Our Team

Our staff is small, but our reach is broad. The combined experience and vision of our staff, partnered with the exceptional hands-on efforts of our volunteers, make it possible to live out our mission.

Kristin Gies

Executive Director

Kristin received an AS in Landscape Horticulture from MATC; a BS in Botany from Concordia University; and a MS in Environmental Science from Concordia University.

Since 2007, as the director of the Mequon Nature Preserve, Kristin is living her dream – giving back to the community she grew up in and a career that she is passionate about. With Kristin’s leadership, MNP offers a series of educational programs to students K5-college and have helped over 10,000 low income children annually experience the outdoors and learn about nature ‘up close and personal’ – free of charge. It is rewarding to be able to go into work every day knowing that you are helping children who have never experienced the world without concrete learn about nature and all its wonders.

Kristin enjoys spending time with her two children, Gavin and Adia.

Cory Gritzmacher

Director of Restoration and Operations

Cory joined MNP as the Director of Restoration and Operation in 2017 but has been in the Green Industry for over 20 years. He graduated from MATC with a degree in Landscape Horticulture in 1998. Prior to his position at MNP he owned and operated Second Nature Landscape Company.

Cory has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to MNP. He is a past president of the Wisconsin Arborist Association, an ISA Certified Arborist, and has served on a number of forestry-related committees over the past 20 years.

Cory enjoys family vacations to Colorado with his wife Andrea and two boys Caleb and Ryan.

Marianne O’Connor

Administrative Manager

Marianne joined the MNP team in 2021. After raising four kids, Marianne is now the mom of two rescued Great Pyrenees, Moxie and Clarence. She is also grandma to three pups, Koopa, Zeke, and Myla, and granddaughters, Riley and Sydney. Marianne worked for 16 years as the office/database manager of The Gathering. Marianne lives in Brown Deer and for many years has loved hiking with her pups at the MNP.

Jamie Schiesel

Ecological Education Manager

Jamie grew up on MNP’s trails living just next door in Huntington Park. He interned at MNP for two years starting in 2017, and became a full time staff member in 2019. He has a bachelor’s in environmental science from UW Whitewater. He is currently on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Dragonfly Society. As Education Manager, his belief is that it’s his responsibility to not only teach students visiting the preserve, but to entertain as well. A fun lesson is more memorable! Jamie also assists with land restoration projects and monitoring programs. Besides chasing dragonflies all over the state, he enjoys hiking mountains in Colorado and fishing with friends and family.

Nick Gall

Ecological Restoration Manager

Nick started out at MNP as an intern in the summer of 2017 between his junior and senior year of college. He graduated in May of 2018 from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a BS in Wildlife Management and Ecology. He was an active member in the UW-Stevens Point student chapter of The Wildlife Society and the Fire Crew where he participated in numerous research project.

His love for the land stemmed from his background in farming, and spending time in the outdoors with his family. He enjoys hunting and fishing in his free time along with playing with his family’s dog, Kai. Nick looks forward to continuing his learning of land restoration and research techniques along with being a part of MNP’s bright future.

Amanda Neimon

Ecological Outreach Manager

Amanda received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Saint Louis University in May 2018. While at SLU, she was an active member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity.

She was a summer intern at MNP in 2017 and 2018. She loves that she has the ability to have a job where she can work outside. She credits her love for the environment through the backpacking and canoeing trips throughout the country during her summers in high school. In her free time, she enjoys going to her family’s lake cabin near Minoqua and going for walks along the Milwaukee lakefront.

Juliana Mahler

Education and Monitoring Steward

Juliana attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Policy and Values and a minor in Geography. While in college, Juliana interned at MNP during the summer of 2022, and returned as an intern the following summer of 2023, once she graduated. During her senior year of schooling, Juliana worked as a soil research assistant at the university where she learned even more about how interconnected the environment is. She became a full time employee in 2024, and is very excited to continue making a positive impact on the natural world around her.

Juliana grew up caring deeply about the environment, specifically animals (which she had many as pets) and their habitats, and even attended preschool at a nature camp. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and five-year-old coonhound who also loves walking MNP’s trails as much as she does!

Ka Ying Yang

Restoration and Operations Steward

Ka attended Milwaukee Area Technical College and received an associate’s degree in Environmental Health and Water Quality Technology in 2023. He interned at MNP in the summer of 2022, and loved it so much that he returned for another year the following summer. He became an official full-time employee in 2024.

