About Us

Audubon New York Staff & Bios

Learn more about our staff!

Mike Burger, Director of Conservation and Science, Ithaca Office - at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Mike has been with Audubon New York since 1999, first as a forest ecologist conducting research in the Adirondacks, then as Director of Bird Conservation for seven years, and most recently as Director of Conservation and Science. Based at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, Mike functions as Audubon New York's chief scientist, with a responsibility of providing a solid, science-based foundation for all of the organization's programs. Additionally, Mike oversees several of Audubon New York's conservation programs, including the Important Bird Areas, grassland bird conservation, and forest biodiversity programs. Prior to coming to Audubon, Mike earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Michigan where he studied climatic and physiological determinants of bird ranges and was supported by a Department of Energy Global Change Fellowship.

Elizabeth Burns, Development & Communications Associate, State Headquarters

Elizabeth grew up on Long Island and has always been fascinated by wildlife and passionate about environmental conservation. Now a resident of New York's Capital Region, she recently graduated from University at Albany, SUNY, with a bachelor’s degree in English and Communications. She is thrilled to be a part of the Audubon New York team in Troy where she can put her studies and experience in the field of communications to work, along with her true love for the outdoors. When Elizabeth is not at work she enjoys spending time in the Adirondacks at her family’s home on Loon Lake where she kayaks, swims, hikes, and in the winter, cross country skis. Prior to joining Audubon New York, Elizabeth worked at public relations firm Corning Place Communications.

Kathryn D’Amico, Volunteer Coordinator and Office Manager – Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audubon Center

Kathryn grew up on the south shore of Long Island.  She was always fascinated with the balance of nature.  After an earlier career in business and having a family, she returned to school.  She graduated from SUNY ESC with a BS in Environmental Science, with the focus of her work on Ecology.  She lived in Austin, Texas where she worked at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center first in membership and later on a grant program researching invasive plant species.  Kathryn then began volunteering on many habitat restoration projects, as well as native plant projects and vegetation surveys.

 After moving back to her hometown on Long Island, she began volunteering for Audubon.  This led her to a position at TR Sanctuary & Audubon Center, where she could combine her environmental education and her business background.  In her spare time, Kathryn enjoys spending time with her husband and four daughters hiking, camping, going to the beach, and of course bird-watching!

Sasha Eisenstein, Government Relations Manager

Sasha came to us from the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo where she served as a policy advisor on the Environmental team. In that role, Audubon NY had the pleasure of working with Sasha on several joint conservation efforts, including the Lights Out New York Executive Order, Empire State Development’s I Bird NY campaign and website, the Pollinator Task Force and Protection Plan, several coastline restoration projects, and State legislative session and budgets, including for Fiscal Year 2016-2017, which comprised of historic levels of funding for the environment.  Prior to her role as policy advisor, Sasha served as Special Assistant to the Counselor of the Governor, were she assisted with special projects, including the Path Through History Initiative, marketing and State Capitol exhibits. Sasha has a passion for conservation and wildlife protection. 

Lacey Gardner, Environmental Educator, Montezuma Audubon Center

Lacey has been an educator at the Seneca Park Zoo (Rochester, NY) for a little more than two years and before that she worked for the 4-H program in Wayne County. With a concentration in Outdoor Education, and a degree in Wildlife Management, she is very excited to join the Audubon team. Lacey is an active outdoorsperson with interests ranging from snowshoeing to rock climbing. She also competes in Highland Games throughout the spring and summer. Lacey enjoys making every education experience dynamic and entertaining, with a long history of theatre experience. She firmly believes in the importance of outdoor education and the importance of educating in the outdoors. She takes every opportunity to teach and learn something new. 

Calandra (Cally) Guasti, Part-time Environmental Educator, For the Birds! NYC

Cally has joined our team as a part-time For the Birds! Environmental Educator in NYC. Cally will be jumping right in to assist the FTB! NYC team with their busy spring program schedule.

Cally is native New Yorker who has worked with students at the elementary, middle, high school, and college levels, but most extensively with elementary school children. Her environmental awakening started when studying abroad in Monteverde, Costa Rica, where she pursued an environmentally focused course of study and was introduced to the majestic Cloud Forest. Since then, Cally has become an avid bird watcher, and has become passionate about urban ecology and learning about the diversity of birds that make their home throughout the five boroughs. Last summer, through Brooklyn College, she worked as a field biologist, assessing the health of NYC's national recreation area in Jamaica Bay, and collecting and entering forest data for over 150 plots. Over the last few years, her dedication to environmental education has focused on New York City, a place that supports a surprising amount of beauty and nature if you know where to look. 

