Board Bios

Meet the members of the board of the Saint Paul Audubon Society

Donn retired in 2017 as Central Region director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the nation’s largest conservation grant-maker. He received a BA in Geography at the University of Minnesota and a JD at The American University, and almost finished his PhD in Public Administration at CU-Denver. In the first half of his career he was in banking and was head of public relations for several of the nation’s largest banks.  He completed his banking career as senior vice president of US Bank in Minneapolis in 2000.  In retirement Donn indulges his curiosity by traveling, working on conservation projects, reading, and collecting maps.

Jane has been on the Saint Paul Audubon Society Board since 2017, when two then-members cornered her at Warbler Weekend.  She is a relatively new birder who enjoys learning from other members. She is an epidemiologist who eventually moved into government management. Jane worked in infectious and chronic diseases, emergency management, and landfill planning for the Minnesota Department of Health, Hennepin County, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. She also was an instructor at the U of M School of Public Health and served on the New Brighton Parks, Recreation and Environmental Commission. Her recent Audubon focus areas have included strategic planning, project management, and developing/documenting Chapter policies and procedures.

Kiki Sonnen, a life-long resident of St Paul, has been involved with St Paul Audubon since the 1970s. She served on the Board and the Conservation Committee in the past. In the 1970s Kiki and Peggy Lynch, St Paul League of Women Voters, founded the Pig’s Eye Coalition, which successfully stopped threats to the Pig’s Eye Heron & Egret Rookery. Kiki was on the St Paul City Council from 1984-1989. Her career also included community organizer, social service case worker, director of a community-based family service agency, and crime analyst/ community liaison for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. Now retired, Kiki’s interests are sketching, wood carving, birding, gardening, her cats and her Llewellin Setter Chicory. She continues efforts to secure improvements, clean-ups, and habitat restoration to Pig’s Eye Regional Park.

Jim is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His background is in science, research and associated research budgets. He has served as a Director on the Saint Paul Audubon Society Board for the last three years and is familiar with the Society’s activities, policies and budget matters. Activities he enjoys include Warbler Weekend preparations and Big River Journey. Jim and his wife are Audubon members and have participated in many domestic and international birding trips.

Martha enjoyed a 31-year career in Communications at the University of Minnesota, including 20 years as a communications director at the University of Minnesota Foundation.  In this work, she led teams of writers and designers in preparing communications materials covering every corner of the University. She has degrees in English and Liberal Studies, both from the University of Minnesota. Now retired, Martha is active in many personal interests, including birding. A relatively new birder, Martha values opportunities to learn from more experienced birders, including guided hikes sponsored by the St. Paul Audubon Society and other organizations.  Working to preserve birdlife and natural habitats is one of Martha’s highest concerns and goals.

Debbie Brown describes herself as an “Army brat” who continued moving around as an adult. She has lived in multiple places on both coasts, in Texas, Germany, and southwest Africa, and in St. Paul for the past 11 years. “I am not an expert birder, but I do have strong interests in nature, conservation, birds, and all animals. Observing and admiring birds are my favorite pastimes when I travel and spend time outdoors.” Professionally, Debbie is a certified industrial hygienist and certified safety professional. She was employed by the government and then industry for 25 years before starting her own consultancy five years ago. Among other volunteer activities, she has been a member of our Conservation Committee for the past year.

Craig grew up in Saint Paul and has spent 40-plus years working to protect natural resources with a particular emphasis on water and wetlands. He started his career with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 1979 helping protect and repair habitat in State Parks.

After 10 great years, he headed to Washington DC and spent the next 30 years working at the intersection of agricultural and environmental policy in various positions including the National Academy of Sciences, Senate Agriculture Committee, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Soil and Water Conservation Society and is now stepping down as Senior VP and Midwest Director at the Environmental Working Group. He was hooked on birding when watching Cedar Waxwings feeding in a meadow on the North Shore. Now binoculars are always with him, including in his fishing vest when he’s pursuing his other passion – flyfishing for trout.

He recently returned to Saint Paul after many years gone and is thrilled to be engaging with Audubon once again.

Louise has been a member of the Saint Paul Audubon Society for 14 years and on the Board for the past five years, including three as Treasurer. She has a master’s degree in industrial relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for 27 years at the Wilder Foundation. In her last ten years at Wilder she focused on grant writing.

Rebecca is a longtime resident of the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul. She has spent her professional career in public sector service. For 30 years she worked at the Metropolitan Council and ran the environmental programs for the Council’s regional wastewater treatment plants. In 2008, she became an Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, overseeing the agency’s statewide water quality programs. Since retiring in 2018, Rebecca enjoys having more time for birding, gardening, and helping family, friends and the community.  She is excited for the opportunity to be more active in the Saint Paul Audubon Society.

Barbara first attended St. Paul Audubon meetings at the University Club on Summit Ave. in the 1980s, drawn by her interest in birds and the wonderful dinners that were offered, and she has been involved in Audubon ever since. She was on the State Audubon Education committee with Fred and Dorothy Waltz in the 1990s and with them, joined the St. Paul Audubon Education committee in the 2000s. Barbara taught World History at Anoka High School for 30 years and tried to bring an environmental component to her students.  After retirement, she joined the Society’s board, served as president, and has recently rejoined the board.  “I’m a very amateur birder, but dedicated to bringing the joy of birding to young people to encourage their commitment to caring for our environment,” says Barbara.

Greg Burnes and his wife recently moved to Stillwater to be closer to their family and are enjoying the beauty of the local outdoor spaces.

Greg says, “For us to reach our shared goals of preserving and growing our natural resources, it is important to reach and engage a more diverse audience. I hope to positively impact St. Paul Audubon’s efforts in this area.”

Greg recently served on the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter board, including three years as president, and as membership chair.  He also led their Christmas Bird Count.