providing partner-based solutions to conservation challenges
Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) benefits from a staff with a wide range of professional experience, including bird conservation science, social science, Geographic Information Systems, strategic marketing and communications, and non-profit management. The staff has also worked with a diverse set of organizations, from state and federal wildlife agencies and non-profit groups to high-tech companies.
Joint Venture Coordinator
Conservation Science Director
Conservation Design Director
Conservation Delivery Manager
Conservation Delivery Manager
Social Science Lead
Social Science Specialist
Marketing Communications Director
Playa Conservation Communications Manager
Grassland Conservation Marketing Manager
The Management Board is composed of representatives from state and federal agencies, corporations, and non-profit organizations. The board provides guidance and support on the overall direction and management of PLJV and approves funding for conservation projects. Board members also serve as PLJV ambassadors to their organizations and other public, private and political leaders.
PLJV Board Chair (Shared Board Member Position)
PLJV Board Vice-Chair
New Mexico Department of Game & Fish
Jeff Ver Steeg
PLJV Board Treasurer
Colorado Parks & Wildlife
PLJV Board Secretary
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
PLJV Board Member
Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
PLJV Board Member
US Fish & Wildlife Service, Region 6
PLJV Board Member
Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service
PLJV Board Member
Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks
PLJV Board Member
National Wild Turkey Federation
PLJV Board Member
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
PLJV Board Member
PLJV Board Member (Shared Position)
PLJV Board Member (Shared Position)
Audubon Great Plains
PLJV Board Member
US Fish & Wildlife Service, Region 2
PLJV Board Member
The Nature Conservancy
PLJV Board Member
U.S. Forest Service
PLJV Board Member
Kansas Farm Service Agency
PLJV Board Member
Bureau of Land Management
PLJV Board Member
Bird Conservancy of the Rockies
PLJV Board Member (Shared Position)
The Science Advisory Team is composed of scientific, biological, and technical professionals who provide the biological foundation for PLJV’s habitat conservation goals and actions. The members provide guidance on the science used in conservation planning, decision support tool development, bird and habitat monitoring, and data analysis. The team also fosters engagement on research related to PLJV science needs that will result in tangible and usable products.
Professor & Bollenbach Chair
Oklahoma State University Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management
Migratory Game Bird Coordinator
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Southwest Region
Species Conservation Unit Supervisor
Colorado Parks & Wildlife
University of Nebraska Lincoln Department of Agronomy & Horticulture
Lesser Prairie-Chicken Biologist
New Mexico Department of Game & Fish
From an early age, Miruh loved stories and was usually immersed in a book or engaged in some creative pursuit. This eventually led her to a career in marketing communications, which provided a variety of creative outlets — from writing and designing printed publications and building websites to producing radio shows and films. But what truly excites her is using those skills to do something that helps create a better world.
At PLJV, she continues to craft messages and tell stories, all with the intent of moving people to take action and create a landscape where both wildlife and people can thrive. A highlight for Miruh is telling these stories through the medium of film. While she enjoys the creative process, the most rewarding part is spending time with people, hearing about their experiences, and seeing the world from their perspective.
That’s also what keeps her at PLJV — the people with whom she interacts. Although they often have different backgrounds and perspectives, there is a shared passion for building a sustainable future for the wildlife and individuals who live in this region.
During her 32-year career, Miruh has worked for a wide variety of healthcare and nonprofit organizations. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a marketing concentration in 1991.
Mike’s favorite moments always revolve around people — seeing how much people in Liberia accomplished with so little, training folks in Colorado to do bird surveys and watching them identify life list birds by sight or ear, and working with farmers in western Kansas to conserve the Ogallala. He believes people play a key role in bird conservation and has been viewing habitat delivery work through that lens since he became the PLJV coordinator in 2001.
In his role at PLJV, Mike is continually looking at big picture solutions, whether that involves expanding bird priorities or keeping native grasslands. Shortly after joining PLJV, his experience and knowledge of landbirds helped the joint venture transition from a focus on waterfowl to all bird species. He feels working on larger issues, like helping to build awareness and appreciation of playas and the surrounding grasslands, is one of the most rewarding aspects of his time with the joint venture.
Mike considers his Peace Corps experience in Liberia, West Africa, as foundational to informing his bird conservation work on this continent. While in Liberia, he conducted bird inventories for a newly formed Liberian national park through a grant from the World Wildlife Fund and returned twice with teams from the American Museum of Natural History to continue work on documenting birds of that country through grants from the National Geographic Society.
In 1988, after returning from the Peace Corps, Mike founded the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (now Bird Conservancy of the Rockies) and continued working as executive director for 14 years. Mike holds a master’s degree in zoology from Oklahoma State University, where he studied wintering Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks on the tallgrass prairie.
Andrew has been supporting the strategic growth and development of small and nonprofit businesses for over 25 years. As PLJV’s Business Director, Andrew manages all contracting, finance, and HR functions of the business, and supports the delivery of conservation programs through funding and partnership development, and administration of the PLJV ConocoPhillips Capacity Grants program.
Supporting mission-driven work for most of his career has given Andrew unique opportunities to partner with boards and staff on optimizing the structure of lean organizations, coordinating foundational efforts on capital campaigns and inclusiveness, and investing in recruitment and retention efforts to attract and keep top talent. He feels that PLJV may be the best job of his career to date because it blends his love of orderliness with big picture goals for our shared landscape that are both challenging and engaging.
Andrew’s personal mission is centered around animal welfare — helping the hardest to adopt shelter animals find forever homes, and advocating for increased spay and neuter surgeries to help address pet overpopulation. He credits his passion for conservation to his mother, who spent much of her career as an educator and field guide sharing knowledge about birds, local wildlife, clean water, and environmental science.
