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.
Burwell Boykin | Director of Development
Burwell joined the Center in June 2012 and immediately began developing exciting new opportunites to grow the Center. He earned his B.S. degree in Business Administration from Furman University. Burwell's responsibilities include all phases of development, membership, special events, marketing and grant writing.
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 Viacrucis | Administrative CoordinatorBio 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.
Rick Kay | Manager of Facilities & Grounds
Rick is a South Carolina native and has 30 years of experience in real estate, insurance and construction. He has a B.S. degree in Marketing and Economics from Charleston Southern University and is very involved in the local community. Rick is extremely capable with all tools and keeps the Center grounds and facilities in great order.
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.
Monty Wallace | Educator
Originally from Bend, Oregon, Monty joined the Center in 2009 after graduating from the University of Oregon. As a teenager, his interest in raptors led him to volunteer with several educational facilities that utilized birds in their programs. Monty brings different perspectives and techniques to the training of the Center's educational collection for use in demonstrations. Monty's responsibilities include conducting educational programs, maintaining and repairing educational enclosures, and training birds for educational programming.
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.
Jessie Paolello | Avian Care Specialist
Bio to come.
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.
Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell | Research Coordinator / Educator
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.
Stella Williams | Guest Services Representative
Stella is a native of South Carolina native who enjoys working directly with the public. She greets Center visitors and is in charge of merchandising and ticket sales. Stella is currently studying to be a Veterinary Technician.
Volunteer StaffWe would also like to thank the many volunteers whose time and effort is given freely to support our mission.
2013 Board of Directors
- D. Frank Haygood, Chair
- Woodman C. Kapp, Vice Chair
- John H. Tison, Secretary
- Edworth Liipfert, Treasurer
- J. Stuart McDaniel
- Susan L. Drew, Lifetime Member
- Sidney A. Gauthreaux
- Martha M. Daniels
- Carolyn N. Dietrich
- Thomas L. Harper
- Peter Lehman
- Grainger McKoy, Jr.
- Patrick C. Ilderton
- Susan N. Sanders
- Christy F. Taucher, At-Large Member