Each year since 2008, we've gathered environmental scholars, leading experts, and a wide cross-section of nature's caretakers to share ideas, challenge our thinking, and leave energized for the seasons ahead, bolstered by the knowledge that none of us are doing this vital work alone. After three highly successful online years, The Stewardship Network Conference 2024 marked the return to our celebrated, in-person tradition and we were truly humbled by the energy, wisdom, and collaborative spirit of the hundreds in attendance. January's event was truly a homecoming for us all and we're excited to grow together into the future. Thank you, everyone!
2024 Keynote Presenters
Professor of Environmental Sciences & Society
University of Wisconsin - Plattevile
Vice President of Conservation Programs
National Parks Conservation Association
Ian is the Stewardship Manager of Six Rivers Land Conservancy, conducting natural resource management, restoration, and monitoring across a five-county region in Southeast Michigan. Before his time at Six Rivers, Ian worked as an education specialist for the Organization for Bat Conservation, an interpretive naturalist for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, and a planetarium operator and museum docent for the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. He holds a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Jon W. Allan
Jon W. Allan joined the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan in 2019 after he retired as the Director of the Office of the Great Lakes. His work focuses on the enterprise of sustainability related to the intersection of ecological, economic, social and cultural value. He is currently the U.S. Co-chair of the International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board, is a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Science Advisory Board, chairs the US Biosphere Network’s steering committee, chairs MSU’s Institute for Water Research Advisory Board, is on the Board of Governors at Cranbrook Institute of Science, is on the board of Audubon Great Lakes, and advises other projects and organizations. Jon is also the President and Founder of the Jon W. Allan Group, a private consultancy specializing in strategic insight for freshwater and the Great Lakes, energy and environmental policy and natural resource governance.
Robert is a graduate of the UM School of Natural Resources and has worked nationwide as both a forest ecologist and naturalist. He is currently the Vice President of the Michigan Botanical Society, and a botanist/field technician for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
|Barb Barton is a renaissance woman – endangered species biologist, author, filmmaker, and photographer. She has had a long career in conservation biology working for The Nature Conservancy, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and various nature centers in Michigan and Indiana. She is the author of the book Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan (MSU Press) which received the Michigan History Award and the Michigan Notable Book Award. Her documentary short “Water” about the Flint Water crisis earned awards at 12 film festivals around the country. Barb retired from MDOT in May of 2023 and has since devoted her time to a new passion, astrophotography, focusing on deep sky objects such as nebulae and galaxies. She is combining her creativity and science background to create new audio/visual pieces to reflect the interconnection of us all.
Tyler is a botanist and plant ecologist with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Michigan State University Extension. He studies the ecology, classification, and management of ecosystems, with a focus on the rare plant species they support. In particular, he has a passion for understanding and restoring the fragmented and fire-suppressed prairie-savanna landscapes of the upper Midwest. He has worked in private, public, non-profit and academic spheres for over 20 years to bring the science and practice of conservation and restoration together to improve outcomes for biodiversity. Communicating both the necessity and process of achieving these outcomes to a range of audiences is an essential step in that process, and one he enjoys. He earned a B.S. in Biology from Western Michigan University in 2000 and PhD from Michigan State University in 2017.
|Michelle is the Coordinator of the Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN). Michelle co-directs the Public Gardens as Sentinels against Invasive Plants initiative and facilitates invasive species information sharing and collaboration across the Midwest. Her background includes over eight years of professional invasive species outreach and management experience, addressing both terrestrial and aquatic invasive species. Her background also includes experience in environmental research and regulation. Michelle holds a B.S in Biology from the University of Michigan and an M.S. in Environmental Geoscience from Michigan State University.
Lauren Bennett is a master’s student at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability where she studies ecosystem science and management. She obtained her B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology and B.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Purdue. Last summer, Lauren worked for the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens where she worked to care for their extensive collection. Her areas of interest include animal behavior and habitat restoration.
Bindu Bhakta has served as a Natural Resources Educator for Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) since 2005 and is based in Oakland County where she was also raised and is now currently watching her family grow up. She develops and delivers public education programs for adults and youth on a variety of natural resource-related topics. She coordinates the Michigan Conservation Stewards Program which empowers individuals with knowledge and expertise to allow them to engage in local conservation stewardship activities.
