Our Presenters

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Our Presenters, Children’s Activities, and Field Trip Leaders for 2018

Keynote Speaker:

Lynn Schooler is an Alaskan writer, photographer, and woodworker who worked as a wilderness guide for over 25 years, specializing in serving wildlife photographers and natural history film makers. He is the author of the Blue BearWalking Home, The Last Shot, and Heartbroke BayWalking Home was awarded Canada's Banff Film and Book Festival ‘Best Mountain Literature’ award in 2011. He is a regular contributor to the Japanese arts, travel, and culture magazine Coyote, and his writing has been published in a dozen languages. His photos of Alaska have been featured in publications world-wide. In 2014 he was invited to France as the ‘Foreign Guest of Honor’ at Europe’s largest outdoor photography event,  the Festival Montier, where an exhibition of his photos was viewed by more than 40,000 visitors. He has lived in Alaska nearly fifty years, but of late has been joining ranks with the Pacific golden plovers, ruddy turnstones, and wandering tattlers that migrate to Hawaii for the winter, where the birds hang out on the beach and Schooler runs a coffee farm. 


Denise Yvonne Turley

Denise grew up in rural areas in the western states and always had a great interest in wildlife and nature. She went to school at Brigham Young University and obtained a BS degree in Zoology in 1994. Denise became especially interested in birds when she met her first mother in law who was an avid birder and introduced her to the pastime. She spent the next 16 years raising and homeschooling her two daughters in rural Alaska 6 months of the year and traveling for the remaining 6 months of each year. Seven of those winters were aboard their personal sailboat exploring the Bahamas and Central America. Throughout that time she "birded" for her personal pleasure and loved getting to see new species from new locations, but also grew very fond of the species she found every summer in Alaska. In 2010 she began volunteering for Fish and Game and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near the Canadian border doing Rusty Blackbird, Waterfowl and Passerine Surveys. She was trained to mist net birds by Hank Timm and Bud Johnson who had been running the Tetlin NWR banding station for about 20 years (the second longest running mist netting station in Alaska). This was the year she began memorizing bird calls so that she'd be able to perform point counts in addition to other surveys. Denise spent the next five summers working for Tetlin NWR as a biotech doing bird surveys (waterfowl, passerine and peregrine falcon) and eventually becoming a lead bander at the banding station. During the winters I continued to travel, but also looked for bird work/volunteer opportunities during that time. She was fortunate enough to mist net birds on Maui and Kuaui and perform mammal surveys in Mojave National Preserve during some of this time. In late 2014 she moved to Sitka so that she could be near her youngest daughter who wanted to attend Mt. Edgecumbe High School (boarding school). Since she has moved to Sitka, she still travels to Tetlin NWR for a few weeks every summer to conduct bird surveys and occasionally does contract biology work when it is available. Denise travels at every opportunity, and has branched out to expand her skills to include emergency medicine, working as a naturalist and "guide" in various capacities, and volunteering with the Sitka Fire Department Dive Team. She recently married and has been having a wonderful time exploring the wild areas around Sitka with her husband Don Kluting.


Chris Maack

First lured to Alaska by a summer job, Chris Maack fled an academic career to return to this great state and make a living however she could. She was a flight attendant for Reeve Aleutian for a while, worked several jobs at National Bank of Alaska, and eventually retired from the State Department of Natural Resources where she worked in land records and computer information. What did this have to do with birds? Not a thing. She took a wildflower class and found out the teacher, John Wenger, also taught bird song identification. She took that class 6 years in a row. This led to volunteer bird-banding and bird censusing with federal agencies, then bird rehabilitation with the Bird Treatment & Learning Center in Anchorage. She still works a weekly shift in the clinic and takes education birds to school kids, bird festivals and tourist events.  



