Janelle Long – Executive Director
Janelle Long began her career as the Executive Director at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in August 2007. She received her M.Ed. in Environmental Education at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a B.S. in Wildlife Management and Biology at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. Her interest in ornithology and conservation biology began by assisting several Ph.D. students with their field research studying neotropical migrants and grassland birds. She continued to share her passion for birds in the field of environmental education working at several Audubon Centers and for the Bureau of Land Management’s Yaquina Head Oustanding Natural Area in OR. She enjoys bridging the bird conservation research, education, and stewardship components through her career with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. Janelle resides in Duluth, MN with her husband and 3 children.
Margie Menzies – Education Program Director
Margie Menzies: One part educator, two parts naturalist, and two parts bird nerd! Who says slow and steady wins the race? After years in the formal classroom, this educator has abandoned the indoors for the great outdoor classroom. Margie is the naturalist at Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center up the North Shore in Schroeder, MN during the summer. There where she provides programs, camps, and bird banding; returning to Duluth for mail, laundry and grocery shopping! During the rest of the year she is a freelance naturalist and education consultant working on a variety of projects. She has also worked at Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth. She has a BA from Bethel University, and a MA from University of St. Thomas. Providing naturalist programming for the general public furnishes many colorful and meaningful experiences with every day on the job. She loves birds, learning, and sharing the natural world with people of all ages. Margie joined the Hawk Ridge staff as a Naturalist in 2011 and currently is the Education Program Director for Hawk Ridge.
Frank Nicoletti – Banding Director/Spring Count Director
Frank Nicoletti grew up in New York State along the Hudson River where he started watching raptors at the age of 11. His passion for raptors and other birds fueled him to work at various locations including Cape May and Sandy Hook NJ, Braddock Bay NY and in Israel. From 1984 until 1996 he traveled throughout the country and conducted various raptor related projects which included nesting surveys, tracking winter raptors and migration work. He arrived in Duluth in 1991 to count raptors and to witness the invasion of the Northern Goshawk and he conducted the count until 2005. After moving to Duluth permanently in the fall of 1996, he conducted the first spring count of raptors migrating north in Minnesota along the West Skyline Parkway of Duluth. Frank continues to study raptors and has been concentrating on boreal forest owls and managing raptor banding sites. He has published a number of papers on birds and has helped with many authors working on books and articles.
He lives just north of Duluth with his wife, Kate. Frank joined the Hawk Ridge staff in 2011 as the Banding Director and as of 2018 will also be directing the Hawk Ridge Spring Count (West Skyline Hawk Count).
John Richardson – Fall Count Director/Media Specialist
John Richardson hails from East Yorkshire in the UK, but has called Northern Minnesota home for over 20 years. Enjoying his life-long passion for birds, he is a professional bird guide. John joined the Hawk Ridge staff in 2016 and has worked in both the Count Interpreter and Count Director roles. John resides in Duluth with his wife and 3 boys.
FALL 2019 TEAM
We welcome our Fall 2019 team which includes seasonal employees and volunteers.
David Alexander – Volunteer Bander
David Alexander grew up living all over the world, and after finishing his medical training in Dallas, Madison, and Tucson finally decided it was time to settle down. Through some luck, he and his wife Christina Tarasczuk landed in Duluth, MN of all places. David has been a sometimes passionate birder over the years and still manages to get overseas for a few nature trips a year. Starting in the Fall of 1995, he has been an annual visitor and later a volunteer at Hawk Ridge.
David served on the board of Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve for many years, took a hiatus, and is now in his second term on the board of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. David works full-time as a radiologist for Essentia Health in Duluth. In his time off, he spends long days at Hawk Ridge in the fall helping to lead the Hawk Ridge Passerine Banding Project, as well as one of the assistant banders in the raptor project. In conjunction with Margie Menzies, he helps direct the summer MAPS breeding bird banding study.
