MSRW Executive Director and Board Chair

Ed Pike | Chair

Ed retired from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to Harbor Springs. He is a long time member of Petoskey Regional and Michigan Audubon Societies and past president of Straits Area Audubon Society. Ed became licensed as a bird bander while researching barn swallows and piping plovers, then served on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Piping Plover Recovery Team and chaired the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Piping Plover Recovery Team. For 25 years, he has volunteered to study nocturnal migrating raptors. During that time, Ed has banded more than 2,000 owls of nine species: screech, northern saw-whet, long-eared, short-eared, boreal, great gray, barred, great horned, and snowy. Throughout, he has shared his field experiences and data with the public on field trips and programs. In 2004, recognizing the importance of raptor migration in the Straits of Mackinac, Ed secured a grant from Michigan Department of Natural Resources to conduct the first paid count of spring hawk migration at the Straits of Mackinac. He served as principal volunteer hawk counter from 2011 through 2013 and as chief volunteer waterbird counter in fall 2015.

Scott Davis | Executive Director

Scott worked for The Nature Conservancy for nearly 25 years, starting his career as the Director of Conservation Programs for the Ohio Chapter. Later he served as the acting State Director in Wisconsin, eventually becoming the State Director of the TN Chapter in 2000. In March of 2011, Scott was named Director of Conservation for TNC’s 19 state Central Division, focusing on sizeable multi-state conservation initiatives including the Great Lakes, the MS River, the Great Plains, and the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2016 Scott began working with TNC’s North American Region on the development of regional strategies focused on TNC’s global Shared Conservation Agenda, and in late 2017 left TNC to work with the Endowment for Forests and Communities in the development and implementation of a 13-state southern forest conservation initiative known as Keeping Forests as Forests.  

His formal training and personal interests include the areas of aquatic ecology, sustainable and compatible resource use, and sustainable ecosystem management. Scott received undergraduate and graduate degrees in marine ecology from Miami University and Texas A&M University. Before working with The Nature Conservancy, he spent approximately 13 years living and working in Belize, Ecuador, Indonesia, and the Bahamas on various fishery, aquaculture, and coastal management projects. Early in his career, Scott worked for Texas A&M University, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  

A native of Ohio, Scott grew up in Columbus but now considers Michigan his home. He is the father of four sons.

MSRW Board Members

Jeff Dykehouse | Secretary

Jeff retired in 2020, after a 36-year career with the Mackinac State Historical Parks, where he was the Curator of Natural History. As a biologist, he has previously worked as an interpretive naturalist, environmental educator, research biologist, and audiovisual specialist for several of Michigan’s State and National Parks. Jeff has been a “birder” all his life and has had a master Federal Bird Banding permit for over 40 years. During that time, he has banded thousands of birds, including nine species of Michigan owls. Jeff and his wife Laurie (a retired science teacher) live on Lake Huron’s shore near Cheboygan, where he spends as much time as possible kayaking the Straits of Mackinac.

Steve Wagner | Treasurer

Steve graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Mathematics cum laude. He is a member of Pi Mu Epsilon, the National Mathematics honorary fraternity. Steve retired to Alpena, Michigan, from CNA insurance company with his last position being a Data Modeling Director involved in modeling, analyzing, and mapping catastrophe exposures for the company. He made extensive use of Microsoft Access, Excel, and SAS (data modeling software) and has experience with SQL, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Project. Steve brings an in-depth understanding of the property-casualty insurance industry, including working with independent agents and customers. Steve served as treasurer for the Michigan State Alumni Club of Chicago, where he monitored budget and expenses for their signature fundraising event Sparty Ball. While in Chicago, Steve was Vice President for the condo board in the building where he lived. He also served as President of the Michigan State University College of Natural Science Constituent Alumni Board and is presently Treasurer of the Thunder Bay Audubon Society.

Steve Baker

Steve is a retired Veterinarian from Indian River, MI, and has been observing raptor migration in the Straits of Mackinac since the early 1980s. He was the principal volunteer spring hawk counter and organizer from 2011 through 2013 and a volunteer waterbird counter in fall 2015. Baker also actively volunteers with several Audubon societies and land conservancies, leading field trips and giving programs. He enjoys botanizing (especially native orchids and ferns), kayaking, hiking, and trying to learn about dragonflies. Steve is out at the count site more than anyone outside our official counters.

Jackie Pilette

Jackie serves as District Manager for the Emmet Conservation District, which provides natural resource education and outreach for landowners. She received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment in Environmental Policy and Behavior. Jackie spent several summers as a student at the University of Michigan Biological Station as a student, Resident Advisor, and Teaching and Research Assistant. Her career launched with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, where she was the Wetland Specialist in the Environmental and Natural Resources Departments.

John Merrill

John Merrill is a retired educator and administrator with a background in public education, corporate training, and higher education. Before retirement, his most recent position was as an Associate Director in the Department of Engineering Education at Ohio State University. He and his wife, Mary, retired to northern Michigan in 2017. They have owned property in the Cross Village area for 30 years, camped there for many years with their children, and eventually decided to build a home and retire on the former campsite, where they now live year-round. They thoroughly enjoy the outdoors, and although they are somewhat new to birding, John and his wife participate in the Conservancy’s kestrel monitoring program. John is on the Board of the Little Traverse Conservancy and also serves on their Education Committee.

Bert Ebbers

Bert has owned and run the Great Lakes Ecosystems consulting company since 1986. His work centers on wetland issues, including determinations, delineations, permitting, and mitigation. He also is involved in conservation planning, environmental impact analysis, and surveys for a wide array of state and federal listed plants and animals. He holds a BS from Western Mich. University in Biology and Anthropology and an MS from Illinois State University. Bert has authored or co-authored several published scientific articles and reports to agencies.

Russ Edmonds

Russ retired from a large manufacturing company where he worked as an Environmental Engineer. He has been involved with hawk watching around the Great Lakes for 45 years, has volunteered at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, in Duluth Minnesota, for over 20 years, and has been a member of the Hawk Migration Association of North America since 2004. Russ has also logged many volunteer hours teaching middle school students about aquatic invertebrates in Indiana’s local streams over the past ten years.

Cathy Freebairn

Cathy Freebairn

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Cathy has spent time in Michigan every summer since infancy and is blessed to live there year-round now. Her friend Fritz Lieber once told her that she was “doomed, by a liberal arts education, to be a dilettante.”  His assessment is hardly refutable. She studied Classical Greek Language and Literature in College with a smattering of Archaeology in Greece and then got a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. She worked as a City Planner, Community Development Block Grant Administrator and Deputy Administrator of Economic and Housing Development for the City of Indianapolis, did consulting work in Neighborhood Development, owned a container store, did a lot of grant writing and served as Carp Lake Township Treasurer for 8 years.

Gayle Kirby

Gayle has been a birder by osmosis, having grown up under the same ornitho-philian roof as her mom, birder extraordinaire, Bev Kirby. Gayle graduated summa cum laude with an Electrical Engineering degree from Michigan Technological University and has worked in the petroleum and automotive industries for ~30 years, working first as an engineer, and morphing into an IT professional. Having been given the “opportunity” to become downsized, Gayle has chosen to go back to school to pursue a Master’s of IT in “Big Data” (aka Data Analytics). After attending many hawk watches and a Raptor Fest, Gayle has recently gotten more involved in MSRW by implementing operational process efficiencies utilizing IT business solutions for non-profits.