Andrew joined the PLJV team in 2015.
Prairies, birds, playas, landscape ecology, food and the people who grow food, applying science to conservation, and doing conservation in working landscapes — these are just some of Anne’s interests, which were combined when she joined PLJV in 2008.
During her postdoctoral research at Oregon State University’s Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, she became interested in career opportunities that supported conservation on working lands, farms, ranches, logging operations, and other places where people derive income from the land. This type of conservation work is at the core of PLJV’s mission and is one of the most rewarding things about working at the joint venture.
Anne appreciates the variety that comes with her position at PLJV and how she is involved in many different types of science. As the Conservation Science Director, Anne works to understand the latest science relevant to PLJVs work and then translates it to inform conservation planning, conservation delivery and communications, which is often used to answer questions from partners and agricultural producers. She also works with a network of scientists who are conducting research within the region and designs and implements IMBCR for PLJV studies that address management questions from partners.
No matter what, this job will never be as hard as her very first job — vegetable farming with her family growing up in Michigan.
Tammy believes it is relationships with people that will make a positive difference for conservation now and in the future. As Executive Director of Bird Conservancy of the Rockies — a nonprofit that works to conserve birds and their habitats through science, education and land stewardship — she enjoys working with many different partners to encourage proactive voluntary bird conservation efforts.
Along with the opportunities to advance conservation efforts at a regional scale, Tammy loves the collaborative and innovative spirit of the PLJV staff and management board. Being part of this partnership helps her organization advance scientific monitoring and evaluation work for grassland bird species, which provides the critical knowledge needed to ensure strategic and effective conservation efforts. Another key tie-in between Bird Conservancy’s mission and PLJV’s mission is the focus on the human side of conservation and looking for ways to bring biological and social values together to make lasting changes on the landscape.
A Michigan native, Tammy earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she studied Sandhill Cranes. She began working for Bird Conservancy (then Colorado Bird Observatory) first as a specialist in GIS and landowner outreach for the Prairie Partners program, then as the program’s coordinator and outreach director. She has served as executive director since 2008. Tammy is also the NABCI Human Dimensions Subcommittee Chair and NGO representative for the Executive Council, as well as Co-Chair of the Northern Great Plains Joint Venture.
Jeff has dedicated his entire career to wildlife management, which began in 1979 as a district wildlife manager for what was then known as the Illinois Department of Conservation. Currently, as the Assistant Director for Research, Policy, and Planning at Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), he oversees CPW’s research program, the GIS unit, and the policy and planning unit.
For CPW, which manages the state parks and wildlife in Colorado, there is a lot of mission overlap with PLJV when it comes to conserving wildlife habitat, including working with private and public landowners and industry. For Jeff, part of the reward of being on PLJV’s management board is the affiliation with a progressive, nimble nonprofit organization that excels at partnerships and uses science to achieve on-the-ground conservation in a working landscape.
Jeff joined CPW as the Terrestrial Section Manager, then served as the Assistant Director for Wildlife Programs. Prior to CPW, he was the Chief of the Division of Wildlife Resources for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Jeff has a bachelor’s degree in zoology with a wildlife emphasis from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in environmental biology from Eastern Illinois University where his thesis focused on moist soil management. He is also the primary staff contact for the Parks and Wildlife Commission and coordinates CPW’s annual legislative agenda.
Scott grew up in Vici, Oklahoma, and has enjoyed hunting and fishing with family and friends for as long as he can remember. Now, he works as the Northwest Region Supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), which manages and protects fish and wildlife, along with their habitats.
Seeing partnerships develop and having the opportunity to meet people with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives is what Scott likes most about being a part of the PLJV management board. A large part of PLJV’s mission is focused on wetland habitats, a resource Scott has spent several years working on in Oklahoma, and one he enjoys. ODWC also works to grow the community of hunters and anglers, partnering with those who love the outdoors, and fostering stewardship with those who care for the land.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in biology with a wildlife management emphasis from Oklahoma State University, Scott joined ODWC as a research technician studying Northern Bobwhite at Packsaddle WMA. He then transferred to Hackberry Flat WMA, in southwest Oklahoma, where he enjoyed working on wetland development and upland management activities. Following that role, he became the area biologist at Spavinaw and Oologah WMAs, in northeast Oklahoma. He then returned to western Oklahoma as the wildlife biologist at Ellis County, Black Kettle and Packsaddle WMAs before landing in his current position.
Scott enjoyed playing the drums throughout middle and high school and has been in a few different bands over the years. He currently lives in Camargo, Oklahoma, with his wife and three children.
Craig is currently a professor and Bollenbach Chair in Wildlife Management in the Natural Resource Ecology and Management Department at Oklahoma State University. With over 25 years of experience in wetland research in the Southern Great Plains, he shares his expertise on shorebird, wetland and grassland gamebird ecology with PLJV’s Science Advisory Team. Craig says his collaboration with PLJV has allowed him to think more broadly about conservation in the region as well as how his research can effectively address issues and help find solutions.
He received his bachelor’s degree in natural resources with distinction in wildlife management from Ohio State University and his master’s in wildlife biology from Iowa State University where he studied the ecology of wet meadow invertebrates and sandhill crane foraging ecology. Craig completed his Ph.D. at Texas Tech University, where he studied the ecology and management of shorebirds in the playa lakes region of Texas, and then spent a year as a temporary faculty member at the University of Rhode Island followed by four years as the avian ecologist for the Platte River Whooping Crane Trust in central Nebraska.
Craig’s research has focused on several research areas including the response of grassland birds to fire-grazing interactions, assessment and classification of wetlands, wetland bird ecology, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate ecology, and upland gamebird ecology and management. He has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles in a wide variety of journals including Ecological Applications, Journal of Applied Ecology, Wetlands, Global Change Biology, and Landscape Ecology. In 2013, he co-edited a three-volume book on Wetland Research Techniques.
