About Us

Audubon Delta - Mississippi Staff

Audubon Mississippi operates two centers, a coastal bird stewardship program, and state staff
Photo: Bill Stripling
About Us

Audubon Delta - Mississippi Staff

Audubon Mississippi operates two centers, a coastal bird stewardship program, and state staff

Dawn O'Neal, Executive Director, Audubon Delta

Dawn O’Neal joined Audubon in July 2021 as serves as a Vice President at Audubon and Executive Director of Audubon Delta – Audubon’s new regional office encompassing Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Dr. O’Neal

leads a talented team in engaging communities and stakeholders in meaningful and productive collaborations to develop equitable, inclusive, and durable conservation strategies and policy solutions.

Prior to joining Audubon, Dr. O’Neal worked at the Nature Conservancy as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Office of the Chief Scientist. In this role, she developed and stewarded several long-term strategies to help Conservancy scientist build emotional intelligence, enhance technical capacity, and develop skills to enrich collaborations with stakeholders and increase the impact of conservation outcomes.  Before joining the Nature Conservancy, Dr. O’Neal was Executive Director at the Huyck Preserve leading four critical organizational functions in the areas of Conservation, Education, Research, and Recreation for the 2,000-acre land trust. She stewarded volunteer programs, vibrant science-based nature programs, and a biological research station in addition to fostering partnerships with a regional network of preserves, academic, and governmental agencies to inform natural resource conservation through research.

Dr. O’Neal holds a BA in environmental studies from Washington University and a PhD in ecology from Indiana University. Dr. O’Neal also holds a deep passion for nature and the outdoors and can be found most weekends hiking or kayaking. She is always looking for opportunities to build bridges between her expertise in conservation and her passion for outdoor recreation to help create healthy and safe environments, mitigate climate change, and increase access to the outdoors for black and brown communities.

Caitlin Lill, Senior Program Manager - Coastal Stewardship, Audubon Delta

Caitlin, originally from Chicago, IL, is a lifelong birdwatcher and conservation professional. She has a B.A. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavioral Biology from Beloit College, a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University, and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Public Policy from Northwestern University. She has a strong background in projects, budget, and staff management, having most recently utilized those skills while at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources where she was the Capital Development Coordinator for the Bureau of Parks and Recreation. She managed projects ranging from the construction of boat launches, to campground buildings and facilities, trails, and multiple dams and water control structures. Before that, she worked at the Urbana Park District in Illinois, where she administered restoration and infrastructure projects, park revitalization, and public education programming. 

Jill Mastrototaro, Policy Director, Audubon Delta - Mississippi 

Jill Mastrototaro joined Audubon Mississippi as their first-ever Policy Director in September 2017. In this role, she shapes and leads a dynamic policy agenda to advance Audubon’s mission and conservation priorities in special places like the Mississippi and Gulf Coasts, and the Mississippi Flyway. She brings nearly two decades of winning campaigns on conservation, water, climate change, and public health across the Gulf region and nationally. This track-record reflects her knack for integrating policy, advocacy, science, and education with an ability to build diverse, influential partnerships. Prior to joining Audubon, Jill led the National Wildlife Federation's policy efforts in Mississippi and Alabama, striving to guide billions of recovery dollars from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to projects that restore the Gulf. In earlier roles, she was deeply involved in Hurricane Katrina recovery and in securing landmark federal protections for coastal wetlands. A Connecticut native, her love for the Gulf began after completing a Master's in Environmental Policy from the State University of New York (SUNY) - College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Rochester. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, spoiling her dogs, and traveling. Contact: jmastrototaro@audubon.org

 

