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Alumni notes and awards

Spring/Summer 2014

Alumni Notes

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Peter Allen (M.S. CBSD ‘09) and his wife Maureen have founded Mastodon Valley Farm, a small family farm and ecological restoration project in the Kickapoo River watershed in southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless area. Their mission is to restore the landscape’s native oak savanna ecosystems while producing healthy and nutritious foods for the community. Allen also teaches courses and provides consulting services on how to design, establish and manage perennial savanna agro-ecosystems through his company Savanna Gardens, LLC.

Norma Gallegos-Valles (ES ’13) and George Reistad (ES ’11) are featured in a series of bilingual videos produced as part of the New Green Challenge, a Madison Gas and Electric-sponsored initiative that encourages members of Madison’s African American and Latino communities to live greener lives by saving energy, eating well, reducing waste, conserving water and driving less. View the videos on YouTube

Steve Hopkins (M.S. LR ‘88) recently completed the Iowa Certified Public Manager Program through the state of Iowa and Drake University. He is the Nonpoint Source Program coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in Des Moines. 

Kat Friedrich (M.S. LR ‘06) now serves as editor of the Clean Energy Finance Forum, an online publication sponsored by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. 

Ezra Meyer (M.S. WRM ‘03) serves as a water resources specialist with Clean Wisconsin, assisting in the design and implementation of the organization’s water program. 

Justin Mog (M.S. LR ’99, Ph.D. LR ’03) is assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives at the University of Louisville, leading efforts to help the campus become more environmentally and socially responsible. Initiatives include reduced energy use, single-stream recycling, increased use of local food, environmentally responsible building design, green purchasing policies and better accessibility for bicycle riders. 

Camille Zanoni (ESC ’99) was profiled by the Wisconsin State Journal in April, discussing the growth and future goals of the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, where she serves as interim executive director and vice president of advancement. The organization celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2014.To read the interview: 

After six years operating a guide service at Zion Adventure Company near Zion National Park in Utah, Nick Wilkes (ESC ’00) has returned to Madison and started three small businesses: Nick Wilkes Photography, Isthmus Design and Devils Lake Climbing Guides, offering rock climbing trips and courses at Devil’s Lake State Park. 

Alumni-authored books on cooperative conservation, stream life 

Nelson Institute alumni have penned two new books from University of Wisconsin Press. 

Living a Land Ethic by Steve Laubach

In Living a Land Ethic, Steve Laubach (M.S. CBSD ’00, Ph.D. CHE ‘13) chronicles the formation of the 1,600-acre reserve surrounding the Leopold Shack near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

When the Leopold Memorial Reserve was founded in 1967, five neighboring families signed an innovative agreement to jointly care for their properties in ways that honored Aldo Leopold’s legacy. In the ensuing years, the Sand County Foundation and Aldo Leopold Foundation were formed to carry on this tradition.

Laubach, a watershed education and outreach specialist for the UW-Madison Arboretum Earth Partnership for Schools program and a lecturer at Edgewood College, draws from the archives of both organizations to share the Reserve’s untold history and its important place in the American conservation movement.

Field Guide to Wisconsin Streams

Ron Dolen (M.S. WRM ‘09), Katie Songer (M.S. ER ’09) and Michael Miller, in collaboration with dozens of biologists and ecologists, have prepared Field Guide to Wisconsin Streams, a unique compendium of the plants and animals known to inhabit Wisconsin’s 84,000 miles of streams.

The guide includes more than 1,000 images illustrating plant, fish, invertebrate, amphibian and reptile species, along with detailed ecological and taxonomic notes, descriptions of look-alike species, and distribution maps. 

Dolen is an environmental scientist and educator who has conducted watershed studies and trained citizen volunteer stream monitors at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Songer is an environmental scientist, educator and writer who has worked with AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps and the Wisconsin DNR.

ES denotes environmental studies undergraduate major; ESC, environmental studies undergraduate certificate. Graduate programs: CBSD, Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development; EAP, energy Analysis and Policy certificate; EM, environmental Monitoring (through 2005); ER, environment and Resources (after 2007); LR, Land Resources (through 2007); and WRM, water Resources Management.

Hobbie and Dannenberg honored with alumni awards 

In March the Nelson Institute named the recipients of two new annual alumni awards, recently established to spotlight some of the accomplishments of the nearly 4,000 alumni of the institute’s graduate and undergraduate degree and certificate programs. 

Nelson Institute alumni award winners Lynn Hobbie and Matt Dannenberg

Lynn Hobbie, who earned a master’s degree in Land Resources with a certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy in 1984, received the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Hobbie is senior vice president of Madison Gas and Electric, where she has worked for 28 years in a variety of roles. She currently oversees corporate communications, customer energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, energy products and services, economic development, residential and community services, business marketing, web services and social media. 

She has been deeply involved in numerous community organizations and serves on several boards and committees. She has participated in and provided support for numerous Nelson Institute events, and she has offered professional devel•opment advice for students in the Nelson Institute Community Environmental Scholars Program. 

Matt Dannenberg is the first recipient of the Early Career Alumni Award. Matt is the central Wisconsin organizer with the League of Conservation Voters, working to recruit new voters concerned about conservation, develop leaders, and engage activists on conservation issues. He also oversees the organization’s Madison-based volunteer and internship programs and the statewide Native Vote program. 

Dannenberg joined the organization in 2010 after earning a bachelor’s degree in political science with a certificate in environmental studies from UW-Madison. He has mentored dozens of conservation advocates, gives guest lectures at colleges, universities and other events, and regularly writes opinion columns on the politics of conservation. 

The 2014 alumni awards were presented at the Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference in April. For more information about criteria and nomination, visit

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