2017 Evening "Big Tent" Speakers
Outreach Program Coordinator, Audubon Pennsylvania
Judith R. Acker is the Outreach Program Coordinator for Audubon Pennsylvania in the North West Region. She has worked for Audubon Pennsylvania since January of 2012 and before that was the Director of the French Creek Outdoor Learning Center for 12 years. Before that, Acker worked for the PENNCREST School District for 12 years.
While at the French Creek Outdoor Learning Center, Acker provided specialized experiential, hands-on programming and curriculum development focused on environmental science for local school districts. Now for Audubon Pennsylvania, Acker continues her in-school programming as well as providing adult and public education. Acker works closely with local French Creek partners including the French Creek Valley Conservancy to educate the public doing the “French Creek Watershed” program for adult groups. Acker has helped to conduct the last four annual Summer Solstice Sojourns held in June where over 30 participants float a section of French Creek and learn about its unique features and history.
Acker has compiled a culture and use guide book of Pennsylvania native plants historically found within the French Creek Watershed. She worked with local nurseries, greenhouses and landscapers to find sources for those native species. The booklet is done and in its third printing.
Christopher Howey, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar, Pennsylvania State University
Chris is currently a postdoc at Penn State University and is studying the impacts of disturbance on Timber Rattlesnake populations. Throughout his entire life, Chris has been drawn to the woods and learning everything he can about the plants and wildlife surrounding him there. Reptiles have always had a special place in Chris' life. Something that can scare us, yet intrigue us!
Chris has devoted much of his life to the conservation of reptile species. He believes this can be done through understanding how to manage these species properly, and through education. Because of this, Chris has pursued a career in academia, where he can continue to conduct research on reptiles and where he can help educate future generations.
Chris received his B.S. degree in Wildlife Conservation at the University of Delaware, his M.S. degree at the University of Central Arkansas, and his PhD at Ohio University. Chris has conducted research in many different habitats ranging from the bayous of the Southeast, the deserts of the Southwest, and the forests of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Chris has conducted research on a wide variety of reptiles from Timber Rattlesnakes and Black Racers to Box Turtles and Alligator Snapping Turtles. For more information on Chris' research, visit his website at www.chowey.net.
Allegany Nature Pilgrimage Leader Bios
Visit the Programs page for a list of programs and descriptions
~ 2017 Program Leaders ~
~ 2017 Program Leaders ~
Kim Alexander-Thomson – Snyder, NY – Kim earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies at SUNY-Buffalo. She is a member of the Niagara Frontier Botanical Society and has taught at the Pilgrimage over 20 years. She focuses on plants and their relationship to us; whether in practical use or folklore.
Rick Bacher – Buffalo, NY – Rick is a full-time English teacher and avid outdoor educator. Rick volunteers time as a Junior Audubon leader at Buffalo Audubon, Program leader and photographer at Tifft Nature Preserve, Raptor ID workshop leader for the Buffalo Ornithological Society, Hawk counter for the Hawk Migration Association of North America, and has spent time banding both passerines and raptors. Rick specializes in the identification of raptors, but has a general passion and knowledge for all birds and life. Rick is also a wildlife photographer and prolific birder. You can follow Rick's photography at http://instagram.com/rickbee or read his birding blog at http://rickbee.weebly.com/adventure-blog.html.
Tim Baird - Salamanca, NY - Tim is a retired science teacher with degrees in biology & education. His knowledge of birds comes through formal education and life experience. Nature study has been a life-long pursuit. Tim is also interested in nature photography.
Mark Baker – Olean, NY – Mark is known by many as The Bird Guy because of his work at Eagle Dream Rehabilitation Center, Inc. Mark works to heal and release injured raptors and vultures. Some that cannot be healed are used for education programs.
Patty Brown - Ithaca, NY - Patty is a Visual Artist, Art Educator, Soul Collage Facilitator and has recently become bird crazy under the influence of Garner and Judy Light!
