Board & Staff

Board Members

Ethan Kunard
Board Chair

Ethan came to the Madison Valley in 2013 where he began working with the Madison Conservation District. Throughout this time, his work has been centered around community engagement in natural resource management. In addition to developing educational programs, working with volunteers to monitor nearby waterways, and promoting various conservation initiatives, he has also worked to create a community dialogue to develop locally-driven resource planning efforts. The close connections he has to Montana’s watershed groups and local conservation organizations provides first-hand insight into the ways MWCC can support watershed communities across the state. The part he finds most rewarding about this work is being surrounded by the passion and inspiration of those who care deeply about the resources which make Montana special. His passion for working alongside diverse groups of people, while maintaining the integrity and future sustainability of Montana’s unmatched landscape, is the motivation that inspires his work.

Michelle McGree
Board Secretary

Michelle McGree is a 5th generation Montanan who has been working as a fisheries biologist since 2010. She has an M.S. in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology from Colorado State University. In 2014 she became a habitat improvement grant manager for the fisheries division of Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks and has been focused on watershed improvement ever since. She is passionate about finding restoration solutions through collaboration, as well as conservation, fish biology, and improving angling opportunities for current and future generations. Michelle is proud that she has been able to help provide watershed groups and others with over $3 million for restoration through the Future Fisheries Improvement Program. She values the opportunity to bring her perspective to MWCC and to be part of connecting people, ideas, and resources to on-the-ground restoration.

Sarah Bates
Board Co-Vice Chair

Sarah Bates serves as the Deputy Regional Director and Senior Director for Western Water with the National Wildlife Federation’s Northern Rockies, Prairies & Pacific regional office in Missoula. Sarah brings diverse experience from positions with nonprofits, consulting, and university research centers, and has published books, articles and research reports and taught classes in public lands, water and environmental law. She played leadership roles on the Clark Fork Coalition governing board, and currently serves as a Senior Fellow with the University of Montana’s Natural Resources Conflict Resolution Program. Sarah is passionate about engaging people to develop lasting solutions to resource management and governance challenges, and she is eager to build new relationships with and support the good work of watershed groups and agency partners throughout Montana through her service on the MWCC board.

Zach Owen
Board Co-Vice Chair

Zach has lived and worked in Montana for 15 years, realizing at some point that it’s home. He joined the Beaverhead Watershed Committee in 2017 to expand the group into the Red Rock Watershed. He loves the collaborative nature of his work in Southwest Montana and believes that this style of community-driven resource conservation that we’re all learning is what will allow us to solve the bigger problems coming in the future. Prior to working in the Beaverhead, Zach spent years working seasonal field jobs and then permanent office jobs before his work brought him to the Centennial Valley, where he learned a different conservation philosophy that has served him well in his current work. Zach has decided to stick around for a while in the watershed world and to lend his skills to the MWCC Board, partly due to sitting in a crowded room of watershed professionals and realizing “I really like these people” ...

Adam Sigler
Board Member

Adam has been working for MSU Extension since 2004, conducting programming to help Montanans understand, use, and protect their water resources. A central theme in that programming is engagement of citizens in the scientific process as a means to both enhance the science and increase the likelihood that research will be used to inform management. Adam is excited to bring insights from cutting edge scientific discovery to bear on the problems that water users and communities face. Adam recognizes that each watershed has a different set of issues for which solutions are best identified by local stakeholders informed with the best information available. As an employee of the public education branch of the university, Adam is dedicated to making water resource science approachable and relevant. Adam takes pride in working with MWCC as an organization dedicated to connecting watershed organizations to the information and resources they need to be effective.

Amy Seaman
Board Member

Amy works on policy and conservation as the Conservation Program Manager for Montana Audubon. She has been in this role since 2013 and works on the statewide Important Birds Area Program, on citizen science projects, and with nine independent Audubon Chapters across the state. Learning bird songs is a passion, and avian studies have been a focal point for Amy, taking her to locations such as the Madison and Missouri Rivers, Charles M. Russell NWR, Bitterroot Valley, Glacier National Park, the highline, and the Bridger and Big Belt Mountains. These experiences allow Amy to contribute to MWCC through her knowledge of the birds and wildlife that rely on our state’s waterways and are impacted by landscape issues within each of the state’s watersheds. Her statewide role allows her to engage with diverse communities and groups, and she is passionate about being able to build relationships that can move conservation forward.

Eric Trum
Board Member
Eric Trum has been with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality since 2013. He works in the watershed protection section to support restoration and protection of Montana’s rivers, streams, and lakes. Prior to joining DEQ, he worked on watershed restoration projects for the US Forest Service and as a private consultant evaluating environmental programs for government agencies and NGOs. Eric earned a master’s degree in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School and Land Resources and Environmental Science from Montana State University. Eric enjoys Montana adventures with his wife and two young kids – like back country sledding, hiking the far mountains, building forts, chasing butterflies, and chunking rocks into water while fishing. As a Boston native, he also spends time brainwashing his family into obsessive fans of New England sports teams.
Laura Nowlin
Board Member

As the coordinator for the Musselshell Watershed Coalition (MWC), Laura Nowlin gets to work with the people at the heart of this community-based conservation collaborative. Her passion lies in driving community-envisioned projects forward for the benefit of natural resources and those who rely on them. Laura brings experience in working with multiple partners and experience in reaching rural communities to the MWCC Board. Laura ranches with her husband in central Montana and brings a landowner perspective to the MWCC Board. During her time with MWC, she guided the completion of the Musselshell Watershed Plan and now works to implement it. Laura enjoys the challenge of watershed work and seeing the positive on-the-ground results of the MWC’s work.

