Fred Koontz is Executive Director of Teatown Lake Reservation, a regional environmental organization with an 834-acre nature preserve and education center located Yorktown, Cortlandt, and New Castle, New York. Teatown’s mission is to conserve open space and to educate and involve the regional community in order to sustain the diversity of wildlife, plants and habitats for future generations.
In addition to being the largest nonprofit nature preserve in New York’s Westchester County, Teatown is rapidly developing a reputation as an environmental leader in the Hudson Hills and Highlands, the bioregion which encompasses most of Westchester and Putnam counties and parts of Dutchess, Orange, and Rockland counties.
Fred spent his childhood in suburban Baltimore, where he developed his life-long passion for nature conservation and environmental protection. He received his Ph.D. in Zoology in 1984 from the University of Maryland. While in graduate school, he worked at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Zoological Park, specializing in animal communication and social behavior of mammals.
After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Koontz was employed for 15 years at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), including ten years as a mammal curator at their Bronx Zoo. From 1994-1999, Dr. Koontz was the founder and first director of WCS’s Science Resource Center, with a mission to train conservation professionals to implement cutting-edge methodologies and technologies into their work. At WCS, Dr. Koontz’s expertise included animal behavior, census methods, captive breeding of endangered species, tracking mammals and birds, and restoration biology.
From 1999-2004, Fred worked for Wildlife Trust as a Program Director and Executive Vice President. Wildlife Trust is a conservation science organization that empowers conservation scientists worldwide to protect nature and safeguard ecosystem health and human health. During his tenure at Wildlife Trust, Dr. Koontz founded their New York Bioscape Initiative, which aims to protect biodiversity and health in the presence of regional development, by assembling multidisciplinary teams of scientists, health professionals, educators, and civic leaders.
Dr. Koontz’s work has taken him around the world: following migration of wood storks and trumpeter swans in the U.S.; studying howler monkeys in Nicaragua and Belize; tracking forest elephants in Cameroon; and advising on giant panda captive breeding in China. He also consulted on many conservation projects in Latin America, Africa, and Asia from 1999-2002, when he was Wildlife Trust’s International Conservation Director and oversaw a portfolio of more than 65 projects in 20 countries. Dr. Koontz is perhaps best known, however, for co-leading a team of scientists, veterinarians, and park managers, who from 1991-1997 successfully reintroduced howler monkeys into the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize.
Dr. Koontz has held adjunct faculty positions at three universities, helped mentor 15 graduate students, and regularly provides career advice to young scientists. He has served on committees for the IUCN, NASA, and others. Dr. Koontz was a participant for ten years in the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC), based at Columbia University, where he continues to serve on graduate student advisory committees in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology. Fred has published more than 50 articles for scientific and lay audiences, and has been interviewed by numerous television and radio stations, including appearances on CNN, WCBS News, WABC News, ABC’s Good Morning America, NPR’s Sounds of Science, and NPR’s Science Friday. Dr. Koontz’s work has been noted in the New York Times, Philadelphia Enquirer, Wildlife Conservation, Discover, Popular Science, New Scientist, Natural History, USAToday, Poughkeepsie Journal, The Journal News (Westchester, NY) and others.
Dr. Koontz’s recent civic activities have included serving on: Philipstown’s Natural Resources Committee; Westchester County’s Deer Task Force; Westchester County’s Climate Change Task Force; and the Board of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. Fred lives in Garrison, New York, with his wife, Dr. Wendy Westrom, a veterinarian practicing in Westchester and Putnam counties.