Krista Botting – Counter
Krista grew up in Ionia, MI and graduated in 2018 with a degree in Biology, where her senior thesis focused on site fidelity in the American Kestrel. She caught the birding bug during high school while participating in an owl prowl with family friends and has continued working toward a life-time of raptor research ever since. This past Spring, Krista was the official hawk counter for Michigan Audubon at Whitefish Point, last Fall was the hawk counter for Lehigh Gap Nature Center at Bake Oven Knob in Pennsylvania, and spent the summer of 2017 in New York as the field biologist for Bedford Audubon. Krista hopes to continue working for raptor-centered organizations and eventually enter graduate school for raptor research in the years to come.
Katy Dahl – Environmental Education Trainee
Katy Dahl grew up in central MN. She has always enjoyed being outside, exploring the woods of Minnesota, and watching animal behavior. Katy graduated from Bemidji State University (BSU) with a BS. She studied Biology, Wildlife Management and Psychology. After BSU, Katy worked as a naturalist and wildlife apprentice at a residential environmental learning center in Sandstone, MN, called The Audubon Center of the North Woods(ACNW). She taught thousands of students while at ACNW about raptors, ecology, and the Minnesota woods through live raptor programs, outdoor classes, and outreach programming. Katy’s favorite places at ACNW were “in” the classroom or training the education ambassador raptors. Katy continued with environmental education after her naturalist stint and worked for a school district childcare program. Teaching the public about the environment is one of Katy’s passions, but she missed working in the field. A month before Katy joined the Hawk Ridge team this fall, she was on a southern Nova Scotian island studying and banding song birds.
Miranda Durbin – Volunteer Bander
Miranda Durbin has lived in Duluth most of her life, growing up right below Hawk Ridge. She got her BS in Fisheries and Wildlife, with a specialization in Wildlife at the University of Minnesota. Her love of birds didn’t begin in earnest until an ornithology class and an internship at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville helping in the avian nursery.After some traveling and time away from Duluth, she moved back in 2011 and began volunteering at Hawk Ridge during the 2012 fall season. She started volunteering in the banding station in 2013 and this will be her seventh year helping as one of the Banders at Hawk Ridge.
Steve Kolbe, Volunteer Counter
Steve Kolbe has counted migrating birds at Bradbury Mountain, the Avalon Seawatch, Tussey Mountain, Holiday Beach, Kiptopeke, Derby Hill, and Hawk Ridge (fall 2014 & spring 2018). He recently completed his Master’s degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth studying the migration of Common Nighthawks and is currently working for the Natural Resources Research Institute. Steve will be returning for his 4th season as a volunteer to help with the fall bird migration count at Hawk Ridge. Steve loves watching and taking photographs of migrating birds.
Jason Heinen – Naturalist
Jason was bitten badly by the birding bug during his undergraduate studies in fisheries ecology in Oklahoma. During a camping trip to the Texas hill country, he took notice of the boisterous Black-crested Titmice and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers and has been hooked ever since. Soon thereafter, he found himself, along with three others also afflicted, on a flight to Oaxaca City where he spent a much needed spring break careening through the Sierra Madre in a tiny car and tallying well over 300 species including a boatload of marvelous endemics. His love of travel and photography has taken him to many incredible locales including the Andes and the Amazon. He has also worked as a field tech in the Wichita, Ouachita, and Appalachian Mountains. After earning an MS in avian ecology, he spent the next three years as a research specialist investigating the bird-collision risks involved in training flights from Vance Air Force Base. More recently, Jason has begun to focus more on another of his passions – teaching. As a substitute and full time middle school science teacher, he spent much of the past 5 years delighting students with his Barred Owl impression. This past summer, he served as a point count and atlas block technician for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II project. Jason brings great passion and enthusiasm for birds and conservation to the talented staff of HRBO this fall.
