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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

Laura Hattaway, All-Star Office Manager & Bookkeeper

Laura is our All-Star Office Manager and bookkeeper.  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.

Maggie Cowles, Restoration Ecology Internship Program

Maggie holds a bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Spanish from the University of Colorado, and is in her second year with Birch’s Restoration Ecology internship program.  Maggie has a strong interest in plant ecology and conservation that began at a young age; she grew up working at her family’s landscape business in Vermont and has continued to follow her passion through her studies at the University of Colorado.  At Birch Ecology, she is building her knowledge of Colorado’s native plants and noxious weeds while working alongside our team of senior ecologists to monitor restoration projects.  In addition she is assisting with the development of restoration plans for riparian and wetland habitats.

Ellie Stanton, Restoration Ecology Internship Program

Ellie is a Senior at the University of Colorado, Boulder, double majoring in Environmental Studies and International Affairs. She is in her third year with Birch’s Restoration Ecology internship program. Ellie is the chief editor and co-founder of the Colorado Political Science Review and an active member of the University of Colorado Alpine Club. Her love for the environment began in Buena Vista, Colorado, where she spent her summers hiking and backpacking in the Sawatch Range with her dad and grandparents. In an effort to protect the open spaces she loves, Ellie hopes to pursue a degree in Environmental Law and continue working hands-on with community restoration projects.