Who We Are
The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society was founded in 1926, and with over 3,000 members, is one of the largest National Audubon Society chapters in California. Our programs and conservation activities are supported by our generous members and donors. SCVAS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your dues and donations are fully tax-deductible.
The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society promotes the enjoyment, understanding, and protection of birds and other wildlife by engaging people of all ages in birding, education, and conservation.
To accomplish this mission we will...
- • Promote scientifically sound conservation strategies for the protection of native ecosystems and demonstrate the value of conservation to the community.
- • Educate our diverse community about the benefits of preserving and enjoying nature, focusing on youth education programs, public outreach, and field trips.
- • Support research into maintaining, restoring, and understanding native ecosystems, particularly those of birds.
- • Collaborate with the National Audubon Society, Audubon-California, Audubon Chapters, and other organizations to accomplish our common goals.
Our bylaws govern our chapter operations.
Our Yearly Accomplishments
We have a long list of yearly accomplishments made possible by our many generous supporters and volunteers. Help us continue this trend through the coming years by donating to our year-end appeal!
Ralph Schardt, Executive Director, has been an Audubon member for nearly 20 years. He led bird watching trips for a variety of local businesses and nonprofits. As the only photographer covering the relocation of the California condor at Pinnacles National Monument, Ralph's work was widely published. He brings over 15 years of leadership and development in nonprofit business to SCVAS, including running a small private nonprofit foundation supporting environmental education for youth over the last nine years. He is passionate about nature, birds, and the outdoors. Contact Ralph at (408) 252-3748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelly Alfrey, Education and Outreach Manager, graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in Animal Science. Prior to joining SCVAS, Kelly worked on commercial crabbing vessels out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where she enjoyed Bald Eagles and Steller's Eiders while monitoring crabs and other marine life. She is happy to have migrated back to sunny California. Kelly is eager to promote conservation within the Bay Area and expand our community presence to advance SCVAS's outreach programs! Contact Kelly at (408) 627-7172 or email@example.com.
Kelsey Frey, Education Programs Coordinator, graduated from UC Davis with a B.S. in psychology and a minor in wildlife, fish, and conservation biology. Before joining SCVAS, Kelsey taught 4th graders about watersheds and native plants followed by a stint in the conservation corps. She is excited to inspire future generations to get involved in conservation, especially that of our feathered friends! Contact Kelsey at (408) 252-3740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shani Kleinhaus, Environmental Advocate, works to protect and promote wildlife habitats and to include avian conservation in local development plans. She represents the Chapter before local governments and decision makers, addressing issues of land use, birds, wildlife habitat, and environmental impacts. Shani (pronounced shaa-knee) works closely with our Environmental Action Committee and volunteers on a plethora of conservation issues throughout Santa Clara County and its cities. Shani earned her Ph.D. in Ecology from UC Davis and has contributed to conservation research, advocacy and planning in a variety of ecosystems in the US and overseas. To join our group of advocates or to alert us to ecological concerns and opportunities in your community, contact Shani at (650) 868-2114 or email@example.com.
Mackenzie Mossing, Environmental Advocacy Associate, grew up in San Jose and graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in Animal Science. Mackenzie discovered her passion for protecting birds while caring for permanently injured raptors at a wildlife rescue and education facility in Paso Robles, California. She went on to gain experience in wildlife conservation while interning for the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia and Save the Elephants in Kenya. Now, Mackenzie is focused on helping to establish a future for birds, wildlife, and nature in the Bay Area. Contact Mackenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracy Neher, Office Manager, was the Executive Assistant at Filoli where she had the pleasure of meeting and working with Ralph Schardt. She started volunteering for SCVAS and was delighted to hear of this position-opening. The Nature Shop is such a good fit for her skills. Along with her administrative experience, she worked for Nordstrom, Williams Sonoma, Talbots, and owned her own gift stores in Nevada City. She and her husband Bob lived in many spots on the West Coast and have two grown daughters. She currently resides in Los Altos with her two Siamese cats (bird watchers, not bird catchers). She has a lot to learn about birding, but she is very eager to learn. Contact her at (408) 252-3747 or email@example.com.