Noel Larson – Visitor Services Specialist
Noel is returning for her 3rd season with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. She comes to us from Washington West where she studied Oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle. Noel was a curator in Bellingham’s Marine Life Center and a naturalist on a Orca whale watching boat. Since moving to Duluth in 2014 she completed the Master Naturalist Training course at Sugarloaf Cove, worked as a lifeguard, and as an Environmental Education Intern at Hartley Nature Center and the Lake Superior Zoo. Most recently she worked for FedEx and qualified for boat crew with the Coast Guard Auxiliary this spring. She is working on her PADI Dive Master certification and will renew her 100 Ton Mates license (Merchant Mariner Document) with plans to attain her Master’s in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies.
She loves SCUBA diving, XC skiing, birch bark basket making, reading books and discovering new places along the shore of Lake Superior. Noel and her significant other of 17 years, Kirk, reside in Duluth, but hope to buy a coastal farm someday to open a brewery and seaweed farm!
Kate Maley – Owl Bander
Kate Maley discovered a love of birds and field work while attending the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Since then, she has worked on a variety of projects–ranging from banding songbirds in coastal California, to nest searching in the southern Appalachians, to banding diurnal raptors and owls at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory as a former banding trainee and owl bander. Kate is looking forward to spending another great fall at Hawk Ridge!
Clinton Nienhaus – Count Interpreter
This will be my 6th season at Hawk Ridge, and after a couple of years on the education side of things, I will be moving back to my role of Count Interpreter. I started my time Hawk Ridge as Count Interpreter, so this will be my third season at this position. I grew up in a small southern Minnesota town called Winnebago, where much of my free time as a youngster was spent playing outside, whether it was baseball or fishing the Blue Earth River. My interest in birds started with observing a yellow-headed blackbird at my grandmother’s farm when I was young, alongside my affinity for nature and the outdoors. I have a degree in Environmental Biology from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. I am currently the Head Naturalist with the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog and have previously worked in prairie restorations in southwestern Wisconsin, as a park naturalist at Tettegouche State Park, and as an educator at the Lake Superior Zoo.
Lisa Oakland – Visitor Services Specialist
This is Lisa’s first year working at Hawk Ridge, but she is not a stranger. For many years she could be found up at the Ridge every fall to watch the migration and reconnect with staff, volunteers, and friends. She was raised in Duluth in a family that spent a lot of time outdoors, especially enjoying frequent camping trips every summer. She came to love birding as an adult through the influence of her wife and her father, who was a Hawk Ridge board member and avid birder. Lisa has many years of retail/customer service experience, most recently as the Optical Manager at Shopko in Duluth. She lives in Cloquet, MN with her wife Barb. They enjoy spending free time camping, kayaking, and time outdoors in general-usually with binoculars. When not pursuing these activities she can be found with a good book in hand.
Kaitlyn Okrusch – Naturalist
Kaitlyn is thrilled to be back for a second season at HRBO, now working as a Naturalist. Born and raised in Montana, her love and appreciation for the outdoors, outdoor education, and environmental conservation is deeply rooted and continues to bloom. After achieving a B.S. in Biochemistry and Nutritional Science from Montana State University, she worked as a naturalist in Glacier National Park, educating kids and adults on ornithology, watershed ecology, and botany. She spent the last year diving headfirst into avian fieldwork, focusing on raptors and fall migration. She currently works for UMBEL (University of Montana Bird Ecology Lab) in Missoula, MT, where she bands songbirds and educates the public of the impacts of mining on the local watershed and its biodiversity. When she is not working with birds, you can find her birding (of course), running, swimming or hiking.
Gary Palmer – Counter
Gary Palmer completed a BS degree in biology at Saginaw Valley State University and an MS in post-secondary biology education from Northern Michigan University. In recent years he has studied migrating birds as the hawk counter at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Michigan and Tussey Mountain in Pennsylvania. He has also conducted breeding bird surveys for the Illinois Natural History Survey and Intermountain Bird Observatory, in Boise, ID. He has always been a nature lover and discovered the incredible world of birding when he took courses in ornithology at NMU. In addition to being an avid birder, Gary also enjoys photography, reading, traveling, camping, and hiking.