Barbara Chillcott
Board Member

Barbara has worked in natural resources conservation for 12 years. After law school, she became one of the first employees of a nonprofit formed to put together instream flow transactions across Montana. She later served as executive director of that group.  After negotiating a merger with the Clark Fork Coalition (CFC), Barbara assisted in making instream flow work an integral part of CFC’s mission. As legal director for CFC for six years, she supported the organization’s policy development and on-the-ground restoration efforts. Barbara is proud of her role in shaping and supporting CFC’s restoration program and in advocating for important conservation policies. Currently, as an attorney for DNRC, she enjoys working on natural resource issues at the state government level. Her involvement with MWCC provides the perfect balance for staying engaged in local community-based watershed issues. Barbara is passionate about MWCC’s mission to support local watershed organizations who benefit from increased capacity.

Charles Wolf Drimal
Board Member

Charles is a senior waters conservation associate at the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He has spent the past seven years working on public lands and wild river conservation at GYC. His most recent accomplishment includes passage of the East Rosebud Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, Montana’s first designated Wild & Scenic River in 42 years. He’s currently working on broad-based Wild & Scenic Rivers legislation to protect iconic Montana waterways on public lands in the Greater Yellowstone and Crown of the Continent Ecosystems. He has also spearheaded watershed conservation funding opportunities in the Upper Yellowstone watershed. Before joining the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Charles co-founded two non-profit organizations – the Montana Backcountry Alliance, which supports backcountry skiers and riders looking to protect opportunities for quiet human-powered winter recreation, and Absaroka Institute, which ran wilderness meditation and yoga expeditions throughout the American West.

Tana Nulph
Board Member

Tana is the Associate Director of the Big Hole Watershed Committee, where she is in charge of communications and event planning, manages grants and projects, maintains partnerships, and oversees the Big Hole River Drought Management Plan. She completed her Master of Natural Resources degree at the University of Idaho and received her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science/Biology from the University of Montana Western. Tana joined BHWC in 2014 and resides in the Big Hole watershed near Divide. She is most passionate about representing and including the local community in conservation issues. She loves the Big Hole and its residents and considers herself lucky to live there. Tana is a heartfelt believer that “Conservation is as much about community as it is about land and water.” She is most proud of her work with wildlife conflict reduction in the Upper Big Hole Valley.

Mike Koopal
Board Member

Mike is the founder and executive director of the Whitefish Lake Institute (WLI), an organization that gives Whitefish Lake a voice within the community. WLI’s research supports management decision-making and tangible projects to improve water quality. WLI’s educational programs foster the next generation of water stewards. Mike also serves on the Upper Columbia Conservation Commission (UC3) where he chairs the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Early Detection and Monitoring Committee, and the Flathead Basin Commission where he serves on the Executive Committee. Mike is excited to be on the MWCC team to embrace the diversity of watershed groups in Montana and to support their pursuit of protecting our shared resources. He hopes to draw upon his 25 years in the natural resource profession to provide creative vision to MWCC and strengthen partnerships to foster efficient and comprehensive watershed programs.

Keri Bilbo
Government Liaison

Keri has more than 20 years of experience with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and is currently Montana’s Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations. Raised on a cotton farm in west Texas, Keri takes great pride in seeing how conservation at the watershed scale can not only heal the land but can also bring together the people involved. She has worked with community partners in Broadwater County’s Deep Creek and Gallatin County’s Camp Creek to improve water quality through the NRCS National Water Quality Initiative funding. These efforts required strong partnerships with local Conservation Districts, watershed organizations, and groups such as MWCC. Keri emphasizes “conservation connectivity,” and it brings her great joy to see the successes that can be realized by working across both sides of the fence and seeing one producer’s conservation efforts connected to those of their neighbors.

Staff

Erin Farris-Olsen
Executive Director

Erin Farris-Olsen joined MWCC as Executive Director in June 2015. Erin is a member of the Brothertown Indian Nation and graduate in Environmental Studies and Communication from Carroll College and Natural Resources Law at the University of Oregon. Erin’s passion for the Montana landscape first evolved in her college years through surveying wetlands for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Natural Heritage Program. She later took her passion for environmental education and conservation abroad and worked on environmental awareness campaigns in Liberia and Belize. Erin enjoys actively promoting the role of community based conservation in ensuring the resiliency of Montana's landscape for future generations. In her spare time, Erin likes to fly fish, camp, and hike around Helena with her husband Rob, sons Tupper and Auggie, and their dog June Bug.

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Terri Nichols
Watershed Programs Coordinator

Terri has been engaged in community-based watershed health since her time as a volunteer citizen scientist in central California in the early 2000s. Originally from Detroit, she moved to the Flathead Valley to work on a small farm in 2007 and has since travelled throughout Montana as a stream and wetland technician for the U.S. Forest Service and Montana Natural Heritage Program. Prior to joining MWCC, Terri worked with Clark Fork River stakeholders to ensure community input in the cleanup of hazardous wastes at the former Smurfit-Stone Mill site in Frenchtown. She also helped farmers in rural Northern Zambia to protect soil, water, and forest resources during her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Terri studied Natural Resources Conflict Resolution at the University of Montana and also has extensive communications experience. She is passionate about providing communities with the resources they need to preserve and protect watershed and community health.

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Rosie Costain
Communications Fellow

Rosie is a recent University of Montana graduate in journalism and environmental studies. She spent time in college interning with the Montana Natural History Center and as a reporter with Montana Public Radio. Rosie grew up in Helena and her passion for protecting the state’s natural resources sprouted from wandering through the forest in her backyard, kayaking Montana’s rivers and lakes, and learning about the creatures that inhabit the land. Her past work and experiences created a desire to educate Montanan’s about their environment through storytelling, informing them on current issues and on how they can become involved in bettering their communities.

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