Nature Lab at Work

By Angie Daly Morfeld | April 1, 2024
From Missouri Conservationist: April 2024

The Missouri Department of Conservation team and its partner organizations are diverse and dedicated to conserving, protecting, and improving our fish, forest, and wildlife resources.

Kristen Heath-Acre

State Ornithologist

State Ornithologist Kristen Heath-Acre works with MDC and other conservation partners to help monitor birds, conduct research, and promote bird conservation across the state. In addition, she provides outreach programs on birds and collaborates on habitat restoration projects to curb and reverse bird decline.

Kristen Heath-Acre State Ornithologist

A Typical Day

There is no such thing as typical for Kristen, but she likes it that way. Some days, you can find her in the field, conducting surveys for brown-headed nuthatches in the Ozarks. Other days she is presenting to various groups across the state about birds and bird conservation. Still others, she is analyzing data and collaborating with partners to publish research.

Notable Projects

“The reintroduction of the brown-headed nuthatch to the Missouri Ozarks is definitely the most memorable,” Kristen said. “From capturing them in Arkansas, to flying them to Missouri, to tracking them through the Ozarks — it is an inspiring example of holistic ecosystem restoration and has been a fulfilling and exciting project to be a part of.”

Kristen is also proud of the research MDC supports through Southern Wings.

“Southern Wings is a program that helps connect state agencies with partners in areas where our migratory breeding birds overwinter,” Kristen said. “We like to think of many Missouri birds as ‘our birds’ but in reality, they often only breed here and spend much of their annual cycle beyond our borders.”

MDC helps support Missouri migratory birds that are on the decline — like cerulean warblers, which have declined by a staggering 70 percent in the past 50 years — by funding innovative research in the Neotropics. 

How You Can Help

Participate in local Audubon chapters and volunteer in citizen-science bird research, like the Christmas Bird Count or the Breeding Bird Survey. Use eBird, a citizen-science bird app on your phone that helps you record bird sightings for research. We really do use this data. Also, practice and preach simple actions for bird conservation like keeping cats indoors, treating your windows to prevent bird collisions, buying bird-friendly coffee, and landscaping with native plants that help shelter and feed our native birds.

Her Education

  • Bachelor’s degree, Texas Tech University: biology
  • Master’s degree, Texas Tech University: natural resources and wildlife management

Explore career opportunities at MDC at

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation – Marcia Hale