Nathanael Swecker began birding in January 2013 when he downloaded the Audubon Bird Guide App on his iPhone. From there he found his passion in life: Birds. He quickly found a local group of birders at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to mentor him in the skills and culture of birding where he regularly attended the weekly Wednesday walks for the next four years. Nathanael began volunteering by leading interpretive walks at Nisqually and assisting in monthly bird surveys associated with the salt-marsh estuary restoration. From there Nathanael began exploring Washington State seeing over 300 bird species in 2014. By 2015 Nathanael decided to explore Joint Base Lewis-McChord and dedicated his entire year to finding and recording bird life across the training areas of the military base. He was awarded a scholarship by Tahoma Audubon in the summer of 2015 to train as a bird bander for Morse Preserve and volunteered as a bander at Glacial Heritage that same summer.
Nathanael continues to explore the world of birding as a mentor to other birders by co-leading the monthly walks at Fort Steilacoom Park, leading the Christmas Bird Count for Tacoma’s Area 5, banding at Morse Preserve, and developing a class curriculum for birding by ear. He hopes to contribute to his community by being a champion of local wildlife conservation and foster an appreciation of our last remaining natural lands here in Pierce County.
Member at Large
Scott Markowitz is an avid birder, researcher, educator, and scientist who has developed a strong passion for all things feathered. From studying the process of molt in Passerines to looking at large scale conservation and habitat restoration, Scott is a true bird nerd.
Falling into birding accidentally over 25 years ago, Scott started perusing field guides and chasing new birds and rarities over hill and dale. On his first tropical trip, after four days of riding buses to reach Guatemala, Scott spent half an hour waiting to get eyes on a little bird chipping in a bush… only to find that it was a House Sparrow. Since then, he has birded all over North, Central, and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa (and has learned the chip note of a House Sparrow).
Member at Large, Morse Force
After working at a wildlife park in central Illinois for 8-years, Gary Geddes and his young family moved to this area in 1981 as he became Director of Northwest Trek Wildlife Park for Metro Parks Tacoma. He considers himself fortunate to meet Bob Ramsey at The Nature Center and Thelma Gilmur close to his arrival and began a long relationship with Tahoma Audubon shortly thereafter, 35 years ago. Gary served on the TAS Board over 20 years ago and, in 1996, as part of the Seattle University Masters in Non-Profit Leadership program’s culminating project, researched TAS’s operating structure and provided recommendations for long-term sustainability. In 1995 he assisted Thelma and several other veteran members in working with Lloyd and Maxine Morse on their donation of property in Graham to establish the Morse Wildlife Preserve. He has continued to serve on the Preserve’s Morse Force management committee since that time. In 1999 he served as Interim Executive Director for Metro Parks Tacoma before being named the Department Director for the Zoo, NW Trek and the Tacoma Nature Center for which he served until his retirement January 9th, 2017. Gary looks forward to continuing to serve on the Morse Force as well as exploring with the Board and staff ways to insure long-term sustainability of Audubon programs in our region.
Marsha Williams, Secretary
Executive Committee; Education Committee Chair;
I have been a citizen of Pierce County for all but 5 years when I lived on Budd Inlet near Olympia as a child. I grew up on Spanaway Loop Road, attended Bethel High School and graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a BA in Ed.
Education is my passion. I taught at Bethel High School for 30 years and found great joy in that career. I encouraged my students to become lifelong learners. I tried to nurture their natural curiosity and help them find their passion to follow in life.
When I retired in 2000, I pursued my interest in birding. As a member of TAS, I took birding classes, did some field trips, and attended bird festivals. The TAS Nature Book Club, which started in 2014, has been a wonderful experience for me. The books have been challenging; the discussions interesting; the people inspiring.
Because of my participation in the Nature Book Club, I was encouraged to accept a nomination to the Tahoma Audubon Society Board. Serving on the board is another way to learn about this organization, birding, and the people who make a difference in Pierce County.
Bob Furman, Treasurer
Executive Committee, Finance Committee
Bob was born into an Audubon family where his father was president of the Oklahoma Audubon Society and Audubon Screen Tour presenters stayed in his home. Bob is a retired social worker where he supported people with developmental disabilities.
He is married to Mary Hart and they are parents to two grown daughters. Bob has 30+ years of involvement with nonprofit organizations.
Member at Large
Vicki Biltz grew up in a tiny town in Kansas, where she quickly developed a love of nature from all the time spent outdoors with her father. Her trigger bird was the Belted Kingfisher. When she was about the age of four she went fishing with her father and asked about the birds she was seeing. He pointed out a Kingfisher faster than she could see it, and she imagined a bird with a golden crown and a white fur cape. Years later when she really saw one, she had to laugh at herself when she realized what she first thought they might look like.
Vicki studied Music Performance (French Horn) in college at Wichita State University. She married, and two children later, got her first binoculars and continued her quest for birds when she could. After moving to Washington in 1987, Vicki got a call from Thelma Gilmur inviting her to get involved with Tahoma Audubon. She attended a birding class, became involved with field trips, bird counts, Birdathons, and got to know people of TAS.
Vicki has a ferocious attitude about doing what is right for our environment, what is right for wildlife, and helping people to understand why we must do things the right way.
Member at Large, Morse Force, Education Committee
Ione is passionate about doing her part to save the environment around us. She has served as project director for Citizens for a Healthy Bay and has been part of a community team effort to maintain wildlife habitat along Clover Creek. Ione is currently active as a Forterra Community Trustee, Morse Force, and a member and vice-chair of the Chambers-Clover Watershed Council.
