Our Board and Staff

Oak Heritage Board of Directors

This crew of nature-loving individuals works hard to ensure that conservation moves forward in southeast Indiana. They lend their professional skills, their wit and wisdom, and often their muscles to protect land, build trails, restore habitat, and get people outside, spending time in nature. We hope to see you at an Oak Heritage event or nature preserve soon!

Kate Johnson, President

What you do for work? What do you do in nature? I teach philosophy at Hanover College. Two of my courses are Philosophy of the Environment and Animal Philosophy. I also taught Ecofeminism in the past, and would love to do it again sometime. My husband Don Carrell and I live on ~40 acres, and we try to raise most of our food with a vegetable garden, chickens, goats, and sheep. I also enjoy my flower garden. We are letting the majority of our land return from being overgrazed when we bought to natural habitat. It’s been fun to watch the transformation.

Where do you call home? We live in Hanover, my kids went to Southwestern Schools, but our address is Madison.

Why do you join the Oak Heritage board? Of the many things to feel bad about right now, the way we treat the natural world is one of the most abiding and most serious. Rather than just feel bad, I’d like to do something about it with some like-minded people. I like the local, grassroots feel of Oak Heritage Conservancy.

Eric Dodge, Vice President

Eric grew up camping, fishing and exploring the outdoors in Oregon.

His parents stressed how important it was to protect and preserve wild spaces and he believes very strongly that we get a little poorer as a community when a natural area is lost or spoiled.

Eric moved to Madison in 1995 to teach economics at Hanover College. He immediately began exploring the trails below the College and in nearby Clifty Falls State Park.

He enjoys camping and hiking with his family. He’s enjoying serving on the Board and helping protect natural areas in southeast Indiana.

Glene Mynhardt, Secretary

What you do for work and for fun in nature? I teach various biology courses at Hanover College, including my favorite – entomology. I enjoy macrophotography and am always on the lookout for insects that inhabit our local natural areas.

Where do you live? I live in Jeffersonville (Clark County)

What inspired you to join the Oak Heritage board? I want to be part of something that will help connect me and my students to local efforts related to conserving and enjoying our local biota. As a Biology professor at Hanover, I also feel a strong urge to keep Daryl Karns’ legacy alive and am really honored to be part of the group.

Sara Hare, Treasurer

Sara has taught Sociology at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany for the past 20 years. She lives in Madison with a yard that borders Clifty Falls State Park. She love hiking there and also love to kayak, cook, and travel.

Why did you want to join the Oak Heritage board? I think it’s important to work with others to conserve our natural environment. We need to make an effort to leave areas of natural beauty for our descendants.

What do you love about southeast Indiana? I love the beauty of the natural world – the rolling hills and mature stands of trees — in southeast Indiana. I also love getting out in nature by kayaking on the nearby rivers and streams. The Muscatatuck River and Otter Creek in Jennings County are both beautiful and challenging paddles when the water levels are good.  

Jamie Schantz, Stewardship Chair

What do you do for work and for fun in nature? I’m retired. My husband and I have three grown children and three grandsons. I’m active in two quilt guilds and one rug hooking group. I joined the board of Batesville Memorial Public Library and found that I loved helping with projects, like our new outdoor Reading Garden with native trees and plants. I love to garden and enjoy all types of needlework.

Where do you live? We’ve lived outside of Batesville, Indiana (Ripley County) since 1975.

You’ve been a member for years. Why did you join the Oak Heritage board? It sounds contrived but to save the woods. My family all spend time together walking the woods. My mother used to take us for walks and taught us all the wildflowers. I worry that their habitat is dwindling.   

Richard Stoll, Planned Giving Chair

What you do for work and for fun in nature? I left the corporate world as an IT manager and now work part-time as a Handyman.

For fun my wife Jennifer and I enjoy restoring wildlife habitat at our farm in Versailles Indiana. It’s an ongoing process planting native prairie grasses\wild flowers and shrubs to create pollinator and Quail habitat which are in steep decline.

Where you spend your time? I live in Cincinnati, Ohio but spend most of our time in Indiana down at the farm.

Why did you join the Oak Heritage board? I have a passion for preserving green space and restoring land to benefit wildlife, pollinators and the ecosystem. I want to join the board the help with outreach, membership recruitment, fundraising and cultivating donors to make Oak Heritage a stronger and financially sustainable organization.

Emily Engelking

Emily is a young professional from Seymour, Indiana, where she works for the Jackson County United Way as their Engagement Director. She works with both fundraising and community engagement for United Way, and is eager to use these skills to advance our conservation efforts. Emily served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine as an English teacher in a small town in the western part of the country. During her time in Ukraine, she worked with children, as well as adults, and discovered her dedication to serving others. She is pursuing a Masters of Public Affairs with a concentration in Nonprofit Management at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

What made you want to serve on the Oak Heritage board? During my time at Hanover College, I interned for Oak Heritage. This was my first taste of what a nonprofit is and how they worked. I learned so much that it truly inspired me to work in the sector. Conservation is something I’m deeply passionate about and I want to be able to further that mission to the best of my ability.

What skills/expertise/perspectives are you excited to bring to our conservation work? I’m excited to be able to bring what I’ve learned through my nonprofit work to further the organization. Specifically, I’m looking forward to helping with the new outreach programs and bringing my fundraising expertise to the board.

What’s your favorite way to spend time outside? I really enjoy kayaking and visiting as many National and State parks as I can!

