Staff & Board

Jonathan Bruno Photo

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. Before helping to found and lead Coalitions and Collaboratives over the past decade, Jon served on the Coalition for the Upper South Platte leadership team. Jon also helped to found and is the team leader for Community Mitigation Assistance Team (CMAT) on National Wildland Fire Assignments. 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.

Wendie Warner

Special Projects Director | Safety Officer

Wendie grew up in the sprawling town of Mosca, Colorado, and has degrees in water quality and aviation from Salem University and Pikes Peak State College. She has almost 20 years of experience working in the field of natural resources; with much of her work focused on pre-wildfire mitigation, post-wildfire mitigation, water quality, and hydrology. She stays busy in her downtime juggling all of her many hobbies.

Katie Dorman

Wildfire mitigation specialist

Katie was born and raised in Colorado and loves to explore the many different landscapes the state has to offer. 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 and equitable way. She previously worked at the Center for Collaborative Conservation, based out of CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources as the Special Projects Coordinator.

Thérèse d’Auria Ryley

Community navigator program Director

Thérèse (Tess) is dedicated to a restorative justice approach to climate resiliency and is passionate about designing equitable programs, trainings, and tools. Prior to joining COCO, Tess served as Program Director for the Southwest Conservation Corps, Los Valles based in Salida, Colorado where she collaborated with staff to develop the Leaders of Color program, a nationally recognized initiative that prepares BIPOC young adults for careers in natural resources. She was a 2021-22 Keystone Policy Center Systems Impact Institute Fellow where she collaborated with non-profit colleagues to address systemic inequities impacting Colorado’s youth. Previously, Tess worked for PowerCorpsPHL, in her home city of Philadelphia, applying the Conservation Corps model to reduce gun violence and foster resilient communities and healthy urban forests. Tess also worked for Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) as part of an interdisciplinary team to develop long-term, climate-adaptive strategies and short-term emergency response systems for food producers throughout Senegal. Her publications from this work can be found in journals such as Sustainability and Climate Risk Management. She earned her Master’s in Anthropology from the University of Florida, with a focus on social networks and climate adaptation, and she speaks French, Spanish, and Wolof. Tess proudly serves on the Board of Directors for San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLVGO!). In her free time, Tess enjoys running all the mountain trails and reading all the fiction.

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.

Grants & account Director

Michaele has earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a Non-profit Organization Management Certificate from Central Washington University. This education pathway augments her valuable work experience in grant coordination and implementation with two land-grant universities. While serving the State of Tennessee as a Wildfire Mitigation Contractor, Michaele brought a unique passion and inspiration to communities working to reduce wildfire risk. Building capacity through strategic collaboration is one of her greatest assets, and she realizes the value of activated partnerships for effective conservation. Michaele works remotely from the beautiful hills of East Tennessee. Her time usually involves an outdoor adventure in the mountains with her family.

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.

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 works remote on the Colorado Front Range with her dogs, Kavik and Billy-Francis.

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.

Mikayla Pryor

Community Navigator Program Fellow

Mikayla is a Gullah native of Charleston, SC. She was the last graduate to receive a Bachelor of Science in Professional and Technical Communications from Dakota State University. She previously worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta on their communications team and the Forbes-listed public relations agency Berlin Rosen, helping other nonprofits with their communication strategies. Her work in stewardship led to environmentalism when she became the first Resource Assistant of the Resource Assistants Program staff for the US Forest Service. She has a senior Beagle mix named Raleigh, loves rock hunting, and practices the circus art of aerial hoop in Las Vegas, NV.

Jedidiah Lomax

COMMUNITY NAVIGATOR PROGRAM FELLOW​

Jedidiah Lomax (he/him) was born in Philly and went on to study Biology at Susquehanna University in central PA. After graduating with a B.S. in biology he entered the conservation field in the fall of 2020 with AmeriCorps NCCC Southern region as a member of the forestry/fire module for a year of service. In the summer of 2021, he moved to Colorado to join SCC Los Valles as an inaugural member of the Leaders of Color (LOC). He continued to work in the conservation field using his experience to serve as a resource for technical skill training for his community. With this in mind, he continues his career as a community navigator fellow to develop the skills to develop resources and programs for underserved communities. 

Hannah Thompson-Welch

Community Mitigation Assistant Team Manager

Hannah Thompson-Welch completed her Associate of Applied Science in Forest (Management) Technology degree at Hazard Community College (KY 2000).  She earned a Bachelor of Applied Science from BYU-Idaho (ID 2020). She started her career working assisting with forest research at the University of Kentucky’s Robinson Forest, working with kids at Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife’s Camp Earl Wallace and dispatching for the the Kentucky Division of Forestry’s Kentucky River District during the Fall Fire Season of 2001.  She was hired as County Ranger in both Crittenden & Livingston Counties (KY 2002-03). She worked as a Ranger in Surry, Forsyth, and Wayne Counties (NC 2003-13).

She attended the Community Mitigation Academy in Richfield (UT 2018) and Community Mitigation Assistance Team training in Boise (ID 2019). She is a Community Wildfire Mitigation Best Practices Instructor and serves as a member of the National CMAT.  Hannah is co-coordinator of the newly formed Croatan Area Fireshed Partnership. Since 2016, Hannah has served as the Wildfire Mitigation Specialist for the North Carolina Forest Service, covering 50 counties in eastern NC.  During her 23 years of experience in forestry/wildfire, Hannah served over a decade as an initial attack wildland firefighter/forestry technician in multiple counties and as the statewide Outreach Coordinator.

Carol Ekarius Photo

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.

Julie Knudson

Purgatoire watershed partnership

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.

Kerry Major

Clear Creek Watershed & Forest Health Partnership

Kerry received her bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and her master’s degree from the Colorado School of Mines in Environmental Engineering Science. She is a Colorado native, growing up in the mountain communities of Gilpin County and Nederland, CO.  She has been with the City of Golden for 9 years and, through her position with the city, became a founder/coordinator for the Clear Creek Watershed & Forest Health Partnership when she helped kick-start the organization in October 2020. Kerry is particularly focused and passionate about making the Clear Creek watershed, Gilpin County, and Clear Creek County more resilient to catastrophic wildfire and believes the collaborative structure of the Clear Creek Partnership is the way to do that.

Jonathan Paklaian

Arkansas river watershed collaborative

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.

Board of Directors

Eric Howell

chair

Forest Program Manager
Colorado Springs Utilities

Jen Kovecses

treasurer

Program Director
CSU Salazar Center

Lisa McVicker

Secretary

Director and President Emeritus
Center of Colorado Water Conservation District.

Madeline McDonald

vice chair

Watershed Scientist
Denver Water.

Mary Dawson

Director

Senior Environmental Education & Outreach Specialist
City of Aurora 

Mike Smith

director

Director and Founder
Aclymate

Mark Shea

Director

Watershed Planning Supervisor
Colorado Springs Utilities

Ch'aska Huayhuaca

board member