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Staff Bios

Staff photo
The Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division in December 2013. NPS Photo.














Davyd Betchkal, Alaska Region Soundscape Specialist

Many Alaskan parks are well-known for their solitude and remoteness. Preserving intact the acoustic and photic resources of these places is an immediate challenge of a rapidly-developing state. Davyd is tasked with providing such a focus for Alaska region parks through science, planning, and outreach. He earned his B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin Madison, meanwhile supporting/enjoying himself by working in the field of live sound reinforcement and recording. He joined the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division after five years as a Soundscape Technician at Denali National Park and Preserve. In quiescent wilderness he finds an ecstatic balm - soothing his mind and reopening it to the wonder and mystery of life.

Emma Brown, Acoustical Resource Specialist

Emma manages technical assistance requests and coordinates field operations, data analysis, and state of the parks reporting. She received a B.A. in American Studies and Environmental Studies from Colby College in Waterville, ME in 2005 and a M.S. in Ecology from Colorado State University in 2013. Research interests include assessing noise audibility and sound levels in national parks and the utility of on-animal audio recording technology for studying wildlife behavior. Prior to working with the division, Emma deployed and maintained acoustic monitoring equipment in San Francisco Area Network and Sierra Network Parks including Muir Woods National Monument, Point Reyes National Seashore, Devil’s Postpile National Monument, and Yosemite National Park, but her favorite sound experience was hearing nothing but her heart beating in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Dan Duriscoe, GIS Specialist

A native of California and lifetime amateur astronomer, Dan has worked for the National Park Service for more than 25 years. Educated in Physical Geography and Geology, he spent two decades as a Forest Ecologist, primarily at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, before joining the NPS Night Sky Team as Technical Leader in 2003. His lifetime of experience in exploring the wild lands of the West has led to a keen appreciation for their remaining natural values. He is currently stationed in Bishop, California. His favorite night sky experience is walking out under the stars in the desert on a moonless night.

Kurt Fristrup, Senior Scientist

Kurt has never been able to decide whether he liked biology, physics, or applied mathematics best. His undergraduate degree was in Biomedical Engineering, which he augmented with several electives in population biology. He received his Ph.D. in Organismal and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard. He received a postdoctoral fellowship in the Ocean Engineering Dept. at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which led to a technical staff position in the Biology Dept. After ten years at WHOI, Kurt became the Assistant Director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. After about ten years at Cornell, Kurt moved west to join the NPS Natural Sounds team. Kurt's scientific interests include animal behavior, evolutionary models, the effects of noise on wildlife, and the philosophy of science. His engineering interests include acoustical monitoring, including automated methods of bioacoustical processing, wireless sensing and telemetry, and computer programming.

Chris Garsha, Acoustical Technician

Chris' current responsibilities include acoustic data collection and analysis, as well as instrumentation design and development. He attended the University of California, San Diego, and studied computer science, engineering and digital media design. After college and for the next ten years he worked as a development engineer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, designing and fabricating underwater acoustic instrumentation, providing project management and field support, and developing computing systems for data analysis. Most recently, he owned and operated his own engineering and consulting company. His current scientific and engineering interests revolve around the advancement of technology-based data collection and analysis methodologies. One of his favorite sound moments was hearing the quiet of the forest and sound of falling snow during a spring snow storm in Yosemite National Park.

Teresa Jiles, Night Skies Program partner

Teresa is a Research Associate with Colorado State University's Cooperative Institute for the Research In the Atmosphere (CIRA). Her primary duties with the Night Skies team are night sky quality assessment fieldwork, park lighting projects, education outreach, and volunteer coordination. Teresa has a B.S. in Geology from Arizona State University with additional studies in astronomy and planetary sciences, as well as graduate research work in astrobiology. Prior to the joining the Night Skies team, Teresa's professional experience included working in research teams at NASA Johnson Space Center and The University of Arizona Steward Observatory. Teresa often spends June of each year, for the past 15 years, at The University of Arizona Alumni Association's Astronomy Teen Camps as a senior counselor. Her passion for astronomy education drives her commitment to share and preserve dark night skies for future generations. Teresa will never forget her first trip to Grand Canyon National Park as a freshman on a geology field trip. Standing on the edge of the south rim on a dark night, she witnessed a faint light beautifully reflecting off the light-colored rocks on the canyon walls. To her surprise the light was coming from the planet Venus. As she stood astonished, she recalled the Greek tale of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love, watching it shine so brilliantly high in the sky, she finally understood why they believed this "little wanderer" was the goddess of true beauty.

