Festival Speakers and Workshop Leaders
Read about the 11th annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival speakers, workshop leaders, bird walk leaders and more.
Dan Collins has spent the last 11 years at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico working on a variety of different species, such as, northern pintail, mottled ducks, Mexican ducks, redhead ducks, white-faced ibis, and last but not least sandhill cranes. For the past 10 years, he has been involved in research and monitoring of the Rocky Mountain and Lower Colorado River Populations of Greater Sandhill Cranes. He has been fortunate to trap and mark close to 1000 cranes, fly fall surveys, conduct recruitment surveys, and be involved with many aspects of western Greater Sandhill Crane management and conservation at local, regional, and Flyway scales. Previously, Dan worked in Portland, Oregon dealing with annual hunting regulations and survey and monitoring of game birds.
Dan played low-level professional soccer upon completion of his undergraduate degree in Biology but ultimately decided against coaching and went back to receive his master’s degree at Sul Ross State University. During this time, he worked as a field technician with Gunnison sage grouse, gambels quail, mourning dove, and mearns quail and as a Fire Management Technician. Dan earned his Ph.D. at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Dan lives in NE Albuquerque with his wife, Julia, son Daniel (15 years old), daughter Evelyn (12 years old), daughter Emily (7 years old) and dogs Pearl, Ruby, and Birdie. Outside of work Dan enjoys long distance trail running, photography, hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, and anything else that gets him/his family out the door.
Al Batt is a Minnesotan, a birder, a writer, a speaker, and a storyteller. Al writes about nature in newspapers and magazines, and does weekly radio shows about birds and nature. He is the author of the book, A Life Gone to the Birds. He is a trustee of the American Bald Eagle Foundation in Haines, Alaska, and has received the Ed Franey Media Award from the Izaak Walton League, the Thomas Sadler Roberts Award from the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union for lifetime contributions to birding, and received recognition from Bluebirds Across Nebraska for outstanding contributions to wildlife conservation. Al loves birds, birders, and birdy places. The sight of a chickadee thrills him to no end. Al speaks to anyone who will listen. His mother thinks he’s a big deal.
Ted Floyd, who went to high school long ago, endeavors to keep up with Hannah and Andrew. When he’s not chasing after those two, he lurks behind the computer monitor, editing Birding magazine and writing field guides. With Kei Sochi (spouse, Hannah and Andrew’s mom), Ted lives in Lafayette, Colorado.
Andrew Floyd is a 15-year-old enjoyer of birds, reptiles, spiders, and bicycles. He is in the 10th grade at Centaurus High School in Lafayette, Colorado, and he enjoys looking for owls at night with his dad. The cranes, community, and biking in Steamboat Springs are all big attractions for Andrew.
Hannah Floyd is a high school senior from Lafayette, Colorado. She is interested in ecology and marine science and spends time photographing birds, arthropods, and herps. Hannah is also interested in scientific name etymology. Besides her nature study, Hannah plays soccer, practices oboe and clarinet, and enjoys reading and writing.
Erin Gelling is the Program Director for Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition. She received her M.S. in Rangeland Ecology from University of Wyoming working with one of her favorite birds, Greater Sage-grouse. She has a strong background in avian ecology, botany, and environmental education having worked for non-profits, government, and universities. For over 14 years, she has worked with a variety of birds, including plovers, sparrows, shorebirds, sage-grouse, and her other favorite bird, Sandhill Cranes, across the U.S. She loves the outdoors, her two dogs and husband, living in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and getting distracted by birds and plants.
Erv Nichols and Sandra Noll have traveled extensively sharing their skills as naturalists, photographers, lecturers and interpretive guides in a wide variety of Fish and Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, Audubon Centers and other conservation areas.
They have a special connection with Sandhill Cranes and have been featured speakers and guides at Festivals in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska. They’ve been featured in a nature video “Migrating With the Sandhill Cranes” by Bryan Nelson and were consultants on PBS’s recent “Nature” special “Born in the Rockies.” Whether from a viewing deck, lecture hall or guiding bird walks, their passion connects people with our nation’s special landscapes and wildlife.
