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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
Stuart Goldman, Conservation Coordinator (Western Lower Peninsula)
Stuart comes to MNA with over two decades of stewardship and ecological land management experience. He has worked for two different chapters of The Nature Conservancy, multiple government agencies at the county and state levels, and most recently as a contractor. Stuart began his career in conservation as a volunteer and continues to participate in volunteer opportunities even after entering the field professionally. He is passionate about conservation primarily at the preserve level and being able to affect positive changes that support remnant ecosystem, and especially the rare species that depend on their continued existence and integrity.
Remembering his time at the beginning of his career, he is also deeply committed to mentoring new people just starting off and working with established and new volunteers. Another major area of interest is prescribed fire. He has had the opportunity to travel to and work in many states to burn and get additional training. When not working he is usually hiking, botanizing, birding, or reading.
Contact Stuart by emailing firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Keas, Accreditation Specialist
Brian joins MNA as a part-time Accreditation Specialist to assist in preparing for Land Trust Alliance (LTA) reaccreditation in 2024. He has been part of environmental science programs at the university level for more than two decades in Ohio and northern Michigan. Currently a Research Associate in Entomology at Michigan State University, he is helping to develop a national project that provides authentic research experiences for K-8 students centered on moth diversity in their local environments. Brian has worked on ecological and conservation projects in North Carolina, Ohio, and at multiple sites in northern Michigan including the Leelanau Peninsula, Les Cheneaux Islands, and Traverse City area. He is passionate about conserving biodiversity by connecting people with their local natural areas to learn, appreciate, and care for the environment.
Born and raised in the Grand Rapids area, he began exploring creeks and forests at an early age and enjoyed camping along the beaches of Lake Michigan with family. In his free time, he enjoys trail running, gardening, finding new-to-him bugs and plants, and exploring natural areas with his wife Angie.
Contact Brian by emailing email@example.com
Sabrina Salome, Accreditation Specialist
As one of MNA's two part-time Accreditation Specialists, Sabrina prepares MNA's sanctuary and legal files for Land Trust Alliance reaccreditation in 2024. Currently, she is the laboratory manager at the Mara Hyena Project at Michigan State University, which studies spotted hyenas in Kenya's Masai Mara. She is a bird enthusiast, always looking for opportunities to donate her time toward their conservation outside of work, and has previously volunteered with Michigan Audubon. Sabrina earned her BSc in Zoology from Michigan State University, where she studied abroad in South Africa, Kenya, and Costa Rica.
Contact Sabrina by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Myers, Conservation Scientist
In his role as MNA Conservation Scientist, Andrew has a wide range of responsibilities to help advance MNA's mission including cultivating collaborations with academic institutions, performing ecological monitoring at sanctuaries, and partnering with the conservation team to help inform decisions about stewardship activities. Andrew grew up in both the metro Detroit area and in northern Michigan where a childhood love of catching frogs eventually led to a career in conservation biology. He holds a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from Michigan State University (MSU), and M.S. in Conservation Biology from the State University of New York, and a Ph.D. in Entomology from MSU where he studied monarch butterfly conservation. He has also broadened his knowledge working as a postdoctoral researcher in Plant Biology at MSU, and as an ecological consultant in California.
Andrew spends his spare time with his family chasing around two small children, mountain biking, birding, and otherwise being on the move outdoors as much as possible. He feels a deep sense of connection and belonging to the Great Lakes region and is thrilled that MNA has given him the opportunity to apply his background to help conserve its most imperiled species and natural communities for future generations.
Contact Andrew by emailing email@example.com.