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Staff


Administrative

Environmental Education

Marine Laboratory

Native Plant Nursery

Natural Resource Policy

Wildlife Habitat Management Program

Staff Bios

Administrative

Erick Lindblad
Executive Director
elindblad@sccf.org

Erick Lindblad has served as the Executive Director of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation since 1986. He has been instrumental in the Foundation's acquisition of over 1,190 acres of Wildlife Preserve areas on and around Sanibel and Captiva. In 2002, he oversaw the establishment of SCCF's Marine Laboratory. During his tenure, SCCF has grown from a full-time staff of four to over 30 full-time employees, including grant-supported positions and interns.

Erick has coordinated and actively participated in land management activities including invasive non-native plant control, prescribed burning (Division of Forestry Burn Manager Certification), gopher tortoise management and surface water management projects. Land acquisition has been accomplished by a variety of means, including fee simple, bargain sale, development agreement and donation.

As part of his commitment to the sustainable development of Southwest Florida, Erick serves on Conservation 20/20, Lee County's Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Council and the Land Management Subcommittee. He also was appointed by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners to serve as the county's representative on the Babcock Ranch Inc. Board, which oversees the management of the state's 71,000-acre Babcock Ranch Preserve in Lee and Charlotte Counties.

He served on the Board of the International Osprey Foundation, the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association and the Babcock Preservation Partnership, and also served on the Technical Advisory Committee of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.

Erick has served on various City of Sanibel committees over the years including the Budget Review Committee, Wildlife Committee, Interior Wetlands Study Committee, and the Algae Task force. He serves as Treasurer of the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Trust Fund, and was awarded the Walter Klie Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sanibel-Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce (although he likes to think of it as 'mid-lifetime').

Prior to his tenure at the Conservation Foundation, he served as Director of Newfound Harbor Marine Institute at Seacamp on Big Pine Key, FL from 1979 to 1986. He graduated in 1974 from Millikin University in Illinois with a B.A. in Biology.

Wendy Cerdan
Business Manager
wcerdan@sccf.org

Wendy brings experience in the banking field and as an account clerk with a local governmental agency to her position as Business Manager of SCCF. She and her family have been Southwest Florida residents for over 25 years.

Cheryl Giattini
Legacy Programs
cgiattini@attglobal.net

cheryl giattiniCheryl has more than 20 years' experience working on development and marketing strategies for business and non-profit organizations. Upon graduation from Georgetown University Law Center, she joined the National Public Radio General Counsel's Office as an attorney. In addition to the traditional legal duties, Cheryl worked directly with the board of directors on development issues facing a non-profit corporation. Her career evolved from the practice of law into the field of public relations and marketing. She founded an events management firm, Washington Affairs, which was later acquired by a public affairs and marketing firm. Cheryl remained as Senior Vice President until 1991 when she became an independent consultant.

Cheryl's work with SCCF began in a volunteer capacity as part of the leadership team that successfully undertook three land acquisition campaigns in two years. Now as a consultant, she works closely with the Board of Trustees and Development staff to coordinate SCCF's campaigns for additional land purchases and other capital needs. She also oversees the Annual Fund Drive and the growth of the Legacy Funds, SCCF's endowment program.

Karen Nelson
Communications Coordinator
knelson@sccf.org

A New York native, Karen moved to Sanibel in 2000. She spent 20 years in New York City, working for several major hotels before moving into direct marketing. After relocating to Sanibel, she edited and wrote for several weekly Sanibel and Captiva publications before joining SCCF in 2007.

Environmental Education

Kristie Anders
Education Director 
kanders@sccf.org

SCCF Education Director since 1988, Kristie has been teaching people about our natural habitat and environmental stewardship for over 30 years. She has developed a unique knowledge of the greater Everglades ecosystem through her experience as a marine educator in the Florida Keys, a ranger in Everglades National Park, an outdoor recreation planner at the J.N.'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge and her position at SCCF. In addition, Kristie has been a park ranger in Acadia National Park, Independence National Historic Park and Salem Maritime Historic Site and is the former executive director of the 'Ding' Darling Foundation. She holds dual degrees from Penn State University in Marine Sciences and Environmental Education. Kristie resides on North Captiva Island, traveling to work daily by boat.

