NCER 2013 5th National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration

Plenary Speakers Biographies

OPENING PLENARY SESSION: Tuesday, July 30, 9:00-10:00am

Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, U.S. Department of the Interior 

Rachel Jacobson is the lead official in the office of Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, where she oversees policy, planning, and regulatory actions for the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In this capacity, Ms. Jacobson is also responsible for historic and cultural preservation and management of protected species. Prior to joining the Assistant Secretary's office, Ms. Jacobson served as Interior's Principal Deputy Solicitor where she was in a leadership role working with the Solicitor to oversee all legal matters within the authority of the Department of the Interior and manage an office of over 400 professionals. Notably, Ms. Jacobson was interior's lead negotiator for the $1 billion "early restoration" settlement with British Petroleum arising out of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Before joining Interior in 2009, Ms. Jacobson served as Director of the Impact-Directed Environmental Accounts Program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, where she managed a mitigation fund for environmental restoration and habitat conservation. The majority of Ms. Jacobson's career was spent with the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division. 

PLENARY SESSION: Wednesday, July 31, 9:00-10:00am

Drought, Flooding and Coastal Storms: Creating Landscapes and Communities Resilient to Weather Extremes 

Jason Weller, Acting Chief, USDA, NRCS   

Jason Weller has served as Acting Chief of NRCS since December 2012.  As Acting Chief, he oversees programs that help protect the environment, preserve our natural resources and improve agricultural sustainability through voluntary, private-lands conservation.  He leads a staff of 11,500 employees across the country and manages a budget of about $4 billion.  

Before assuming this role, Jason served as NRCS’s Acting Associate Chief for Conservation and as Chief of Staff where he worked alongside Chief Dave White and the agency’s national and state leaders to plan and implement strategic conservation initiatives and conduct the annual business operations of the agency.   

Prior to joining NRCS, Jason served as a staff member for the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture where he provided oversight and crafted bills to fund USDA programs and activities. He also served on the U.S. House Budget Committee where he helped construct the annual congressional budget for agriculture, environment and energy programs. Before that, Jason worked with the White House Office of Management and Budget where he assisted with the development and implementation of the budget for USDA conservation programs. 

Before coming to Washington, DC, Jason worked for several years with the California State Legislature where he provided fiscal and policy recommendations on a variety of natural resource conservation and environmental protection issues. 

Jason is a native of northern California. He earned his undergraduate degree from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and a graduate degree in public policy from the University of Michigan.  

Jason and his wife have two young daughters and live in Maryland. 

Robert Bendick, Director, U.S. Government Relations, The Nature Conservancy

Since 2008, Bob Bendick has been the Director of U.S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy. In this position he supervises the Conservancy’s relationships with Congress and the Obama Administration over a wide range of policy activities. In September, 2013, Bob will become Director, Gulf of Mexico Program.

Before coming to Washington, D.C., Bob was Vice-President and Managing Director of the ten-state Southern U.S. Region of the Conservancy.

He has been with The Nature Conservancy since 1995, first as Florida Chapter Director and, then, also in the dual role as Florida Director and as director of previous southeastern U.S. groups of state chapters.

Prior to working for TNC, Bob was Deputy Commissioner for Natural Resources of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (1990-1995) where he managed the natural resources functions in New York State government. During this time he also served as Chair for three years of the Northern Forest Lands Council which proposed actions to protect the future of the northern forests of New York and New England.

Prior to working for TNC, Bob was Deputy Commissioner for Natural Resources of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (1990-1995) where he managed the natural resources functions in New York State government. During this time he also served as Chair for three years of the Northern Forest Lands Council which proposed actions to protect the future of the northern forests of New York and New England.

Prior to coming to New York, he was Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (1982-1990) where he supervised all conservation and environmental functions of Rhode Island State government and twice chaired the Committee on the Environment of the New England Governors’ Council.

He has Bachelor’s Degree from Williams College and a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from New York University.


PLENARY SESSION: Thursday, August 1, 9:00-10:00am

Binational Action to Restore the Great Lakes

Cameron Davis, Senior Advisor to the Administrator (Great Lakes), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes National Program Office

Davis-Courtesy Great Lakes-StCameron Davis is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. In that capacity he provides counsel to Administrator Lisa Jackson on the Obama Administration’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. His job includes coordinating Great Lakes policy and funding initiatives with more than one dozen federal agencies and with state, municipal, tribal, business and civic stakeholders. The focus of this work involves restoring habitat, reducing pollution, preventing the introduction of invasive species, reducing runoff and enhancing coastal health for people, fish and wildlife.

For more than two decades, Mr. Davis has worked to develop and implement water quality and quantity policy. Starting as a volunteer, he served as a litigating attorney and law teacher at the University of Michigan Law School before serving as president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Under his leadership, the organization won the American Bar Association’s Distinguished Award in Environmental Law & Policy, the first time for a public interest organization in the honor’s history. He earned his law degree, including certification in environmental and energy law, from the Chicago-Kent College of Law and a B.A. from Boston University in International Relations.

While working in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and throughout the eight Great Lakes states, Cam lives across the street from Lake Michigan with his wife Katelyn, a child psychologist, and young son, where they try to swim in the lake several times a week, but only when it’s warm enough.