Andrew Hinickle, Conservation Biologist, Ithaca Office - at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Andy Hinickle is Audubon New York's Conservation Biologist within the Conservation and Science Department, located at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca.  Andy leads Audubon's young forest (shrubland), and grassland bird conservation efforts, with an emphasis on working with private and public landowners within Important Bird Areas and other focus areas.  He works closely with partner agencies and organizations to engage landowners in cost-share or other incentive programs, writing conservation and management plans for project sites, and monitoring the bird response to management activities.  Andy came to Audubon in 2011 from the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, where he was employed as a term Wildlife Biologist.  Prior to that, he held positions with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, monitoring, restoring and maintaining a variety of habitat types on public and private lands.  Andy has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.  

Alyssa Johnson, Environmental Educator, Montezuma Audubon Center
Alyssa originally pursued a college education in Marketing and Communications, but discovered that’s not the direct career path she wanted to follow. After several years of uncertainty, Alyssa discovered her passion while working summers at a girls camp in Raquette Lake, NY. She decided to attend Finger Lakes Community College to pursue and ultimately graduate with dual degrees: an AS in Environmental Studies and an AAS in Natural Resources Conservation. Next she transferred to SUNY Cobleskill where she received her BT in Wildlife Management. Throughout her time in college, Alyssa was an avid volunteer with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation visiting bear dens, banding ducks and geese, aging deer at check stations, and monitoring fisher camera trap/bait stations. She was also an involved member of The Wildlife Society student chapters, serving as club President and Historian and presenting an undergraduate research project on black bear communications at one of the annual national conferences. While in college, Alyssa picked up writing a wildlife-themed blog documenting her coursework and discovered a passion for connecting people with nature- remotely. Throughout her professional experiences she’s enjoyed managing various social media platforms, creating web content, photo journaling, and creating engaging social media campaigns that ties in her early studies in marketing/communications, and her love of the outdoors. Alyssa’s path to the Montezuma Audubon Center has been scenic, including internships with the USFWS in Alaska, Alabama, and the Florida Keys, an internship managing big game data in Albany with the NYSDEC, a year of AmeriCorps VISTA where she served at two community-action non-profits, and returning to FLCC to work in the very department she graduated from years before. While at Audubon, Alyssa hopes to engage, inspire, and educate children and other members of her community to love and appreciate the resources that we are responsible for conserving. In her free time, Alyssa loves hiking with her golden retriever Addie, cooking, camera trapping, and exploring the Finger Lakes, which she calls home.

Kelly Knutson, New York Field Organizer, State Headquarters

Born and raised in the Great Plains of North Dakota, Kelly joined Audubon New York in January 2017 as the New York Field Organizer and works to further empower our grassroots network to advocate for birds and their critical habitats. Previously, he served as Regional Field Director for NextGen Climate, a non-partisan environmental non-profit focused on implementing solutions, such as wind and solar, to aid in mitigating carbon emissions in communities across New Hampshire. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Environmental Studies from Concordia College in Minnesota, where he explored how to simultaneously conserve ecosystems and their biodiversity while promoting responsible development of renewable energy. In his spare time, you’ll likely find Kelly discovering hip coffee shops, wandering the woods in search of wild mushrooms, or attempting to write a novel on finding positivity!

Shelley Langer, Development Manager, Annual Giving & Stewardship, State Headquarters

Shelley joined Audubon New York in December 2016 as the Development Manager for Annual Giving & Stewardship. Prior to joining Audubon New York, Shelley worked for Union College in the Annual Giving department where she managed their Annual Giving communications, giving challenges and three 24-hour giving campaigns. Shelley was raised in the Capital Region and attended Michigan State University. She enjoys hiking, camping, gardening, watching the birds in her backyard, and is an aspiring Adirondack 46er. Shelley lives in Niskayuna with her husband and four children.  

Chris LajewskiCenter Director of the Montezuma Audubon Center

Chris Lajewski is a passionate conservationist and birder. A native of Pittsford, NY, Chris began his career with Audubon NY in November 2010 as the Montezuma Audubon Center’s Education Manager and he was promoted to Center Director in July 2014. He graduated with honors from SUNY Albany with a Bachelor's of Science degree in geology and obtained a Master's of Science degree in geology from Syracuse University where he researched human impacts on the Finger Lakes. After college, he worked for an environmental consulting firm, the National Park Service's George Washington Memorial Parkway, the Walker Nature Center, and the Central and Western NY Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Chris is a proud husband and father and enjoys hiking, fishing, camping, and swimming with his wife and children.

Eric Lind, Center Director, Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary

Eric is responsible for all aspects of planning, developing, operating and managing the Marsh. Prior to this position, Eric was the Assistant Manager and Education Director at the sanctuary, where he has worked since 1993. A life-long resident of the Hudson River Valley, he has a deep personal connection to the Hudson River and its wild inhabitants. Eric is an accomplished wildlife photographer and his work frequently decorates Audubon New York publications.