Nichole Keway Biber
|Dr. Nichole Keway Biber is a tribal citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Mishiike Dodem (turtle clan).
Micah Blake-Smith is an education specialist at the Belle Isle Nature Center. He has a background in agriculture education and youth outdoor engagement. Previously he served as an Americorps VISTA at the University of Michigan’s Office of Metropolitan Impact, where he coordinated community engagement efforts for OMI and the SEMI Wild Network Youth Career Pathways committee. He worked to create long-lasting bonds between the committee and local youth-serving organizations with the goal of providing nature-based educational programs for their summer youth programs. Currently, Micah oversees the Environmental Stewardship Internship program.
John has worked at Blue Heron Ministries as a restoration ecologist for the past 11 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Huntington University and a Master of Environmental Science degree from Taylor University. John is passionate about growing native plants, creating native habitats, and sharing this love of the natural world with others. In his free time, you will find John spending as much time as possible with his wife and four kids and working to make his five-acre property a small ecological gem.
Lisa Brush has been leading collaborative conservation initiatives in the environmental sector for more than twenty years. In her role as CEO and Founder of The Stewardship Network, she has engaged thousands of professionals and volunteers in identifying community and stewardship needs of the 21st century. She has facilitated the initiation, growth, and ongoing support of networks and collaborations at all scales across the country. Lisa has worked with all volunteer nonprofits to global NGOs; municipal, state, federal and tribal governments; consultants and contractors; students and researchers; private property owners and more. She has facilitated strategic planning sessions, focus groups, citizen task forces, community visioning sessions, and public involvement and feedback meetings with groups ranging in size from four to four hundred. Lisa believes deeply in the power of people to create positive community change and works to support people and institutions in this endeavor.
She has been involved in all aspects of organizational management including: foundation/agency relationships; grant based project funding; budget tracking; contract negotiation, implementation, accountability; staff and board development.
Lisa serves on numerous boards of directors, has a BA in Science in Society from Wesleyan University, an MS from University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, and is a graduate of Michigan State University’s Great Lakes Leadership Academy.
Patrick is the Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability Outreach Coordinator for Oakland County Parks and Recreation. He holds a M.S. in Conservation Ecology/Environmental Informatics from University of Michigan, and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Loyola University Chicago.
Dr. Christine Carmichael holds a Ph.D. in Forestry with a Specialization in Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change and a Graduate Certificate in Community Engagement from Michigan State University. Dr. Carmichael has published high-impact research and consulted with numerous non-profit environmental groups and government agencies on ways to enhance multicultural partnerships, particularly in urban forestry, parks, and greenspace management. Her past work has included evaluation of community engagement programs for environmental organizations as well as workshops and presentations on how to measure success of urban greening and restoration programs with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Carmichael is also a skilled facilitator with expertise in strategic planning and ensuring productive dialogue among diverse groups who have a stake in environmental programs.
Dr. Kelly L. Cerialo is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator in the Business and Hospitality Department at Paul Smith’s College. She is the Coordinator for the US Biosphere Network and co-chair of the UNESCO Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve (New York/Vermont). She has over 10 years of experience working with UNESCO Biosphere Reserves including organizing international student research exchanges with a focus on sustainable tourism and community development in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Europe and Africa. She is the co-founder of the Adirondack to Appeninno Sustainable Parks and Communities Project – an international sustainable tourism initiative between the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano Biosphere Reserve in Italy and the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve. Dr. Cerialo’s research focuses on the social impacts of tourism in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, biosphere governance and leadership, and youth leadership mentoring to support sustainable communities.
|Joshua Cohen has worked for the past 24 years as an ecologist with Michigan Natural Features Inventory. His primary duties involve refining and revising the natural community classification through ecological inventory and sampling, literature research, and data analysis. He is responsible for classifying conservation targets and prioritizing areas for conservation and restoration; creating and delivering biodiversity and ecosystem management trainings; and designing and conducting vegetative sampling, ecological mapping and modeling, monitoring, and surveys for natural communities and rare species. Cohen is the lead author of A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan and a recent article in Diversity entitled “Assessing the Ecological Need for Prescribed Fire in Michigan Using GIS-Based Multicriteria Decision Analysis: Igniting Fire Gaps”. His presentation focuses on recent ecological surveys of Grand Island, an island befitting of its name.