Dee Serage-Century
Landscaping for Wildlife
dserage@sccf.org

Dee is the 'Landscaping for Wildlife' educator for SCCF, teaching residents about the use of Florida's native plants to create habitat for birds and butterflies in their yards. Through monthly Native Plant Classes, garden tours, landscape designs, and house calls, homeowners get all the help they need to plant their native gardens. As part of this program, Dee teaches homeowners and neighborhood associations how to live safely with alligators in monthly 'Gator Tales' presentations.

For the education and enjoyment of residents and visitors, Dee raises Florida's native butterflies and their caterpillars in the Lolly Cohen memorial butterfly house and encourages people to plant for butterflies. Butterflies and caterpillars from the house are used in life cycle kits to educate local school children.

Always looking for new ways to educate Floridians about their native plants, Dee teaches 'The Cultural History of Florida's Native Plants' from the ethnobotany garden around the teaching shelter on Foundation trails. In the garden, Florida's native plants are labeled according to their uses as food, shelter, art, and medicine by peoples past and present.

Marine Laboratory

Dr. Eric Milbrandt
Director

emilbran@sccf.org

Eric Milbrandt CV

Dr. Eric Milbrandt began his career in marine science in N. California at Humboldt State University. His first course in InvertebrateZoology at the Telonicher Marine Laboratory in Trinidad helped to inspire a career in marine science. He received an REU fellowship to study marine science using molecular tools at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Center for Great Lakes Research with Dr. Chuck Wimpee. The internship led to a directed senior undergraduate research project on rocky intertidal seaweeds under the direction of phycologist, Dr. Frank Shaughnessy.

Because of the positive experiences and valuable tools both in the lab and in the field, Dr. Milbrandt decided to pursue a graduate degree in marine science. He was accepted at the University of Oregon to study at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston, OR. During his Ph.D., Eric received a Graduate Research Fellowship from the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to study the microbial ecology of the South Slough Estuary. While writing his dissertation, he was offered the position of Research Scientist at SCCF. He returned to OIMB to defend in the spring of 2003 and has been contributing to the SCCF ever since.

During his transition to Florida, Dr. Milbrandt established several permanent mangrove forest plots to study the effects of human activities on mangrove reproduction, recruitment and forest structure. He has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles on the recovery of mangroves after hurricane disturbance and the effect of sea level rise on black mangrove recruitment. He has also led several grant-supported efforts to restore the tidal hydrology to Clam Bayou, then to enhance and restore mangrove shorelines. Part of the effort was in collaboration with Drs. Loren Coen, Steve Geiger and others to build oyster reefs and conduct extensive mapping and monitoring.

At SCCF, Dr. Milbrandt has been instrumental in the establishment of RECON (River Estuary Coastal Observing Network) which is providing Real-time information to advance SCCF policies. This tool introduces the Marine Laboratory to difficult socio-economic challenges in the policy arena and helps support the collaborative meetings and influences of the Southwest Florida Stakeholders. RECON also enhances research at the lab including in numerous water quality studies around Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in cooperation with the USFWS in J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2011, Dr. Milbrandt was named the third SCCF Marine Laboratory Director. He serves as a reviewer of manuscripts for Estuaries and Coasts, Limnology and Oceanography, Botanica Marina, the Journal of Wetland Ecology and Management, and Hydrobiologia. He is a Graduate Faculty at Florida Gulf Coast University and an affiliate member of the Coastal Watershed Institute.

