Our People

Ryan Boggs

Chief Program Officer, Acting Rockies Program Manager
Fort Collins, Colorado

Ryan brings a wealth of land conservation experience to LightHawk. He served as Executive Director of Legacy Land Trust from 2009 to 2013 helping preserve farm, ranch and natural lands in northern Colorado. His conservation work also includes nine years with The Nature Conservancy starting at Phantom Canyon Preserve in the Laramie Foothills area and later serving as a project director for the Aiken Canyonlands, Chico Basin, and Upper Purgatoire areas. As an experienced wildland firefighter, he has worked on forest and fire restoration as well as land protection issues. Ryan received his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University and is a native of Fort Collins where he enjoys woodworking, climbing and running.

Email: rboggs@lighthawk.orgPhone: (970) 481-9050

Bob Francella

Chief Advancement Officer
Fort Collins, CO

Bob has a long history of fundraising and leadership success, serving as both CEO and director of development and communications for large and small nonprofit organizations. He has earned recognition as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE). Bob works to create relationships that keep donors informed about their gifts at work and the outcomes they help create. He is keenly interested in conservation issues, and has spent many years assisting wildlife organizations. Bob is excited to advance LightHawk’s worldwide impact, which is propelled by caring and generous donors who are committed to accelerating conservation success. Bob enjoys cycling, walking, reading, guitar playing, exploring new music, and spending time with family and friends.

Email: bfrancella@lighthawk.orgPhone: 970-449-3949

Jonathan Milne

Atlantic Region Program Manager
Sidney, Maine

Jonathan has been surrounded by pilots his entire life. His father flew the PBY Catalina and Martin PBM Mariner and his younger brother flew for the USMC  for 20+ years as an AH-1 Super Cobra helicopter pilot. Jonathan brings a diverse conservation background to LightHawk: he was a park ranger in Oregon for the BLM and in Maine for almost ten years at Baxter State Park. He has worked on a variety of conservation projects including ecological assessments for superfund sites, baseline ecological surveys for conservation easements, forestry management surveys, vernal pool surveys and wetland analysis for many clients throughout New England.  Jonathan has a B.S. in Recreation and Park Management from the University of Maine and a M.S.c. in Environmental Science/Conservation Biology from Green Mountain College in Vermont.

Email: jmilne@lighthawk.orgPhone: (207) 620-2252

Lee Pagni

Program Specialist
Tucson, Arizona

Lee started working with LightHawk as a partner, organizing over-flights for community leaders in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve of Central Mexico. Currently Lee works assisting with programs in Mesoamerica and the Pacific regions. In addition to his work with LightHawk, Lee works with other non-profit organizations to advance conservation via outreach and education. His work focuses on projects in the Caribbean and Latin America. One of his main projects is working with communities in the Caribbean to improve rock iguana conservation. He has an M.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Arizona, Tucson and a B.S. in Ecology from the University of California, San Diego. When he isn’t working, Lee enjoys being in the Sierra Nevada backcountry, something he has done since he was 3 months old.

Email: lpagni@lighthawk.orgPhone: (209) 677-7454

Tara Rowe

Program Specialist
Fort Collins, Colorado

Tara Rowe joined LightHawk as the first Flight Coordinator in September 2014, she transitioned to Program Specialist in 2016. She graduated with her MBA and has a strong background in logistics, technology, and program coordination. She has a passion for volunteering and and spent two years working on reforestation project as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin, West Africa. In her spare time, she loves to trail run and cook.  Her and her husband enjoy skiing, and looking for new adventures.

Email: trowe@lighthawk.orgPhone: (970) 672-6148

Emilie Ryan

Chief Financial Officer
Loveland, Colorado

Emilie has spent most of her 27+ year career in non-profit financial management. Her background includes 17 years at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an international outdoor educational nonprofit organization based in Lander, WY.  Ryan began her association with LightHawk part-time in 2001, and joined May of 2005 as CFO, overseeing the organization’s finances, budgeting, and human resources. Emilie spends the majority of her free time recreating in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado and loves being able to use her financial experience to contribute to their protection through LightHawk.