Grant’s interests and areas of expertise align well with the work of PLJV’s Science Advisory Team, especially when it comes to grassland bird biology and ecology, specifically for prairie grouse. At the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), Grant works as the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Biologist and sees PLJVs goal to improve and conserve grasslands for native birds working hand in hand with NMDGF’s efforts to conserve and improve habitat for Lesser Prairie-Chicken.
Originally from Yuma, Colorado, Grant received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Northern Colorado. His master’s research focused on the movements, reproductive success and habitat use of translocated Greater Prairie-Chickens in northeastern Colorado. After completing his education, Grant worked in the Northern Mariana Islands on brown tree snake research and control and on Guam Rail recovery and translocation for the Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources. He then moved to the big island of Hawaii where he worked on endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper propagation and conservation for the San Diego Zoo and the United States Geological Survey.
Grant has also worked as a farm bill biologist in an Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Fort Morgan, Colorado, and as the Landowner Incentive Program Coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. His personal interests include birding, wildlife photography, painting wildlife portraits, and road and mountain biking.
Growing up in Kansas, Lily did not understand the value of the region. Now, she communicates about the importance of the Great Plains daily and sees it entirely differently.
In her role, Lily uses her love of storytelling to feature and highlight conservation work being done by PLJV and the broader partnership. These stories are featured in the Playa Post, the email newsletter for partners that she organizes and writes, and local media. Along with other communications tasks, she also facilitates communication between PLJV and members of the Playa and Renewable Energy Collaborative.
Lily was originally interested in PLJV because she wanted to work for an organization that would allow her to use her communication skills to help conserve the natural world. She continues to enjoy her work because of the variety — in projects and the region — and the staff’s creativity in developing solutions to conservation challenges. Being able to write stories that help educate and partner with communities is particularly exciting to her. She also appreciates the opportunity to work with staff to translate science and collective knowledge into easily digestible communications.
Before coming to PLJV, she worked in communications for an international nonprofit and also has experience working in a newsroom setting. Lily graduated from the University of Iowa in 2017 where she holds dual degrees in Journalism and International Studies and a minor in Spanish.
Christopher is a self-described and self-taught “bird nerd” — which is what attracted him to bird habitat conservation work in the first place and what brought him to PLJV in 2003. After moving to New Mexico in 1984, where he is still based, he discovered a love of grasslands and became entranced by their hidden beauty. Working at PLJV in conservation delivery allows him to help maintain the prairie habitats that bring him such joy.
In his role at PLJV, Christopher promotes the use of North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants throughout the region and provides partners with advice and reviews of grant proposals. He also collaborates with partners and PLJV staff to execute projects in New Mexico related to grassland and playa restoration. One project that was especially gratifying involved working with a variety of partners in southeastern New Mexico to convert no longer used roads back to grass.
Before joining PLJV, Christopher worked as the New Mexico Partners in Flight coordinator, where he compiled and wrote the first New Mexico Flight Plan and developed partnerships and habitat projects throughout the state including NAWCA proposals. He also worked for Hawks Aloft as the songbird coordinator, collaborating with a variety of federal and state agencies, and has conducted USGS Breeding Bird Surveys in New Mexico since 1988. He received an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Oberlin College in 1982.
Matt’s roots are deep in the Kansas landscape, going back to a time when the prairie was unbroken and his ancestors homesteaded the land. Working in conservation delivery gives him a purpose that aligns with his desire to give back to this part of the world, which has given such meaning to his life.
For the first 25 years of his career, Matt worked for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) where he was involved in all aspects of conservation work on private lands — from sitting at the kitchen table with landowners and “kicking dirt” with them in the fields to helping shape wildlife policy in the Farm Bill. Those experiences helped him see that a person can affect change in different ways, starting at the individual level and scaling up to a broad landscape.
While serving on the PLJV Management Board as the KDWP representative, including a year as board chairman, Matt observed how the joint venture could be nimble and pursue innovative ideas to accomplish partners’ goals. Working more closely with this diverse partnership to implement a shared vision appealed to him, and Matt joined PLJV in 2019.
As part of PLJV’s conservation delivery team, his job is all about putting habitat on the ground, which he says is the culmination of many things such as strategic planning, conservation design, and outreach efforts. One of his current projects, which has been very rewarding, is helping community members better understand how restoring natural systems can benefit people and their access to water.
Matt is quick to note that his degree in Fish and Wildlife Management from Pittsburg State University opened the door to conservation work, but that was when his real education started. He’s still learning and thinks maybe he’ll have things figured out one day.
Dan has spent countless hours in the field studying the Sandhill Crane, making them his favorite species. As the Migratory Bird Coordinator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Office, he works with a number of Migratory Bird Joint Ventures and state wildlife agencies on habitat conservation. His areas of expertise include migratory game birds and freshwater wetland management and ecology, including playa and saline lakes, which are unique and important habitats in the PLJV region.
Dan earned his master’s degree at Sul Ross State University studying American Badgers in south Texas. Through a series of field jobs, he gained extensive experience with birds including Gunnison Sage Grouse, Gambel’s and Montezuma Quail, and Mourning Dove. He also worked as a Fire Management Technician with The Nature Conservancy. Dan earned his Ph.D. at Stephen F. Austin State University where he investigated moist-soil management and its impacts to the vegetative, aquatic invertebrate, and waterfowl community on Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Working as the assistant to the Pacific Flyway Representative in Portland, Oregon, Dan helped manage annual hunting regulations, survey and monitoring of game birds, as well as participated in waterfowl banding in many Canadian provinces. In 2011, Dan joined the Migratory Bird Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico as the Migratory Gamebird Biologist and later transitioned into the Migratory Bird Coordinator position.