Dr. Richard Bartleson

Research Scientist


rbartleson@sccf.org

Richard Bartleson CV

After receiving a B.A. in Biology from the University of South Florida, Richard worked as a lab and field technician at Mote Marine Lab, the Rookery Bay Marine Lab, and Florida DER mainly doing water quality sampling and analyses. He received his M.S. from the Ecosystems Ecology division of the Environmental Engineering Sciences program at the University of Florida. For his master's thesis, he studied the effects of seagrass on sedimentation and constructed a simulation model of seagrass growth and its effect on currents and sedimentation. While at UF, Richard researched ecosystem effects of increased fresh water flow in Florida Bay. After graduating, he worked on a project showing effects of diverting fresh water flow on the Savanna River ecosystems. He then worked on a simulation model of the Chesapeake Bay as a Senior Faculty Research Assistant at the University of Maryland's Horn Point Environmental Lab. He received his Ph.D. from the Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park, where his research was designed to increase the understanding of how water column nutrients affect seagrass health. After finishing his field and lab research, he started a postdoc with the Lake Okeechobee Research unit at the South Florida Water Management District, conducting microcosm research on the effects of submersed plants on nutrients and constructing a simulation model of submersed plant growth.

Research interests: Ecosystem role of seagrass beds, seagrass effects on water quality, sedimentation and nutrient cycling, sediment and water column effects on seagrass growth, correlation of seagrass bed size with ecosystem effects, effects of seagrass beds on water flow, enhancing nutrient removal ability of submersed plant beds

Lucy Pongetti

Office Manager

lpongetti@sccf.org

Lucy brings to SCCF broad experience in office management and has written grant proposals and managed funded projects. A native of Chicago, Illinois, Lucy attended Northern Illinois University and received her Masters in Business Administration from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Prior to moving to southwest Florida, Lucy was the director of materials management for several Chicago-area hospitals. Fort Myers has been her home for the past eight years.

Mark Thompson
Research Associate
mthompson@sccf.org

Mark received his B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Purdue University .As an engineer for private industry, including AT&T in Virginia, heworked to control and minimize pollutants in wastewater, stormwater runoff and hazardous waste from large manufacturing facilities. In 1992he found much more satisfying employment at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) working with sea turtles, oysters and estuarinefishes. From VIMS he migrated to South Carolina where he worked with hard clams, leeches and other interesting marine creatures. As luck hadit he was then hired by the Marine Resources Research Institute, part of SCDNR where he participated in oyster reef research, headed theirhorseshoe crab program and helped with water quality monitoring in the ACE-Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). While in SouthCarolina, he received an M.S. in Environmental Science from the College of Charleston-Medical University of South Carolina’s joint graduateprogram. His thesis explored the secret life of horseshoe crabs in South Carolina, during which time he was a member of the AtlanticStates Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Horseshoe Crab Management Plan development team.

He moved to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FL DEP), where he monitored and analyzed southeastern Florida’s waters using biological, chemical and physical indicators . His work also included taxonomy, data management, laboratory work and resulting publications.

The U.S. Peace Corps captured Thompson in 2005, where he spent three years in a tropical Philippine paradise teaching Coastal Resource Management (CRM) at a small college and developing a CRM research program. He and his numerous student researchers did baseline assessments of coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats as well as the state of local fisheries. Research included characterizing catch efficiencies of local gear typesand implementing least-impact fishpond management techniques. He also developed a CRM resource center complete with water quality lab,habitat assessment equipment, eight computers with GIS and statistical software, all connected to the Internet.

Thompson enjoys learning about nature and sharing his knowledge with others, with special interests in estuarine ecology and the impact of water qualityon biological communities. He dives (US EPA Research Diver Certification), kayaks, mountain bikes, and he lived aboard a 33-foot sloop for many years in SC and FL. He is an accomplished coastal navigator.

A. J. Martignette
Research Assistant
amartignette@sccf.org aj martignette

A.J. received his B.S in Marine Biology from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. While there he spent a semester studying abroad in Bermuda, at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Inc. He returned to Bermuda after graduation to work as an intern in the Benthic Ecology Research Programme laboratory. The primary research he conducted there was assessing the effect of Bermuda's marine protected areas on fish population dynamics. He also assisted with coral, seagrass, and algae research.

