2024 Conference Presenter Bios
The Maine Land Conservation Conference brings together talented speakers from across the country with those from right here in Maine. We are so grateful to be working with all of them to bring you this year’s Conference!
Our Keynote Speaker: Dr. Bonnie Newsom
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2017
M.S., Quarternary Studies, University of Maine, 1999
B.A., Anthropology, University of Maine, 1995
Bonnie Newsom (Penobscot) is an Indigenous archaeologist interested in the pre-contact lifeways of Maine’s Native peoples. She is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Maine, and she seeks to humanize past peoples by exploring concepts of identity, social boundaries, and human agency. Dr. Newsom’s professional history includes serving as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Penobscot Indian Nation and as Assistant Director for UMaine’s Wabanaki Center. She has a strong public service record which includes serving as Chair of the Repatriation Review Committee for the National Museum of Natural History and as a member of the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission. Dr. Newsom holds a B.A. in Anthropology and an M.S. in Quaternary Studies from the University of Maine and she earned her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She and her husband Les live in Eddington, Maine and they have four children and three grandsons.
Our Other Esteemed Presenters
Adam Bishop is the Vice President of Programs for Maine Farmland Trust, and coordinates the efforts of MFT’s land protection team in addition to working on conservation projects in the midcoast region. He has been with MFT since 2013. Adam has experience working with a number of local and regional land trusts in Maine, including Frenchman Bay Conservancy, Coastal Mountains Land Trust, and Blue Hill Heritage Trust. Adam holds a BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic, and currently resides in Lincolnville, Maine.
Lee Burnett is a board member of Three Rivers Land Trust. He has been involved with trail development since college days when he worked on AMC Trail Crew in the White Mountains.
Jess Burton (she/her) is a weaver, connecting people, ideas, and resources to build a better world As the founding Executive Director of Momentum Conservation, she continues to learn and grow and seek ways to seed justice here. Jess grew up in New York City, ancestral land of the Lenape, and was born with an innate connection to nature and to being outside. She lives on Peaks Island with her husband Ponch Membreño, her daughters, and 2 dogs. Jess loves big ideas and is re-learning how to imagine that which has not existed yet.
Dr. John Daigle
John Daigle is a tribal member of the Penobscot Indian Nation and a program leader for the Parks, Recreation and Tourism program at the University of Maine. Daigle has been involved with the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) project since its origins in the early 2000s. His research team seeks to study and facilitate the ways that Wabanaki basket makers, tribes, state and federal foresters, university researchers, landowners, and others can come together to prevent, detect, and respond to the potential threat of the EAB in Maine.
Keith Davis is chair of Three Rivers Land Trust. He has been walking since his early years and prefers most of his walks to be in the woods.
Stephen Engle, Executive Director and Founder of Community Geographics, has 26 years experience in the geospatial industry. He is a Geographer by training and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Middlebury College and Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand), respectively. In addition to overseeing project development and business operations, Stephen specializes in project conceptualization, cartography, interface design, trails planning, training, and geospatial strategy. Implemented in 2009 under Stephen’s leadership, the award-winning Maine Trail Finder website has supported over five million users since launching and has served as a model for similar applications that Community Geographics has built for project partners across ten other states.
Tyler is a citizen of Mi’kmaq Nation. His research prioritizes methodologies that result in Tribal led science. He is a PhD student in the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine and his current research focuses on the impacts of emerald ash borer (EAB) on Tribal ash resources and identifying innovative management and mitigation strategies for this forest health issue that Tribal Nation partners support and have interest in better understanding.
Gary Fish has been Maine State Horticulturist since 2015. He earned his B.S. in Forest and Wildlife Management from the University of Maine, College of Forest Resources in 1982, and a Master of Policy, Planning, and Management in 2023. Gary has also been Manager of Pesticide Programs for the Board of Pesticides Control for 28 years. Off and on, he has been a practicing Licensed Professional Forester since 1985, through Kents Hill Forestry Services. He is also the former chair of the Arborist Board and was a horticulturist for ChemLawn Services Corporation for 5 years, 1983 – 1988.
Gary grew up in Farmington, Maine. An entomologist from birth, he was inspired to love plants by his Mother, who always grew beautiful roses and rock gardens. Gary is also a landscape and nature photographer. https://www.etsy.com/shop/phishphotography
Emily (she/her) PhD candidate with a research focus on human dimensions of natural resources, specifically related to prioritizing Tribal Nations involvement in planning and decision making to solutions of “wicked problems.” Her research with Ash Protection Collaboration Across Wabanakik started with ash seed collection and the need to develop a document for non-researchers to take part in the effort to save seeds. Francis also spearheaded a survey on private landowners’ knowledge and involvement in saving ash on their properties against emerald ash borer (EAB).
