Announcement of New Executive Director!

The Grassland Bird Trust is delighted to announce that effective January 3, 2022, Samantha Carouso-Peck will assume the position of the Trust’s Executive Director. Samantha holds a Ph.D. in Behavioral and Evolutionary Neuroscience from Cornell University where she wrote her doctoral thesis on vocal learning in songbirds and is a Biology honors graduate of Williams College.

Samantha stated: “I am honored and excited to join the Trust’s incredible group of passionate and creative supporters. Together, we can expand our reach and spread the message of our work, with more events, outreach, education, and fundraising, all in support of increased conservation. After a career in which birds and nature have taught me so much, I embrace the opportunity to give back to the birds which make our grasslands vibrant, beautiful, and diverse.”

Laurie Lafond, the founder of Grassland Bird Trust, will be leaving the Trust effective December 20, 2021. The Board wishes to extend its sincere gratitude to Laurie for leading the Trust over the last decade. She has been a source of inspiration to us all.

Keith Swensen, President of the Grassland Bird Trust, added: “We wish to thank Laurie for her vision and leadership since 2010 in forming the Trust and for her many contributions, including spearheading the development of the Alfred Z. Solomon Grassland Bird Viewing Area in Fort Edward, New York; the acquisition and conservation of 78 acres of grassland in the Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area; and her successful effort to secure passage of the Washington County Grassland Bill, requiring New York State to pay taxes on lands it owns in the Washington County IBA towns of Fort Edward, Argyle and Kingsbury. All of these efforts were critical steps to ensuring the survival of the eleven grassland bird species of greatest conservation need in New York State. I also want to welcome Samantha to the Trust. We know that she will lead the organization to realize the vision that Laurie had when she created the Trust and ensure its continued sustainability, growth and success.”

Samantha has conducted research on animal learning and vision at Harvard University, vocal learning in African grey parrots at Brandeis University, worked with rehabilitation birds of prey at the Cornell Raptor Center, and most recently served as a postdoctoral associate in the Cornell Psychology Department, where she created and taught two undergraduate seminars on animal cognition and comparative developmental psychology. Samantha was the winner of the Cornell Russell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2019 and an Animal Behavior Society Allee Award in 2018. She has published numerous high-impact articles on animal behavior with a focus on ornithological research, including publications in Scientific American, Current Biology, Philosophical Transactions, Proceedings of the Royal Society, and Animal Behaviour. Samantha has presented talks on bird learning, cognition, communication, and evolution research for academic and public audiences across the country. She is affiliated with the Waterbird Society, the New York Academy of Science, and the Association for Women in Science.

Samantha developed a passion for local birds during her last ten years as a resident of Upstate New York, but first gained an interest in ornithology in ecologically diverse regions around the world, having lived in Greece, the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Australia, Thailand, Cyprus, and Indonesia. She now lives in Greenwich, New York with her husband, Dr. David Peck, who is the Director of Research and Education at the Betterbee beekeeping company.

In the coming weeks, the Trust will communicate more about our plans for 2022. As always, we thank you for your support to ensure that these precious, beautiful birds will still be present in the skies over our region in 2100.

If you have any questions about this transition, please e-mail us at: info@grasslandbirdtrust.org.