Dr. Teri Allendorf (Executive Director) is committed to integrating communities into conservation. She has a passion for understanding local people around the world – their diversity, priorities, and values. There’s a conservationist in every village (usually many!) and with some assistance, they can change the world. Dr. Allendorf has worked on issues of local communities and conservation since 1994. She earned her PhD in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota and has substantial experience with conservation policy and community-level programs. She was a member of USAID’s Biodiversity Team, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, and has partnered with NGOs and communities on conservation issues in Nepal, Myanmar, China, and India. She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in journals and taught courses at the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Future Generations University, as well as short courses in India and Namibia. She also consulted on biodiversity projects for USAID in Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, Nepal, Guatemala, and Guyana.
Kellie Surmacz (Development Director) has a degree in Public Relations from West Virginia University. She has worked in nonprofit development for over ten years, most recently at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and at The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. She lives outside of Pittsburgh with her family and new puppy. She spends lots of time in the backyard and exploring hiking trails near her home.
Mary Van Dyke (Communications Coordinator) is working on her Masters in Education currently after graduating with a degree in Conservation Biology both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has a passion for environmental advocacy and most recently worked for Door County Land Trust. She lives in Madison with her dog and enjoys camping and putting miles on her hiking boots.
Jerry Pedretti (Bookkeeper) is a master of numbers and small organizational finances. He owned a small business for 35 years, he’s been a municipal clerk for 20+ years, and he keeps the finances in order for three different nonprofits. When he’s not shuffling papers, he’s usually working in his yard, gardening, and hiking in the woods at his home in Genoa, Wisconsin along the Mississippi and Bad Axe rivers.
Board of Directors
Nathan Schulfer (President) is the Director of International & Professional MS Programs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. In his role, Nathan manages the Institute’s two professional MS degree programs, while leading the Institute’s efforts to build and strengthen networks with NGO’s, government units, and private sector partners around the world. Prior to joining the Nelson Institute Nathan worked for the US National Park Service in Glacier National Park, for the Montana State Legislature, and in China advising NGO’s and government units on protected area management. Nathan holds a BS in Anthropology from Montana State University – Bozeman, and a MS in Conservation Biology & Sustainable Development from University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Mark Fenn (Vice-President) has a BS in Natural Resources Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and an MEd in Agricultural Education and Extension from the University of Minnesota. He is currently the Team Leader for Technical Assistance to the Madagascar National Park Service covering 43 parks and nature reserves on the island and supporting over 200 locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) around six marine parks. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso from 1983-1986 and has spent most of his career working for WWF on community conservation programs surrounding various forms of protected areas. His interests and work experience include ecosystem services maintenance, protected areas management, support for community-managed conservation areas, developing climate change adaptation and resilience initiatives in coastal zones, ecosystem service valuation training programs and capacity development for government leaders, and promoting networks among development partners and donors.
Kara DeLanty (Secretary) is a native Wisconsinite with over 18 years of experience in the conservation industry as a zoo professional. Currently, she is the Zoo Area Supervisor of Primates at the Milwaukee County Zoo where she oversees and provides care for a large collection of apes and monkeys. She has a BS in biology from UW-Stevens Point and an MA in biology from Miami University’s Project Dragonfly in Ohio. Her graduate studies took her to Baja, Brazil, and Borneo where she developed a passion for community-based conservation after witnessing its success in protecting a wide variety of species. She has recently been involved in efforts to protect jaguars in Belize and has spearheaded multiple fundraisers for polar bear and gorilla conservation. She also serves as a passionate advocate for climate change mitigation through her work as an “Arctic Ambassador” for Polar Bears International and as a member of the external engagement committee for the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation’s governing council.
Laura Hewitt (Treasurer) got her introduction to community-based work and conservation serving two separate stints in the Peace Corps. She first served in Liberia in West Africa and later in the Dominican Republic. She has a B.S. in Biology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She worked for the Wisconsin Chapter of the Nature Conservancy while in graduate school. She then worked for Trout Unlimited managing and overseeing collaborative watershed restoration projects. Her first project was in the Kickapoo Valley where she collaborated closely with Community Conservation on watershed education and outreach efforts.
Joe Rising has a strong background in not-for-profit organizations and law. He has a Juris Doctor Degree and undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Anthropology. Joe is a licensed Minnesota attorney with nearly 25 years of experience advocating for the environment and assisting communities with resource conservation. His environmental commitment came off the prairie where Joe grew up spending summers near St. Cloud, MN. He has written for numerous publications and enjoys writing haiku to reach further into nature. Community Conservation has always been an integral part of Joe’s work.
Shauna Steigerwald is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based writer and communicator with a passion for nature and conservation. She serves as communications and events manager for Adventure Crew, a nonprofit dedicated to getting city teens outside for adventures that inspire them to become outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards. As part of her role, she helps organize the nation’s largest paddling event, Ohio River Paddlefest. Previously, she worked as a communications manager and environmental educator for the Ohio River Foundation. Beyond her work in nonprofits, Shauna has extensive experience in journalism, including 11 years as a reporter and many more as a freelance writer. While pursuing her master’s degree in biology from Miami University’s Project Dragonfly, her field experiences in Baja, Mexico; Namibia; and Malaysian Borneo allowed her to see the impacts of community-based conservation firsthand. Her varied educational background also includes bachelor’s degrees in English and communications as well as a master’s degree in business administration, all from Xavier University.
Community Conservation Founder Rob Horwich
Dr. Rob Horwich founded Community Conservation in his living room in Gays Mills, Wisconsin, in 1989. Rob was first inspired to work alongside local people to protect their forests in Belize. He initially traveled to Belize to study black howler monkeys, locally known as baboons, and quickly realized that without joining forces with local people to protect the howlers’ forest home, there might not be any more howlers to study in the future. Working with local human community members provided the opportunity to protect habitat via what is now known as the Community Baboon Sanctuary, a model for local community management of natural resources and ecotourism that is managed by and directly benefits the local people.