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Letters, Alumni notes

Winter/Spring 2013


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Steph Jones

Hello! I graduated in summer 2010 from the Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development program and I just learned about this great alumni magazine, In Common. It is so motivating to hear what my Nelson Institute cohort is up to, so I thought I’d send another note from the field. Or rather, fields. 

I am co-manager of The Farm at Our House in Brookeville, Md. The Farm is a private business that licenses land at Our House, a residential job training program for at-risk youth from Washington, D.C., and Maryland. We hire Our House’s young men to work on the farm, where they get first-time job experience, as well as some on-the-job environmental learning. 

Here’s a picture of me next to our horse tiller, which has had some, ahem, mechanical problems lately. 

Steph Jones, M.S. CBSD ‘10

Alumni notes

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Elizabeth Bagley (M.S. CBSD ‘08) recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois and works as a learning designer for LeapFrog Enterprises, a leading designer, developer and marketer of technology-based educational products and related content. 

Katie Beilfuss
Katie Beilfuss accepts the Ramsar
Wetland Conservation Award
behalf of the Wisconsin Wetlands
Association. C
redit Ramsar COP11.

Katie Beilfuss (M.S. LR ‘01), pictured below, accepted the 2012 Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award for Education on behalf of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association (WWA) at a July ceremony in Bucharest, Romania. Beilfuss serves as outreach programs director for the organization. 

WWA is the first U.S.-based entity to receive this prestigious award from the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The award recognizes the contributions of individuals, organizations and governments around the world for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. 

Four of WWA’s six staff members are alumni of the Nelson Institute – Beilfuss, Kyle Magyera (M.S. WRM ‘10), Erin O’Brien (M.S. LR ‘03) and Alexia Sabor (M.S. CBSD ‘98). 

Anne Braden (M.S. WRM ‘12) is an environmental compliance officer with the U.S. Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.

Josh Brown (M.S. WRM ‘08) and Ruth Person (M.S. WRM ‘09) have joined the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a water regulations and zoning specialist and water resources management specialist, respectively. They join fellow alumni Ron Dolen (M.S. WRM ‘09), Amanda (Boyce) Minks (M.S. WRM ‘10), Katie Songer (M.S. ‘09 LR) and Scott Van Egeren (ESC ‘00, M.S. LR ‘09), all water resources management specialists, and Molli MacDonald (M.S. WRM ‘07), IS Data Services.

Matt Dannenberg (ESC ‘10), central Wisconsin organizer for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, has been honored with the Liesl Blockstein Community Leadership Award from Community Shares of Wisconsin. Dannenberg educates, mobilizes and motivates citizens about conservation and activism, and leads the League of Conservation Voters’ Madison-based volunteer and intern program.

Madeline Emde (M.S. WRM ‘12) and Chris Long (M.S. WRM ‘12) were part of a UW-Madison student team awarded first place in the interactive category at the 2012 North American Cartographic Information Society Student Dynamic Map Competition. 

The award-winning map, The Wetlands Gem Viewer, was developed in partnership with the Wisconsin Wetlands Association to provide an online spatial catalog of information about critical wetlands in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Explore the map.

Ross Freeman (M.S. CBSD ‘00) serves as environment and sustainability manager at Stevens Pass Ski Resort in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. The resort was recently recognized with a Green Washington Award from Seattle Business magazine and included in the publication’s Washington Green 50 for 2012 list. Fresh off the slopes, Freeman sends this note:

Ross Freeman

Since 2008 I’ve worked as the first-ever environment and sustainability manager at Stevens Pass. My task: to green-up the entire operation, save on energy, look for efficiencies, reduce our carbon footprint and let the public know how to get involved. 

It’s going very well: I’ve generated a lot of media interest, won several premier industry grants and awards, and orchestrated a significant operational makeover, all while saving the company money and benefiting the environment. A highlight last season was installing the nation’s first electric vehicle chargers at a mountain pass (pictured at right); they get users every month of the year. 

A notable perk: holding office meetings on the chairlift! 

I spend my summer furlough doing sustainability consulting, guiding multi-day raft trips on Oregon’s Rogue River and adventuring deep into the Pacific Northwest wilderness.

Puneet Kishor
(M.S. LR ‘90) joined Creative Commons in August as policy coordinator for science and data. The organization enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge worldwide through free legal tools, education and outreach. Kishor’s focus is science data policy and expanding the use of Creative Commons licenses to improve legal interoperability of scientific tools and data (

Kishor also continues work on his dissertation in Environment and Resources, attempting to develop a methodology for measuring openness of data. A scientific, repeatable way to gauge openness would help set measurable standards and determine compliance.

Thomas Mace (M.S. EM ‘76, Ph.D. EM ‘80) has retired from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), where he served as senior science advisor with the Science Mission Directorate at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in Palmdale, Calif. The Science Mission Directorate is dedicated to advancing new flight technologies and expanding the ability of existing systems to support suborbital scientific data collection. Mace now lives in Menasha, Wis.

Jennifer Phillips (M.S. ER ‘12) was selected as a 2013 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow. The one-year paid fellowship, established by the National Sea Grant College Program, provides a unique educational experience for students with an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and the national policy decisions affecting those resources. 

The program matches highly qualified graduate students with hosts in the legislative and executive branch of government in the Washington, D.C., area.  

Jerry Skalak (M.S. WRM ‘95) has served with the Rock Island District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 1988. He is responsible for the planning and acquisition of long-term dredged material placement sites along the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway; management of water resources studies under the Corps’ Planning Assistance to States and Tribes and Flood Plain Management Services authorities; managing district support to FEMA Region V and the Illinois Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps program; and primary Corps representative to the Iowa Silver Jackets Interagency Flood Risk Management Team.  

Skalak is a certified floodplain manager and charter member of the recently established Iowa Floodplain and Stormwater Management Association.  

On a personal note, Skalak says, “I was saddened to hear about the passing of Jim Knox. He was certainly both a great individual and a tremendous UW asset.” (Knox, Evjue-Bascom professor emeritus of geography, died in October.)

Michael Skiba
Michael Skiba

Michael Skiba (ESC ‘08) works as project manager with Omni Ecosystems, a consulting company that manufactures green roof and green wall systems. Among his duties, Skiba oversees many of Omni’s installation and maintenance projects and prepares planting plans. The team recently completed an 850-square-foot rooftop farm for the Homestead restaurant in Chicago (pictured). 

“As these new roofs become more and more common, we feel there’s tremendous opportunity for learning and education initiatives surrounding urban agriculture,” says Skiba. “I would love the chance to connect further with alumni and current UW staff and students.”

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.

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