Jillian Liner, Director of Bird Conservation, Ithaca Office - at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Jillian is a native upstate New Yorker with a BA in Biology from Skidmore College and a MS in Ecological Planning from the University of Vermont. Prior to coming to Audubon in 2001, Jillian spent time in Florida, Minnesota, Montana, and Vermont trapping and banding eagles, monitoring raptor migration, rehabilitating injured raptors, and assisting NGOs and state agencies with landscape inventories and conservation planning. Jillian loves spending time outdoors with her husband and two sons.  

Daphne M. Lumpkin, Office Manager & Meeting Coordinator, State Headquarters

Daphne is a native of Albany and a graduate of Bryant & Stratton Business Institute. Before Audubon she worked with child support services, a division of Lockheed Martin IMS for 5 years. She has been with Audubon since 1997 when she was hired as an Administrative Assistant and is currently the Office Manager and Meeting Coordinator. Daphne also does all the designing and layouts for our publications and event invitations. In her spare time she enjoys writing poetry, swimming, cooking and various volunteer work for her church.

Laura McCarthy, Manager of Conservation Engagement, State Headquarters

Laura oversees the grassroots efforts of the conservation and policy programs of Audubon New York and works very closely with the 27 Audubon Chapters in New York. She grew up in the woods and fields of Central New York, and graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2004. Before starting with Audubon in 2007, Laura worked in preschool nature education in Vermont and with the New York advocacy organization, Citizens Environmental Coalition (CEC), where she focused on pollution prevention and residential green building, authoring "The World at Home: A Household Guide to Building Green." Laura currently lives in Albany where she enjoys shopping at farmers markets, playing all kinds of sports, making all types of art and hiking up mountains in summer and fall while skiing down them in winter and early spring. She’s also closing in on her 46 Adirondack High Peaks.

Rich Merritt, Director of Operations and Administration, State Headquarters

Rich began working for Audubon in 1998 and he handles the finances and administration for the state program as well as centers oversight, information systems, human resources, grant processing and pretty much all the stuff that nobody else wants to do. He travels often in search of birds. In his spare hours, Rich enjoys hiking, campfire gatherings, birding, skiing, laughing, singing, cooking and hugs.

Julie NelsenEnvironmental Educator, Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center

Julie graduated from York College in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Business and Marketing. After graduation she went into the AmeriCorp Western Region NCCC and participated in forestry work, special needs projects for children and childhood education programming.

Due to her inspirational experiences with AmeriCorp, she discovered in her heart she wanted to go back to school for a Masters in Childhood Education. Julie holds a Professional Certification in Childhood Education from NYS. She has taught in both the public school setting as well as on the water and beach as a marine science Education Director for a not-for-profit marine education center. She loves both teaching children and being outdoors!

Amanda Pachomski, Long Island Bird Conservation Program Manager, Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center

Amanda has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from SUNY Binghamton and will be receiving her M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Biology and Management from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry later this year.  Amanda first became passionate about coastal conservation while working as an Interpretation Ranger at Fire Island National Seashore, where she spoke to visitors about shorebird conservation via environmental education programs. To get a hands-on education in conservation biology and field research, she spent an undergraduate semester abroad in Ecuador with the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation. For her graduate thesis, she oversaw a field crew and collaborated with local partners to study the foraging habitat characteristics, aquatic invertebrate prey availability, and detectability of Rusty Blackbirds in New Hampshire. She surveyed other passerines, waterfowl, and raptors as a volunteer and also completed the Braddock Bay Observatory's summer banding course. She is a Long Island native and is really excited to begin a long-term career with Audubon. Amanda spends her free time reading, practicing yoga, cooking local veggies, stand up paddle boarding, and hiking with her husband and their dog.

Marisa Rader, Fundraising Events Associate, New York City

As the Fundraising Events Associate, Marisa is responsible for planning and executing the annual Keesee Awards Luncheon, Young Members Event, and  meetings, activities, and events of the Women in Conservation program, including the annual Luncheon.  Prior to joining Audubon New York, Marisa worked as the Development Associate for Central Synagogue, a vibrant, Reform congregation in Midtown Manhattan.  A native of Los Angeles, Marisa graduated from the Joint Program with Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, earning a B.A in American Studies and a B.A. in Modern Jewish Studies.  Marisa is an enthusiastic conservationist, including filling her beloved composting bin in the backyard, and enjoys exploring New York City, trying new recipes with local, sustainable ingredients, and playing with all of the friendly dogs during walks in Central Park.

Donna Richardson, Environmental Education Specalist, Montezuma Audubon Center

Donna Richardson grew up in Albany County.  After graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications, she spent the majority of her business career in Toledo, Ohio.  While living in Toledo, she volunteered at the Toledo Zoo as a volunteer educator in the Education Department and as a volunteer keeper in the Bird Department.  It was during this time at the Toledo Zoo she realized her passion was for the conservation of wildlife and saving our natural resources.  After moving back to New York to be closer to her family, she decided to change her career path and follow her passion.  She went back to school for Natural Resources Conservation and Environmental Studies at Finger Lakes Community College.  Although she took the scenic route to follow her passion, she is happy the road led her to Audubon New York.