Damon Joyce, Physical Scientist

Damon currently works on hardware and software design, data management and analysis. He received his B.S. in Physics and a diploma in Environment from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His first professional job was an intern for Mojave National Preserve as the field tech for their soundscape monitoring project. Once the contract was finished, he discovered a similar position was open in the NPS Natural Sounds program. He's had the chance to travel to many more parks than he ever could have on his own. Field work has involved hiking across Haleakala crater, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone, boating in North Cascades, and even being sent to prison at Alcatraz. While taking a break from field work in Haleakala National Park, he went to the rim of the crater under a full moon to try his hand at nighttime landscape photography. While enjoying the night sky, he could hear the calls of the 'Ua'u (Hawaiian Petrel) echoing through the rocks below. It was both eerie and calming.

Brent Lignell, Environmental Protection Specialist

Brent assists in air tour planning and soundscape management throughout the park system. He holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering and an M.S. in environmental engineering from the University of Michigan. Before joining the NSNSD in 2013, Brent supported a variety of air quality programs with both federal and state agencies where he developed vehicle emissions standards, air quality permits, and NEPA analyses for energy development projects. One of his favorite sounds is the annual symphony played out by spring peepers, chorus frogs, and other critters in the woods and wetlands of the northern hardwood forests.

Scott McFarland, Southeast Region Soundscape Specialist

Scott attended the Oregon Institute of Technology where he initially studied Mechanical and Renewable Energy Engineering; however, he ultimately received a B.S. in Environmental Science with an emphasis in Sustainable Technology. Before graduating, Scott was hired as a STEP working as an Acoustical Technician at Crater Lake National Park. Afterwards, he worked as a Biological Science Technician at CRLA and began a Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies at Southern Oregon University focusing on the interaction between newts and crayfish. However, he left the program after his first term to work closely with NSNSD through a cooperative agreement with Colorado State University. Scott has wanted to be a biologist/scientist since 3rd grade and grew up exploring and fishing remote areas of Montana. These adventures ingrained a deep and long standing appreciation for wild, dark and quiet places. His favorite sound moment was experiencing first hand "The Sea of Silence" (Joaquin Miller, 1904) while sitting on the shore of Wizard Island in Crater Lake before the seasonal opening of boat tours and the rim road.

Megan McKenna, Bioacoustician

Megan's current responsibilities include researching the effects of noise on wildlife and assisting parks with soundscape management. Megan received her Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and her M.S. in Evolutionary Biology from San Diego State University. Before joining NSNSD, she was a National Academy of Sciences postdoctoral fellow at the Marine Mammal Commission and a postdoctoral researcher with Cascadia Research Collective. She has worked on a variety of acoustic related projects including quantifying the effects of underwater noise from commercial ships on blue whales, modeling chronic sources of anthropogenic noise in marine habitats, and studying the anatomy and evolution of echolocation in odontocetes. Her favorite sound experience was being lulled to sleep by the waves lapping onshore and the distant bark of sea lions, when she was anchored off San Miguel Island, the northernmost island of the Channels Islands National Park. While SCUBA diving in St. John's, Virgin Islands, she experienced her favorite underwater sound- the symphony of coral reefs.

Bob Meadows, Physical Scientist

Bob holds a B.A. in Geography from California State University, Chico. He has worked in the Night Skies Program since May 2011. Prior to that his professional experience included almost 25 years working in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. He was a wilderness ranger for eight years before moving into the Division of Resources Management and Science, working in forestry, GIS, restoration, invasive plant management, fire ecology and meadow management. His most memorable night sky experience was relaxing in a natural hot spring in a remote valley in Death Valley National Park gazing at one of the darkest skies in America while comet Hale-Bopp was putting on a spectacular show.

