SBAS Gets 1st Executive Director




Our ED at Goleta Sanitary District after a Baird’s Sandpiper Sighting
Photo by David Levasheff

Co-Presidents Steve Ferry and Dolores Pollock are happy to introduce Santa Barbara Audubon’s first executive director, Cherie Topper. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of our search and look forward to working with Cherie,” report the co-presidents, summing up the feeling of the Board as a new era in the history of SBAS begins.

Cherie comes to our chapter as an accomplished leader, with a proven track record of success in both private and non-profit sectors, along with a lifelong passion for the natural world and its varied inhabitants.

After earning a degree in geology from UCSB, Cherie worked for Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC)/Raytheon Vision Systems (RVS) as an engineer, and later as a senior level program manager, retiring from her 32-year career in 2012. Her vision and leadership resulted in rapid deployment of significant technological advances in infrared imaging, a national award for her team, and a tenfold increase in program revenue. Among her local non-profit service, she was CFO of Santa Barbara High School’s Multi-Media Art and Design Academy, managing a significant budget and endowment, and contributing to fundraising that resulted in a significant upgrade of MAD Academy facilities, equipment, and student diversity.

She has affectionately shared her rustic Lauro Canyon home of 25+ years with an ever-changing avian cohort, including (but not limited to) hawks, woodpeckers, turkey vultures, wild turkey, herons, egrets, owls, quail, crows, swallows, finches, sparrows, hummingbirds, crows and jays, ducks and geese, along with the errant peacock and parrot. She currently divides her time between her home in the canyon and her “urban” townhouse, where feeders and a birdbath ensure plenty of winged company.

Since accepting the position, Cherie has been busy writing and submitting a grant, connecting with SBAS committees, programs, chapter members, and community contacts. “I am privileged to be part of the leadership of this organization, and I am deeply committed to our mission of advocacy, biodiversity, conservation, and education. Birds give us a fascinating, and sobering, window into the state of our environment, and I can think of no greater mission than to ease the way for those who choose to protect them.”

In her spare time, Cherie enjoys birding, people, vegetable gardening, reading, music, trail running, cycling, ocean swimming, and outrigger paddling. She is a certified apprentice beekeeper, a member of the Music Academy of the West Women’s Auxiliary, married to Mark Rodgers (35 years), and mother of Glenn Catherine (21).