Our People

Directors & Officers


Chris Braunlich

Chris Braunlich, Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Chris joined the Board of Conservation Volunteers International Program in 2009, serving initially as Director and Chief Financial Officer, then as Chief Executive Officer, before becoming Board Chair in 2021. She has a B.A. in Economics and an MBA in finance from the University of California at Berkeley. She started her career at Bank of America, working in a variety of international lending, corporate lending, treasury management and project financing functions. She later worked as Chief Financial Officer at two publicly traded companies. Chris has had a life-long dedication to volunteering. Prior to her involvement with ConservationVIP®, she volunteered as Chief Financial Officer at Bay Area Model Mugging, a nonprofit providing self-defense training to women and children, and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate with CASA of Contra Costa County. Chris lives in Briones, California and spends as much of her free time as possible hiking in the mountains with her husband.

Carol Clark

Carol Clark, Director

Carol retired after 32 years with the National Park Service where she had the honor of being the Superintendent of Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve, New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Canaveral National Seashore, Big Cypress National Preserve, where she served as the Deputy Superintendent as well as acting Superintendent at De Soto National Memorial. Before those assignments, she was an Administrative Officer at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Other assignments included positions at Chiricahua National Monument, the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the National Mall and Memorial Parks as an Interpreter, where she later had the opportunity of acting as the Deputy Superintendent. Carol also has experience working on All Risk Management and Incident Command positions in fire, hurricanes and special events. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from The Evergreen State College, Olympia WA and attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as a Senior Executive Fellow. Carol volunteers with the American Red Cross, Michigan State DNR invasive plant removal program, Macomb Literacy Partners tutoring Reading and English as a Second Language and Organization for Bat Conservation in Michigan. Carol has served as ConservationVIP® Trip Leader to the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica and Cinque Terre. She and her husband enjoy traveling, hiking, birding, and exploring the natural and cultural histories of wherever their adventures take them.

Ed Eads

Edward Eads, Director and Chief Operating Officer

Ed joined the Board in January 2014. He is ConservationVIP’s Chief Operating Officer, and the Program Manager for ConservationVIP’s volunteer trips to Yosemite National Park. After a thirteen-year career in the legal industry, he is currently focused on two of his passions – raising his daughters and volunteerism. Ed’s deep connection to natural places and the coast in particular led him to a decade of active volunteer leadership roles with the Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts chapters of the Surfrider Foundation. Ed is an avid outdoorsman, whether he is volunteering on trail projects, chest deep in a trout stream, surfing year-round, cooking paella over a campfire, or hiking up a mountain with his daughter on his back.

Mark Hardgrove

Mark Hardgrove, Director of Field Operations

Mark joined the team in December 2013. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from LaSalle University. He worked for the National Park Service (NPS) for over 41 years, retiring as Superintendent of the Virgin Islands National Parks in late 2012. During his career he worked at all levels within the NPS, starting off in historic preservation and maintenance. He also served in management positions, transferring and working at 13 National Parks including two World Heritage Sites and one International Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO). Mark is well known for opening new NPS units and managing nationally significant special events through partnerships and working with the local communities. He currently is a member of ICOFORT (International Committee on Fortifications and Military Heritage), serving as a technical expert for ICOMOS. Mark also is a member of the St. Thomas Historical Trust, a member of the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, along with being an active member in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla both in St. John, Virgin Islands and in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Mark lives with his wife in Carolina, Puerto Rico and enjoys traveling, motorcycles, hiking, boating, snorkeling, diving and maintaining their finca.

John Hollinrake

John P. Hollinrake, Director

John was one of the founders of Conservation Volunteers International Program in 2007. He has served as trip leader on numerous ConservationVIP® volunteer projects in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, Machu Picchu in Peru, and the Galapagos Islands. John has been involved in parks and conservation issues throughout his life. During high school he worked as a seasonal park aide for the California State Parks in southern California. In 1976 he was hired as a seasonal Ranger Naturalist in Yosemite National Park and worked there until 1981, when he opened a law practice in Sonora, California near Yosemite. John practiced law in California for thirty years. He graduated from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1980 and received a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University in 1977. John provided legal services to numerous nonprofit organizations in California while practicing law. He also has extensive experience in the area of travel law and travel agency operations. John now serves as an organic food inspector in the Pacific Northwest and resides in Oregon with his wife, Catherine, and daughter Julianne.

Barbara Kennedy

Barbara Kennedy, Director of Communications and Marketing

Barbara joined the Board of Conservation Volunteers International Program in January 2014. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical geography from Portland State University. Barbara worked 34 years with the USDA Forest Service in a variety of positions before “graduating” in 2009. Her positions included fire management programs, grants and agreements, disaster assistance, marketing communications, interpretive services, international assistance to African countries, district ranger, and forest leadership team membership. Barbara lives in Central Oregon high desert, and is a working artist exploring landscape painting, print-making and mixed media. She and her husband enjoy adventure travel, hiking and backpacking.