Andrew Burroughs - Waterport, NY – Andrew is a junior at SUNY Albany in Psychology, Associate Degree in Sports Recreation, Finger Lakes Community College, Special Olympics volunteer. Ride for Roswell Participant, Pilgrimage attendee since 1998, Salamander Walk leader since 2014.
Mark Carra – North Java, NY – Mark is the head naturalist at Beaver Meadow Audubon Center. Since 1997, Mark has offered wildlife education under the name FasciNature™ presenting a wide variety of live animal events that introduce audiences to an intriguing world of exotic wildlife and conservation. He started as a wildlife educator in 1989, and has spoken to more than 500,000 people since then. Mark has also worked as a representative and presenter for Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, and Public Television and handled animals for many of their celebrities.
Kathleen Contrino - Akron, NY - Dr. Kathleen Contrino, a graduate of University at Buffalo with both a J.D and Phd in Sociology, is a professor of criminal justice at Canisius College. Dr. Contrino practices family law in New York and represents children and adults in a local Family Treatment Court. She participates in the Cornell Cooperative FeederWatch program, volunteers at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and the Buffalo Audubon Society leading tours as well as lectures on native plants in residential communities.
Teresa and Peter Corrigan - Buffalo, NY - Teresa and Peter are avid hikers and newly-minted Adirondack 46ers. (They are pictured here at Marcy Summit in the Adirondacks.) They are longtime ANP attendees and Audubon members, members of the Niagara Frontier chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, and are active Friends of Reinstein Nature Preserve. They relish opportunities to get outside and study wildlife in all four seasons. Teresa, an educator for 20+ years, is a first grade teacher in Williamsville. She runs a popular after-school “nature club” for grades 3-4, as well as serving as a volunteer tour guide at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve. Both also volunteer at Tifft Nature Preserve.
Frank Crombe - Scottsville, NY - Frank’s extensive knowledge of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, etc. comes from his hobby interest working outdoors and gardening, growing native plants and membership in various conservation organizations. Frank has a Masters degree in Education.
Alyson Dalton - Jamestown, NY - Alyson was born in Australia she has a great love for nature and the great outdoors, as a family we love to spend as much time outdoors just walking through the woods, playing in the creek, or going to our local Audubon. Alyson is in the 4th grade at southwestern Elementary school, in Jamestown NY and this is her 7th year at the pilgrimage in which she has learned so much from others. Alyson wants all kids to love the nature and earth as much as she does.
Steven Daniel - Pittsford, NY - Steven has spent the better part of a lifetime studying natural history and teaching others, formally and informally. He took an early retirement from school teaching to develop Nature Discoveries - an ecotour company that he co-founded and for which he has led over 130 trips worldwide. He teaches Field Natural History and leads professional development outings for the Biology Department at Monroe Community College. Steven developed master plans for The Nature Conservancy at Mashomack Preserve on Long Island and for Great Gully in Cayuga County, as well as the biological inventory and development for the Genesee Country Museum Nature Center in Mumford. While plants are a long-consuming interest, he also enjoys studying Lepidoptera, birds, and most every aspect of the natural world. He is active in several local conservation organizations. Steven has a master's degree in science and environmental education from Cornell University. He serves on the executive council of Burroughs Audubon Nature Club and is a board member of the New York Flora Association.
Kristen DiGioia - Phoenixville, PA - Kristen has worked for the past 4 years as the Naturalist/Camp Counselor at Great Valley Nature Center in Charlestown, Pennsylvania. She has a life long interest in environmental issues and education.
Angie Driscoll - West Seneca, NY - Angie has her bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies from SUNY Geneseo, and got my masters in Botany at Miami University of Ohio, conducting spatial studies on invasive plants for her thesis. While at Miami, she taught a field botany course. After grad school, she worked at WNY Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, primarily conducting surveys and managing invasive plants. Angie also taught a Great Lakes Education Program through Cradle Beach in various Buffalo schools. She currently work as a Wetland Technician at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, focusing on wetland permit compliance and conducting wetland delineations.
