Speakers

Below is a list of speakers for Sustaining Wisconsin's Environment & Economy: Responding to Climate Change. Please click on a name to see a brief bio of that speaker.


Nino Amato is the government relations and policy development specialist for the Wisconsin Farmers Union. He is working on a number of environmental issues involving energy conservation and efficiency, renewable energy and global warming.

Amato is a successful business executive and civic leader who has served on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, the University of Wisconsin Hospital Authority Board, and as president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. He holds a master of arts degree from the Robert M. La Follette Institute of Public Affairs and a bachelor's degree in education, both at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Amato has served in key leadership roles under Republican and Democratic governors. Most recently, he served on Governor Jim Doyle's Task Force on Energy Efficiency, Conservation and Renewable Energy, as well as on former Governor Tommy Thompson's Council on Biotechnology.

Amato has served as a senior executive in the energy and health care industries and is the founder and president of Nino Amato & Associates, LLC, a management development and governmental affairs consulting firm. He also serves as a confidant and professional coach to executives on issues involving sustainable economic development, green consumerism, global warming solutions and the transformation of organizational cultures.

Amato has been actively engaged in environmental affairs and global warming issues for over 20 years. He was an active participant in the passage of Wisconsin's acid rain legislation that reduced sulfur-dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants in Wisconsin and was involved in the 1990 Clean Air Act. Amato is also engaged in the national campaign for Focus the Nation, which is advancing global warming solutions in the U.S. and abroad.

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Photo: Todd Ambs

Todd Ambs was appointed as Administrator of the DNR Water Division on January 7, 2003. As administrator, Ambs guides the activities of 650 employees in programs including Watershed Management, water quality management of state water bodies; Fisheries Management and Habitat Protection, managing and monitoring aquatic ecosystems and habitat, managing commercial and sport fisheries; and Drinking and Groundwater Management, which includes assuring the safety, quality and availability of drinking water and groundwater.

Prior to his appointment, Ambs served as executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin, a non-profit statewide conservation group. He has more than 20 years of experience in public policy and with environmental issues for nonprofit organizations and state agencies. Prior to the River Alliance, he served as a senior policy analyst for then Attorney General Jim Doyle. He also served on Governor Doyle's transition team. In the past, Ambs served as executive director of Ohio's River's Unlimited, a statewide river group, the policy director for the Ohio Attorney General, and communications director for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He was honored by the national conservation group River Network as a 2003 National River Hero.

Ambs serves on a number of water related boards and commissions including the Great Lakes Commission, Council of Great Lakes Governors, Great Lakes Protection Fund, Upper Mississippi River Basin Association and the Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission.

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Jim Baumann has worked for the Department of Natural Resources for 30 years, primarily in activities related to controlling pollutants in runoff from urban and rural nonpoint sources. He has represented the state of Wisconsin, the National Governors Association and other national organizations on federal advisory committees to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Baumann is a special assistant to the director of the Bureau of Watershed Management. His current assignments include developing nutrient criteria for lakes and streams, coordinating a PCB removal project and representing water programs on Farm Bill issues. Baumann has a master's degree in environmental studies and a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Photo: Steve Born

Steve Born is an emeritus professor of urban and regional planning and environmental studies.

Broad research interests: natural resources and environmental planning and policy with emphases on water, land, and related resources; the institutional dimensions of planning and policy-making, especially at state, regional, and international levels; integrated environmental management.

Professor Born's current research program involves: innovative approaches to watershed planning and management, conceptualization and operationalization of integrated natural resources management and planning, institutional analysis, evolution and innovation regarding national/subnational water policy, and land use planning and management, with a focus on state and local governmental roles and options.

Extension education activities have closely paralleled research interests, with the greatest emphasis on establishing new directions and building capacity for extension programming in water and related resources; growth management and land-water interrelationships.

