Nongame Wildlife Program Staff and Contributors

a white woman looking down at a small kestrel she is holdingKristin A. L. Hall, Nongame Wildlife Program Supervisor. As the Nongame Wildlife Program Supervisor, I am honored to assist and support our talented wildlife diversity team in their important work, protecting species, enhancing habitats, collaborating with partners, engaging the public and celebrating our incredible natural resource heritage.

Kristin’s wildlife story: I’ve always been an outdoor person, from being a farm kid, to camping and hiking as an adult, but my wildlife story came into focus thanks to a western tanager. It was the first (non-backyard) bird I identified on my own. I was a freshman in college at the University of Montana, taking ornithology and it wasn’t clicking. I was having lunch outside by the river near campus and a male western tanager perched on a branch above me, singing and preening like I wasn’t even there. I had such a clear and amazing view. I finally got it! I credit that specific bird with changing my career path!!

 

a woman holding a tern and smiling at the camera

Jessica RuthenbergWildlife Engagement Supervisor. I am leading the development of a Wildlife Viewing Plan in support of the Nongame Wildlife Program and supervise a dynamic team dedicated to engaging Minnesotans in the state’s incredible wildlife through community science, communications, education, and wildlife viewing.

Jessica’s wildlife story: All my life, I’ve had a love of wildlife and nature—from joyfully watching the birds, rabbits, chipmunks, and butterflies in our suburban backyard; to excitedly exploring the outdoors on family camping and hiking trips. However, my wildlife journey truly began in my early twenties when I moved from Michigan to California and began enthusiastically observing all the new western birds and taking adventures out west. A trip to Sequoia National Park forever changed my life when I was so moved by its awe-inspiring groves of Giant Sequoias and its picturesque Crescent Meadow teaming with Black Bears of every color that I decided to begin a new career in wildlife conservation. After completing graduate school, I took an ornithology field course at the University of Michigan’s Biostation in Northern Michigan. I’ll always remember this particularly incredible moment when our class was birding in the Upper Peninsula. We were in a forest, huddled together on a tiny bridge over a creek, when a Bald Eagle descended and hovered over us while songbirds of all kinds flocked around us—our class went crazy over all the up-close sightings! I was over the moon about birds after taking this class and knew they would become a major focus of my career.

 

a white woman smilingAlison Cariveau, State Wildlife Grants Coordinator. I manage federal grants and supports projects to conserve Minnesota’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Alison’s wildlife story: Awesome wildlife moments include wolf puppies playing in Denali, a troupe of baboons eating in Tanzania, a brand-new elk calf standing for the first time, a warbling vireo singing while weaving its nest, startling a young brown bear onto hind feet, and floating on a wooden raft amongst giant river otters in Manu, Peru.

 

a white man smiling in natureDaren Carlson, State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) Monitoring Coordinator. I coordinate monitoring and data activities related to Wildlife Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their habitats. I basically deal with everything data related and is the staff historian for SWAP; an important plan first developed in 2005 and updated every 10 years for conserving Minnesota’s rare wildlife.

Daren’s wildlife story: When I was about 5 years old, my parents returned to their home state of Minnesota to a new housing development in a Twin Cities suburb. What had once been an oak forest with numerous wetlands was now some remaining oak trees with houses, roads and wetlands in between. Shortly after moving in, my brother and I came across a big turtle walking down the bike path between two ponds behind our house. It was beautiful with yellow on its face, and it looked and acted more like a wise old tortoise. We brought it to my dad, who contacted a reptile expert. We learned it was a female Blanding’s turtle about 80 years old and probably looking for a place to lay its eggs. Since its habitat was now mostly gone, it was relocated. That was a pivotal moment in my life’s interest in herps (reptiles and amphibians), and in my understanding of the importance to conserve habitat for all wildlife.

 

a white woman smilingGaea Crozier, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I conduct surveys, monitoring, and research projects and provide technical guidance for nongame wildlife species in northeastern MN.

Gaea’s wildlife story: When I moved to northern Minnesota, I fell in love with this area for its beauty, wild areas, and amazing wildlife. From seeing my first moose during a northern goshawk survey to kayaking a remote lake looking for loons and finding a colony of black terns instead to the intense stare of a great gray owl peering down from its nest as I tried to sneak away, I knew this was where I wanted to be and this was the type of work I wanted to do. You never know what you are going to see or learn when you walk into the woods, which makes this work so exciting!