Nyjiah Coleman-Clark is a two season alumni member of the Environmental Stewardship Internship program and currently works at the Belle Isle Nature Center as Guest Experience Associate.
Jacqueline Courteau is President and Senior Ecologist of NatureWrite, LLC. She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. She has monitored and assessed deer impacts in 20+ parks and natural areas in southeast Michigan, which continues to be her focus. She has also worked with the Huron River Watershed Council to develop their rapid ecological assessment; taught at University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, including restoration ecology and field ecology; written plant species overviews for the Smithsonian Encyclopedia of life; contracted for Michigan Natural Features Inventory; and is working with private land-owners to develop forest stewardship plans. Her side gig is collecting acorns and growing oak trees, with the goals of growing all 13 of Michigan’s native oak species and preserving the genetics of big trees.
Susan Cross helps people see the world in powerful new ways as a healthy positivity thought leader, conservationist, author, and speaker. She’s a passionate advocate of connecting with nature to reduce stress and anxiety, and to improve mood. She lives in the rare habitat of The Oak Openings Region, near Toledo, Ohio. Susan’s alter ego is that of a public relations professional for over 30 years in corporate America.
Her publications include blogs, podcasts, articles, and four books.
Jon Cross is a highly regarded conservationist, nature addict, eco-restoration expert, and award-winning nature photographer. He lives in the rare habitat of The Oak Openings Region, near Toledo, Ohio. Jon’s alter ego is that of an information technology leader for over 20 years.
Jon is a frequent host to environmentalists, academics, and landowners who share his passion for restoring the Oak Openings to its native state and want to see and apply learnings from his frontline efforts.
His publications include photography, podcasts, and one book chapter.
Kira joined the National Parks Conservation Association in 2022, a national bipartisan non-profit formed over 100 years ago to protect our National Parks. Kira brings over two decades of experience in conservation with an emphasis on water quality, wetlands, wildlife protection, tribal and federal policy work within the Great Lakes Region. Among her accomplishments, she helped create and manage a Surface Water Quality Protection Program for Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, directed multiple river and wildlife restoration projects at Conservation Resource Alliance and now finds herself taking those skills and experiences to advocate and protect our national parks in perpetuity. Kira is a tribal citizen of Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and part of the Grand Traverse Band’s Natural Resource and Environmental Committee, currently one of the fiscal co-chairs for the Healing our Water Coalition.
Matt has been working outdoors since 2004. His work experience includes organic farming, landscape design, installation and maintenance, native plant propagation, prescribed fire, invasive plant control, natural areas management planning, growing mushrooms, and botany. His current main focus is in designing and installing ecologically sustainable landscapes that nourish wildlife and humans alike. In past years, Matt worked at Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation, Plantwise, and currently works at Feral Flora.
Melissa DeSimone is the Executive Director of the Michigan Lakes and Streams Association and manages publication of The Michigan Riparian magazine. She has also been an active volunteer with the Gravel Lake Association in Southwest Michigan for the past 14 years. Melissa has a background in education with 10 years experience as a middle school science teacher prior to entering the nonprofit world. She loves spending time with her family on the lake, podcasts, and fiber arts.
Scott is a hydrologist and ecological engineer with 25-years of experience with stormwater and watershed management and landscape restoration. His career began right around the time the Low Impact Development (LID) paradigm was first introduced and he has worked through its re-birth as green infrastructure (GI) and its latest incarnation as nature-based systems (NBS). He has monitored and modeled runoff, surface water and groundwater quantity and quality. He has designed, planted and maintained LID, GI and NBS best management and stormwater control practices. Over the last fifteen years, he has been on a quest, starting from an engineering perspective, to understand what and how plants do what they do. What started as an obsession about how native plants increase infiltration has grown into a passion about giving credit to our plant companions who maintain the living world.
Jason facilitates current and potential watershed stewards. Previously, he worked with the City of Ann Arbor’s Natural Area Preservation program for 10 years as its Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator.
