2016 Seasonal Staff

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Will Britton field technician

Will was born in Houston, TX and raised in Arkansas.  He has been in love with the natural world since he can remember, and he furthered that with a Biology degree, which he completed in December of 2014, from his hometown school Harding University.  While he was originally planning to pursue marine ecology, an ornithology course during his senior year changed all that.  Now donning binoculars instead of a snorkel mask, Will is eagerly learning new skills for the study of birds.  Last fall he spent 5 weeks in Punta Gorda, Belize counting raptors with Belize Raptor Research Institute.  The diverse birds of Belize and the hawk-watch there made for an incredible experience that inspired Will to pursue seasonal field work whole-heartedly.  He is excited to encounter Missouri’s elusive and secretive marsh birds and is very thankful to MRBO for this great opportunity.  His future goals include becoming a well-rounded technician with bird study skills that run the gamut and perhaps pursue a Masters degree in avian ecology.


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Heather Desorcie seasonal educator

Heather hails from State College, PA. Her family fostered her love for the natural world throughout her childhood by taking her on hikes, signing her up for nature-themed summer camps, and traveling to destinations with national parks and zoos. She graduated from Canisius College in December 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. Originally wanting to be a zookeeper, she changed her career path after a trip to Belize helped her discover her passion for birds and conservation. Between semesters Heather worked as an educator at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and the Buffalo Zoo. She then worked as an animal husbandry intern at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA.

Heather believes that respect for the natural world is a vital part of a child’s education and the place to acquire that love is outside, which is why she always prefers leading experiential educational programs. Ultimately, she hopes her work helps make the world a better place for animals. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.


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Katie Leonard field technician

Katie was born and raised in Missouri, and she graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in May of 2013 with a degree in Organismal, Ecological, and Evolutionary Biology. She has always been interested in nature and biology, but she found what she wanted to be in life after taking a course in animal behavior: an ornithologist. Since graduation, Katie has gained experience working in southern Florida researching Snowy Plovers with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, as well as studying other birds and organisms on Sanibel Island as an intern with J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR. In the summer of 2015, she worked with the University of Nebraska-Omaha studying Henslow’s Sparrows, one of MRBO’s target species. After spending an amazing winter in Australia researching the evolution of brood parasites and their hosts over time, Katie was excited to work with the birds in her home state as an Avian Field Technician with Missouri River Bird Observatory. She enjoys doing temporary field work around the country, but one day hopes to find a permanent position doing what she loves—researching avian species through conducting fieldwork.


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Araks Ohanyan field technician

Araks was born in Armenia and raised in southern California. Thanks to her nature-loving mom, she has been interested in animals all her life. It wasn’t until high school, however, that volunteering at the Los Angeles Zoo helped her realize that she wanted to be a field biologist. She has been living in Philadephia for the past 5 years, and she received her B.S. degree in Biology from Drexel University last year. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Equatorial Guinea for 3 months, where she learned field methods in tropical ecology and completed a small study on local squirrel species. Her undergraduate career also included a 3-month stint on the island of Maui studying the endangered Akohekohe, and 6 months in Mexico participating in a Scarlet Macaw reintroduction project. Shortly after graduating, she spent the summer on a small remote island off the coast of Maine studying seabirds with Project Puffin. She joined MRBO with a desire to gain banding and bird ID experience, and to contribute to avian conservation work. In the coming years, she hopes to obtain her Master’s degree and keep doing what she loves!


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Erik Ost field technician

Erik was born in Maryland and raised in Northern Virginia. He graduated with a B.S. in Organismal Biology from Christopher Newport University in 2015.  Growing up hiking and traveling to National Parks he developed a connection with nature and wildlife.  During an Ornithology course in college, he found a passion for birding and avian conservation.  His love of wildlife and commitment to conservation brought him to MRBO.  Before joining the MRBO team he worked for AmeriCorps, held odd jobs, and explored Peru.  Erik plans to move to South America to pursue a career in conservation biology.




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Matt Sim field technician

Matt was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Calgary, Alberta, where he lived for 10 years. It was in Calgary that his passion for nature and wildlife began and he has been an active birder for nearly a decade. While he has a very limited amount of professional field experience, Matt is always keen to learn more about the natural world around him. He recently spent a short period of time in Costa Rica assisting with a feline monitoring project. Matt is currently playing soccer and studying Wildlife Biology at Keystone College in Pennsylvania.



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Andrew Vo field technician

Andrew wants to live in a world filled with next-level technologies, phones that come standard with animal voice-to-text translation and a magic spray that will offer unlimited dog hair protection and the occasional food item.

As a field technician, he’s been commended on his successful team management and data analysis skills. At his last field position in South Africa, he led an important role in the habituation of wild baboons, where the new team now collects data for a baboon sociality project. Andrew is currently searching for a graduate program where he can study computer engineering in concert with animal behavior. Although his experience is mainly in marketing and design, Andrew plans to take this excellent opportunity from MRBO to learn more about birds and how they are such an important indicator for a healthy environment. For the next few months, Andrew will be learning from the knowledgeable team at MRBO in his position as surveyor and nest-monitoring technician. He will also be using audio recording equipment to study the vocalizations of Missouri’s rare marsh-dwelling species.

When he’s not out taking photos with his old film camera, you can find him diving into foreign films, trying to learn a new language, and optimistically searching for some good waves in Wilmington, North Carolina.


Veronica Mecko: Special Projects Coordinator

V_with_MerlinVeronica Mecko grew up in Illinois but went to school in Iowa, graduating from Grinnell College with a B.A. in biology, and has lived more than 20 years in Iowa. She has always had an interest in the natural world. About 10 years ago she focused on birds and began to identify and monitor the different bird species she observed on the 20-acre micro-farm she and her family lived on. She especially enjoyed spring and fall when the migratory species would pass through. In 2007 she visited Hitchcock Nature Center north of Council Bluffs and started volunteering as a hawk counter during the autumn hawk watches. In September of 2010, she spent 10 days at Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario and learned the basics of banding passerine birds. In January of 2011 she took a leave of absence from her job to pursue her interest in birds and from February through mid-May she volunteered and then did an internship in avian rehabilitation at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. From Florida, Veronica headed to Missouri to volunteer with MRBO. She worked with the MAPS banding project on prairie sites and also with the purple martin nestling banding project during the summer and stayed on for the fall migration banding as a research assistant. She considers her work at MRBO as invaluable for learning more about avian research and the opportunity to work on the prairies and in the woodlands of Missouri. Veronica will continue to be involved in the hawk watch and hawk and northern saw-whet owl banding in Iowa and hopes to pursue other work in avian research.