Plenary Speakers

Plenary Speakers

Plenary speakers are scheduled for the first two mornings (Thursday and Friday) of the conference: On Thursday morning after the plenary speaker, there will be a panel composed of indigenous biologists.

Thursday October 19 – .Scott Weidensaul, Project SNOWstorm’s Studies of Snowy Owls: A Model for Collaborative, Crowd-funded Raptor Research

Thursday October 19 – Plenary Panel Discussion “Connecting Worlds: Indigenous World Views, Science, and Sovereignty in Raptor Research and Conservation” (Panel participants: By Robert Mesta, Tiana Williams-Claussen, and Aimee Roberson).

Friday October 20 – Dr. Patricia Kennedy, A 50-year Perspective on Conservation of Northern Goshawks

Saturday October 21 – Plenary time slot (9:00 to 10:30) devoted to networking.

“Connecting Worlds: Indigenous World Views, Science, and Sovereignty in Raptor Research and Conservation”

Throughout their history Indigenous Peoples have maintained an intimate relationship with the natural world. Passed on through generations, this relationship has shaped their belief system, traditions, practices, and has defined and influenced their culture and worldview. A view that believes all things, whether they be objects, places, or animals possess a spirituality that must be recognized and respected. In this panel discussion we will share this worldview, the importance of traditional knowledge in sustaining our natural world, cultural influences in science, and their role in raptor research and conservation.

Robert Mesta, Director, Liberty Wildlife Non-Eagle Feather Repository Program

Robert is a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ornithologist. He spent his professional career working to protect, conserve, and recover threatened and endangered North American bird populations. His area of expertise is the recovery of endangered birds of prey. He directed national and international-level programs to recover the California condor, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and the masked bobwhite quail. Robert coordinated the California Condor Recovery Program from 1990 to 2000. In 1992, he directed the first reintroduction of captive-bred condors back to the wild in southern California and in 1996, he led the successful release of condors into the Grand Canyon. In the 1980’s Robert established the successful Arizona Bald Eagle Nest-Watch Program and was a member of the National Bald Eagle Recovery Team that down-listed the Bald eagle from endangered to threatened in 1995. As leader of the National Peregrine Falcon Recovery Team, he wrote the rule that removed the peregrine falcon from the Endangered Species List after its successful recovery. As leader of the Masked Bobwhite Quail Recovery Team Robert worked to establish a captive breeding program in Mexico to re-establish this endangered subspecies to its historical range in Mexico. From 1999 to 2015 he coordinated the Sonoran Joint Venture, a bi-national bird conservation program between the United States and Mexico. Currently, Robert Directs the Liberty Wildlife Non-Eagle Feather Repository Program, a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to accept, hold, and distribute non-eagle feathers to Native Americans for religious and ceremonial purposes.

Aimee Roberson, Director of the Southwest Region for American Bird Conservancy

Aimee Roberson is the Director of the Southwest Region for American Bird Conservancy. Previously, she served as the Coordinator for the Rio Grande Joint Venture, and prior to that worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for many years. Aimee is a lifelong student of Earth’s wisdom and holds degrees in geology (B.A.) and conservation biology (M.S.). She focused on raptor research early in her career, including studying and learning from Peregrine Falcons, Swallow-tailed Kites, various species of owls, and Northern Goshawks. Aimee is committed to reciprocity, community, and environmental stewardship, and partners with people and all our relations to ensure that native grasses grow and rivers continue to flow. Aimee provides leadership to conservation partnerships in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico — co-creating a vision; integrating cultural values and ecological knowledge with science for meaningful decision making; and implementing shared strategies for stewarding wildlife, water, and ecosystems. She currently serves on the boards of the Rio Grande Joint Venture, Sonoran Joint Venture, Big Bend Conservation Alliance, and Regalia Making Relatives. She is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a descendant of the Chickasaw Nation. Aimee and her husband, Rawles, enjoy growing Indigenous foods, such as Chikashsha tanchi homma (Chickasaw red corn) and isito (Choctaw sweet potato squash).

Tiana Williams-Claussen, Director of the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Department

Tiana Williams-Claussen is a member of the Yurok Tribe and comes from the village of Wehl-kwew’ on the Yurok Reservation. She received her BA in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard University, returned to serve her tribe, and is currently pursuing a Master of Sciences in Natural Resources from California Polytechnic State University, Humboldt. Tiana’s graduate work focuses on lessons learned and pathways forged for successful integration of federal, tribal, and state legislation in pursuit of restoration of California condor to Yurok Ancestral Territory, a goal attained in 2022 with release of eight condors into Yurok skies after 130 years’ absence. Tiana relies on her native upbringing and formal education to bridge the beliefs, knowledge, and practices of the Yurok with those rooted in Western-science, and to work toward a cohesive, well-informed perspective on holistic ecosystem management. Instrumental to the formation of the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Department, she currently serves as Department Director.