Dave has over 30 years experience in wildlife and wetland research in the Southern Great Plains and has been associated with PLJV in a variety of roles since 1992. That collaboration has contributed to the development and communication of a well-rounded research program that integrates many aspects of ecology, management, and human dimensions associated with conservation of natural resources. It has also generated many opportunities to synthesize our understanding of the important role of playas — and other unique systems — for the people, wildlife, and plants that live in this unpredictable and extreme environment.
Dave is currently the Leader of the USGS Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Adjunct Associate Professor at Kansas State University, as well as Adjunct Professor at Texas Tech University. Prior to moving to Kansas, he was stationed at Texas Tech University and served as the Regional Migratory Gamebird Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region for nearly 20 years.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries science from South Dakota State University, Dave attended Texas Tech University where he completed his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in wildlife science. He studied breeding ecology of lesser prairie-chickens in response to herbicide applications and vegetation ecology and management of playa wetlands, respectively.
Dave’s research is broad but focuses on the management and conservation of populations and their dependent habitats. His research areas include playas, saline lakes, and other wetlands; migratory birds, including waterfowl and grassland birds; lesser and greater prairie-chickens; plant ecology; amphibians; and pollinators. Much of his work addresses population response to habitat management and natural disturbances.
Throughout his career, Dave has focused on the conservation of nongame birds in Colorado and throughout the western United States. His extensive work on Lesser Prairie-Chicken conservation and the design and implementation of nongame bird population monitoring programs is of particular relevance within the PLJV region.
The collaboration with PLJV also helps Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) with the conservation of high priority species and fosters connections with other partners, broadening conservation efforts to ecologically important scales. Since 2015, Dave has supervised the Species Conservation Unit for CPW, which works toward the statewide coordination of conservation programs for Threatened and Endangered species and implementation of the Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan.
Prior to his current position, Dave was the Bird Conservation Coordinator for CPW and Assistant Nongame Migratory Bird Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Dave received a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in biology from Kansas State University where he studied the impacts of the Conservation Reserve Program on grassland birds in eastern Kansas. He then investigated methods to model habitat quality for American woodcock at the Pennsylvania State University and received his Ph.D. in wildlife and fisheries science.
As the Wetland Program Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) since 1993, Ted works on a wide variety of wetland issues throughout Nebraska including partnerships, private land restoration programs, public lands management, research, regulations, and outreach.
With expertise in prairie wetlands and waterfowl and water bird ecology, fittingly, Ted’s involvement on PLJV’s Science Advisory Team is often related to wetland ecology and waterfowl biology. By collaborating with PLJV to improve science and GIS data for the region, Ted also supports NGPC’s efforts to better plan and implement bird conservation measures in Nebraska.
Prior to moving to Nebraska, he worked for eight years as a Waterfowl Research Technician for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in wildlife biology from Iowa State University.
Dirac believes engaging diverse groups of people to collaborate on developing science-based solutions has never been more important. One way he does that is through his partnership with PLJV, which provides the opportunity to co-produce science to benefit large-scale sustainability, productivity and conservation on private lands. He joined PLJV’s Science Advisory Team in 2017 and has since offered his expertise on large-scale rangeland conservation, fire ecology, ecosystem resilience, and complex social-ecological systems.
As an Associate Professor and Rangeland Ecologist in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Dirac focuses on how relatively simple changes in vegetation and disturbance regimes in rangelands and other ecosystems affect societal well-being. He received his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Missouri University of Science and Technology and his master’s degree in rangeland ecology and management from Oklahoma State University. Dirac earned his Ph.D. in ecosystem science and management from Texas A&M University in 2012.
His goal is to create novel solutions to ecosystem threats — such as natural disasters, collapses in rural livelihoods on working rangelands, the depletion of biological diversity, and the loss of unique cultural heritage — and demonstrate how to enhance the resilience of working lands to better cope with the sustainability challenges of this century.
Dirac is also a Science Advisor for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Working Lands for Wildlife Program to support agency decision-making at regional and national levels.
Growing up on a small beef cattle ranch in Oktaha, Oklahoma, Matt has a passion for this landscape and an appreciation for the agricultural producers who call it home and has dedicated his entire career to restoring and enhancing the land. As Ducks Unlimited’s (DU) Manager of Conservation Programs for Kansas, he works with various partners to deliver a diverse program of restoration, enhancement, protection and acquisition projects.
DU is a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, other wildlife, and people. According to Matt, this fits perfectly with PLJV, as both organizations are committed to seeing out-of-the-box solutions to various wetland conservation issues we are facing today. Being on PLJV’s management board provides many opportunities for DU to collaborate on landscape-scale conservation efforts across the region. Matt loves the engagement and participation of everyone on the board — as well as the passion for natural resources everyone brings to the table — and being a part of the field-level program delivery that PLJV supports.
Matt started with DU as a biologist the year after completing graduate school and since then has worked on many public and private land wetland projects in Nebraska and Kansas and has been very successful in obtaining various grants for work in both states. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science and a minor in range management, he continued his postdoctoral studies focusing on wetlands enrolled in the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program and received his master’s degree in wetland ecology. Matt has also spent time working in southern Idaho as the assistant manager on the Silver Creek Preserve with The Nature Conservancy.
In his spare time, Matt enjoys hunting waterfowl and upland birds. He and his partner enjoy entertaining friends, cooking, brewing beer, and having fun outdoors. They also regularly host an eclectic array of musicians at their house concert series, “The Lair of the Swampfox,” in Grand Island.
