Directors and Staff

It is our goal that each staff member provides the Center's resident birds with top quality care, and visitors with comprehensive avian knowledge.

James D. Elliott, Jr. | Founder and Executive Director
Jim Elliott, the Executive Director and Founder of the Avian Conservation Center, has been a life-long student of birds. His many years of experience have been significantly effective in his quest to protect avian species and their habitats.

Early in his career, Elliott became aware of the need for a professional level of care for injured birds of prey in South Carolina, equipped to sufficiently manage the direct threats to the birds of prey population. That awareness eventually led Elliott to establish the Charleston Raptor Center in 1991. As the Center grew, Elliott recognized the need to increase public understanding of avian species and the crucial role they play in the environment. This expanded vision led Elliott and his growing team to broaden the scope and reach of the organization. In 2004, the Avian Conservation Center opened, incorporating The Center for Birds of Prey and the Avian Medical and Oiled Bird Treatment Facility.

Elliott has participated in a number of professional rehabilitation and veterinary internships and training focused on the ecology, care, housing, and medical care for birds of prey, and has studied and consulted extensively with leading raptor centers both in the United States and abroad including the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program at Colorado State University, the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota at St. Paul and the National Birds of Prey Centre in the U.K.

Additionally, Elliott has led research initiatives in South Carolina, including the South Carolina Coastal Hawk Migration Study and a long-term American Swallow-tailed Kite survey. In 2002, he established the Wildlife Toxicity Working Group to investigate secondary barbiturate poisoning of bald eagles in public landfills, and in 2005, he co-founded The Avian Medical and Oiled Bird Treatment Facility in cooperation with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Among other affiliations, Elliott now serves as a member of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, and the Raptor Research Foundation. In 1998, he received the Wildlife Conservation Award given by the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, and in 2001 he received the Environmental Awareness Award given by the Governor of South Carolina. In addition, the Center received the 2006 Award for Excellence in Management given by the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations. Elliott regularly lectures and consults on relevant avian conservation issues, contributing to the avian programs that he once studied.

Laura Buchta | Administrative / Bookkeeper

With more than 20 years of administrative / office management experience, Laura joined the Center in 2002. Her responsibilities include all areas of administrative support, including development support, grant writing and general bookkeeping. 

Kara Bale  | Administrative and Marketing Communications Manager

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Kara also holds a Master's degree from the University of Denver.  She joined the Avian Conservation Center in November 2012.  As Administrative Coordinator, she manages the administrative office as well as volunteer and board communications and social media.

Emily Davis  | Development Assistant

Bio to come...

Lisa McDonald | Financial Officer
Lisa's responsibilities encompass accounting and financial control functions for the Center, including annual budget and independent audit requirements. Lisa is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Master's degree in Business Administration.

David Branch | Manager of Facilities & Grounds 

Bio to come...

Stephen I. Schabel | Director of Education
A native of South Carolina, Stephen joined the Center in 2003 after completing his M.S. degree in Environmental Policy at the College of Charleston. Prior to graduate school, he spent several years exploring various teaching opportunities outside of the traditional classroom, as well as a career in acoustic music as a mandolin player and vocalist for a variety of acts in the Charleston area. Stephen's background in education and environmental policy, along with his lifelong passion for the outdoors (especially birds), offer a unique and pertinent foundation for his role as Director of Education. Stephen oversees the care, husbandry, and training of the Center's educational collection as well as the design and implementation of educational programs offered on the Center's campus and in outreach programs throughout the state. Stephen particularly enjoys "lure flying" falcons and talking with visitors about issues related to the conservation of birds and other wildlife.

Debbie Mauney | Medical Clinic Director 
Debbie moved from Washington, North Carolina in July 2012 to join the Center as the Medical Cinic Director. Debbie received her B.S. in Aerospace Administration from Middle Tennessee State University and her M.S. in Conservation Biology from East Carolina University. She has more than 20 years of experience in the wildlife field as an instructor, researcher and rehabilitator. Debbie oversees all activities in the Medical Clinic.