Email: eryan@lighthawk.orgPhone: (970) 744-1208
Brian Smith photo

Brian Smith

Marketing and Communications Manager
Fort Collins, Colorado

Brian Smith's passion is uniting others around life-changing ideas. His methods include storytelling, branding, marketing, social media, videography, photography and graphic design. He was raised on Colorado's Front Range and recieved his degree in mass communications from Colorado Mesa University.

Brian's interest in environmental conservation was ignited by exploring the wilderness of Colorado with his Boy Scout troop. He later came to understand the importance of wildlife conservation during two summers working as a commercial fisherman in Alaska.

As a professional journalist, he found his niche reporting on land use, oil and gas, wildlife, natural resources, endangered species and wildfires. He has worked at small daily newspapers in Colorado, Alaska and Idaho winning awards for his investigative reporting on the oil industry, changes in Colorado's energy economy and Idaho's wolf population, among others. He joins LightHawk after several years working in non-profit storytelling.

He is a proud catch-and-release fly fisherman, and is often seen exploring one of America's National Parks with a camera in hand.

Email: bsmith@lighthawk.orgPhone: 720-290-4543

Christine Steele

Pacific Region Program Manager
Portland, Oregon

Before joining LightHawk, Christine worked for the Johnson Creek Watershed Council in Portland, Oregon, coordinating their outreach and advocacy efforts. Trained as a wildlife biologist, Christine has studied birds in habitats as diverse as arctic tundra, Costa Rican swamp-forest, and the forests of the Pacific Northwest. She spent time rehabilitating seabirds and raptors in California, and worked with non-releasable raptors as education birds. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Aquatic Biology from UC Santa Barbara, and a Masters in Natural Resources, Wildlife from Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, where her thesis focused on avian disease ecology. Christine also volunteers locally, conducting bird and amphibian surveys as part of a monitoring project through Metro, Portland’s regional government.

Email: csteele@lighthawk.orgPhone: (503) 703-4843

Terri Watson

Chief Executive Officer
Kailua, HI

Terri has a long history with LightHawk beginning as a volunteer pilot in 1997, and later becoming a board member. She served a previous term as executive director from 2001-2003, and flight services director from 2000-2001. Terri was executive director of the Pearl Harbor Institute of Pacific Historic Parks in Honolulu, HI. She also served as the executive director of Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association and a branch director and senior field instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School. In addition to her extensive nonprofit leadership experience, Terri is a 30-year career professional pilot and aviation business owner. She has worked in many roles as a Search and Rescue/EMS pilot; a fire recon and suppression pilot; a State Department support and training pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan; a former US Army Aviator in Europe, Greenland and Korea; and an aviation consultant for air safety litigation and business operations. She is a 11,000+ hour Airline Transport Pilot with airplane single / multi-engine land and sea, helicopter, instrument-airplane and helicopter ratings, and flight instructor ratings for each of these. She has flown throughout the world in military and civilian applications, many of them remote area operations.

Email: terriwatson@lighthawk.orgPhone: 208-569-1108

Dr. Barry Baker, Ph.D.

Member, Board of Directors
Fort Collins, Colorado

Barry is senior research scientist at the Conservation Biology Institute, we previously served as director of The Nature Conservancy's Canyonlands Research Center in Moab, Utah. He also serves as adjunct assistant professor, Department of Environment and Society, College of Natural Resources, Utah State University. His research interests include bioclimatology, response of terrestrial ecosystems (grassland and alpine) to climate change, and ecosystem modeling of grassland ecosystems. Barry has previously collaborated with LightHawk as a conservation partner.

Russ Cowart

Member, Board of Directors
Fort Collins, Colorado

Russ Cowart is the founder of i-cubed, a remote sensing and GIS solutions company recognized as one of the world's most respected geospatial technology firms. He has also worked as a field geologist. He completed a BS in Geology from Colorado College, graduate studies in Natural Resource Economics with CU Boulder, and Management of Technology with MIT.