With more than 15 years of species conservation and biodiversity experience, Jesse has cultivated collaborative relationships with research institutions, state and federal agencies, and volunteer organizations to promote stewardship, research, and responsible energy development in the Permian Basin. He values the opportunity to leave a positive and lasting impact on the properties he stewards for the benefit of wildlife species and the habitats on which they depend.
ConocoPhillips, one of the world’s leading exploration and production companies based on production and reserves, has supported the Playa Lakes Joint Venture since 1990. As the ConocoPhillips Permian Basin Director of Ecology and Sustainable Development, Jesse oversees stewardship activities and management of natural resources on over 195,000 acres in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico. He also serves as a liaison to state and federal agencies addressing threatened and endangered species concerns and facilitating implementation of corporate sustainable development and biodiversity initiatives.
Prior to joining ConocoPhillips, Jesse worked at Concho Resources Inc. in various capacities including regulatory department lead, drill scheduling coordinator, and surface landman and seven years working for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. He earned his bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University and master’s degree in range and wildlife management from Sul Ross State University.
Jesse gained his appreciation for all things outdoors from his dad at an early age, and that continues today. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters, and spending time outdoors following his pointers wherever upland birds are found.
As a lifelong Kansan and sportsman, Jake has spent his entire career working for wildlife in the state. He is currently the Wildlife Division Director for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP).
As the agency charged with regulating outdoor recreation and fish and wildlife resources, KDWP’s mission aligns well with the goals of PLJV. Both organizations understand that successful conservation programs are those that work for working lands, which makes it easy to collaborate on common goals. As part of the board, Jake enjoys the information sharing on projects, issues, and solutions that cross state boundaries.
Prior to his current position, Jake served as the Private Land Programs Coordinator for KDWP. He has also worked on the production of the public access atlases, development of spatially linked contract database management systems, start-up of a new limited public access program, and coordination of state and federally funded private land habitat programs. Jake holds a bachelor’s degree with a research emphasis on natural resources and environmental science, a master’s degree in geography, and graduate certificate in geographic information science from Kansas State University.
Jake and his wife live in rural Barber County, Kansas, with their three children.
As the Assistant Chief of the Wildlife Section at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), Elise supervises the terrestrial and semi-aquatic wildlife biologists, working behind the scenes to help launch important conservation and management projects that protect New Mexico’s wildlife.
NMDGF’s mission is to conserve, regulate, propagate and protect the wildlife and fish within the state of New Mexico using a flexible management system. While the department focuses primarily on public lands — about 50 percent of land in New Mexico, mostly in the western part of the state — being a member of the PLJV management board has been enlightening for Elise as she has had the opportunity to engage more in private lands management. Learning from other board members how to effectively work with private landowners, NGOs and other government entities has been valuable and something she says would have been difficult to obtain without the structure of the board.
This knowledge, along with the collaborative focus of the board, has led to partnership opportunities and enabled NMDGF to engage in playa and grassland conservation in a meaningful way. For Elise, seeing projects implemented on the ground, and building relationships for future restoration activities, is very rewarding and would not have happened without her involvement on the board.
Prior to her current role, Elise worked as the Carnivore and Small Mammal Program Manager where she supervised the bear and cougar, furbearer, non-game mammal, and terrestrial species recovery programs. She also developed spatial mark-recapture studies for mesocarnivores and worked to improve the mandatory trapper/hunter harvest reporting system for furbearer harvest. Her initial job with NMDGF was as a bighorn sheep biologist, where she worked towards maintaining healthy populations of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and recovering state-listed desert bighorn sheep. She has a master’s degree in wildlife sciences from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree in forestry and wildlife management from the University of California, Berkeley.
A native of Omaha, Alicia grew up camping and exploring the outdoors. She believes there is a lot to be proud of in Nebraska — from the amazing wildlife to the people that enjoy the state’s natural resources. As the wildlife division administrator for Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), she helps with stewardship of those resources by overseeing the hunting and wildlife conservation programs.
As a PLJV board member, Alicia enjoys being part of collaborative partner-based conservation work, which the Joint Venture epitomizes. She says the collaboration with PLJV provides a multitude of tools backed by strong science that helps NGPC make better management decisions with a proactive approach.
Alicia is a 21-year veteran of the Commission. Before taking on her current role in 2016, she worked as the assistant wildlife division administrator for the Partners Section which collaborates with other conservation partners to work on private and governmental lands to enhance wildlife. Alicia was instrumental in the development of the Commission’s five-year plan for improving pheasant populations, habitat and hunting opportunities in Nebraska.
Alicia received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in wildlife management from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Outside of work, she enjoys turkey and pheasant hunting, bird watching and spending time with her husband and two sons.
Jon is the Executive Director of Audubon Southwest where he oversees the staff and conservation work in New Mexico and Arizona. The non-profit organization is focused on conserving our water resources, protecting and restoring the habitats birds need, confronting the climate crisis, and educating the next generation of scientists and conservationists.
Whether guiding the conservation of playas or brush management in the grasslands, Jon says the tools and science developed by PLJV is helping Audubon “work smarter, not harder,” by improving the efficacy of their work and getting the most value out of conservation investments. One of his favorite things about PLJV is how the joint venture looks for innovative, new approaches toward some of the greatest conservation challenges. The partnership between PLJV and Audubon has been on the leading edge of advanced GIS applications, integrated bird monitoring, and incorporation of social science into conservation design and planning. He considers it a privilege to support this work.
Prior to joining Audubon, Jon served with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative where he was responsible for guiding multi-organizational development and implementation of applied research projects. Additionally, he has served with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture, working at a programmatic level to implement regional conservation efforts aimed at restoring declining grassland bird populations. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental population and organismic biology from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in natural resource conservation from the University of Montana.
