Birch Ecology was founded by Heather Houston after her 17-year career as a leading professional ecology consultant focused on the ecosystems of Colorado.  Birch Ecology was formed with a client-focused approach and the intent to provide expert-level consulting, project delivery, and ongoing maintenance and monitoring from professionals who are responsive and reliable. Our experienced team of ecologists, hydrologists, engineers, biologists and planners has a history of successful projects and we take pride in our relationships established with long-term clients.


Heather Houston, President and Senior Ecologist

Heather holds a Master of Arts degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and has been a professional ecologist since 2001. Her expertise includes wetland ecology, ecological restoration, NEPA compliance, vegetation monitoring, threatened and endangered species surveys and project management. She has completed more than 150 wetland delineations and prepared more than 50 wetland permit applications for residential and commercial developments, ski and golf resorts, dam and reservoir improvements, stream restorations, and transportation and utility projects. In addition, Heather has a strong background in horticulture and ecological restoration, and has used this expertise to develop revegetation plans for a variety of native plant communities.  She has considerable experience with the restoration and creation of wetlands, riparian habitats, prairies and native shrublands.  Heather organizes and manages interdisciplinary teams of biologists, hydrologists, and engineers to produce ecological restoration plans and environmental impact studies.  She has considerable experience with NEPA compliance and has been a significant contributor to several complex Environmental Assessments and an Environmental Impact Statement. Heather is the past president of the Society of Wetland Scientists Rocky Mountain Chapter and is a member of the Society for Ecological Restoration, Colorado Riparian Association and the Colorado Native Plant Society.

Scott Shipley, Vice President and Senior Consulting Engineer

Scott holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and has been working in Colorado rivers for over 15 years.  Scott is the Vice President of Birch Ecology and the President and Founder of S2O Design.  Scott’s specialty is working on unique projects that vary from river restoration to design of structures in rivers with a focus on creating vital in-stream habitats while also allowing for recreation, protecting property from flooding, and respecting existing water rights in the drainage.  Scott believes in a client-centered approach to design wherein the design of projects are created collaboratively with both the project team and the client often involved in charettes where each component of the project can be integrated into the whole.  Scott, along with the Birch Ecology team provide full-service projects from initial conceptual design and pricing through final design, implementation, and monitoring.

Steve Belz, Stream Hydrologist, Black Creek Hydrology

Steve Belz is the Senior Hydrologist, founder and owner of Black Creek Hydrology.  He brings more than 35 years of experience to our consulting team in the areas of applied fluvial geomorphology, hydrology, stream restoration, fishery habitat design, permitting, and project implementation. He has provided planning, technical and logistical assistance to private landowners as well as local, state, and federal agencies for more than 50 successful projects.  Steve uses a process-based approach to develop stream restoration designs.  He conducts stream health assessments based on watershed characteristics and field measurements of channel geometry and streambed substrates.  His technical expertise allows an emphasis on natural channel design methods that increase the ecological functioning of restored reaches.  Steve has a long track record of successful projects that includes an award-winning stream restoration on Spring Brook in Illinois.

Dave Buscher, Soil Science and Geology, Buscher Soil & Environmental

David Buscher is a Certified Professional Soil Scientist, Ecological Engineer, and Professional Geologist with more than 35 years of experience. His expertise includes mapping and describing soils and geomorphic features, delineating wetlands, and evaluating soil reclamation potential and geologic hazards for a variety of projects for NEPA compliance documents. He is an expert in hydric soil identification, and he has described soils for more than 300 wetland delineations in Colorado, including mapping numerous fens. This work has included many large-scale, complex delineations in habitats ranging from the plains to the alpine.  Dave is a former NRCS Soil Scientist who has extensive experience mapping soils, describing their physical and chemical characteristics, and interpreting soil data for a variety of land management purposes. He has conducted soil investigations throughout Colorado and the western United States, and internationally in Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador.