Norissa Giangola

Member, Board of Directors
Washington, DC

Norissa Giangola is the president of Coqui Marketing - a full service strategy, marketing, and communications firm based in Washington, DC. Coqui helps some of the world's most successful consumer brands and nonprofits to capitalize on new opportunities in healthcare, FDA-regulated industries, and sustainability markets - with a focus on making the world a better place to live and work. Norissa has over 18 years of corporate strategy, marketing, and public affairs expertise. Norissa began her career counting rats on a tropical island in Mexico, and then became an entrepreneur in organic agriculture in Ecuador, growing one of the largest organic consumer foods companies in the Andean region. After selling her company and returning to the U.S., she went on to lead New Ventures, at the World Resources Institute, where her work focused on supporting innovation, investment, and growth at the nexus of environment and business in global markets. She founded Coqui in 2005. Norissa is fluent in English and Spanish and has a working knowledge of Portuguese and Italian. Norissa received a BA from Duke University and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and has additional advanced studies in Microbiology and Anatomy from Johns Hopkins University. In addition to working with LightHawk, she serves on the Board of The Green Cell, a biotechnology company dedicated to developing smart therapeutic approaches for the developing world in the area of plant manufactured pharmaceuticals.

Hal Hayden

Member, Board of Directors
Prescott, AZ

Hal Hayden is a partner at Trinity Capital Investment and the founding CEO of Agility Ventures. Hal has over 30 years of experience lending and leasing to emerging growth technology companies. He has served as vice president of the software finance division at First Sierra Financial and founded Heritage Software Finance and Priority Leasing Corporation. Hal has a B.S. in business administration from the University of Arizona. He is a commercial instrumented-rated pilot and is a LightHawk volunteer pilot donating missions in the Southwest and Mesoamerica. He splits his time between Prescott, AZ and Taos, NM.


Steve Knaebel

Member, Board of Directors
Mexico City, Mexico

Steve retired in 2005 from Cummins, Inc. as Vice President – Mexico Operations and Distribution Latin America and as President of Cummins’ Mexican subsidiary. Previously he was USAID mission director in Costa Rica. He received his MBA from Stanford in 1969, and later managed a 3,200-unit housing project in Brazil. Steve founded Special Olympics-Mexico and was national chairman for 13 years; he also established and presided over the Cummins Philanthropic Association. He has served on the boards of Accion International, Special Olympics International, and EARTH University in Costa Rica. Knaebel was on LightHawk’s board from 1995-1998, and serves on the boards of the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature and The Center for Sustainable Transport. He holds a commercial pilot’s license with instrument and multiengine ratings.

David Kunkel

Treasurer, Board of Directors
Boulder, Colorado

David has an extensive and successful background as an entrepreneur. He has lived in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and California, co-founding what is now Johnson, Kunkel and Associates, a civil engineering firm in Eagle, Colorado. He later founded a software and services company which catered to the needs of local governments. After selling the company to Tyler Technologies, he continued to work for Tyler as a division head until 2004. During this time he sat on Tyler's Executive Committee and the Technology Committee. During the early 1980s he served on the Eagle County Airport (now called the Vail Eagle airport) Commission. David also has served on architectural control committees and a cooperative irrigation company board, and was named to the board of Metcalf Archaeology. He has been a LightHawk Volunteer Pilot since 2002 and flies a number of different aircraft.

Josh Marvil

Chairman, Board of Directors
Yarmouth, Maine

Josh worked in the environmental consulting industry in a variety of executive and management positions for national and international companies and has experience in the development of financial and non-financial management systems, mergers and acquisitions, risk management, and insurance products. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees at the Chewonki Foundation, a non-profit environmental education institution and a center for leading-edge conservation and sustainable energy curriculum. He holds single-engine and instrument ratings.

