Wheeler, Erica

Wheeler, Erica

Erica Wheeler is a ‘sense of place’ artist and educator. She combines her career as an award-winning singer/songwriter with her background as an aspiring wildlife field biologist and her expertise working with educators, parks, museums and conservation organizations.

Erica brings two decades of experience as a performer, and over a decade of experience as a speaker and educator. She also brings her lifelong passion for place, nature, history, culture, and her expertise working with parks, museums, schools and conservation organizations. Erica’s work helps to foster the personal connections between people and place, helping people enjoy places more today, and take care of places for the future.

Her mission is to inspire the stewardship of our natural and cultural resources by helping people enrich and explore their own ‘sense of place.’

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Weber, Jill

Jill Weber is a consulting biologist and ecologist who has worked in Maine for over twenty years. She received her Bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of Northern Colorado and her Master’s degree in botany from the University of Maine. Following a brief post-graduate stint as a tree physiology researcher, Jill turned her attention to consulting. Much of the early work consisted of inventories of public and private lands to locate rare plant populations. As new approaches to plant conservation biology evolved, Jill’s projects became more ecological in nature.

With associate Sally Rooney, Jill has assisted the Nature Conservancy, the Maine Department of Conservation, various land trusts, and Acadia National Park. Projects for Acadia include sampling for a vegetation map, development of rare plant management plans for the Park’s rare plant species, and a study of the abundance and distribution of invasive plant species at Acadia. In 2010 she and coauthors Glen Mittelhauser, Linda Gregory and Sally Rooney published The Plants of Acadia National Park, a guide to the vascular flora of the region. She recently assisted with the development of the New England Wild Flower Society’s Go Botany plant identification website and she is currently serving as a Dixon Schoodic Scholar.

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Torbit, Stephen

Stephen Torbit earned his Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Colorado State University specializing in ungulate nutritional ecology. Since earning his doctorate, Steve has worked in every aspect of wildlife conservation. He not only has been an academician, by continuing on the faculty of Colorado State as an instructor and researcher, but he has also worked as a biologist for two state wildlife agencies (Colorado and Wyoming). While with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, he was presented with the “Wildlife Professional of the Year” award by the Colorado Wildlife Federation. He has managed wildlife habitats, wildlife populations and served as a wildlife advocate to development proponents, federal and state agencies.

In 1993, Steve brought his research, agency and management experience to bear on wildlife conservation issues in the west for the National Wildlife Federation. He assisted NWF in their policy development concerning the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. Steve has also served as an expert witness in many legal forums including federal district court. In addition, Steve has served as technical advisor for over 10 NWF wildlife films broadcast on PBS and the Turner Broadcast System and large format (IMAX) films. Steve has served as technical advisor, writer and on-camera commentator.

Steve’s duties with NWF also included oversight of NWF operations in an 8-state region that included assisting the indigenous tribal people of the western U.S. in the restoration of wildlife and guidance on energy development for their reservations. He remained intimately involved in conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat on public and tribal lands. Steve led both the public and tribal lands programs including working on behalf of wildlife in the face of massive energy development on public lands.

For his work on behalf of bison restoration, Steve was presented the first annual “Friends of the Buffalo” award from the InterTribal Bison Cooperative. Steve also works with tribal governments to restore other components of their prairie ecosystems, serving both as a technical consultant to the tribes and as an advocate to the federal government for the tribes. He has assisted with the reintroduction Black-footed ferrets on the Ft. Belknap and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservations and with the management of wolves by the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho and Mexican wolves on the White Mountain Apache reservation. Steve served as the Regional Executive Director of NWF’s Rocky Mountain Natural Center in Boulder, Colorado. Steve retired from the National Wildlife Federation in 2011 after nearly 19 years on the NWF staff. Steve returned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now serves as the Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications in Region 6 at the Denver Regional Office. He continues to be involved in nearly every aspect of modern wildlife conservation in his new role.

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MacDonald, Richard

Richard MacDonald has a diverse background rooted in science, natural history, and adventure, with a curriculum vitae that reads a bit like an action novel.

Taking a year off from university to earn money for his continued studies became an eight-year hiatus that saw Rich working atop Whiteface Mountain, located in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, studying the effects of acid rain on high elevation forests. These studies, which led to broader studies of climate change, saw him tromping the massive Whiteface massif to remote field sites during all hours of the day and night, driving snow-cats to the summit during the winter research program, climbing 24-meter (80-foot) spruce trees to sample foliage.

During this time, Rich simultaneously pursued his passion for everything bird. Initially, he worked part-time for the Audubon Society, studying the colonial waterbirds of Lake Champlain. Eventually, he joined the science staff of The Nature Conservancy where his studies focused on both waterbirds and the boreal birds of northern forests.

To supplement his ardent passion for the natural world, early on Rich added guiding and instructing to his repertoire, leading bird tours, teaching paddling skills, and touring the Adirondack Mountains on telemark skis. In 1997, he founded the Lake Champlain Sea Kayak Institute. And in 2002, Rich left his position with The Nature Conservancy to co-lead a five-month educational sea kayak expedition, the Gulf of Maine Expedition, along with Natalie Springuel, who afterwards became his wife.

Today, Rich lives in Bar Harbor, Maine, with Natalie and their five-year-old daughter, Anouk. He is the director of The Natural History Center, leading nature and adventure tours, and studying the birds of coastal Maine. Among his many projects, he is writing a bird book for this region.