Allie Pesano – Volunteer Bander
Allie grew up in Syracuse, NY, obtained a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Unity College, and has traveled the country working on various avian ecology projects. She first joined Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory (HRBO) as a banding trainee in 2016. With this experience she discovered a passion for raptor migration and a home-away-from-home in Duluth and the HRBO community. This then led her to working with HawkWatch International, where she trapped, banded, and counted migrating raptors at the Goshute Mountains migration site in Nevada. Allie was excited to join HRBO again last fall as a bander, primarily running the Moose Valley station. 2019 brings a new adventure for Allie, for she will be attending graduate school at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, while continuing to assist in the banding program at HRBO!
Nick Pusateri – Bird Count Trainee
Nick Pusateri comes all the way from Rochester New York and this is his first season at Hawk Ridge. He earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and Biology from SUNY Brockport and through his studies realized birding was his calling. He has since worked for Braddock Bay Raptor Research helping at the hawk watch platform in addition to conducting Owl Surveys. He also spent a season in Wyoming working for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies conducting point count surveys across the state and into Idaho. He takes interest all aspects of nature and even worked for the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps building trails and surveying for the BLM in Colorado for a summer. He is looking forward to this season at Hawk Ridge and hopes to gain experience that will challenge and prepare him for future projects.
Allie Quick – Naturalist
Allie grew up in Superior, Wisconsin and graduated from UW-Superior with a major in Biology, minor in Earth Science, and a certification in Information Technology Systems. Allie enjoys outdoor activities such as fishing, camping, canoeing, snowboarding, and bird watching. Her passion for birds (primarily raptors) started after she took an Ornithology class at UWS. She also was a biology tutor at UWS, which grew her passion for teaching. Allie currently works for Alerus as a Relationship Banker. She will be returning for her sixth fall season as a weekend Naturalist with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.
Melisa Rodriguez – Bird Count Trainee
I’ve had an interest in birds since the age of eight when I got my first pair of budgies. My fascination for birds was big enough that I decided to pursue the career path of an ornithologist. In May 2018, I graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities with a B.S. in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. During my undergrad, I looked for experiences working with birds through volunteering at wildlife rehabilitation centers, lab work involving avian studies, and taking field courses. My most memorable opportunity was during study abroad, where I conducted a behavioral study on Long-tailed Manakins in Costa Rica. Through these experiences, it solidified my interest in this field and I hope to continue helping with the research, conservation, and management of wildlife species. This summer, I worked with USGS to monitor and resight breeding Piping Plovers and Least Terns in North Dakota. I’m happy to be a part of Hawk Ridge this fall and I’m ready to learn new skills!
Valerie Slocum, Volunteer Coordinator
Valerie grew up in Battle Creek, MI (aka the Cereal Capital of the world) with a love of the outdoors and the living world. She received her B.A.A. in Earth Science and Outdoor and Environmental Recreation from Central Michigan University. Valerie has spend the majority of her career both teaching educational programs as well as working with educational raptors at facilities such as Kalamazoo Nature Center, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, and the Lake Superior Zoo – where she also served as the Volunteer Manager. Volunteering has always played a big role in her life and began holding regular volunteer jobs when she was 15. She believes that volunteering is one of the most fulfilling activities that people can participate in. Valerie began volunteering with Hawk Ridge in 2013 and is very excited to work with all of the amazing volunteers this year! Her favorite bird is the Turkey Vulture, and if there’s anything you want to know, please ask her because she loves to tell anyone she can about these amazing creatures!