Away from work, Jon and his wife try their best to enjoy the intermountain west in as many ways possible — whether it’s snowboarding, backpacking, fly-fishing, trail running, or just enjoying good food and beer with close friends. They live in Placitas, New Mexico, with their seven pets, including a piebald pony named Lil Joe.
Having grown up on a working farm in western Kansas, Dean has a long history and tie to working lands in the state. As the State Resource Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kansas, he now works to help conserve these lands.
Being part of the PLJV management board provides Dean with the opportunity to build relationships and engage with partners on a variety of natural resource issues. The collaboration with PLJV helps to provide relevant and timely information for conservation in Kansas, which supports the NRCS mission to help people help the land by providing conservation resources to farmers and ranchers that ensure productive lands are in harmony with a healthy environment.
Dean has extensive experience in working lands conservation through his 25 years with Kansas NRCS. Prior to joining the agency, he received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Fort Hays State University. He and his family continue to live in a rural community in McPherson County.
Jared was born and raised in the Flint Hills of Kansas, where he currently lives and serves as the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) Director of Conservation Operations for the Central Region. In this position, he leads a team of biologists and foresters in 14 states across the Great Plains and the Midwest and oversees conservation delivery and policy efforts in the Central Region. His focus is on ensuring the work is accomplished through dynamic partnerships with state and federal agencies, local groups, like-minded organizations and NWTF volunteers.
NWTF is a grassroots conservation organization dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage. The NWTF operates at the landscape level to enhance wildlife habitat, water resources, recreation opportunities and community resilience while working with partners like PLJV to fund collaborative solutions to complex issues. Jared views his service on the board as an integral part of working with like-minded agencies and organizations to find innovative and workable solutions to current conservation challenges.
He appreciates the efforts of the Joint Venture to engage the diverse set of stakeholders impacted by conservation programs and policies to ensure they have a seat at the table. Jared has enjoyed the personal and professional relationships established during his tenure on the board and always looks forward to hearing and seeing what partners are accomplishing individually, as well as what can be accomplished by working together.
Jared has more than 20 years of conservation experience, with a focus on finding solutions to complex land management challenges through diverse partnerships. He received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Emporia State University as well as a master’s degree in environmental biology with a wildlife emphasis. His professional experience includes private lands conservation delivery for Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
Jared enjoys spending time with his wife of more than 20 years and his two young daughters. Any free time remaining is spent pursuing a wide variety of wildlife with his bow or serving in various ministries sharing his faith.
Todd grew up in the coastal marshes and rice fields of southeast Texas and has enjoyed the opportunity to “get paid to play in the mud and water,” as his dad likes to say. As Ducks Unlimited’s Manager of Conservation Programs, he oversees habitat conservation work in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
Ducks Unlimited (DU) is a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, other wildlife, and people. DU’s conservation work in the panhandle of Texas, eastern New Mexico, and western Oklahoma overlaps directly with PLJV priorities and that of partners including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, New Mexico Game and Fish, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Being a PLJV board member provides a great opportunity to synergize and sync up DU’s conservation efforts with partner organizations, as well as interact and learn about new strategies and ideas from within other parts of the PLJV region.
Todd has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management, a master’s degree in wildlife science from Texas Tech University, and a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Western Ontario. During his formal education and employment, Todd has been able to work in the waterfowl wintering grounds of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, the breeding grounds of Canada’s prairie pothole region, and the farmlands and boreal forest areas of Central Ontario.
In his spare time, Todd enjoys hunting waterfowl with his fourth lab, Buck, who complains when he misses birds, but forgets about it when they get home.
Although Jeff was not born in Texas, he got there as quickly as he could — and stayed. Now, he works at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), where he serves as the Joint Venture Program Leader. Jeff has a strong belief in tackling landscape conservation challenges through a collaborative process and believes a sustained pursuit of the unifying themes of conservation will result in partner agencies and organizations becoming more interdependent.
TPWD oversees and protects wildlife and their habitats and manages the state’s parks and historical areas. The department relies on their joint venture partners to provide much of the organization’s landscape conservation planning, design and science, embracing the shared objective created by these long-standing, engaged partners. Jeff enjoys the level of engagement each board member brings to the table and the group’s willingness to discuss conservation issues in new and novel ways.
Jeff received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in wildlife ecology and a master’s degree from the University of Missouri – Columbia with an emphasis on wetlands and waterfowl ecology and management. He worked at Arkansas Game and Fish Commission before transitioning to TPWD, where he began working on statewide wetland conservation issues. Over time, his main job focus developed into a unique position that allows him to represent TPWD in many different conservation partnerships. For well over a decade, Jeff has been directly involved in the five Joint Ventures that cover Texas and oversaw the successful creation and development of the Oaks and Prairie and Rio Grande Joint Ventures. He currently sits on the Management Boards of the Lower Mississippi Valley, Gulf Coast, Oaks and Prairie, and Rio Grande Joint Ventures, as well as PLJV, and is the current Chair of the boards for Rio Grande, Lower Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast.
Jeff enjoys travel, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, and food and beverage-related activities.
Nicole is a lifelong Kansan and grew up helping on her uncle’s farm in northeast Kansas. She has a strong passion for conservation and has spent her entire career helping agricultural producers engage in conservation practices. In her current role as an Agricultural Program Specialist in the Conservation and Price Support Division of Kansas Farm Service Agency (FSA), Nicole is focused on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
As a PLJV board member, she is impressed and humbled to be a part of a collaborative, partner-based organization that puts such pride and passion into their work. The partnership between FSA and PLJV has been responsible for the most successful wetland restoration and preservation initiative in the history of CRP in Kansas.
Nicole enjoys the fast-paced challenges of working in the state office as well as having more opportunities for broad-scale partnership with amazing conservation professionals. Before moving to Topeka and joining the FSA state office staff, Nicole served as an Agricultural Program Technician in Shawnee County.