Kelly McCoy

Kelly McCoy, Director

Kelly’s adventure with ConservationVIP® began as a contributor to marketing projects in 2015, then she joined the board in 2016. She has extensive experience with customer-centric “best in class” Fortune 100 company and nonprofit organizations. Outside of her volunteer work with ConservationVIP®, she is a Product Developer and Program Management Consultant specializing in cultural heritage and adventure tourism. She is passionate about creating and amplifying diverse, equitable, just, and inclusive experiences that are community-centered and create economic opportunity. She has created and collaborated on tourism initiatives that have shaped new ways for people to travel more meaningfully and sustainably. She enjoys spending quiet time bathing in nature, hiking, kayaking, bird watching, and obstacle courses with an appreciation for life in the outdoors. Some of her favorite landscapes include Yosemite National Park, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and her back yard in Washington, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and Mt. Rainier National Park.

Meghan McMeel

Meghan McMeel, Director and Corporate Secretary

Meghan joined ConservationVIP® as the board’s corporate secretary in 2022. She has a B.A. in Political Science, French, and Culture and Communications from DePaul University. After University, she spent two years in marketing before law school. She attended DePaul University College of Law where she served as an editor on the Health Law Journal. After ten years of private practice as national counsel for a variety of corporate clients, in 2022 she joined a Fortune 5 company as in-house counsel. In this role, she focuses her practice on product safety and regulatory compliance matters. In addition to her practice, Meghan is an adjunct professor at University of California Hastings Law School and serves on the California State Bar Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission. Growing up, Meghan participated in volunteer service work throughout the United States. She is passionate about conservation with a particular emphasis on engagement with the local communities. In her spare time, she plays co-ed soccer, gardens, and hikes with her family near their home in the Berkeley Hills. Some of her favorite parks include Yellowstone National Park, El Yunque National Forest, and Wilder Ranch State Park.

Garry Oye

Garry Oye, Director

Garry joined the Board in April of 2018. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Forestry from the University of Montana in Missoula. He completed 36 years of Federal Service in 2014 and feels lucky to have had the opportunity to work for both of the premier land management agencies: USDA Forest Service and DOI National Park Service. In 30 years with the Forest Service, he started as a Wilderness Guard and finished as a District Ranger, working at five National Forests, two Regional Offices, and the National Headquarters. His final 6 years of federal service were with DOI National Park Service as a Division Chief for Wilderness at the National Headquarters office. He provided leadership and guidance for all NP Wilderness (designated & proposed) comprising 83 percent of the land in the national park system. Garry brings a wealth of experiences and contacts to our organization. He looks forward to connecting volunteers with priority stewardship projects in protected areas around the planet. He currently lives and plays in the eastern Sierra region of California.

Vakhid Shimanski

Vakhid Shimanski, Director and Chief Financial Officer

Vakhid joined ConservationVIP® as a board member and Chief Financial Officer in October of 2020, during the initial Covid-19 pandemic wave, as he sought to find a positive light in a then uncertain world. His career has spanned over two decades working in various industries in accounting and finance leadership roles. Vakhid earned his BA in History from UC Santa Cruz, followed by an MBA, Finance from the University of San Francisco. Prior to shifting his focus to balancing career and raising two young children, he was a passionate traveler/explorer and aspiring hiker/mountaineer. It is this passion for travel and awe of the natural world that makes him enthusiastic about the ConservationVIP mission, to grow awareness for the need to take travel beyond the traditional experience, to a mission and purpose driven activity, helping maintain and restore our natural wonders. In his pastime, along with his wife, their focus is to pass on their passion for travel and outdoors to their kids

Jim Upchurch

Jim Upchurch, Director

Jim Upchurch retired from the USDA Forest Service as the Deputy Regional Forester for the Southwestern Region. In that role, he assisted the Regional Forester in management of 11 National Forests and Grasslands in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. During his career with the Forest Service, he was fortunate to have worked in management positions in some of the nation’s most spectacular landscapes, including the Florida Everglades, Coastal South Carolina, the Greater Yellowstone area, the Panhandle of Northern Idaho, the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado, the high Sierra of California and the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. He also served as a member of the Forest Service’s Legislative Affairs Staff in Washington DC and served as the assistant to the Undersecretary of Agriculture. He received major Forest Service awards, including the Rocky Mountain Region’s Outstanding Leadership Award, the national Bob Marshall Individual Champion of Wilderness Award and the national Line Officer Team Leadership Award for commitment to firefighter and public safety. A native of New Mexico, Jim studied Wildlife Management at New Mexico State University and Forest Management and Outdoor Recreation at Utah State University. He also attended executive courses at Clemson and Harvard Universities. Jim lives with his wife CJ in New Mexico, where he established a hydroponic greenhouse farm business after retirement from the federal government.