John Lawrence, Senior Science Advisor to the Region Director-General for Ontario, Environment Canada

Dr. John Lawrence obtained his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from the University of Bristol in the U.K. He joined the Canadian public service in 1973 as a Research Scientist with Environment Canada’s National Water Research Institute, NWRI which is now part of the Water Science & Technology Directorate, WSTD.

Over his career, Dr. Lawrence’s research interests have covered chemistry of contaminants and nutrients in aquatic ecosystems; water and wastewater treatment; analytical methods development; and analytical quality assurance.

Since 1980 Dr. Lawrence has held various research management positions at Environment Canada, most recently as Director of the Watershed Hydrology & Ecology Division. He is currently serving as the Senior Science Advisor to the Region Director-General for Ontario.

Dr. Lawrence has been very active within the Great Lakes community. He is Canadian co-chair of the IJC’s Council of Great Lakes Research Managers, a member of the Canada Ontario Agreement Implementation Committee and Canadian co-lead of the Cooperative Science & Monitoring Initiative steering committee. In addition he is a member of the GLWQA Great Lakes Executive Committee and Canadian co-lead for Annex 10, Science.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Thursday, August 1, 3:30pm – 4:10pm

Rick Snyder, Governor of Michigan

Governor Rick Snyder Portrait SmallThree years ago, businessman Rick Snyder was a virtual unknown in the political world. When he first decided to run for governor, his standing in the polls was so low that taking the margin of error into account, he theoretically could have had negative numbers. Political pundits said there was no way he could compete against the better known field of experienced political rivals.

The pundits were wrong.

Governor Rick Snyder won in a landslide victory after running as "One Tough Nerd" ready to make the tough decisions career politicians refused to make. The tactic led one particularly snarky pundit to quip "I guess nerd tested better in the focus groups than dork."


As a candidate, Gov. Snyder pledged to eliminate the job-killing Michigan Business Tax and replace it with a flat, 6-percent corporate income tax that is simple, fair and efficient. He pledged to structurally balance the budget without using accounting gimmicks or quick fixes. He pledged to create an environment where small businesses can grow and create jobs.


The businessman-turned-politician has delivered. As promised, he eliminated the job-killing Michigan Business Tax. He ended the unfair double tax on small business owners. Working together with lawmakers, the governor eliminated the state's $1.5 billion deficit. And in stark contrast to the partisan fighting that led to two government shutdowns under his predecessor, Gov. Snyder got the budget done by the earliest date it has been completed in 30 years.


When Gov. Snyder came into office, Michigan barely had enough money saved in the rainy day fund to run the state for approximately 30 minutes. Under Gov. Snyder, the state is doing the responsible thing by saving for the future and paying down its long term debt.


Gov. Snyder earned his undergraduate degree, MBA and law degree from the University of Michigan - all by the age of 23. After teaching at the University of Michigan, he went to work as a tax accountant at Coopers & Lybrand - now PriceWaterhouseCoopers - where he made partner after only six years. He then joined the fledgling computer company Gateway and helped it grow from a little over 700 employees to a Fortune 500 company with more than 10,000 employees before leaving to form his own successful venture capital firm.


Serving as an elected official brings challenges that are different than working as a CEO in the private sector. Now that he is the making tough decisions needed to Reinvent Michigan, Gov. Snyder is encountering resistance from entrenched special interests, protestors and recall efforts.


But anyone who has had an opportunity to hear the governor speak knows that he is not interested in being negative or getting bogged down by unproductive partisan fighting. It's this same spirit of "relentless positive action" that has him working on an accelerated schedule of "dog years" as governor.

As the governor said during his inauguration, we can only achieve extraordinary things if we aspire beyond traditional thinking. Do not shy away from high expectations - deliver on high expectations.


CLOSING PLENARY SESSION: Friday, August 2, 10:45am-12pm

David Doig, President, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives — "The Closing of Meigs Field"

David Doig is a seasoned professional in community development, real estate, finance, and government.  With over 20 years of experience, Doig is President of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI). CNI is a not-for-profit community development corporation focused on mixed-use real estate developments on Chicago's Far South Side and is a Community Development Entity investing New Market Tax Credits in high impact neighborhood projects.  

Doig leads CNI and its partner US Bank in the development of Pullman Park, a 200-acre mixed-use redevelopment of a former Ryerson Steel site. Currently under construction, the first phase of Pullman Park is a $30 million, 50 acre, Wal-Mart anchored retail center. Overall the project will bring over 1000 new jobs, much-needed retail, affordable housing, and recreation to Chicago's Pullman neighborhood. In addition, CNI has successfully completed investing $50 million of New Market Tax Credits into a community center, a neighborhood hospital, a new Charter School, and a community health center, creating several hundred new jobs – all within less than a year.