Lawrence A. "Bud" Sittig

Vice-Chairman, Board of Directors
Centennial, Colorado

Bud brings a long history in the airline industry to LightHawk. He is currently founding partner at Flight Guidance, LLC advancing wireless/paperless airline cockpit environments. Bud previously served as president and COO of California Pacific Airways, was also VP of Operations at Skybus Airlines and director of Flight Safety at Delta Airlines. He has served in the United States Air Force and Colorado Air National Guard. He is an active member of the Board for the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, OH. Bud is a LightHawk volunteer pilot and flies a Beech 35 Bonanza based at Front Range Colorado KFTG.

Phil Walker

Member, Board of Directors
Bethesda, MD

Phil Walker is a multidisciplinary attorney with 40 years telecommunications industry experience, including service as head of legal, regulatory and business development functions with a variety of telecommunications service providers in domestic U.S. and international markets. He now operates an international telecom consulting practice focused on strategic planning and mergers and acquisitions, and serves as chairman of UNIFI Communications, Inc. He is an Instrument-rated Commercial pilot, with 2,000+ hours of flight time. Owner/operator of a Mooney 231 aircraft, he serves as a volunteer pilot for LightHawk and Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, and is a search and rescue/disaster recovery mission pilot with the Civil Air Patrol.  With the CAP, he also serves as Legal Officer (general counsel) for the Maryland Wing.


Stephanie Wells

Member, Board of Directors
Arvada, CO
Stephanie Wells is a retired professional pilot now living in Arvada, Colorado. During her 10 years in the active Air Force, she began as a weather forecaster, and after pilot training, instructed in the T-37, T-38 and C-130. This was followed by 10 more years in the Reserves flying C-5s. Stephanie worked for NASA at the Johnson Space Center for 17 years as a staff pilot supporting the manned space program. She finished her government career with the FAA in the Denver FSDO as an operations inspector. She has always been active in general aviation, and now owns an RV-7 and a 1/4 share in a Cessna 182 which she flies donated missions for LightHawk. She has a strong training and safety background, as well as education in meteorology and climatology. Combining flying and her passion for the environment brought her to LightHawk.

Will Worthington

Member, Board of Directors
Carefree, Arizona

Will is the founder and president of Pipetech International, an engineering firm that specializes in testing and failure analysis of water and petroleum pipelines worldwide. He graduated from West Point and was a commissioned officer in the regular Army and Arizona Army National Guard for 30 years. He was an officer with the Army Corps of Engineers with many challenging assignments all over the world, including two years in Vietnam. He supervised the design of a $4.5 billion water project for the Bureau of Reclamation and holds three U.S. patents for pipeline diagnostic test inventions. He has over 4,800 hours as pilot in command and holds commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates. Will is a registered professional engineer in Arizona and California. He is a LightHawk volunteer pilot and received the Spirit of LightHawk award in 2012.

Brent Blue

Member, Advisory Group
Jackson, Wyoming

Brent attended Vanderbilt University and the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He received his post-doctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Blue practices medicine in Jackson Hole and is a recognized expert in aviation medicine. He also has been on several nonprofit boards, including the Teton Science School, Dancer’s Workshop of Jackson, and the Board of Health of Teton County. Dr. Blue made multiple environmental flight missions for the Vanderbilt Student Health Coalition/Save Our Cumberland Mountains in the early 1970s to document the environmental destruction, cultural devastation, and health impacts caused by open pit strip mining in Appalachia. Those flights made lasting impressions and fostered his commitment to environmental protection.

Rick Durden

Member, Advisory Group
Conifer, CO

Rick Durden has been a volunteer pilot for LightHawk since 1990 and has served on its Board of Directors and as executive director. He holds CFII and ATP ratings, is type-rated in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation. He has written extensively on public benefit flying safety.  He currently splits his time between practicing aviation law and editing two aviation magazines. In 2015 he was one of three volunteer pilots who received the Endeavor Award a prestigious honor recognizing service to public benefit flying.

