Bird Lovers Unite
Katie (Brashear) Koch believes she was born a bird lover. When she was seven
years old, she wrote a book called “Curious George Takes Pictures of Birds” for
a class assignment. Her grandfather, a biology professor, encouraged her
interest from a very young age and before she knew it, she was on a path to a
career centered on birds.
“The real turning point,” Koch says, “was receiving the Peterson Field
Guide to Birds in sixth grade and helping with Christmas bird counts and
breeding bird surveys shortly thereafter – I was hooked.”
Her journey began at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where she
started as a Biology major but discovered the College
of Natural Resources and the student chapter of The Wildlife Society at the
annual Student Involvement Fair the second week of her freshman year. “Let’s
just say I never looked back, and the rest is history,” she said.
Koch completed a double major in Biology and Wildlife Management (now
Wildlife Ecology) with a minor in Conservation Biology in December 2003 and
stayed on at UW-Stevens Point to complete her Master’s degree in Natural
Resource Management with an emphasis in wildlife and forestry in May 2006.
Koch said she had many influential instructors and mentors within the
College of Natural Resources. She describes her graduate adviser, Tim Ginnett,
professor of wildlife, as “a gifted teacher, statistician, artist and musician,
who is devoted to his family and students and maintains the utmost humility and
compassion in life.” She credits Eric Anderson, professor of wildlife, for
providing sound mentorship and giving her the courage to take a field job in
Wyoming in 2002, where she lived out of her Jeep while monitoring birds.
Other influential people included Robert Rosenfield, a biology professor,
whose courses in ecology, ornithology and raptor ecology were too exciting to
miss; Shelli Dubay, a wildlife professor and dynamic role model as a fellow
female wildlife biologist; and Dick Thiel, a retired biologist with the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources who gave her opportunities for field
experience, research projects, personal growth, and encouraged her to never
take herself too seriously.
She also credits the women of the Becoming an Outdoors
Woman program – Christine Thomas, Peggy Farrell, and Diane Lueck - who gave
her the gifts of employment, empowerment, and true appreciation for human
dimensions, and lifelong friendships.
Today, Koch works as a Migratory Bird Biologist with the United States Fish
and Wildlife Service. For the past eight years, she has founded and led the Midwest Coordinated Bird
Monitoring Partnership and Midwest
Avian Data Center and is turning her focus to northern forest bird
conservation, sustaining the federally endangered Kirtland's Warbler, studying
and conserving birds during migration, and engaging young birders and community
leaders in creating landscapes supporting birds and people alike. She has
received the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's Midwest Regional
Director’s award for Fostering Partnerships and led planning for a regional
celebration of the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial throughout 2016. Koch was
an integral member of the 2017 Federal Duck Stamp Contest planning team
including the Federal Duck Stamp Office, UW-Stevens Point, and the WDNR.
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