A Conversation with Lianne Koczur
What is your job, what do you work on, and what is your involvement with GoMAMN?
I am the Science & Conservation Director at Alabama Audubon. I work on a variety of conservation programs throughout the state, with a lot of my time focused on the Alabama Coastal Bird Stewardship Program (supported by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the National Audubon Society). Our coastal staff monitors and protects coastal breeding birds and conducts surveys year round. I am also working on developing statewide citizen science projects and assisting with habitat restoration efforts in Birmingham. I’ve been involved with GoMAMN for about 1 year and I am co-chair of the wading birds group with Dr. Clay Green.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Massachusetts. Not quite ready to give up long winters and lots of snow, I went to the University of Maine at Farmington where I earned a B.A. in biology. I then spent several years working as a field biologist, monitoring piping plovers and least terns in South Dakota and black-capped vireos and nesting sea turtles in Texas, restoring seabird habitat on California’s Santa Barbara Island, and conducting shorebird surveys along the Gulf Coast. I went to Texas A&M–Kingsville for graduate school and graduated with a master’s degree in range and wildlife management in 2013 and a Ph.D. in wildlife science in 2017. I studied the reproductive success of American oystercatchers and reddish egret movement ecology. I moved to Birmingham in 2019 to start my job with Alabama Audubon.
Outside of work, I enjoy being outdoors and go hiking as much as I can with my dog, Nova. I recently started backpacking and have been on a few trips in the past couple of years. I also enjoy yoga, birding, reading, and traveling.
Are there any particular areas you are seeking collaboration or willing to collaborate with others?
I don’t have any particular areas that I’m actively seeking collaborators for, but I am always open to discussing ways to partner with other people and organizations.
Besides a coordinated and integrated monitoring program, what do you see as another essential need for advancing avian conservation in the Gulf of Mexico?
Research, collaboration, and community support. I think there is still a lot of research to be done in terms of local and long-distance movements, and habitat use throughout the annual cycle. Tracking technology has come such a long way and I think studying the movements of a variety of species will help us more fully understand the importance of the gulf and lead to targeted conservation and management strategies.
GoMAMN has done a great job of connecting people that conduct research across the gulf, and those current and future collaborations will continue to advance conservation efforts.
I’ve also come to realize how important engaging local communities is. Getting the public to support conservation efforts and advocate for the birds can help lead to success.
If you had an unlimited budget and were tasked with improving avian monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico, what would be one or two of your priorities?
If I had an unlimited budget, no conservation organizations would be underfunded! I think that improving monitoring programs along the gulf requires that those programs have both enough staff and enough funding to conduct coordinated and consistent monitoring.
Where is your favorite outdoor place on the Gulf Coast?
I’m not sure if I can pick just one! A lot of my early experiences as a seasonal technician, and my work in grad school, was on the Texas coast. North Padre Island is a special place to me; my very first seasonal position was working with sea turtles there and I went on to help with shorebird banding and surveys in that area when I was in grad school. The Laguna Madre is also in the running, it’s such an incredible part of the Texas coast and is so important for so many species. Finally, the Alabama coast has been a really great place to work and explore. Dauphin Island is beautiful, and there’s this one spot that almost always has a reddish egret running around in the shallow water foraging.
If you could befriend/meet 3 famous people (living or dead), who would they be?
I’ve never really thought much about this. I think I’d be more interested in meeting with some people from my past. I’d love to be able to visit with my grandparents and great-grandparents and ask all of the questions and hear all of the stories that I didn’t ever think to ask about when I was young. It would be great to have a conversation with my high school biology teacher now, as an adult, too. She was so much fun and was one of the first people that got me interested in the sciences.
Any other little-known fact about you that you’d like to tell us?
I love sci-fi!