Rudy Engholm

Member, Advisory Group
Cumberland Foreside, ME and Lake Wales, FL

Rudy Engholm served as LightHawk’s executive director from 2007-2014. He founded Northern Wings, an environmental flying organization that merged into LightHawk in 2003. He joined LightHawk’s board at that time and served as board president from 2005-2007. Rudy holds a commercial pilot certificate and has also been active in a number of environmental issues, including the campaign to create a new Maine Woods National Park. He has a B.S. in computer engineering and a law degree from the University of Michigan. He practiced law in the late 1970s with a Connecticut law firm, then served for ten years as vice president and general counsel of Creative Solutions, Inc., a Michigan-based tax and accounting software company. Rudy spent his childhood in Japan and speaks a modest amount of Japanese.


Tom McMurray

Member, Advisory Group
Jackson, Wyoming

Tom is currently the Chairman and President of Marine Ventures Foundation which he created a decade ago with the mission to improve and protect critical marine, coastal and river habitats in North America, South America and the Caribbean.  He first flew a Lighthawk mission in 2009 to photo baseline the Henrys Fork of the Snake River and has since flown several other Lighthawk missions. In addition, Tom is the Chairman of the Ocean Foundation, a global community foundation for ocean preservation, board member of the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, Tag a Giant Fund and Lateral Line Fund and also an active investor on conservation causes. Previously Tom was a partner at Sequoia Capital, a venture capital company that invested in Apple, Oracle, Cisco Systems, Yahoo and Google. Tom holds a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University and received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from Duke in 1980.

Sally Ranney

Member, Advisory Group
Colorado and Patagonia

Sally has a thirty-year career in the public and private sectors dedicated to environmental, public land and water policy. She is an internationally recognized wildland conservation specialist and activist. Ms. Ranney was a founding LightHawk Board member and has been a long-time advocate of LightHawk. Ms. Ranney is CEO of Stillwater Preservation, LLC, a wetlands mitigation banking company and President of Rising Wolf International, Inc., a natural resource consulting group. She founded and served as President of American Wildlands, an NGO dedicated to protecting wildlands and wildlife through legislative and legal strategies and 

Michael Sutton

Member, Advisory Group
Carmel Valley, California

Mike currently serves as Executive Director of Audubon California and Vice President of the Pacific Flyway for the National Audubon Society. He served as Vice President and Director of the Center for the Future of the Oceans for the Monterey Bay Aquarium for eight years, and prior to that he headed the Ocean Conservation Program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in northern California. Mike founded and directed World Wildlife Fund's Endangered Seas Campaign and before joining the WWF staff, he served as a park ranger with the National Park Service and as a special agent with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Mike has served as a senior advisor on ocean issues to the Departments of Commerce and State and has lectured at graduate seminars nationally. He pursued graduate studies in marine biology at the University of Sydney, Australia, and received a natural resources law degree from George Washington University. Mike is an instrument-rated private pilot and Cessna T210 owner, and enjoys scuba diving, wildlife and underwater photography, and skiing.

Brian Williams

Member, Advisory Group
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Brian is a director at a global consulting firm specializing in the application of information technology. He holds a Mechanical Engineering degree from Northwest University in South Africa and an MBA from Pace University in New York. Brian earned his pilot's license in South Africa in 1989 and has flown throughout the region for recreation and business. Early in his flying career, Brian flew to locate a fugitive and endangered black rhinoceros before it crossed the border from South Africa into neighboring Botswana where it was in danger from poachers. The rhino was captured and returned, saving its life. Ever since that experience, Brian has had a keen interest in habitat conservation and environmental policy. In 1998, he emigrated to the USA and in 2007 started volunteering for LightHawk's Mesoamerica and Eastern region programs. He was Lighthawk's 2007 "Rookie of the Year" and in 2008 was the "Rockwell Award" recipient. He also volunteers for Southwings concentrating on Appalachian mountain top removal mining. Brian owns a Cessna Cardinal Turbo RG and is a 2800hr commercial pilot with instrument- and multi-engine ratings.

