About Us

Integrating Biological Study with Practical Management

Meet Conservation Biologist Aimee Tomcho

Audubon North Carolina has an amazing staff across the state dedicating their time and expertise to protecting birds and their habitats, and engaging others to support bird conservation efforts. In this blog series, we will introduce you, our supporters, to the names and faces behind Audubon NC. 

As part of the Putting Working Lands to Work for Birds and People initiative, Aimee is engaging landowners across Western North Carolina to develop and restore habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler.

Aimee was recently published in the Kidsville News. Click to read her article

Describe your job with Audubon NC.

Being a conservation biologist means integrating traditional biological study with practical management techniques. Conservation melds the principles of renewable resources use with preservationist values to develop science-based recommendations with the goal of benefitting all components, including wildlife, habitats and people. With Audubon, this often means species-focused research that serves as a wide-ranging umbrella of adaptive strategies in applied ecosystem conservation.

What inspired you to pursue a career in conservation?

It seems human-nature drives us on the endless quest for answers, but I love that nature operates at a level people will never fully understand. I learn new things about ecology all the time, which continues to feed my awe, wonder and respect of our natural world.

What brought you to work with Audubon NC for the benefit of birds?

Birds are remarkable creatures and a testimony of biodiversity. Resilient yet reflective of environmental change, birds are also a very valuable focus in scientific research and effective educational tools.

My dream was always to study ecology. Through my studies in college, I learned my passion was wildlife management, or learning techniques to manage habitat and understand landscape-level ecology – how habitats fit together in a balanced mosaic, including the human influence. So, when the opportunity arose to work with Audubon in the mountains of North Carolina with Director of Landbird Conservation Curtis Smalling, my dream came true!

Why do you feel it’s important to protect and conserve birds in North Carolina and globally?

While humans may recognize state boundaries, birds don’t.  North Carolina is a very important piece of the puzzle. Our special location in the Atlantic Flyway (one of four avian migration routes across North America) boasts mountains, piedmont and coastal regions. North Carolina has 27 Level IV eco-regions, and our state ranks among the top 10 states in species richness.

Globally, we have a responsibility to maintain our part. As we find in bird migration studies, if either breeding or wintering habitat is jeopardized, the species and those that rely on it will suffer.

How is your work with Audubon specifically helping to protect birds in NC? What particular birds does your work help protect.

Currently, my job is focused on working with private landowners in the mountain region to introduce management techniques they can employ on their land to benefit Golden-winged Warblers. Not only is this one of the fastest declining warbler species, it serves as an ambassador of early successional forest habitat, which is home to many other species whose numbers are threatened by habitat loss.

What is your favorite bird? Why?

Such a difficult choice! I’ve always liked Great Blue Herons, but my most recent favorite is the Brown Creeper. The only North American member of the tree-creeper family Certhiidae, its song is delicately melodious. He sometimes sings in winter when many songs have quieted. You can find them year-round in the Southern Appalachians and statewide during winter and migration. Brown Creepers are camouflaged like bark with the most amazing patterns of brown and are often missed by birdwatchers as they subtly “creep” up the side of a tree.

What is the most exciting bird you’ve ever spotted? What happened?

I am always excited to spot a new species. As a child, I remember seeing my first male Tanager and being entranced by its surreal scarlet coloration. But it was my encounter with the Plain Chachalaca, at the Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville, TX, that still makes me laugh. As the naturalist stepped out to ask if we were enjoying our visit, my husband told him we were happy to see all of the “Chacha Locas” mulling around the grounds. The naturalist laughed and said he only saw one “muchacha loca”, because that actually translated to “crazy lady”, and he looked at me. We all laughed. If the shoe fits, I guess!

What advice do you have for someone interested in becoming involved with bird conservation efforts?

There are many opportunities to volunteer your time in bird conservation efforts. I rarely turned down an opportunity to volunteer when I was younger, and gained much of my experience that way! Audubon has ten chapters across North Carolina with whom you can go on bird walks, attend educational presentations, and even build birdhouses. You don’t have to know anything about birds. In fact, most birders will tell you they are always learning something new about birds.

I am developing a team of volunteers to help with private lands work. Please contact me if you would like to join our fledgling team!

What would you like people to know about birds that they may not already know?

“Somewhere, always, the sun is rising, and somewhere, always, the birds are singing.” - Donald Kroodsma, The Singing Life of Birds

Aimee earned her bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Sciences from Virginia Tech and her MS in Forest Resources from Clemson University. She serves on the Toe River Valley Watershed Partnership board of directors.

Aimee’s Awards and Recognitions

  • Xi Sigma Pi (International Forestry Honor Society)
  • United States Department of Agriculture Certificate of Merit, 2002, 2003, 2005.
  • United States Department of Agriculture Award, 8/2008.
  • USDA Forest Service Civil Rights Committee Developmental Training Funding Assistance Award, 12/2003
  • Partners in Flight, Graduate Research Assistant Travel Award, 3/2003
  • Mountain Air Country Club, 8/2013. Employee of the Month.

Aimee’s Technical Publications:

  • Greenberg, Cathryn H.; Tomcho, Joseph; Livings-Tomcho, Aimee; Landham, J. Drew; Waldrop, Thomas A.; Simon, Dean; Hagan, Donald. 2018. "Long-term avian response to fire severity, repeated burning, and mechanical fuel reduction in upland hardwood forest." Forest Ecology and Management 424: 367–377.

  • Tomcho, Aimee L.; Greenberg, Cathryn H.; Lanham, J. Drew; Waldrop, Thomas A.; Tomcho, Joseph; Simon, Dean.  2007.  “Effects of fuel reduction treatments on breeding birds in a Southern Appalachian upland hardwood forest.”  In: Powers, Robert F., tech. editor. Restoring fire-adapted ecosystems: proceedings of the 2005 national silviculture workshop. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-203, Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture: p. 285-296.

  • Greenberg, Cathryn H.; Tomcho, Aimee Livings; Lanham, J. Drew; Waldrop, Thomas; Tomcho, Joseph; Phillips, Ross J.; Simon, Dean.  2007.  “Short-term effects of fire and other fuel reduction treatments on breeding birds in a Southern Appalachian upland hardwood forest.”  The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 71(6): 1906-1916.

  • Biology and Management of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers on Camp Lejeune Marine Corp Base, North Carolina, Phase 2 Final Report (1998-1999), Covering the period April 1998- March 1999, Submitted by J.R. Walters, B.L. Simmons, R.R. Meekins, and A.M. Livings, Department of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0406.

Want to learn more about the team members of Audubon North Carolina? Click here to continue our staff profile series.

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