Trusted Advisor

Gene Zimmerman

Gene Zimmerman, Chairman Emeritus

Gene was a founding board member of Conservation Volunteers International Program and an active board member and trip leader till his retirement from the Board in April 2021. He spent 44 years with the U.S. Forest Service, working at all levels of the organization. Notably he was a District Ranger on the Mt. Hood National Forest and retired as Forest Supervisor on the San Bernardino National Forest, probably the most complex Forest in the National Forest System. Gene spent four years as Legislative Staff for the Washington Office of the Forest Service, with responsibility for all recreation-related issues, including National Recreation Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Recreation Trails. Gene wrote and advocated for over 50 pieces of legislation that became law. Gene had a national reputation for his work developing partnerships, volunteer programs, and youth employment programs. While a Ranger in the Columbia River Gorge, Gene’s volunteer program averaged 100 people per day, three times the paid staff. Gene also started the Southern California Mountain Foundation, a nonprofit chartered to support the San Bernardino National Forest. The Foundation is considered the model nonprofit in the Forest Service. In 2003, Gene was awarded the Department of Agriculture’s Superior Service Award, the second highest award in the Department. He has also been awarded the Legend Award by the American Recreation Coalition.

Trip Leaders

In addition to our Officers and Directors who volunteer as trip leaders, other trip leaders include:

Janice Ballak

Janice Ballak

Janice joined Conservation Volunteers International Program in January 2014. Janice is a packaging engineer in the New York metro area, specializing in cosmetic packaging development and sales. Janice loves to travel and has participated in numerous domestic and international volunteer programs over the years. She has participated in ConservationVIP® volunteer trips to Machu Picchu, Torres del Paine, Yosemite and the Galapagos Islands and looks forward to experiencing the new additions to the list! She lives by the motto “leave things better than how you found them”, so she is a natural fit for the ConservationVIP® team. Janice resides in Hoboken, New Jersey but prefers being in quieter outdoor spaces hiking, biking, boating and more recently paddle boarding. She is also an avid baker and loves to travel.

Millie Flores-Roman

Milagros (Millie) Flores-Román

Millie is a historian and World Heritage cultural resource specialist. She has a PhD in history and Archeology from the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain. She retired after 28 years with the US National Park Service, where she began her professional career in the field of World Heritage in 1988 at the San Juan National Historic Site, the only UNESCO site in Puerto Rico, where she served as the Park Historian and Chief of Cultural Resources Division. She moved around working in other U.S. National Parks and served as the Caribbean Expert Advisor Historian for the NPS on the islands of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. From 2008 – 2019, Millie also served as President for ICOFORT, the International Scientific Committee on Fortifications and Military Heritage for ICOMOS, serving as specialist for UNESCO and ICOMOS on the field of Fortifications and Military Heritage Management and interpretation and conducting extensive travel around the world. Millie is author of several publications on Fortifications and Military History and has received several national and international awards for her research projects. She’s also a member of the ICOMOS Working Group on Climate Change among other Heritage International Organizations.

Richard Grayson

Richard Grayson

As a teenager, Richard went on a volunteer trip, where he first became passionate about service/volunteer trips. Since then he has been involved with many volunteer service trips. When he is not leading trips, he plays a lot of baseball and is still waiting for his long-awaited major league call-up.

Norman Hagemen

Norman Hageman

Norman is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys biking, hiking, skiing, scuba and snorkeling. He has visited nearly all U.S. National Parks and numerous other notable outdoor venues. He has a wealth of experience with team leadership in the business world, as well as hands-on construction experience from working on a farm and from mission trips focused on construction. He currently lives in Dallas, TX.

Marti Marshall

Marti Marshall

Marti spent 35 years with the U.S. Forest Service, completing her career in Alaska as the district ranger for Admiralty Island National Monument and lastly, Juneau Ranger District. She has 25 years of experience living and playing in Alaska and is passionate about sharing her knowledge.

Pam Morgan

Pam Morgan

Pam joined the ConservationVIP® trip leader group after participating in several volunteer trips in Yosemite National Park and the Scottish Highlands. She enjoys sharing her love of the outdoors while exploring beautiful places and making a positive impact on our national parks and the environment.

Patrick Murphy

Patrick M. Murphy

Patrick joined ConservationVIP in 2014. He has a Bachelor’s of Science degree and a Masters in Professional Accountancy degree from Illinois State University. He began his career in Chicago with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in their core assurance practice. There he audited financial statements for Fortune 500 companies domestically and internationally. Since leaving PwC, he has held financial reporting roles at Nordstrom and, most recently, Amazon. He holds an active CPA license in Illinois. Patrick now resides in Seattle with his wife, Shalisa. Together they enjoy traveling and spending time outdoors.