Chris Boyer

Bozeman, Montana

After Peter and Jane Carpenter donated their airplane to LightHawk in 2007, we established this award for the pilot who donates the most flights in their own aircraft. Chris epitomizes the generosity of the Carpenters and was recognized with this award two years running, in 2008 and 2009.

Chris is a professional aerial photographer who signed up as a Volunteer Pilot about 15 minutes after he passed 1000 hours. He talks about that experience in this short video. (link to 1000.2 hours video) He flies for partners across Montana and Wyoming, and often flies solo missions to take photographs for our partners’ campaigns. In 2012, Chris accompanied two other pilots in ferrying a LightHawk aircraft to Mexico, you can read about their adventure in the AOPA Pilot article here and see a gallery of the gorgeous aerial and on-the-round images Chris created as well. Chris has been volunteering with LightHawk since 2006 and he flies Red Plane, a Cessna 172TD.

David Cole

Meeker, Colorado

From riding in a small plane with his teddy bear at five, to flying professionally, David Cole has a long history with aviation. Cole flew passengers for Frontier, People Express and Continental before becoming an FAA safety inspector and United Airlines pilot instructor. He currently serves as director of operations for

Of flying with LightHawk he says, “...the greatest joy for me is our partners sharing their stories and watching their enthusiasm for the flights. You don’t get this kind of feedback or interaction during a 747 flight with 450 passengers.” He has been a volunteer pilot with LightHawk since 2010, in 2011 he won the Spirit of LightHawk Award. David is currently a freelance contract jet pilot.

Denise Corcoran

Maule M6
Dover, New Hampshire

Denise has been volunteering with LightHawk since 2010 and was recognized in 2011 as the Rookie of the Year for her flights in Central America. Her dream was to be a working pilot in Alaska.  She has spent five summers there, working for air taxis based out of Wrangell-St. Elias and Denali National Parks. Her new aspiration is to fly exclusively for non-profit causes, including environmental conservation and humanitarianism. She flies a Maule M6.

Jo Duffy

Santa Barbara, California

Although she was the winner of the LightHawk Rookie of the Year Volunteer Pilot award for 2009, at one time Jo Duffy was an unlikely candidate to become a pilot. In the mid-nineties, a friend asked Jo to join a trip to Mexico to assist in a medical clinic for the indigenous Yaqui Indians. “It meant getting into a small airplane which was terrifying to me,” she remembers. Following a rough flight down, she started relaxing on the way back and began taking a technical interest in flying. “I wanted to know what the dials were for and what the radio contact meant.” She began flying lessons in ’98.

After a career as a clinical laboratory scientist specializing in blood work, Jo is partially retired, “I work part-time to pay for gas,” she says. Flying for LightHawk allows her to be back in the conservation world and “it’s a different kind of flying than just going someplace. It’s more demanding and more satisfying because you have to use the skills you’ve learned,” she explains. “I am passionate about aviation and will use any excuse to go flying. And I feel strongly about environmental issues, so when I heard about LightHawk, there was no question about my wanting to be a part of it.” Jo flies a Cessna 172.

Jamie Gamble

North Granby, Connecticut

Jamie donates missions in the Northeast and as of 2013, has twice flown to Wisconsin to support a fledgling flock of migratory whooping cranes. Read the full story. Jamie has volunteered with LightHawk since 2010 and in 2012 won the Carpenter Award. He flies a Cessna 182Q and an Expedition E350.

Chuck Heywood

Ridgway, Colorado

Chuck discovered LightHawk in 1991 while vacationing in Costa Rica with his wife and infant son. Employed by the U.S. Geological Survey as a geophysicist and hydrologist, Chuck’s work involves simulating groundwater systems to better understand water supplies and the transport of natural and man-made contaminants in groundwater. Chuck says “flying LightHawk missions provides me a way to assist conservation causes that I care about.”