 

a white person smiling. They are in a boat with other people in the background.Mags Edwards (they/them), Community Science Program Coordinator. I’m responsible for developing community science projects that support at-risk wildlife and provide opportunities for Minnesotans to participate in conservation science.

Mags’ wildlife story: I’ve been a wildlife enthusiast since I was old enough to wander around trying to catch lions in the field and woods behind our house, using the pool skimmer as a net. Although no lions were encountered (probably for the best) I did see plenty of trees, flowers, fish, turtles, salamanders, birds, butterflies, and other native wildlife. Scientific exploration is a way of life for me, and I’m very fortunate to have a career where I can pursue my passion and share it with others.

 

a white woman smiling. she is holding a snake in her handLisa Gelvin-Innvaer, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. Like nature, my work in the southern region is highly diverse. It’s aimed at studying and conserving wildlife as well as the habitats they need to survive and thrive, primarily in the tallgrass prairie. My major focus is on monitoring wildlife populations to better understand their status, conservation needs, and how they respond to habitat changes. I then help to translate those findings into technical guidance and outreach that helps others to conserve, restore, restore, appreciate and enjoy.

Lisa’s wildlife story: I spent every summer of my childhood at my family’s woodland cottage along a lake. Nearly all of my time was spent outdoors, often exploring. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by whatever creeped, crawled or flew. A budding scientist, I even took notes on where I found them, what they looked like and how they behaved. I never outgrew my curiosity nor my desire to make a difference for the wildlife and wild places I so loved. For me, being a biologist is not just what I do but a way of life.

 

a woman smiling in her handJulia Geschke, Wildlife Action Plan Planner. I am assisting with the revision of the Minnesota Wildlife Action Plan to create its third generation for 2025 – 2035

Julia's wildlife story: I have always been interested in wildlife, but I’ll admit I didn’t really get into birding until my early twenties. I was working at the Cleveland Metroparks when a coworker mentioned that there was a big birding festival happening that weekend, about an hour away near Toledo. I decided to go on a whim and that was my first time attending the “Biggest Week in American Birding” at Magee Marsh, in an area known as “The Warbler Capital of the World.” That day, I saw so many bird species I’d never seen before, most of them warblers. Black-throated blue, prothonotary, yellow, Cape May, black-throated green, yellow-rumped, palm, blackburnian…I was stunned by how colorful, quick, and tiny they were, and had lots of fun trying to get good pictures of them with my camera. Since then, I’ve fully become a birder and I dedicate lots of time each spring and fall to find as many warbler species as I can. When I see a species for the first time each season, it feels like re-connecting with an old friend.

 

a white woman smilingBridget Henning-Randa, Endangered Species Consultant. I work on policies and procedures regarding endangered species and provide technical guidance to DNR staff and the public on compliance with state and federal endangered species law. I also run the permitting program for state endangered and threatened species.

Bridget’s wildlife story: As a graduate student, I conducted research in a village in Papua New Guinea. While there, I was almost always accompanied by one of my assistants from the village. On my very first solo excursion, I headed up to a ridge top where I could get cell phone service, and as I reached the top of a hill found myself face to face with a northern cassowary- as known as one of the most dangerous birds in the world. My heart raced as I backed away and let it pass. I was amazed by what I saw and excitedly called home after I reached the ridge top. Later that day when I returned to the village and relayed my brush with death, my assistants from the village broke out in laughter. It was actually a tame cassowary that one of the villagers had raised, and I was at no risk at all.

 

a white man smiling, holding up a large fishAndrew HerbergCamp Ripley Animal Survey CoordinatorI help conduct research and manage wildlife populations, including state and federally listed threatened and endangered species, at Department of Military Affairs (DMA) properties throughout Minnesota.

Andrew’s wildlife story: Much of my childhood was spent knee deep in our neighborhood pond catching amphibians, fish, and aquatic insects. Days spent filling my minnow net and checking species off in my field guides built a curiosity for the natural world that continues to this day. I’m still happiest with a dip net in hand, meandering through wetlands trying to get a glimpse into the world just below the surface.

 

a white woman smilingErica Hoaglund, Regional Nongame Wildlife Specialist Senior. I work in central and southeastern Minnesota to protect, understand and advocate for our nongame wildlife heritage and help people connect with it in a meaningful way.

