A Wisconsin native, Mike is a graduate of Cornell University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and of 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.
Deb was born and raised in a small New Zealand city, spent weekends at family sheep farms and summer holidays camping. She loves to travel, decided to put down roots in the U.S., and settled in Madison in 1982. Deb is one of the original staff members, and joined ALNC during its formation in 1994. She oversees the financial management of the organization. She enjoys spending time at her family cabin on the Wisconsin River, sailing, cooking, growing orchids, yoga, and collecting teapots! She and her husband have two adult children, and two cats.
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.
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.
Shaina’s enthusiasm for the outdoors began at a young age and continues to this day. Prior to joining ALNC, Shaina enjoyed working in and exploring a variety of mountain, desert, prairie, wetland, forest and river habitats. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Kenyon College and a master’s degree in environmental education from UW-Stevens Point. Birding, hiking and rock climbing are some of her favorite outdoor activities.
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 is coming to us from the Chicago area. Growing up, she would enjoy annual summer road trips with her family that always included some national park or state park hiking, this was the start of her love for the outdoors. Since then, she has kept her connection with nature through running and her career aspirations. She has a BA in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Ecology from Luther College. Since graduating Lauren has found herself doing work with environmental-oriented organizations but was always looking for the connection between children and nature. She has found that calling here at ALNC. In her free time you can find Lauren running, exploring Madison and enjoying a good book!
Suzy is a 57 year resident of the Madison area, growing up with the Henry Vilas Zoo and UW Arboretum practically in her backyard. She taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, First Grade, and was a Library Media Specialist in the Madison public schools for 30 years, before retiring in 2016. She used to bring my students to ALNC (even back when it was the L.R. Head Nature Center!) and realized that environmental education was calling to her, so she started her second career here in the summer of 2017. She has loved taking the amazing Wonder Bugs program ‘On the Road’ to MMSD Play & Learn sites for the past two years. Be forewarned: She will talk your ear off about the importance of access to quality early childhood education, if you get her started.
When she’s not working, she loves hiking with my husband and dog, creating art, playing music, reading, and otherwise puttering about. She a pretty bad birder, but that doesn’t stop her. Her two grown daughters live together in Brooklyn, NY. Regular visits there have made her appreciate what an amazing place NYC is, with lots of nature to be found despite its size.
She thrilled to be here at ALNC full time, doing what she loves best, teaching and developing nature-based curriculum for young children and their caregivers.
Melissa is a School Social Worker (by trade) and Nature Lover (at heart). She is an advocate for social justice in all forms, and loves to unwind by camping, skiing, hiking, and exploring the great outdoors. Melissa attended UW-Madison as an undergrad and earned her MSW at the University of Chicago in 2004. She’s worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds across her 17-year school social work career, having spent 15 of those years in the Chicago area. Melissa’s focus is on building school systems that support social/emotional growth and development; she provides clinical guidance to students, families and staff on navigating mental health diagnoses, other disabilities, and traumatic life experiences. Fundamentally, Melissa believes effective education begins with building a strong, supportive relationship; she values and upholds each student’s implicit strengths and uniqueness. In 2018 Melissa and her family moved to Madison; she chose to step away from social work for a bit to join the ranks of ALNC’s Environmental Educators and lead student field trips and summer camps. Prior to this, she had no idea how pond-dipping would change her life! It was the most fun she ever had at work, and knew immediately that she was in a very special place. Melissa is thrilled to rejoin ALNC as it’s first-ever staff social worker, bringing a positive behavioral intervention lens to bolster ALNC student success. She considers herself a very lucky person to get to do this work!