Marie Erck - Lockport, NY - Marie has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardner.
Wayne Gall - Lancaster, NY - Wayne earned his MS in Entomology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his PhD in Zoology at the University of Toronto. He served as Administrator of Tifft Nature Preserve and Curator of Entomology for the Buffalo Museum of Science from 1983 through 2001, then as Regional Entomologist for the NYS Department of Health from 2001-2016. Wayne currently is Entomologist/Identifier with the US Department of Agriculture based at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. 2017 will be Wayne's 34th year leading at the pilgrimage!
Frank Gardner - Bedford, MA - Frank has been an amateur birder for over 35 years. He serves as Christmas Bird Count coordinator and contributes to breeding bird atlas projects. He has been a field trip leader at ANP for 30 years.
David Gordon - Buffalo, NY - David is a Buffalo area photographer with both commercial business and personal/artistic interests. David Gordon Photography has operated continuously since 1979 serving corporate, architectural, and legal clients. David holds a Master of Fine Arts degree and taught photography at SUNY Buffalo for 31 years. His personal work includes social documentary topics, nature, and temporal/memory issues. He has shown widely and has been a presenter, panel member, and judge at local and national photography events.
Elsye Henshaw- Jamestown, NY - Growing up in Chautauqua County, Elyse spent many of her days exploring the streams and forests cultivating an interest in the natural world. As she followed her interests, she worked to earn an Associate’s Degree in Science from Jamestown Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with an Environmental Emphasis from Houghton College. Thanks to all the time in the streams and forests, Elyse’s primary interests are in amphibians, reptiles, botany, habitat management and research. Since taking her current position with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in 2013, she has been able to study these various species and share her passion with others through RTPI’s many outreach initiatives.
Nan Hoffman - Grand Island, NY - Nan is a singer, musician, performer, recording artist, and workshop presenter. She has been sharing music with people of all ages for more than thirty years throughout the United States and parts of Canada. She has appeared in coffeehouses and festivals, schools and libraries, parks and camps, churches and community centers, hospitals and nursing homes and continues to keep a busy schedule of performances. Nan sings in a clear voice and accompanies herself on guitar, autoharp, and other instruments. Her repertoire encompasses a wide range of folk songs and ballads, both contemporary and traditional, including topical, spiritual, and humorous songs. Her presentations are fun and informative, and much of her material invites audience participation. Nan has often been heard on public radio and television and has published eight collections of recorded music. A THOUSAND CRANES, RISE LIKE A STAR, and ALONG THE ROAD are albums which focus on peace, ecological concerns, and human potential. (almost) TWO MUCH! is a CD of songs with addictive choruses for children of all ages. CELEBRATIONS OF THE HEART features music for the Christmas season and other festive times.
Nancy Jager - Dunkirk, NY - Nancy is a nature enthusiast who enjoys nature photography. She has taken Jamestown Community College courses on plants and insect sketching with Mark Baldwin. M.S. Education State University of New York at Fredonia. NYS Certified teacher, grades K-12. Traveled and lived in South America. Bilingual: English/Spanish.
Tom Kerr – Tonawanda, NY - Tom is a Teacher/Naturalist with the Buffalo Audubon Society. He is a graduate of SUNY ESF with a BA in natural history and interpretation. Look for Tom's name next to birding and kids' nature programs.
Tom LeBlanc - Salamanca, NY - Tom is a naturalist at Allegany State Park with 20 years of experience in Environmental Education and as a Field Biologist. He spent 4 years studying bird communities in the tornado blowdown at the park.