Kristin Schroder, Ecologist

Kristin holds Bachelor’s degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  She has over 8 years of experience conducting ecological and botanical investigations for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, the National Ecological Observatory Network, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and private consulting firms, and has worked for Birch Ecology since March 2019. Kristin specializes in quantitative botanical surveys, wetland assessments, ecological restoration, and technical writing.  In addition, she has experience conducting rare species surveys, rangeland health assessments, and Ecological Integrity Assessments for wetlands. Her attention to detail, professionalism and drive are reflected in the quality of her work. Though she hails from the Colorado Front Range, she is grateful for the opportunity to have worked in ecosystems as diverse as the Longleaf Pine forests of Louisiana, the Sagebrush Steppe of Wyoming, and the tundra and boreal forests of Alaska.

Nathan Werner, Project Engineer

Nathan is a registered professional engineer and certified floodplain manager with over eleven years of experience with water resource engineering projects. Nathan specializes in hydraulic design of in-stream projects including hydraulic structures, as well as natural streams and floodplains. He has extensive experience with flood modeling using 1D and 2D software including both varied and unvaried flow modeling.  He has contributed to flood restoration in Colorado with planning, design, and construction oversight of projects on the St. Vrain Creek, Fourmile Creek, and Coal Creek. These restoration projects have included natural streams, urban streams, and recreation-focused designs incorporating whitewater and fish habitat. Nathan focuses on practical designs that are constructible while meeting budget, permitting and schedule constraints.

Sydney Salzwedel, River Restoration & Ecological Engineer

Sydney is an Engineer in Training focused on river restoration design and ecological engineering. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  In addition, she has completed coursework with North Carolina State University and Rosgen focused on fluvial geomorphology, stream assessment and natural channel design. Sydney began her career on the East coast, working in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and gained experience working on projects small and large from urban systems to rural streams. Her experience includes comprehensive three-dimensional design of stream channels, floodplains, and wetlands, as well as hydrologic and hydraulic analyses. She has spent substantial time in the field conducting studies of geomorphic conditions and stream stability, as well as construction oversight of ongoing projects. This experience has provided her a better understanding of natural fluvial processes and how they can be imitated and practically implemented in engineered and restored systems.

Christine Clark, Landscape Architect and Recreational Planner

Christine holds a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Colorado Denver, and a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design in Architecture from the University of Colorado Boulder.  She is a licensed Landscape Architect in the State of Colorado as well as a Certified Planner.  She has worked in the field of recreational planning and design since 2007 and has completed a variety of projects ranging from small residential designs to large, complex park campuses and corridors. She has a strong ability to design multifaceted spaces and networks that balance the needs of the natural and the built environment. She believes that a project needs to be looked at holistically and at a variety of scales, in order to create an efficient, aesthetic, and sustainable design solution that is unique to each individual project.

Riley Adams, Engineer & River Construction Specialist

Riley is an Engineer in Training and Certified Floodplain Manager with a diverse background that includes environmental engineering, river construction management, and GIS analysis and mapping. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Maine and has 11 years of experience in the construction and engineering industry with substantial time in the field on jobsites across the U.S. and abroad. Riley’s studies have included environmental engineering, hydrology, and sustainable design, and he is currently in the process of earning a graduate certificate in GIS. Riley’s experience includes river restoration involving aquatic habitat and fish passage; construction oversight and design of river projects; execution of complex hydroelectric facility upgrades involving endangered species surveys and monitoring; utilizing environmental controls and BMP’s on major infrastructure projects; and planning and management of construction activities to ensure compliant, responsible and efficient execution of work.


Zachary Schwartz, Ecological Restoration and Marketing Associate

Zachary holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Additionally, he has acquired a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, conducted an honors thesis focusing on how humans interact with urban wildlife, and was the founder and president of the CU Wildlife Club. His background includes working within several research fields encompassing soil and ecosystem sciences and restoration ecology along the Front Range; urban ecology in the Denver Metro Area; and dendrology in Oregon. Through these diverse experiences, Zach gained valuable experience in data collection and analysis and developed a foundation in ecological research design and methodology. Zach began his career at Birch Ecology through their internship program as a seasonal restoration ecology crew member. Since then, he has moved into a year-round position that includes ecological restoration, content creation, social media management, and networking and outreach. His professional goals are to help create sustainable environments to ensure the longevity of ecosystems and preserve their functions.