One flight in Honduras allowed biologists to assess the health of habitat for a pair of nesting harpy eagles, one of only two breeding pairs documented in Mesoamerica, and greatly improve their chances to raise a new generation of the large eagles. Chuck has assisted LightHawk conservation partners for 15 years while flying in New Mexico, Colorado, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama.


Richard Hoover

Beechcraft Bonanza
Corrales, New Mexico

A LightHawk volunteer pilot since 2001, Richard was recognized with LightHawk’s Rockwell Award in 2013. His numerous flights in New Mexico over many years enabling policy-makers at local, state and national levels to see the area that is now Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument played an important role in bringing about that designation. Richard and his wife Sandi also donated 12+ hours of flight to transfer 14 Aplomado falcon chicks from Boise to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Bob Keller

Cessna T-182T
Boonville, NY

Bob has been a conservation pilot since 1993, and like many of LightHawk’s volunteer pilots, he says flying has become “a part of who I am. It’s what I do and it brings me great enjoyment!” Volunteering for these flights gives him an opportunity to use his skills and his Cessna T-182T to help further positive outcomes for the environment, especially in his own backyard of upstate New York. Bob shares his thoughts about flying and how it’s shaped his own perspective, “It gives me a much greater appreciation for the interconnectivity of everything in the environment. I have a greater appreciation for the need to conserve large landscapes.”

Bob earned LightHawk’s coveted “Carpenter Award” in 2014, “Spirit of LightHawk” in 2007 and the lighthearted, “Can’t Say No” award in 2013.

Read our interview with Bob here.

Jim Knowles

Tenants Harbor, Maine

A volunteer pilot since 2010, Jim was recognized with the Carpenter Award in 2013 for the pilot who donates the most flights in their own aircraft in a particular year. He has done a variety of flights focusing on easement monitoring, as well as wildlife surveys for black bears and whooping cranes. Jim is building experience in the Cessna 206 so that he may fly for LightHawk in Mesoamerica. Jim is currently restoring a PBY Catalina, a seaplane used for surveillance and submarine hunting during WWII. He flies a Piper Super Cub and a Maule MT7 235. 

John-Michael Lee

Van Nuys, California

Volunteering with LightHawk since 2002, in 2013 John-Michael won the President's Award. He often combines two of his passions through flying donated missions along the coast of California. Through his donated flights to support California’s Marine Protected Areas, John-Michael uses his airplane and skills to help restore the underwater world he also enjoys as a diver. And sometimes on a flight, he gets to see something truly spectacular as detailed in this story

Jack Long

Austin, Texas

Jack began donating flights through LightHawk in 2011 when he responded to an urgent request for a pilot to fly rare orange-breasted falcon chicks to Belize. Utilizing his fast Pilatus PC-12 turbo-prop, Jack was an important part of efforts to bring back a species in real danger of extinction. Since then, he has donated many flights transporting endangered Mexican gray wolves within their species survival program. 2012, Jack was recognized as LightHawk’s Rookie of the Year. 

Carl Mattson

Cessna Centurion, Cessna 172
Denver, Colorado

Carl started flying volunteer missions for LightHawk in 2012 and in 2013 he was awarded the Rookie of the Year Award. In his first year, Carl flew 23 different LightHawk missions including to inform the public about oil and gas wells being sited amidst homes and schools in Colorado’s Weld County; and he ferried hundreds of miles to make a Keystone Pipeline photography flight in central Texas possible. He also transported rare Aplomado falcon chicks from Boise, where they had been bred in captivity by biologists at the Peregrine Fund, to coastal Texas where they were released into the wild. In addition to all of that, Carl and his wife Julie traveled to Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica and Belize to fly for a wide variety of partners and issues. Carl flies a Cessna Centurion and a Cessna 172.

Janice Newman

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

In December 2009, Janice learned of LightHawk from her friend, and LightHawk board member, Tom Haas. Then they loaded three rare Mexican wolves into a brand new Pilatus PC-12 turbo-prop and flew their first LightHawk flight together.

