Jeff Neel served as the Interim Executive Director of KAWS since October 2015, after serving as the Executive Director since September 2013. He has been a partner and advisor of KAWS since 2004. Jeff was responsible for the development and growth of the Applied Research, Restoration & Monitoring program for KAWS. His past efforts have contributed to over 50 watershed, riparian, and wetland assessments and significant development of many innovative, technological methods--all focused on identifying simple sources or solutions for core ecological problems. Assessments have resulted in implementation of miles of stream and riparian restoration projects and many non-point source BMP implementation projects, ranging from ephemeral gully treatment to livestock feeding site relocation to creation of wetland retention areas for cropland. Currently, Jeff is engaged in efforts to assess riparian areas and floodplain wetlands as part of the Kansas Forest Service (KFS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and integrate remote and field assessment efforts into holistic watershed restoration tools and plans, while managing the day-to-day activities of KAWS. In March 2016, Mr. Neel will step down from the Interim Executive Director position and begin full-time efforts as the Program Director of Applied Research, Restoration & Monitoring for KAWS. Holistic watershed restoration and agroforestry will be cornerstones of this new KAWS program.
Jeff has a passion for Kansas, Kansans (humans and non-humans), streams, wetlands, prairies, agroforestry, permaculture and agroecosystems. A Kansan all his life having grown up in northwestern and northeastern Kansas, he makes his home on the western banks of Tuttle Creek Lake in the Big Blue River Watershed, where he enjoys hunting, fishing, gardening, canoeing, boating, painting, music, small family farming and nature walks. His neighbors have often referred to him as "the Dude" (from the Big Lebowski) because he "abides" by the Kansas motto and he has a fondness for things like "rugs" that tie rooms, people, and places together.
John Bond is the Director of the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) Program and also serves as the Middle Kansas River and Lower Kansas River WRAPS Coordinator. John has been involved with KAWS from the very early days and is the backbone of the organization today. John got his start with KAWS as an advisor while working for the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks where he was knee deep in wetland restoration projects especially above lakes and reservoirs, but was lured into a Regional Coordinator position for KAWS in 2001 to help develop its chapters. Since then, John's influence on KAWS has been a long and storied history of successful BMP projects, tours, demonstrations, workshops, innovation and outreach. John is simply a passionate, "can-do" guy and has been very involved with expanding and growing the organization into what it is today. John has always been a mover, shaker and innovator capable of keenly diagnosing the root of problems and effortlessly working with folks to build consensus on necessary solutions. You always know when John is in a room and it isn't just due to his height (he is 6'4"). He is a "hub" when it comes to effective leadership and helps build teams while having fun wherever he goes. "It has been a very rewarding experience and I look forward to helping KAWS continue to grow and expand so wetlands, streams, and watersheds will be restored, enhanced and protected for generations to come," says John. When not doing good work for KAWS, he enjoys hunting, fishing, camping and lakin' with his wife, son and friends.
Doug Blex is the Middle Neosho WRAPS Coordinator and the Labette Creek Watershed Manager. Doug is a wildlife biologist by training but a wildlife and wetland enthusiast at heart. Since 2008, KAWS has been flush in deer sausage due to Doug's keen hunting skills, but he typically draws the line at sharing his secret recipe to which he is always treating folks, with cheese and crackers in hand. He is also up to his waste in poultry manure from time to time (Doug is not as fond of this as wetlands) and is working regularly with land owners to better site poultry litter storage operations and appropriately apply it to improve water quality of streams throughout southeast Kansas. Doug is a strong advocate of the land owner perspective while always working to find common ground between reason, science, experience, opinion and workable, common sense solutions to our water quality and conservation problems. Doug has over 30 years of professional experience managing and enhancing wildlife and wetland habitat and working to build state wildlife programs as well as providing service through volunteer activities such as his current roles as Chair of the Verdigris River Basin Regional Advisory Committee and Chair of the Montgomery County Conservation Committee. Doug was born and lives in Independence, Kansas, where he farms on his family farm and maintains a small cow-calf operation. His hobbies are hunting, fishing, gardening and restoring his house with his wife, but perhaps, his greatest pleasure is mentoring grandchildren into the outdoor world. We hope to get Doug back into the outdoor marshy world as part of his job soon-- because just like the ducks and geese, he is at home there.
Frank Norman is the new WRAPS coordinator for the Upper Wakarusa Watershed, a position that he started on January 1, 2016. However, he is not new to KAWS. For several years, he has been a member of the stakeholder leadership team (SLT) of the UWW. Furthermore, he has been working with KAWS since 2009 as a wetland subcontractor on various wetland mapping projects in the Upper Wakarusa, the Upper Neosho, and Flint Hills watersheds. In addition, Frank spearheaded KAWS efforts in the assessment of wetlands in Kansas for EPA’s National Wetland Conditions Assessment (NWCA) in 2011. He also was the WRAPS coordinator for the Lower Kansas Watershed during 2007 and 2008.
Besides being the UW WRAPS coordinator, Frank is president of two firms—Norman Ecological Consulting, LLC and Kansas Herbalist, LLC, both of which he founded in 2007. His keen interest in plants has shaped his career as a plant ecologist and wetland scientist for Norman Ecological and an herbalist for Kansas Herbalist. During his 26 years as a plant ecologist, he has developed a reputation for being detail-oriented, producing high quality products, his native flora expertise, and experience involving vegetation monitoring, native restoration design and oversight, rare plant surveys, and wetland assessments. In addition, Frank has been studying herbalism since the mid 1970’s, and has been a certified master herbalist since 2002. Frank relies on plants for healing and often collects medicinal plants locally and formulates medicine such as tinctures, salves, and poultices. He does herbal consultations, presentations, and nature walks.
