​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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