Ryan J. Postema, Executive Director
Ryan is a Michigan native, born and raised in the Grand Rapids area. He attended Michigan State University and graduated in 2001 with a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife. He has nearly twenty years of experience in land conservation and natural resources management. Ryan began at Chikaming Open Lands in 2013 as a Land Protection Specialist, and was named Executive Director of the organization in 2016. As such, he oversees the operations of the entire nonprofit organization. Prior to joining COL, he spent eight years with Cardno (formerly JFNew), an international engineering and environmental consulting firm, implementing and managing ecosystem restoration and natural resources management projects throughout the Midwest. Currently, Ryan serves as Treasurer of the Board of the Berrien County Conservation District and as Secretary of the Board of Heart of the Lakes, Michigan's state association of land trusts and partner organizations.
A resident of Weesaw Township, in his free time he enjoys birding, gardening, and managing his 15 acre property which includes farmland, forest, and wetlands.
Contact Ryan at email@example.com.
Grace Ball, Education & Outreach Coordinator
Grace originates from the Chicagoland area. After graduating from the University of Saint Francis in Joliet IL with a B.S. in Recreation, Sport, Tourism, and Management and a minor in Leadership Studies, she transplanted to Northwest Indiana to join the Indiana Dunes Learning Center as a naturalist. Most recently, she served as senior site-based program facilitator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropoltan Chicago, servicing Northwest Indiana. Whether teaching middle school students the importance of water quality in South Bend to providing 1:1 mentoring activities to youth in Chicago, Grace's passion lies in providing memorable experiences for those participating in her programs.
Outside of work Grace enjoys running, kayaking, hiking with her dog Missy, painting, and spending time at the beach.
Contact Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Engel, Stewardship Coordinator
Dan hails from Grand Ledge, Michigan. He began visiting southwest Michigan over a decade ago, and moved to Sawyer to raise his two children near family. His passion for the outdoors began early while he waded in the local creek and chased deer in the neighborhood woods. He nurtured this passion by studying biology at Calvin College and earning a master’s in conservation ecology at the University of Michigan. Dan’s work experience has varied from a conservation crew with the City of Ann Arbor to a wetland research team with the US Geological Survey, from teaching high school math and science in Honduras to teacher aiding at a K-12 school in Milwaukee. Through all these adventures, his mission has remained the same: to use sound science to protect natural areas for the benefit of people and wildlife, and to pass on that ethic to others.
In his free time, Dan enjoys hunting, hiking, bird watching, kayaking, running, and playing soccer. Even better is sharing these experiences with his family!
Contact Dan at email@example.com.
Marisa Rempala, Communications Specialist
Marisa was born and raised in Michigan City, Indiana and is a lifelong lover of Lake Michigan and the surrounding environment. She was inspired to pursue work in land preservation because of her favorite activity: hiking the dunes. She received her B.S. in Tourism Management from Purdue University Northwest. During her senior year, she worked as an events and program coordinating intern at Gabis Arboretum in Valparaiso, Indiana. Most recently, she spent a year serving an AmeriCorps term at Indiana Dunes National Park, where she assisted with volunteer program management.
When she's not working, Marisa is probably curled up with a book, hiking, cooking, or hanging out with her cat Wren.
Contact Marisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Schrader, Stewardship Technician
Born and raised in Union Pier Michigan, Alex has a love for the Southwest Michigan area and all the nature found within. He graduated from River Valley High School and went on to get an associate in mathematics and science from Southwestern Michigan Community College. He now lives in Bridgman, Michigan with his wife and three dogs. A fan of all things science and nature, his hobbies include gardening, mountain biking, hiking, birdwatching, and camping. Alex's goal is to help preserve and maintain the natural resources in southwest Michigan for all to enjoy.
Contact Alex at email@example.com
Jen Thompson, Development and Marketing Manager
Jen retreated to Southwest Michigan after 22 years in Chicago, where she worked in development and communications for Loyola University Chicago, Loyola University Health System, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Rush University Medical Center. She received her B.A. in Art History from Loyola University Chicago.
She discovered this corner of Michigan in the summer of 2011, when she rented a cottage in Union Pier on the weekends. Jen bought a home in the area in the summer of 2012, and hasn't looked back since. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce since 2017, and served as its president from 2019-2021. Jen enjoys cooking, travel, reading, running barrels on her horse Beau, and trekking the beautiful beaches, dunes and preserves in the area with her dog Scout.
Contact Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org