Erica's wildlife story: I found my way to a passion for wildlife in a non-traditional manner. I grew up in Saint Paul’s Midway neighborhood connected to nature by urban gardening, swimming in the Mississippi River and playing in the mud. My first memorable wildlife experiences revolve around peeking into the nests the birds built in my grandparent’s hanging flower baskets and chasing the toads and insects that inhabited their garden! Now I work with snakes, bees, eagles, turtles, and just about everything in between and love showing people the adventures you can have experiencing wildlife right outside your window.

 

a man staring at the camera and smilingJayden Jech, Loon Specialist. I promote the conservation and restoration of common loons in Minnesota by conducting surveys, developing “Loon-Friendly Lake” management plans, supporting stewardship through public outreach and engagement, and more! My work is part of the Minnesota Loon Restoration Project.

Jayden's wildlife story: My first day working with loons, I was called to respond to an injured loon. Veterinarians determined the bird ingested a lethal amount of lead fishing tackle. Since, I have been inspired to continue to work toward supporting loon conservation and have continued to be amazed by their charismatic calls, unique life history, and ability to inspire and unite people.

 

a man smiling in front of a windowChris Jennelle, Wildlife Action Plan Biometrician. I work with biologists to design studies, analyze data, and assess population trends of Minnesota Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).

Chris's wildlife story: One of my favorite moments connecting with the natural world was on the day of my son’s birth when I accidentally discovered a ruby-throated hummingbird nest in my backyard. Despite looking very hard for one for many years, they always eluded me, and on this special day when I was not even trying to find one, a female hummingbird simply showed it to me. Nature speaks to us every day if we would look and listen.

 

a white woman smiling, holding up a frogKrista Larson, Nongame Research Biologist. I design, coordinate, and implement research, survey, and monitoring projects on nongame wildlife around the state with a focus on species that are rare or declining to better understand their status, distribution, abundance, natural history, and management needs

Krista's wildlife story: I’ve always been fascinated by animals that fly.  As a kid, each summer I spent two weeks near Bemidji fishing with my dad.  Admittedly at that age I preferred sitting on the dock and watching the eagles and osprey dive-bomb the water to catch fish rather than fishing myself.  Some years the horseflies were just brutal.  Until I was saved…by a dragonfly.  One year, sitting very still, I had (what I know now to be) a massive, beautiful dragonfly called a Dragonhunter land on my big toe.  It flew off, intercepted a horsefly in mid-air, and then landed back on my toe to consume its meal.  I was not bothered by the horseflies again because I had my dragonfly protector.  And there began my fascination with one of the most amazing, agile, zippy fliers in the animal world.  To this day, every summer I look forward to the return of dragonflies to my big toe -- and for many, many more reasons than their choice of diet.

 

a white person smilingElizabeth Nault-Maurer, Communication Specialist. I manage the program’s social media and website. I also recruit volunteers for our community science program and write our Let's Get Wild! e-newsletter

Elizabeth’s wildlife story: When I was a kid, I went camping every summer with my extended family at Father Hennepin State Park. One of my favorite memories was when my grandpa would gather all the young cousins up and take us down a trail to a fenced-in field. If we were lucky, out in the field we’d see “Snowball”, a white deer. We obviously weren’t seeing the same deer every time, but to us young cousins that was an immortal deer named Snowball. Although sometimes there were multiple white deer, which did challenge the idea of the one, true Snowball. But we were kids, so we made it work. 

 

a white woman smiling, holding an eagle chickLori Naumann, Information Officer. I lead communication and marketing for the program, which includes the Nongame EagleCam, Critical Habitat License plates, and media relations.

Lori’s wildlife story: I grew up close to a lake with lots of undeveloped wetland and woods around it. As kids, my siblings and I spent a lot of time exploring the wild area, finding everything from baby toads and salamanders to raccoons and deer, and catching large catfish in the lake. It was magical experiencing an untamed wilderness so close to home and learning about wildlife from the time I was a young child.

 

a white woman smilingLeslie Parris, Nongame Staff Specialist. I am part of a team of dedicated staff supporting the Central Region Nongame Wildlife Program. I assist with field surveys, data entry, and resource reviews in order to increase knowledge about the state’s rare and protected species so that best management practices can be recommended for conserving wildlife for the next generation of Minnesotans.

