NextGen Members

Cedar Waxwing / Ron Gard / Audubon Photography Awards 

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Current NextGen Council Members

Hannah Bleecker

Hannah Bleecker

Council Member

Hannah is originally from Indiana, where she learned to love birds by identifying the species that came to the bird feeder using the guide her parents kept on the counter next to the window. Since then, she studied biology at the University of Chicago and worked with birds as a zookeeper all around the United States. (Her favorites were hornbills!) After receiving her Master’s degree at the Royal Veterinary College in London, she moved to Seattle with her partner and loves to watch crows, ravens, and jays bounce around outside her window. She believes strongly in making sure that the wonders of animals and nature are accessible to all.

Karen Bosshart

Karen Bosshart

Council Member

A lifelong resident of the Salish Sea region, Karen grew up admiring the beauty and variety of her home’s many bird neighbors. Her interest in nature led her to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies at UW, and a career in sustainable urban development. Prior to joining NextGen, Karen worked as an environmental educator for the cities of Bellevue and Seattle, where she got paid to shamelessly nerd out about nature on the daily. Her favorite songbird is the crow, and the sound of redwing blackbirds reminds her of home. 

Aspen Cassady

Aspen Cassady

Council Member

Aspen started birdwatching in North Carolina with a backyard feeder in 2019 and fell in love immediately. After moving to Seattle in 2021, they’re now learning to identify Washington’s birds, along with the mushrooms and native plants.

Brett Eaton

Brett Eaton

Council Member

Brett has been a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest and has been in Ballard for the last nine years. After a brief, yet life altering, experience with a Rufous Hummingbird on a spring day about six years ago he quickly became more interested in the comings and goings of our feathered friends. He has found joy in showing people the special aspects of birds that are right under their noses. Through these experiences he has seen firsthand the importance of conservation. Professionally, he has managed teams in a variety of different industries but hasn’t had the joy of working in the conservation space quite yet. He hopes to one day be able to provide 100% of his time in helping out conservation efforts… and finding new and unique species of birds.

Melissa Hartley

Melissa Hartley

Council Member

Melissa grew up in Snohomish County and feels a deep affinity for the flora, fauna, and geography of the Pacific Northwest. She studied Biology at UW Seattle and grew to love birds from watching them interact with her garden ecosystem. Currently, she resides in Shoreline, where she gardens, raises her family, and endeavors to practice reciprocity with the land.

Carolyn Huynh

Carolyn Huynh

Council Member

Carolyn grew up in the Seattle area and has always had an interest connecting herself and others with the natural world. Her interest in birds started when she was sent out to conduct bird surveys for work and was able to observe bird drama during migration season…she was hooked. Carolyn enjoys meeting new bird friends, hanging out with her backyard birds, and chatting with others about interesting bird findings and facts. In her spare time, you can find Carolyn hanging out with her senior pup, gardening, and finding ways to be cozy.

Emily Sellinger

Emily Sellinger

Council Member

Emily is a recent transplant to the Seattle area, moving to attend an ecology graduate program at the University of Washington. Her interest in birding began when she ID’ed a gray catbird on her undergraduate campus. She is passionate about conservation, science communication, and community engagement. With the council, Emily hopes to share her love of ornithology with her new home. When not birding, you can find Emily lifting at the gym, cooking, or knitting.

Amanda (Virb) Virbitsky

Amanda (Virb) Virbitsky

Council Chair

Virb is originally from Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the 2019 Seattle Audubon Master Birder class. She is excited about conservation, and thinks that birds are a great way to get more people outside and to connect them to the natural world. In her work life, she has focused on sustainability as well as the outdoor industry. In addition to serving on the NextGen Council, she is also a member of the Board of Directors and the Strategic Planning Committee, and has volunteered for the Neighborhood Bird Project and the Puget Sound Seabird Survey. When she’s not looking at birds, she’s probably hiking, cooking, or making art.

Jen Yu

Jen Yu

Council Member

Jen was born and raised in Seattle, where she grew up exploring and observing the natural world with her childhood dog. Along the way, she developed a strong fascination and deep empathy for all animals. Her interest in birding specifically began after she completed the Applied Animal Behavior program at UW in 2019. The program fueled her passion for humane and ethical treatment of animals, conservation, and making nature inclusive to all. She is committed to practicing thoughtful stewardship of the land and fostering compassionate, humane relationships between humans and other living creatures. In her spare time, she loves gardening, running, reading books on ethology and psychology, hiking, and feeding her backyard crows.

Suzannah Yu

Suzannah Yu

Council Member

Suzannah’s admiration of birds began in her youth when, with binoculars in hand, she was delighted to discover that the “little brown birds” in her backyard were not a single species, but instead a great multitude of them. She brought her passion for wildlife with her to the University of Washington where she graduated with a degree in Biology, and works towards protecting birds and other organisms through education. She believes in and strives toward a world where all organisms – feather, fur, scales, of all shapes and colors, are respected and diversity is celebrated. With the council, she works to ensure individuals of all backgrounds have access to inclusive programming, with a focus on introducing and welcoming a broader audience to the wonder and delight of birding.