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Randy Cortright is a co-founder and the executive vice president and chief technology officer of Virent Energy Systems. He has extensive experience in the catalysis field in both industry and research environments. Cortright has worked as a process engineer for UOP, LLC in Asia, the Middle East and South America. He spent several years in the laboratory specializing in catalytic systems for the clean manufacturing of fuels and petrochemicals at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he co-invented Virent's innovative Aqueous Phase Reforming pathway. Cortright has a PhD. in chemical engineering, holds seven patents and is the author of more than 40 technical publications.

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Photo: Dan Cotter

Dan Cotter is a district conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Darlington Field Office in Lafayette County. For the past 30 years, Cotter has been directly assisting farmers with soil and water conservation measures, including previous positions in Grant and Crawford Counties. Lafayette County is the most agriculturally dependent county in Wisconsin, and highly erodible land is farmed on more than 235,000 acres there. Farm operations in the driftless region are diverse and of significant size.

Cotter graduated with degrees in natural resource management, soil science, biology and secondary education from UW-Stevens Point. In addition to hunting and fishing, he also enjoys scuba diving, whitewater kayaking and observed motorcycle trials competition. Five years ago he began making biodiesel from waste vegetable oil to fuel the Volkswagen Rabbit diesel fleet.

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Craig Cox is executive director of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, in Ankeny, Iowa. SWCS is a professional society dedicated to promoting the art and science of natural resource conservation.

Cox has worked as a field biologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, directing a program of land and water resource management in the Minnesota State Park System. He has served as senior staff officer with the Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C., where he directed three major studies, including Soil and Water Quality: An Agenda for Agriculture and Rangeland Health: New Methods of Classifying, Inventorying, and Monitoring Rangelands.

In 1994, Cox joined the staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. He covered natural resource and environmental issues and helped develop much of the conservation title of the farm bill that was passed in March 1996. He then joined the Natural Resources Conservation Service as a special assistant to the chief, where he was responsible for policy development and a number of special projects. In 1998 Craig served briefly as Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment in the Department of Agriculture, before joining SWCS.

Cox has a B.S. degree in wildlife management and a master's degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics, specializing in natural resource and environmental policy, both from the University of Minnesota.

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Jamie Derr is a farming member of the Wisconsin Soy Marketing Board, a biodiesel pioneer and grassroots organizer. Since 2002, he has conducted conferences and workshops throughout the country promoting the many benefits of biodiesel. As an advocate for biofuels, he has testified successfully on behalf of the Wisconsin Clean School Bus Initiative and has been an active member of the National Biodiesel Board since its infancy. As a farmer, through agriculture and agricultural technology research, he has become an influential source for policy development and biofuels enterprise in the state of Wisconsin. He is the working head of distribution and logistics for Great Lakes BioFuels, holding the title chief operating officer for the company.

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Photo: Judy Derricks

Judy Derricks is the state agronomist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Madison. She provides technical leadership for conservation and agronomy for NRCS in Wisconsin. Derricks has been with the agency 19 years, with much of that time spent working with landowners in local NRCS field offices across the state.

In addition to conservation work, she taught agriculture for seven years and was active as a dairy farmer throughout much of her career. She is still involved in the family farm operation. Derricks is a graduate of UW-Madison in agricultural education.

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Photo: Jon Foley

Jon Foley is the director of the Nelson Institute's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison, where he is also the Gaylord Nelson Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences.

Foley's work focuses on the behavior of complex global environmental systems and their interactions with human societies. In particular, Foley's research group uses state-of-the-art computer models and satellite measurements to analyze changes in land use, ecosystems, climate and freshwater resources across local, regional and global scales. He and his students and colleagues have contributed to our understanding of large-scale ecosystem processes, global patterns of land use, the behavior of the planet's water and carbon cycles, and the interactions between ecosystems and the atmosphere.