A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Laura earned her undergraduate degree in Art at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, and her J.D. at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Before joining the Land for Maine’s Future Program, she was a lawyer and a mediator. As a Senior Planner, and now Director, at LMF, Laura has learned the inside workings of the program and looks forward to building on the program’s many strengths. She lives in Alna with her husband, their shaggy dog, and two cats.
Suzanne Greenlaw, Ph.D
Suzanne Greenlaw, Ph.D, is a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and a Postdoctoral fellow at Schoodic Institute. Her work focuses on mobilizing Indigenous Knowledge to address Wabanaki cultural resource issues such as reduced access, invasive species planning, and climate change adaptation.
Peter Jones is a life-long mission driven fundraising professional who has worked for such organizations as The Wilderness Society, The Trust for Public Land and National Audubon Society. With a passion for conservation and the outdoors, he launched PHILANTHROPY Squared in 2016 to assist a grassroots group launch a fundraising program. The company aims to bring a depth of experience and a deep understanding of all aspects of the fundraising cycle through a hands-on collaborative approach.
Melissa Law is a co-owner of Bumbleroot Organic Farm, a diversified vegetable and flower farm in Windham, Maine. Melissa is currently serving her second term on the Maine Climate Council and its Natural and Working Lands Working Group, and is passionate about the intersection of agriculture, climate change and increasing resilience in Maine’s local food system and communities.
Janet McMahon is an ecologist who works with land trusts, conservation organizations, state agencies, and private landowners to identify, understand and design landscape-scale conservation areas. She has developed regional conservation plans for the Medomak, Sheepscot, and St. George River watersheds, the Blue Hill peninsula, and the Great Pond Mountain regions, prepared an ecological assessment of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, and has prepared natural resource inventories and management plans for dozens of important natural areas in Maine.
Janet’s masters thesis and map, The Biophysical Regions of Maine, is used as a framework for many landscape-scale conservation efforts in Maine and her report An Ecological Reserves System for Maine: Benchmarks in a Changing Landscape, provided a blueprint for a statewide ecological reserve system and led to ecological reserves legislation in 2000.
Janet helped found the Medomak Valley Land Trust, served on the Maine Council on Sustainable Forest Management, Maine Forest Biodiversity Project, Allagash Wilderness Waterway Advisory Council, the 2018-19 Maine Conservation Task Force, and currently serves on the Maine Ecological Reserves Scientific Advisory Board.
estephanie is a queer, Brown, multi-racial, primarily spanish-speaking, educator and consultant. They are the oldest of five siblings, and descended of the Cumanagoto people, she lives in Penobscot territory, also called midcoast maine, with their husband and three dogs. estephanie is dedicated to re-membering their cultural traditions through the earth, food, dance, and story.
for nearly a decade now, estephanie martinez-alfonzo (they/she) has been tracking language down a set of winding trails exploring the relationships between linguistics, cultural mythologies, integrities, systems, and healing. Through Mycorrising, they work with individuals, local, and national organizations, including the Nature Connection Network. they help to illuminate developmental relational strategies and practices. these often include reflective organizational awareness, conflict transformation, accountability, natural organizational models, and other mechanisms which are rooted in more supportive and mutual paradigms that make room for everyone’s gifts to thrive.
with nature, community, and heart at the center of their work- they share embodied practices for decolonizing and cultivating deeper knowing to the natural within ourselves as pathways to re-membering our lifeways relationally. https://www.mycorrising.com/
Ella (she/they) is a non-native Master’s student in Ecology and Environmental Science. With a background in organizing partnerships between conservation groups and Tribal Nations to facilitate land returns, Ella’s interests lie in how to facilitate respectful and effective cross cultural collaborations for the future of land, forests, and water. Their research questions explore how APCAW can develop effective communication tools to enhance our efforts. They helped facilitate the co-creation of the APCAW website and are supporting organizing the APCAW training series of 2023-2024.
Betsy McGean has worked for The Trust for Public Land (TPL), The Nature Conservancy in Asia-Pacific, the Ford Foundation in India, and the World Bank in the former Soviet Union. During her tenure with TPL, she led multiple land acquisition campaigns and helped create the organization’s campaign blueprint. Betsy joined PHILANTHROPY Squared in 2022, and she enjoys working with clients as partners to advance best practices and to ensure that organizations learn how to create a culture of philanthropy.
Shelley Megquier manages Maine Farmland Trust’s federal, state, and municipal policy work and oversees the design, completion, and dissemination of its research work. She brings to her role a deep commitment to using solid evidence and compelling storytelling to inspire lasting political change. As a native of Hampden, Maine and a lover of all things dirt, farm, and food, she is committed to advancing climate-friendly policies that protect Maine farmland, support the state’s diverse farming communities, and advance the future of Maine farming and local food systems.
