Staff

Ashley Adkins

Administrative Assistant

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Ashley supports her coworkers in their job duties and keeps the office humming with timely attention to supplies, invoices, payments, travel reimbursements, among many other duties. She helps answer incoming inquiries via phone and email, as well as working with community members who call with questions or concerns. She earned a BA from Michigan State University in Social Science and her MBA from Baker College. With previous experience working for MSU Extension, she is knowledgeable about the university’s systems and processes, and uses the resources she has to find answers. She truly enjoys supporting others and the meaningful work being done by MNFI. She and her husband are members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, are involved in Lansing’s City Outreach, and enjoy camping at Ludington State Park with their sons.

Kailyn Atkinson

AmeriCorps Member, Natural Heritage Specialist

Peter J. Badra

Aquatic Zoologist

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Pete’s professional interests revolve around aquatic animals and ecosystems. An early MNFI director introduced him to the plight of freshwater mussels and need for more information about them. Since joining MNFI fulltime in 1999, he has led the effort to assess the status and distribution of native unionid mussels in Michigan through field surveys and collaborative research projects. His work also includes gastropods (aquatic and land snails), macroinvertebrates, and fish in rivers, lakes, vernal pools, and Great Lakes. He provides expertise and training to professionals, governmental agencies, NGOs, and students. Snorkeling and birding with his parents as a child sparked his appreciation for the natural world, especially aquatic life. He earned a BA in Biology from Earlham College and a MS in Environmental Science from Ohio University. Some of his most enjoyable and rewarding days are spent leading field trips and workshops on mussel ecology, conservation, and identification. His free time revolves around his young family and water as well, with windsurfing, snorkeling, and cross-country skiing.

Tyler Bassett

Conservation Associate - Botanist

Joshua G. Cohen

Conservation Scientist - Lead Ecologist

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Josh has refined and revised Michigan’s natural community classification through inventory and sampling, literature research, and data analysis since joining MNFI. He also classifies conservation targets and prioritizes areas for conservation and restoration; trains resource professionals; and conducts sampling, mapping and modeling, monitoring, and surveys. His expertise in natural community types as well as hierarchical ecological classifications led to his most rewarding project – lead author of A Field Guide to the Natural Communities of Michigan. Receiving rave reviews, its detailed descriptions, distribution maps, vibrant photographs and comprehensive plant lists make it an essential reference. Growing up on California’s Monterey Peninsula, he spent hours exploring its rich native ecosystems, learning about them, and catching snakes and lizards. He earned a BA from Amherst College and a Master’s of Environmental Management at the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment. Living by Keat’s quote, “Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty,” he enjoys time with his family and stays in “ecologist shape” with nature photography, biking, cross-country skiing, and playing many sports with his kids.

David L. Cuthrell

Conservation Scientist - Lead Zoologist

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Dave conducts targeted rare species surveys and environmental reviews. His applied research and monitoring studies assist in conservation decision-making and implementation of the Michigan Wildlife Action Plan. He is deeply involved in a project to determine the statewide distribution and conservation status of Michigan’s bumble bees. He continues to study the status of insects, particularly butterflies and moths, as well as hawks and owls. In fact, he has probably seen more raptor nests than anyone in the state of Michigan. Believing that “conservation requires knowledge and action,” he disseminates information to the regional and local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and through publications, training workshops, and participation in many professional organizations. Growing up on an Iowa farm, his passion for the natural environment evolved into a fascination with entomology and animal ecology. He received his BA in Biology at the University of Northern Iowa and an MS in Entomology at North Dakota State University. When he is not chasing bugs or sloshing through prairie fens, he enjoys time with his family and umpiring baseball.