Being a resident of the UW watershed with his wife Joy and dog Gus, Frank is excited about his new coordinator position, and is looking forward to meeting more of his fellow UWW residents as well as learning more about farming, agency programs, and BMP implementation. He hopes he can continue what Tom Huntzinger has started and assist farmers in implementing more environmentally friendly practices and contribute in decreasing the sedimentation and pollutant loading in Clinton Lake. Frank's choice of professional baseball and football teams is quite suspect, but his big black lab Gusser, who accompanies him on prairie and wetland walk-abouts, has never met a person he didn't like, so makes up for it despite Frank's Steeler and Pirate chants in the local pub at game time. Living near Lawrence, he is Rock-Chalk all the way when it comes to his college sports and unfortunately wins too many bets against his Wildcat colleagues during basketball season. KAWS is blessed to have Frank's eye for detailed interpretation and expertise with wetlands, prairies and native plants on their Kansas team, despite his poor taste in pro teams.
Bob Culbertson is the WRAPS Coordinator for Toronto and Fall River Watersheds and the Eastern Kansas Wetland Coordinator. Bob recently joined KAWS after 36 years working for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism as a Private Land Wildlife Biologist. The last 20 years of his career, he served as the Area Biologist in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Emporia working with District Conservationists and landowners in southeast Kansas. His primary focus was implementing Farm Bill Programs emphasizing wetland, grassland and wildlife conservation. As WRAPS and wetland coordinator, Bob is looking forward to working with landowners and putting good conservation on the ground.
Growing up in Lyndon, Kansas since the age of 9, Bob was fortunate to roam the rural landscape of Osage County. He watched two federal reservoirs being constructed (Pomona and Melvern) and developed an interest in the wild places nearby while fishing and camping with friends. In 1975 he completed a bachelor’s degree at Kansas State University in Wildlife Biology. Bob has been married to his high school sweetheart, Carol, since 1979 and they have two children, Trisha (Culbertson) Moore of Keats, Kansas, and Lucas Culbertson of Alameda, California. Bob enjoys fishing, hunting, birding, gardening, time with family and church activities.
holistic watershed efforts. He also serves as a John Redmond Soil Health Coordinator and Watershed Specialist. What intrigues Dan is how human needs and influences, especially agriculture, are connected as important parts of a larger watershed ecosystem. Striving for compatible solutions using sound science keeps him excited. Dan has recently retired from Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, where as an Environmental Biologist he worked with natural resources. These resources included agricultural, natural ecosystems, and industrial water management and conservation. He has been involved with several WRAPS, Conservation District, Lake Region RC&D, Neosho Goal Setting Team, professional Wildlife Society, and as an advocate for similar initiatives. This career, his graduate degree from ESU, and personal farming enterprises has invaluable. Dan currently lives in the Little Walnut headwaters within the Flint Hills area of eastern Butler County, where he and his wife, Joyce, have deep family roots. He continues a long-time passion for row-crop and livestock production, which keeps him connected with the land and culture. He is proud to be part of the Equus-Walnut Advisory Council, and may well implement some of KAWS exciting agroforestry initiatives. Exploring the woods, prairie and creek with any of 13 grandchildren is just plain cool.
Joe Kramer, Western Kansas Wetland Coordinator
Deb Baker is Administrative Manager for KAWS where she invaluably assists the Executive Director with project management and organizing operations, while also providing leadership and grant writing to develop the Natural Resource and Heritage Conservation Program and support other programmatic areas of the organization. When you think "jill-of-all-trades," Deb is your lady but she is also a master of botany (emphasis in aquatic ecology), credentials gained during her time at the University of Kansas. You know she loves plants when you visit her at her abode, where the landscape is sculpted in a xeroscape of her favorites. Deb recently retired from state government after spending almost 11 years with the Kansas Water Office as a Water Resource Planner and eight years with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment as an Environmental Scientist responsible for the Local Environmental Protection Program and Nonpoint Source Pollution Control project management. Prior to service with state government, she worked for several environmental consulting firms over a fifteen year period, all involved with water quality investigations and watershed management. Interspersed with these activities, she taught environmental science classes at KCKS Community College and Baker University. For about 4 years, she also owned and operated an interior landscaping company. Deb brings a wealth of varied experience, keen insights and excellent communications and grant writing skills to KAWS operations, programmatic development and outreach and education efforts. As well, throughout Deb's career, she has been a passionate advocate for wetlands, streams, prairies and the natural heritage of Kansas. KAWS is highly fortunate to woo her out of retirement to gain from her wealth of experience concerning most all things water within the state. Deb was the primary architect of the Kansas Wetland Program Plan which was recently approved as an integrative "blue-print" to coordinate wetland conservation efforts in Kansas, and now KAWS is actively working with Deb to develop funding and efforts to implement the "plan." KAWS couldn't be more pleased to have her leading the charge on conservation efforts for Kansas natural heritage and resources (worth her weight in gold), but don't repeat beyond a whisper because Deb embarrasses easily and she may not bring us cooked comforts and baked joys from home if embarrassed by any hoopla (sshh).
facilitating investments in watershed restoration projects made possible by Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, and he is their resident environmental biologist as well as serving KAWS through a cooperative agreement. As part of his collaborative efforts with KAWS, Wes manages Eagle
Creek WRAPS, is assisting in the re-invigoration of the Neosho Headwaters WRAPS, and has been instrumental in the development of a cover crop/no-till education and
evaluation campaign in the John Redmond Basin. As a native Kansan
and a biologist, Wes has expressed that "he is humbled to be a part of the KAWS team which has the
experience and wherewithal to protect the legacy of our state’s wetlands and streams
for generations to come." KAWS is humbled to have Wes on their team as a partner, advisor and good friend.
Mary Howell, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator
Cynthia Annett, Technology & Research Associate