Susan Murray

Susan Murray

Susan has been a conservation volunteer for over 20 years. Her experience includes back country work in Yosemite National Park, North Grand Canyon, Boundary Waters, Washington Alpine Wilderness, the Mojave and Middle East deserts. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and has previously lived in California, Europe and the Middle East. She finds that the best place to be is outside in nature in the middle of nowhere. During her professional career, she enjoyed leading people and teams across the world to accomplish their goals. She holds a BS from Cal State University Long Beach and an MBA from University of California at Irvine.

Maxwell Perkins

Maxwell Perkins

Maxwell is an Occupational Therapist with many years of experience working in various healthcare settings. Originally from Georgia (and yes, the accent hangs on), he now lives in Bend Oregon. In the past few years, he has made up for lost time doing extensive international travel and only has Asia and Antarctica to visit to hit his goal of traveling to all seven continents. He enjoys doing volunteer work, gardening and woodworking.

Kenda Peterson

Kenda Peterson

Kenda is a retired pharmacist, whose home base is in Colorado. Her interests include hiking, swimming, travel, cultural events, volunteering, fitness, reading, and environmental conservation. She has led many volunteer trips in the U.S. for Sierra Club and has just recently joined the ConservationVIP® trip leader group.

Shelley Sankey

Shelley Sankey

Shelley has a passion for the outdoors! Growing up in the mountains of Idaho, she spent a lot of time fishing, hunting, hiking, and skiing. She now spends her time outside of work as an avid backpacker, hiker, traveler, and photographer. Professionally, Shelley is a senior leader at a Fortune 500 IT company, specializing in Talent & Organizational Development. She leads, mentors, and coaches many development programs. Shelley joined ConservationVIP in 2015 and has volunteered on multiple trips. She became a trip leader in 2019 and continues to lead and share her love of “traveling with purpose” with all our volunteers!

Bill Sapp

William D. Sapp

Bill first volunteered with Conservation Volunteers International Program in 2012. His special interest is leading trips to help Machu Picchu. He is currently Forest Archaeologist for the USDA Forest Service in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. Bill has a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has done extensive field work and led a number of research projects in Peru, where he holds a Peruvian Archaeological License. He has taught at California State University and at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. Prior to his work in Archaeology, he worked at Sonnenblick-Goldman Corp, Smith Barney Real Estate Corporation, Dillingham Development Corporation, Comerica Mortgage Corporation, and Grubb and Ellis Financial Services.

Danielle Simpson

Danielle Simpson

Passionate about travel, volunteerism, and all things outdoors, Danielle lives the mantra, “travel with purpose”.  Danielle began her tenure with ConservationVIP in 2018 as a volunteer, and quickly sought increasing involvement with the program, joining as a Trip Leader in 2022.  An Architect, Danielle brings technical expertise to our projects, along with an understanding of how the built environment impacts our natural resources; she believes in resilient, responsible design, and in the need to protect our natural spaces and cultural heritage sites.  In her career, Danielle leads large, complex projects, by focusing first on cultivation and development of high-performing teams; she believes in the power of a group of people aligned around a common mission.  Danielle is trained to seek out and empower the strengths in others, allowing each individual to shine, while bringing about excellence in and through her teams.  When not working, travel and time in nature are how Danielle prefers to recharge; few things make her happier than a day volunteering side-by-side with a local community.

Todd Spande

Todd Spande

Todd is an avid hiker, hunter, fisherman and outdoor enthusiast, who grew up in the Midwest on a crop and livestock farm, planting and harvesting soybeans, corn, and alfalfa, raising a variety of livestock including beef, hogs, and even ostrich. Strongly influenced by his father, who taught him almost everything he knows about farming, determination, commitment, tracking, fishing, economics, ethics, and the conservation of our environment, Todd continues to advance his skills in preserving and protecting the environment.  He is an ISA certified arborist and currently a Locomotive Engineer. He has traversed the mountains of New Hampshire to the Alaskan wilderness, to the Yosemite National Park and the jaw dropping beauty of Machu Picchu. His passion is to raise awareness and safeguard our world’s most precious and magnificent resources which Mother Nature has given us.

Dale Walker

Dale Walker

Dale has been traveling since he was 20. He first volunteered with ConservationVIP in Yosemite in May 2012 and has returned again and again. He enjoys many outdoor and sports activities and the arts. He lives in the small mountain town of Mount Shasta, CA. with his wife Carolyn and Lab Abbie. He Loves All and Enjoys Life. Read more about Dale on our blog

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