Daniel J. Earl

AmeriCorps Member, Natural Heritage Specialist

Helen D. Enander

GIS Analyst

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In her work at MNFI since 2000, Helen designs and implements geospatial projects involving mapping, web services, spatial analysis, special distribution modeling, enterprise GIS management, and spatial statistics. She enjoys computers, technology, and problem solving. She also provides technology assistance to staff working in the field. At one time a full-time dairy farmer in South Dakota, she describes her work ethic as a “task-oriented Midwestern farm girl.” She earned her BA in Biology at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. Working as a GIS technician at a forest resources firm in Kentucky, she was inspired her to pursue her MS in Geography at Murray State University. Her thirst for knowledge also led her to study geography at the doctorate level at Michigan State University. As well as enjoying time with her family, she is active as an animal rescue volunteer for several local organizations.

Rachel Hackett

Conservation Associate - Botanist

Phyllis J. Higman

Botanist and Invasive Species Lead

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Since joining MNFI in 1993, Phyllis has conducted training and education on the biodiversity conservation of Michigan’s native ecosystems; surveyed and identified plants and ecosystems, including floristic quality assessments; and conducted research, training, and education on invasive plants and climate change. Her seminal work on invasive phragmites has resulted in a regionally recognized early detection and response strategy, a framework and field guides for addressing invasive plants, support for an online or phone app system for mapping their occurrences (Midwest Invasive Species Information Network), current distribution maps, best treatment strategies, and many new partners statewide. A visit to her third grade class by Dr. William B. Stapp, the father of environmental education, inspired to her to earn her BS in Biological Sciences, her Teacher Certification from the University of Michigan, and her MS in Biological Sciences (Botany) from Central Michigan University. Believing that “people protect what they know and love,” she uses her teaching skills to inspire others to care about Michigan’s natural world, and enjoys hiking, kayaking, camping, backpacking, and photography.

Daria A. Hyde

Conservation Planner & Educator – Zoologist

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Since joining MNFI in 1994, Daria has conducted animal surveys and worked with partners to promote the protection of Michigan’s natural resources. She provides technical support to governmental agencies, collaborates with the Mitchell’s satyr Working Group to conserve this rare butterfly, and helps local communities understand and protect their natural assets. She helped to initiate vernal pool monitoring programs and coordinates citizen scientists, teachers, and students to collect data on these ecosystems. A Detroit city native, she often visited Grosse Ile, where exploration of its woods and shorelines stirred her curiosity about the natural world. She earned her BS in Wildlife Management at Michigan State University and her MS in Conservation Biology at Central Michigan University. Thesis research developed her skill to identify birds by ear and engage volunteers, before the term “citizen science” was coined. She especially enjoys working with middle and high school students, sharing her commitment to leave the world a better place. She also enjoys spending time with family and friends, hiking, birding, biking, traveling, and sharing her therapy dog with others.

Brian J. Klatt

Director

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Since 2009, Brian has led the MNFI in addressing both longstanding and emerging issues, such as biodiversity conservation and implications of wind energy development. He also works as a principal investigator in ecological studies and projects involving small mammals. Outdoor activities during his childhood included fishing, and sneaking off to the local woods, as well as an inherent interest in understanding how things (like the universe) work. This led him to ecology, especially small mammal ecology, wetlands, and conservation of biodiversity. He earned a BS and MS in Zoology/Biology from the University of Michigan and Northern Illinois University, and his PhD in Ecology from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. He has worked for federal government, the private sector, and academe, developing and teaching a class on wetland science and policy. He helped develop Wisconsin’s first biodiversity conservation policy, has been recognized for his technical work by both the business and conservation communities, is certified as a Senior Ecologist, and holds an appointment to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Kraig M. Korroch

Information Technologist

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Kraig administers and manages many aspects of the complex IT needs of the organization, including the servers, database server, website, administrative functions, rare species reviews, biotics data, and delivery of data to clients and requestors. Interested in all the sciences as a youth, Kraig started programming with Fortran as a teenager and has remained intrigued by the dramatic evolution of the IT ever since. At Michigan State University, his focus turned to nature and biology, where he earned his BS in Environmental Science. Working at MNFI since 1997, he has combined his interests in biology, the environment, technology, and computers.

