Our Origin Story
Continuing the Legacy...
All three of our directors (Emma Rhodes, Kyle Shepard, and Julia Elliott) started with the Hummer/Bird Study Group (HBSG).
The reason we are the banders and researchers we are today is thanks to Bob and Martha Sargent. They took us under their wings and trained us at the Fort Morgan State Historic Site banding station in Alabama, an operation the Sargents ran for over 30 years. It is our mission to continue their legacy.
Like any successful non-profit, the Sargents needed a hand with running such an incredible program. Along with the honor of joining the ranks of HBSG, we were always surrounded by accomplished banders who were willing to share their vast knowledge from their many years, and sometimes decades, of work.
To the following that contributed to our training, making us the banders we are today, we would like to say thank you:
To the countless others that have supported us in the past, thank you for your constant encouragement. Finally, to Bob and Martha Sargent: none of us would be the birders and banders we are today without your kindness and willingness to to take us on. We hope we make you proud.
& Emma Rhodes
Above: Bob and Martha Sargent at the Fort Morgan Banding station (2012, Janice Neitzel). Below: Bob Sargent letting a child release a bird (Janice Neitzel).
Meet Our Team
Kyle Shepard began banding when he was 12 years old with Martha and Bob Sargent at Fort Morgan, Alabama. Kyle's background is in outdoor recreational management. He worked as a kayak/canoe guide in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta for three years, the course manager of the Hummingbird Ziplines in Gulf Shores, Alabama for five years before accepting a seasonal position at Stoney Creek Canopy Adventures in Seward, Alaska in 2019. Currently, Kyle is focusing on expanding his LLC, Shepard Services located in Baldwin County, Alabama. In his free time, he is a director for Banding Coalition of the Americas. He enjoys all things outdoors and not only appreciates birds but also reptiles of all sorts.
Emma is an avian biologist and Master Bander from Alabama. She has worked with both state and National Audubon chapters and is the founder of the Mobile Bay Audubon Young Birders Club, Alabama’s first young birders club. She has been an avid birder since she was seven and in 2009, while in high school, she began training with Bob and Martha Sargent with the Hummer Bird/Study Group at the Fort Morgan State Historic Site. Emma has been monitoring coastal birds since 2014 working alongside various nonprofit organizations in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and the Bahamas. She received her BS in Biology (with a minor in GIS) at the University of South Alabama where her undergraduate research was focused on avian window strike mortality. Currently, her focus is on migratory bird research for her PhD work and as a director of BCA. Her favorite pastime hobbies include birding, kayaking, camping, and hiking.
Julia Voelker (Elliott)
Julia Elliott has been banding for over 15 years and is a Master Bander in Georgia. Her focus is on winter hummingbird research and hummingbird outreach festivals. For three years, she was the lead bander for a MAPS station (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia. Julia is the Co-owner of multiple Bird Watcher Supply Co. stores in the Atlanta, GA area. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and exploring new areas.
Growing up in Mobile, AL, Becky spent much of her family recreation time on Dauphin Island. Her childhood weekends and summers on the island instilled a love of the gulf, exploration, and nature. Becky still enjoys the outdoors, learning about birds, kayaking and hiking. With formal training in graphic design and multimedia production, Becky was employed by a major non-profit organization in Georgia for more than 20 years before retiring. Her experience in creative and promotional roles has led her to volunteer and promote the mission of BCA.
Amanda is a biologist from Wisconsin, currently working at the Bird Genoscape Project out of Fort Collins, CO. She has always had an interest in birds from a young age thanks to her grandmother, but began pursuing bird banding and avian fieldwork/research after obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 2016 from the University of Platteville-Wisconsin. In 2018, she attended Lethbridge University in Alberta, Canada where she earned her thesis-based Master of Science degree in biology. Her main research interests are exploring speciation and evolutionary-type questions in Vireo species. She first came on board with BCA in the fall of 2021 at the Fort Morgan State Historic Site and has continued to be involved as a bander and volunteer in various aspects of the organization. Amanda loves spending time outdoors camping and hiking with her Brittany Spaniel, Roland, and enjoys growing houseplants as a hobby.
Born and raised in Columbus, GA, John is a naturalist at heart, with a fascination for raptors that began as a child and has endured throughout his life. After receiving a Master Naturalist certification from the University of Georgia in 2018, he became licensed as a wildlife rehabilitator specializing in birds of prey. In 2020, he took the position of Director of Wild Bird Conservation with Savage Hart Wildlife Rehabilitation Inc., where he oversees raptor rehabilitation, develops, and implements avian conservation projects throughout the Chattahoochee Valley area. John began volunteering with BCA and training as a bander in 2022. While his focus is on raptors, he assists with passerine banding and is particularly fond of the Common Yellowthroat. A member of the Raptor Research Foundation, he is currently studying American Kestrels in collaboration with BCA to better understand the widespread and enigmatic decline of this once abundant species. When not working with birds, you’ll find John hiking, backpacking, kayaking, or working his way through his ever-growing “to be read” book list.