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.

KEY STAFF AND ASSOCIATES


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 current 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.  Mr. Buscher 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 6 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 ten years of experience with water resource engineering projects. Nathan specializes in hydraulic design of instream projects including hydraulic structures, as well as natural streams and floodplains. He has been immersed in 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.

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.

Kurt Smithgall, Engineer & GIS / Natural Resources Specialist

Kurt holds a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering with an emphasis on Water Resource Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and has been an Engineer in Training since 2013. His expertise includes numerical hydraulic modelling, stream restoration, programming and data processing, and fieldwork in addition to GIS and AutoCAD drafting.  He has fieldwork experience ranging from geomorphology and sediment transport studies in the Austrian Alps to stream surveys and geomorphic assessments in Mid Atlantic coastal plains to hydrology and nutrient studies in the southern Appalachian temperate rainforest. Additionally, he has experience working with large data sets. For a project with the forest service, he wrote code to analyze over 20 years of annual precipitation, streamflow and ET for over 700 watersheds across the United States and perform a statistical analysis.  For his thesis, a database of measured streambank soil parameters were compared to values extracted from the SSURGO soil dataset for over 80 locations across the United States. GIS specific skills include watershed delineation and floodplain inundation mapping, 3D animations and map creation, watershed and viewshed analysis, and data processing and Python scripting. In addition to being an Engineer in Training (EIT), Kurt is a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM), and maintains professional memberships in the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the International Association for Hydro-Environmental Engineering and Research (IAHR).

Riley Adams, Engineer & GIS/Natural Resources Specialist

Riley has a diverse background which includes environmental engineering, construction management, and GIS analysis and mapping. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Maine and has 10 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 master’s degree in Natural Resources with a graduate certificate in GIS. Riley’s experience includes river restoration involving aquatic habitat and fish passage, wetland mitigation, 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. As a part of the Birch Ecology team, Riley also assists with natural resource investigations, implementation and monitoring of ecological restoration projects, and is responsible for GIS mapping and geospatial analysis.