Since 2005, Rich and his wife have co-directed the education team on special cruise-ship charters for the National Public Radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. And in January of this year, he was a naturalist on a small ship that went to Antarctica. Rich regularly writes about nature and outdoor adventure for a variety of publications. He is a graduate of the State University of New York where he studied field biology.

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Lackey, Carl

Carl Lackey is a wildlife biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1990 obtaining a degree in renewable natural resources with an emphasis on wildlife management. He has been with the Nevada Department of Wildlife since 1993. From 1996 to present he has been the predator and furbearer biologist for the western Nevada region, and has conducted research on black bears and mountain lions in their geographic range in this part of the state. He is a member of several sportsmen’s conservation organizations involved with augmenting numerous species of wildlife in the state and conducting habitat improvement projects. Carl is married with two sons and they enjoy hunting, fishing, camping and hiking together.

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Hicks, Al

Al Hicks has toiled for years and years on behalf of New York state wildlife as an endangered species biologist with the state’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation. In January, 2007, however, his life changed with the news of a mysterious disease that had been discovered near Albany that would soon be wiping out entire bat colonies. Since then, Al has led a national effort studying what has become known as white-nose syndrome from his Albany base of operations, doing extensive field and lab research and passing along news of the spread of the disease and potential checks to media outlets from Time magazine to network television.

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Hansen, Lonnie

Lonnie Hansen is a resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation working mostly on elk and deer. He is an Illinois native and received a B.S. in zoology from Western Illinois University in 1971 and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Illinois in 1978. Before moving to Missouri, he was a research biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (1978-1987) working on squirrels and deer. He has been with the Missouri Department of Conservation for 24 years. Lonnie is primarily responsible for deer and elk research, assessing deer population status, public attitudes toward deer and deer hunting, proposing hunting regulations for deer seasons, and more recently elk.

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Halfpenny, Jim

Jim Halfpenny is an author, scientist, educator whose interest in COLD (altitudinal, latitudinal, and seasonal) has taken him to all seven continents and Greenland. Jim’s specialties include environmental ecology, animal tracking, and carnivores; his greatest academic love, bears, led to 22 years studying black, grizzly and polar bears. He also works with wolverine, lynx, cougar and wolves. Jim has written over 30 books and videos including his latest, Yellowstone Bears in the Wild and Track Plates for Mammals. He led the American East Greenland expeditions in 1975 and 1976 and is a Fellow of the Explorer’s Club and received the Antarctic Service medal. Jim is past Chairman of the Board of Directors, senior instructor, and past administrative liaison officer of the National Outdoor Leadership School. Currently Jim is President of A Naturalist’s World, an ecological education company. A past Research Fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Jim was Director of the Mountain Research Station and the Long-Term Ecological Research program in the Alpine. He is listed in Who’s Who in the World 1989-1993, Who’s Who in Emerging Leaders 1989-1996, Who’s Who in Western America 1987-1997 and Who’s Who In Science.

A Vietnam veteran, Jim received the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V” and Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm. Jim received his Ph.D. in 1980 in Biology, Ecology, & Mammalogy from the University of Colorado. He received his B.S. in 1969 and M.S. in 1970 both in Botany & Ecology from 2010 Family Summits Classes – Lake Tahoe, California the University of Wyoming. At the University of Wyoming, Jim was on the President’s Academic Honor Roll, University of Wyoming and a four-year letterman in diving, swimming and water polo.

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Hadden, Lee

Lee Hadden has been a vacationer in the Adirondacks all of his life, beginning with his parents taking him and his sisters as children [actually before he can remember going as a baby], and that vacation tradition continues as he and his own children [and his mother and family friends] still gather at Indian Lake every August. He is Professor of Biology at Wingate University in Wingate, NC. He received the BS in Biology from Muhlenberg College and the MA and Ph. D. in Biology from Wake Forest University. Lee has taught college students for over 40 years and is beginning his 34th year at Wingate University.

He is the father of three children, one of whom, Christi, is in her 7th year as a Summit faculty member. He is also a colleague at Wingate University of Marilyn Hartness, another veteran Summiteer. Lee has taught a wide selection of college biology courses including Environmental Biology and Microbiology, and currently teaches Plant Biology, Human Biology, and Scanning Electron Microscopy. His favorite classroom is the out-of-doors and his favorite style is a “walk and talk” format.

He enjoys nature, camping, kayaking, canoeing and sailing, gardening, and woodworking and coppersmithing. As a woodworker, he appreciates trees beyond their biology, and enjoys using “nature’s art” in his work as well as photographing plants typifying “nature’s sculpture” in general. He is thrilled to be a “Summiteer” for the second time [his first time was at the Summit in 2002 at Big Sky].

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DenDanto, Dan

Dan DenDanto is the creator of Whales and Nails. He has been cleaning, articulating and restoring whale skeletons professionally since 1993. He strives to create dynamic exhibits which convey more about the animals’ lives than their deaths. Dan’s knowledge of whale anatomy and extensive experience in the field contribute to his extraordinary ability to accurately display the remains of these magnificent creatures.

Dan is the Director of the Fin Whale Catalog and a Senior Scientist at Allied Whale, a Research Associate at College of the Atlantic, Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Maine’s School of Marine Sciences, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of CETOS Research Organization. The research Dan has been involved in includes the genetics, life history, population, phylogenetics and culture of whales in the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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