I’m Michael McCloy, a lifelong birder, conservationist, and photographer. My passion in ecology and ornithology has taken me to 49 US states as well as to the Caribbean, South and Central America, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Africa. I'm a PhD Candidate in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Texas A&M University and split my time between Texas and the Washington DC area, where I'll be moving full-time once I graduate.
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN BIRDING?
I'm originally from the Sandhills region of North Carolina, where I got my introduction to nature and ecology amidst the hyper-diverse longleaf pine ecosystem. Birds in particular sparked my interest from the get-go, and from the age of five I was tagging along with my dad to the outings of the local bird club. As time progressed I became obsessed with this new interest and began to keep detailed lists of birds I would see on daily local outings. This morphed into involvement with the Carolina Bird Club, where I would later serve on the board as a Regional Vice President. I have also served a three-year term on the North Carolina Bird Records Committee and volunteer as an eBird Regional Reviewer for several regions in North America and Asia.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL PATH?
After graduating from Western Carolina University in 2014 I was involved with several seasonal research projects and subsequently lived in the Atlanta, Georgia area while working as an ecologist for an environmental consulting firm. I spent much of 2017 working for Bird Conservancy of the Rockies in Fort Collins, Colorado with their IMBCR (Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions) program before embarking upon some extended international travel and subsequently moving to Texas to start my PhD. Visit my Research page to explore some of my ongoing work, and future directions!
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF GOING NEXT IN YOUR CAREER?
After I graduate, I will be starting a new job as a management consultant at a leading firm in Washington, DC. There are three main reasons why I'm excited to make this career "pivot" : 1.) the opportunity to develop my leadership, business, and strategy skills to complement my scientific and nonprofit background, 2.) the opportunity to be a part of high-impact work that addresses some of society's most pressing issues, and 3.) the opportunity to work with an extremely diverse and accomplished group of colleagues in a high-performance environment. What better way to satisfy my thirst for learning!
WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON LEADERSHIP?
I thrive on creative challenges and in helping others grow around me. I'm a strong believer in developing one's communication and leadership skills at every possible opportunity. The managerial and interpersonal skills developed from leading teams, managing projects, and growing a small organization are highly transferable into nearly every professional sector- whether it be academia, industry, or government. In academic research, effective leaders are critical to the development and completion of research projects, communicating the value of science to a diverse audience, and building colleagues and students into better scientists. I've been privileged to hold a variety of leadership roles in my early career, through serving on academic committees, leading student organizations, and serving on the board of a 501c(3) nonprofit. These involvements have helped build me into a better leader, better researcher, and better overall person.
Some of my formal leadership experience has included serving on the North Carolina Bird Records Committee, as a Regional Vice President of the Carolina Bird Club, an executive board member of the Rio Brazos Audubon Society, and President of a Toastmasters International chapter. I've served on academic and service committees ranging from the Communications Committee of Texas A&M's Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program, to the Student Affairs Committee of the American Ornithological Society, to the Policy Section leadership team of the Ecological Society of America. In undergrad, I held the positions of Vice President and President of the Western Carolina University student chapter of The Wildlife Society. I received the Ken Wilson Student Award through the North Carolina state chapter of The Wildlife Society for my service and dedication to wildlife conservation, and was also awarded the EJ Whitmire Leadership Award through my undergraduate department at Western Carolina University.
WHAT ABOUT MENTORSHIP?
I believe that mentorship is a critical component of the growth of students and early-career professionals. Through my time as a doctoral student in the Grace Lab I have mentored several undergraduates in field techniques, research, and in their transition to graduate school. Additionally, I spearheaded a personalized mentorship program at Texas A&M and successfully mentored four individuals to become better public speakers, communicators, and leaders.
BESIDES BIRDING AND INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL, WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Well, birding and travel take up the majority of it! Thankfully, those can be enjoyed together. Otherwise you may find me hiking, exploring the Washington DC area, or training for my next endurance race. Next up, Ironman 70.3.