MNA Staff

Garret Johnson, Executive Director

Prior to joining MNA, Garret worked in Washington, DC, where, as director of federal affairs for the Pacific Forest Trust, he led a national coalition advocating for land protection incentives in federal climate and energy legislation. Garret has also held a number of positions with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). He served as senior business adviser for TNC’s global conservation strategies division, and as assistant state director for the Michigan chapter of TNC. In addition to his work in conservation, Garret is a past vice president of The Economic Alliance for Michigan and a former policy adviser for the Michigan House of Representatives.

Contact Garret by emailing gjohnson@michigannature.org.

Conservation

Andrew Bacon, Conservation Director

As the head of stewardship, Andy has a vitally important position at MNA: to ensure that all land entrusted to the organization is managed to promote ecological health and reflect our mission and goals. And he has the knowledge and experience to do the job, from a bachelor's degree in fisheries and wildlife management to previous work as the director of stewardship programs at two other environmental organizations.

Passionate in his desire to conserve wildlife diversity and protect non-game wildlife, Andy always knew he would be involved in environmental work. From his days as a Boy Scout and time spent camping and fishing with his family, he discovered early in life where his interests lay.

Andy is delighted to be both living and working near Lansing, where it is easy to enjoy lunch with his wife and two young children and head home after work to watch sports. When not working on MNA stewardship projects, you will still find him outside.

Contact Andy by emailing abacon@michigannature.org.

Rachel Maranto, Stewardship Coordinator (Lower Peninsula)

Rachel is responsible for overseeing stewardship activities, volunteers, and staff at MNA's sanctuaries in the Lower Peninsula. She has been working for volunteer-focused conservation organizations in various capacities for her entire professional career, which has led her from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest and back again. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Rachel attended college at Indiana University, earning a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Biology. She fell in love with Michigan and the Great Lakes growing up spending summers on the beach in her dad's hometown of Harbert. Rachel currently lives in Grass Lake with her wife Ashley and their two cats, Zebu and Gil. Though she still considers herself a Hoosier at heart, she's happy to call Michigan home.

Contact Rachel by emailing rmaranto@michigannature.org.

Robb Johnston, Regional Stewardship Organizer (Western Lower Peninsula)

More info coming soon.

Zachary Pacana, Regional Stewardship Organizer (Eastern Lower Peninsula)

Zach's role with MNA is to oversee stewardship activities in Michigan's Eastern and Northern Lower Peninsula. Before working with MNA, Zach began his career working with a number of AmeriCorps programs that focused on conservation withing America's National Parks. This led him back to Michigan where he then worked with the Department of Natural Resources first in their Stewardship division, then as a Park Ranger at Island Lake Recreation Area near Brighton. 

Zach enjoys his time at work as well as outside of work where he spends most of his time trout fishing. He also enjoys road trips, camping, nature photography, and spending time with his cats Patrick and Pancakes.

Contact Zach by emailing zpacana@michigannature.org.

Bill Atkinson, Regional Stewardship Organizer (Thumb Area)

Bill joins MNA as the Thumb Area Regional Stewardship Organizer and oversees steward activities in this region. No stranger to MNA, Bill has served as a steward or co-steward for four nature sanctuaries and often lends a hand to many others. In 2010, he was recognized as a Volunteer of the Year for his outstanding contributions. In 2017, to honor Bill's years of exceptional volunteerism, he was awarded the Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award - one of our highest honors.

Bill is a native of Michigan who grew up in Port Huron and has always had an interest in the outdoors. He holds an associate's degree in business and has always had an interest in the outdoors. He and his wife Mary have three grown children and three grandchildren who enjoy hiking together. In addition to volunteering for MNA, the Atkinson family has also adopted a local county park to monitor and maintain.

Contact Bill by emailing batkinson@michigannature.org.

Nancy Leonard, Regional Stewardship Organizer (Keweenaw)

Nancy, with husband Bill at her side, oversees the care of the western Upper Peninsula sanctuaries and plant preserves. Her educational background includes BS and MS degrees in the field of Education. Former experiences as a teacher, retail business owner, and community organizer serve her well in stewardship planning and organizing.