Jason holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University in “facilitating tree hugging.” He joined Huron River Watershed Council in 2011 and lives in the Traver Creekshed.
|Betty Gronsman is the Green Infrastructure Associate for Calvin University’s Plaster Creek Stewards. In this role, Betty works with the City of Grand Rapids to identify and permit spaces for urban green infrastructure projects. Her main focus is installation and maintenance of curb-cut rain gardens – spaces between the sidewalk and street that are excavated to capture stormwater that otherwise would travel down the street gutters and into the nearest storm drain. Plaster Creek Stewards has installed over 130 of these gardens in SE Grand Rapids and recent research has shown that along with capturing stormwater, these gardens significantly enhance insect biodiversity.
Theresa Gruninger is a senior aquatic invasive species program specialist at the Great Lakes Commission. She splits her time on multiple invasive species projects including the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative, the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species, the Invasive Mussel Collaborative, the Great Lakes Aquatic Invasive Species Landing Blitz and more. She has been with the Great Lakes Commission since 2021.
Sue Hodapp graduated from the Michigan Conservation Stewards Program in 2011. What went on to become the “Kal-Haven Ecosystem Restoration Project” was the focus of her class Capstone project. She is an Advanced Master Gardener and Michigan Master Naturalist. She is currently Chair of the Friends of the Kal-Haven Trail.
Obadiah James is the Intern Coordinator for the Environmental Stewardship Internship program. Obadiah was a previous ESI intern and, since then, has returned to the program as the coordinator for what now is his third year. He is currently in the process of achieving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Adrian College with aspirations to become a therapist. As the ESI coordinator, Obadiah has been able to help shape the experience of the interns by helping them enjoy getting out of their comfort zones and to show them how to experience nature on a more therapeutic level.
Robb is the project manager for environmental services in Stantec’s West Olive office (Ottawa County). Robb has been an ecological restoration professional for the past 15 years, although passion for, and appreciation of, the natural world have been lifelong constants. In the past, Robb has worked for municipalities (City of Ann Arbor NAP), non-profits (Michigan Nature Association), and private companies (PlantWise). In his current position at Stantec, Robb puts his years of field experience to use managing projects large and small for a wide variety of clients in West Michigan and beyond.
Dr. Denise Keele was an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo, Michigan where her research and teaching focused on environmental policy and law. She chaired the WMU Climate Change Working Group from 2014-2022, served on the Kalamazoo Township Climate Committee, the City of Kalamazoo Sustainability committee, and continues as the Board Chair of the Kalamazoo Nature Center. From 2019-2022, she founded and led the grassroots Kalamazoo Climate Crisis Coalition coordinating over 2000 members and 40 affiliate organizations to take collective action and address climate change. Keele was honored with an inaugural Climate Champion award from the Michigan Climate Action Network in 2021, and now serves as the Director of the organization. With almost two decades of experience in educating others and encouraging action, Keele brings a collaborative and positive approach to addressing the climate crisis.
The son of a geologist and an archeologist, Bob Kellum is the living descendent of an impressionable eight-year-old who was taken into the confidence of his family’s land. Fifty-eight years later, he works to honor that confidence as steward of 300 acres of highly variable land in the ‘Irish Hills’ of south-east Michigan. His interest in time comes from his sense that its experience is infinitely variable and that the priorities we see clearly with a long view, can bear little resemblance to the short-term priorities we live by. Bob is a founding member of the Stewardship Network’s Grand Raisin Conservation Community, a founding cooperator in the Iron Creek Land Community, a founding member and president of Oh These Irish Hills! and a board member of the Central Algoma Freshwater Coalition.
Mike Kost serves as Associate Curator at University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum and as a Lecturer in the School for Environment and Sustainability, where he teaches a course on ecology and botany. As a curator he focuses on natural areas stewardship planning, rare plant conservation, and making data on living collections accessible for teaching, learning, and research. Before joining U-M, he served as the Lead Ecologist and a Senior Conservation Scientist with Michigan Natural Features Inventory at Michigan State University, where he focused on documenting and describing natural communities and rare species and identifying key sites for biodiversity conservation and management. In this role, he coauthored over 80 publications, including three books on the natural communities of Michigan.
Francie’s Dad once asked her what she wanted to do with her life. Be happy was her response. Little did he know at the time she was to embark on over a 20-year journey that would take her to 35 different states and 2 countries teaching with birds of prey. With a degree from Northern Michigan University and as a Certified Interpretative Guide from the National Association of Interpretation, Francie is specifically trained in theory and practice of interpretation and environmental education. She has presented at national and international conferences, teacher training workshops, developed environmental conservation curriculum and had loads of fun. As Executive Director of Michigan Avian Experience, she continues to share her work with others.
