Executive Director and Director of Avian Conservation
Gary founded Ecostudies Institute in 2001 and has worked to identify situations where Ecostudies’ knowledge, experience, and skills can be most effective towards advancing the conservation of birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. In 2020, he returned full time to Ecostudies as part of a transition team broadening the vision and conservation capacity of the organization.
Gary has nearly 30 years of experience in nonprofit administration, avian research, and conservation, including work in the Pacific Northwest, south Florida, Venezuela, and the Bahamas. Most recently, his work has focused on conserving imperiled birds in prairie-oak habitats. His research interests span a wide variety of applied conservation issues, including the re-introduction ecology of passerine bird species, impacts of management on avian populations, and demographic factors limiting small populations.
Gary’s passion for birds began as a child watching chickadees at the family bird feeder. He received a B.S. in Wildlife Science from Purdue University and a M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Florida. Outside of the office, Gary enjoys spending time gardening, brewing beer, and hiking.
Sarah Hamman, Ph.D.
Director of Science
Sarah was part of the transition team that joined Ecostudies in 2020, after working on the South Sound Prairies since 2008. Her work is aimed at researching and restoring rare species habitat in Pacific Northwest prairies and oak woodlands using rigorous science and collaborative conservation principles.
Sarah’s research has focused on evaluating fire effects on soils and plant community dynamics, biogeochemical and microbial legacies of invasive species, conservation grazing impacts on plant communities and restoration strategies for native plant establishment, including seed stratification, mycorrhizal fungi inoculation, seeding rates and herbicide application. She has worked in the tallgrass prairies of Minnesota, the wintery wonderland of Yellowstone National Park, ponderosa pine forests of the Colorado front range, giant sequoia forests in the Sierra Nevadas, and the rare rosemary scrub of central Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge.
Sarah is also an adjunct professor at The Evergreen State College and she serves on the boards of the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation and the Washington Native Plant Society. She is a co-founder of the Camas Collaborative, a transdisciplinary group dedicated to advancing Indigenous priorities in PNW prairies and oak woodlands. When she’s not working, Sarah enjoys baking, knitting, and adventuring in the mountains. Sarah earned her B.A. in Biology from Wittenberg University and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Colorado State University.
Elspeth Hilton Kim
Director of Partnerships
Elspeth was part of the transition team that joined Ecostudies in 2020, after working on the South Sound Prairies since 2012. She leads multi-partner cooperative conservation projects throughout the prairie and oak habitats of the Pacific Northwest and coordinates the Cascadia Prairie-Oak Partnership. Her work focuses on advancing the conservation of rare species by bringing together disparate entities – ranging from federal, state, and local agencies to NGO’s to private landowners – and facilitating shared understanding and collaboration.
Previously, Elspeth lead and supported land acquisition projects as well as carrying out communications and outreach. As part of her graduate studies, Elspeth worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a strategy for communicating information during oil spill incidents and helped lead a workshop about oil spill response preparedness in Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough.
Elspeth earned a bachelor’s in psychology from Pomona College and a master’s in public administration with a certificate in environmental management from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance.
Director of Restoration and Fire Program Manager
Mason was part of the transition team that joined Ecostudies in 2020 after working in the South Sound Prairies since 2005. Mason manages a cooperative restoration program with Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) that covers a diverse range of ecological restoration and natural resources management activities on the military installation. Activities at JBLM primarily focus on prairie and oak habitat restoration, rare species management, wetland, stream and riparian restoration, invasive species control and prescribed ecological burning. Mason is also Ecostudies’ Fire Program Manager, a partner-based collaborative program that has conducted hundreds of burns primarily in north and south Puget Sound and also throughout Oregon and Washington. Ecostudies’ burn program is part of a comprehensive integrated habitat restoration and rare species management approach.
Mason has been working in natural resources management since 1992. His work experience has ranged from forest service roads maintenance, wildlife surveys, trapping and relocation, soil surveys and analysis, firefighting, forest management and ecological restoration. Mason was forest manager of University of Washington’s Pack Forest for nine years where he was involved in silvicultural and operational management, optimization modeling, forest research, as well as public outreach and education.