A.J. is an avid scuba diver and holds his research diver certification through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. He is interested in all aspects of marine ecology with a special interest in fish population dynamics, fisheries enhancement, and protecting valuable marine habitats.

A.J.'s main area of focus at SCCF's Marine Lab is the RECON project. He has been responsible for the deployment, including the development of a custom mounting and retrieval system, of the RECON sensors. He is also responsible for the ongoing maintenance required to keep the network working, including data quality control

Jeff Siwicke
Research Assistant
jsiwicke@sccf.org jeff siwicke

Jeff received a B.A. in Geography from the University of South Florida. Upon graduation, he lived on Andros Island, Bahamas for nearly two years where he worked as an environmental educator at Forfar Field Station. It was there that he developed his interest in the marine world and was trained as a SCUBA dive master. Jeff then moved to the Florida Keys where he began working on a charter fishing boat eventually earning a Coast Guard masters license. From the Keys Jeff moved to Seattle and then Ithaca, NY, where he continued operating boats and worked for a small craft brewery. Two winters out of Florida was all it took for him to find his way to Sanibel and SCCF. At the Marine Lab, Jeff's boating and diving skills are put to good use. Since late 2005, he has been studying the effects of large freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee by monitoring seagrass growth rates and the usable light they receive. Jeff has also been involved with the installation and servicing of the RECON sensors.

Art Weissbach, Ph.D.
Research Scientist in Residence
art weissbach

Art Weissbach was a long-term member of SCCF's Board of Trustees and has been a visiting scientist at the Foundation's Marine Laboratory since 2004. He is currently he is working with Dr. Rick Bartleson, delineating and defining fluorescent patterns in red tide organisms (HABs).

He has headed SCCF's Marine Lab Committee and he also chaired the Environmental Affairs Committee and was on the search committee for the Marine Lab’s Director in 2006-2007. He lived on Sanibel for 17 years and chaired the City of Sanibel's Vegetation Committee. In 2005 he moved to Fort Myers, Florida.

He has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Columbia University and was a Senior Biochemist at the National Institutes of Health from 1956-1968. In 1968 he moved to the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology as Chair of the Department of Cell Biology and then became Associate Director. His career includes research as a Visiting Scientist at the Institut Pasteur (Paris, 1959-1960) and at the Institut de Biologie et Physico-Chimique (Paris, 1968-1969). He has taught in a number of medical schools and was Adjunct Professor of Human Genetics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (1969-85), and Adjunct Professor of Microbiology, University of Medicine and Dentistry, Rutgers University (1981-1989).

His research interests have included photosynthesis and radioisotope tracing studies but the bulk of his work was centered on the molecular biology and biochemistry of DNA in higher organisms. His outside interests involve traveling, jogging, exercise and reading.


Intern 

Native Plant Nursery

Jenny Evans
Nursery Manager
jevans@sccf.orgjenny

Jenny's love of nature began during her childhood in the foothills and farmlands of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. She earned a B.S. in Biology with a double major in Theatre from Mary Washington College. Despite the seemingly incompatible fields, Jenny has brought them together in the art and science of horticulture. An intensive summer program in Landscape Architecture at Harvard spawned her love of outdoor design. This led to a graduate degree in Public Garden Management from Cornell. Jenny has also held internships in nursery management and garden maintenance at the Rhodod endron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington and in exhibit development and design at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. In addition, she has been an environmental educator, working in subtropical marine ecology and leading students of all ages on educational snorkeling adventures.

Jenny developed a strong appreciation for subtropical flora and plant ecology while living in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys for several years. In 2010, Jenny was named Treasurer of the Association of Florida Native Nurseries. She is a member and the newsletter editor of the Coccoloba chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society; serves on the Lee County Extension Service horticultural advisory board and is an annual speaker for the Sanibel Master Gardener lecture series.

