Michelle feels strongly that the first steps to protecting our
home are educating, increasing diversity, and developing positive
personal experiences outside and especially in the prairie. Her current
passion is creating pollinator gardens at home and teaching others to “lose the lawn”, to make way for biodiversity. She has a ton of fun teaching environmental education as a Naturalist with Pottawattamie County. She graduated with a Master's degree in Biology from the University of Nebraska - Omaha. In college her desire to teach professionally began as a graduate teaching assistant of biology students. She gained practical experience with habitat management through past partnerships with The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Her mantra is:
Engaging, Educating, Encouraging, and Empowering People to Connect with Nature!
Jacob was born and raised in north central Iowa. He attend Iowa State
University where he majored in Animal Ecology and Religious
Studies. Following graduation he worked as a technician on a
patch-burn-graze project in southern Iowa, then multiple
seasonal positions with the Iowa DNR as a technician and then as
a naturalist. Currently, Jacob
manages a large private hunting and wildlife preserve in central Iowa, focusing his efforts on native wildlife habitat and prairie restoration/reconstruction. He is also a wildlife and nature photographer, who's work can be found at www.jacobpitzenberger.com
Ed retired from teaching for 22 years at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City. He taught all
facets of business/entrepreneurship except the areas of personal
income tax and cost accounting. Prior to teaching Ed was a credit
union manager for seven years and a bank employee for five years
before that. He does some business consulting for various small
businesses in the surrounding area. Ed has been active in
establishing prairies in the area and was instrumental in getting South Sioux City, NE to plant 30 acres of prairie along the riverfront. It is now in place and ready to grow. Ed is the IPN Treasurer, a member of the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and
several other organizations.
Laura Leben is excited to be serving her first term with the Iowa Prairie Network as a Board Member at Large. She is currently employed by the Iowa Dept of Natural Resources as a Natural Resources Technician 2 at the Prairie Resource Center. The DNR's Prairie Resource Center produces native local ecotype prairie seed used for planting prairie reconstructions on public land throughout the state. Laura believes that quality seed and thoughtfully designed seed mixes are key to success with any habitat project. Laura graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Sciences from Drake University and has worked for a variety of employers in the field of natural resource management including Allendan Seed Company, the Illinois St. Charles Park District, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Pheasants Forever, Inc.. Laura lives in Boone, IA and enjoys spending her free time exploring prairie remnants, canoeing, camping, road-cycling, and meeting other prairie people.
Ben has been a board member since 2018 and joined because he enjoys Iowa’s prairies and wants to help
protect them. Since moving to Iowa in 2014, his interest in prairies has grown each year, but stems from “growing” monarchs as a kid in SE Minnesota. Ben’s favorite prairie area is the Loess Hills, which is where he got connected with IPN in 2015. He teaches Environmental Science at Buena Vista University, and has a PhD in geology from Louisiana State
University. His research focuses on water and environmental quality.
Tabitha is originally from Omaha and graduated from UNO in 2018 with a degree in Environmental Science. Even growing up in the middle of the city, she has always had a great appreciation and deep curiosity for nature. Neale Woods in North Omaha was her escape from the city into the quiet peace of a trail in a forest. Later as an intern with Fontenelle Forest, she was able to help with management - cutting honeysuckle, sweet clover, and participating on her first prescribed burn. Last year she worked on a field crew with the Conservation Corps of Iowa, doing habitat restoration in the Loess Hills. Currently, Tabitha is a Farm Bill Biologist with Pheasants
Forever, working out of Denison, IA. She helps landowners and producers achieve their habitat goals on private lands while working in partnership with NRCS and the DNR. Tabitha loves her job and is grateful to be where she is. In her free time she enjoys, hiking, kayaking, bird
watching, cutting cedars, spending time with her “obnoxious” family, gardening, tending to her
dogs and her quail, cooking, and spending time in prairies, of course.
Sarah has been an IPN Board member since July 2019. Sarah is originally from central Iowa and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from Drake University. Currently, Sarah is a Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner
& NRCS Partner Biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate
Conservation. In her free time, she enjoys spending time in prairies,
recreating outdoors and volunteering for various NGO conservation groups.
IPN Board member since August 2020. Justin grew
up in northwestern Illinois and has been an Iowan since 2016. Justin
has a PhD in Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota
and a BS in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign. Justin leads the Research and Restoration Program at the Tallgrass Prairie Center where his focus is on implementing restoration
research and demonstration projects, developing training seminars,
and developing technical materials. Justin also enjoys nature
photography, woodworking, and tinkering with native plant
IPN Board Member since January 2018. Tim grew up on a family farm in western Iowa and holds an MS in Community & Regional Planning from Iowa State University. He is currently the farmer liaison with the Prairie STRIPS team at ISU and travels the state helping farmers and landowners install prairie in their crop fields. In his free time he enjoys being outside, woodworking, and exploring Iowa parks, prairies,
Lance is currently a Project Coordinator at Golden Hills
Resource Conservation and Development, where he leads a
variety of conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives. He
helped coordinate the 2017 Iowa Prairie Conference, held in
the Loess Hills, and currently manages a prairie seed harvest &
native plant propagation project. Lance is hopeful about prairies’ potential for improving wildlife habitat, soil health, and water quality, and has completed ISU’s Prairie Strips Consultant certification. He has also completed the Iowa Master Conservationist Program, Iowa DNR’s IOWATER water quality
monitoring program, and Iowa
Rivers Revival’s Master River Stewards Program. Lance is a Natural Areas Management volunteer with
Pottawattamie County Conservation Board and has completed basic wildland fire training. He has a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Public Administration
degree from University of Nebraska-Omaha. Lance is a native western Iowan and has always enjoyed spending time outdoors. He prefers to spend free time hiking, biking, and paddling, and is learning to hunt.
