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Montana Natural Heritage Staff Bios and Photos

 

Program Management

Bryce Maxell, Program Coordinator
Joined MTNHP in January 2005

406-444-3989
bmaxell@mt.gov
Bryce Maxell grew up surrounded by a variety of farm animals and spent many hours dogsledding in the mountains of Utah.  He completed a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Economics at the University of Puget Sound in 1994 where he studied the demography of kelp species in the Puget Sound and was an NAIA All-American swimmer.  After his undergraduate degree, he received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for a yearlong independent study of the natural history of Australia and New Zealand in 1994 and 1995.  Bryce completed his Ph.D. in Fish and Wildlife Biology in the Wildlife Biology Program at the University of Montana in 2009 where he completed a state-wide status assessment of, and constructed predicted habitat suitability models for, Montana's amphibian and reptile species and examined the population demographics of Columbia Spotted Frogs.  Between 1996 and 2015, Bryce conducted field inventories for a variety of animal species in Montana.  During his time in Montana he has authored or coauthored three books, a dozen peer reviewed publications, and 35-plus professional reports on amphibians, reptiles, bats, small terrestrial mammals, birds, terrestrial mollusks, and fish.  Bryce is passionate about making biological information available to resource managers and the general public so that Montana's plants, animals, and terrestrial and aquatic communities can be appreciated by current and future generations and is excited to lead Heritage Program staff in this endeavor.

View Resume

Darlene Patzer, Finance/Grants Administrator
Joined MTNHP in July 2004

406-444-3329
dpatzer@mt.gov
Darlene Patzer has been with the Natural Heritage Program since July 2004.  She supports the Heritage Project Managers with grants and finance administration.  Darlene earned her Associates Degree in Business Administration from Carroll College while working full-time and raising two daughters.

Prior to joining the Heritage Program, Darlene spent a great 16 years with the Helena Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.  She learned everything from running check sorters to being the lead accounting analyst and finally the check transportation coordinator in Montana.

A native Montanan, Darlene enjoys working with the Heritage staff to support responsible stewardship of Montana's natural resources.  Her own time is spent pursuing her interest in horses with her daughter and learning new things.

Lindsey Weaver, Finance/Office Assistant
Joined MTNHP in January 2016

406-444-3488
lweaver@mt.gov
Lindsey Weaver hails from Manchester, England and is definitely a city girl!  However, she's learning to love a little bit of country life since moving back to Helena in 2015.  Now her family has Guinea pigs, a dog, horses and are awaiting chickens.  They also have natural trout in the stream on their property.  This summer Lindsey might even learn how to grow a fabulous garden in her new Montana climate! 

Lindsey attended college in England for two years whilst working full-time and received her National Certificate in Public Administration.  After visiting the States at 17 she decided she loved it so much that she saved up for two years in order to attend college here.  She completed her Associates in Interpersonal Communications and then married a U.S. Marine who later became an Officer in the U.S. Army.  Consequently, they've moved about 19 times (not that she's counting!)  Their duty stations include Hawaii, California, Germany, Texas, New Mexico, Kentucky, Georgia, New York and Montana.  They recently left Utah and are finally putting down deep roots in Helena.  However, with an English daughter-in-law and Chinese son-in-law, their adventures are certainly not over. 

She loves being with friends, going to the theatre, visiting historical places, paper crafting and rubber stamping along with all kinds of dancing (some, but not all of these activities at the same time!)

Information Systems and Services

Dave Ratz, Web Projects Manager
Joined MTNHP in July 2007

406-444-5691
dratz@mt.gov
Dave Ratz ("Ratz") was an Air Force Brat, born in Okinawa, raised everywhere, finally settling down in the Rocky Mountains.  He's worked in computers for 33+ years but has tried his hand at everything.  At age 25, Ratz suffered a quarter-life crisis: sold everything, bought a backpack and lived in the woods for eight months.  If it weren't for Loma Linda University dragging him back into the workforce, he might still be there.  Alas, for every time there is a season, and now he can't get by without his six monitors, cell phone, and golf clubs.

Ratz is the proud papa of various web "children": You can find his office by looking for the most decorated 'cube' nestled among the other talented data geeks.