Prior to leading CNI, Doig worked in a variety of capacities within Mayor Daley’s administration, most recently as General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District. As Park District Superintendent, Doig oversaw a $350 million operating budget and a staff of over 3000.  Under his leadership the Park District’s bond rating improved and the District issued its first revenue bonds.  He led major improvements to park facilities, most notably the $650 million renovation of Soldier Field, the $300 million shoreline revetment project, and a host of neighborhood park improvements.  These included a new golf course at Douglas Park, a new bowling alley and roller rink in Englewood, and tens of millions of dollars in fieldhouse renovations over his four and half year tenure at the parks.  Doig worked hard to increase green space in the parks and launched a variety of innovative beautification initiatives.  Under his leadership, the Park District won the prestigious America in Bloom award, and in 2002 the U.S. Conference of Mayors honored the city and park district with its City Livability Award for Chihuly in a Park: A Garden of Glass at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

Before being tapped by Mayor Daley in 1999 for the parks job, Doig was First Deputy Commissioner in the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development.  Between 1997 and 1999, Doig managed its neighborhood division which operates city programs to spur economic development and job growth in neighborhoods throughout the city.  Under his leadership the city created over sixty Tax Increment Financing districts and acquired hundreds of acres for neighborhood revitalization.

David Doig joined Chicago government in 1994 as Deputy Commissioner of Real Estate Services for the Housing Department, where he oversaw initiatives to redevelop abandoned properties and expand home ownership and rental opportunities for low-income and moderate-income families.  Before that he spent five years as development director for the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, a community-based organization on Chicago’s West Side.  In 1993 and 1994 he was a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow.

In over twenty years of living and working in the city of Chicago, David Doig has become an expert on how cities and neighborhoods work.  From real estate development to government finance, Doig has provided leadership and expertise at all levels.  When announcing Doig’s appointment as Park District Superintendent, Mayor Daley said, “David cares about neighborhoods and understands what it takes to make them thrive.  He has spent time in every neighborhood in the city, talking with residents, listening to their concerns and developing programs to improve their quality of life.”

Doig graduated from Wheaton College and received a master’s degree in social science, with an emphasis on urban policy, from the University of Chicago.  He and his wife Tami live in the Chicago West Side Austin neighborhood with their two children, Olivia, 19 and Clarke, 16.

David Donnenfield, Producer/Director/Writer, Full Frame Productions — “A Hero’s Calling”

David Donnenfield is a writer, producer, and instructional designer for digital media at Full Frame Productions, a video production company in San Francisco. He is also Director of Acquisitions for The Video Project, a distributor of environmental documentaries to the educational and institutional market.

David has worked with numerous environmental organizations and agencies over the years such as CALFED Bay Delta Program, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CA Audubon, CA Native Grass Association, and CA Academy of Sciences in crafting memorable messaging for public outreach. He is skilled in presenting complex concepts in ways that are coherent and interesting to lay audiences. Besides his creative contributions, David provides guidance in matters of dissemination so that video programming is broadly seen, whether via the web, TV broadcast, DVD or other viewing technologies. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Along with his partner, Kevin White, David has been developing stories on environmental restoration for their broadcast series, “How On Earth.”  Many of these stories deal with habitat restoration and species recovery. One such program, “A Simple Question,” showcases a nationally-recognized student-initiated project to restore the riparian habitat of the endangered CA freshwater shrimp. Working with private landowners, biologists, agency personnel, and other stakeholders, students have led the way in restoring over 23 miles of streamside habitat and bringing back the shrimp. The video program has garnered over a dozen film festival awards worldwide, been nominated for an Emmy, and is credited with helping to save the project itself in this era of funding shortfalls.

Donnenfield holds a B.A. in film from UCLA and a Masters in Educational Technology/Instructional Design from San Francisco State University. His films have won the CINE Golden Eagle, the Silver Telly, film festival awards, and have been broadcast on PBS. In 2010, he received the Harold Gilliam Excellence in Environmental Journalism Award from The Bay Institute.

Kevin White, Producer/Director/Writer, Full Frame Productions — “A Hero’s Calling”

Kevin is an award-winning producer, director and writer who has worked in media since 1982. After graduate school at Stanford and San Francisco State University, Kevin free-lanced for ITV, CBS News, Nightly Business Reports, and several syndicated shows in various production capacities. He founded Full Frame Productions in 1984, and the nonprofit, Filmmakers Collaborative SF, in 1988 with filmmaking colleague Michal Aviad.

Kevin has produced dozens of independent and sponsored films for broadcast, corporate communications, advertising, and other distribution venues. His work has been broadcast internationally on PBS, CBS, ABC, Discovery, National Geographic, Bravo, BBC, ZDF, and featured at dozens of film festivals, including the Berlin Film Festival, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, US Film Festival (Sundance), The San Francisco International Film Festival (Golden Gate Award Recipient) and many others.

In 2010, Kevin and his colleague, David Donnenfield, were the recipients of the Harold Gilliam Excellence in Environmental Reporting Award for their work on the “How On Earth” project.



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CLICK HERE to open PDF of Program Book including
Conference Abstracts

Conference Deadlines

Abstract Submission Deadline:
 - January 7, 2013


Notification of Selected Presenters:
 - March 1, 2013


Deadline for Presenters to Register & Confirm Participation:
 - April 15, 2013


Early Registration Deadline:
 - May 17, 2013


Hotel Registration Deadline:
 - June 14, 2013


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