MNA Staff

Garret Johnson, Executive Director

Prior to joining MNA, Garret worked in Washington, DC, where, as director of federal affairs for the Pacific Forest Trust, he led a national coalition advocating for land protection incentives in federal climate and energy legislation. Garret has also held a number of positions with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). He served as senior business adviser for TNC’s global conservation strategies division, and as assistant state director for the Michigan chapter of TNC. In addition to his work in conservation, Garret is a past vice president of The Economic Alliance for Michigan and a former policy adviser for the Michigan House of Representatives.

Contact Garret by emailing gjohnson@michigannature.org.

 

Conservation

Andrew Bacon, Conservation Director

As the head of stewardship, Andy has a vitally important position at MNA: to ensure that all land entrusted to the organization is managed to promote ecological health and reflect our mission and goals. And he has the knowledge and experience to do the job, from a bachelor's degree in fisheries and wildlife management to previous work as the director of stewardship programs at two other environmental organizations.

Passionate in his desire to conserve wildlife diversity and protect non-game wildlife, Andy always knew he would be involved in environmental work. From his days as a Boy Scout and time spent camping and fishing with his family, he discovered early in life where his interests lay.

Andy is delighted to be both living and working near Lansing, where it is easy to enjoy lunch with his wife and two young children and head home after work to watch sports. When not working on MNA stewardship projects, you will still find him outside.

Contact Andy by emailing abacon@michigannature.org.

Rachel Maranto, Conservation Manager (Lower Peninsula)

Rachel is responsible for overseeing stewardship activities, volunteers, and staff at MNA's sanctuaries in the Lower Peninsula. She has been working for volunteer-focused conservation organizations in various capacities for her entire professional career, which has led her from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest and back again. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Rachel attended college at Indiana University, earning a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Biology. She fell in love with Michigan and the Great Lakes growing up spending summers on the beach in her dad's hometown of Harbert. Rachel currently lives in Grass Lake with her wife Ashley and their two cats, Zebu and Gil. Though she still considers herself a Hoosier at heart, she's happy to call Michigan home.

Contact Rachel by emailing rmaranto@michigannature.org.

Ayden Ehgotz, Conservation Coordinator (Eastern Lower Peninsula)

Ayden is the Conservation Coordinator for the Eastern Lower Peninsula. Ayden was born and raised in Southeast Michigan, spending most of his childhood exploring the woods and creek on his family's property. Ayden studied Environmental Science with a minor in agroecology at Oakland University. During his time there he worked as a university tour guide as well as a student farm manager. After graduating, Ayden spent a year volunteering with MNA and working as a natural resource technician at Oakland County Parks and Recreation. He also started a small farm with his family, taking fresh produce to a small farmers market in Detroit. Ayden's goal for this position is to protect some of the rare communities he grew up around, as well as educate young people on the importance of our natural areas to inspire the next generation of conservationists. In his free time, Ayden enjoys gardening, keeping aquariums, hiking, birdwatching, cooking, traveling, and trying new foods.

Contact Ayden by emailing aehgotz@michigannature.org.

Bill Atkinson, Conservation Coordinator (Thumb Area)

Bill joins MNA as the Thumb Area Regional Stewardship Organizer and oversees steward activities in this region. No stranger to MNA, Bill has served as a steward or co-steward for four nature sanctuaries and often lends a hand to many others. In 2010, he was recognized as a Volunteer of the Year for his outstanding contributions. In 2017, to honor Bill's years of exceptional volunteerism, he was awarded the Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award - one of our highest honors.

Bill is a native of Michigan who grew up in Port Huron and has always had an interest in the outdoors. He holds an associate's degree in business and has always had an interest in the outdoors. He and his wife Mary have three grown children and three grandchildren who enjoy hiking together. In addition to volunteering for MNA, the Atkinson family has also adopted a local county park to monitor and maintain.

Contact Bill by emailing batkinson@michigannature.org.

Nancy Leonard, Conservation Coordinator (Keweenaw)

Nancy, with husband Bill at her side, oversees the care of the western Upper Peninsula sanctuaries and plant preserves. Her educational background includes BS and MS degrees in the field of Education. Former experiences as a teacher, retail business owner, and community organizer serve her well in stewardship planning and organizing.

