the Southeast. She has also completed several research projects and speaking engagements during her time at SEEA. Emme graduated with a dual degree in environmental sciences and French studies from Emory
University. She also earned a sustainability management concentration through the Goizueta Business School. At Emory, Emme also completed The Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps training in March 2019 and serves as the communications director for The Climate Reality Project: Atlanta Chapter, which aims to spread awareness of the climate crisis and its solutions by engaging local communities. Emme grew up in the small coastal town of Sag Harbor, New York, where she first discovered the importance of our natural world and her passion for helping others to connect with their environments. She enjoys exploring Atlanta and learning new things about the Southeast. In addition to her passion for environmental sustainability and conservation, Emme loves hiking, reading, traveling, and practicing yoga.
Paige Martin is a career fundraiser and serves as director of development for global oceans at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an international leader in marine conservation. Prior to her current role, Paige led the development team for TNC in Georgia and managed a comprehensive $36 million campaign. Paige joined TNC in 2014 after six years at Emory University, most recently as chief development officer for the neurosciences. In addition to her experience at Emory and five years in the corporate world (Fidelity Investments in Boston), Paige has led record-breaking development programs at The Asheville School, Duke University, and All Saints’ Episcopal Church. She holds a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree from Auburn University, both in communication. Paige lives in Atlanta with husband and Centers for Disease Control expert Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, two sons, and two rescue dogs.
LaTresse Snead is Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Building Healthy Cities strategy globally, where she helps develop and promote nature-based solutions for the most pressing challenges facing cities around the world. While advancing strategy, fundraising, and communications efforts, LaTresse oversees a passionate staff who work on everything from greening megacities and researching urban tree canopies to harnessing the potential of stormwater and creatively engaging the world’s billions of city dwellers with nature. Her role also includes helping the Conservancy think through issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Prior to this role, LaTresse directed the Conservancy’s Volunteer and Community Outreach programs, where she launched Connect with Nature, a nationwide initiative that has linked thousands of people with natural areas and meaningful volunteer opportunities. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, LaTresse worked for a mix of nonprofits and businesses, including the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Georgia chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Tastefully Simple. She holds a BA in African American studies from San Francisco State University and a MPA with an emphasis in nonprofit management from Georgia State University. When she’s not traveling, she lives outside Atlanta with her husband and son, where she’s an aspiring yogi and cyclist.
For more information on Atlanta Audubon, visit www.AtlantaAudubon.org.
Atlanta Audubon Society is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement.
Guest article by Theresa Hartz, Atlanta Audubon Volunteer and Master Birder Instructor
The number is staggering. In less than one human lifetime, 2.9 billion breeding birds have been lost from the continental United States and Canada. That is more than one in four birds that have disappeared from our shores, forests, wetlands, grasslands, deserts and neighborhoods. This can be thought of as a balance sheet. Each year birds produce their young while other birds die (naturally and caused by humans). Between 1970 and 2017, many more birds have died than have been hatched and survived.
This astounding and disturbing conclusion is the result of a collaborative study recently published in the journal Science. The research team, which included scientists from the American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Geological Survey, Canadian Wildlife Services, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, studied data collected from 1970 through 2017. The data of the breeding population of 529 species were analyzed using North American Breeding Bird Surveys and Audubon’s Christmas Bird Counts, as well as ten other data sets. The team also analyzed more recent data collected by radar technology that tracks large groups of birds as they migrate in spring and fall.
These are not our "exotic and unusual" birds that have declined so dramatically. More than 90 percent of the total loss of birdlife comes from 12 avian families. We are talking about our backyard and neighborhood birds!
Red-winged Blackbirds are well known, common birds that utilize several habitats. Yet they have declined by one-third. For those of you who grew up in the Midwest, you might recall flocks of colorful Bobolinks flying in the fields. As with several other grassland birds, we have lost an astounding 60 percent of these beautiful birds. The Eastern Towhee is a common backyard bird however we have lost 40 percent of them. Even harder to fathom is the loss of one in four Blue Jays (Blue Jays!!) Common winter feeder birds, such as Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows, are both down by more than 30 percent. One in three Baltimore Orioles are gone. Perhaps you are beginning to grasp the incredible scope of this problem. To paraphrase the American Bird Conservancy, if these birds are in trouble, the wider web of life (including us) is in trouble too. It is not a case of just one canary dying in the mine, it’s almost three billion of them.
Major drivers of dramatic bird declines
Habitat loss through development, agriculture, and resource extraction head the list. When we develop a patch of land that was previously good, messy habitat, the birds have to go elsewhere. The problem now is, "elsewhere" has become scarce. In this same vein is habitat degradation, which occurs when the habitat is changed (often "improved") and becomes less able to support birds. Examples are when a woodland is fragmented or altered by invasive plants, or when water quality is compromised. To keep them green, people use pesticides containing neonicotinoids, which kill birds when they feed on poisoned insects or pesticide-laced seeds, for example. Herbicides kill host plants for insects that birds feed on, and birds die if their prey disappears.
Other major human caused threats to birds are feral or free-roaming cats (a major killer of birds) and collisions with infrastructure (glass buildings, communication towers, wind turbines). The major decline (more than 30 percent) in our native insects mirrors closely the decline in birds. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these threats as well as create new challenges.
The scientists who produced this report believe it is still possible to reverse course and stop this decline. Action at the national scale is needed, and, given the migratory nature of many birds, is indeed also needed at the international level. We need governmental and political leadership to strengthen, not weaken, our environmental laws that have been so successful in the past. Banning DDT and other pesticides brought the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon back from near extinction. Wetland conservation in the Clean Water Act has increased our waterfowl by 50 percent, to the delight of both hunters and birders.
There are three important bills currently in Congress that would help protect birds. The Recover America’s Wildlife Act would increase federal funding for state conservation programs, thus giving the states the ability to decide their unique priorities. These funds would be redirected funds, not new federal dollars. The Bird Safe Building Act would require new and renovating federal government buildings be renovated to include bird-safe materials and design. The Migratory Bird Protection Act would restore provisions in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (which has been in effect for 100 years) that have been weakened over the last few years.
There are also key actions that we all can take to make our homes, neighborhoods and region a safer and more bird-friendly environment.
People often ask me if I have noticed reduced birdlife since I started birding. I answer, yes, most definitely! Sadly, there is now the data to back up this claim. If we continue down this road of losing 30 percent of birdlife every 48 years, many of our favorite backyard birds won’t be around for anyone to enjoy. Is this really the legacy we wish to leave to our grandchildren?