Liz Smith is a native Texan and during her formative years, she experienced the natural diversity and abundance of the estuarine coastal habitat through outdoor activities, such as sailing, fishing, and surfing. At 10 years old, she and her family saw their first Whooping Cranes within the wintering range on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge when less than 44 individuals remained in the wild. She received formal academic training at Corpus Christi State University (B.S., M.S.) in biology and Texas A&M University (Ph.D.) in wildlife & fishery sciences and focused her career on habitat assessment and conservation planning as a Research Scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. In 2011, she joined the International Crane Foundation (ICF) and recently stepped down as North America Programs Director. She now serves as Sr. Whooping Crane Scientist with ICF Gulf Coast Programs working with private landowners and partners focused on habitat conservation, coastal ecosystem health, and stakeholder leadership in coastal Texas.
Chris Wood is the Director of eBird and Managing Director for the Center of Avian Population Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Much of his time is focused on leading the eBird and Engineering team within the Center for Avian Populations Studies. He and his team have developed a novel approach to citizen science by engaging diverse communities interested in watching birds while developing partnerships with scientists in a wide variety of fields. eBird has become a major source of biodiversity data, increasing our knowledge of the dynamics of species distributions, and having a direct impact on the conservation of birds and their habitats. Participants have collectively spent more than 100 million hours collecting effort-based checklists, amassing more than one billion records, from every country in the world. He is widely recognized as a leading authority on bird identification, distribution, and engaging the public in science.
Julie Arington grew up with bird-watching parents in rural Southern Illinois. She studied Wildlife Biology and received a B.S. in Biology from Murray State University. After several field research assistant positions all over the country, Julie was hired as a park ranger by Colorado State Parks (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) in 1999. She has been the Park Manager at Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake State Parks since 2006 where she manages people, recreation, facilities, and the natural resources of the Parks.
Ellen Bonnifield’s insatiable curiosity has taken her in many directions. A degree in library science allowed her to use her chemistry and math background while exploring new areas in a variety of library settings. An “accidental” career in teaching took her from preschool story hour to university teaching. As Ellen and her husband collaborated on writing about the twentieth century American west, Ellen considered herself the “research” partner but found that she did much of the editing. Several years ago she started writing poetry about nature and her experiences as a “Ditch Rider.” Currently, she co-authors with her husband a monthly local history column for the Valley Voice. Combining her love of nature, her curiosity, her experience teaching, and her desire to share the excitement of life with others now leads her to facilitate nature-journaling workshops.
Liz Leipold, MS OTR, RYT, works as an Occupational Therapist, Yoga Teacher and Ski Instructor in Steamboat Springs. Liz is certified with Shambhava Yoga, Yoga Kids International, and Yoga Nidra. Liz believes yoga is a continuous journey that relaxes the mind and heals and strengthens the body. Come join Liz in an interactive Yoga class focusing on the life, culture and body language dance of our beautiful Sandhill Cranes.
Leslie Lovejoy has been intrigued by art since she was a child growing up in Paris, France with her family. After studying Fine Arts at Colorado State University, she traveled back to Europe, the Middle East and the Far East, illustrating her way around the world for almost ten years. She has lived in Steamboat Springs for 38 years, working as a graphic artist, and using her artistic skills in all work that she has done. Many of her pieces are “plein aire” style, painted while on her frequent hikes, canoes and skiing in the backcountry.
Karen Vail received a B.S. in Horticulture, with a concentration in Botany from Colorado State University, and earned her Master’s Degree in Gardening from the Royal Horticultural Society in England. She taught Botany at the community college in Steamboat Springs and introduced people to local wildflowers through summer wildflower walks. She has published two books, For the Joy of Wildflowers: Colorado Creations, and Yampa Valley Visions: Photography and Writing of a Yampa Valley Naturalist. She also co-published the video/DVD A Season of Wildflowers: The Rocky Mountains. Karen runs her own landscaping business and continues to be active in education through Yampatika, a local environmental education organization. She will be leading the Saturday nature walk during the festival.