Aaron Kortenhoven

Conservation Associate - Ecologist

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Since joining MNFI, Aaron’s work focuses on natural community assessment as well as avian, bat, amphibian, and botany research, using his skills in GIS analysis, plant and bird identification, mist netting, acoustic bat monitoring, large mammal immobilization, grant writing and the ability to tolerate really bad field conditions. He grew up in a remote village in Sierra Leone, where his backyard bordered a forest that was his doorway to the natural world. He raised birds, primates, antelopes, and reptiles, which he released back into the wild. After earning a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University, he returned to Sierra Leone to work in war relief efforts and coordinated the efforts of the international Cross River Gorilla research project in Nigeria. He returned to the US to earn his MS in Tropical Ecology at the University of Miami, conducting research in Sierra Leone that helped establish the Loma Mountains National Park. An avid birder, he spends as much time as possible exploring and photographing the natural wonders of Michigan with his family.

Yu Man Lee

Herpetologist

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Yu Man has conducted inventories, research, and monitoring to assess Michigan’s rare and declining animal species, particularly amphibians and reptiles, and their conservation needs since joining MNFI in 1997. Other focus areas include vernal pool mapping and monitoring, climate change vulnerability assessment, species distribution modeling, conservation planning, education and outreach, and citizen science. Growing up in New York City, she was inspired by Jacques Cousteau TV specials to become a marine biologist, only to learn she gets terribly seasick. Changing to wildlife biology, she pursued a BS in Natural Resource Management at the University of Michigan and her MS in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University. Her motto, “See a need, fill a need,” is reflected in her work with public and private partners to increase knowledge about vernal pool status, ecology, and impact on forest health, which received a Community Partnership Award from MSU Extension’s Community and Natural Resources Development Association. When not handling venomous snakes or looking for fairy shrimp, she sits on many committees and enjoys supporting her kids in their activities.

Jesse Lincoln

Conservation Associate - Ecologist

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Jesse is an ecologist and conducts vegetation surveys of state game areas. These areas are actively managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for hunters and nature lovers. This work to inventory state land involves describing and identifying important natural areas, documenting rare plants, aging of trees, and integrating these elements into wildlife management plans. With MNFI since 2010, he has always been interested in plants, factors that influence where they grow, and their interaction with the wildlife that relies on them. He enjoys identifying areas that have not been thoroughly botanized, collecting plants that have not been documented there, and submitting the collections to universities to contribute to accurate distribution maps. He also enjoys finding remnants of high-quality natural areas and working to get them protected. Exploring forests and fields as a child, his fascination for the natural world was encouraged by teachers. He earned a BS and MS in Biology from Grand Valley State University and enjoys nature photography and wandering around the state with his son.

Michael J. Monfils

Wildlife Ecologist

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Mike develops wildlife research, monitoring, and surveillance projects designed to inform conservation decisions, such as ecosystem management and restoration, and endangered species recovery. He brings substantial field experience combined with an understanding of study design requirements and analytical techniques to the development of projects that address real world conservation questions within the confines of limited funding and logistical constraints. Most of his background and experience has been with birds – waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, diurnal raptors, owls, nightjars, and songbirds. He has been deeply involved with the development of a marsh bird research and monitoring program in collaboration with conservationists from across the Midwest. Growing up hunting, fishing, camping, and skiing in northern Michigan instilled a love of the outdoors. He went on to pursue a BS in Biology at Grand Valley State University, and his MS and PhD in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University. In addition to spending recreation time with his family, he is also an avid hunter, fisherman, and birder.

John J. Paskus

Senior Conservation Scientist, Conservation Planning Discipline Lead

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John focuses on multi-scale conservation planning initiatives, ecosystem management efforts, and community based green infrastructure plans as well as policy-based research and educational workshops and materials. Since joining MNFI in 1993, he has communicated complex scientific information to governmental agencies and the public; collaborated with a wide range of organizations, agencies, and citizens; and conducted geospatial analysis and field surveys. John led an award winning, conservation planning process for I-75 in Southeast Michigan, and co-led a bi-national biodiversity conservation strategy for Lakes Erie and Michigan. His collaborative process on the Shiawassee and Huron Headwaters Preservation Project served as the prototype for NOAA’s Priority Habitat Planner tool. A trained Conservation Coach, he co-leads the central US Global Conservation Coaches Network and serves on its international board. An adjunct MSU faculty member, John also serves on the Wayne State University T-RUST advisory board. His trip to Montana as a University of Michigan student inspired him to pursue a BS in Natural Resource Management and MLA in Landscape Architecture/Regional Planning. He enjoys fishing, fly-tying, hunting, photography, and brewing craft beer.

