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Tabitha Panas

President/Region 1

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.

Tim Youngquist

Vice-President/Region 3

IPN Board Member since January 2018. Tim grew up on his 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 spending time with his family, being outside, woodworking, and exploring Iowa parks, prairies, and preserves.

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Ed Sibley


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.

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Laura Miner

Secretary/Region 2

Laura (Leben) Miner is excited to be serving her second term with the Iowa Prairie Network as a Region 2 Representative. She is currently employed by the Iowa Dept of Natural Resources as a Natural Resources Technician 2 at the Prairie Resource Center. The Prairie Resource Center produces native local ecotype 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 Story City, IA and enjoys spending her free time exploring prairie remnants, canoeing, camping, road-cycling, and meeting other prairie people.

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Leesa McNeil

Region 1

Leesa and her husband, Jon, did not become awake to prairies in Iowa until they purchased an acreage that contained virgin Loess Hills Prairie.  Ever since that time Leesa has worked with her husband to preserve and enhance the prairie and connect to people and resources that can help them be effective in preserving prairies.  Leesa sees the Iowa Prairie Network as an important organization to help Iowans appreciate and protect the prairies. Leesa obtained a Master of Science in Judicial Administration from the University of Denver College of Law and her undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota. Most of her 38 years in court administration were spend in Iowa but she also worked in Baltimore, Maryland, Saginaw, Michigan and Denver, Colorado.  She currently teaches online for the University of Phoenix.  She cherishes and works to learn from the people trained in the sciences that help us understand and protect our natural world.  She served on the State Preserves Advisory Board from 2012 to 2018, is a member of the Iowa Native Plant Society, Loess Hills Audubon Society and  served a couple terms on the IPN Board for several years starting in 2014.  She passed the tests to be a wildlands firefighter for several years starting in 2012 so she could be more effective at conducting her own prescribed burns on her remnant prairie.

Email Leesa!

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Caitlin Golle

Region 2

Caitlin Golle is a community organizer on the farming and environment team for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, working to stop the construction of new and expanding factory farms, ensuring that environmental laws are being enforced, and working for better policy at the local, state, and federal level for clean air and water. Caitlin volunteers for many organizations outside of the Iowa Prairie Network and you may find her at the Rockford Fossil and Prairie Center, holding monthly prairie work days (open to the public) for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, or harvesting seed or helping in prescribed burns with Many Rivers chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts. Caitlin grew up playing in Iowa's waterways and has developed a deep love for the natural ecosystems that still exist in Iowa. She has a passion for connecting people with the prairie, hopes to inspire a similar love for Iowa's natural spaces within people all around the state, and is honored to serve as a Region 2 board member with the Iowa Prairie Network. 

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Justin Meissen

Region 3

Laura Walter grew up close to prairie during her childhood in Kansas. While she was attending Kansas State University, a summer undergraduate research experience at the Konza Prairie Biological Station lured her away from a major in pre-veterinary medicine, and she carried out further research in prairie plant ecology toward completion of a master’s degree. Laura and her husband Michael moved to Iowa in 1995. While they were raising their three children, she worked as a science educator, teaching students from elementary through college levels and often finding ways to weave prairie into the curriculum. In 2018, Laura went back to her roots, literally and figuratively, by joining the staff of UNI’s Tallgrass Prairie Center. She manages the Plant Materials Program, which produces Iowa source-identified stock seed of prairie species for the native seed industry and coordinates communication among native seed stakeholders. One of Laura’s favorite parts of the job (among many others) is traveling to remnant prairies to scout for populations of new species from which to collect seed for the program. Laura has respect and reverence for these precious places and appreciation for the people who protect and care for them. She is particularly interested in helping younger Iowans and people of diverse backgrounds connect to our prairie heritage and our shared prairie future.

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Tony Vorwald

Region 4

My name is Tony Vorwald from Jackson County Conservation. I grew up on a small farm in north west Jackson County between Zwingle and Bernard IA. I have been an outdoorsy person
since I was a child, when I was known as the frog kid. I started my career in conservation in college. I started my college career at Hawkeye Community College where I earned my associates in Natural Resources Management. From there I received by bachelor’s degree from the University of Dubuque in Environmental Science. I also have a graduate certificate in Environmental Education and I am a semester away from earning my maters online in Integrated Natural Resources form the University of Idaho, completion anticipated this December.

I have worked up north for the Audubon Center of the North Woods, and the St. Croix River Association. I currently work for Jackson County Conservation where I have been for the past 4.5 years. I have completely fell in love with the small remnant prairies that Jackson County Conservation manages. I have been pushing Jackson County Conservation to do more management on these prairies and over the past few years. I personally have been removing invasive species/woody encroachment from the prairies. Also over the past few years I have been creating a species inventory of our prairie remnants, and have been taking local high school and college students out to the remnants.

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Kenny Slocum

Region 4

Kenny Slocum grew up in LeClaire, Iowa before graduating from Augustana College in 2009 and heading west. Working for the Montana Conservation Corps, he developed a love for hands-on restoration work. From there he worked for the National Park Service as an interpretive park ranger and trail crew member, depending on the month. In 2015, he joined the Clayton County Conservation Board where he
presently works as a naturalist and natural resource manager, depending on the day. He believes in the power of elbow grease and education to restore Iowa’s natural heritage, hosting public programs and work days to engage and empower private landowners to become better stewards.

and preserves.

Email Kenny!

Lance Brisbois

Region 5

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.

