Board of Directors
Katie Pearce, President
Katie Pearce is part of the fund raising team for the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah supporting efforts to provide students with top-notch experiential education at a world-class learning facility. Prior to working at the U, Katie gained great experience overseeing the development efforts at Tracy Aviary for five years and as Assistant Director for Friends of Great Salt Lake for four years.
In her spare time, Katie continues to be involved with local organizations with missions that emphasize the value of space, place and conservation here in Utah and loves spending time with friends and family in Utah's great open spaces. Along with her involvement with FoGSL, Katie also sits on the board of directors for Utah Society of Fund Raisers.
When Rob isn’t hanging around Great Salt Lake, he enjoys spending his time exploring the wilds of the Intermountain West –especially Montana. Either that or he’s exploring the wilds of the back nine on a local golf course. As one of two attorneys for the Lake, Rob is dedicated to ensuring that the Lake is protected against the many threats to the health of its ecosystem. Or as he puts it, he wants to ensure that his grandchildren’s grandchildren can enjoy the many wonder of Great Salt Lake that he’s been privileged to experience.
Melissa joined the board of FRIENDS in March, 2015. Her background includes working as an environmental educator for Red Butte Garden and 13 years of water resource consulting experience. Melissa's expertise includes assessment and restoration of stream and riparian ecosystems, collection and analysis of hydrologic and water quality data, stormwater management, and regulatory permitting. She has worked on a variety of watershed and water quality projects in various Great Salt Lake tributary systems including the Bear, Provo, Weber, and Jordan River watersheds.Melissa holds a BA in Geography from Dartmouth College and an MS in watershed science with an emphasis in fluvial geomorphology from Utah State University. In her free time she enjoys running, coaching ultimate frisbee, and hiking with her husband and dog.
Mara Elana Burstein
Mara Elana Burstein is Principal and Owner of Natural Resource Strategies (NRS) which provides businesses, schools, and nonprofits with strategic planning, project management, and communications support on environmental and natural resource issues. Mara joined FRIENDS in March 2015 soon after she moved to Utah and fell in love with the Lake.
She holds a BA in Environmental Studies from Willamette University and an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.
A transplant from coastal New England, Emily fell in love with the most ocean-like place she could find in Utah -- Great Salt Lake. With a background in environmental science, Emily worked in the wetland ecology field before transitioning to science education and outreach. She joined the Board of FRIENDS in 2012 after serving as FoGSL’s Education & Outreach Director for three years. In her spare time, Emily enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and their two dogs.
Cindy Lund, Treasurer
My love of Great Salt Lake began when I signed up to volunteer at The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve through The Nature Conservancy several years ago. I was one of the first Naturalist Guides at the preserve and through the training I learned the significance and beauty of Great Salt Lake. When I signed up I had no idea how important the surrounding wetlands, playas and other habitats were to the millions of birds that rely on this Lake. In fact, I didn’t know there were millions of birds out there nor did I understand the huge economic impact the Lake makes here in Utah. Over the years I have learned that a balance is needed between the environmental health and economic health of the Lake. Not too long after my Shorelands Preserve training I was on a plane landing at the Salt Lake International Airport when I overheard a conversation that made me realize how many people are like I was – unaware of what Great Salt Lake is. A women asked a Utahn in the seat next to her “Is that the Great Salt Lake?” and the Utahn replied, “Yes, but there is nothing out there, it is a dead sea.” Wow!
Despite my newfound love of the Lake, I soon discovered that being a Naturalist Guide was not my strong suit. I continued to work with The Nature Conservancy through other volunteer positions but I began to feel I wasn’t doing enough to protect the Lake. In 2009 I became the treasurer for FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake and through this organization as an active board member I have learned more about the Lake than I ever thought possible… and I am still learning. To me, FRIENDS is the voice of the Lake and I am honored to be a part of that voice.
Hikmet Sidney Loe
Born and raised on the east coast, Hikmet fell in love with the arid desert lands of Utah and the environs of Great Salt Lake. She is an artist, writer, and teacher whose work draws inspiration from the smaller patterns found in the larger environment and from the changeable nature of land, water, and sky. She teaches art history at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, and teaches for the Venture Course. Her research on Robert Smithson’s earthwork the Spiral Jetty has led to her cumulative work, The Spiral Jetty Encyclo: Exploring Robert Smithson’s Earthwork through Time and Place (2017, University of Utah Press). She contributes regularly to the online magazine 15 Bytes (artistsofutah.org) and has essays included in the online site mappingslc.org. She is an active member of FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake, and in 2014 received their biannual "Friend of the Lake Award" for her outreach and dedication to issues surrounding Utah's inland sea.
Melissa joined the board of FRIENDS in November of 2016. Her background includes providingenvironmental policy leadership and establishing a strategic approach to relationships with key stakeholders including legislators, regulators, trade associations, and non-governmental organizations. Substantively, Melissa has worked on water conservation, biodiversity, ecosystem services, air quality, climate change, and mercury management. While Melissa had always appreciated the beauty of Great Salt Lake, her work on biodiversity globally made her aware of how important the lake is and how critical it is to protect it. Melissa has served on numerous boards including non-governmental organizations and trade associations. Melissa has practiced environmental law and clerked on the Utah Supreme Court. Melissa has a B.A. in Philosophy from Tulane University, an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Utah, and a J.D. from the University of Utah College of Law. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Janice joined the board of FRIENDS in January 2017 based on her interest in birds and conservation. She is passionate about supporting the health of the Great Salt Lake, as it is one of North America’s greatest migratory bird stopovers and breeding sites. Janice is a scientist and project manager for an environmental consultant; providing environmental planning for energy developments around the U.S. She also serves on the Utah Eagle Working Groupand is a past Board member of Great Salt Lake Audubon. Janice is a Certified WildlifeBiologist® and holds a BS in Wildlife Management from the University of New Hampshire and a MS in Ecology and Environmental Science from the University of Maine.