Cindy Wither is a retired art teacher, having taught many forms of art to all ages in Idaho, Colorado, Germany and Zambia. She has a lifetime interest in birds and, when living in Zambia, was a member of the Zambian Ornithological Society, going on many wonderful bird walks. Currently she is a watercolor artist painting both in the studio and outside painting Plein Air watercolors year around. She has worked with all ages teaching them drawing and painting outdoors – helping to see, not just look, as they are drawing and painting. She loves to see the results as someone says “oh I never realized all the shapes, details and colors that are in that flower”. Cindy is assisting Ellen Bonnifield in the nature-journaling workshop.
Nature’s Educators is a 501c3 wildlife education and rehabilitation program licensed by USFWS, USDA, and CPW. They travel the state and surrounding states to give an average 900 educational presentations on wildlife each year. The organization was founded by Devin Jaffe in 2008 in Canon City, Colorado and has since expanded to have facilities in Florence and Sedalia, Colorado. Nature’s Educators is partnered with the Raptor Conservation Alliance in Nebraska. The organization is also partnered with the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City, Colorado to provide educational raptor presentations 7 days a week, 4 times a day, Memorial Day through Labor Day in the theater. They are currently constructing a public nature center in Florence that will have herptiles and invertebrates on display, but will also be able to be used as a classroom for field trips.
Bird Walk Leaders
My name is Grey Barbier and I am a sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School. I have been passionate about birding and wildlife photography for the past three years. This passion led me to witnessing the migration of Sandhill Cranes in our valley for the first time and hooked me into getting involved with this organization. Photography has brought me deeper into the world of birds and understanding their lives. I have contributed to short documentaries and bird walks in past years for this festival. I love being outdoors in general but birds especially interest me and the Sandhill Crane is no exception. I am fascinated with the cranes of our valley and enjoy photographing, observing, and monitoring the nests of our resident cranes. I hope to continue to be involved with this organization and the Sandhill Cranes.
Al Batt, see above under Additional Speakers.
My name is Noah Brinkman and I am a sophomore at Steamboat Springs high School. I first started birding nearly 4 years ago, and since then it has blossomed into a full-fledged obsession with birding and wildlife photography. I have participated in the last few crane festivals and I absolutely love them. They are so much fun and very educational. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the festival went virtual and I helped contribute with three mini-documentaries. I won the First Crane Sighting contest in 2021, and have a deep love for the Greater Sandhill Cranes in the Yampa Valley.
Chip Clouse is a ProStaffer for Opticron optics and former General Manager of the Front Range Birding Company. He is also a long-time bird tour leader and Reefs to Rockies’ Lead Naturalist Guide. Originally enamored with tooth and claw predators, his love and fascination with birds started by volunteering with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to monitor Peregrine Falcon nest sites while an undergraduate and was cemented once he saw his first Western Tanager while working for the Peregrine Fund in Oregon. Chip’s experience includes 20+ years of bird research and project management experience in nine states and the Caribbean nation of Grenada, a Masters in Conservation Biology from Colorado State University, five years as Education and Outreach Director with the American Birding Association, and stints guiding at 15+ different US birding festivals. He loves to talk birds and optics, so ask away!
Ted Floyd, see above under Additional Speakers.
Andrew Floyd, see above under Additional Speakers.
Hannah Floyd, see above under Additional Speakers.
Forrest Luke has been a passionate birder for 40+ years (and yes, he is getting a little long in the tooth). He has lived in Craig for nearly 30 years and recently retired from a career in mined land reclamation and environmental permitting and compliance. He serves on the boards of the Colorado Field Ornithologists and Memorial Regional Health. He works as a part time bird guide, leading grouse and other bird tours around Colorado and adjacent states and has served as a regional compiler/editor for various bird-related organizations.
