Tom Virzi, PhD
Research Director

Tom joined the Ecostudies team in 2014 as the principal investigator studying the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in the Florida Everglades. Tom has conducted scientific research on the sparrow since earning his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University in 2008 bringing to Ecostudies a wealth of knowledge about the species and its habitat requirements, and Everglades restoration. His research interests focus on studying the population ecology of threatened avian species, devoting particular attention to the effects of habitat restoration on bird populations.

Since coming to Ecostudies, Tom has helped develop Ecostudies’ research program on avian restoration ecology. One new project examines the effect of estuary restoration on bird populations in north Puget Sound, and another examines the use of conspecific attraction to influence the settlement of endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrows into restored habitat in the dry prairies of central Florida.

Tom was previously the instructor of ornithology at Rutgers and always enjoyed bringing his passion for birds into the classroom. He maintains a philosophy that education is a critical component of scientific research that is often undervalued in its importance towards achieving conservation goals. Away from work, Tom is a true waterman spending his time surfing, kayaking and fishing.

Gary Slater
Senior Advisor and Research Associate

Gary founded Ecostudies in 2001, following a decade of working in South Florida.  He has worked to identify situations where Ecostudies’ knowledge, experience, and skills can be most effective towards advancing the conservation of birds and their habitats.

His current research focuses on the reintroduction ecology of passerine bird species, the wintering and stopover ecology of waterbirds, and the recovery of the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in Everglades National Park. He currently serves on the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program Bird Workgroup Committee.

Gary’s passion for birds began as a child watching chickadees at the family bird feeder. He received a B.S. in Wildlife Science from Purdue University and a M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Florida. Outside of the office, Gary enjoys spending time gardening, brewing beer, and hiking.

Suzanne Malakoff
Director of Finance and Operations

Suzanne joined Ecostudies Institute in 2015 to manage administration and communications for the organization. She brings with her over 15 years of business and nonprofit experience.

Prior to joining Ecostudies, Suzanne spent seven years serving as administrative director for the Northwest nonprofit, Climate Solutions. She played a key role in its transition from a project of an umbrella organization to an independent nonprofit and established many of the group’s internal systems and policies. She later moved into communications where she participated in program and organizational communications planning and strategy, managed the website and social media, and designed marketing and special events collateral.

In her spare time she grows veggies and herbs, writes essays, and gets outdoors as much as possible, whatever the weather. She holds a B.A. in Writing and Literature from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University.

Leah Rensel
Field Technician

Leah is proud to join Ecostudies Institute as a field technician helping to monitor the effects of estuary restoration on birds and is excited to be working in her favorite area of the Pacific Northwest.

She earned a B.S. in Biology from Linfield College in 2013 and has chased birds for fun and science from the tip of Alaska to the Mexican Border. She got her start in wildlife science volunteering for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and has  worked for various environmental agencies and organizations all over the west. S  She plans to attend New Mexico State University in the fall of 2016 to pursue her master’s degree in Wildlife Science.

Leah is an avid skier, adventurer and musician. She currently sings with the Skagit Cantabile Choir and loves attending art museums across the world.