Twan Leenders - Jamestown, NY - Twan is a biologist from The Netherlands interested in animal ecology and conservation management. For more than twenty years his work with birds, mammals, plants and especially tropical amphibians and reptiles has taken him to various places on the planet. As a former researcher at Yale University’s Peabody Museum and other institutions he participated in many international expeditions that helped gather data to better understand and protect biologically important areas and their unique species and habitats. Before coming to western NY, Twan taught biology at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, and went back into the ‘trenches’ of hands-on conservation research and education while leading the Science and Conservation Office of the Connecticut Audubon Society. As President of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, he now applies his experience to our region and develops new conservation research and education initiatives that aim to spark increased interest in the area’s exceptional natural assets while providing economic incentives to promote good environmental stewardship.
Garner Light - Gasport, NY - Garner is a member of the Buffalo Audubon Society and former program coordinator of the Iroquois Observations! Nature Programs at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. He is also the compiler for Wilson-Lake Plains Christmas Bird Count and coordinator for the Clarence Bluebird Trail.
Judy Light - Gasport, NY - Judy is and art educator in Medina NY and Pilgrimage attendee/leader for many years. She is an origami artist, stampin up demonstrator, and obsessed nature tangler!
Mitchell Light - Gasport, NY – Mitchell is a sophomore at SUNY Cobleskill in Ag Business, 2 yr. Conservation Sanborn BOCES; Beaver Meadows, Iroquois Observations volunteer, Lake Plains Christmas Bird Count volunteer, Pilgrimage attendee since age 2; Salamander Walk leader since 2014.
Andy Malicki – Red House, NY - Andy is ready and able to answer any question you may have about the Park's rich history. Specializing in the "How the Park got Started" Program, his passion is for Allegany State Park and he is knowledgeable in several areas from the late 1800s to the present time. Andy is also a park employee.
Emily Malley - Buffalo, NY - Emily has always been fascinated with insects and they are of special interest while she completes her B.S. of Environmental Science. While she is learning more about their biology and natural history at school, Emily has learned how to identify them and appreciate them from observations made while studying insects throughout her life.
Lauren Makeyenko - Buffalo, NY - Lauren grew up in the village of Hamburg exploring natural areas around the Eighteen Mile Creek. She is the Director of Education for the Buffalo Audubon Society and previously held education positions with Tifft Nature Preserve and at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve. In her free time, she enjoys venturing into the natural areas of Western NY with her family throughout the year.
Jeremy Martin - Friendship, NY - Jeremy has had an interest in nature for as long as he can remember. His patient mother tolerated pans of pond water in his bedroom and encouraged his early butterfly collections by making (and then frequently repairing) a butterfly net. While that early interest in ponds and entomology never became a career, Jeremy is lucky enough to now relive those early days of discovery with his two boys. Through photography he enjoys documenting nature all over western NY including wildflowers, dragonflies, moths and butterflies, and various other insects. He also participates in various citizen science projects including the New York Dragonfly and Damselfly survey where from 2005 to 2009 Jeremy volunteered as citizen scientist on discovering numerous county/species records in western New York.
Samuel Martin - Friendship, NY - One day in the summer during a bird banding session Samuel, a 9 year-old nature enthusiast, took a walk with his mom on one of the biking trails at Allegany State Park. During the walk they saw a spider web and he wanted to take a picture of it. It looked creepy and he was excited to learn more about it. Now Samuel has a lot of books on spiders and has done research on the internet. He likes to collect spiders in jars. He likes creepy animals like spiders, snakes and scorpions.
Lon Myers - West Chester, PA - Lon has a life-long passion for nature. He has been leading hikes at the ANP for 44 years covering a variety of topics. Join Lon on his Night Hike, Splash Hike and Adults Only hikes.
Linda Ordiway – Bradford PA - Though pictured here with a frog, you will find Linda at the bird banding station. Dr. Ordiway is Mid-Atlantic/Appalachian Regional Biologist with the Ruffed Grouse Society. She has also worked as a wildlife biologist for the US Forest Service and has taught environmental and biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford PA.
Dr. Allen Podet - Williamsville, NY - Ph.D. & DHL & DD, he has been leading field trips at Pilgrimage for 20+ years. Dr. Podet learned about ferns through classes, clinics & experience. When not at Allegany State Park, Dr. Podet is a professor in the philosophy and humanities departments at Buffalo State College.