Sarah Lisi | Avian Care Specialist

Sarah joined the Center in July of 2014 after receiving her B.S. degree in Wildlife Biology and Wildlife Rehabilitation from Lees-McRae College. Prior to working at the Center she spent four years rehabilitating wildlife at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute in Banner Elk, NC. Along with her experience at the Wildlife Institute, she spent six years as a veterinary technician/animal caretaker at Dickson Animal Clinic in Gastonia, NC. Sarah’s role at the Center is to assist the clinic director in managing the medical clinic.

Audrey Poplin | Husbandry Coordinator / Educator
Audrey began working at the Center as a volunteer in 2008 and completed a student internship with the Education Department in 2009. Upon graduating from the College of Charleston with a B.S. degree in Biology, Audrey joined the education staff. Throughout her childhood, Audrey had opportunities to work with wildlife in a variety of settings, including caring for injured and orphaned animals. Her passion for animals and their care led her to pursue a career in animal husbandry and education with the Center. Audrey's responsibilities include managing the daily care and feeding of the resident collection of birds, training owls and other raptors for flight demonstrations, and conducting on-site educational programs.

Natalie Grosser | Educator

Natalie joined the Center in 2013 after a year with the interpretive collection of the Cincinnati Zoo.  Prior to that, she earned her degree in Wildlife Management from Eastern Kentucky University.  As an educator for the Center, Natalie is responsible for delivering programming to visitors as well as assisting in the husbandry and training of the educational collection of birds.  In addition to training birds, Natalie hones her behavior modification skills on her two hounds “Jake” and “Elwood.”

Meghan Sparkman | Educator

A native of Huntsville, Alabama, Meghan joined the Center in October of 2013 after graduating from Auburn University with a degree in Animal Sciences.  During her time at Auburn, she volunteered at the Southeastern Raptor Center where she developed a passion for birds, especially vultures.  In her role as an educator for the Center, she is responsible for delivering programming to visitors as well as assisting in the husbandry and training of the educational collection of birds.

Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell | Research Coordinator

Jen joined the Center as a volunteer in 2007 and began an internship for graduate school shortly after as the coordinator for the Citizen Science for Swallow-tailed Kites Database. She attained her Bachelor's degree in Biology and Marine Science from Coastal Carolina University, and her Master's degree from the College of Charleston in Environmental Studies. Originally from Northern Virginia, she has worked in wildlife rehabilitation since high school and has always had a love for animals and the outdoors. Currently Jen organizes the annual Hawk Watch migration survey, a MAPS banding station, and the Citizen Science for Swallow-tailed Kites Program. Outside of the Center, Jen sits on the Charleston Natural History Society and the Charleston Audubon Board, as well as the South Carolina Working Group for Swallow-tailed Kites.

Erin O'Neal-Morie | Guest Services Representative

Bio to come...

Volunteer Staff

We would also like to thank the many volunteers whose time and effort is given freely to support our mission.

Board of Directors

Sidney A. Gauthreaux - Chair

Patrick Moore - Vice Chair

Thomas L. Harper, Jr. - Secretary

Charles Webb, III - Treasurer

Woodman C. Kapp - Immediate Past Chair

Andy Anderson

Melissa Barbour

Carolyn N. Dietrich

Davis R. Hunt

James C. Hunt - At Large Member

Patrick C. Ilderton

Peter Lehman

Grainger McKoy, Jr.

Susan N. Sanders

Champ Smith

Christy F. Taucher - At Large Member

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Upcoming Events


Upcoming Closures

  • Thursday, November 26 - Closed for Thanksgiving

  • Thursday & Friday, December 24 & 25 - Closed for Christmas

  • Friday, January 1 - Closed for New Year's Day

  • Thursday, Friday & Saturday, February 11-13 - Closed for Southeastern Wildlife Expo

Upcoming Special Events

For more information about any of the above events, please call 843.971.7474.

Hours & Location

The Center for Birds of Prey
4719 Highway 17N
Awendaw, SC 29429
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We are Open to the Public
Thurs. – Sat.: 10a.m. – 5p.m.
Tour Times: 10:30a.m. & 2:00p.m.

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or call (800) 979-3370

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1247
Charleston, SC 29402

Phone: 843.971.7474
Fax: 843.971.7029