Abby Darrah, Regional Coastal Biologist, Audubon Delta - Mississippi 

Abby grew up in the Columbus, Ohio area and was always a nature-lover. She first became interested in birds while attending college at Ohio University, thanks to an ornithology class that included mist-netting and a multi-day field trip to South Carolina. After taking several short-term field jobs working with birds all around the country, she moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she got her Master’s degree and then PhD in biology. She studied King Rail habitat use and distribution for her Master’s project, and for her PhD dissertation she studied the behavior and ecology of mixed-species flocks in Amazonian Ecuador. After graduation she worked for a 1.5 years as a postdoc at the University of Arizona, taking part in many different research projects on the effects of land use on migratory birds. She then worked for two years as a postdoc at the State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry, developing a decision support tool for beach managers to use when deciding whether or not to use nest exclosures for Piping Plover conservation.  She joined Audubon Mississippi in March 2017. In her free time Abby enjoys running, birding, and traveling. Contact: adarrah@audubon.org 

Melinda Averhart, Stewardship Manager, Audubon Delta - Mississippi

Melinda Averhart is responsible for all aspects of stewardship and outreach, as well as conducting surveys and monitoring the coastal birds of Mississippi. Melinda has worked with breeding Least Terns, Black Skimmers and Wilson’s Plovers for Audubon in Florida, Louisiana, and currently Mississippi. She graduated cum laude from Florida Gulf Coast University, with a bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and a minor in Interdisciplinary Studies. Her senior research was focused on the effects of Fish Crow abatement techniques on a Florida seabird breeding colony. Melinda held varying positions on the Board within her local Audubon chapter, Vice President being the last, while also filling the roll of Program Chair for 5 years. She fell in love with shorebirds during her time spent working as a Naturalist and Stewardship Coordinator on the beautiful beaches and barrier islands of Southwest Florida. Melinda joined the Audubon Mississippi team in September 2017 and moved to Ocean Springs to further her experience along the Gulf Coast. She is currently working on beach-nesting bird outreach and education in varying capacities. Contact Melinda at maverhart@audubon.org.     

Tim Guida, Field Operations Associate, Audubon Delta - Mississippi

Tim became interested in birds and wildlife at an early age, exploring the forests and shores of southern New York. He received a B.S. in Ecology and B.A. in English from Lehigh University in 2004. He received his Master's from Lehigh University in 2006, investigating the effects of ultraviolet light on temperate lake plankton. After graduation, Tim worked with Point Blue Conservation Science as a research technician on projects across a variety of California habitats. He joined the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in 2011, working to facilitate and implement a variety of the organization’s field, lab, and office-based efforts. Tim joined Audubon Mississippi in 2019 as part of the Coastal Bird Stewardship Program. His research interests include the factors which affect the timing and abundance of migratory birds, the ecology of birds in human-impacted landscapes, and the conservation of North American birds. Contact Tim at: tim.guida@audubon.org.

Collin Stempien, Coastal Bird Technician, Audubon Delta - Mississippi 

Collin is from Mobile, Alabama and graduated with a B.S. in Biology from the University of South Alabama in 2018. He has always had a passion for nature and the outdoors, and his interest in birds developed at an early age as he watched and photographed birds around his Texas home. He volunteered with Birmingham Audubon Coastal Programs, where he led surveys and assisted with nest monitoring and other activities. His senior research focused on avian diversity and abundance within various habitats across campus. After graduation, he worked for the University of Southern Mississippi, where he conducted avian and resource surveys and worked at a banding station. Collin joined the Audubon Mississippi team and moved to Ocean Springs in January 2019. Contact: cstempien@audubon.org.

Mary Cowan, Senior Associate Finance and Grants, Audubon Delta 

Mary is responsible for various accounting & grant related duties pertaining to the Delta region. With 25 years experience in the accounting field, Mary has worked in various positions within both the public and private sector of business.   Mary’s passion for photographing shorebirds is another talent she brings to the program.  When she is not Kayaking or spending time at one of the Barrier Islands, she and her husband enjoy time with their 2 children and 2 grandchildren.  Contact: mcowan@audubon.org

Mike Muraco, Director of Operations, Audubon Delta

Mike Muraco joined Strawberry Plains Audubon Center as the Operations Manager in July of 2015, and became the Center Director in 2016. He is a 30 year veteran of the zoo and aquarium community with a primary focus on research, education and conservation.  In his current position with Audubon, Mike is responsible for the daily management and continued development of the Strawberr Plains Audubon Center and for advancing Audubon’s mission throughout northern Mississippi.