Board of Directors
The SCVAS Board of Directors is always open to new ideas and suggestions from members. We work hard to uphold our bylaws, maintain fiscal solvency, ensure that our programs support our mission, promote local conservation, and provide fun and exciting educational experiences for both children and adults.
The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society is seeking Board members and welcomes expressions of interest from anyone who supports our mission. While your enthusiastic contribution of time and energy is the major qualification, the Board particularly needs expertise and experience in fund-raising, environmental education, and social media. Contact us if you are interested in joining our Board.
Meetings are typically held the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM.
Diane Hart, President, describes herself as an adult-onset birder who makes up with enthusiasm for what she lacks in expertise. She has served on the SCVAS Board since 2011, becoming its President in 2017. She sits on most Board’s committees and is active on SCVAS’s Education Committee. Diane is a nationally recognized education author and assessment consultant. She has written 20 textbooks on U.S. history, world history, geography, American government, and economics, most of which are still used in schools across the country. She has also consulted widely on social studies curriculum, instructional design, and standards-based assessments. Her most recent project has been the development of cross-cultural competency tools to prepare government personnel heading overseas to work effectively with people from cultures different from their own. Diane embraces being out-of-doors, whether birding, gardening, cycling, or leading tours at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve where she volunteers as a docent. What she loves most about birding is that she can do it anywhere, from the ends of the Earth to the Safeway parking lot.
Gabrielle Feldman, Vice President, joined the Board of Directors in March 2015 and is now the Acting Vice President and the Chair of the Outreach Committee. Gabrielle is also the Board Liaison to the Environmental Action Committee. Gabrielle is the Owner and Principal of Environmental Policy Solutions, LLC, a boutique environmental consulting firm based in San Jose, CA. She has over twenty years of experience working with natural resource managers, NGOs, and governments on a variety of wildlife conservation projects throughout the Bay Area and beyond. She has earned a B.S. in Zoology and an M.S. in Environmental Science and Regional Planning from Washington State University and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources with an emphasis in Environmental Policy Analysis and Decision Science from the University of Idaho. Gabrielle has combined her passion for wildlife conservation and sustainable development with an expert knowledge of local, national, and international law. By utilizing a holistic approach, she has led complicated planning and implementation processes designed to conserve natural resources while promoting sustainable development. In her free time, Gabrielle enjoys spending time with her husband and 6-year-old twins. She is an avid hiker and weekend birder. Gabrielle also enjoys cooking and baking for a crowd. If she isn’t hanging out with her family, she enjoys spending as much time outdoors exploring nature and looking for birds and other wildlife.
Don McDougall, Treasurer, serves SCVAS as a Board member and Treasurer, chairs the Finance and Development Committees, and is a member of the Environmental Advocacy Committee. He sees the strength of SCVAS is its three integrated values: birding for all levels and ages, education—especially for young students—and advocacy for Santa Clara habitats that sustain birds and other wildlife. SCVAS, in his view, outperforms its size in local advocacy efforts. Don spent his career in domestic and international technology and software, typically companies that developed business intelligence and analytics software. He was CEO for companies whose industries and products include electronics manufacturing, forest products optimization, activity-based costing, census data anonymization, and business intelligence and reporting. In addition to his work with SCVAS, Don serves on the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission, with the Environmental Volunteers as a classroom and field volunteer and board member, and as a docent at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Don believes in the importance of addressing sustainability, especially environmental, but also economic and social equity.
Joan Leighton, Secretary, has been on the SCVAS Board for fifteen years and has acted as its Secretary for most of that time. She serves on the Executive, Development, and Membership Committees, and chairs the Personnel Committee. With another volunteer, she also manages the SCVAS library, a thousand-volume collection devoted to birds and birding and available to SCVAS members. A professional librarian, Joan started her career at Harvard's East Asian Library, went on to manage the several libraries of a national accounting firm, and then came to Stanford where she oversaw many of the programs and services of Stanford's main and undergraduate libraries. Retirement was followed by three years with San Francisco's Koret Foundation directing a national book award program. Joan’s time is now spent birding while travelling, hosting emerging string quartets, collecting fruit stickers (one of the largest such collections in the world), and playing with family and friends up and down the California coast.