Nancy is thrilled to serve MNA in her beloved Keweenaw and her off-time interests dovetail readily with on-time duties. When not camping in the west or sailing on Lake Superior with Bill, you can find Nancy either birding, botanizing, hiking, biking, kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing, gardening, or reading, writing, and sketching at home on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Contact Nancy by emailing nleonard@michigannature.org.

Natalie Kent-Norkowski, Land Protection Technician

In a new role after years of stewardship work, Natalie now works to update and manage the organization’s sanctuary and legal files. She is also responsible for the GIS mapping used in sanctuary management, acquisition, and communications projects. She has a bachelor's degree in zoology, which (together with her knowledge of MNA sanctuaries) has proven invaluable in her new role.

Monarch butterflies, pink lady’s slipper orchids, and tadpoles first captured Natalie’s interests as a child growing up in Grayling. A trip to study ecology in Kenya cemented her love of nature. These experiences provided Natalie with a new perspective on the importance of protecting the world’s natural places, and the need for public understanding of conservation.

Living near Lansing with her husband Travis, Natalie enjoys hiking, gardening, beekeeping, and working on various hobby farm projects in her downtime; her small flock of chickens continues to provide eggs for friends, family, and the local food bank.

Contact Natalie by emailing nkent@michigannature.org.

 

Outreach & Education

Abby Pointer, Vernal Pools Partnership Coordinator

Abby joined MNA in the summer of 2022 as the Vernal Pools Partnership Coordinator. Her work is primarily dedicated to facilitating the Michigan Vernal Pools Partnership (MVPP), a collaborative, statewide partnership focused on the conservation, research and mapping, and education around vernal pools. Abby is passionate about the diversity of relationships humans have with the natural world, which was fostered by her degree in Conservation Biology from Michigan State University, her previous experience working with a conservation non-profit organizations based in Uganda, and Americorps work with the Michigan DNR.

Abby lives in Detroit with her partner, and enjoys nurturing her porch garden, yoga, crafting, and spending time outside!

Contact Abby by emailing apointer@michigannature.org.

Lauren Ross, Communications and Events Coordinator

Lauren is a photographer, researcher, and writer who joined MNA in spring 2019. Growing up in Michigan, she could often be found reading a book in a tree - and now enjoys using her skills to share the beauty of the state with others, as a way to inspire them to preserve natural habitats. Having been inspired herself, Lauren understands the impact that a story and a photograph can have on a person's perception of the world, and so dedicates her time to sharing as many stories and pictures as possible. In past roles, Lauren has worked hard at understanding the ways people interact with their environments, both in terms of culture and economics, and in how they treat the land the live on.

After completing an associate's degree in Photography at Lansing Community College, Lauren attended Michigan State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities, and studied abroad in England, France, and South Africa. She loves to travel, kayak, camp, and hike.

Contact Lauren by emailing lross@michigannature.org.

 

Operations

Carol Schulz, Finance and Administration Director

Carol joined MNA in the spring of 2020 to provide management of the financial and administrative functions. She brings a varied background of finance and accounting to MNA having spent a career with the State of Michigan, specifically with the State Building Authority and Real Estate Division. Carol’s love of nature and wildlife began while growing up on a farm in Brighton. She currently lives with her family on a small horse farm in Rives Junction where she rides and trains dressage horses. She continues to enjoy nature by hiking, birdwatching and summer trips to the Upper Peninsula. 

Contact Carol by emailing cschulz@michigannature.org

Lorenzo Kleine, Member Services & Administrative Coordinator

Lorenzo joined MNA in June 2021 and is responsible for providing daily administrative and membership support. While he has always held a strong affinity for the natural world, Lorenzo spent most of his professional career helping manage performing arts organizations, most recently as Director of Operations of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. He is excited to be shifting his skills in this new direction and ready to help MNA preserve the most noteworthy natural communities the state has to offer.

Prior to joining MNA, Lorenzo spent time at Allen County Parks working in trail maintenance and currently serves as President of the Stockbridge Audubon Society in Fort Wayne. While he grew up in Connecticut, Lorenzo has lived and worked in such varied locales as Montréal, Washington State, South Carolina, and Alaska. While Wasabi, his cat, demands much of his spare time, Lorenzo also enjoys birding, cooking, traveling, and playing ice hockey.

Contact Lorenzo by emailing lkleine@michigannature.org