Clifton was born and raised in the foothills of western North Carolina. He has always had a passion for nature and the outdoors but did not discover his love for birds until he saw a Painted Bunting off the coast of North Carolina on an early summer morning. Soon after this eye-opening experience, Clifton had the opportunity to participate in a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course in Brazil where he was overwhelmed by the beauty and diversity of the birds of the Amazon Rainforest. Following this experience, Clifton went to Appalachian State University where he majored in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a focus in Ornithology.
Clifton worked for various ornithological research projects after college where he banded and nest searched for a wide range of avian species in Peru, Colombia, and Nicaragua. He also worked a couple seasons for the NC Audubon Society studying the Golden-winged Warbler on its breeding grounds in northwestern NC. For the past 5 years Clifton has worked for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission as the Mountain Wildlife Diversity Technician. His duties include conducting surveying, monitoring, habitat management, and public outreach for wildlife conservation projects focusing on species of greatest conservation need that occur in western North Carolina. He mostly focuses on birds, flying squirrels, and Hellbender salamanders. He currently lives in Asheville, NC and is the father of a 4-year old boy. He does not have any inside pets but the bears and turkeys that pass through his yard regularly suffice.