Katie completed her M.S. in Environmental Policy with a focus on environmental justice from Michigan Technological University in 2005. Soon after graduation she began working for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) where she worked for 11 years as an Environmental Specialist. Her work with KBIC, a tribal government, focused on environmental policy and program development including various environmental disciplines such as water quality, air quality, waste management, brownfields, and human and environmental health. Katie was hired in January 2018 for her current position as Environmental Justice and Tribal Liaison with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Katie serves as the state co-chair for the Michigan Wild Rice Initiative.
Evan Larson is a father, husband, teacher, scientist, and enthusiast of wild places. Evan’s childhood took place in the woods of central Minnesota, helping his parents tend 80 acres of mixed hardwood forests. Drawn by mountains, oceans, and forests, his formal education includes an Environmental Science bachelor’s degree from Willamette University, degrees in geography from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (M.S.) and the University of Minnesota (PhD), and a Faculty Fulbright fellowship to Mid Sweden University in Sundsvall. Less formally, Evan’s philosophy of life has been informed by significant doses of reflection, books, chainsaws and firewood. Evan has 22 years of experience using tree rings to investigate environmental history including past patterns of climate, disturbance, and forest change. As a Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences & Society at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Evan teaches courses that blur the lines between physical and cultural geography and that are infused with undergraduate research in search of transformative learning experiences.
The work that is currently at the center of Evan’s thoughts and energy is fueled by the enthusiasm of amazing collaborators who are together working to re-story the interwoven relationships among people, fire, and pine in Great Lakes Forests.
Mark is the Principal Consultant at Application Insight, a consulting research and development company focused on designing and evaluating fluid spray delivery systems and working to improve the analytical methodologies used to evaluate them. This work focuses on precision placement, improvement in efficacy and efficiency, with particular expertise in low and ultra-low volume delivery systems and three-dimensional canopy applications. Our focus is on pesticide delivery systems for fruits, vegetables, and wildland applications; as well as grains and broadacre crops. Mark has a particular love for ecological restoration and is excited to be able to bring new technologies to this community.
Jesse has spent 14 seasons as an ecologist at Michigan Natural Features Inventory. The work takes him all over the state to some of our most unique and intact natural places. It is a perspective not always available to most people and he enjoys sharing images and lessons learned from our wildest places.
Rob earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Psychology from the University of Michigan’s Program in the Environment, where he was awarded outstanding student in his major in 2016. As the Community Coordinator at The Stewardship Network, Rob is the primary point of contact for TSN’s member community coordinators and is in charge of coordinator support, which includes providing technical and strategic guidance, facilitating peer-learning opportunities, and maintaining relationships with member community coordinators and partners, among many other things. He is also responsible for overseeing the growth and development strategy of the program and works closely with Executive Director Lisa Brush to identify and pursue new partnership opportunities. In his free time, Rob is a musician, arts organizer, and journalist in Detroit, and he enjoys gardening, skateboarding, and playing hockey whenever he can!
Kirsten Lyons has been active on local and regional invasive species issues for decades, and she also protects natural resources and hosts environmental programs in her role as the Park Naturalist – Invasive Species Specialist with St. Clair County Parks and Recreation Commission. Kirsten holds a Master of Natural Resource Stewardship from Colorado State University and a horticulture degree from St. Clair County Community College (SC4). Her prior work at Six Rivers Land Conservancy, Friends of the St. Clair River, and the Green Garage Detroit demonstrate her commitment to community, education, sustainability, and environmental land care.
Hannah joined River Network in 2020. She is the Resilient Communities Manager, assisting organizations across the Great Lakes and beyond to build capacity in themselves and their communities. Hannah studied Natural Resource Management and Photography at Grand Valley State University. After completing her degree in 2016, she dove right into environmental nonprofit work serving in various roles related to environmental education and community outreach for local organizations in West Michigan, as well as a stint working for a municipally-owned utility as a community education specialist. Outside of work, Hannah is an avid gardener and the co-founder of Midwest Movement Collective. She also serves on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for the City of Grand Rapids.
