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.  Heather organizes and manages interdisciplinary teams of biologists, hydrologists, and engineers to produce ecological restoration plans and environmental impact studies. In addition, she has completed hundreds of wetland delineations and permit applications for residential and commercial developments, ski and golf resorts, dam and reservoir improvements, stream restorations, and transportation and utility projects. She has a strong background in horticulture and has considerable experience restoring and creating wetlands, riparian habitats, prairies and native shrublands.   She has also been a significant contributor to several complex Environmental Assessments and an Environmental Impact Statement. Heather is the past president and current vice-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.

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.


April Phinney, Ecologist

April joined Birch Ecology in 2022 after graduating with a Master of Science in Geoscience from Utah State University.  For her thesis work, April integrated studies of rocks, soil, and fire ecology to develop novel metrics to estimate fire temperature.  Additionally, she collaborated with an interdisciplinary team to model tree species distributions for a master’s specialization in Climate Adaptation Science.  April’s academic training is complemented by a suite of internships that explored hydrology, soils, and forest fires in the Routt National Forest; fluvial geomorphology in relation to beaver activity in Yellowstone National Park; and water monitoring and advocacy with the Roaring Fork Conservancy.  As an ecologist with Birch Ecology, April integrates these experiences to consider the complex relationships between rocks, soil, water, and living organisms.  She conducts wetland delineations, functional assessments, environmental impact assessments, and assists with stream restoration / wetland mitigation designs to promote mindful stewardship of wetland and riparian ecosystems.

Kaitlyn Barthell, Ecologist

Kaitlyn joined the team in 2023 while finishing her master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. For her thesis Kaitlyn studied bumble bee community ecology along the elevation gradient of Pikes Peak, a 14,115 ft mountain outside of Colorado Springs. She investigated how bumble bee traits can inform novel competitive pressures under climate change. As part of her research, Kaitlyn spent three summers at Pikes Peak conducting plant-pollinator surveys and deepening her knowledge of Colorado’s flora and ecology. She has a strong passion for plant taxonomy, pollinator ecology, and the management of invasive species. Kaitlyn brings a unique, pollinator-focused perspective to Birch Ecology’s projects. She uses her experience in plant-pollinator community ecology to assist rare plant surveys, botanical inventories, and the assessment and restoration of wetland and riparian ecosystems.

Levi Van Weddingen, Restoration Ecologist

Levi holds a bachelor’s degree in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability from Colorado State University and has been with Birch Ecology since 2022. He is passionate about restoring and preserving the natural environment and helping to create a sustainable future for all.  His prior experience includes work with Arapahoe County and Garfield County Open Spaces, focusing on ecological restoration and invasive species management.  At Birch Ecology, he is responsible for the implementation of ecological restoration projects; creating and enhancing natural habitats, improving soil health, and promoting biodiversity. By planting native species, controlling invasive species, and implementing erosion control measures, Levi helps our restoration plans come to life.  Levi also assists with site assessment, mapping, and planning.  He takes pride in constantly expanding his knowledge and expertise, participating in ongoing training, and staying up-to-date with the latest ecological restoration practices. His ability to work well in a team and communicate effectively makes him an important asset to Birch Ecology.

Laura Elder, Business Manager

Laura is our All-Star Business Manager.  Originally from Oklahoma, she relocated to Colorado in 2016 and has been with Birch Ecology since 2021.  While in Oklahoma, Laura worked for eleven years in the aerospace manufacturing industry, with responsibilities ranging from contracts and procurement to shipping coordination and management.  After moving to Colorado, she focused on AP/AR and record keeping in her prior role for an HOA management company. Her diverse work experiences, willingness to take on new projects, and careful attention to detail make her a great asset to Birch Ecology. Most importantly, she helps to create sound business and financial strategies and to plan for the future growth of our company through her diligent management of budgets and financial records.  In addition, she assists with proposals, technical editing, and report preparation, and she continues to grow in her role with ever-increasing responsibilities.