Ansel Payne, PhD
Executive Director, email
Ansel joined the Birmingham Audubon staff as a naturalist in 2016 before becoming the organization’s first Outreach Director later that year; he assumed the role of Executive Director in May 2018. A graduate of Harvard and Tufts, he earned his PhD in Comparative Biology at the American Museum of Natural History’s Richard Gilder Graduate School in 2014. While in New York, his work on the evolutionary history of digger wasps led to field expeditions in Central America and the Middle East, as well as to extended collecting trips throughout the American West. In addition to his efforts on behalf of birds and their habitats, Ansel has also written for a wide range of publications, including The Appendix, TIME, and Nautilus. He lives in Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood, a few blocks from the Birmingham Audubon office.
Coastal Senior Biologist, email
Katie comes to Birmingham Audubon from a two-year stint monitoring Wilson’s Plovers, Least Terns, Black Skimmers, and Common Nighthawks in Cameron Parish for Audubon Louisiana. A native of Pittsburgh, she earned a BS in Biology from Saint Vincent College (where she studied White-breasted Nuthatch foraging behavior), and an MS in Biology from East Stroudsburg University, where her thesis focused on Louisiana Waterthrush ecology. An avid birder and bird-bander with field experiences ranging from the deserts of Arizona to the beaches of the Gulf Coast, Katie brings a wealth of expertise to her new position at Birmingham Audubon.
Coastal Programs Coordinator, email
Originally from Pittsburgh, Nicole has spent a great deal of time in Florida, the state where she received both her BS and MS degrees (University of Central Florida) and where she began her professional biology career. She has since been involved with several marine and estuarine programs operating at a variety of scales, from studying the ecological relationships of benthic invertebrates to monitoring regional watershed issues. She comes to Birmingham Audubon from The Nature Conservancy, where she worked throughout the Gulf of Mexico with local communities and other stakeholders on coastal resilience and restoration issues. Through her work, Nicole has developed such a deep appreciation for the Gulf that she and her family now live in Fairhope, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay—a great place to enjoy all that the coastal lifestyle has to offer.
Partnership & Policy Director, email
Chris came to Birmingham Audubon as the organization’s first Partnership & Policy Director in December 2016. Born and raised in South Africa, he earned a Master’s degree in Agronomy and Soils at Auburn University, and has lived in and explored Alabama for the last thirty years. Before coming to Birmingham Audubon, Chris worked for almost twenty-five years at The Nature Conservancy in Alabama—most recently as that organization’s Alabama State Director—and played a pivotal role in the 2012 renewal of Alabama’s popular Forever Wild public-land program. An avid hunter, birder, and stamp collector, he lives in Hoover with his wife Suzanne and their three children.
Outreach & Communications Director, email
A Birmingham native, Sarah joins Birmingham Audubon with a diverse background in the nonprofit and private sectors, including over eight years of experience in communications, marketing, development, public relations, and event planning. Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts from UAB in Communication Management with a minor in Marketing. In addition to being an artist, she is a dedicated environmentalist who has spent much of the last decade volunteering with local nonprofits and is passionate about making Birmingham a better place. Sarah calls Birmingham’s Highland Park neighborhood home.
Coastal Assistant Biologist, email
Raised in Foley, Alabama, Emma is a recent graduate (BS Biology, with a minor in GIS) of the University of South Alabama. While much of her recent research has focused on the effects of window strikes on bird mortality, she has also spent parts of the last eight years banding neotropical migratory birds on Fort Morgan. In addition to these pursuits, she worked as a research assistant for Audubon’s Maine-based Project Puffin in 2014 and 2015, and has volunteered for both Audubon Mississippi and Birmingham Audubon as part of their Audubon Coastal Bird Surveys.
Chris Sykes, MPA
Operations Manager, email
A native of Paris, Tennessee, Chris comes to Birmingham Audubon from the United States Marine Corps, where he served for six years as a corporal with extended stays in Europe (Spain, Portugal, Italy), the Middle East (Jordan), and Africa (Djibouti). Chris has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Masters in Public Administration from UAB, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Communication Management. He currently lives in Birmingham’s Crestline neighborhood.