David A. Mifsud is the senior herpetologist and owner of Herpetological Resource and Management, a conservation company dedicated to the protection and stewardship of amphibians and reptiles. He has worked for 30 years in wildlife biology, wetland ecology, and habitat conservation and management, with an emphasis on herpetofauna. He has conducted research, assessments, and habitat restoration targeting amphibians and reptiles across Michigan. He has written or co-authored several publications and technical reports on Michigan herpetofauna. David is Co-chair of the State of Michigan Amphibian and Reptile Technical Advisory board. He also coordinates the Michigan Herpetological Atlas project. Mifsud is the author of the Amphibian & Reptile Best Management Practices for Michigan and co-author of the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region Revised Edition. He is also the founder and President of the Michigan Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy.
Priya Nanjappa is the Vice President of Conservation Programs for the National Parks Conservation Association. She has spent over 20 years in the world of conservation science and policy following her Master’s degree in Biology with an emphasis in wildlife ecology and conservation. Her experience ranges from federal and state government to nonprofit management, most recently having served as a Commissioner specializing in Wildlife, Environment, and Reclamation for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, appointed by Governor Polis. Prior to this role, she was the Director of Operations for the nonprofit organization, Conservation Science Partners (or CSP), which is headquartered in Truckee, California and where she served as the lead for the Fort Collins, Colorado office. Priya’s work has involved coordination between various agencies and partners, implementing conservation policies and guidance nationally and internationally. She has maintained a steady number of scientific publications, and has led numerous interdisciplinary teams to aid agencies and landowners in various aspects of species and habitat conservation or management decisions.
Priya was the 2019 recipient of the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) Visionary Leader Award — the first woman and second person of color to receive this award. She has twice been a mentor for the David H. Smith Postdoctoral Conservation Fellowship Program.
She has been passionate about inclusivity, equity, and diversity, and has been committed to influencing and creating changes in policies and practices in several of her past roles. Priya recently served as a mentor in the inaugural cohort of Next100 Colorado, designed to help connect Colorado’s emerging and seasoned leaders of color through a series of partnerships, network formation, and leadership building. She is currently a co-lead of the Public Lands Working Group for the America The Beautiful For All Coalition, whose aim is to reflect the diversity of America and center the voices of people of color working to conserve 30% of our public lands, waters, and oceans by 2030.
She also really loves toads.
Jenna Nutter is a master’s student at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability where she studies ecosystem science and management. She obtained her B.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan in 2014. Jenna worked on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Stewardship Crew where she participated in the conservation and restoration of over a dozen state parks. Besides conservation and restoration, her areas of interest include prairie and forest ecology.
Francisco “Paco” Ollervides, PhD has worked directly with individual leaders and organizations in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice initiatives in the environmental sector for over 20 years. He assists strategic planning as well as conceptualizing, innovating, and driving forward initiatives that allow individuals to learn and act equitably and as stewards to our planet. His focus is on building the power of the environmental movement by facilitating opportunities for People of Color to excel in the sector through client and sponsor relationship management, customer satisfaction and retention, and staff management.
He leads the Green Leadership Trust as Executive Director. He leverages the knowledge, networks, and resources of People of Color and Indigenous people serving Boards of environmental organizations to build and diversify the environmental movement’s power. Prior (2013-2019) he acted as Leadership Development Manager and consultant in the Great Lakes region for River Network. Here he coordinated and provided organizational development services to dozens of Partner non profit organizations. From August 2006 – December 2010 he served as Senior Field Coordinator for Latin American programs within Waterkeeper Alliance. He connected, supported, and enhanced the activities of several dozens of non-profit member organizations.
He has trainings from the Watershed Coordinator Course from Ohio State University and served as lecturer to the Michigan Water Stewards program from Michigan State University. He was part of the Leading from Within Leadership course from Institute for Conservation Leaders and is a certified coach in Open Standards of Conservation from Conservation International. He is a Great Lakes Network Weaver and a National Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leaders Program. He received Racial Justice training from Race Forward; Civic Discourse training from Knoll Farm; Community Organizing and Family Issues Facilitation Training from the COFI Institute; Story telling for Social Change from Environmental Leaders Program; internal inclusivity training from Raben Group; completed the Arm in Arm 4 Climate Campaign and the BIPOC Climate Leadership Program.