Jason Brownknight

Jason is a professional ecologist with twenty years experience in the conservation world. He has helped conserve over 7000 acres in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. He will help take Oak Heritage’s land preservation and habitat restoration work to the next level. Jason grew up in southeast Ohio and is eager to get to know our flora and fauna in greater depth.

What made you want to serve on the Oak Heritage board? I am passionate about the enhancement, restoration, and preservation of ecological landscapes across this great planet. I strongly believe both fee-simple purchase of land and conservation easements are effective tools in the effort to protect natural resources and habitats. I hope to utilize my passion, skills, and experiences to help Oak Heritage continue to fight the good fight.

What skills/expertise/perspectives are you excited to bring to our conservation work? I have diverse background and have experience with; organizational leadership including strategic planning and non-profit organization operations, GIS applications, wildlife management, environmental education, grant writing, and overall land stewardship. I have excited to bring all of my skills and passions to help further Oak Heritage’s conservation work.

What’s your favorite way to spend time outside? Anytime outside is a favorite time for me, but I must admit there is nothing I enjoy more than exploring for salamanders with my family.


Interested serving on the Board? Take a peek at our Strategic Goals, and think about how you can help Oak Heritage achieve its goals. Then get in touch to start a conversation about helping make conservation happen in southeast Indiana.


Our Staff

Liz Brownlee, Executive Director

Liz grew up in southeast Indiana, playing in the forests and creeks of her family’s farm. Today, she puts her passion for nature to work for our region. Liz earned a Bachelor’s degree from Hanover College, where she majored in Biology, and a Master’s degree in Botany from the University of Vermont. She’s always looking for ways to get people outside. You can find Liz working on her sustainable farm, reading a novel on the porch swing, or dreaming up a new endeavor for Oak Heritage members! Photo by Debbie Blank.


Kirsten Carlson, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Kirsten is a curious character with a life-long passion for learning in fun and inventive ways.  When not formally teaching as a life science adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Community College or visiting lecturer at Hanover College, Kirsten spends much of her time volunteering as an informal conservation educator with groups including the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Big Oaks and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuges, Southeastern Indiana Recycling District, Oak Heritage Conservancy, Community Garden Action Team in Lawrenceburg, and Pollinator Partnership.  Kirsten and her husband, Tom, live in Versailles, Indiana, on a former quarry, with their two dogs and two cats, where they manage their acreage for multiple uses including farming, classified forestry, wetland diversity, and pollinator conservation.  Kirsten loves to help others experience the interconnections that abound in nature.  Life is full of connections, which makes for an endless palette of opportunities to help others find the relationships to those connections by wandering and wondering. Kirsten received her B.S. in biology and M.S. in Secondary Science Education from Indiana University, Bloomington.  She maintains a current Indiana teachers license.  Kirsten is a Certified Interpretive Guide, certified Forest School Teacher, Aldo Leopold Land Ethic Leader, and trained Leopold Land Education Project instructor.  Her hobbies include reading, photography, nature journaling, feeding and watching birds, and gardening for wildlife. Come learn alongside Kirsten at one of our upcoming events or volunteer days!


Hanna Nyberg, 2021 Trails & Outreach Intern

Why did you want to intern for Oak Heritage? I have known about what Oaks Heritage does for conservation for years, and have always loved this organization. I was super excited when I heard they were hosting interns this summer. Not only that, having such an amazing organization on my resume will be an invaluable asset for my future.

What’s your biggest lesson so far this summer? I have learned that hard work really pays off. While we were building the trails at Webster woods, it was really hard work! As we were working to clear and build the trails, we were able to instantly see the difference we were making. Also, we were all working hard towards a common goal: getting people outside and in nature. I was extremely proud of what I was able to accomplish on those trail building days!

What’s been the most unexpected benefit of being an Oak Heritage intern? I didn’t expect how much it would help my fear of bugs. Being out in the woods as much as I was, I got used to all kinds of bugs, and I am ultimately more comfortable in the woods. Hiking is now much more fun for me!4. What’s the most challenging part about working on trails and interpretive signage?

What’s the most challenging part about working on trails and interpretive signage? Ticks were a challenge for sure, but everything else was a blast. I learned so much this summer, and I would definitely do it again. 

Where do you want to go hiking next? I would love to explore some trails outside of the country. Backpacking in Europe is on my bucket list! 


Shayla Jennings, 2021 Trails & Outreach Intern

Why did you want to intern for Oak Heritage? I wanted to intern for Oak Heritage because I have heard wonderful things about the organization. In addition, I wanted to learn more about the environment as a whole because I envision myself as an environmental lawyer in the future, protecting the natural world. 

What’s your biggest lesson so far this summer? The biggest lesson that I have learned this summer is how important the environment is as a whole. I also learned that it is equally important to give back to nature, which is where humanity id lacking. I learned to respect and help nature, which will forever be grateful for. 

What’s the most challenging part about working on trails and interpretive signage? The most challenging part about trail building and working on interpretive signage is how intense the labor can be. Trail building is hard but rewarding, there are instant results which makes it easier. The best time to trail build is in the summer because it tends to be the driest, however that also means working in extreme heat from time to time, and that was a hard challenge to overcome. Interpretive signage wasn’t as intense as manual labor, but it definitely is mentally stimulating. The amount of hours to create one sign was crazy, but in the end it was so worth it!

Where do you want to go hiking next?  My dream hiking destination would have to Yosemite National Park, but for now I will admire the google photos from the park (lol)!