When not working on the Conservation Reserve Program, Nicole stays busy keeping up with her two children and a rescue puppy.
As the Migratory Bird Program Coordinator for the Mountain-Prairie Region of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Brian provides leadership to biologists, joint venture coordinators, and Permits staff, both regionally and nationally, and works closely with partners and constituents on a wide array of migratory bird conservation issues. In his role on the PLJV board, he enjoys the forward-thinking and inclusive discussions among partners. Brian also appreciates the partnership striving to be visionary and bold while also pragmatic and grounded in approaches to conservation appropriate in a landscape that consists mostly of private working lands.
PLJV’s approach is in direct alignment with the USFWS mission of working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of people. Brian says this partnership enhances our collective ability to connect with people and communities through social science, helping to design and deliver conservation programs that speak directly to the values and interests of people that rely on the land in these states.
Prior to USFWS, Brian worked for American Bird Conservancy as the coordinator of the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture and for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, serving stints as the agency’s Upland Game & Private Lands Coordinator and Wildlife Diversity Coordinator. He has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Eastern Kentucky University and a master’s degree in raptor biology from Boise State University where he conducted Burrowing Owl research. He received his Ph.D. in forest resource sciences from West Virginia University where he studied Ruffed Grouse.
Brian lives in Lakewood, Colorado, with his wife and two children. He tries to get out on the prairies with his German Shorthaired Pointers as much as work and family will allow.
About 20 years ago, Matt began working with the PLJV partnership to conserve playas in northwest Kansas and is pleased to see how much has been accomplished since then. With a shared focus on science, policy, and geospatial-based solutions, both The Nature Conservancy and PLJV share a common goal of helping agricultural producers achieve tangible, lasting conservation.
Participating on the PLJV board and surrounding himself with other passionate problem solvers helps Matt in his own job overseeing the Conservancy’s work in western Kansas, As the Southern High Plains Grassland Project Manager, he develops conservation strongholds in portions of five states by collaborating with ranchers and other stakeholders to restore and maintain core areas of native grasslands through effective management and long-term conservation.
Matt holds a master’s degree in biology from Ft. Hays State University, where he researched prairie chicken ecology. In addition to working on the family farm, he was a district wildlife biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks before joining the Conservancy’s staff in 2012.
Matt and his wife spend most of their free time keeping up with their four kids, ages 7 through 16, and hunting and fishing every chance they get.
Kristal enjoys spending time with her fellow PLJV board members, whom she describes as passionate and knowledgeable about conversation, and finds their conversations to be rejuvenating. While there is significant overlap in the missions of Audubon and the PLJV partnership, with both focused on bird conservation, mutual interest in the Platte River ecosystem — which crosses three states — has set the stage for even more collaboration.
As the Executive Director of Audubon Great Plains and Vice President of the National Audubon Society, Kristal oversees conservation strategies spanning the state’s prairies, rivers, working lands, and bird-friendly communities. In her current role, she is also responsible for two nature centers — Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center and Iain Nicholson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary — where education, bird conservation, and habitat enhancement are elevated.
Before Audubon, Kristal served as the Wildlife Diversity Program Manager at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, where she implemented Nebraska’s State Wildlife Action Plan to conserve at-risk species by developing and coordinating initiatives across multiple divisions and with partners. She also managed the Nebraska Natural Legacy Partnership Team, which provides guidance for Nebraska’s Wildlife Action Plan implementation, and initiated and led the Nebraska Conservation Roundtable, which serves to educate Senators about the most pressing threats to wildlife in Nebraska. She holds a master’s degree in ecology, evolution, and behavior from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
In her spare time, Kristal enjoys hiking, birding and kayaking with her two daughters, husband, and cocker spaniel. She also spends hours cheering for her girls in archery and volleyball tournaments and enjoying live music at local breweries and wineries.
Missy’s lifelong passion is conserving and restoring habitat for threatened and endangered species as well as migratory birds, upland birds, and big game. As the USFS Rocky Mountain Region Wildlife Program Leader, she provides oversight and wildlife program direction to 11 national forests and grasslands, six of which overlap with the PLJV region. She also works with state and national partners to enhance wildlife habitat and coordinates monitoring to support science-based management.
The collaboration between the Forest Service and PLJV benefits these grasslands by promoting their biological importance while supporting rangeland productivity for communities that rely on them. On the PLJV board, Missy enjoys the opportunity to work with leaders from other federal agencies, conservation organizations, state wildlife agencies, and companies that strive to support a conservation mission. While her focus has always been on wildlife conservation, she realized early in her career that building relationships with partners is the key to success. Now that is a favorite part of her job.
Missy received a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology and master’s in ecology from Colorado State University. She joined the Forest Service in 1998, and has worked as a wildlife biologist across forest, shrubland, and grassland ecosystems.
In her free time, Missy and her family love to find adventure in the outdoors including skiing, hiking, and biking.
Growing up near Lake Erie in a region known for its vast marshes and forested wetlands, Ashley connected with freshwater ecosystems early on. More recently while working with landowners enrolled in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program, she fell in love with the beauty of the western Great Plains and developed a great appreciation for the people who live and work here. This passion meshes perfectly with her mix of experience and training in both wildlife biology and social science.
As the Social Science Lead, Ashley guides the integration of social science into PLJV’s conservation work, including examining how stakeholder groups think about conservation issues and making sure that human considerations are included in conservation planning and delivery. Ashley enjoys challenging assumptions and developing new and unique conservation solutions that work for people and wildlife and is pleased that PLJV encourages this kind of thinking. She believes the integration of social science into conservation work is key to developing unique and transformative conservation programs and partnerships in the region.
