Staff & Board


Jonathan Bruno

Chief Executive Officer

Jonathan has a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Colorado and graduated from the Executive Leadership program at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He works closely with communities on forest health initiatives aimed at creating resilient forests and safer communities and works to restore lands impacted by recent wildfires and natural disasters. With over 20 years within emergency services, as a safety officer for a search and rescue team, and as a wildland firefighter, he continues to work at the intersection of emergency response and community preparedness.

Esther Duke

Chief Operations Officer

Esther received her M.Sc. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University and her B.A. from Illinois Wesleyan University. She is passionate about building capacity for collaborative and performance-based conservation. Before joining the COCO. team, Esther was Senior Program Officer at LightHawk, a conservation flying nonprofit, where she oversaw staff, projects, and partnerships throughout North America. Prior to that, she was Director of Special Projects and Programs for the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department at Colorado State University. Esther has experience directing conservation social science trainings and conferences throughout the United States as well as in Kenya and Italy and managing research networks in China, Central America, and Europe. Esther also has experience in environmental market design research. When Esther is not working to protect and restore incredible natural ecosystems, she is enjoying them with her family. She is also an adventurous traveler, baker, and reader.

Jen Gustafson

Community Navigator Program Assistant Director

Jen Gustafson received her Bachelor’s of Science in Geography and a Geographic Information Systems Technology (GIST) certificate from the University of Montana in Missoula. She is a map lover that is passionate about working closely with communities and partners to create positive change for people and the environment. She has a history of working in natural resource conservation, special events coordination, hot dog vending (true story), managing volunteers and graphic design. She now resides in Western North Carolina where she and her husband maintain a hobby farm. Jen works remotely as the Assistant Director for COCO’s Community Navigators Program, connecting valuable resources to communities when and where they need it most.

Maria Brandt

Outreach & Development Director

Maria is a Colorado native and a CSU, Fort Collins graduate. She has earned her B.S. in Forestry, B.S. in Natural Resource Management, graduate certificate in Nonprofit Administration, and certificate in Women’s Leadership from Yale’s School of Executive Management. She’s built her career in education, outreach and field experience working for The National Park Service,  Cascades Carnivore Project, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and El Paso County Nature Centers. Maria  joined the COCO team three years ago and had spent the majority of her time acting as the AIM program’s grants and contracts manager. She is excited to move into her new role as Outreach and Development Director with COCO, CUSP, and ARWC. Maria works from her home in downtown Colorado Springs with her dogs, Kavik and Billy-Francis.

Wendie Warner

Special Projects Director

Bio coming soon

Jeff Ravage

Chief science & Technology Officer

Jeff Ravage is COCO’s chief science officer. He is a researcher in forest mycology and works closely with the Denver Botanic Gardens Sam Mitchell Herbarium of Fungi. It is his responsibility to keep our work up to date with the latest literature and practice. He also actively promotes novel techniques to achieve the goals of forest health and longevity. He also oversees new technologies for staff and partners. He’s always willing to sit down over a frothy drink and discuss lignicolous saprophytes or aposematic anurans.

Carol Ekarius

Executive Officer Emeritus

Carol is COCO Inc’s founder and previous CEO. She holds a Civil Engineering Degree from the UC Denver and has decades of experience in governmental and nonprofit management. Carol is a freelance writer and the author of nine books, including Small-Scale Livestock Farming: A Grass-based Approach for Health, Sustainability, and Profit, and The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. Her articles have appeared in regional and national magazines including Green Builder, Mother Earth News, Western Horseman, and The Writer. She lives with her husband, Ken Woodard, and their farm menagerie near Cripple Creek.

COCO, CUSP, ARWC, and PWP share field staff to accomplish the goals of each organization. Our staff have years of collective experience and have honed their skills on numerous natural resource projects.