Scott Blum, Biologist/Information Specialist
Joined MTNHP in November 2004

406-444-0241
sblum@mt.gov
Scott Blum's current focus is reviewing Heritage database records for animal observations: if you've submitted an animal observation to NHP, there's a better than good chance that Scott has given it the once over.  Scott was born and aged in Oswego, New York on the shore of Lake Ontario (Official Town Motto: "Oswego, where the water never ends." Unofficial Town Motto: "At least we're not Fulton.").  In fits and starts, he completed a B.S. in Zoology (SUNY Oswego) and an A.S. in Zoo Animal Technology (SFCC Gainesville, Florida); subsequently launching and crashing a brief career as a zookeeper at the Racine Zoo in Wisconsin and the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois.  After a nine year sabbatical at Pet Pals pet store (Liverpool, NY), he returned to school to chase mountain lions for his M.S. in Ecology from Idaho State University, Pocatello.  During and after graduate school he spent time as a technician on various research projects including tracking lynx and coyote around Seeley Lake and collecting bear hair in the Swan Valley.  Scott spends his time in and around Helena hiking with his dog, Bug, and honing his bread baking skills.

View Resume

Braden Burkholder, Data Systems and Sciences Lead
Joined MTNHP in June 2013

406-444-0202
bburkholder@mt.gov
Braden Burkholder specializes in bridging the divide between on-the-ground biological knowledge and technical data solutions, while claiming expertise in neither.  He has over 16 years' experience in wildlife ecology and data management, anchored by a B.A. in Biology from Whitman College and an M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University.  Braden has found his niche as NHP's Data Systems and Sciences Lead, which can be boiled down to: solving problems to improve the data resources available for native species conservation, invasive species management, and habitat stewardship in Montana.  Despite more familiarity with vertebrate taxa, he has been able to contribute to a diversity of projects involving Zoology, Botany, and Ecology Program staff at NHP.  His current responsibilities include: administering NHP's internal databases, integrating large observation and survey datasets into NHP databases, producing habitat suitability models for Montana's Species of Concern, managing and analyzing mountains of bat acoustic data, writing scripts for task automation, and creating tools to simplify data submission.  He has been accused of wizardry in the realms of GIS, Python and geospatial data manipulation, but insists these rumors are unfounded.  A Helena native, Braden frequents the renowned trails of the South Hills on foot and bike when not at his desk.

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Botany

Andrea Pipp, Botany Program Manager
Joined MTNHP in October 2014

406-444-3019
apipp@mt.gov
Andrea Pipp serves as the Program Botanist for the MTNHP.  She earned a BA in Zoology (1989) and a MS in Wildlife Biology (1998) from the University of Montana.  Every wildlife job required studying habitat and Andrea became more and more interested in vascular plants, then intrigued by mosses, dabbled with fungi, and really took a liken to the lichen communities.  Her master's study evaluated if canopy lichen biomass, species diversity, and community composition was more influenced by the age of a forest or by the structure of that forest.  She has been certified as a Lichenologist for Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest since 2001.

Andrea has 29 years of botany and wildlife experience working in 12 states for the federal, state, and private sectors.  Her past project work was focused on issues relative to forestry, stream and wetland restoration, transportation, residential development, and oil/gas development.  Her specialties are in vascular plant (native/exotic), lichen, and bryophyte identification, surveying, and monitoring, wetland delineation, resource impact assessment, and technical writing.  She serves on the Board of the Northwest Scientific Association and is a member of the Montana Native Plant Society, Friends of the UM Herbarium, Northwest Lichenologists, and American Bryological / Lichenological Society.

umt.edu/spatial-analysis-labSpatial Analysis Lab
University of Montana, Missoula

Jessica Mitchell, Spatial Analysis Lab Director
Joined MTNHP in July 2018

406-243-5196
jessica.mitchell@mso.umt.edu
Jessica Mitchell joined the Montana Natural Heritage Program in summer 2018 to direct the Spatial Analysis Lab on the University of Montana campus in Missoula. She grew up in the Baltimore / DC area and studied environments in the western US as a consultant and then graduate student at Idaho State University, where she earned an MS in GIScience (2007) and a PhD in Engineering and Applied Science ' Geosciences (2011). Her early work included wetland delineations, preparing environmental assessments, implementing National Environmental Policy Act regulations, and learning a little about fire management along the way. As a student and early career scientist, Jessica has concentrated on mapping invasive species, semi-arid shrublands, and plant diversity in the Appalachians from airplanes and space. After several tours of duty dedicated to becoming a more effective teacher, Jessica returned to the western US to continue land cover mapping (especially in sagebrush country), grow a daughter, and spend time outdoors with her family.