Michael Armer joined the SCVAS board in 2016. He is a founding member of the Outreach Committee, and also sits on the Membership and Birdathon Committees. Michael graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Linguistics. He then worked in the IT field for about ten years, managing networks for a few dozen small companies. About ten years ago Michael decided on a major career change and went to UC Davis to study Veterinary Medicine. He is now a small animal veterinarian in Campbell, CA. From a young age, Michael has been a birder and bird photographer. His passion for birds has taken him to six continents – and he hopes to travel to Antarctica to complete the set! For the last fifteen years he has also been a raptor bander with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory in Marin County.
Tom Grey has been an enthusiastic birder for 25 years, and an active bird photographer for the last fifteen. He has been a member of the SCVAS Board since 2009 and currently serves on the Personnel and Nomination Committees. As the only lawyer on the Board, he occasionally ventures legal advice to SCVAS or, more often, helps find someone in the profession more qualified than himself to do so. Tom is retired from the Stanford Law School faculty after teaching there for 36 years. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Tom takes pictures of birds in his spare time, many of which have been published in birding books and other publications.
Peter Hart has served on the SCVAS Board since 2011. He is a member of the Nominating, Personnel, and Development Committees. He also serves on the Board of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. During his professional career, from which he is now largely retired, Peter founded or led half a dozen companies and international research centers and invented or developed the theory of several widely used computer algorithms. He is the world’s most-cited author in the field of Robotics and among the ten most-cited authors in the field of Computer Science (according to Google Scholar). He holds over 125 patents covering a wide range of artificial intelligence and software inventions and is a Fellow of four professional associations. Nowadays, Peter is a bird photographer, cyclist, furniture maker, pianist, community volunteer and traveler. His technical interests are now focused on how information technology can contribute to conservation science.
Bob Hirt currently serves as a Board member (Past President), chair of the Investment Committee, and member of the Birdathon and Executives Committees. He has been on the Board since 2003. Bob has been involved in Bay Area Audubon activities since 1977 and has served on the Boards of Golden Gate Audubon (President), Farallon Island Foundation (Treasurer), Friends of Richardson Bay (Controller), and Audubon Canyon Ranch. In his view, SCVAS is the leader in the South Bay in birding activities, wildlife education, and environmental action. He sees SCVAS as assertive and collaborative in protecting bird and wildlife habitats. Bob earned an MBA in Finance at Western Michigan University and a CPA certificate while at KPMG in San Francisco. His business career was in Corporate Finance specializing in Corporate Tax and Treasury with Bank of America, Lucky Stores, Measurex, Solectron, and ending at SanDisk. After retiring from his international tax consulting practice, he is devoting his time to SCVAS, birding, and his four grandchildren.
Vivek Khanzodé Vivek’s interest in birds and nature blossomed after a trip to Costa Rica in 2009. The Resplendent Quetzal mesmerized him, and since then he has been traveling the US and the neotropics in Central and South America annually on nature themed vacations to capture the beauty of birds. Vivek has been a member of the SCVAS Board since 2011 and currently serves on the Membership and Nomination Committees. He brings to the Board the perspectives of both a committed birder and an engineering manager in the Semiconductor industry in the Silicon Valley. He is a strong supporter and active presenter in the Bay Area Bird Photographers group of SCVAS. In his spare time, Vivek photographs birds in the Bay Area and beyond. His bird photos have been published by the National Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy, and several other conservation related organizations. His bird and nature photographs can be enjoyed at www.birdpixel.com.
John Richardson As one of the newest Board member for SCVAS, I am looking forward to committing quality time and energy to such an energetic, creative, and inspiring organization. After finishing a degree in Biology in Omaha, I made a calculated decision to move west and live out my dream of being nearer to the mountains. I added a history degree at a Washington University and then worked for six years with the US Forest Service in fire control in six western states. For the past 35 years I have had a successful and rewarding career in industrial sales, mostly in executive level capital spending projects with Bay Area public schools, public and private universities, cities and counties, and large corporate firms. After recently retiring I have more time to commit to birding, worldwide nature photography, cycling, swimming, hiking, woodworking, and reading. You can see some of my work at www.johnrichardsonnature.com.