Mitch Dahlke

WildFire Mitigation Specialist

Originally hailing from Minnesota, Mitch values contribution and work ethic learned on the Midwest farms of his youth, and holds a deep fascination with tribal and agricultural prescribed fire practices. He holds a Master’s of Conservation Leadership from CSU – Fort Collins, and could not dream up greater alignment with COCO’s vision of helping people and the planet. When he’s not pushing the ball forward for wildfire mitigation, he’s likely to be mountain biking, skiing, meditating, wandering around in the woods, cooking in an air fryer, dancing to the music, connecting with friends, and/or playing with dogs.

Katie Dorman

Wildfire mitigation specialist

Katie is excited to join COCO as a Mitigation Fellow. She obtained her master’s degree in Conservation Leadership from Colorado State University, and she is passionate about finding solutions to the environmental problems we face in a collaborative way. Katie was born and raised in Colorado and loves to explore the many different landscapes the state has to offer. She also works as the Special Projects Coordinator with the Center for Collaborative Conservation, based out of CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources.

Morgan Cohen

Grants & contracts manager

Originally from New Jersey, Morgan has a deep respect and appreciation for the beautiful and diverse landscapes within the state of Colorado. As the Grants and Contracts Manager for COCO, she works to support resilient forests and communities by contributing to the growth of mitigation programs across the state. Morgan has previously worked with the Natural Hazards Section of DEMA and Region III of FEMA to support COVID-19 recovery initiatives on the East Coast, and holds a Master of Public Administration degree specializing in Emergency Management from the University of Delaware. Morgan is also conducting ongoing research with the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, which utilizes the COPEWELL framework for modeling disaster resilience to assess community recovery priorities within the American Rescue Plan Act.

Jonathan Paklaian

ARWC Executive Director

For over ten years, Jonathan has conducted fieldwork and managed environmental resource projects across the western U.S. This interdisciplinary experience includes working for multiple consulting firms and NGOs, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the USGS. Jonathan is excited to continue his collaborative work in the Arkansas Basin, where he hopes to facilitate meaningful, watershed-wide projects for the communities and ecosystems of the region.

John Geerdes

CUSP Chief Executive Officer | Executive Director

John is a graduate of Colorado State University in Natural Resources Management. In his 34 year career with Colorado State Parks, and later Colorado Parks and Wildlife, John was involved with management and development of Colorado’s most special gems. From Vega State Park to the Arkansas Headwaters, and some time in the regional office, John has touched almost all aspects of natural resource management. CUSP is lucky to have John leading our team following his retirement from Mueller State Park.

Chris Fuller

CUSP Deputy Director 

Chris coordinates grants, projects and programs;  develops and maintains schedules (for people and equipment); and makes sure that safety protocols are implemented with all projects. Water/watershed issues have been of particular interest to Chris as a resident of South Park and former special water district board member.  An Oklahoma University graduate, still practicing architecture and running her antique business, Chris grabs every opportunity to check out her favorite place, ‘the road less traveled’

Julie Knudson

PWP Watershed Coordinator

Julie has a PhD from Colorado State University in Restoration Ecology and a Masters degree in Resource Conservation from University of Montana. She has lived and worked in Colorado for more than 20 years, working for non-profits, federal agencies, academic research institutes and consulting firms as a biologist, soil scientist, botanist, hydrologist, weed manager, wildlife technician and restoration ecologist. Through her previous work she also has extensive experience developing educational workshops and training events and conducting a host of outreach efforts in support of watershed management and restoration. Julie currently serves as the Watershed Coordinator for the Purgatoire Watershed Partnership.

Our Board

Eric Howell


Eric is the Forest Program Manager for Colorado Springs Utilities and also sits on the CUSP board.

Madeline McDonald

vice chair

Madeline is a Watershed Scientist at Denver Water.

Jen Kovecses


Jen is Program Director for the Salazar Center at Colorado State University.

Lisa McVicker


Lisa is the Director and President Emeritus of Center of Colorado Water Conservation District.

Mary Dawson


Mary is the Senior Environmental Education & Outreach Specialist at City of Aurora and she also sits on the CUSP board. 

Mark Shea


Mark is the Board Chair for Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative

Mike Smith


Mike is the Managing Director and founder of Aclymate one of COCO’s Strategic Partners.