PIF is excited to welcome our new Interim U.S. Coordinator, Valerie Stein Foster. She will be the coordinator through March 2024. Below is her bio.
I grew up on a dairy farm in rural upstate NY surrounded by perennial wetlands, rolling grasslands, and mixed hardwood forest. This instilled in me a deep appreciation for the natural world at a young age and, in particular, birds. Upon completing my undergraduate degree in Biology, I left NY state during the early 90s to begin my career as a wildlife biologist. I worked for 10 years on applied research, recovery, and management of endangered birds (forest birds, seabirds, and geese) in Hawaii. During that time, I also earned my master’s degree, studying an endangered forest bird species in Haleakala National Park on Maui. Imperiled species conservation in Hawaii left a lasting impression on me on how fragile species persistence can be and how important it is to keep common species common. In 2007, I relocated to northern Arizona, where I began my career with the U.S. Forest Service. I have been a wildlife biologist for the agency for the past 15 years. During this time, I have occupied several different roles, providing subject matter expertise, policy and technical guidance, strategic planning, budget, partnership coordination, and program administration and management leadership. Focus areas have included balancing at-risk species management with forest restoration and wildfire risk reduction, monitoring, and science development and delivery. This work has frequently required extensive coordination with interdisciplinary program areas (e.g., silviculture, rangeland, fire and fuels management, tribal relations) and developing and managing numerous internal and external partnership agreements for a wide variety of wildlife taxa and species. In my previous role as the wildlife program manager for the Kaibab National Forest in AZ, I managed multi-year agreements with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and Great Basin Bird Observatory for focal species monitoring and pinyon jay habitat use and distribution data gathering. I also participated in California Condor recovery as an agency representative on the California Condor Southwestern working group. I have contributed to the western working groups of PIF, primarily the pinyon jay group, and have been getting more engaged in MOTUS conversations, particularly in Arizona and the southwest. I am keenly interested in how new technology (e.g., MOTUS, ARUs) and information development, including community science and newer data integration analysis, can advance our understanding of avian species habitat needs while informing management decisions on the ground and contributing to community interest and place-based conservation. I am a recent addition to the USFS national headquarters office (June 2023), providing wildlife ecology and program management support. I have enjoyed participating in PIF Steering Committee calls and learning more about PIF needs, and I am excited about the opportunity to temporarily step into the PIF coordinator role and bring some additional capacity to the group. I reside in Flagstaff, Arizona, and in my free time, I enjoy hiking, gardening, birding, and traveling with my husband (a keen birder) and our two teenage daughters.