Mike’s primary area of expertise is animal behavior and welfare.  Throughout his career he has participated in a variety of wildlife rehabilitation efforts with species as diverse as manatees, sea lions, dolphins, otters, sea turtles, waterfowl and more. He is a strong supporter of research and has co-authored several peer reviewed publications.  Mike is also very engaged in the community having served on several nonprofit boards.

Mike brings to Strawberry Plains Audubon Center tremendous leadership and management experience having worked at such iconic companies as Disney, Six Flags, and MGM Mirage in Las Vegas.  His training as a biologist paired with his impressive management career will serve Audubon well in the coming years. Contact Mike at mmuraco@audubon.org

Mary Lynn Riley, Associate Director, Financial Planning & Analysis, Mississippi Flyway

As Office Manager for the Audubon Mississippi State Office located at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, Mary Lynn Riley handles various accounting and administrative duties. Mary Lynn came to Audubon in March 2003 with experience as a bookkeeper at her family owned farm supply store and traffic manager at a local manufacturer. While raising two children, she worked her way up to inventory control manager in addition to serving as office manager for the manufacturer of nationally known food and health care products. Mary Lynn's work ethic, experience and dedication make her the glue of the Strawberry Plains team. She has four grandchildren and one wild Chihuahua that contribute to her busy life! When there is spare time, she loves reading and road trips with her friends. Contact Mary Lynn at mriley@audubon.org

Tim Bisenius, Facilities Manager at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center

The Center's positive image is largely due to Tim's hard work and varied skills. Tim moved to Holly Springs from Connecticut to start work at Strawberry Plains when it first became the property of the National Audubon Society in 1998. Maintenance of a facility that includes 15 miles of hiking trails, numerous buildings and infrastructure as well as making preparations for numerous special events and programs at the Center, keeps Tim much busier than the average guy. The Center's positive image is largely due to Tim's hard work and varied skills. Contact Tim at tbisenius@audubon.org

 

Susan May Stachowski, Center Manager at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center  

Susan is a graduate of Mississippi University for Women where she earned a B.S. in Communications and later earned a M.A. in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Mississippi.  She is a retired educator after serving children in both the Moss Point and Pascagoula-Gautier School districts for 25 years as a teacher and administrator.

At the Center, she oversees daily operations and works to build community partnerships with area businesses and residents.  She develops programs and activities that appeal to nature lovers of all ages and continue the mission of the National Audubon Society.

She is a lifelong resident of Moss Point and enjoys spending time along the Pascagoula River and visiting the barrier islands. Susan has two children, Kevin, 25, and Christina, 22, along with daughter-in-law, Olivia. Contact: sstachowski@audubon.org 

Katie Walsh Fetzer, Education Manager at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center

Katie is a graduate of Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Education.  For the last 12 years, she has had experience as a public school teacher, naturalist, marine science educator, youth director, summer camp director, and community organizer. 

At the center, Katie oversees and prepares the educational programs for all age groups.  Her goal is to help the community connect to the surrounding ecosystem in order to establish knowledge of and appreciation for its resources. She believes that building this strong sense of place will support the development of personal identity, inspire stewardship, and nurture empathy for all.

Katie is originally from Moss Point, but has lived and worked all over the United States. She has returned home with her husband and two young daughters: Liza Wren and Annie. Katie is eager to reconnect to the marsh, the barrier islands, and the community at large. Contact: katie.fetzer@audubon.org 

                                        

How you can help, right now

Audubon Arkansas, Audubon Louisiana, and Audubon Mississippi have joined forces to become Audubon Delta.