Rebecca (Becca) Grotrian
Assistant

When I was young my parents played a big role in introducing me to nature and a love for the outdoors. My family and I did lots of hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities which inspired me to go to school for environmental studies. After receiving a B.S. in Environmental Studies from Manchester College in Indiana in May of 2009, I got an internship at the Native Plant Nursery. I fell in love with the local flora and fauna and got the opportunity to be hired on as the Native Plant Nursery Assistant in 2010.

Muffit Hayes
Part-Time Assistant

Muffit has always been an avid naturalist and artist. Born and raised in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, she majored in Modern Dance at the University of Wisconsin. After graduation she taught dance in Arkansas. In the late 1970s, Muffit and her family arrived on Sanibel where she continued to teach dance and yoga. Wanting to know more about the island's unique environment, she turned to the Native Plant Nursery where she is happy to be involved with native plants, wildlife and ecology.

Kathleen Sexton
Assistant

Kathleen’s fascination with aquatic ecosystems began during the many summers of her youth in Texas, enjoying the Gulf of Mexico on Galveston Island. Her love of nature and outdoors was further nourished after moving to Michigan in 2001, and experiencing the abundance of freshwater provided by numerous inland lakes and the Great Lakes. She attended Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, receiving a B.S. in Natural Resources Management and a Minor in Environmental Studies. After graduation she dabbled in various employment opportunities, working as a Wildlife Technician for the U.S. Forest Service, executing dune restoration along the delicate shoreline ecosystems of northwest Michigan with the Nature Conservancy, and working with middle and high school students coordinating after school programs for the SEEDs program in Traverse City, Michigan. Kathleen has always enjoyed working with native plants and wildlife ecology, and is excited to live and work on Sanibel Island.

Natural Resource Policy

Rae Ann Wessel
Director
rawessel@sccf.orgrae ann wessel

Rae Ann Wessel is a limnologist and marine scientist with over 30 years of experience working in the environmental field in South Florida. She currently serves as the Natural Resource Policy Director for SCCF, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

For 19 years, Rae Ann managed her own environmental consulting firm dealing with water, environmental and land use issues at the local, regional, state and federal levels. In 1994 Rae Ann assisted with coordination of a News-Press-sponsored community forum on issues related to the Caloosahatchee that resulted in the creation of the non-profit Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association. Since that time, she has been involved with identifying critical Caloosahatchee issues and building support for sustainable solutions. In addition, she is involved in oxbow research, historical documentation and education projects on the Caloosahatchee and its estuary. For 17 years Rae Ann has guided river cruises on the Caloosahatchee sharing the history, folklore, ecology and current issues related to this historic river.

Rae Ann is past Commission appointee to the Lee County Local Planning Agency and has received awards for her work including 1998 Conservationist of the Year from Audubon of Southwest Florida, the Richard Coleman Aquatic Resources Award in 2007 from the Florida Lake Management Society and in 2013 the Charles Edgar Foster Conservation Education Leadership Award. In 2012 Rae Ann was selected as one of the Women Who Make Southwest Florida.  She received the 2013 Citizen of the Year award from the Sanibel Committee of the Islands (COTI) who recognized her work as a "tireless scientist for the environment."

Wildlife Habitat Management Program

Chris Lechowicz
Director
clechowicz@sccf.org

Chris grew up on the southwest side of Chicago, IL. He had a strong interest in nature at a very young age, especially with amphibians and reptiles. His passion for all things slimy and scaled led him to the Chicago Herpetological Society where he was mentored by numerous knowledgeable members and visiting scientists. Chris graduated from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and Florida Gulf Coast University with degrees in Zoology, Computer Science, and Environmental Science.

He began working at SCCF in 2002 and is the Director of the Wildlife Habitat Management Program and staff herpetologist. As land manager, he oversees SCCF's nearly 2000 acres of conservation land with the help of his field technicians. Prescribed burns, exotic plant removal, native tree planting, and other habitat restoration techniques are used to maintain functioning ecosystems on the islands. Chris is also the IT Manager for the Foundation.