Gen develops spatially-based solutions for the wide range of conservation challenges that arise when people and nature interact. Her understanding of environmental systems and experience with spatial analysis techniques allow researchers to interpret their data and visualize these interactions. She believes that we have to find new models to balance the competing priorities for resources while also conserving the critical ecosystem services upon which all life depends
“Snowfall, saline minerals, resident and migratory bird habitat and microbialites are all heavily influenced by interactions between the Great Salt Lake and the ever-increasing human desire for resources. We have a great stewardship responsibility both for our generation and generations to come. We live alongside a unique natural wonder; we have much to learn from it.
Friend's commitment to understanding the Great Salt Lake is essential to insuring that future generations enjoy the same beauty and benefits that we enjoy today. I appreciate the opportunity to serve this great cause.”
I began working as an Aquatic Biologist for the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program (UDWR) in late 2013. Here my duties are to develop research questions, prepare study design and conduct research in regards to the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. Before moving to Utah, I worked as a wetland researcher for University of Wisconsin-Stout. Here we studied the metacommunity theory in both permanent and ephemeral wetlands. I have also worked on designing and constructing artificial streams and wetland habitat throughout the northern Midwest to manage for an endangered species. These projects have instilled in me the importance of connectivity on the landscape. I hope to better understand this relationship on Great Salt Lake. I earned a BS in Biology from Illinois State University and an MS in Biology with a focus on invertebrate community ecology and conservation from University of South Dakota.
In my free time, I enjoy hiking with my dog Nova, running, mountain biking, archery and reading.
Lynn de Freitas, Executive Director
Lynn began her involvement with FRIENDS shortly after its founding in 1994. She became President of the Board in 1996 and Executive Director in 2002. She is a full time volunteer. She especially enjoys working on developing policies that address the unique role and characteristics of the Great Salt Lake to ensure its long term sustainability.
Prior to her affiliation with FRIENDS, she was a library media coordinator for 18 years in both public and private schools in the Salt Lake area. She holds a B.S. in Biology from Montclair State College and an M. Ed in Educational Systems and Learning Resources from the University of Utah. In 2007, she received the Girl Scouts of Utah Award for Courage, Confidence and Character. In 2006, she received the Calvin K. Sudweeks Award for outstanding contributions in the water quality field in the State of Utah by the Utah Water Quality Board. In 2002, she received the Utah Environmental Educator Volunteer of the Year Award from the Utah Society for Environmental Education.
In her free time, she is an avid birder, enjoys travel and is learning dressage.
Janessa Edwards, Education & Outreach Director
Janessa Edwards is the Education and Outreach Director for FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. She comes to FRIENDS after working in educational program development at the Natural History Museum of Utah for 2 years. You will often find her out at Great Salt Lake running the Lakeside Learning Field Trip Program.
Janessa holds a B.S degree in Anthropology as well as a B.S in Gender Studies from the University of Utah. Her specialty is Inquiry Based Environmental Education and her passion is connecting people to the natural world around them. When she is not working for FRIENDS, she enjoys hiking with her dog, spending time with friends and family and fine tuning her new birding hobby.
Email Janessa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holly Simonsen, Membership & Programs Director
Holly Simonsen works in ecopoetic collaboration with her native landscape, Great Salt Lake. She operates under the thesis that ecologically disrupted sites offer access points for the body to experience language as a product of the earth. She works on the page and off, incorporating installation art, performance art, sound experimentation, and ephemeral sculpture into her poetic practice. In 2010 she circumnavigated the southern portion of Great Salt Lake as poetic ritual. She earned her M.F.A. from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, Vermont. She recently served fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. She invites you to read more about her poetic process on her website.
Holly started her career in education and taught English and creative writing classes for eight years. In 2010 she was hired by Westminster College and has taught in the English, Environmental Studies, Art, and Honors programs. She also has extensive work and volunteer experience in the nonprofit sector. In her free time she enjoys gardening and cooking sustainable foods.
Email Holly at email@example.com
Morgan Anderson, Education Coordinator
Morgan Anderson is the Education Coordinator for FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. Graduating from Westminster with a B.S. degree in Environmental Studies, Morgan has found working with FRIENDS incredibly satisfying. You will often find her out in the field talking about brine shrimp and pointing out pelicans with fourth graders.
When she is not working for FRIENDS, she enjoys mountain biking with her dog, climbing, and exploring new places!
Email Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lexi Kaili, Education Assistant Intern
As a recent graduate from the University of Utah, she focused her academic studies on Environmental and Sustainability Studies as well as Documentary Filmmaking. She now looks toward utilizing her emphases to further understanding of putting beliefs into action. Her research and work are made up of environmental education, food justice issues by incorporating sustainable agriculture and food security practices, permaculture, and multimedia journalism to use digital storytelling to convey powerful messages and stories. These topics have given her experience in many corners of the nonprofit world through community service, volunteerism, and leadership.
Her goal while working with Friends of Great Salt Lake is to not only share her love for the outdoors but also to encourage interest in ecological place-based learning. She also strongly believes that educating youth through outdoor learning opportunities is crucial at a very early age to not only spark curiosity, but to also develop a deep connection to the natural world. This fundamental appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living things is going to create the next generation of advocates and activists.
On her downtime, you’ll find her traveling to far away lands in search of the most beautiful fisheries, backpacking, and seeing how many days she can sleep under the stars.