Foley joined the University of Wisconsin faculty in 1993 as the first Bryson Distinguished Professor of Climate, People and Environment. He has won numerous awards and honors, including the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Award, the Samuel C. Johnson Distinguished Faculty Fellowship, the J.S. McDonnell Foundation's 21st Century Science Award, and the Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America. In 1997, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He has also been named a Vilas Associate and Romnes Fellow of the University of Wisconsin, and an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow of the Ecological Society of America. He is currently the chief editor of the interdisciplinary scientific journal, Earth Interactions.

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Photo: Lewis Gilbert

Lewis Gilbert is the Associate Director of the Nelson Institute. Before joining the Nelson Institute in 2005, Lewis Gilbert helped design, implement, and manage interdisciplinary programs at several universities.

He was a founding member and, from 1999 to 2003, executive director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. For six years before that, he led a variety of other strategic initiatives at Columbia. He helped organize research teams of earth, life and social scientists, which, under his guidance, launched more than 10 major local and international projects.

He left the Earth Institute in 2003 and established his own consulting business but continued to teach a course, Environmental Policy, Politics and Management, for Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs.

Throughout his career, he has focused on improving the links between scientific understanding and decision- and policy-making. He has written and spoken on the theory of interdisciplinarity and on sustainability and been involved in discussions about the governance of science and technology.

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Photo: Eugene Hahn

Eugene Hahn is a State Representative in Wisconsin's 47th Assembly District representing communities in Dane, Columbia, and Sauk Counties. He is the Chairman of the Biofuels and Sustainable Energy Committee in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

Representative Hahn has been a member of the Assembly since 1990 and is regarded by his colleagues as an advocate for improving Wisconsin's biofuels industry and rural economy. Hahn lives with his wife Lorraine near their Columbia County farm in the town of Springvale.

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Steve Hiniker became executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin in October 2003, but he has been involved with the organization since its inception as one of the organization's founding board members. Prior to joining the 1000 Friends staff, he was executive director of the Wisconsin Citizens Utility Board, a non-profit organization dedicated to representing the interests of residential utility customers. He has also served as the environmental policy coordinator for the city of Milwaukee, where he developed and successfully lobbied for environmental liability reform legislation ("brownfields legislation"), developed pro-transit transportation funding plans and developed the innovative "blue cart" recycling program. His legislative experience includes working with State Senator Joe Strohl, during which time he developed policy for recycling, transportation, air emissions trading and education, and was responsible for all media relations in the office.

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Brett Hulsey is president and founder of Better Environmental Solutions, a consulting firm promoting practical solutions to save lives, jobs and money. He is a board member of the Wisconsin Biodiesel Association and chairs its public education and outreach committee.

Hulsey's clients include Alliant Energy, the Wisconsin Soybean Association, the Governors' Ethanol Coalition, Best Energies, C 5-6 Technologies, Madison Gas and Electric, American Coalition for Ethanol, the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, the Wisconsin BioIndustry Alliance, the Wisconsin Ethanol Producers Association, Renew Energy ethanol producers, Grand River Ethanol, RiverWright Ethanol, and North Prairie Productions Biodiesel Producers.

Hulsey has been a Dane County Board supervisor since 1998 and chairs the Dane County Lakes and Watersheds Commission and the personnel and finance committee. He serves on the National Association of Counties' environment, energy and land use steering committee, where he authored policies to fund more farm conservation practices, restore wetlands, and call for immediate action to reduce global warming air pollution.

Hulsey frequently lectures around the country on biofuel, agriculture, energy and environmental issues. He has more than 25 years of public service experience, including environmental policy advisor to President Clinton and energy conservation advocate in the Carter Administration during the 1970's energy crisis. He served as the senior Midwest representative for the Sierra Club in the nine-state Midwest region, focusing on air, water, agriculture, Smart Growth and wetlands issues. He worked on the 1985, 1990, and 2002 farm bills, and is a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and UCS Sound Science Initiative.

Brett has a master's degree in Natural Science from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Political Economy from Middlebury College.