Alex Sundvall – Count Interpreter
Alex Sundvall is a Birder born and raised in the Twin Cities. In 2016, he was the proud recipient of the Minnesota Ornithologist’s Union’s Young Birder Award. He got interested in birds at the age of 5 when his Kindergarten class took a trip to Westwood Hills Nature Center where they released a Dark-eyed Junco they had been rehabilitating. From that day onward, Alex’s life has been for the birds! For the last 17 years, he has been birding around the state honing his bird identification skills. Hot off of a field season in Western Minnesota doing Duck, Marshbird, and Songbird surveys, Alex is very excited to return as the Count Interpreter for Hawk Ridge this fall season! While not birding (which happens very rarely), Alex plays percussion with the Encore Wind Ensemble. Picking a single favorite bird is impossible, but his favorite bird family is the Bowerbirds of Australia.
Hannah Toutonghi – Bird Banding Trainee
Hannah Toutonghi is excited to be back at Hawk Ridge for a third season! She grew up in Washington State, where she found her love of birds and the natural world from an early age. She has currently been working at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory as the assistant owl bander working with juvenile Northern Saw-whet Owls. She previously was the count intern at Hawk Ridge, and also has done backcountry point counts in the Olympic National Park. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2016 with a B.S in biochemistry, but has always loved the outdoors and getting experience doing field work with birds. This fall, she hopes to gain banding experience with a high volume of migrating raptors, while also being able to educate others about migration and the importance of avian conversation.
Abbie Valine – Bird Banding Trainee
Abbie Valine first discovered birds in her second-grade science class, but it wasn’t until she started visiting Hawk Ridge that her interest took off. Thanks to the freedom of homeschooling, she began volunteering as a passerine bander in 2012 and was sucked into the excitement of the raptor station shortly afterwards. Throughout high school and college, Abbie continued to volunteer whenever possible, helping out with MAPS in the summer and migration banding in the fall. After graduating in December 2018 from the University of Northwestern–St. Paul with a B.S. in biology, Abbie spent the spring and summer monitoring and deploying light-level geolocators on Golden-cheeked Warblers in San Antonio, TX. She is excited to spend every single day at Hawk Ridge this fall as a banding trainee.
Breanna Wagner – Bird Banding Trainee
I was born in Stewart, MN and growing up I fell in love with the outdoors through Girl Scout camping trips as well as spending time in the Brainerd area at my family cabin. I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2016 with a degree in Wildlife Biology and minors in Geographic Information Systems and Wetlands Ecology. Since I graduated, I have had the opportunity to work on variety projects a nest-monitoring technician with Piping Plovers in ND as well as grassland birds in KS and ND. My love for birds began from backyard birding with my mom and grandma and also became interested in working in a career with birds after taking ornithology at BSU and studying Piping Plovers at Long Lake NWR in North Dakota. I am interested in the behavior of avian species and hope to study that aspect as part of a Master’s program in the future. During my free time I enjoy birding, photographing wildlife, camping, kayaking, and hiking.
Last May, I traveled to Braddock Bay Bird Observatory in New York and took their Bird Banding Course to gain passerine banding experience. When time permits, I volunteer at Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, MN during their bird banding events to gain more experience in handling and extracting passerines from mist nets. I look forward to working at Hawk Ridge this fall and gain experience in banding raptors!
Frances Whalen – Environmental Education Trainee
Frances graduated from Western Michigan University in her hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan with a B.S. in biology. She has worked on various raptor banding projects in the time since then. Most recently, she worked for Southern Illinois University monitoring and capturing Mississippi Kites. When not studying birds, Frances enjoys traveling, going to the beach and hiking with her dog.
Andy Witchger – Naturalist
Andy first came to Hawk Ridge as a volunteer, where he developed a passion for passerine banding and birds of prey. Since that time he’s received certifications from the Institute for Bird Populations and has spent years banding with Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center, Wolf Ridge ELC and Hawk Ridge. Prior to working at Hawk Ridge, he received a BA and MA from St. John’s University and spent 12 years as a teacher in the Minneapolis area. When not chasing warblers, you’ll find him hiking and fly-fishing along the North Shore. This is Andy’s second fall season as a Hawk Ridge Naturalist.