New Member Joins ODFW Fish And Wildlife Commission

Another member of the Northwest zoo world has joined a state fish and wildlife commission.

Dr. Kathayoon Khalil of Portland was confirmed to a four-year term on ODFW’s citizen panel following an 18-11 vote in the Oregon Senate last week.


Amy Patrick, the Oregon Hunters Association’s outreach coordinator, says she’s “cautiously optimistic” about Khalil having met her several times.

Khalil was appointed in April by Gov. Kate Brown to fill the commission’s Western Oregon seat that has been vacant for a year and a half since Jim Bittle of Medford resigned for personal reasons.

She currently works for Zoo Advisors as its director of engagement and her bio describes her as “a conservation psychologist and a social scientist.” Previously she worked at the Oregon Zoo and Seattle Aquarium and is part of a “Fostering Empathy for Animals” project jointly run by the aquarium, Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

Woodland Park was where Dr. Fred Koontz worked as vice president of field conservation before he retired and was subsequently appointed to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission early this year by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Khalil is the daughter of parents who immigrated to the U.S. and she grew up on a 20-acre former Christmas tree farm “west of the West Hills” of Portland, she told a podcaster recently. Her entry into the zoo community came as a teenage volunteer at the nearby Oregon Zoo and she went on to earn a bachelors degree in organismal biology from Los Angeles’ Claremont McKenna College and an environmental science masters from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in Connecticut.

Her nomination was supported by Oregon Wild, as well as by Portland Audubon for her “experience turning scientific recommendations into practical policy and on-the-ground solutions.”

“Even though she doesn’t have a hunting/angling background, she is very personable and seems very open to listening to all sides of a situation, looking critically at the science, and has said she is not beholden to any interest group,” says OHA’s Patrick. “While I have no illusions that she will vote pro-sportsmen on every topic, I am hopeful that she will at least be approachable and reasonable in her assessments. My biggest concern is whether she can set aside her anthropomorphic, human/animal empathy background to seek science-based biological wildlife management solutions.”

The other members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission include Chair Mary Wahl of Langlois and members Becky Hatfield-Hyde of Paisley, Mark Labhart of Sisters, Bob Spelbrink of Siletz, Greg Wolley of Lake Oswego and Jill Zarnowitz of Yamhill.