Christa Heller - Secretary

Christa has over 17 years of experience working in salmon recovery and stream restoration. She is a Washington native that graduated from Western Washington University in 2002 specializing in fish and marine ecology. Christa spent many of her formative years living and traveling through the South Pacific developing a love of science and the natural world. After returning to the Pacific Northwest she turned her focus to fisheries and natural resource management working on native trout, coho and Chinook recovery efforts for the US Forest Service, Yakama Nation, and Muckleshoot Tribe. In 2009, Christa received a professional certificate in River Restoration from Oregon State University and has been working for state and local governments to restore and protect stream and wetland habitats in Western Washington since. She is passionate about holistic approaches to habitat restoration, and hopes to see creative and grassroots restoration methods implemented more throughout urban communities of the greater Puget Sound region. In her spare time, Christa enjoys gardening, skiing, hiking, biking, and traveling with her husband and two young children.

Gordon Holtgrieve - At-Large Member

Gordon Holtgrieve is an aquatic ecosystem ecologist and fisheries scientist with over 20 years of experience in scientific research and education. Gordon holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford University in Earth System Science (1999 & 2001) and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Washington (2009). He is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington and the Director of Future Rivers, a new UW graduate training program in freshwater science. Gordon and his colleagues have published over 40 scientific papers and one book chapter on topics ranging from the ecosystem response of Alaska streams to spawning salmon to anthropogenic nitrogen deposition in otherwise pristine environments. Research in the Holtgrieve Ecosystem Ecology Lab spans the Pacific Rim from the Puget Sound to Alaska to the Mekong River in SE Asia. When not doing science, Gordon can typically be found with his family on the banks of the Methow River.


Rachael Dirks - Beaver Technician 

Rachael Dirks graduated from the University of Washington, with a degree in Biology and a focus in Conservation and Ecology. While working with the Washington Conservation Corps, she found her passion for habitat preservation. She loves seeing the immense impact beavers can have on an ecosystem, and is interested in the role they can play in habitat restoration. When not trudging through wetlands, Rachael enjoys hiking and learning to cook new types of food. She loves to travel, above all else, and hopes to one day get to work on habitat restoration projects around the world. 

Shawn Behling - Wetland Technician

Shawn Behling is a broadly-trained plant physiologist finishing her PhD in the School of Environmental and Forest Resources at the University of Washington.  She holds a MS in Plant Physiology from the University of Maryland and BS degrees in Biology and English from Seattle University.  Shawn's current research focuses on community plant dynamics in low-light environments such as the Olympic Peninsula and how light can alter the patterns of growth in conifers as well as herbaceous species.  Her past research interests led her to research intercropping in Mozambique and work as a forestry fellow with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.   Shawn loves nothing more than teaching others environmental science and has led over 80 field trips for the Biology department, is a docent for the UW greenhouse and has taught multiple field courses in the Peruvian Amazon.  Her hobbies include silversmithing, painting and scuba diving.  

Samantha Everett - Local Beaver Enthusiast

Samantha Everett has a Masters degree in Library Science and currently works for the King County Library System.  Her love of beavers started twenty years ago in college in Maine where she discovered an active beaver pond.  Upon returning home to the Pacific Northwest she saw a beaver roadkill next to the Duwamish River and has been hooked on local beavers ever since.  In 2015 she spent time researching active beaver colonies within the City of Seattle using Google Earth and onsite scouting. She compiled a document with details about each site gained from contacting local organizations such as Friends groups and local government organizations.  In her free time she attended the 2017 State of the Beaver Conference in Oregon to learn more about beavers and in 2016 the Beaver Ecology Weekend in the Methow Valley to learn more about their beaver project.  She can often be found walking along the waterfront or dragging her friends to watch active beavers at dusk at Yesler Swamp.

Rodney Pond - At-Large Member

Rodney grew up exploring the estuaries, swamps, and forests of Upper Tampa Bay. He moved to the Seattle after earning a BS in Zoology from the University of Florida in 1991. He earned a MS in Forest Resources from the University of Washington in 2005 and has worked in diversity of positions in natural resource management, ecosystem restoration, and horticulture fields. His passion is for building a restorative culture for the mutual healing of people and ecosystems through social justice, education, partnerships, collaborations, and celebration. He currently is the Executive Director of Sound Salmon Solutions, one of 14 Regional
Fisheries Enhancement Groups in Washington State devoted to realizing salmon
recovery through grassroots engagement, education, and action.

