Written by Erin Giese, UW-Green Bay

Katie O’Brien, our fearless Northern Forest Birds Network (NFBN) leader of over a decade, is moving onto a new opportunity within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has left us with very heavy hearts and big shoes to fill. We will miss Katie dearly!

Starting on December 6, 2021, Katie began serving as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Employee Engagement and Leadership Development (EELD) Manager, a brand-new position within the Service. In this new role, Katie will serve as the regional coordinator for an employee engagement program aimed at increasing employee and team productivity. Still based out of Marquette, MI, she will develop a regional onboarding program, promote supportive and inclusive workplace culture, and deliver leadership trainings to employees. Katie’s steadfast energy, enthusiasm, and leadership will help strengthen and empower Service employees who protect birds, wildlife, and habitats. Katie will absolutely thrive in this new role given her passion for helping people, and we offer a huge congratulations to Katie!

Over the past 13 years, Katie has tirelessly advanced the Migratory Bird Program where she supported and led partnerships dedicated to the conservation of birds that breed in northern forests, coordinated bird monitoring and decision support networks across the Midwest, and community-based (urban) bird conservation programs. We have Katie to thank for advocating for the coordination of northern forest bird conservation and for creating the NFBN nearly a decade ago. She has helped build a long-term, collaborative partnership of passionate bird conservationists, land managers, and foresters interested in improving and promoting forest health for birds and people. Without her, the NFBN would not exist today.

Over the next several months, the NFBN will be temporarily led by WI Dept. of Natural Resources’ Ryan Brady, who is based out of Ashland and currently serves on the NFBN Steering Committee. Ryan and the Steering Committee will work closely with Andy Forbes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Program during this transition period. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to replace Katie’s position over the next year, though the NFBN work will continue in Katie’s absence.

We will deeply miss Katie’s dedicated and innovative leadership, oversight, and coordination of bird conservation in the Northwoods. But most of all, we will miss her ability to put huge smiles on our faces, get people excited about birds, make every person feel important, and show us a world in a totally different and positive way.



If you get a chance, please send Katie well wishes and congratulations as she moves on to take care of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s leaders!