Tresa & David Moulton moved to Colorado in 2004 after retiring from careers in the Washington DC area. Upon arriving in Steamboat Springs, CO, they immediately took up birding as a major hobby. They have become regular participants in the Yampa Valley Birding Club including leading numerous walks for the club and other organizations. David and Tresa are interested in all wildlife and enjoy the many creatures in the Northwest Colorado area. David is a storyteller and has given interpretive presentations about Pelicans at Stagecoach State Park.
Alan Reishus of Craig Colorado has been a resident of the northwest corner of the state for 45 years, and has a passion for birds, bird habitat, and all things outdoorsy and related to wildlife. Now retired from a career in medicine, he has more time for such pursuits.
Allan has a special interest in waterfowl, raptors and cavity nesting birds. He started a string of nest boxes for mountain bluebirds over 30 years ago and continues to build, install, monitor and clean the boxes for his blue friends. He has installed nesting structures for kestrels and Canada geese in the Steamboat/Craig area. Most recently he installed a number of towers and platforms for ospreys, which has been a success story. The outdoors is where Allan wants to spend his days.
Rebecca Weiss is a birding guide, writer and naturalist living in Aspen, Colorado. She is author of Birds of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley and leads the birding program for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Lisa Williams moved to the Yampa Valley in 1968 and Paul Williams arrived 6 years later. Birding is second nature to Lisa. She has shared her enthusiasm with Paul and all others who go on walks and hikes with her. Paul helps her spot birds on walks while continuing to learn new identification techniques. Lisa enjoys sharing her knowledge with her fellow bird watchers and continues to try to master the challenge of identifying birds by listening to their songs. She co-led bird walks for over a decade, with Nancy Merrill, at the Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch property in Hayden. Paul enjoys being part of the support team when he participates on bird walks. He often joins the crane viewings for the early morning fly-ins. He’s in charge of bringing along the spotting scope which comes in handy when birds cooperate and sit long enough to be brought into focus. Both Lisa and Paul have been part of the Yampa Valley Birding Club, CCCC and the Crane Festival since their inception.
Chris Wood, see above under Additional Speakers.
Please visit our photo gallery for more photos of current and past festival speakers and workshop leaders.
Bird Walk Special Assistants
Chris Becea of Morning Light Photography will be assisting with Nature’s Educators Live Raptor Photo Shoot. He has been volunteering for CCCC ever since he fell in love with photographing Sandhill Cranes and realized the importance of protecting this bird and their habitats. Chris’ passion for photography started young, and his love of the outdoors soon found him photographing nature and wildlife, so he chose to pursue a career in photography. Although he left photography as a career after the digital revolution, it never left him so in 2015 he decided to pursue his passion as a career once again. Chris holds a degree in Fine Arts as well as his B.S. in History and secondary education. Visit his online art store to see some of his work.
Chris resides in Steamboat Springs Colorado and can often be found in the backcountry hiking, fishing, backpacking, skiing, snowshoeing, and of course taking photographs to share with the world.
Laurel Watson, curator of the Hayden Heritage Center Museum since 2010, will be assisting with the ‘History and Bird Walk’ at Mt Harris. She originally hails from the East Coast coming to the Valley over 30 years ago. She studied at Regis University obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science with an emphasis on history and a minor in secondary education then went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in American History. She wrote the book Yampa Valley Sin Circuit and has written several articles for newspapers and magazines on local history topics. She has served on the Board of Historic Routt County and has taught at both Colorado Northwestern Community College and Colorado Mountain College. She is passionate about our local area history and is currently working on a book about the coal mining towns that no longer exist along Hwy 40 in West Routt County.
Spirit Wind Aerial Arts dancers, led by local aerialist Heidi Miller, will perform elegant high-flying dance in the hammock and silks, suspended high over the Library Lawn.
The Broad Band is a local group of women who have banded together for their love of music and have been performing locally for the past 9 years. Their music encompasses a large span of time and genres with the commonality of vocal harmonies. They will play live on the Library Lawn during Friday night’s First Friday Artwalk and Crane Yard Art Auction.