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.
Peter J. Badra
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 full time 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.
Conservation Associate - Botanist
Tyler studies the ecology of natural communities and the rare plant species they support. Through a growing understanding of how they function, where they occur, why they occur there, and why they are important, his work informs the conservation and restoration of key elements of biodiversity in Michigan and beyond. He advances these goals in four primary ways: 1) by documenting and monitoring rare plant species populations through focused surveys and coordinating with partners that contribute data; 2) by utilizing data collected by MNFI scientists and from the published literature to better understand the ecology of and predict the distribution of rare species; 3) by mapping plant community composition and structure onto environmental variation in natural communities, to aid in the classification and management of those communities, and 4) through collaborations with a diversity of public and private researchers and land managers that help to understand and enact conservation efforts. His career as a botanist, ecologist, restoration practitioner, and land manager spans 20 years. With MNFI since 2018, he carries forward a broad knowledge of ecology and restoration, and in particular a passion for understanding and restoring the fragmented prairie-savanna landscapes of the upper Midwest. He holds a B.S. in Biology from Western Michigan University, and a PhD in Plant Biology, and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior from Michigan State University.
Sarah supports the MNFI team by assisting with general office duties, payroll processing, and effort reporting calculations. She fulfills book orders placed online and via phone and email inquiries, and processes accounts payable and accounts receivable payments. Sarah utilizes the University’s travel system to process travel reimbursements for all MNFI team members. She earned a BA from Michigan State University in Communications. Sarah comes from a construction background and has thrived in the MNFI culture. As she learns and grows within MSU Extension and MNFI, she is inspired by the work being done by the group throughout the state. Sarah enjoys working out and taking weekend trips to Pentwater and the Upper Peninsula with her family.
Joshua G. Cohen
Senior Conservation Scientist - Lead Ecologist
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.
Conservation Associate - Zoology
Ashley joined MNFI in 2018 after spending the last 6 years working as a biologist in Kalamazoo, MI where she led projects on imperiled Lepidopteran species, fire effects, and climate change. A native Iowan, she received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Policy at Drake University, where she gained life-long mentors and eco-friends, as well as an introduction to fieldwork and prescribed fire. Ashley relocated to Michigan after spending several years abroad working with children in South Korea, environmental non-profits in the Peruvian Amazon, and then completing a Master's in Conservation Biology at the University of Alberta in 2013. In Michigan, she has worked extensively with many imperiled butterfly species, including the federally endangered Mitchell's satyr butterfly, for which she established a captive propagation program and facility. The conservation of rare habitats is what motivates Ashley's career in the natural sciences. She is an active member of the Lepidopterists' Society, fluent in climate change interpretation, and earnestly enjoys helping people better understand the natural world around them. Ashley lives in Kalamazoo where she enjoys volunteering, drinking coffee with her book club, and spending time with her husband, two dogs, and backyard chickens.
David L. Cuthrell
Conservation Scientist - Lead Zoologist
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.
Research Assistant - Zoologist
Dan works as a Zoology Research Assistant where he works to support science staff on a wide range of projects conserving Michigan’s wildlife. Dan earned his BS from Central Michigan University and his MS from Purdue University Fort Wayne. Ever since leaving undergrad he found a passion working with rare wildlife in Michigan, largely through serving two yearlong terms with MNFI as a Huron Pines AmeriCorps member. Afterwards, he stayed on with MNFI seasonally working with rare turtle research in Michigan as part of his master’s research until joining MNFI full time in 2022. He continues to work to use and improve his knowledge about rare wildlife and heritage methodology to assist in conservation for rare species in Michigan with a focus on herpetofauna and insects. In his free time, he can be found travelling across the state to new areas, playing board games with friends, or learning how to paint.
Helen D. Enander
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.
Conservation Associate - Botanist
Elizabeth has over 10 years of experience working in the private, public, and academic sectors as a botanist and plant ecologist. Starting in June of 2021, she became a conservation associate at MNFI and has since worked on projects where she and colleagues conducted rare plant surveys, natural community characterizations, invasive plant surveys, and plant community ecology surveys. Prior to her work at MNFI, Elizabeth has worked in the Great Lakes region for the Wisconsin DNR where she worked in aquatic and wetland ecosystems on wetland mitigation, aquatic macrophyte monitoring and research, and wetland condition assessments; the University of Michigan where she taught field- and lab-based botany courses and held a research assistantship at the University of Michigan's Herbarium; and for ecological restoration organizations where she focused on habitat rehabilitation and invasive species control. Elizabeth also has botanical experience working elsewhere in the world, including Madagascar where she built a phylogeny of a major radiation of the genus Croton (Euphorbiaceae) and the Caribbean Netherlands where she studied the spatial and ecological impacts of invasive plant species. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in Plant Biology and an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys hiking, going on rare plant treasure hunts, and cooking vegetarian food using local ingredients.
