Martin Hagne

Executive Director

Martin Hagne was born and raised on the Swedish west coast, where his grandfather instilled a love for nature at an early age. He moved to the United States, and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, in 1979 and turned his focus towards wildlife viewing and conservation concerns.
Martin served as the Executive Director of the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco, Texas, and environmental education facility, for 13 years. He then moved to Bandera, Texas where he led the Flying L Resort and Conference Center. He has also worked as a Field Biologist doing baseline studies for many years, including avian, herp, mammal, T&E, and habitat studies.
He enjoys leading birding field trips in the US and Mexico and has served on several state, regional and local environmental appointments, committees, and boards. Birding, nature viewing, native plants, conservation issues and environmental education are his great passions.


Susan Heath

Director of Conservation Research

Sue is a native Texan who returned to the state in 2007 after being transplanted to Virginia for 24 years. She received a Master’s in Biology from George Mason University for her work on wintering waterfowl on the Northern Virginia Piedmont and a Ph.D. from the same institution in the spring of 2008. Her dissertation involved the effects of pesticides on birds that nest in agriculture in the north central states. She is thrilled to be back in her home state of Texas. At GCBO, she coordinates all conservation research including American Oystercatcher Stewardship, Beach Nesting Birds, Non-breeding shorebirds, Motus Tower Network, Eastern Willet Migration, and the Smith Point Hawk Watch.

Tricia Patton

Tricia Patton

Office Manager

Tricia brings a wealth of office management experience with her from both the corporate and non-profit sector. As Office Manager, Tricia takes care of all our accounting and administrative tasks and keeps the office and organization running smoothly. She handles all recordkeeping of donations, memberships, and grants, and handle all income and outgoing expenses. Her position is in many ways the backbone of the organization. Her enthusiasm and energy keep us all going!

Taylor Bennett

Coastal Biologist

Taylor grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia but moved to Humble, Texas in 2015. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology (focus on Marine Biology) from Old Dominion University. For six years, she interned for organizations mostly through the Student Conservation Association. She worked with the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and non-profit organizations such as Audubon Texas. Her main focus has been conservation, especially for endangered and threatened species. Most of her internships also involved surveying birds, but she liked working with shorebirds the most, especially with plovers and oystercatchers. At GCBO Taylor will be working on our Nonbreeding Shorebirds and Beach Nesting Birds projects.


Celeste Silling

Education & Outreach Manager

Celeste was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She attended Lawrence University in Wisconsin and received her Bachelor’s degree in biology in 2016. Focusing on her passions of conservation and education, she has worked a variety of research and education jobs. Working with birds and doing public education and outreach were always her favorite parts of these jobs. Now she is pursuing her talents and interests as the Education and Outreach Manager here at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. Celeste loves teaching people about the environment and enjoys nature in her free time!


Karon Smith

Development Director

Karon Smith was born in Cuero, Texas, but was raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She attended the Texas Women’s University where she studied Business Management.  In 1981 she returned to the Valley and worked in the oil and gas industry. She later opened up an environmental business where she implemented new Texas environmental policies and standards for the oil and gas industry. She was involved in establishing and growing several youth organizations and charities. Karon served as Chairman and Co-Chairman on several boards and fundraising committees. Karon has a passion for connecting donors to the causes they care about.  In 2015 she relocated to the Houston area to be closer to her son and two granddaughters.

Nicole Ekstrom

Grant Writer

Mrs. Ekstrom is a native of Port Isabel, TX. She left the Rio Grande Valley for approximately 15 years and recently returned in 2015 to start a family.  She received a Bachelors in Science in marine science from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi  in 2004 and a Masters in Marine Resource Management from Texas A&M University Galveston in 2006.

Mrs. Ekstrom has 15 years of experience with grant writing and management, habitat restoration, non-profit management, and designing environmental education programs.

Board of Directors

Mike Williams (President)
Schlumberger (retired)
Sugarland, TX

Allan Berger
ExxonMobil (retired)
Port O’Connor, TX

Rita Burke
Houston, TX

Andy Dietrich (Treasurer)
NRG Energy (retired)
Pearland, TX

Bob Friedrichs
Chevron (retired)
Palacios, TX

Michael Heather
Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Lake Jackson, TX

Jackie Hicks
Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Lake Jackson, TX

Lucinda (Cindy) Freeman 
JP Morgan (retired)
Houston, TX

Joellen Snow (Vice President)
Attorney at law
Houston, TX

Tom Taroni
Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Lake Jackson, TX

Ron Weeks (Secretary)
Dow Chemical Company
Lake Jackson, TX

Amanda Linford 
Phillips 66
Lake Jackson, TX

Russell Pope
CenterPoint Energy
Houston, TX

Advisory Board

Lynne Aldrich
Community Volunteer
Grand Prairie, TX

William J. Baker Jr
NRG Energy (retired)
Houston, TX

David J. Brandes
Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Lake Jackson, TX

David Cagnolatti
Manager, State Government Relations
Phillips 66

Stephen Carroll
Fullbright & Jaworski, L.L.P.
Houston, TX

Gary Clark
Lone Star College – North Harris
The Woodlands, TX

Tom Collins
Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Center Point, TX

Jeffrey Dalla Rosa
Centerpoint Energy
Houston, TX

Mickey Dufilho
Brazosport College
Lake Jackson, TX

Jan Cato
Community Volunteer
Houston, TX

Stephen Gast
ConocoPhillips (retired)
Houston, TX

Kay Hale
Houston, TX

Cindy Wyman Jordy
Phillips 66
Sweeny, TX

Kay Lookingbill
Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Lake Jackson, TX

Robert Lookingbill
Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Lake Jackson, TX

Christopher J. Lowman
Attorney at law
Houston, TX

Lalise Whorton Mason
Scenic Galveston
Houston, TX

John O’Neill
Louisiana State University (retired)
Linn, Tx

Claudia Thornton
Community Volunteer
Lake Jackson, TX

Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Wylie C. Barrow, Jr.
Research Scientist, Ornithologist
National Wetlands Research Center
Lafayette, Louisiana

Dr. Sidney A. Gauthreaux, Jr.
Director, Radar Ornithology Lab
Clemson University
Clemson, South Carolina

Dr. Dale Gawlik
Associate Professor and Director Environmental Science Program
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida

Dr. M. Clay Green
Associate Professor of Biology
Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas

Dr. Frank R. Moore
Avian Biologist
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Dr. James Brent Ortego
Wildlife Diversity Biologist
Retired Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Victoria, TX

Clifford Shackelford
Nongame Ornithologist
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Dr. Mark Woodrey
Research Biologist
Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center
Moss Point, MS