Valerie Jill Podet - Williamsville, NY - Valerie's day job is with the Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Stables in East Aurora. She is affiliated with the NY Naval Militia, the US Navy League, the Lou Eibl Corral, the Buffalo Geological Society, Temple Hesed Abraham of Jamestown, Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo, Red Hats, Prairie Star Ranch, and NC Bectel Training Stables. Whew! And she still makes time to lead field trips at Allegany Nature Pilgrimage including beavers, general nature, animal signs, and the geology of the park. Valerie holds a Master’s degree in zoology and is almost (all but dissertation) a geologist. She has been leading field trips at Pilgrimage for 20+ years.
Chuck Rosenburg - Elma, NY – Chuck has a B.S. degree in wildlife management from Purdue University and an M.S. degree in biology from the College of William and Mary. His master’s thesis focused on barn owl habitat use, as determined using radio-telemetry. For the first 15 years of his professional career, Chuck worked as a private environmental consultant completing a broad variety of ecological studies. Since 2006, he has served as a wetlands ecologist with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, where he also leads the NYS DEC’s winter raptor study in Region 9. Chuck is an avid birder and has led numerous Owl Prowls for Buffalo Audubon Society and other groups.
Kristen Rosenburg - Elma, NY – Kristen has always enjoyed spending time outdoors, nurtured by family camping trips to the Adirondacks, Algonquin Provincial Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She attended her first beaver colony tour and owl prowl as a child at Allegany State Park. While attending graduate school at SUNY-ESF, Kristen conducted field research studying beavers at Allegany State Park. Since completing a master's degree in wildlife biology, she has been employed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as an Environmental Educator at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve in Depew, NY for the past 10 years.
Marcus Rosten - Cheektowaga, NY - Marcus' life goal is to connect as many people as possible to the nature that surrounds them every day. He attended SUNY ESF and graduated with a degree in Environmental Education and Interpretation. Since then, he has worked as an Interpretive Park Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park, Minute Man National Historical Park in Boston, the Tongass National Forest in Juneau, Alaska, and was a Naturalist Intern at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve. Currently, Marcus is a Fisheries Technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and monitors the lower Great Lakes for any new invasive species.
Heather Rutherford - Medina, NY - Heather is currently a Naturalist Intern at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar, NY as she works to switch careers from elementary education with a focus in science to becoming a full time environmental educator. She enjoys using wildlife photography to get closer to nature and observe animal behavior.
Sarah Sorci - Buffalo, NY - Community Herbalist Sarah Sorci is a native of Buffalo NY, and a 2014 graduate of the Holistic Herbalism program at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. For Sarah, herbalism is the perfect combination of natural gardening and permaculture, forest ecology, counseling skills, anatomy/physiology, nutrition, world culture and history, botany and chemistry, art, writing, and connecting with nature. She has been offering consultations since 2014, and was excited to incorporate the CSA model (Community Supported Agriculture) into her work in 2015. Sarah also has a certificate in horticultural therapy, and loves using gardening as a venue to support healing and wellness.
Harold Stock - Fairport, NY - Harold has been attending the pilgrimage for over 30 years. His areas of expertise include the history of Allegany State Park, fly fishing, stream evaluation, Thunder Rocks, and Native American History. In addition to serving as a committee member of the Pilgrimage, Harold is active with Buffalo Audubon Society, and the Perinton Historical Society. He is a member of Beaver Meadow and Burroughs Audubon Nature Club. Harold serves as a docent at the Rochester Museum of Science and as an interpreter at the Genessee County Village and Museum. He also belongs to the Landmark Society of Rochester, Trout Unlimited, and Healing Waters.
Garret Taylor – Salamanca, NY – Garret is a self-taught mushroom expert. He is a member of the North American Mycological Association, the Rochester Area Mycological Association, and most recently the Mycological Society of Toronto.