Richard Santangelo, Program Director - For the Birds! New York City

A former elementary school teacher and Peace Corps Volunteer, Rich is responsible for promoting the growth and implementation of the For the Birds! program across the five boroughs of New York City.  Rich holds a Bachelor’s of Education from William Paterson University and a Master’s of Science in Environmental Education and Ecology from the Florida Institute of Technology.  Rich also serves as Field Trip Chair for his local Audubon Chapter in New Jersey.

Rebecca Schultz, Education Manager, Constitution Marsh Audubon Center & Sanctuary

Rebecca has a MA in Environmental Conservation Education from NYU and BA in Cultural Anthropology. She has served as a US Peace Corps volunteer, working as a Youth Developer in the central region of Ukraine. Coming to us most recently from the NYC Soil and Water Conservation District, Rebecca uses her professional  background, multiple talents, and love of the natural world to coordinate and implement meaningful education programs. Her main goal is to develop education and citizen-science programs on and off-site that exchange knowledge, foster appreciation and further develop an ethic of conservation within the community.

Claudette ThorntonDirector of Strategic Communications, State Headquarters

Claudette has been a lifelong conservationist and outdoor enthusiast and joined the Audubon New York team in January 2014. Claudette serves as a thought partner to the executive leadership team on internal and external communications based on the communications strategy and strategic plan. Her responsibilities include developing and executing a long-term vision for the communications function within the organization, establishing effective internal and external partnerships and expanding conservation reach through strategic public relations, brand management and marketing efforts. Claudette supports the day-to-day communications needs of staff throughout the organization and contributes to an atmosphere in which diversity and inclusivity are valued and supported.

A lifelong Rensselaer County resident, Claudette is the former Vice President of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce, a 2012 Business Review 40 Under Forty Honoree and recipient of the 2013 YWCA Resourceful Women award. Claudette is a graduate of the College of St. Rose with a Bachelor’s degree majoring in Public Communications and a minor in Business Administration. Claudette serves as a member of the Troy YMCA advisory board and a member of the CEO development committee.  Other professional associations and community involvement include being a former board member of the Public Relations Society of America, Capital Region Chapter; former board member, chair of the executive review committee, and member of the marketing committee of the Troy Downtown Business Improvement District; and a member of Women In Development.

Suzanne Treyger, Forest Program Manager, Ithaca – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 As Forest Program Manager, Suzanne promotes sustainable forestry practices on private and public land by providing outreach and technical assistance to landowners and land managers. This is an important part of a greater effort to improve forest habitat along the Atlantic Flyway for focal bird species in decline. Prior to joining Audubon New York, Suzanne worked for YardMap, a citizen science project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Suzanne was also the Stewardship Project Coordinator for New Jersey Audubon, where she managed public and private lands to enhance and restore habitat for species of conservation concern. She has also worked for the Smithsonian Institution and the New Hampshire Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. A native of central New York, she has a BS in Wildlife Management from the University of New Hampshire, and a MS from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Forest and Natural Resources Management, where her research focused on invasive species management issues on private lands in the Adirondack State Park. Suzanne enjoys being outdoors alongside her husband, daughter, and dog.

Tom VanDuyne, For the Birds! Teacher/Naturalist, New York City

Tom graduated from Gettysburg College in 2013 with a degree in English and creative writing.  In his first two years after college. Tom was positive that he wanted to continue towards a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing. However, when abroad in London in 2011, Tom took a class on the sustainability of the then upcoming 2012 Olympics which rekindled an interest in the field of conservation and sustainable development.  The following summer he worked for a conservation crew stationed out of Flagstaff, AZ, and after college spent several seasons as an environmental educator at a 4-H center outside of Atlanta, GA.

Approximately one year ago, while preparing to apply for a Master’s degree, Tom realized that there was nothing he wanted to do more than continue to work with youth and to get them excited about their natural world. He believes that the best hope for a sustainable future is to make students passionate about their planet so that, in turn, they’ll feel passionate about protecting it. He scrapped the applications and since then has worked in several environmental and outdoor education roles, including leading backpacking trips in the Adirondacks and teaching after school programs in NYC.

David Wheeler, Warden/Sanctuary Manager, Rheinstrom Hill Audubon Center and Sanctuary

Dave worked for Mr. Rheinstrom before it became an Audubon Sanctuary and is the longest tenured employee of Audubon New York. His trail care and carpentry skills are utilized regularly at Centers throughout the state. In his free time Dave enjoys fishing.