Cait is an herb, prairie and vegetable farmer in the Loess
Hills of Southwest Iowa. She operates Mullein Hill Farm with her
family and homeschools her two kids (who also love the prairie) Catalpa and Mira. She also works off farm at Lutheran Family Services supporting refugee and new American farmers in Omaha, Nebraska. Cait is an educator and has worked for various urban agriculture and garden education projects over the years. She loves to share land tending skills with children, youth, and adults and is particularly keen on building healthy soil and saving seeds. She and her partner are currently working on small prairie restoration
projects on the farm and hope to produce more native plants for the
community from seed they collect. Her website is www.mulleinhillfarm.com.
Since earning her Environmental Science degree in 2014
Tenlea has completed internships in Biology (x2), Vegetation
Management, and Visitor Services at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge,
and held a seasonal position with the IA DNR conducting rare butterfly
surveys in the Loess Hills region of Iowa. Tenlea is currently the
Pollinator Coordinator (Midwest) working with USFWS through a
Cooperative Agreement with American Conservation Experience. She has been on the USFWS Monarch Monitoring Team since 2016. Tenlea is a member of the IPN Communications Committee and editor of the IPN Newsletter.
Ray is a founder and charter member of IPN. His passion is facilitating the identification, acquisition, and protection of natural areas. Ray’s personal and collaborative projects include numerous local quality areas. He is especially happy with his role in preserving 3 prairies, a savanna complex, a fen, 3 algific talus slopes
and 2 miles of woodland river corridor, comprising a total of 1500
acres. As an independent voice, Ray gathered input from a variety of
biological specialties to create a novel and holistic approach to prairie management. This research and his hands-on experience as a
resource manager led him to write the “The Native Prairie Management Guide” as an alternative to concerns over traditional rotational burns. Ray thinks "IPN is a great organization to promote the importance of the prairie biome to the world."
Pam’s love of plants and animals began while growing up on the farm and sharing both her grandmothers’ enthusiasm for gardening. She attended William Penn University and carried a double major in chemistry and natural science. She graduated with a secondary science teaching certificate. After completing an internship in medical terminology, Pam’s life-long career has been in hospital laboratories. Her involvement with IPN started with a prairie meeting advertised in the local shopper where she met one of southeast Iowa’s first prairie enthusiasts, Gene Kromray. At her first field trip, Georgetown Cemetery near Albia, she met other prairie enthusiasts like Martha Skillman, Sue Irving, and Glenda Buenger and she was hooked. She’s been on the IPN board for 14 years, leads monthly prairie hikes, and coordinates prairie
rescue and seed collecting events in Region 6. She enjoys every field trip and meeting, learning about plants and animals, and most of all every prairie person she has met.
Jon is a native Iowan that has spent his life working with natural resources. He runs a natural resource consulting and management
business called Diversity Farms, based near Dedham, Iowa. The primary focus of the business is producing and planting locally native prairie seed. Jon has been a member of the Iowa Prairie Network for more than 20 years.
Corinne joined the board as Secretary in 2018. While studying architecture at Iowa State
University, she was introduced to and fell in love with the
prairie during her land stewardship internship with Iowa
Natural Heritage Foundation in 2013. Since then she has
worked at a private hunting preserve in central Iowa and
currently at the Iowa DNR Prairie Resource Center,
propagating, planting and harvesting native wildflowers and
grasses whose seed is distributed to Wildlife Management
Areas throughout the state. Corinne grew up in the Quad
Cities, searching for mushrooms and orchids with her family
through the woodlands of Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. She hopes her passion inspires Iowans to
spend time in nature, caring for, connecting and growing with the flora and fauna with whom
we share our home!
Derek found a passion for conservation at a young age
after a naturalist told his school group to lay down in a tallgrass
prairie and just listen. He studied Biology and Environmental
Studies at Central College in Pella, Iowa and has worked in
conservation for five years. He is currently a Land Stewardship
Associate for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation where he
works to protect and restore Iowa's natural landscapes. Derek and his dog, Leopold, often spend their time on random tracts of public land pursuing wild game, identifying flora and fauna, hiking the hills and gaining a new perspective on what it means to be an Iowan. He resides in Boone, Ia.
Pete first learned about tallgrass prairies in 1991 from Daryl Smith and Laura Jackson as an undergrad at UNI. Since then he's been actively involved in prairie restoration and preservation through employment with the Iowa DNR, the Mahaska County Conservation Board, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US Army Corps of Engineers, as well as on his farms in Monroe and Lucas counties. In 2015 Pete received a PhD from Iowa State University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where his dissertation research focused on bison as seed dispersal agents in tallgrass prairie ecosystems. He currently teaches ecology courses and conducts research in the Biology department at William Penn University in Oskaloosa Iowa.