            Ka lives with his two dogs, Neffy and Gao Ger. He has loved nature and animals since he can remember. The very first time he visited MNP, he knew that he wanted to work there one day. He sees himself as a pioneer in this type of work for the Hmong community, hoping that he can inspire younger generations. Ka loves traveling, fishing, and eating. He hopes to learn and grow every year at MNP and be a part of its success.

Ann Pledger

Education Building Steward

Ann and her husband Fred love to spend time with their family and friends. They enjoy making everyone feel happy and welcome. Ann also likes to create art in her free time and take care of her partially blind mother. They both enjoy cleaning, cooking, fishing, decorating their home, and writing and singing songs. They have three daughters and six grandchildren (four girls and two boys).

Before working at MNP Ann worked with children at a local day care and cleaned other buildings. Fred assists her when she is here!

Gary S. Casper, Ph.D.

Director of Biodiversity Programs

Gary’s expertise bridges 3 of the 5 MNP Mission Facets: Habitat Restoration, Environmental Education, and Research & Monitoring. Gary will integrate biodiversity programming into these priorities. He was involved with the initial creation of the Mequon Nature Preserve through the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, and continues to direct wildlife studies at MNP. He has over 40 years’ experience in wildlife ecology and biodiversity studies. After 20 years at the Milwaukee Public Museum, he has continued to focus on wildlife conservation in the western Great Lakes region through the UWM Field Station, Great Lakes Ecological Services, and local land trusts. Gary has over 100 publications; his latest book is a Field Guide to the Amphibian Eggs and Larvae of the Western Great Lakes.Gary participates in many ecological restoration projects and biodiversity studies in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. His team invented the concept of Species of Local Conservation Interest in order to identify biodiversity at risk on local landscapes. He runs biodiversity programs for the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, land trusts, and private land owners, and has developed protocols for surveying crayfish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds that are in widespread use. Gary has pioneered the use of automated bioacoustic systems for monitoring wildlife.Gary enjoys recreating in the Kettle Moraine landscapes.

Hannah Harris

Grants Manager

Hannah joined the MNP team in early 2024 but has had a connection to the organization for quite a few years. Recently, she volunteered as a Restoration Ranger and had the pleasure of working alongside her son, Brennan (pictured), who was a college intern at MNP. Her love of nature and spending time outdoors began when she grew up in a farmhouse surrounded by 10 acres of trees and prairie in Cedarburg where she spent a lot of time playing outside, climbing trees, and searching for stone arrowheads in the nearby farm fields. She’s been a fund development professional for most of her career and has worked for groups like Midwest Environmental Advocates, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, and Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. She enjoys hiking with her family and friends. One of her most memorable hikes was summiting Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.

Tilia and Timber

Conservation Canines

Timber is the offspring of Tilia’s sister. This aunt and nephew duo will serve as both conservation canines and conservation ambassadors. His powerful nose will be a key tool in MNP’s land restoration efforts! Timber enjoys naps, back and belly scratches, following Tilia everywhere, and playing with all his toys.

Tilia is the first on-staff conservation dog in the state of Wisconsin! Her powerful nose helps her to sniff out both invasive and native plant and animal species; making her a vital tool to our restoration crew. Tilia enjoys naps, food (especially bananas), and lots of cuddles and pets.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Since 2011 Mequon Nature Preserve Inc. has been overseen by a group of dedicated, volunteer board members.

David Scritsmier

Chairman-Pieper Electric, Inc., Construction Branch Manager

Lee Szymborski

Vice Chairman-GovHR USA, Senior Vice President

Kurt Theune

Board Treasurer-Mortenson, General Manager

Clayton Frazer

Board Secretary-Native Range Ecological LLC, Principal Ecologist

Jessica Liebau

Board member-Wessels & Liebau, LLC, Partner

Kathleen Schneider

Board member-City of Mequon, Alderperson

Julie A. Landry

Board member-Mount Mary University, Vice President, Equity and Inclusion

Nathan Otero

Board member-U.S. Bank, Private Banking Relationship Manager

Elizabeth Hellman

Board member-WE Energy Group, Manager Water Quality Compliance and Lab Services

Eric Manges

Board member-Meteorologist