Mason earned his bachelor’s in conservation of wildland resources and his master’s in silviculture at the University of Washington.
Nathan was part of the transition team that joined Ecostudies in 2020 after working on the South Sound Prairies since 2012. His work focuses on regional prairie-oak weed control efforts, including prescribed fire, and he oversees invasive control efforts on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Previously, Nathan served two years in the Peace Corps in Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains where he worked with ethnic Berbers and Arabs to promote ecotourism as an income source to reduce pressure on fragile mountain ecosystems. Nathan’s multi-disciplinary background includes projects involving urban forestry, wildlife tracking education, timber inventory, Hawaiian dryland forest restoration, and silviculture research. Since 2009 he has worked on more than 400 prescribed and wildfires in many habitat types including western Washington prairies, Hawaiian dry forests, ponderosa pine forests, longleaf pine forests in Florida, and pitch pine and chestnut oak forests in the northeastern U.S. His graduate studies included research on the effect of Armillaria root disease on fire behavior in ponderosa pine stands.
Nathan earned a bachelor’s in forestry from the University of Vermont, and a master’s in forestry from the University of Washington.
Karla began working on the South Sound Prairies in 2019 as an AmeriCorps service member. She worked primarily with the avian conservation program studying the locally vulnerable Oregon vesper sparrow and Western bluebird. Upon completing her second AmeriCorps term in 2020, Karla shifted her focus to monitoring shorebird and waterfowl abundances in estuarine habitats in the North Puget Sound, including volunteer coordination for the 2020 Puget Sound Shorebird Count.
Karla earned a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in ecology from The Evergreen State College. She looks forward to continuing her education in avian ecology and conservation. In her spare time you can find her skiing, backpacking, fly fishing, and spending time at home in her garden with her dog and chickens.
Administrative Assistant and Board President
Christa LeGrande-Rolls joined Ecostudies in 2014 to work on the Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Since 2015, she has served as Ecostudies Institute’s Board President, and supports the organization with administrative and program assistance. In her spare time, Christa enjoys hiking and connecting people with the outdoors.
Her work has primarily focused on balancing military operations with wildlife and habitat conservation on military lands, particularly as it pertains to avian species of conservation concern. She avidly uses ArcGIS and has worked to train others in the wildlife field on its utility and usefulness in their own projects and programs. Recently, Christa completed a one-and-a-half-year project with the Environmental Division at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany where she developed an environmental education and outreach program for military families based overseas. The culmination of this work has led to her forming Birding Tools, a site dedicated to teaching new and enthusiastic birders about the world of birds and how to identify them.
Christa’s love of birds flourished at a young age and motivated her to pursue a career in the conservation biology field. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Science, with a focus on GIS, from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and an M.P.S. in Conservation Biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
R. Adam Martin
Prairie Restoration Specialist
Adam was part of the transition team that joined Ecostudies in 2020 after working on the South Sound Prairies since 2011. His work involves collaborative planning and implementation of restoration activities and developing research and monitoring projects to support the restoration and conservation of rare and federally-listed species in prairie and oak habitats in both South and North Puget Sound. A significant focus of his activities has been studying the best methods for reintroducing and maintaining rare plant populations. Adam is an Engine Boss who has participated in the successful completion of over 300 prescribed burns.
He is currently in his candidacy in the Master of Environmental Studies program at The Evergreen State College. He is focusing on topics in conservation biology with an emphasis in conservation biogeography. His thesis work involves assessing the risks to native plant communities on small islands in the San Juan Islands. Adam received his BA/BS in Natural History and Ecology at The Evergreen State College in 2011.
North Sound Project Manager
Sam was part of the transition team that joined Ecostudies in 2020. Her work focuses on the North Puget Sound, facilitating restoration efforts in the San Juan Islands and on Whidbey Island to enhance habitat for the island marble butterfly, and providing guidance throughout the region with such projects as ecological assessments, burn plans, and native prairie restoration design and implementation.
