Speaker Bios

Meaghan Conway

Meaghan Conway is the Aquatic and Riparian Habitat Specialist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Her prior work included research, monitoring, and habitat restoration for rare and endangered wetland-dependent species in Arizona, California, Florida, and the Atlantic coast. She earned a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from the State University of NY, Binghamton, and a PhD in Ecology and Environmental Science from the University of Maine.

Nick Forman

Nick is the Carnivore and Small Mammal Program Manager for NM Department of Game and Fish. He manages the bear and cougar program, furbearer program, and non-game mammal program. He has worked with aquatic furbearers throughout his career on the east coast, in the Midwest, and now in New Mexico.

Ben Goldfarb

Ben is the author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, winner of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and named one of the best books of 2018 by the Washington Post.

His writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Science, The Washington Post, National Geographic, the New York Times, High Country News, Orion Magazine, and many other publications.

Ben is happiest with a scuba tank strapped to my back or a fly rod in his hand.

Aaron Hall

Aaron Hall works to protect species in aquatic and riparian habitats. He is responsible for identifying species and habitats for which Defenders can have a positive impact, and finding scientifically sound and pragmatic solutions to these threats to biodiversity. He also provides expert knowledge on all things aquatic in support of other Defenders projects.

A growing focus of Aaron’s work is utilizing beaver as a habitat restoration tool. By focusing on this keystone species he is able leverage beaver’s ecosystem engineering skills to create and enhance habitat for many at-risk species including freshwater fishes, amphibians and reptiles, shorebirds, aquatic insects and others.

Lea Knutson

As a native of New Mexico (born and raised in the north valley of Albuquerque) and a 26-year resident and owner of property that spans both the Gallinas and Sapello watersheds in NE New Mexico, Lea has roots in the local area. Her training is in Wildlife Science (B.S. University of Washington) and she has 18 years of professional experience in wildlife ecology and wildlife habitat management in Washington State with the University of Washington and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. She returned to New Mexico to raise her family in the beautiful mountains near Las Vegas. Lea has a deep love of the land and commitment to restoring and maintaining healthy landscapes for people and wildlife. Because of that love, she founded the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance in 2010 (a local 501c3 nonprofit). Lea has served as the Executive Director, grant writer, project director and everything in between for HPWA for all of its 10 years.

Scott McFarland

Scott McFarland currently serves as the Chief of Resource Management at Bandelier National Monument. He’s worked for the National Park Service since 2010 and has been fortunate enough to conduct field work in dozens of units throughout the country. Scott holds a B.S. in Environmental Science with a Minor in Biology and is currently working towards his M.Sc. in Environmental Policy and Management. He’s originally from Montana and has resided in Los Alamos with his wife since 2017.

Mary O’Brien

Mary joined the Grand Canyon Trust in 2003 to work with other conservation organizations to propose alternatives for forest plans for the Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-La Sal national forests and other public lands. Since earning a B.S. in sociology, a master’s in elementary education, and a Ph.D. in botany, Mary has worked as a staff scientist within toxics reform, environmental law, and public lands conservation organizations for 34 years. Every day of such work has been amazing.

Jeff Ogburn

Jeff has been involved in watershed and wildlife management throughout his career. With a Bachelors in Arts and Sciences from the Evergreen State College, Jeff continues to glean knowledge and wisdom from the collective experience of experimentation and adaptive management; seeking to maximize ecological potential within the physical challenges of continued human persistence on the broader landscape.

Reid Whittlesey

Reid graduated from Humboldt State University with a B.S. Environmental Science and Restoration Ecology.  He has successfully managed the implementation of over 20 federal, state, and private water quality, riparian ecosystem, wildlife habitat, and watershed improvement projects over the last 10 years. The partnerships on these projects have included:  United States Forest Service,  New Mexico State Land Office, City and County of  Santa Fe, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico Environment Department, Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources.  Before becoming the Restoration Director for Rio Grande Return, Reid served briefly as the Restoration Directory WildEarth Guardians after having worked as their Program Field Coordinator for ten years from 2009-2019.

Joe Wheaton

Joe Wheaton is an Assistant Professor at USU and a fluvial geomorphologist with over a decade of experience in river restoration. Joe runs the Ecogeomorphology & Topographic Analysis Lab in USU’s department of Watershed Science and is a leader in the monitoring and modeling of riverine habitats and watersheds. He worked four years in consulting engineering before completing his B.S. in Hydrology (2002, UC Davis), an M.S. in Hydrologic Sciences (2003, UC Davis), and a Ph.D. in Geography (2008, University of Southhampton, UK). He worked as a lecturer in Physical Geography (University of Wales, 2006-08), Research Assistant Professor in Geology (Idaho State University, 2008-09) before becoming an Assistant Professor at Utah State University (2009-present) where he teaches courses geomorphology, fluvial hydraulics, ecohydraulics, GIS, geomorphic change detection, and river restoration.

Bill Zeedyk

Bill  Zeedyk and his wife, Mary Maulsby, have enjoyed the presence of beaver at their property on Manuelitas Creek for eleven of the past sixteen years with a particular interest in how the presence or absence of beaver affect other species. Bill retired from the US Forest Service in 1990 with 34 years as a wildlife biologist. He began a second career in wetland restoration in 1995 and plans to retire this year with 25 years of service  as a consultant on state, federal, tribal, and private lands in seven states and Mexico. He has authored several publications on riparian restoration and protection and conducted many training sessions for volunteers, professionals and landowners on how to think like a beaver while fixing damaged creeks and wetlands.