He is a biochemical engineer and a bio-acoustician. His field work included assessing the impacts of boat noise on gray whale behavior. He holds both M.S and PhD degrees from the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Department at Texas A&M University.
Mary Parr is an Indigenous woman with a passion for Ojibwe culture, fire ecology, and land stewardship. Parr is a tribal member of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and a West Michigan local. Parr attended Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI for her undergraduate degree in Natural Resource Management and is currently completing her Masters of Science in Biology, researching plant community response to fire seasonality and order of application in prairies and savannas of the Great Lakes Basin. A seasoned fire practitioner, Parr has participated in prescribed fires across the Great Plains and Midwest while working for the Nature Conservancy Nebraska and Minnesota Chapters. Parr is the Stewardship Manager for Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, MI, where she manages 850 acres, coordinates conservation efforts, leads the prescribed fire program, and mentors undergraduate students in land stewardship.
Steven is a natural areas specialist at the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. His interest in the natural world began in the backyard of his Ann Arbor home turning over rocks with his twin brother and comparing how many creatures his rock held. At age eight, his interest in nature was further supported when his father pointed out the three distinct variations of the leaves of the Sassafras tree. Steven earned a Natural Resources degree from the U of M. His interests include insect macrophotography and natural wood art, and he loves to share the spirit of the natural world with people using a “free-association” in nature, where one discovery leads to another.
Dr. Georgia Peterson has served as a Natural Resources Extension Specialist at Michigan State University for the past 24 years. She also holds an adjunct appointment with the MSU Department of Forestry. Her work focuses on natural resource leadership and literacy. These efforts include 1) developing and delivering forestry education and outreach to private forest landowners and other citizens, and 2) providing information, training and assistance to natural resource-based organizations on public input processes, conflict management and strategic planning activities.
Matt has over twenty years of experience in multi-disciplinary policy, planning, and management, with focus on environment and natural resources. He coordinates state of Michigan activities under the bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Matt also advances a number of special projects both internal and external to state government, most notably by serving as regional coordinator for the Great Lakes Islands Alliance, a voluntary network of leaders from year-round island communities. In nearly all his roles, he finds himself serving the role of connector or coordinator, which requires navigating the complex interactions between multiple issues, programs, and siloed organizations. Matt holds a Bachelor of Science (biology) degree from Bucknell University and a Master of Environmental Management (resource ecology) from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
Pat Reid graduated from the CSP course in 2023 and has created a woody invasive removal project within the Kal-Haven Ecosystem Restoration Project. She is an Advanced Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. She is licensed to apply herbicides in Michigan. She is currently Treasurer of the Friends of the Kal-Haven Trail.
Logan Rowe is a Conservation Associate with Michigan Natural Features Inventory and Michigan State University Extension. Logan’s research primarily focuses on rare and declining insect species in Michigan, where he tracks populations of state and federally listed species, conducts biodiversity surveys, and helps maintain the Michigan Natural Heritage Database. He works with a diverse group of partners dedicated to species and habitat protection and enjoys connecting with the public to find common grounds for conservation.
|Sheila completed her MS and PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, and currently teaches graduate level courses in Ecology, Conservation, and Restoration at UM School for the Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). She has served as a consultant in adaptive management and currently pursues collaborative applied research on sustainable approaches to invasive species management and on the ways managed and built environments (from farms to yards) can support biodiversity and ecosystem function and services. In all endeavors, she seeks to integrate academic activities with the real-world data needs and challenges of natural resource planners and managers.
Jeremy Siegrist has been doing Ecological restoration work for the Iron Creek Land Community in the Irish Hills of Southeast, Michigan for the last 15 years. He lives in community housing on the land where he works. In 2019 he co-founded Open Grown School with other co-workers and neighbors to teach outdoor skills such as foraging for wild edibles, plant and animal ID, etc…
He is also a songwriter and often performs with his bands theillalogicalspoon and Little Spoon River.
Nathan Simons is a registered landscape architect and executive director of Blue Heron Ministries, Inc. Mr. Simons graduated with Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and Bachelor of Science degrees from Ball State University with a minor in Natural Resources (1985). Nathan is an above-average botanist and his interest is in historic modeling of wetland, prairie, savanna, and oak woodland communities. Nathan’s practiced exploration is in restoring wild places through the control of exotic/invasive plant species, the reintroduction of native plant communities, and prescribed fire management. Nate’s passion and adventure in life is stewardship of creation played out in the fields of restoration ecology and creational theology.
