Collaborators, Conveners, Workshop Leaders

Prairie ecology in Iowa’s Loess Hills. (Photo by Robert Smith.)

We enter wild places with curiosity and a sense of gratitude for our friends and collaborators — writers, philosophers, scientists, poets, activists — lovers of nature all. Here are just a few them:

Kathleen Thompson, M.S. is a mycologist and Ph.D candidate at University of Wisconsin. She is an avid naturalist and poet, longtime friend and collaborator and a TNS Naturalist-in-Residence.

Kathryn Sutko Twit is a seeker of oneness and connection with nature, humanity and spirit. She actively practices presence and invites others to the same through the circles, meditations and yoga she guides. Katie holds an M.A. in Spanish and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. 

Pond-side poetry.

Theodore Burk, D.Phil. is Professor of Biology at Creighton University. His research is focused on insect conservation biology and insect behavioral ecology. Dr. Burk leads frequent pollinator field sessions for TNS, and has been a decades-long mentor, guide, and friend.

Emily Anderson, a TNS Naturalist-in-Residence, is corn born and currently lives and teaches writing in Omaha. While she doesn’t have any pets, she does take herself out on walks every day. 

Craig Maier, M.S. is a tallgrass prairie ecologist and coordinator of the Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium based in Madison, Wisconsin. Craig has worked for a variety of conservation organizations including The Nature Conservancy and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. TNS partners with TPOSFSC on prescribed fire workshops and field days.

A day in the woods with Robert Smith (left), Jack Phillips, Neal Ratzlaff, Keith Lucas, and Steve. (Photo by Chelsea Balzer.)

Joseph Phillips, Ph.D. is an aquatic ecologist at Creighton University (Omaha), Holar University and Lake Myvatn Research Station in Iceland where he studies aquatic food webs and population dynamics.

Emma Piper-Burket is a visual artist, filmmaker, and writer using fiction, non-fiction, and collected media to investigate interactions between nature, society, and the human spirit. She is a Ph.D. student at University of Colorado and holds an MFA in Cinema and Digital Media from FAMU in Prague. Emma is a TNS Naturalist-in-Residence.

Neal Ratzlaff is a naturalist and field guide author. Neal is a retired radiologist with a lifelong interest in natural history, and past president of the Nebraska Native Plant Society and the Nebraska Ornithological Union. Neal is a longtime mentor, collaborator, and friend.

Naturalists-in-Residence Sarah Bartolomei (left), Courtney Stormberg, and Angelica Perez with butterfly enthusiast Mr. Moose.

Marcus Frejo is a Pawnee, Seminole and Mexican HipHop artist, producer, cultural activist, community organizer and traditional healer. TNS members assist Marcus with gathering sacred plants for medicine bundles at Pahuk, the most holy place in Pawnee spiritual landscape.

Troy Soderberg is a naturalist, nature photographer, and longtime member of TNS. He is restoring native habitat on his family farm in Washington County, Nebraska.

Matt Moles is Park Manager of Waubonsie State Park in southwest Iowa, avid naturalist, and longtime friend and member of TNS. Matt’s ecological expertise, passion, and experience has made WSP the jewell of the southern Loess Hills.

Tree planting with Dan McCarthy and James Maakestad. Photo by Harrison Martin.

Michelle Quick has an MFA from University of Nebraska Omaha, where she received an Academy of American Poets prize. Michelle is the Founder of The Howler Project and a Fiction Editor of The Good Life Review.

Kevin T. Smith, Ph.D. is a long-time mentor and friend of The Naturalist School. He is Supervisory Plant Pathologist for the US Forest Service Northern Research Station in Durham, New Hampshire — the birthplace of The Naturalist School.

Robert Smith is a naturalist, nature photographer, tree planter, native seed collector, saunterer, and long-time member of The Naturalist School. His cellphone photography is featured throughout the TNS website.

Naturalists-in-Residence Kristin Zahra, Billie Shelton, Ione Grote, Emily Anderson, and Angelica Perez.

Abbe Richardson is a naturalist, wildlife biologist, and raptor bander and researcher. Abbe is based in Colorado Springs, and assists with saw-whet owl banding, migratory hawk and eagle monitoring in the Missouri River flyway, and biotic surveys with TNS partners.