John Zarnetske

John Zarnetske retired to Alaska from upstate NY State where I had been an educator for 34 years. Schooled in Wildlife ecology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, he ended up teaching high school science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science and Environmental Science) and Wildlife Ecology and Wildlife Management at Southern Vermont College. He has been actively involved with Bird Treatment and Learning Center for the last six years. He volunteers Thursdays at the clinic doing rehabilitation on sick, injured and orphaned birds. He presents two of our education birds, Hoot, a Great-horned owl, and Flame, a Short-eared owl. He is also the caretaker of Flame at his home. He is a member of the Education Committee seeking new ways to implement the part of Bird TLC's mission to impart the importance of birds in our lives to public audiences. He also serves on the board of FAR - Friends of Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, an organization that helps protect the refuge on Anchorage's doorstep from being misused by recreationists and developers. He is an avid fisherman, hiker and wildlife photographer. In 2016, he enjoyed a three week trip to southern Africa, mostly comprised of safaris in pursuit of viewing Africa's unique wildlife. In 2017 he visited Southeast Alaska for two weeks primarily to study the native cultures of the region.
Flame (short-eared owl, will be at the festival this year):
A seriously injured juvenile Short-eared owl was found on the side of a road in Valdez in 2006, likely the victim of a strike by an automobile. She was immediately sent to Bird TLC for treatment. X-rays revealed fractures of her upper wing and lower right wing. Bird TLC veterinarians pinned the humerus, positioned the wrist and stabilized the wing. After a period of healing, the fractures mended, but she was dragging her wing. A decision was made that she was not going to be releasable and that she would become part of Bird TLC's fleet of education birds. She is named Flame after the specific part of her scientific name, Asio flammeus. She has been entertaining Bird TLC audiences of all ages for nearly 11 years throughout Alaska.


Laura Woodward

Laura grew up in Conway, Arkansas with her outdoorsy family. After earning a Bachelor's degree from Hendrix College in Environmental Studies, she moved around the country working at eight different locations in five states in less than ten years. She fell in love with birding while working for an Audubon Center in Billings, Montana. She's excited to be back in Alaska and ready for spring bird migration!  


Brady Skidmore

Brady has lived in western Washington his whole life, where from a young age he was introduced to hiking and spending time in nature. Initially he earned a BS in Network and Communications Management, followed by working in the IT field for 10 years. His passion for the outdoors however drew him back to school, where he is currently pursuing an AAS in Natural Resources – Forestry. Brady will be spending be spending the summer in Yakutat as a Recreation Technician intern where he hopes to learn as much as possible about recreation management, the local vegetation, the birds and mammals of the area.


Mary Sutkowski, Tern Festival Coordinator.

Mary first came to Alaska at age seven to visit her aunt. She panned for gold, explored glaciers and mountains and was captivated by the abundant wilderness here. In the fall of 2016, over 20 years later, she returned to work in Yakutat as an SCA intern with the Forest Service. Since then, Mary has made Alaska her home and just can’t get enough of the outdoors here. Mary took on the role as the Yakutat Tern Festival Coordinator in 2017 and is growing in her knowledge of birding. She loves being able to remain a part of the Yakutat community in this role and visits Yakutat as often as she can from Juneau, where she currently resides. 


Erin Marbarger

Erin Marbarger is currently the Curator of Science and Innovation at the Anchorage Museum, a position that develops innovative Science programming for diverse audiences and manages Spark!Lab, an hands-on learning space created by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center. Erin holds a BA in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Natural Resource Management from the University of Colorado and a MS in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Environmental Education from Antioch University New England. Erin has 9 years’ experience in informal education with a focus in outdoor and environmental education. Erin was the School Groups Program Coordinator for the Snowmass Ski Patrol and worked as an Environmental Educator throughout New England while earning her master’s degree.


Aaron Slonecker

Aaron Slonecker is currently the Planetarium & Science Education Manager at the Anchorage Museum. Aaron holds a BS in Earth Sciences with an emphasis in Planetary Science and a minor in Astrophysics from the University of California Santa Cruz, and a MS in Geology from the University of Minnesota Duluth. During his time in Minnesota Aaron managed the Marshall W. Alworth planetarium and worked at the Duluth Children’s Museum, where he developed science and astronomy programs for all ages. Along with his passion for teaching hands-on science, Aaron enjoys coaching baseball and has been doing it for over 6 years in California and now, in Alaska.



Gwen Baluss

Based in Juneau, Gwen Baluss has been bird-watching for work and fun in Southeast Alaska since 1998. Before that she worked throughout the Western United states and Hawaii focusing on bird work ranging from forest habitat studies, to wildlife rehabilitation and endangered species recovery. She is most interested in songbirds, especially those that migrate south, and likes to travel where when she can observe them on their winter range. She is a certified bird bander and enjoys recruiting new birders by showing the public birds up close.


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