Michael Strigel, President and Executive Director
A Wisconsin native, Mike is a graduate of Cornell University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and the University of Wisconsin—Madison with a Master’s degree in Land Resources. His previous field experience with The Prairie Enthusiasts, the International Crane Foundation and other organizations has taken him through the prairies, savannas, forests, and wetlands of Wisconsin as well as stints in the forests of southern Oregon and northern California. Mike most recently was executive director of Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts. Prior to 2007 Mike spent eight years at the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters where he was Executive Director since 2003. At the Academy, Mike directed a national conference celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, one of the personal highlights of his career.
Kelley Van Egeren, Director of Development & Stewardship
Like Aldo Leopold, having grown up on the Mississippi River, Kelley has a strong connection to the environment and a lifelong commitment to introducing others to the joy of spending time in nature. Having worked at the nature center since 2003 in development and communications, Kelley’s experience in strategic management, grant writing, event planning and marketing helps her connect the community’s needs with the center’s mission. Aldo Leopold once said, “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” Kelley cannot. In her free time, Kelley enjoys hiking, biking and antiquing.
Cara Erickson, Marketing and Communications Manager
With a background in Graphic Design, Cara joined the Aldo Leopold Nature Center October 2013 in a part-time capacity as Designer and Programmer of Exhibits and Digital Curricula. Late summer, after years of managing and marketing a busy café on Madison’s east side, she was awarded a promotion to Interim Communications Manager. Born and raised in Dane County, Cara developed a love for nature at an early age. She grew up camping, hiking and canoeing throughout Wisconsin and other parts of the country. She believes strongly in the power of community with nature and its ability to empower individuals, build relationships and, ultimately, sustain life.
Virginia Wiggen, Nature Center Director
Virginia began working at ALNC in 2007 and oversees all of the education programs. She grew up exploring the prairies of North Dakota and holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Concordia College and a graduate certificate in Environmental Education from University of Minnesota Duluth. She enjoys all outdoor activities, but canoeing, camping and gardening are at the top her list.
Brenna Holzhauer, Director of Exhibits and Digital Curricula
Brenna manages the development and facilitation of exhibits, programs, and curricula to combine the best of ‘high-touch’ nature education with ‘high-tech’ theaters, exhibits, and technology to represent a new approach for guiding students and visitors to understand the complex interactions between climate, energy, and life on Earth. She also coordinates Nature Net – a non-profit consortium of outdoor learning centers in South-Central Wisconsin. Brenna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education from The George Washington University, and has significant education and professional experience in curriculum development and environmental and climate education. Experience includes managing the Education Department at Earth Day Network and coordinating a large-scale Sustainability for the 21st Century exhibition at the United States Botanic Garden. Brenna has a passion for life-long learning and a deep interest in nature and the environment, which is fueled by her love of any activity that involves being outdoors.
Heather Merewood, Public Program Coordinator
Raised in Wisconsin, Heather graduated from UW Madison with a degree in Conservation Biology, then moved to Minnesota where she earned her Master’s Certificate in Environmental Education from U of M Duluth. She gained experience, and learned about different areas of the country and world, while living and working in North Carolina, Costa Rica, Nepal, Alaska, and New Orleans before returning back to her roots in Wisconsin. Most of her work has been focused on educating with live, non-releasable raptors, so definitely let her know when you see any of the resident hawks or owls flying over ALNC! She began working at the Nature Center as a weekend naturalist and development volunteer before moving into the Program Coordinator position. When not working, Heather enjoys hiking and camping in warmer weather, skiing when it’s cold, and playing with her daughter in all seasons.
Kathy Waldera, Education Assistant
Learning to ride a bike on the sidewalks of Chicago, riding headlong into more than a few hardwood trees, Kathy has forever been connected to the outdoors. Many years and bike rides later, Kathy has shared the wonder of nature through environmental education programs in La Crosse, and for over 10 years at ALNC. Kathy has a BS from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and an MA from Bowling Green State University. These educational achievements led to work experiences in the mountains of upstate New York and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Ask her sometime about meeting a herd of Caribou in the Alaska Range. Kathy’s family and friends are her heart and soul. Her husband has maintained his sense of humor for 25 years and her amazing daughter is a student at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Lauren Bradshaw, Visitor Services Manager
Lauren is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a M.S. degree in environment and resources. She has a background in plant community ecology and enjoys sharing her passion for plants and the environment with others. In her spare time, she plays ultimate frisbee, practices yoga, and tries to get outdoors as much as possible for camping, hiking, and water sports.
Josh Bruecken, Facilities and Grounds Manager
Josh grew up taking family vacations to National, State, and county parks throughout the United States. He holds a Bachelors of Science from Iowa State University and a Masters of Science from Western Illinois University. He has gained extensive natural resource management skills from his time at the Conservation Corps of Iowa, and facility management skills from managing the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation campground and the DNR’s MacKenzie Center. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, camping, woodworking, and exercising.
Halley Pucker, Events & Rentals Manager
A central Wisconsin native, Halley found herself in Madison following a brief stint in Canada and attending university in Milwaukee. After several years of working in the worlds of bacteria and books, Halley finds herself at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center where she can combine her love of the outdoors with her passion for working with and helping people. In her free time she likes to read, drink coffee, bake, hike with her husband, hang out with her dog Poppy, and cheer on the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, and Ottawa Senators in their respective sports.
Betsy Parker, Nature Net Director
Betsy began work at the Nature Center as a naturalist educator and as coordinator of Nature Net in the year 2000. After taking a break to raise children and pursue other environmental education endeavors, Betsy is back at ALNC as the Nature Net Director. When not at the Nature Center, Betsy serves as a board member to the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education and works on projects such as installing an outdoor classroom at her children’s school, and working to pass the Wisconsin Children’s Outdoor Heritage Resolution. Betsy is pleased to be able to tie her working life to the teachings of Aldo Leopold who said, when we see land as a community to which we belong, we may see it with love and respect.