Conservation Associate - Botanist
Rachel uses her botanical skills to delineate and classify natural communities, document species habitat, combat invasive wetland plant species, and study plants of conservation or cultural interest. She also enjoys conducting science education, especially student-led inquiry. She loved playing outdoors as a child, but in 6th grade she learned of efforts to preserve tropical rainforests, specifically the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (Bosque Eterno de los Niños), and grew passionate about the environment and conservation. She earned her BS in Environmental Science at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After seven years of working in informal science education in Michigan, Costa Rica, and the Pacific Northwest, she returned to school to earn her MS and PhD from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Her studies focused on understanding drivers of plant diversity in Michigan's prairie fen wetlands and utilizing technologies like remote sensing in ecological studies. The AmeriCorps motto of "Get[ing] things done" stuck with her after her service terms, and she devotes her free time to volunteering, hiking, bicycling, baking, board games, trivia, and crafts.
Phyllis J. Higman
Botanist and Invasive Species Lead
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.
Brian J. Klatt
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
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.
Conservation Scientist - Ecologist
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
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 community 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.
Conservation Associate - Ecologist
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.
Research Assistant - Botanist
Julie joined MNFI as a Botany Research Assistant in 2022. She received her MS in Conservation Ecology and Environmental Informatics from University of Michigan (2015) and has worked for various conservation and land management organizations including The Nature Conservancy in Montana and Indiana, Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, and most recently Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy. Her professional interests include rare plant surveys, ecological restoration, prescribed fire, and GIS. She spends her free time with her dog Steven and enjoys gardening, knitting, backpacking and birding.
Michael J. Monfils
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.
Research Assistant - Botany
Amber joined MNFI as a Botany Research Assistant in 2022. With bachelor and masters degrees in biology, she has held seasonal positions doing a little bit of everything, from soil sampling to bird banding, and floral phenology to deer population monitoring. Since college, Amber's mission has been the same as MNFI's -- to do science that informs conservation. While her past research has focused on animal behavior and human-wildlife interactions, she arrived with a new focus on aquatic plants and an interest in invasive plant species. She is always looking for opportunities to spread excitement and wonder at the natural world, through demonstrations, analogies, maps, graphs, photos, computer simulations, and conversations. In addition to being outside, Amber enjoys video games, recreational mathematics, reading, and board games.
Rebecca L. Rogers
Becca works with the wide range of public, private and nonprofit organizations as well as individuals seeking to connect with Michigan's Natural Heritage Database. At MNFI since 1999, she enjoys helping interpret the data and promoting 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. At Michigan State University she pursued her BS in Resource Development, Environmental Studies and Applications as well as an MS in Geographic Information Science. She shares her expertise as a trainer for Heritage Database users, she is a GIS adjunct faculty member, and a trainer for MSUE's Leadership and Community Engagement team. She also enjoys biking, camping, and spending time with family and friends.
GIS Research Assistant
Courtney is a part of the GIS team that works to enhance Michigan's Natural Heritage Database. She streamlines data entry, assists with staff training, and ensures data quality. She also supports MNFI staff research by developing surveys, maps and apps to promote their work, and assists in the field surveying for rare insects, herps and raptors. She earned her BS in Biology from University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and travelled across the country for various seasonal positions after graduation. With a desire to move back to the Midwest and work towards a career in GIS, she came to Michigan to serve two Huron Pines AmeriCorps terms with MNFI. During her service, she gained a strong understanding of Natural Heritage work and ArcGIS software. She also completed her Professional GIS Certificate through the onGEO Program at Michigan State University. She enjoys camping, biking, cooking, and board games with friends.
Conservation Associate - Zoologist
Logan joined MNFI in 2018 as a Conservation Associate and works primarily with rare and declining insects in Michigan. He received his BS from Western Michigan University (2012), his MS from Michigan State University (2017), and has spent the past 8 years committed to the conservation of imperiled insects and their associated habitats. His previous work includes habitat monitoring, host-plant use, and conservation of Karner blue and Monarch butterflies, effects of climate change and precipitation extremes on populations of fireflies, and the response of plant/pollinator communities to habitat restoration implementation and management. At MNFI, Logan is involved in projects that assess the current and future distributions of bumble bees, response of bumble bees to habitat management, and targeted survey efforts for bees, butterflies, moths, and other imperiled insect species. Logan is also highly active in the extension of conservation science and will regularly present at local, state, and national meetings.
Michael A. Sanders
Environmental Review Specialist and Zoologist
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.
Conservation Associate - Botanist
Scott developed a love for botany while working at a campground as a teenager alongside an amateur botanist. He received his BS in Biology from Western Michigan University. At Michigan State University, he received his PhD in Plant Biology with a focus on dendrochronology—the study of tree rings. He has published papers on the reconstruction of paleoclimate and on forest productivity under ongoing climate change. Throughout graduate school, he continued to nurture his passion for field botany and a dream of working at MNFI. Scott enjoys finding previously unknown examples of rare plants and quality natural communities. An avid collector, he always watches for new county records and contributes specimens to three Michigan herbaria. He is a member of the Huron Valley Chapter of the Michigan Botanical Club and an associate at the Michigan State University Herbarium. Scott has hiked around much of eastern North America, including the entire Appalachian Trail.
Conservation Associate - Ecologist
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.