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Photo: Tom Jeffries

Tom Jeffries received his Ph.D. in microbiology from Rutgers University in 1975, then worked for two years on long-range planning for the development of renewable fuels from biomass at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Following two years of post-doctoral study in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Columbia University, he joined the staff at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison in 1979. In 1990, Jeffries became affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Bacteriology, and he was promoted to professor in 1998. He teaches biotechnology and industrial microbiology at UW-Madison and conducts research into the pathway engineering of xylose metabolism in Pichia stipitis and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Jeffries has authored approximately 125 publications and 10 patents and has presented numerous lectures to national and international audiences. He serves on the editorial board for various journals, including Metabolic Engineering, Enzyme and Microbial Technology and Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. He is a fellow of the Society for Industrial Microbiology, the American Academy of Microbiology and the International Academy of Wood Science. He was the 2003 recipient of the Charles D. Scott Award for the development of technology for ethanol from cellulose, and in 2006 the Chief of the Forest Service recognized him for his external technology transfer efforts.

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Matt Johnston is a Land Resources Ph.D. candidate studying energy analysis and policy in the Nelson Institute's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. Johnston's research focuses on land-use and air-quality impacts of increased biofuels use. His master's thesis assessed global potential for biodiesel (both volumes and prices) from existing agricultural sources and compared individual country results across economic, energy, and environmental metrics to determine which are most likely to realize their potential. Johnston's most recent endeavor involves an analysis of the impacts of proposed petroleum reduction policies in Wisconsin. In July 2006, the state announced it would reduce petroleum demand by 25% by 2025. His research will assess biofuels potential from existing sources and look at the impacts of meeting the gap between production possibilities and policy targets.

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Photo: Lisa MacKinnon

Lisa MacKinnon is the policy director for 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. Her work focuses on developing and advocating for sound land use policies and sustainable development on the state and local levels—including Wisconsin's comprehensive planning law, balanced transportation choices, and forest fragmentation prevention. MacKinnon is a co-founder and coordinator of the North American Eco-Municipality Network, which was established in 2005 to support the development of eco-municipalities in Wisconsin and beyond. She serves as an information and implementation resource on the eco-municipality model and sustainable development for communities around the state and is a U.S. contact and coordinator for the Sustainable Sweden Eco-Municipality Study Tours.

MacKinnon previously directed the 1000 Friends of Wisconsin Land Use Institute's Rural Counsel Project and worked with Wisconsin's rural communities to implement their land use plans through land use ordinances. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School lives in Madison with her husband and daughter.

1000 Friends of Wisconsin is a statewide nonprofit organization that educates citizens and policy makers about the benefits of responsible land use planning. 1000 Friends advocates for healthy rural and urban communities and the protection of our economic, cultural and natural resources statewide.

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Photo: Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy is the state resource conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Wisconsin State Office in Madison. He oversees development and implementation of NRCS agronomic and non-engineering practice standards, interprets program and conservation planning policy, oversees technical training of staff, and carries out quality control activities for federal conservation programs and planning in the state. Murphy graduated from UW-Stevens Point with a major in soil science and minor in water resources. He is a certified crop advisor and certified conservation planner.

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Photo: Rod Nilsestuen

Rod Nilsestuen became Wisconsin's Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in January 2003. He had previously served as president and CEO of the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives (WFC) for 24 years, building it into one of the most respected cooperative trade associations in the country. He also headed the Minnesota Association of Cooperatives, which worked in an alliance with WFC. He founded Cooperative Development Services, a first-of-its kind model for new cooperative development; spearheaded the overhaul of the Wisconsin Agriculture Marketing Act; and played a pivotal role in the creation and establishment of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, a major dairy promotional program, as well as the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board.

Nilsestuen provided the initial leadership in the development of Wisconsin Dairy 2020, the state's program to bring together a cross-section of the dairy industry to better its economic and political environment. For the past decade, under Rod's direction, WFC coordinated and staffed the Midwest Dairy Coalition, an industry-wide coalition dedicated to reforming federal dairy policy to give Wisconsin and Midwestern dairy producers a more level playing field.