Aldo Leopold Nature Preschool
Courtney is a lifelong educator who believes strongly in the power of playing and learning in nature. She taught kindergarten for ten years, most recently at Lowell Elementary in Madison. She has a Masters degree in curriculum and instruction from UW Madison, a reading specialist license, and a Bachelors in elementary education and psychology. Her connection with ALNC began in 2013 as a summer environmental educator. Courtney believes that nature can bring so much to both children and adults — joy, wonder, curiosity, peace — and is dedicated to helping nature-based education become a central foundation of all teaching and learning in our community. She is also passionate about social justice and anti-bias education which she believes is integral to early childhood learning environments. When not at ALNP, she spends time running, reading, and trying to tame her wild vegetable garden. She and her husband have a one-year-old who they love to take on hikes in the Madison area.
Marketing & Communications
With a background in Graphic Design, Cara joined the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in October 2013 in a part-time capacity as Designer & Programmer of Exhibits and Digital Curricula. After a couple of years of simultaneously managing a busy café on Madison’s east side, working at ALNC, and maintaining freelance work; she was promoted to Marketing & 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 importance of our communion with nature and its ability to empower individuals, build relationships, heal what ails us, and sustain life. In her free time she loves taking long walks and hikes through natural areas with her partner, their children, and pup Lemon.
Stephanie has been living in Madison since 2015 and is originally from France. She holds a BS in Geology from the University of Nantes (France) and a professional master degree in Environmental Conservation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the Nelson Institute. She grew up spending a lot of time outside and in her free time she enjoys hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, and gardening. After volunteering with UW-Arboretum and completing an internship with Clean Lakes Alliance, Stephanie has joined our ALNC team! She believes that education and building awareness are the first steps leading to a more sustainable community. She likes connecting people with nature by sharing her latest phenology observations on our social media!
Brenna grew up splitting time between Milwaukee and the Driftless area, and she’s happy to be settled between them in Madison directing the daily operations and long-term strategic initiatives of the Aldo Leopold Nature Center. She holds a BA in Anthropology from UW-Madison and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education from The George Washington University, with additional background in curriculum development and environmental and climate education. Her experience includes managing the Education Department at Earth Day Network, coordinating a large-scale sustainability exhibition at the United States Botanic Garden, and years of teaching to a range of audiences in the halls of the Smithsonian, the riverbanks of DC, and the prairies, forests, and wetlands of Wisconsin. As former Director of Exhibits, she has also developed displays, theaters, and digital curriculum at ALNC. Brenna has a passion for life-long learning and a deep interest in nature and the environment, fueled by her love of any activity that involves being outdoors.
Before joining the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, Ben has years of experience as an environmental educator. He has a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from Clemson University. Birds are Ben’s biggest passion, and he enjoys connecting people to nature especially through birds. Being outdoors and active is ideal, but he also enjoys spending time with his cat and gaming.
Jeff is very excited to be joining the important work at ALNC! Most of his work life has been involved with buildings and their operation…he’s fascinated with how they work and interested in how buildings best serve the people that occupy them. He also enjoys being outdoors and finds it very rewarding to make improvements to everything from building structures to removing invasive plants…and he can’t wait to learn on the job! Family is most important to Jeff, as they are a close knit group…even more so these days. Jeff and his wife have been married for many years and have two daughters and three grandchildren.
Brian grew up traveling around the state of Wisconsin with his family and exploring the many landscapes the state has to offer. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology and Environmental Studies from UW-Madison and an M.S. in Conservation Biology from UW-Stout. Brian has been an environmental educator at ALNC for 8 years and has enjoyed leading backpacking, canoeing and camping trips, as well as working camps and field trips with kids of all ages. Brian believes every day spent outside leads to new discoveries and that connecting with nature is an integral part of education. In his free time Brian enjoys birding, photography, camping, and cheering on his favorite Wisconsin sports teams.
Sarah grew up hiking, camping and playing outside in the state of Oregon before moving to Wisconsin when she was 13. She has her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Sarah looks forward to facilitating engaging, eco-friendly experiences for all who visit the nature center. When she’s not at the nature center, she’s busy making lots of coffee, exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog, and hanging out with her cat.
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 begin to use it with love and respect.