Jason Andersen, M.S. is a naturalist and wildlife biologist with Pheasants Forever in western Iowa.

Joelle Wellansa Sandfort is a biracial, interdisciplinary artist and TNS Naturalist-in-Residence currently living in Omaha, Nebraska. She makes assemblages and installations that explore themes of alienation and connection. 

Poetry circle with Kafele Williams (left), Joseph Phillips, Angelica Perez, and Sarah Boyle.

Matthew Low, Ph.D. teaches English at Brownell Talbot School in Omaha. His research and writing interests include prairie restoration, sustainable agriculture, narrative theory, and the intersection of religion and the environment.

Jerry Toll is a wildlife biologist, raptor bander and researcher, and longtime friend of TNS.

Howard Eyre is Department Chair of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Delaware Valley University and one of the original members of TNS New Hampshire group. Howard is frequent contributor to TNS workshops throughout the continent — including our homewoods in Nebraska and Iowa,

Tree-planting selfie with Chelsea Balzer and friends.

Chad Graeve is Natural Resources Specialist for Pottawattamie County Conservation. Chad has collaborated with TNS for biotic surveys and ecology field days in the Loess Hills.

Michelle Biodrowski, M.S. is a naturalist, conservation biologist, and native plant consultant living in Iowa’s Loess Hills.

Laura Johnson Dahlke holds a Ph.D. in Humanities, an M.F.A. and an M.A. in English. Laura has a special interest in nature writing; she lives and dreams in Omaha with her husband and five children.

Winter poets (from left) Kim Roberts, Kat Ludwick, Kara Cavel, Laura Burhenn, Tessa Wedberg, Sara Bartolomei and the amazing Bruce.

John T. Price, M.F.A., Ph.D. is the author of the three nature memoirs Daddy Long Legs: The Natural Education of a Father, Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships, Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grassland and most recently All is Leaf: Essays and Transformations. He is also the editor of The Tallgrass Prairie Reader. He is Professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he directs the nonfiction writing program.

Naturalist and poet Joe Janowski collecting wild seed with friends for a TNS restoration project. (Photo by Robert Smith.)

Brooklyn Larimore is a poet and artist living in Greeley, Colorado. Brooklyn is a former TNS intern caring for trees in Omaha’s Old Market Native Arboretum.

Zach Burhenn is a forester, naturalist, consulting arborist and owner of Iowa Native Trees and Shrubs, a TNS nursery co-op partner that provides plants for our habitat and urban re-wilding projects. Our members collect seeds from locally-wild native trees and shrubs for the co-op.

Jack Phillips is a poet, naturalist, nature writer and principal of The Naturalist School.

Winter oak by Troy Soderberg, naturalist and photographer.

Genevieve N. Williams holds an MFA from University of Nebraska, where she received an Academy of American Poets Prize.  Genevieve believes an active engagement with the natural world both in our writing and also our lives is vital as we face threats as global as climate change and as local as the defunding of state parks.

Martha Barwinsky, M.Sci. is City Forester of Winnipeg and a longtime friend, co-presenter and collaborator for TNS workshops and consultations in Manitoba with Jack Phillips and Kevin T. Smith.

Todd Robinson teaches in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He has published two books of poetry, most recently Mass for Shut-Ins (Backwaters Press, 2018).  He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has conducted community writing work with Seven Doctors Project, Poets in the Schools, Nebraska Writers Collective, Black Squirrel Summer Arts Program, and Nebraska Warrior Writers.

Lepidopteran studies with Prof. Ted Burk (right) and biologist Michelle Biodrowski. (Photo by artist and photographer Sarah Berkeley, MFA.).

Chelsea Balzer, M.A., PLMHP, is a poet, psychotherapist, writer, musician, and educator. In her creative and therapeutic work, she studies the impact of culture on mental health and teaches embodied mindfulness to help bring people back into connection with nature, themselves, and each other.

Emily Hergenrader is an environmental educator and former TNS intern working in the Omaha Old Market Native Arboretum.

Jeff LeClere is Amphibian and Reptile Specialist with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and author of Amphibians and Reptiles of Iowa.

Late winter poets with artist Corson Androski (left) waiting for the vernal muses.