Jeff Tome – Warren, PA - Jeff has been a professional naturalist since 1994 when he started working & volunteering at nature centers. He loves all aspects of nature and knows a ton about wildflowers and herps. Jeff Tome is Senior Naturalist for the Jamestown Audubon Society, where he has worked since 1996. He loves hiking and looking for those odd little stories out there, whether they are about plants that eat meat, salamanders that hike a mile to lay eggs or insects that force plants to grow them a home. Jeff knows a little bit about many things in nature and loves to share them with people. He has a dual degree in Environmental Studies and Speech Communication from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He is a past board member and field trip chairperson for the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage, and former board member and sanctuary chair for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, for whom he still writes regular newspaper columns. In 2012, Jeff made a trip to the Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains, which inspired the first Allegany Nature Pilgrimage.
Liz Urbanski-Farrell – Buffalo, NY - Liz has been an avid birder since her first effort to put salt on a robin's tail as a toddler. Originally a journalist, writer and editor by training and trade, she holds a minor concentration in fine art from Buffalo State College and enjoys trying new ways of involving children and adults in art and the natural world, has participated in the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage with her family for 17 years. She has been a Cub Scout leader and is currently a member of the parent committee for Boy Scout Troop 5 and Sea Scout Ship 1 in Buffalo, NY and is director of member services and government relations for the Western New York Healthcare Association.
Adele Wellman - Salamanca, NY - Adele is happiest in the woods--on skis, bike or on foot. She has a BS in Biology and minored in Horticulture at Tennessee Tech University. From April through December, Adele is a naturalist at Allegany State Park where she leads numerous hikes for campers on topics ranging from beavers to bears, wildflowers and trees, to dragonflies and butterflies. From December through March she teaches snow sports full-time at Holimont in Ellicottville. Every season her students teach her something new about edibles and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. Her Master Gardener training through Cornell has served her well in current positions, as well as in previous jobs in landscaping. Adele usually leads an off-trail nature hike to the Bridal Falls and an edible plants walk at Pilgrimage.
Dennis Wilson - Forestville, NY - Dennis has a BS in Forestry from SUNY ESF and 49 years experience as a professional forester.
Barbara Winner – Pittsfield, PA – Barbara owns “Love Your Weeds,” a center for teaching healthy life and forgotten skills to help people live a more self-sufficient life. She has an Associates Degree in Biology and has a lifelong interest in herbal studies.
David Winner – Pittsfield, PA – David is a Penn State Master Gardener. He owns “Love Your Weeds” with his wife Barbara (see above).
Jay Wopperer – Williamsville, NY– Jay is a graduate of Intermediate Birding at the Buffalo Museum of Science. He is a longtime member of Buffalo Audubon and East Aurora Birding Club & has led many field trips for both groups.
David Wymer – Portville, NY - David has been involved in astronomy for over 20 years. Astrophotography became a way for him to really explore the dark skies we can still find in this part of the country. During the day, David works for Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES as a technician for phone and computer networks. At night, he likes to take pictures of the sky. Not just any pictures! Here's what David had to say when asked about his work: "For most astro-photographers the image is king; it's a quest. There are so many excellent imagers out there, much better than me. More equipment, more sophisticated, etc. But what I do is different and very few do what I do. For me, the experience is king--getting to and camping in a place where the skies are truly dark, enjoying the sound of animals and owls and other whispers of the night, having everything set up and sometimes just sitting back and, well, seeing all that you can see. My images show huge expanses of the night sky. They can show what our galaxy, the Milky Way, really looks like. But to enjoy what so few can see these days because of light pollution and cities...well that's what it's all about! I try to inspire people, young and old to get out and see the night!"
Would You Like to Propose a Program?
Click here to access our "Contact Us" page and drop us an email with your proposal. (Or click here to download a program proposal form.) Program leaders may select either a bed in the dorm or a small stipend. Leaders also have the option of purchasing a food plan and eating with other leaders and committee members in the Dormitory Dining Hall.