Ashley has worked on a variety of topics ranging from understanding the motivations and intended conservation behaviors of Conservation Reserve Program participants to studying negative human-wildlife interactions at National Park Service sites. Before joining PLJV, she worked as a Conservation Social Scientist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the National Bird Conservation Social Science Coordinator at Virginia Tech, and a Human Dimensions Specialist at the National Park Service in Fort Collins, Colorado. She holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Madison-Wisconsin, a master’s degree in human dimensions of natural resources from Colorado State University, and is currently completing her doctorate in wildlife biology at Colorado State.
While obtaining his bachelor’s degree in conservation biology, Ryan took multiple trips to South America, where he stayed with rural communities in the Amazon region. Working with those communities on sustainable development projects, he came to realize that he loved working with people and understanding their diverse cultures and perspectives. Continuously trying to tie these interests in with conservation, things clicked when he discovered social science.
Ryan’s master’s program in Conservation Leadership at Colorado State University (CSU) trained social scientists to work collaboratively with professionals and the public in addressing complex conservation issues. Receiving a PhD in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at CSU, his dissertation fieldwork focused on assessing the role of scientific evidence in collaborative approaches to water and wildfire management throughout the Intermountain West. For Ryan, understanding stakeholder beliefs around phenomena occurring in the natural world is critical to ensuring successful conservation work. He says that having that human element helps us to better understand the issues holistically and ensure the success of these programs in the long run.
Prior to joining PLJV, Ryan worked as a social science project manager in the Human Dimensions Branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) overseeing the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Survey. When he’s not collecting data to understand what drives action, Ryan can be found working on writing his first fiction novel.
Lindsay has a unique understanding of the needs and experiences of producers and ranchers in the PLJV region – in part because she is one. Lindsay grew up on a cow/calf operation in Northeast Kansas, where they raised Angus and Shorthorn cattle. Today, Lindsay, along with her husband, are a part of a ranch management team that manages a large-scale ranch in western Oklahoma. On the ranch they are focusing on conserving and regenerating grasslands, primarily through managing an extensive rotational grazing system. This experience, paired with her background working with agricultural producers, positions her well as the Grassland Conservation Marketing Manager.
Lindsay holds an associates degree in Agribusiness with a focus on accounting from Seward County Community College and a bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness from Kansas State University. While at Seward County Community College, she was also a member of their livestock judging team.
After graduation, Lindsay worked as a grain trader for Gavilon Grain located in their 30 million bushel wheat terminal facility in Wichita, Kansas. During her time as a grain trader she worked with producers in the Southwest Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle market region. During this time she enjoyed working with farmers to assist with their risk management position when selling commodities. Most recently, Lindsay has served as the Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent and County Extension Director in Greenwood County, Kansas. Within her role in Extension, she assisted in educating and advising farmers and ranchers in advancing their operations. Lindsay’s extension education programs focused on grassland and pasture management, as she was working within the Flint Hills of Kansas, which is made up of predominantly tallgrass prairie.
Lindsay is excited to work with producers and staff members that are passionate about conserving the grasslands within our region.
Throughout his 22-year career, Zach has been guided by a goal of advancing the resilient conservation of working landscapes. As Conservation Design Director, he continues to follow this passion by working to coordinate PLJV conservation priorities with existing partner work, and designing new programs that support positive conservation efforts for species and habitat.
As an applied landscape socio-ecologist with a master’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and a PhD in Ecosystem Science and Management from Texas A&M University, his research has centered on understanding the dynamics that can affect conservation at landscape scales. While obtaining his PhD, Zach gained an appreciation of the integration of social and ecological science. During this work, he created a spatial model that accounted for land ownership motivations and ecosystem service values in the Gulf Coast Prairie of Texas. Using this approach, he created a decision support tool that could be used to identify strategies and conservation values to help minimize the impacts of energy development on wildlife habitat in the region.
More recently, Zach has worked with the Long-term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network, which consists of 18 sites focused on the sustainability of agriculture in the U.S., integrating human dimensions research into the network, as well as developing sustainability performance indicators. Zach also has an interest in community science and has worked with a community in New Orleans to better understand air quality, heat stress and the services that trees can provide in urban environments. Zach is excited by the prospect of working with the diverse communities in the PLJV region.
Randy grew up chasing Scaled Quail in the sand shinnery oak ecosystem of southeastern New Mexico and grew fond of this landscape and everything it entailed. In high school, while working with a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) biologist one summer, he knew right then he wanted to be a wildlife biologist. Now, Randy works for BLM as the Pecos District Program Manager, where he helps ensure large landscape projects are successful and that they benefit both wildlife and people.
BLM, housed under the U.S. Department of the Interior, is responsible for administering federal lands and also works with many different partners. During his time at BLM, Randy has worked with a number of partners including universities, NGO’s and industry to understand and mitigate impacts to Lesser Prairie-Chicken and restore habitat. The BLM’s multiple use mandate comes with complexities but has also shown him that when people come together, to find common ground, a landscape can support multiple uses.
Randy received his bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries management from Texas Tech University, and began his career as a wildlife biologist for the BLM Roswell Field Office. After 10 years focusing on Lesser Prairie-Chicken, he served as the Roswell Field Office Assistant Field Manager for Resources supervising wildlife, range, recreation, hydrology and cultural programs.
When not working, Randy and his wife are taking care of their farm and running their two kids to events. He also makes time to enjoy hunting, fishing, and golfing.
Playa Lakes Joint Venture
We are a regional partnership of federal and state wildlife agencies, conservation groups and private industry dedicated to conserving bird habitat throughout the western Great Plains — including portions of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. We provide science-based planning, decision support, and communication and outreach tools to help our partners become more efficient and effective at delivering on-the-ground conservation. Learn more about us.