Nancy Moore is Managing Partner of the Conservation Consulting Group (CCG), a collective of highly experienced professionals who are passionate about land conservation and dedicated to building the capacity and advancing the mission of land trusts throughout the United States. Nancy has been a consultant in the nonprofit sector for over twenty years, guiding hundreds of organizations through strategic planning, needs assessments, organizational assessments, Board development, and more. Nancy brings more than 35 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and management to her work as a consultant, including 11 years as an Executive Director. She also applies her passion for the natural environment, talents as a group leader and facilitator, and interest in other cultures as an international adventure travel expedition leader for Natural Habitat Adventures, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. And for the past seven years, she’s added “elected official” to her plate, serving on the City Council of her home town of Monona, Wisconsin. But the truth… she’d rather be in Maine! Nancy grew up in Portland and Yarmouth and is thrilled to have a family home in Deer Isle.
Darren Ranco is a faculty member with the University of Maine’s Department of Anthropology, as well as the Chair of Native American Programs and Coordinator of Native American Research. His research focuses on the ways in which indigenous communities in the United States resist environmental destruction by using indigenous diplomacies and critiques of liberalism to protect cultural resources, and how state knowledge systems continue to expose indigenous peoples to an inordinate amount of environmental risk. Ranco is a member of the Penobscot Nation, and is particularly interested in how better research relationships can be made between universities, Native and non-Native researchers, and indigenous communities.
Jeff Romano has been directing public policy at Maine Coast Heritage Trust since 2004. His work at MCHT includes advocating in support of beneficial land conservation policies in Augusta and Washington D.C. Over the past two decades, he has focused on numerous policy priorities including leading multiple campaigns that together have directed more than $85 million in funding to the Land for Maine’s Future Program. Jeff is also an outdoor writer who has written five hiking guidebooks, most recently Day Hiking New England (2015), Hike the parks Acadia (2021), and 100 Classic Hikes in New England (2023).
Hope Rowan, GIS & Interactive Mapping Specialist, joined Community Geographics in 2019. She has worked in the field of GIS for 20 years, and in the field of land conservation for nearly as long. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Colby College and a Master’s degree from College of the Atlantic. Her mapping skills include cartography, spatial data analysis, and creating spatial models for decision support, primarily for conservation organizations, the fishing industry, and Maine municipalities. At Community Geographics, Hope supports multiple trails projects and websites—especially with GIS data management and posting development—and plays a pivotal role keeping Maine Trail Finder updated through her direct and regular work with trail managers, outdoor events sponsors, and trailside services. Hope has also authored two guidebooks for hiking with children in Maine.
Catherine Schmitt is a science communication specialist with Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park. She writes about research in Acadia and across the National Park System, and also provides communication training for conservation scientists and educators. She is the author of The President’s Salmon and other nonfiction books, editor of the Maine’s Climate Future series of reports (2009-2020), and contributing writer for Northern Woodlands and The Working Waterfront. Schmitt’s writing has been published in numerous other magazines, newspapers, and literary journals. She previously directed communications for the Maine Sea Grant College Program at the University of Maine, where she also was an adjunct instructor in the English Department. Her writing is informed by her scientific background, which includes a master’s in ecology and environmental science and experience studying lakes, streams, wetlands, and beaches throughout the Northeast.
Anna Sommo (she/her) grew up in Appleton, Maine. Over the past 20+ years she has found that she enjoys working with others to build systems towards a more just world. She believes strongly in the power of environmental education to help people connect with each other and nature and has held positions in residential outdoor education and garden- based education both in Maine and on the west coast. She loves to learn and work with schools and community partners to support opportunities for environmental education (EE) for all Maine youth. As part of the team at Maine Environmental Education Association, in the role of Director of Schools and Community Partnerships, she aims to create a more just, equitable and inclusive EE sector in Maine. Anna enjoys riding her bicycle, working in her garden and cooking up meals from what she grows for her family and friends.
Following some years working in international relations, Ciona joined Maine Coast Heritage Trust in 1998 to work in land protection. She primarily works with landowners, land trusts and different levels of government on land protection and restoration projects within a region in the midcoast. Ciona is also the Co-Chair of MCHT’s Working Group on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice, and in 2017 she worked with Peter Forbes of Vermont to begin an effort called First Light, an effort to build a bridge between conservation organizations and Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac Communities who seek to expand Wabanaki stewardship of land. Ciona currently serves a Member of the First Light Conservation Community Delegation and a non-native, non-voting Member of the Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship Nil yut ktahkomiq nik (the whole earth is our home).