NextGen Advisory Council

Cedar Waxwing / Ron Gard / Audubon Photography Awards 

Home 9 About 9 NextGen Advisory Council

Seattle Audubon established the NextGen Advisory Council in the fall of 2018. The council elevates the perspectives and expertise of young professionals and student activists in progressing towards a more inclusive, welcoming organization that engages diverse audiences with our focus on birds and nature in the city.  As a 100-year-old organization, Seattle Audubon has a rich history of conservation achievements, but our programs have not been sufficiently informed by or served diverse audiences. This is not the Seattle Audubon of the future. The strategic plan that will guide our work over the next three years includes an increased commitment to intentional collaboration with communities that have been excluded or sidelined by the mainstream environmental movements of the past. The NextGen Advisory Council is one part of these efforts.

For general questions, please contact Community Engagement Manager Wendy Walker via email or phone at (206) 523-8243 ext. 110 (messages only).

Hannah Bleecker

Hannah Bleecker

Council Member

Hannah is originally from Indiana, where she learned to love birds by identifying the species that came to the bird feeder using the guide her parents kept on the counter next to the window. Since then, she studied biology at the University of Chicago and worked with birds as a zookeeper all around the United States. (Her favorites were hornbills!) After receiving her Master’s degree at the Royal Veterinary College in London, she moved to Seattle with her partner and loves to watch crows, ravens, and jays bounce around outside her window. She believes strongly in making sure that the wonders of animals and nature are accessible to all.

Patrick Claussen

Patrick Claussen

Council Member

Patrick is a Seattle native, currently residing in South Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. He grew up in Renton, studied mathematics & played baseball at WSU, and spent several years in West Seattle upon moving back to the west side. His favorite spots to bird are along Lake Washington Boulevard, in West Seattle along Beach Drive, and nowadays from his home office. He is excited to be on the NextGen Advisory Council and eager to engage new audiences on the beauty of birds and the importance of the outdoors at large. Outside of bird related activities, Patrick is an avid sports fan, enjoys running & hiking with his partner and their puppy, and exploring the great PNW craft beer scene.

Erin Irby

Erin Irby

Council Member

Originally from south Georgia, Erin grew up listening to the sound of bobwhite quail in the mornings and peeking at painted buntings in the afternoons. After living most of her life up and down the east coast, she worked in the prairie wetlands of northwestern Minnesota where she rekindled her love for birds. When she isn’t sneaking up on birds in and around Seattle, she is pursuing her graduate degree in landscape architecture at UW and interning for Seattle Public Utilities. Erin is passionate about revealing the dynamics of ecologically rich spaces for both humans and wildlife through design and enjoys bringing that passion to the NextGen Council. Apart from birding, Erin is also an old movie buff, avid swimmer, and enjoys nothing more than going on long-distance train trips.

Emily Sellinger

Emily Sellinger

Council Member

Emily is a recent transplant to the Seattle area, moving to attend an ecology graduate program at the University of Washington. Her interest in birding began when she ID’ed a gray catbird on her undergraduate campus. She is passionate about conservation, science communication, and community engagement. With the council, Emily hopes to share her love of ornithology with her new home. When not birding, you can find Emily lifting at the gym, cooking, or knitting.

Anna Vallery

Anna Vallery

Council Member

Anna is brand new to the Seattle area and excited to be a part of Seattle Audubon’s NextGen Advisory Council! After growing up overseas, Anna came back to the U.S. for school, studying animal behavior in Florida. In 2015 Anna accepted a biological science internship at Midway Atoll NWR working with the seabirds that nest there, and got hooked on birds! From there, Anna moved to Houston, Texas where she studied colonial waterbirds for her master’s and then began working at Houston Audubon with the organization’s Bird-Friendly Communities program, waterbird research, and native plant nursery. Anna is also an enthusiastic member of the Pacific Seabird Group and the Waterbird Society. In her free time, Anna loves hiking and exploring with her partner and their two rescue mutts!

Amanda (Virb) Virbitsky

Amanda (Virb) Virbitsky

Council President

Virb is originally from Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the 2019 Seattle Audubon Master Birder class. She is excited about conservation, and thinks that birds are a great way to get more people outside and to connect them to the natural world. In her work life, she has focused on sustainability as well as the outdoor industry. In addition to serving on the NextGen Council, she is also a member of the Board of Directors, the Equity and Justice Committee, and the Strategic Planning Committee, and has volunteered for the Neighborhood Bird Project and the Puget Sound Seabird Survey. When she’s not looking at birds, she’s probably hiking, cooking, or making art.

Tammy VuPham

Tammy VuPham

Council Member

Tammy grew up in Georgia, where her first experience birding was observing the raptor nesting season through local conservation groups. She has a background in design with a focus on behavior change, but also leads outdoor trips throughout Washington as a guide. With the council, Tammy hopes to increase species awareness and encourage responsible recreation. Her other interests include learning history and the scientific illustration of birds.

Suzannah Yu

Suzannah Yu

Council Member

Suzannah’s admiration of birds began in her youth when, with binoculars in hand, she was delighted to discover that the “little brown birds” in her backyard were not a single species, but instead a great multitude of them. She brought her passion for wildlife with her to the University of Washington where she graduated with a degree in Biology, and works towards protecting birds and other organisms through education. She believes in and strives toward a world where all organisms – feather, fur, scales, of all shapes and colors, are respected and diversity is celebrated. With the council, she works to ensure individuals of all backgrounds have access to inclusive programming, with a focus on introducing and welcoming a broader audience to the wonder and delight of birding.