Rebecca L. Rogers

GIS/IT Manager

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Becca works with the wide range of public, private and nonprofit organizations as well as individuals and general public seeking spatial and other Michigan Natural Heritage Database information. At MNFI since 1999, she enjoys helping interpret the data and promote the organization. As the GIS/IT Manager, she supports and participates in the scientists’ research, and coordinates closely with all staff to continuously build and maintain the most current information within the database. She has always been drawn to spatial data and geography. During an overseas study program, she visited the ITC Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation in The Netherlands. Inspired, she returned to Michigan State University to pursue her BS in Resource Development, Environmental Studies and Applications and her MS in Geographic Information Science. She shares her expertise as a trainer for Heritage Database users, a GIS teacher, and a trainer for MSUE’s Leadership and Community Engagement team. A member of the YMCA board, she enjoys biking, camping, and spending time with family and friends.

Logan Rowe

Conservation Associate - Zoologist

Michael A. Sanders

Environmental Review Specialist and Zoologist

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Mike reviews several types of development projects to determine potential impacts to protected species. Working at MNFI since 2003, it was during his first years in the organization that a 5-year marsh bird survey took him to all corners of Michigan and gave him a solid understanding of the state’s coastlines. During college, his educational field trips out west and work as a seasonal park ranger inspired him to pursue environmental work. He earned a BS in Biology at the University of Tennessee at Martin, his MA in Environmental Geography at Western Michigan University, and his MS in Wildlife Biology at Tennessee Tech University. Working as a regional planner for the Upper Cumberland Development District in Tennessee, he learned the importance of project management and teamwork. He currently also serves in the US Coast Guard Reserves and has been deployed several times for floods, hurricanes, and the Deepwater Horizon water spill. A 4-H and food bank volunteer, he enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, hiking and camping, travel and raising poultry.

Nancy Toben

Financial Officer

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Nancy brings 29 years of accounting expertise to the complex business of research grants. She works with MNFI scientists to prepare project proposals, track progress, and produce financial reports. Nancy “makes those dollars work.” She enjoys the challenge of getting projects funded and finds the high success rate at MNFI very rewarding. A native Michigander, she started accounting work at age 19, keeping the books for her father’s business. She took courses at the University of Arizona and continued to educate herself throughout her career. During a previous job at Michigan State University, her primary focus was on research and she became a member of SRA, the Society of Research Administrators. With her attention to detail and enjoyment of challenges, she developed an internal reporting system at MNFI, and likes working with MNFI partners to achieve shared goals. She enjoys walking, hiking, her two kids, her golden retriever rescue dogs, and getting the power tools out to work on a fixer upper up north.

Clay Wilton

Conservation Associate - Ecologist

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Clay delineates and classifies natural communities using GIS and field inventories to document landscape features, rare species, and high quality natural communities on state lands. At MNFI since 2017, his work here has introduced him to the diversity of Michigan’s natural communities. He has had a lifelong interest in nature and science, so it was a natural progression from exploring forests and streams as a child to becoming an ecologist. Growing up in Michigan fostered a deep interest in its natural areas and wildlife. He earned a BS in Biology from Central Michigan University and his MS in Wildlife Ecology from Mississippi State University. His field and laboratory research experience at CMU formed the foundation for using science as a tool to better understand natural resources and help inform conservation decisions. He honed his research skills designing and conducting landscape scale population inventories for large carnivores in North America and Africa. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast and enjoys wildlife photography, kayaking, birding, and hiking.