Chris's current Sanibel wildlife projects are the SCCF Pine Island Sound Eastern Indigo Snake Project, the SCCF Diamondback Terrapin Project, and the SCCF Florida Box Turtle Project. Chris is also  a coauthor on a new book (2014); "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida: A Natural History". He also maintains a educational website on map turtles (Graptemys.com) and is involved with several projects along the Gulf Coast with these riverine turtles. He is a member of the Turtle Survival Alliance, the IUCN/SCC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, a board member of the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust, and an active member of the local herp society (Calusa Herpetological Society).

Kelly Sloan
Biologist & Sea Turtle Coordinator

ksloan@sccf.org

Toby Clark
Field Technician
tclark@sccf.org

Toby is from Fort Myers. He is working for SCCF and the J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge through a partnership agreement as a field technician and equipment operator. Prior to working at SCCF he was a fishing guide out of Tarpon Bay. He is also enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Victor Young
Field Technician

Victor was born and raised in North Fort Myers, Florida. He spent three summers with the J. N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge Youth Conservation Core helping to remove exotic vegetation as well as repairing and building infrastructure for the refuge. At SCCF, Victor assists in various land management activities. He is currently attending Edison College and has been admitted to the Coast Guard Reserve.

Joel Caouette
Biologist/Shorebird Monitoring Coordinator
jcaouette@sccf.org

Joel graduated from the University of Rhode Island (URI) in 2008 with a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation Biology. During the summer of his junior year he interned at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Marine Finfish Unit. While at NYSDEC, he worked with biologists on various projects pertaining to Tautog (Tautoga onitis) in the Long Island Sound, as well as Winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) and general trawl surveys in Great and Little Peconic Bays. During his senior year at URI he volunteered with Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) conducting counts and behavioral surveys of Atlantic brant (Branta bernicla) in eastern Narragansett Bay. After graduation du ring the summer of ’08, Joel worked for RIDEM Office of Water Resources performing stream flow studies and collecting water samples to be tested by the RI Department of Health.In the fall of ’08 Joel was part of a field crew with the University of Utah which trapped and tested small mammals for the H anta Virus in the Little Sahara Desert in central Utah.

In the spring of ’09 Joel joined the SCCF staff as a technician with the Snowy plover program; he returned in 2010 as the head technician, staying on after the nesting season ended. During his time here he monitored the Snowies throughout the season from March through July. He also conducted various other surveys both on Cayo Costa State Park and Sanibel pertaining to Snowy plovers such as activity budgets on adults and broods, habitat analysis, beach traffic surveys, invertebrate surveys, and nest site analysis. In October 2010, Joel was hired on as a biologist/shorebird monitoring coordinator.

Daniel Feingold
Habitat Restoration Intern
dfeingold@sccf.org

Shea Gibbs
Willdlife/Biologist Intern
sgibbs@sccf.org

Shea is originally from Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2010 with a degree in Biological Sciences. Since graduation he has worked at a state forest in western Massachusetts and spent the majority of 2013 at Caño Palma Biological Station in northeastern Costa Rica where he worked with nesting sea turtles and local snake species.

Katie Leonard
Shorebird Technician
kleonard@sccf.org

Katie graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in May of 2013 with a major in Organismal, Ecological, and Evolutionary Biology. During her years at school, she obtained a variety of experience with different organisms through activities she participated in for enjoyment, and as a member of the Wildlife Society, volunteer at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, and as a member of Swamp Candle Birders. The knowledge acquired through the years led her to findher passion with avian species. She left her job as a Process Technician in a laboratory to follow her interests and accepted the position to be a Snowy Plover Intern at SCCF. After gaining more field experience, Katie would like to attend grad school studying the
influence that climate change and human disturbances have on migratory patterns of songbirds and use research to implement management practices to protect avian species.