Leslie's wildlife story: Growing up in Florida surrounded by alligators, shorebirds, and insects, I never paid a lot of attention to wildlife… until an elementary school field trip to a hobby farm. We were made to sit in a circle on the ground and the adults brought out a very large boa constrictor. While most of the kids backed-up and screamed, I was mesmerized by how beautiful the snake was (even asking if I could take it home with me).  A lifelong passion of observing, questioning, and sharing knowledge of the natural world began that day. I went on to track alligators, tag sea turtles, and count shorebirds, yet that day in elementary school getting to hold my first snake is my most memorable experience.   

 

a white man wearing a puffy red jacket. he is smiling and outside in winter woodsSpencer Rettler, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I conduct survey, monitoring, and research projects for forest-dependent nongame species, provide technical guidance to protect rare species, conserve habitat, and engage in public outreach in northeastern MN.

Spencer’s wildlife story: The deep, rumbling growl said it all…I was face-to-face with my first wolverine while working on a research project in the frozen boreal forests of NW Alberta, Canada. Throughout that cold, dark winter, I was extremely fortunate to encounter several more of these mysterious, and often misunderstood, mustelids. Experiences like these always leave me with a sense of awe and motivate me to learn how we can conserve and protect our natural world.

 

a white man standing on top of a mountain smilingJim Wanstall, Conservation Focus Area Coordinator.  I facilitate the formation of locally led partnership efforts to maintain and improve habitat within and adjacent to the state’s 36 designated Conservation Focus Areas.

Jim’s Wildlife Story: When I was 12 years old, I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Colorado.  While I was there, I summited Mount Bierstadt. This was my first 14,000 foot peak (14nr), and my first time in the high country of the Rocky Mountains.  My heart was captured.  I knew I wanted to have a career that allowed me to spend time in the high country learning its habitats, and the wildlife species that inhabit them. Most of my adult life since then has been spent wandering around the high places of New Mexico and Colorado for either professional or recreational reasons.  Over the last 7 years I have visited Minnesota often, and in all seasons.  The diversity of habitat types, and the wildlife species associated with them are very interesting to me, and I am looking forward to learning about Minnesota’s lands, and people.

 

a white woman smiling. she is holding a turtle in each handAmy Westmark, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I conduct nongame resource conservation in northwest Minnesota.

Amy’s wildlife story: Growing up, I went on many camping trips to the Boundary Waters with my family. We often spent our evenings relaxing around a campfire. One evening we were sitting by the fire and heard splashing along the shore, followed by heavy footsteps coming toward our camp. Looking in the direction of the noise we saw a moose entering our campsite. We all sat quietly for a moment to watch. The moose neared the fire and then paused for a moment, stunned by our presence, before running off into the woods. Sharing the campfire, briefly, with such an impressive animal is a moment I’ll never forget.

 

a white man smiling, holding a bug in his handMichael Worland, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I work in the southern region. There’s not much I don’t do in the name of wildlife conservation. A big focus though for me is monitoring the status of wildlife populations and studying how species are affected by changes to their habitat. And much of my work goes toward managing and restoring tallgrass prairie, one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems, to benefit the wildlife that depend it.

Mike’s wildlife story: One of my most memorable moments in the Minnesota prairie was my first sighting of a Marbled Godwit. I heard it call from far away and was immediately excited. I lifted my binoculars, thinking I would be happy to get even a distant glimpse of it. What I saw instead was this bird flying right at me, trumpeting its call (sort of a loud, piping gar-whet) all the way. I watched as it gradually filled up the view in my binoculars! It then proceeded to fly around me in tight circles, maybe twenty yards away, calling the entire time. I could see perfectly its extremely long bill (over half the length of its body). Finally after what seemed like a full minute, it flew back toward where I originally heard it, presumably satisfied with its investigation of this strange creature walking through its home. I’d never had such a fun and surprising introduction to a bird.

 

a woman smiling at the cameraMay Vang, Bird by Bird Project Leader. I lead the development, coordination, and implementation of the Bird by Bird program.

May's wildlife story: I grew up in St. Paul and have fond memories of waking up early in the morning to spend the day fishing with my family at local lakes, which I still visit to this day. Some of my favorite wildlife moments from these local lakes include watching a great blue heron wading quietly to catch a bluegill, watching giant fish spawn from a boardwalk amazed at the sight but maybe more amazed at how few people walking by noticed it, observing cormorants dive in an out of the water, listening to the chorus of spring peepers, and experiencing my little niece and nephew catch their first fish.   

 

Questions? 

Call 651-296-6157 or 888-MINNDNR (646-6367) or email: [email protected]

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