Dan Mennitt, Research Scientist

Dan's current responsibilities include providing solutions to research and design questions using theoretical, experimental and numerical methods. One of his current projects is modeling the spatial variation of ambient sound pressure levels. He also provides engineering support for equipment related matters. Dan received a Ph.D. and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The majority of his experience is in acoustic signal processing and mechanics. Research interests include 3D audio and immersive environments, array processing, passive localization, acoustic propagation and modeling, signal classification, machine learning, and of course natural soundscapes. One memorable event was listening apprehensively as a large critter approached his tent the first night in Yosemite National Park. Although they couldn't see each other, the bear and him were nose to nose as he began to sniff curiously and inspect this new visitor to the neighborhood.

Chad Moore, Night Skies Program Manager

Chad holds a B.A. in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.S. in Earth Science from Montana State University. He has worked actively to protect dark night skies since 1999. Prior to that his professional experience included stream restoration and watershed management, a stint as a wilderness ranger, producing multimedia educational tools, and cartography. He has been stargazing since age 15, but will never forget a particular winter's night in Death Valley National Park when he glimpsed the rare view of a natural night sky and saw the Milky Way looking like spun silver and gold lace.

Kathryn Nuessly, Biologist, Modeling Specialist

Katie’s current responsibilities include modeling noise propagation across parks and assisting parks with soundscape management. Katie studied biology and math at the University of Florida. After graduating with her B.S., Katie taught environmental education with the USFWS, studied cetacean behavior in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, built trail with the USFS in the Olympic National Forest, and studied the behavior of larval mosquitoes with the USDA. Katie went on to earn her M.S. at San Francisco State University, studying rocky intertidal ecology. Her graduate work investigated the relationship between environmental temperatures and the behavior and brooding success of sea stars in the genus Leptasterias. Before joining NSNSD, Katie designed and taught 6th grade STEM curriculum through discovery-based experiments. Katie joins the NSNSD team as a Presidential Management Fellow, class of 2014. The pouring rain and booming thunder of a South Florida thunderstorm are Katie’s favorite sounds.

Ashley Pipkin, Pacific West Region Soundscape Specialist

Ashley is currently located at Lake Mead working to serve the Pacific West Region. She attended the University of South Carolina where she earned her B.A. in Geography and studied post-logging successional pathways in Congaree National Park. After an internship with National Geographic Society, she was accepted to Texas A&M to begin her graduate work and offered a STEM GK-12 Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. She graduated with a M.S. in Biogeography. Her thesis research evaluated how current fire regimes influence the mid-story layer in the southern and central Appalachian Mountains. After graduate school Ashley worked briefly with The Nature Conservancy before working in National Parks across America, including Isle Royale, Lake Mead and the Boston Harbor Islands. Her favorite natural sounds come from the calls of a common loon that serenely echo across a lake. Ashley grew up in rural South Carolina, and as a child her family would often take her outside at night to watch meteor showers, eclipses and the cosmos, which imprinted a lasting affection for the dark night sky.

Karen T. Trevino, Division Chief

Karen attended the Washington College of Law at the American University and the New England School of Law in Boston. She was enrolled in the International Legal Studies Program at WCL specializing in International Environmental Law. She holds a B.A. from Michigan State University with a major in Communications and a minor in Political Science. Prior to this position, Karen worked as Director of Environmental Affairs for ASG Renaissance where she dealt with issues ranging from wind power, alternative fuel vehicles, corporate sustainability, and international wildlife. Karen also served as Senior Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of Interior and was responsible for issues involving Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks (e.g., bison, winter use, inholdings, grazing, open space) and coral reef protection. Karen also worked on various international policy matters including The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and as the head of the U.S. Delegation to the World Heritage Convention. She also worked for the NPS Director as the first NPS liaison to the Office of the Assistant Secretary. Before coming to the Department of Interior, Karen worked from an Alaska law firm specializing in natural resource and wildlife law. Prior to that, Karen worked as a Legislative Affairs Specialist for the World Wildlife Fund in Washington D.C. where she specialized in international wildlife and natural resource policy. While in law school in Washington, D.C., Karen worked at The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Karen's favorite sound experience was at Virgin Islands National Park where lying on a beach, at night, under the stars, she listened to the waves gently rolling in.