Member at Large
Maria Jost is a science educator and science illustrator in Tacoma. She first moved here in 2001 to attend the University of Puget Sound, where she completed a BS in Biology with a studio art minor. The subjects of art and science have always been dual interests: she is drawn to study nature by the intricacy and elegance of the patterns found in ecosystems and organisms, and her artwork is inspired in turn by an understanding of the biological processes of the natural world. Following college, Maria moved to Costa Rica to work for a Tropical Ecology and Conservation study abroad program. Already enamored with the beauty of the diverse flora found across the globe, it was in the highland cloud forests of Monteverde that first inspired her to try, and subsequently fall in love with, bird watching.
After returning to the Pacific Northwest, she continued to learn and teach about local organisms and explore their forms and stories in her artwork. She earned a MA in Science Education from the University of Washington, Tacoma and began to teach secondary science. Currently, she is a part time instructor at the Science and Math Institute, located in Point Defiance Park, where she teaches classes such as Neuroscience and Environmental Field Biology. She is constantly inspired by the creativity, energy, and passion of young people. Maria also works as an illustrator, exploring the complexity of the surrounding natural world using watercolor, ink and collage as her media of choice.
Member at Large
Dave Richardson retired to Washington in 2006 after 41 years serving as a United Methodist pastor in California. He has become involved in community service related to his work and his hobby, birding. He is currently a Trustee for Claremont School of Theology where he has also taught summer classes. He served two terms on the Tacoma Community House board of directors and has been a volunteer at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge since 2006. At Nisqually you may find him on the desk in the Visitor's Center or leading a walk at the refuge. He participated extensively in the USGS surveys at Nisqually following the elimination of the old dikes and restoration of the salt-water marsh. He continues this volunteer activity at Nisqually as well as at Gray's Harbor NWR for their shorebird festival and field trips.
Dave is a life-long birder. His ABA North-American list stands at 703 and his world list at 3,178. He hopes to add another 250 or more on a month-long trip to Australia at the first of the year. Dave's wife, Anne, is an accomplished quilter and the two accompany each other frequently on their trips of mutual interest. With work and hobby travel as well as children living in Maryland, Texas and Washington their calendar is rich with geographical diversity.
Membership Committee Chair
Margie has a background in medical research, science education, youth programming and training with the Girl Scouts, and environmental education. She has retired from her job as education program specialist and volunteer coordinator at Tacoma Nature Center, yet remains involved with environmental education as an active volunteer for the nature center and Tahoma Audubon. Margie has served on three nonprofit boards, joining Tahoma Audubon’s after moving from Wisconsin a decade ago. She and her husband, Bill Richards, love to go hiking anywhere in the northwest and took up kayaking once they arrived at the Salish Sea.
Past President; Executive Committee; Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Task Force
Art is no stranger to Tahoma Audubon. He has played many roles with Tahoma Audubon but has not yet been on the board.
Art is also no stranger to conservation issues, government and politics. Art has held leadership positions in all three branches of state government as state agency director, appellate judge, and legislator. This includes representing the 27th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives from 1981 to 1994, serving on the Washington State Court of Appeals, and Director of the state Office of Administrative Hearings managing 170+ persons and a $30 million biennial budget. Art has also been in private practice as an attorney and served on many regional and statewide boards, including being the current president of the Legal Foundation of Washington. A self-described political junkie, Art is a wonderful community advocate and has distinguished legacy of service to Pierce County and the State.
What brings Art to Audubon is his love of birding, something he has done since he was 12 years old. He has been involved in birding and Audubon for 50 years. Art has been a long time leader of birding trips and events, including the Christmas Bird Count and Birdathon. For the Great Backyard bird Count he cooks up a mean brunch that is legendary. Art wants to get more involved in local issues here at home and has never served on the Board of Tahoma Audubon and thought now was a good time to give it a go.
Matt has worked in the environmental non-profit sector for nearly twenty years. He holds a Master’s in Public Policy and a second Master’s in Landscape Architecture from the University of Minnesota.
Matt began his non-profit career as the Planning Director at 1000 Friends of Minnesota where he established that states first Purchase and Transfer of Development rights programs.
Matt moved to the Seattle area in 2002 and spent the next 10 years working as the Conservation Director at Seattle Audubon. At Audubon he worked on all aspects of bird conservation from regional protection of the Northern Spotted Owl to urban tree protection and land use development issues.
For the last two and half years Matt has been a Senior Project Manager for Forterra. In this capacity he manages Forterra’s South Sound Green City Partnerships. This work entails on-the-ground restoration of critical habitat spaces while building community engagement and partnerships.
Matt is a licensed Land Use Planner through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). He grew up in Massachusetts and spent as much time in the outdoors as possible. A key childhood memory was when a Great Horned Owl threw overhead at dusk making absolutely no sound. This likely set the stage for his dedication and reverence for birds. When Matt is not trying to help improve the environmental health of our region he is usually hiking or exploring National Parks with his partner Veronica.
Brittany (Britt) McGrath
Education and Community Outreach Manager
Britt McGrath’s interest in the way the environment shapes a person and how people shape the natural environment inspired her to complete a BS in Environmental Geography from University Wisconsin- Milwaukee.
Her first experience with the National Audubon Society occurred while still working on completing her degree. Britt was accepted into the W.I.N.G.S. internship program as an Environmental Educator at Wisconsin’s Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. This position was an introduction in outdoor children’s education, working and teaching with Raptors and discovering her favorite bird: the Peregrine Falcon.
Through her engagement in community during her past 5 years in Pierce County, Britt has created many connections in the broad spectrum of Tacoma’s diverse communities.
Britt brings her professional and education background to Tahoma Audubon along with her upbeat personality and huge smile. Her personal form of self-expression embraces a deep connection with the natural environment, love of being outdoors, swimming in Puget Sound, gardening, yoga and hula hooping.
Contact: email@example.com, 253-565-9278