“I can’t remember when I didn’t have the flying bug,” explains Newman, “On a flight to Florida when I was 12, I got to sit in the cockpit with the captain, I thought that was so much better than the week at Disney World!”

Newman has been flying for more than 33 years, and professionally for over 27. She’s been a flight instructor, a captain in a Cessna Caravan for an overnight freight company, flew as captain in a PC-12 for a fractional share company, a scheduled airline, and over in Europe. She has spent time as a PC12NG mentor pilot, and has her own flight school specializing in glass cockpit aircraft. Newman was recognized for her teaching as the Eastern Region Certified Flight Instructor of the Year for 2010. She began flying with LightHawk in 2009 and was recognized with the Carpenters’ Award in 2011.

Jane Nicolai

Vancouver, Washington

Jane became a LightHawk volunteer pilot in 1994 and has been actively donating flights in the Pacific Northwest ever since. She has donated flights to inform just about every issue in her backyard, from old growth forest protection to dam removal, water quality, and fish habitat preservation in the region’s rivers. Jane has also flown to give Tribal members a new perspective on evaluating and planning land use, as well as enabling scientists to observe the effects of wild land fires. She has served as a board member and helped with numerous special projects over the years. She flies a Cessna Cardinal and a Piper PA-12.

Bob Peterson

Cessna 182
Boise, ID

As a young boy in Coffeyville, Kansas, Bob Peterson was captivated by aviation. Vultee BT-13s roared overhead from an Army Air Corps WWII training base and the Funk Aircraft Company was based in town. It was practically unavoidable he’d become addicted to aviation.

Bob Peterson first volunteered for LightHawk in 1994 after retiring from the Department of Interior as director, Office of Aircraft Services where he oversaw aircraft and pilots flying for National Parks Service (NPS), BLM, and other Interior branches who utilized biologists, rangers and pilots in their work. Bob also served on LightHawk’s Board of Directors. He has flown missions in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and Veracruz region. Bob continues to fly for LightHawk in his Cessna 182 out of KEUL, Caldwell Industrial near Boise, where he lives with his wife of 56 years, Anita.

Bob earned his BS in Forestry from Colorado State University and worked for the National Park Service for 35 years in Mt. Rainier, Yosemite, Katmai, Grand Canyon, Zion and Everglades National Park, and the National Park Service Alaska Region. Read more of Bob's story here.

Bill Rush

Boulder Creek, California

He became a LightHawk volunteer pilot shortly after retirement in 2009, Bill was featured in this video about LightHawk’s work helping to restore the Colorado River Delta estuary. He also flies in Mexico for the Flying Doctors and Comunidad para Baja California, a group helping to improve the lives of indigenous people of northern Mexico. Bill was recognized with the Spirit of LightHawk Award in 2013 and the President’s Award in 2011. He flies a Cessna 182.

Merry Schroeder

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Merry began flying in 1975 at Palwaukee Airport, seven miles south of Chicago’s O'Hare and went on to earn a private and commercial license before becoming a flight instructor. Since childhood she has hiked, camped, and fished in the South San Juans of Colorado. After becoming a pilot, she saw the value of a "bird's eye view" to advance conservation. For 26 years, Merry has flown for LightHawk and its partners.

During one memorable flight she had a U.S. Senator and his wife as passengers. She recounts, “We flew over a lovely part of southeastern Colorado, in an area that was under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Defense. It was being used primarily for tank training. The area in question was a lovely canyon, housing the Purgatoire River, with several observable dinosaur tracks imbedded adjacent to the stream bottom. We flew and photographed this area extensively, and then did flights over the Pueblo area to view railroad cars in which were stored nerve gas left over from WWI. At the time, the only way to destroy the gas was to burn it, and this had been started.”

After the flight, Merry and the Senator hiked through the canyon area and viewed the dinosaur tracks up close. The government subsequently protected the canyon, and other adjacent lands.

Merry and her late husband John have four children and six grandchildren. Merry says, “next to my family, flying for LightHawk has been the most important and exciting part of my life!”