Frank Turina, Policy, Planning, and Compliance Program Manager

Frank's current responsibilities include developing policy and guidance for protecting natural sounds and night skies, developing soundscape management plans and other planning documents, and overseeing the Division's NEPA and environmental compliance activities. He received is Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Colorado and a Masters in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver. Frank's research interest was the effects of public participation on high-conflict environmental policy disputes. He was first exposed to the human and ecological effects of noise while writing and managing Environmental Impact Statements for large highway projects. As an avid rafter, his favorite sounds are all found along rivers - looming whitewater, the song of a canyon wren, streams trickling down a side canyon, the sound of an oar when it first hits the water.

Vicki Ward, Overflights Program Manager

Vicki's current responsibilities include Air Tour Management Plans, acting as the Division's Military Liaison, and technical assistance to parks on soundscape management planning and noise related issues, including airports. Vicki has a B.S. in Horticulture and an M.S. in Agronomy. She has been a soundscape planner with NSNSD since 2005. For the previous 14 years, she worked as a NEPA coordinator at Fort Carson, CO. Some of her most memorable sound experiences are hearing the sound of the rapids of the Colorado River from south rim at the Grand Canyon early in the morning, hearing the sound of hikers' footsteps crunching on the floor of Kilauea Caldera at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park while she was standing on the rim up above, and enjoying all the birds singing at Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site during an attended listening session. Her most memorable night sky experience is seeing the night sky at the rim of the Grand Canyon on a cold, crisp night in January - it was amazing!

Cecilia White, Acoustical Technician

Cecilia's current responsibilities include acoustical and wildlife research, inventory, and monitoring in the field; data analysis and reporting; and outreach and education. She is also the NSNSD web author and coordinates the Listening Lab, a collaboration with Colorado State University. Cecilia joined the Division in 2010 after completing her M.S. at Louisiana State University, where she studied Wildlife and Experimental Statistics. Her thesis work focused on the role of social facilitation in colony site selection of seabirds on Gulf coast barrier islands. She completed her B.S. at Tulane University, majoring in Biology and English. Her work background includes field studies in avian ecology and conservation with USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge, PRBO Conservation Science, Mississippi State University, Arizona State University, and Grand Canyon National Park. She has also worked in environmental education. Cecilia has a passion for birds, and many of her outdoor experiences have been enhanced by their calls. The melody of a Canyon Wren or the low hoots of a Mexican Spotted Owl evoke memories of the Grand Canyon, while the raucous cries of gulls and terns bring back hot days spent on islands literally covered with breeding seabirds.

Jeremy White, Physical Scientist

Jeremy has worked for the Night Skies Program since 2011 and assists with site visits to parks, imagery analysis, and the development of outreach and education materials for the program. He received a B.S. in Ecology and Systematic Biology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Prior to this position Jeremy spent five years at Grand Canyon National Park as a Biological Science Technician. His most memorable park visit is from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. On a moonless, cloudless, summer night he sat on the slope of the world's most massive volcano, Mauna Loa, and watched as the brilliant Milky Way passed overhead. As the light of the cosmos held his attention, another very earthly light drew his gaze downward. It turned out to be the glow from Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, visible from many miles away.

Lochen Wood, Environmental Protection Specialist

After studying geography and public planning at University of Texas and Northern Arizona University, Lochen worked in a variety of community and resource planning positions. She is passionate about natural resources and the National Park Service. Her favorite night skies experience was on her first camping trip in the desert of the Colorado Plateau. While camping on slick rock, she awoke in the middle of the night to a sky full of brilliance that is not accessible in the urban, humid environment of her hometown Austin, TX. Her favorite natural sound is that of a roaring, raging, flooding river.

Last Updated: March 05, 2015