Sam comes to Ecostudies with a diverse background including horticulture, rare plant species restoration, and forestry consulting in the San Juans. A resident of San Juan County since 2007, she has a good understanding of both the human and plant communities that exist in the islands, and how they affect one another. Sam was Co-director of Rain Shadow Consulting from 2005-2017 and, during that time, worked on a six-year Garry oak and grassland restoration project on a small island in the archipelago. Her interests include native prairie and rocky bald habitat enhancement and the use of ecological forestry practices to actively manage forests for greater diversity, healthier trees, and lower fire risk.
After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in the Conservation of Natural Resources at the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources, she continued her studies there and completed a Master of Science degree in 2008- with a focus on Forest Soils and Restoration Ecology. Sam is a founding member of the Huntress Guild of Orcas Island and, when gathering permits, she also participates in a local dance group, the Island All-Stars.
Avian Conservation Specialist
Jerrmaine was part of the transition team that joined Ecostudies in 2020 after working on the South Sound Prairies since 2013. She works primarily with the avian conservation program- studying and monitoring the federally listed streaked horned lark and the locally vulnerable western bluebird and Oregon vesper sparrow. Since 2016, Jerrmaine has been the project lead for streaked horned lark monitoring on the lower Columbia River as well as leading lark nest monitoring and abundance work on McChord Air Force Base.
Throughout her career in the South Sound Prairies, Jerrmaine has played in a key role in developing several important streaked horned lark conservation projects. She contributed to the compilation and design of the regional database which houses all lark nesting, banding, and resight data over several years. Additionally, Jerrmaine worked on the lower Columbia River from 2015-2017 collecting territory mapping information to better understand how streaked horned larks re-colonize sites after dredge placement activities. This territory mapping work helped to later develop a lark habitat suitability model on the lower Columbia River. This model assists the Army Corps of Engineers better predict where and how dredge placement activities should occur, while maximizing suitable lark habitat.
Jerrmaine earned her Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and a minor in marine biology from the University of Washington. When not practicing conservation work she can be found backpacking or skiing high in the mountains, or scuba diving the world’s reefs.
Rhodri joined Ecostudies in 2020. Their work involves collaborative prescribed fire and restoration capacity building amongst partners in the Willamette Valley, as well as operational support of the organization’s restoration and ecological burning program in oak-prairie habitats of the Puget Sound region. They greatly appreciate Ecostudies’ integrated and comprehensive approach to habitat restoration and rare species management, especially with regards to the burn program and the use of fire for complex and nuanced ecological objectives that go far beyond fuels reduction.
Rhodri was raised in Treaty 7 Niitsitapi/Blackfoot Confederacy, Siksika, Piikani, Kainai, Tsuu T’ina, and Îyârhe Nakoda territories, where the Rocky Mountains meet the prairies of so-called Canada. They come to the field of ecological restoration after a career in wildfire suppression, where they became a helitack crew boss on an IA crew in the northern boreal forests of Anishinaabe and Cree lands. Moving across the border and transitioning into the world of prescribed fire and ecological burning, they became a coach for The Nature Conservancy’s Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges Program (TREX), serving on incident management teams (IMTs) as well as supporting the program as a DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) resource. They consistently combine their love of fire as a key tool for ecological restoration/ecosystem support together with their passion around eliminating access barriers for communities underrepresented and traditionally excluded from the fields of conservation and fire-related work.
They earned their Honours Bachelors of Science from the University of Tkaronto in One Dish One Spoon territory, with a double major in Equity Studies and Global Health. Outside of the academy, they have pursued and graciously received grassroots and community-based continuing education in the areas of fire effects/ecology, soil science, regenerative growing, Indigenous burning, wildlife tracking, environmental racism, anti-oppressive frameworks, and anti-colonial solidarity work/mutual aid practices. They consider themselves a lifelong student of fire and the natural world.