Thank you to our founding board members!

Abby Hook, Jake Jacobson and Jen Vanderhoof 

Elley Palatucci - Vice President

Elley’s story begins back in the quiet neighborhoods of New England, jumping in leaf piles, shoveling snow, and hiking the mountains. After graduating with a B.A. in Environmental Studies from UVM, she sought out bigger leaf piles and mountains and ended up in Seattle. Elley worked as an environmental educator at Mercer Slough and has bounced between informal education departments at Pacific Science Center.  Currently she is the Youth and Family Programs Manager with PacSci and enjoys setting her team up for success with all of their programs. If she is not writing a budget or laminating supplies, you can find her hiking, snowshoeing, backpacking, car camping, and climbing her way through the PNW wonderland.

Mike Rustay - The Beaver Specialist

Co-founder Mike Rustay is an ecologist who has worked toward salmon recovery in Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest since 1997. In addition to years of experience collecting, analyzing and reporting salmon habitat and watershed data for the purpose of furthering salmon recovery, he has assessed and addressed beaver conflicts for most of the last 15 years. Working with private landowners, homeowner associations and agency personnel, he has installed and maintained numerous beaver devices to protect property and public infrastructure from flooding under a range of challenging conditions. Mike firmly believes that promoting beavers on the landscape is an important step to restoring the natural processes necessary to improve hydrology, and recover salmon stocks in the Northwest. He has a  BS in Environmental Science and Regional Planning from Washington State University and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems from University of Washington.


​​Ben Dittbrenner - Associate Director

Ben Dittbrenner is a co-founder of Beavers Northwest; he has been the organization’s Executive Director since inception. Ben holds an MS in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Policy from the University at Albany, and BS degrees in Biology, and Environmental Science and Conservation from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He currently is a PhD candidate in Aquatic Ecology at the University of Washington, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. His research there focuses on exploring non-traditional approaches to promote habitat enhancement and maintenance, increase ecosystem resilience, and reduced effects of climate change on riparian systems at multiple scales. He co-manages the Sky Beaver Project, which seeks to relocate beavers from areas where human-beaver conflicts would normally result in euthanization of the beaver to headwater riparian systems. The project assess how beaver dams and networks of beaver dams modify measures of stream water quantity and timing, such as residence time, base flow, hyporheic lateral flow, and stream temperature. ​Ben has managed beavers and worked with landowners to reduce conflict in a number of capacities for over 10 years. He is passionate about environmental education, creating opportunities for emerging ecologists, and providing landowners with realistic options to enable them to coexist with wildlife. 

Beavers Northwest increases acceptance and understanding of beavers to support healthier and more resilient ecosystems.


Our Mission

Mary Heather Jingco - UW DDCSP Intern

Born and raised in the Pacific, Mary Heather Jingco is interested in studying the threatened and endangered species of the Mariana Islands as well as playing a role in their conservation efforts. She is currently attending the University of Guam and is majoring in Integrative Biology. As an islander, she finds beavers and the work they do as ecosystem engineers extremely interesting, and is looking forward to spending the summer exploring wetlands and advocating for the more than human beings around her.

Madison Newton - Beaver Technician

Madison Newton studies Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management at the University of Washington with an emphasis in Wildlife Conservation. She will be graduating in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree. Her current emphasis is in ornithology and corvid research, with an ongoing project studying the effects of human symbols on the food preferences of crows. She also has experience and a love for rodents, which has led her to Beavers Northwest. In addition to her position at BNW she has been working at REI for two years. Whenever Madison is not completing schoolwork or having fun with beavers, she can be found bird watching, hiking, or making art.​

Michael Bailey - Beaver Project Manager

Michael Bailey joined Beavers Northwest in Spring of 2020. Graduating from the University of Georgia in 2015 with a B.S. in Plant Biology and the University of Washington’s Wetland Science & Management Certificate Program in 2018, his fascination with natural systems and passion for ecological restoration found him a home in outreach, education, and hands-on field work. In the past, Michael has worked with Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, Randall’s Island Urban Farm, King County’s WCC, the Snoqualmie Tribe, and many plant nurseries on the east and west coast. Leveraging teachings from academic, government, and non-profit agencies, Michael loves to apply his life experiences to efficiently help ecosystems get back to self-sufficiency.  When not in the field, he can be found playing
music in solo and group projects, generally enjoying the outdoors, and
hopefully laughing with friends.

