I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. I am Richard Couse, the new, and first, Executive Director here at the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. I’m incredibly humbled and honored to have the opportunity to advance MSRW’s mission to conduct scientific studies of hawks and owls and waterfowl migrating through this region of northern Michigan and educating the public about the birds and their migration.
As a lifelong lover of nature, the principles of responsible stewardship, ethical conservation and mindful leadership are tenets that I value highly. I see these tenets strongly reflected in the work MSRW has done in its few short years of operation. And now, there could not be a more exciting time to begin a journey as equally compelling as the journeys of the birds we seek to understand and protect.
A little about me, for years I worked in the field of Human Services advocating for troubled teens, first as a counselor, then as a grant writer and eventually as program coordinator. The one common thread I saw in all my work was that these children had no connection to nature. I worked to develop experiential outdoor programs and learned that nature had the power to heal broken lives. This gave me a mission and I returned to school to attain my Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies. I focused on conservation biology, writing and photography and my work became about creating meaningful connections to nature through research, stewardship, education, and the arts.
It has been a rewarding career. Beginning in graduate school, I became interested in herpetology and conducted my own research on microhabitat preferences of lizards in the coastal region (Sea of Cortez) of the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. Using radio-telemetry, I also researched the spatial ecology of the Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) defining the differences in the daily movement patterns of male and female Eastern Hognose Snakes on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Over the past two years I have spent time working with farmers in the Netherlands to alter when they harvest hay to help protect the Bar-tailed Godwit and other field nesting birds, and most recently I have worked with Conservación Panamá, focusing my attention on the Glow-throated Hummingbird (Selasphorus ardens), a Panamanian endangered endemic species with a declining population due to habitat loss. With a goal of creating the first conservation area for this species that is operated solely by native people, this research has far reaching implications for bird conservation and indigenous communities.
Presently, I couldn’t be any more excited than I am right now to be calling Northern Michigan my new home. The Mackinac Straits certainly deserves it’s designation as an IBA (Important Bird Area). There are thousands of birds who use this flyway to return to and from home every year, and it is a wonderful and iconic place to observe this natural phenomenon! On any given day in the spring or fall, one will see Golden Eagles soaring, Peregrine Falcons gliding, and Sharp-shinned Hawks powering their way across the Straits, and to sum it up in one word, it is – Magical.
I am lucky to be joining a dedicated team and an inspiring community. I am excited to get to know the places, meet the people and explore the challenges that can make a true difference and to show that these birds are worth protecting. Your support has been crucial to MSRW’s growth and success, and as we set forward into new era of leadership your support is even more important to us. Please keep us in mind during your year-end giving, either by check to P.O. Box 465, Petoskey, MI 49770 or by clicking http://usinc.org/donations/.
I sincerely welcome you along for what will be a very engaging and fulfilling journey. I look forward to watching the skies with you.
Richard (Rich) Couse
Executive Director, MSRW