Assistant Director, Science and Research
Dr. Heather Hulton VanTassel grew up in a small rural community north of Pittsburgh, PA where she grew up loving (and collecting) nature. Heather earned her B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Carlow University. Heather held internships during her undergraduate career at The National Aviary, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Pittsburgh Zoo, and Pittsburgh’s InterCultural House. She then went on to earn her Ph.D. in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) where her research focused on understanding how anthropogenic changes to landscapes influenced wildlife communities in Southwestern desert ecosystems.
During this time, Heather also collaborated with the National Park Services in Joshua Tree National Park on a re-vegetation post-fire project in a Key’s View – a popular site-seeing spot in the park. After graduate school, Heather held a post-doc researching geographic shifts in habitat suitability of the federally threatened California Gnatcatcher at UCR’s Center for Conservation Biology. She then went to work with Audubon South Carolina where she focused on creating Bird-Friendly and Community Sustainability Programs focused around native plants and urban habitats. Prior to coming to the museum, Heather worked with The Nature Conservancy’s South Carolina’s Chapter managing nearly 200 conserved lands from costal marshes to the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains.