Santa Barbara Audubon Society (SBAS) announces its new slate of Board Officers and Committee Chairs for 2021-22. Each one started as a member of the local chapter and, as their love for birds grew, so did their involvement in the nationally acknowledged chapter established in 1963. SBAS always makes the top five list for National Audubon’s Christmas Bird Counts in the number of species seen and people participating.
Newly elected SBAS Officers are: Janice Levasheff, President; Briana Sapp, V.P.; Chris Mersey, Treasurer; and Kathleen Boehm, Secretary. The newest Board members are: Filling the At-Large positions, Rob Lindsay, Ron Hirst and Scot Pipkin; Maureen “Mo” McFadden as the Communications Chair, and Program Co-Chairs are Emily and Aaron Kreisberg. Sam Franz joins as the Membership Chair. Board members who continue to serve include: Lori Gaskin and Jessie Altstatt as Conservation Co-Chairs; Dorothy Pak is Education Chair; Peter Thompson is Field Trips Chair. Lee Moldaver who served on the board for decades has stepped down as did Teresa Fanucchi, who was the Programs Chair.
Dolores Pollock has led the SBAS Board for the last eight years, first with Steve Ferry “to get the hang of it,” she said. Then on her own she deserves a laurel wreath for all of the work accomplished under her tenure, especially during the past year with COVID and everything else in the news demanding the public’s attention. She stated, “What most struck me is the amount of outreach we (the Board) have achieved even while ‘shut down.’ Unable to have our usual in-person events and programs, we achieved a great deal of contact with our public and beyond–all in pursuit of our mission.” Pollock steps aside, but will continue to support Audubon and of course, go birdwatching. She knows SBAS is in great hands with Janice saying, “She has worked hard for six years in different capacities at SBAS and is well-equipped to take over.”
Janice Levasheff, a longtime member of SBAS, and incoming President, served previously as Publicity Chair and Membership Chair. Janice will always post interesting bits and bytes to the Facebook page. Madam President is an intro she’s heard before, as she was PTA president at her child’s school Ellwood/Goleta Union School district.
This California native’s love of nature began during her childhood. It inspired her choice of college, Humboldt State University, from which she graduated in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in Art. After retiring from a career spent indoors, she looked forward to more time outdoors immersed in birds and nature and she also became interested in what she could do to protect them. “Santa Barbara Audubon checked those boxes, plus, thanks to our dedicated volunteers and support of our members and donors, we can share the joy of birds and make a difference for them – and their habitat.”
Janice worked at Santa Barbara Research Center/Raytheon Vision Systems for 30 years in Contracts Management acting as interface to its customers. Now she’s interacting with the avian community here. She met her husband David Levasheff at college. David serves as the SBAS webmaster and is always busy in the background of SBAS to make it a seamless experience for the visitor or member when using the website. He also has a keen eye as a photographer.
In as Vice-President is Briana Sapp. “Serving on the Santa Barbara Audubon Board is an honor and responsibility I take seriously. I hope to support SBAS’s conservation and advocacy work while increasing visibility for the biodiversity of our unique region in order to preserve it for generations to come.” This newly minted board member is Director of Marketing and Communications for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. She got to know the Eyes in the Sky (EITS) program for SBAS since the aviary is on the museum’s campus. She started volunteering and learned how to handle all of the birds of prey. As V.P. Sapp will be support and backup for the President in all official areas as well as having a working knowledge of all key chapter programs and projects. Prior to this, she was Deputy to the Associate Vice Provost & Executive Director and Interim Director of Marketing & Communications, University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP). She previously served on the board of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara. Sapp holds a MA in International Politics from the Universite de Paris-Sud XII and a BA in French Studies from the American University of Paris.
Chris Mersey and Kathleen Boehm retain their positions as treasurer and secretary, respectively. Mersey was also a raptor handler for Eyes in the Sky (EITS). Mersey is a 25-year veteran of the global financial markets, beginning in trading and ending in active portfolio management. Known as a safe pair of hands – in an uncertain world. Janice added, “We are very fortunate to have someone with his expert financial knowledge on the Board.” Boehm is a retired Risk Analyst for the City & County of Santa Barbara and worked previously in the field of social work. She cites birding as a big interest for her and has birded all over the world. She’s helped SBAS on Christmas Bird Counts all over the county. She also volunteers for Turtle Dreams, at the Unitarian Society, and was a founding member and past president of the Goleta Valley Cyclists. Janice said, “Kathleen is a steadfast birder and dedicated volunteer who always steps in when needed.”
New to the SBAS Board as its Membership Chair is Sam Franz. Currently, she works at the Santa Barbara Zoo as its Sponsorship & Corporate Giving Officer. Previously she was at the SB Museum of Natural History and Sea Center as a volunteer and Interpretation Manager. Sam created learning opportunities and research projects for staff. She was an awesome athlete in Women’s Volleyball at the University of Tampa in Florida with her team in 1st place in Sunshine State Conference 2007 through 2010 and acing several other conferences or tournaments moved the team up to the AVCA All American status in her senior year. She upped her education status at University of Washington where she received her Master of Marine Affairs degree. “Sam’s experience, perspective, and enthusiasm add valuable strength to the existing talent on our Board,” added Levasheff.
Program Chairs Aaron and Emily Kreisberg take over the monthly reins for the programs which run, like the school year, from September to May. Aaron, who served in this post previously, looks forward to bringing “diverse and interesting speakers to SBAS membership, with programs occurring in the format wider current circumstances dictate.” He continued, “I am particularly excited to build on the exceptional work Teresa Fanucchi did in bringing a wide range of speakers who met our members’ interests, while also bringing my passion for conservation both locally and further afield into the program slate.” Previously held in person at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Farrand Hall and changing to Zoom presentations when the COVID shutdown happened, SBAS programs keep a connection with members and the community. These presentations also serve as de facto monthly membership meetings. While acknowledging inherent uncertainty with planning future programming, Emily stated, “We look forward to returning to Farrand Hall in the Fall while also recognizing virtual programming served many members conveniently. This hybrid version is an option we hope to explore to have the best of both formats. The virtual format allowed for people who couldn’t get to the live event or who had other issues which may have prevented them from participating before, can be there now. We want to make programs as accessible to the greatest majority as possible.” Stay tuned for the topics!
In closing, Executive Director Katherine Emery wrote to the Board earlier this year, “As you know well, it’s been a full year since the pandemic touched Santa Barbara. Thanks to you all and Dolores’ excellent leadership, Santa Barbara Audubon Society made it through an unprecedented year with grace, agility and strength.”
Residents who are interested in becoming a Board member of this dynamic organization are encouraged to contact the Board President President@SantaBarbaraAudubon.org.
Our Mission: Santa Barbara Audubon Society protects area birdlife and habitat
and connects people with birds through education, conservation and science.
For more information on becoming a member, to donate, or to learn about our many events, please go to the Santa Barbara Audubon Society’s website at https://santabarbaraaudubon.org/.