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Melissa Hart, GIS Analyst/Ecologist
Joined MTNHP in October 2007

406-243-5196
melissa.hart@mso.umt.edu
Melissa Hart has an MS in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana and a BA in Biology and Environmental Science from Willamette University.  Her interest in GIS began in the early 90s when she worked as a spotted owl biologist on the Umpqua National Forest in southwestern Oregon.  Forced to manually calculate acres of habitat surrounding owl nests over and over again as managers changed their minds about the size of the area to be analyzed, she decided there had to be a better way to capture and store information.  And so she went to graduate school, learned GIS, and never went outside again.  (Except on weekends.)

For the past 15 years, she has worked at the Spatial Analysis Lab on a variety of wildlife-related projects, from passerine birds to wolverines.  She was project coordinator for Montana Gap Analysis, completed in 1998.  Currently she is assisting with the development of an Ecosystem Management Decision Support system for the Northern Region of the Forest Service.  Her most time-consuming project over the past 5 years has been Margaret (pictured).

Claudine Tobalske, GIS Analyst/Ecologist
Joined MTNHP in September 2008

406-243-5196
claudine.tobalske@mso.umt.edu
Claudine Tobalske is originally from France where she studied plant biology.  Claudine fell in love with the Rocky Mountains in 1991 during a 5-months internship in Fort Collins, Colorado.  She came back the following year to attend the Wildlife Biology program at the University of Montana, earning a Ph.D. in 1998; her dissertation involved developing woodpecker-habitat relationship models using atlas data from France and Switzerland.  During that time she was also a research assistant for the Spatial Analysis Lab, becoming involved with Montana Gap Analysis and learning GIS in the process.  In 1999 she moved to Oregon, where she was a GIS analyst for the Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center until June 2008.  While employed at ORNHIC, Claudine worked primarily on broad-scale vegetation maps, such as the Sagemap and NorthWest ReGap ecological system maps; she also developed a variety of wildlife-habitat and rare plant predictive distribution models.  When not stuck behind a computer, Claudine enjoys a variety of outdoor activities such as climbing, hiking, skiing, running, mountain biking, and gardening.

Zoology

Dan Bachen, Senior Zoologist
Joined MTNHP in May 2016

406-444-3586
dbachen@mt.gov
Originally from rural Alaska, Dan Bachen grew up surrounded by mountains with abundant outdoor recreation opportunities and a diverse community of fish and wildlife species.  Dan eventually moved south to Montana and received his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana, and his M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University.  Over his career he's had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of taxa from charismatic megafauna like elk and grizzly bears to charismatic microfauna such as bats and terrestrial small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other nongame species.  His previous work included establishing baseline surveys for nongame species across the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, exploring how invasive brome grasses impact small mammals in sagebrush-steppe habitats, modeling disease ecology of large mammals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and other projects.  Outside of work Dan enjoys rock climbing, skiing, backpacking, hunting, and hiking.

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Alexis McEwan, Assistant Zoologist
(re)Joined MTNHP in May 2016

406-444-0028
AMcEwan@mt.gov
Alexis McEwan grew up in a variety of places across Canada.  She spent a number of years around the Great Lakes where she gained knowledge on the flora and fauna of these ecosystems.  Living in northern Manitoba she experienced the wildlife of the tundra and boreal forest.  Because of these experiences, Alexis enjoys the beauty of the outdoors and likes to spend time camping and hiking to explore her surroundings.  In 2007, she received her Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  During her undergrad, she worked various avenues as a biologist such as assisting in a mycology lab; as a field assistant conducting amphibian and reptile surveys in the Lake Superior Basin; and assisted in cancer research at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.  In 2009, Alexis accepted a position with the Montana Natural Heritage Program to conduct amphibian and reptile surveys across the state.  This position allowed her to increase her knowledge on herpetofauna while exploring the beauty of Montana.  In 2011, curiosity drew her to northern British Columbia for a Master's degree position to assess the habitat requirements of the Coastal Tailed Frog using radio telemetry and pitfall traps.  After completing her MSc., she worked as a consultant in Terrace, BC.  She found the Pacific Northwest to be a wonderful playground with many avenues still left unexplored.  However, the concept of returning to Helena to assist the Montana Natural Heritage Program with their statewide acoustic survey of bats enticed her to return.