Conservation InSight

Dr. Tom Virzi ~ Executive Director

Tom has conducted ecological research since earning his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University in 2008, working in academia and the nonprofit sector. In 2017, Tom decided it was time to start a new nonprofit organization that would not only conduct valuable scientific research, but would also seek innovative ways to share this research with the public to foster a better connection between people and nature. As Executive Director of Conservation InSight, Tom brings more than a decade of experience leading avian research projects throughout the U.S., along with an extensive background in business and finance from his previous career.

Tom’s research interests focus on avian ecology, with a strong interest in understanding the effects of ecological restoration projects on bird populations. Past avian research projects include studies of the effects of urbanization on American oystercatchers in coastal New Jersey, the effects of salmon estuary restoration projects on bird populations in north Puget Sound, Washington, and the use of artificial conspecific attraction to influence the settlement of endangered Florida grasshopper sparrows into restored habitat in the dry prairies of central Florida. Tom’s largest and longest-term project is a demographic study of the federally endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow in the Florida Everglades – this work is ongoing with Tom acting as the principal investigator on this project for Conservation InSight.

Tom was previously the instructor of ornithology at Rutgers University and always enjoyed bringing his passion for birds into the classroom. He maintains a philosophy that education is a critical component of scientific research that is often undervalued in its importance towards achieving conservation goals. Our organization shares Tom’s conservation philosophy that to make lasting changes in our society we need the public to actively participate in conservation efforts, and education is the best way to engage people and keep them connected with nature.


Dr. Sean Murphy ~ Research Ecologist

Prior to coming to Conservation InSight, Sean spent six years working as a Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey-Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center. He received a B.S. in Biology from Penn State University and a Ph.D. in Biology from the City University of New York in 2010.

Sean’s research interests focus on the interactions between avian populations and their environment. He has studied bird populations along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts as well as the Interior West. At Conservation InSight, he is helping develop a spatially-explicit population estimator for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow using long-term survey data and new survey protocols to be recommended to agency partners to modify and improve current methods.

Sean is based out of central Pennsylvania and spends most of his free time with his wife and two young daughters. He enjoys hiking, biking, and birding.


David Tafoya ~ Wildlife Biologist

David grew up in southern California and received a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology & Evolution from California State University, San Bernardino in 2011. He has since worked as a field biologist all over the U.S. and abroad, but Florida remains his favorite place. He has previously worked on Everglades restoration for the U.S. Geological Survey, where the research focused on birds as an indicator of restoration success. 

The 2019 field season will be David’s third season working with the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow, and first as a staff Wildlife Biologist with Conservation InSight. He is now the CSSS crew leader and feels personally invested in the fate of this species. David will also be helping Conservation InSight develop new avian research projects and establish an outreach program in south Florida.

David is happiest when he is in the field, getting his hands dirty and directly helping to conserve imperiled species. He loves birding, herping, and practicing primitive survival. He is also currently obsessed with Japanese culture and learning the language! 


Cameron Wood ~ CSSS Field Technician

Cameron entered the wildlife field after completing a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries from the University of Georgia, Athens in 2016. After graduation, she went on to intern for the Aviculture Department at the Cincinnati Zoo and eventually the G.M. Sutton Avian Research Center in Oklahoma. There, she assisted in the breeding of Greater Prairie Chickens to perfect raising techniques for the endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chicken in the future. Cameron’s career goal for the future is researching bats and the spread of white-nose syndrome. She enjoys kayaking, knitting, and training dogs.


Kristen Brush ~ CSSS Field Technician

Kristen was born and raised in South Florida, but has since lived in a variety of places from Alaska to the U.S. Virgin Islands. After receiving a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida, she briefly worked in the oil industry before acknowledging it wasn't her chosen career path. Two years of traveling and living on a sailboat impassioned her to return to land to pursue a career in service of the environment and birds she loves so dearly. Working with the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow is a dream job, combining her appreciation for the outdoors with her desire to positively influence her immediate environment. When not looking at birds or listening to the wind blow through the cattails, Kristen spends her time doing yoga, cooking, knitting and reading.


Matt McGee ~ CSSS Field Technician

Matt McGee graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2011 with degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies. Inspired by a childhood obsession with herps and the tropics, he began his ecology career conducting herp surveys in Ecuador. Birds were mostly an afterthought until he took a position working with endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers in central Texas in 2013. That position sparked a love for avian ecology and birding in general, and he particularly enjoyed the ecological detective work of nest searching. After six field seasons spent working with GCWA (interspersed with prairie restoration in Illinois and dung beetle research at the University of Tennessee), Matt decided it was time to move on to another endangered bird in a different part of the country. He’s excited to work with Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows in the Everglades, which is one of his favorite national parks.

Matt’s primary research interests concern biogeography and landscape ecology. He hopes to study the relationship between species distribution and habitat and to use this research to inform habitat-based conservation plans. Matt will be attending graduate school this fall to pursue his MS. When he isn’t spending time outdoors, Matt enjoys writing, cooking, and eating large quantities of ice cream. He’s both excited and terrified of living so close to the Robert is Here milkshake stand! 


Jeffrey Lee ~ PBNP Field Technician

A life-long native of Portland, OR, Jeffrey is excited to join the Conservation InSight team to research how restoration efforts at Powell Butte Nature Park have impacted grassland birds! Jeffrey cultivated his love for science and nature while earning a B.S. in Biology at Pacific University. He continued on to collaborate with researchers in Mexico and Spain to study the ecological effects of urbanization on bird communities for his M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. Since then, Jeffrey's work has been geared towards biological monitoring, natural resource management, and environmental stewardship under a number of federal agencies (e.g., USFWS and USFS) and local nonprofits (e.g., Columbia Land Trust, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, Audubon Society of Portland, and Friends of Trees). In his role as a field technician, Jeffrey looks forward to implementing on-the-ground bird conservation science and innovative community outreach for Conservation InSight.

In his spare time, Jeffrey can be found multitasking citizen science while being walked by his puppy Nana, rooting for his hometown Trail Blazers, and playing tennis at many of Portland’s outdoor courts!


Tera Reed ~ PBNP Field Technician

Tera joined Conservation InSight in 2019 to work on our newest research project studying the effects of habitat restoration on grassland bird populations at Powell Butte Nature Park in Portland, OR. Tera is attending Oregon State University (Go Beavers!) obtaining a degree in Fish and Wildlife Science, specializing in Wildlife Conservation Ecology. She has a true passion for learning and an appreciation for the outdoors. She was born and raised in California and found her way to Oregon where she loves hiking, camping, and shooting landscape and wildlife photography.


Nice to meet you!