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.
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.
FRIENDs' commitment to understanding Great Salt Lake is essential to insuring that future generations enjoy the same beauty and benefits that we enjoy today."
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.
Rose joined the board of FRIENDS in January 2018. She is an ecologist and her research focuses on hydrologic and biotic drivers of water quality and quantity in urban-impacted rivers. Her background includes research on stormwater management, sanitary infrastructure, and restoration in urban watersheds. She has also studied the impacts of acid rain and climate change on wetlands and forests. Originally from Maine, Rose received a BA in Environmental Studies and Biology from Mount Holyoke College, and a PhD in Geology from the University of Maryland. She moved to Salt Lake in 2016 to continue her research on urban watersheds at the University of Utah. Rose is passionate about conservation and believes it is crucial to consider ecosystems when managing water resources for multiple stakeholders. In her free time, she enjoys birding, skiing, climbing, and baking.
Chris works as a GIS Training Specialist with the US Forest Service, training federal employees on how toincorporate spatial analysis and geography into their work. He found his way to the west via AmeriCorps in Idaho and has since worked for several national and regional environmental non-profits in the inter-mountain west. He holds a dual BA in Sustainable Development and Geography and a MA in Geography from Appalachian State University. When he isn’t running, climbing, or skiing in the Wasatch Mountains, he can be found lying in the sun reading Edward Abby.
Kristen joined the board of FRIENDS in 2018. She has a passion for helping learners of all ages connect to, understand, and develop critical thinking skills about their local environments through her career in education. She has worked as an educator for The Living Planet Aquarium, facilitated professional development programs for teachers for the Utah State Office of Education and Utah Society for Environmental Education, and had the opportunity to guide students on field trips in Great Salt Lake’s wetlands for the Nature Conservancy and USU Botanical Center. Currently, she is the science lab teacher at a public elementary school in Salt Lake City.Kristen holds a BS from the University of Utah in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Biology Teaching. When she isn’t in her classroom, she can be found having adventures with her family, reading, and running on roads and trails
Joel is an aquatic and fisheries ecologist with experience in limnological research and water quality. Hi ecological interests goes back to days an an undergraduate student doing research on the Great Salt Lake and freshwater lake ecosystems for the Wurtsbaugh Lab at Utah State University. He has studied lake and river ecosystems and their interactions with surrounding watersheds throughout the intermountain west, Alaska, and Antarctica as a undraduate and graduate student researcher, through employment with the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District water quality group in Denver, and as an environmental consultant in Utah, Colorado, and Montana. While a graduate student at Montana State University, Joel studied ice-covered lakes in Antarctica that support a surprising diversity of microbial life, not unlike the Great Salt Lake. Joel's professional experience includes ecological assessments, monitoring, permitting, regulatory compliance, and scientific analysis in a wide variety of natural resource fields. Joel loves recreating in the outdoors and considers it a privilege to live in a place where natural spaces can be enjoyed each day. He was motivated to join the board of the Friends of the Great Salt Lake because he believes our natural spaces generally, and the Great Salt Lake specifically, are invaluable and are under great threat and wants apply his passion for the natural environment into action that will help protect and preserve these resources through volunteering and community involvement.
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.
Holly Simonsen, Membership & Programs Director
Holly Simonsen works in ecopoetic collaboration with 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 high school 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 playing outside.
Email Holly at firstname.lastname@example.org