More Information

​Contact: &(253) 242-3458

Ariana Winkler - Beaver Technician

Ariana Winkler graduated from the University of Washington in 2019, earning a B.S. in Environmental Science & Resource Management and a B.A. in Environmental Studies with minors in Restoration Ecology and Quantitative Science. After college, Ariana spent two years in the Washington Conservation Corps with the Snohomish Conservation District, working to restore many streamside habitats. Her position at Beavers Northwest gives her a unique opportunity to combine her passions of wildlife conservation and water quality. When not wading through streams, Ariana works at a small environmental laboratory and enjoys nature walks, paddle boarding, and indoor soccer. 

Board of Directors

Paul Schlenger - Treasurer

Paul Schlenger is a fisheries biologist with 20 years of experience on salmon habitat restoration in the Pacific Northwest. He has a Master’s degree in Fisheries from the University of Washington where he worked on juvenile sockeye salmon ecology in Alaska. As a consultant based in Seattle, Paul works on restoration and resource management projects in freshwater, estuarine, and marine nearshore settings. He enjoys assessing site conditions and developing sustainable solutions to benefit the resources while working within existing constraints. Given the many benefits of beavers to water resources and juvenile salmon rearing, Paul is interested in finding creative solutions for landowners and beavers to co-exist in our watersheds.

Eli Ferris - Beaver Technician 

Eli Ferris graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2016 with a B.S. in wildlife conservation. He spent his time on the east coast volunteering at local animal shelters and found his niche in rabbits, weasels, and rodents. After making his way to Washington in the summer of 2019, he began working with the Washington Conservation Corps to focus his efforts on environmental stewardship, ultimately leading him to Beavers Northwest. As a newcomer to the state he is currently trying to figure out how best to hike up every mountain Washington has to offer. Above all else, he is an avid chef, dancer, and prankster.

Alyssa Magliaro - UW DDCSP Intern

Alyssa Magliaro studies Systems Biology at Case Western Reserve University with a focus in ecology and evolution. She is from Tucson, AZ and has a deep love for the desert. She hopes that after graduation she will be working in sustainable wetland restoration. She is also passionate about science communication and advocates for the more than human through her photography. 

Elyssa Kerr - Executive Director

Elyssa Kerr stepped into the role of Executive Director in 2019 after nearly three years managing projects and programming for Beavers Northwest. She holds a BS from the University of Washington and is pursuing a certificate in Nonprofit Management. Elyssa has been working in the Pacific Northwest as a restoration practitioner and environmental educator for several years. She is passionate about exploring and maintaining the amazing habitats that beavers create and enjoys sharing the benefits of these ecosystems with people of all ages through interactive and experiential programming. She has installed many beaver management devices throughout the region and has assisted with implementing similar programs across the Western United States. She splits her time working at Beavers Northwest and the Snohomish Conservation District. When not wading through beaver ponds, she can be found exploring intertidal invertebrates on local beaches, cultivating her home garden, or snuggling and reading with her cat, Elon Meowsk.

More Information



Jen Vanderhoof - President

Jen Vanderhoof graduated with a degree in Wildlife Biology from Kansas State University in 1992 and has been working as a biologist in some form ever since. She a Senior Ecologist in the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks' Science Section, where she’s been since 1999. Previous employers have been the City of Seattle, where she was a biologist on the Cedar River Watershed, The Nature Conservancy of Georgia, where she worked on Red-cockaded Woodpecker projects, Oregon State University working on Spotted Owl projects in southwest Oregon, and as a fisheries observer for three winters in Alaska. Jen's current work at the County focuses on beaver management and also includes wildlife-related policy, climate change, riparian and wetland restoration, and a shoreline restoration project. In her free time, she enjoys bird photography and underwater photography, and she also occasionally writes about her underwater exploits and escapades at