Nancy is thrilled to serve MNA in her beloved Keweenaw and her off-time interests dovetail readily with on-time duties. When not camping in the west or sailing on Lake Superior with Bill, you can find Nancy either birding, botanizing, hiking, biking, kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing, gardening, or reading, writing, and sketching at home on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Contact Nancy by emailing nleonard@michigannature.org.

Natalie Kent-Norkowski, Land Protection Technician

In a new role after years of stewardship work, Natalie now works to update and manage the organization’s sanctuary and legal files. She is also responsible for the GIS mapping used in sanctuary management, acquisition, and communications projects. She has a bachelor's degree in zoology, which (together with her knowledge of MNA sanctuaries) has proven invaluable in her new role.

Monarch butterflies, pink lady’s slipper orchids, and tadpoles first captured Natalie’s interests as a child growing up in Grayling. A trip to study ecology in Kenya cemented her love of nature. These experiences provided Natalie with a new perspective on the importance of protecting the world’s natural places, and the need for public understanding of conservation.

Living near Lansing with her husband Travis, Natalie enjoys hiking, gardening, beekeeping, and working on various hobby farm projects in her downtime; her small flock of chickens continues to provide eggs for friends, family, and the local food bank.

Contact Natalie by emailing nkent@michigannature.org.

Outreach & Education

Julie Stoneman, Director of Outreach and Education

Julie is responsible for outreach, fundraising and education programming. She brings a wealth of experience to MNA as a conservationist and land trust professional, including eight years as the Executive Director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. Most recently, Julie was the Associate Director of Heart of the Lakes, Michigan's state association of land conservancies and their partners. Prior positions include senior staff positions in land use policy for both the Michigan Environmental Council and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Her life-long passion for conservation stems from exploring woods and waters as a kid and now whenever she can as an adult. She and her partner, Paul, live in Grand Ledge where they garden, watch backyard birds, hike nature preserves and plan their travels to remarkable places to learn more about the natural world.

Contact Julie by emailing jstoneman@michigannature.org.

Lauren Ross, Communications and Events Coordinator

Lauren is a photographer, researcher, and writer who joined MNA in spring 2019. Growing up in Michigan, she could often be found reading a book in a tree - and now enjoys using her skills to share the beauty of the state with others, as a way to inspire them to preserve natural habitats. Having been inspired herself, Lauren understands the impact that a story and a photograph can have on a person's perception of the world, and so dedicates her time to sharing as many stories and pictures as possible. In past roles, Lauren has worked hard at understanding the ways people interact with their environments, both in terms of culture and economics, and in how they treat the land the live on.

After completing an associate's degree in Photography at Lansing Community College, Lauren attended Michigan State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities, and studied abroad in England, France, and South Africa. She loves to travel, kayak, camp, and hike.

Contact Lauren by emailing lross@michigannature.org.

Operations

Paul Steiner, Operations Director

With a Master’s degree in agricultural economics, and a specialization in environmental and natural resource economics, Paul is a real asset to MNA. He not only manages daily operations (including expenditures and accounts), but also recruits and manages the MNA team, thereby helping to ensure the highest quality protection of the environment.

A generalist when it comes to nature, he sees the bigger picture and prefers to focus his attention on overall health of ecosystems. When Paul goes out to a sanctuary, he is not usually thinking about a single species or habitat, but how they fit into the broader landscape.

When he’s not working with MNA, Paul is a former coach of the MSU fencing team and enjoys playing sports like basketball and volleyball. Paul and his wife, Aggie, live in Lansing with their daughter, Kate, and cat Sabre.

Contact Paul by emailing psteiner@michigannature.org.

Morgen Blankenhorn, Member Services Coordinator

Morgen is a nature enthusiast who joined MNA in July 2019. As someone who has lived in Michigan her entire life, and has multiple family members situated throughout the state, she has a great appreciation for all of the different regions and incredible variety of wildlife there. She previously worked for the Michigan Senate, and loved observing the inner workings of the government while employed there.

At MNA, Morgen is responsible for daily administrative and member support. She currently lives in Haslett with her family and four pets.

Contact Morgen by emailing mblankenhorn@michigannature.org