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Cait Caughey

Region 5

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

Caitlin Schultes

Region 6

Caitlin was fortunate enough to grow up down the road from a natural resource consulting and management business called Diversity Farms: owned and operated by Jon Judson. Cumulatively, she has eight years of experience and started working full-time as a conservationist and horticulturist after graduating from Iowa State University with a B.S. in Horticulture. Diversity Farms focuses on prairie restoration and reconstruction by producing locally native prairie seed and native plants. Caitlin’s position allows her to engage in prairies comprehensively from prescribed fire, land management, seed harvest, plant propagation & production, and landscaping. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, exploring prairies, and traveling to national parks across the country.

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Kelly Jacobs

Region 6

Kelly is originally from Minnesota where she discovered her passion for conservation exploring the lakes and forests with her dog, Lucy. She has a background in science education and earned her Masters degree in biology in 2017, studying the effects of invasive plant species on habitat restoration. After moving to central Iowa, she began working as a biological technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The monarchs, bumble bees, and bison of the tallgrass prairie motivated Kelly to join the IPN board to advocate for this disappearing ecosystem and share it’s wonders with the public. In her free time, Kelly enjoys going camping, traveling, and bird watching.

Email Kelly!

Codi Sharkey

Region 7

Codi spent her childhood summers with her grandparents in Northeast Iowa where they instilled a love for nature and time outdoors by the way of trout fishing and foraging. The love for the outdoors and natural world never diminished and she went on to get a BA in Biology from Clarke University. She spent four years serving in Green Iowa AmeriCorps where she worked as an environmental educator and advocate for the Dubuque community. Her work there led to her current role as the Conservation Programs Manager at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. It was through her work at the museum Codi found her love of prairies, as she head starts many native prairie species in the River Museum’s greenhouse. She uses the greenhouse to teach guest about Iowa’s prairies and their role in water quality and overall health of our ecosystems. She loves visiting remnant areas to get the feel of what Iowa once was and also spends her free time hiking in the Driftless area, fishing, kayaking, and foraging.

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A.J. McBride

Region 7

A.J. provides financial support to IPN’s finance committee and joined the team in 2023. A.J. is a true Iowan at heart and has always shared a love of our state's prairie heritage. He grew up in Fort Dodge, where he spent many happy hours learning about native plants from his grandmother in her garden. This early exposure to the beauty and wonder of the prairie instilled in him a deep appreciation for the natural world and a passion for preserving and protecting Iowa's prairies. He later moved to Iowa City to attend the University of Iowa, where he earned his MBA and works as a Senior Sales Operations Analyst at Leepfrog Technologies. He has served in volunteer nonprofit roles since 2008 and brings years of nonprofit financial experience to the IPN board. In his free time, A.J. can be found on his bike, in the garden, or out walking trails with his Siberian Husky. He is a passionate advocate for the preservation of Iowa's prairies, and he is excited to bring his skills and experience to the IPN team.

Shami Morse

At Large

Shami grew up on the family farm in Iowa County in eastern Iowa, where her mother was an early “prairie person.” Shami has worked in financial institutions in California and Nebraska and at the University of Iowa. She raised three children, spent several years in spiritual retreat, and along the way rediscovered her love of botany and prairies. In 2013 she took an internship at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, a remarkable prairie reconstruction near Des Moines. While there, she learned about the Prairie Strips research conducted by Iowa State. The practice was implemented on the family farm in 2014. She spent several years near Omaha, growing organic vegetables, aronia berries, and native perennials with her partner. They enjoyed exploring prairies together, especially in the nearby Loess Hills. Shami became a Nebraska Master Naturalist and Iowa Master Conservationist. In 2021 she moved to Iowa City to purchase a home in Prairie Hill Cohousing, an intentional community. In the summer of 2022, she returned to the Neal Smith refuge as a biology intern. She continues to explore prairies around the Midwest.

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Derek Miner

At Large

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 Story City, IA.

Email Derek!

Pete Eyheralde

At Large

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.   

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At Large

Ann Wolf

At Large

Ann lives in Des Moines, Iowa and currently serves as Co-Program Director for MidwestHealthyAg.ORG, a grant funded scientific research project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) for health and climate solutions. She is also owner of the consulting firm Clear Steam Solutions LLC which focuses on agriculture, environment, economic development and nonprofit sustainability. She has over 35 years experience in nonprofit development, community leadership, farm operations and management. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the University of Iowa and a Masters degree in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Development from the University of Northern Iowa. She holds professional certifications from Iowa State University and United Way of Central Iowa’s Nonprofit Leadership Institute and has acquired the international high-level designations of Certified Fund Raising Executive and Certified Nonprofit Professional. Ann is recognized locally, regionally and nationally as an Iowa woman farmland owner practicing over 30 years with soil conservation, water quality enhancement, natural habitat and prairie restoration projects, encompassing environmental and agricultural sustainability programs on her 300-acre farm located in eastern Iowa. She has partnered and worked with USDA, NRCS, FSA, Iowa DNR, Pheasants Forever and others for effective management of her farm operation.

Email Ann!

Aric Ping

At Large

Aric was born and raised on the row crop quiltwork flatlands between the Loess Hills and the Missouri River. He was exposed to Iowa’s tallgrass prairie at age 11 when his family’s lawn mower broke and the long-forgotten big bluestem and heath aster planted by his grandfather shot skyward. He didn’t know it at the time, but his passion, career, and cause had begun to bolt like  that turkeyfoot towards the sun.


As a student interning at the University of Nebraska’s Allwine Prairie Preserve (Glacier Creek) he realized a career in prairie was possible. After graduation he went on to work for public and private grassland conservation organizations throughout the midwest and great plains. He returned home to Iowa in 2015 to manage and restore prairie in the Iowa Great Lakes and Little Sioux River Valley. Two years ago he shifted west, to the Loess Hills, in a position with Pottawattamie Conservation. They can’t make him leave.


Aric learns from the land everyday and is also completing graduate coursework in grassland management. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Don’t hold that against him. 

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