He is a founding chair of the National Rural Cooperative Development Task Force, a pioneering effort that has resulted in the creation of 17 co-op centers and hundreds of coop development projects nationwide. He is a past chair and board member of the National Cooperative Business Association and the Cooperative Foundation, and has also served on the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program, the Governor's Commission on Agriculture, and as initial chair of the Coalition for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching and the UW Board of Visitors. He is a 1970 graduate of UW-River Falls and received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1974. Nilsestuen and his wife Carol live in DeForest and have three sons.

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Photo: Pete Nowak

Pete Nowak received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota's College of Agriculture in 1977. He served as both an assistant and associate professor at Iowa State University before joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin in 1985. At the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in Madison he holds multiple appointments as a Soil and Water Conservation Specialist in the Environmental Resources Center, Research Professor in the Department of Rural Sociology, and Chair of Academic Programs in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. He also served as Chair of the Wisconsin Buffer Initiative for the last three years. Pete's career has focused on measuring and explaining the adoption and diffusion of agricultural technologies, especially those with natural resource management implications. More recently he has focused on examining the application of spatial analytical techniques and statistics to critical issues in resource management.

His work has been published in a variety of journals and books. He has served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, Editorial Board of the Journal of Precision Agriculture and on the Foundation for Environmental Agricultural Education. In the recent past he has worked with the National Academy of Science's Board on Agriculture, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and a National Blue Ribbon Panel examining the USDA Conservation Effectiveness Assessment Project. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

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Photo: Gary Radloff

Gary Radloff is the Director of Policy and Strategic Communications at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). He served as a lead staff policy and communication advisor for two major Wisconsin policy projects; Governor Jim Doyle's Consortium on the Biobased Industry and the Working Lands Initiative. The Governor's Consortium is a roadmap for positioning Wisconsin to play a key role in promoting the use of renewable energy and growing the state's bioeconomy. The Working Lands Initiative is a report of detailed policy steps and strategies to protect the source of biomass – the Wisconsin working lands in agriculture and forestry. Radloff has previously served as the legislative liaison for the Department of Health and Family Services as well as having professional experience as a lobbyist and a journalist. He currently serves on the Wisconsin Public Service Commission's Universal Service Fund Council, the Advisory Board of the Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin, the Steering Committee of the Midwest Agriculture Energy Network, and the Biomass Working Group policy team for the Great Plains Institute. He is also staff to the North Central BioEconomy Consortium, a 12-state partnership of Agriculture departments, University Extension offices and Agriculture Research Stations located in the North Central Region of the United States. He has a Master's Degree in Public Administration and Public Policy.

Photo: Frances Westley

Frances Westley became director of UW-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in January 2005. Before that, she was James McGill Chair of Strategy, executive director of the McGill-McConnell Program for Voluntary Sector Leaders, and professor of strategy in the Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

She helped develop McGill's School for the Environment, serving on the Executive Committee of the School for five years and acting as a Theme Leader for Sustainability and the Global Environment. She designed and taught a course for MBA students at McGill, titled Strategies for Sustainability, and has consulted with private sector organizations about sustainability and innovation.

She has also served on many boards of science-based environmental organizations, including the IUCN-The World Conservation Union (formerly the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, the Science Board of the Resilience Alliance, the Bedford Institutes Centre for Marine Biology, the Canadian Biodiversity Institute and Evergreen.

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Photo: Kim Zuhlke

Kim Zuhlke has held a wide range of executive positions at Alliant Energy and its predecessor companies over the past 29 years, including energy delivery operations, sales, marketing and engineering.

In his current position as vice president of new energy resources, Zuhlke is responsible for driving the overall process of developing and implementing a future supply portfolio of domestic utility generation. He educates and works with key stakeholder groups to create an atmosphere that will allow continued successful operation of the company's new and existing domestic utility generation assets.