Benji Steenwyk is the greenhouse manager for Plaster Creek Stewards and Calvin University’s Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens. He oversees the propagation of over 400 species of locally collected native seeds. Benji annually produces over 100,000 plugs and has been caring for and expanding a native tree nursery which focuses on local genotypes of oaks, hickories, pawpaws, and other hard to get native trees.
Chad Stewart is the Deer, Elk, and Moose Management Specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, serving in that role for 9 years. Previously, he was the Statewide Deer Biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and a biologist for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Chad has degrees from Penn State University and the University of Illinois, and is a Certified Wildlife Biologist through The Wildlife Society. Chad has over 20 years researching and managing white-tailed deer, and has also worked on research projects in Malaysia and China.
Taaja Tucker-Silva is a senior data analyst supporting a variety of invasive species and water resources projects at the Great Lakes Commission in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Previously she held several positions at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center researching Great Lakes food webs, fisheries, and invasive Phragmites. She has a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University (2008) and a master’s degree in Conservation Biology from Central Michigan University (2011).
Panoka Walker is of mixed European and Anishinabe decent from the Deer Clan and her traditional name is Waa-bskaa Waa-waash-keshi (White Doe). Panoka strongly identifies with her Native roots as a traditional storyteller, song carrier, hand drum maker, and traditional crafts women. Encouraged by her elders after years of apprenticeship inside the sacred circle of life, Panoka is a facilitator of women’s ceremonies, a lifelong student of the plant nation, and a teacher of workshops and group presentations to adults and youth. Panoka is affiliated with the Mother Earth Water Walkers who bring awareness to the Water as the Life blood of the Earth. Panoka is the proud mother of two beautiful daughters being brought up in the traditional way. She along with her husband, Deer Walker, make their home in Monroe, Michigan.
Panoka Walker has shared her gift of creativity through story telling for many years at school programs, libraries, museums, workshops and cultural events.
Dr. Alexa Warwick serves as the Wildlife Engagement Specialist and faculty member of the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. She works jointly with MSU Extension and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to develop, evaluate, and improve wildlife and conservation-related engagement programs.
Haley Weesies in the Program Coordinator for Calvin University’s Plaster Creek Stewards. Haley oversees a variety of green infrastructure projects, including a recent large floodplain restoration effort at Leisure Creek Condominiums. Haley is involved in all aspects of these projects, including seed collection, propagation, design, and installation. She also oversees large groups of volunteers as well as summer research assistants. She was also first author on a recent Great Lakes Botanist publication that inventoried and compared the remaining seven remnant floodplain habitats in the Plaster Creek Watershed.
Amos White is a recognized environmental executive and policymaker, a renowned haiku poet and author; a literary and musical arts producer, and civic leader. Amos is Founder and Chief Planting Officer of 100K Trees for Humanity, an urban reforestation nonprofit; Member, California Urban Forestry Advisory Council; Member, Alameda County’s Agricultural Advisory Committee (Urban Ag Chair); Amos serves on Alameda’s Environmental Task Force CASA – Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda; former regional Vice Chair of the Bay Area Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force; Co-author of the Climate Emergency Declaration Resolution for the City of Alameda, and for Alameda County; a former CORO Fellows Program graduate in Leadership and Public Affairs; and former Ohio Youth Conservation Corps Member. Amos a 2021 double award recipient of from the California Urban Forestry Council and a 2023 Recipient of the Jefferson Award for civic service. Amos lives in Alameda, California.
Now in its 17th year, The Stewardship Network Conference is the moment where theory meets practice and curiosity leads to solutions. Each annual convening unifies hundreds of professionals, students, and volunteers from a dazzling array of environmental fields. Here they share their setbacks and successes, compare advancements and techniques, and revel in diverse perspectives and creative expressions — all in support of our shared mission to care for the natural world.
About The Stewardship Network
Headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI, The Stewardship Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with an award-winning, 20-year history of connecting, equipping, and mobilizing people and organizations to care for land and water in their communities. As a flagship program of the organization, TSN Conference embodies our vision to "build a diverse network of connected communities empowered to care for our environment together, now and forever."