Please join us in welcoming our new Conservation Director, Kelsey Biles! Kelsey is an avian ecologist with a passion for conservation and public outreach. In her previous years of conservation research, she has led research teams and mentored undergraduate students in deepening their hands-on experience of bird conservation. She frequently gives lectures to birding organizations and interviews with news and blog outlets. Her dissertation research was on wintering ecology, migration patterns and pairing behavior of American Kestrels. Kelsey is a native Texan. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Texas in Arlington and Master of Science in Biology with a concentration in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Baylor University. She is finishing up her PhD in Biology with an expected graduation in May 2022.
Kelsey answered a few questions for us so everyone can get to know her a little better.
1. What’s the most memorable bird fun fact you’ve personally observed?
Doves will swallow small rocks to store in their gizzards to help breakdown seeds they eat. One of my earliest bird memories was seeing a White-winged Dove downing gravel in my driveway and being horrified that he was going to die! Probably not coincidentally, 4-year-old me had swallowed a shiny rock not too long before and gotten in big trouble, so I was worried for the dove.
2. What are you most excited about in working for Houston Audubon?
Getting to connect with others over our love of birds and directing that passion into meaningful work for conservation. I love interacting with nature-lovers and birders of all experience levels and getting to nerd out about all of the birds we’ve seen! I’ve been a supporter of Houston Audubon and our work for many years, so having the opportunity to work here is a dream. And my office is in the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary and I can see cool birds all day from just my desk!
3. Where is your happy place?
Anywhere warm in the sunlight where I can hear nature and maybe take a little nap. I love to sit out in my backyard and bask in the sun with my dogs on breezy spring days.
4. What’s your favorite activity besides birding?
I am an avid reader! I’ve been obsessed with books since I was very young. I tend to read a lot of high fantasy novels and sci-fi, but occasionally I’ll pick up some bird-related non-fiction as well. The Kingkiller Chronicles and Mistborn are some of my favorites! I also love to play adventure-based video games and tabletop RPGs where I get to explore.
5. What topic could you give an hour-long presentation on with little to no preparation?
Nearly anything bird related. They are a big part of my life! But probably also certain houseplant topics (I love all houseplants that look like little trees), an intro to loose-leaf teas and blends, or the uses of fiction to explore diversity.
6. What’s your favorite rainy-day activity?
Other than reading, curling up with hot tea (I’m a big loose-leaf tea drinker), my two dogs, and snooping around on eBird! Their “Surprise Me” button offers up endless amusement for me, and I usually end up falling through rabbit-holes for hours looking up facts on the cool birds I find.
7. Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible? Why?
Invisible! Not only would I be a much better birder and all-around wildlife biologist, but then I could hear all the secrets! Flying seems dangerous (buildings!) and very cold.
8. What do you enjoy talking about the most?
Birds, of course! Raptors, thrushes, and dippers are my favorites. I specifically love to talk about bird behaviors. More broadly, I enjoy both talking and hearing about animals of all sorts. I was obsessed with frogs and toads when I was a kid, and I know little about them now as an adult, so if anyone enjoys herpetology, I’d love to hear about it!
9. What’s your favorite meal to eat and cook? If they’re different, why?
I love to bake breads of all sort, but I don’t typically enjoy eating bread! I like the tactile aspect of bread making- getting to poke, knead, smack, and fling around the dough is very satisfying. But other than a few types of loafs, I usually just give it all away. My favorite thing to eat right now that I cook is pozole verde de pollo. It takes a fair amount of effort but tastes soooo good. I would eat that every day if I could!
10. What’s your favorite mammal?
Armadillos! What fascinating little creatures they are. Their eyesight (and hearing) is so poor that I’ve had them physically bump into me before while I was out doing fieldwork.
Please join us in welcoming Kelsey to the Houston Audubon team!