MSRW Executive Director and Board Chair

Gayle Kirby | Board Chair

Gayle has been a birder by osmosis all her life, having grown up under the same ornitho-philian roof as her mom, birder extraordinaire, Bev Kirby.  After being “participation adjacent” to many, many Michigan feeder-watches and official bird counts, as well as spending summers roaming the woods and lakes of Northern Michigan with her parents, birding has definitely rubbed off and stuck!  In fact, while eco-travelling in Central and South America Gayle always became the de-facto “trip birder”.  Gayle graduated summa cum laude with a BSEE from Michigan Technological University, and has worked in the petroleum and automotive industries for ~30 years, working first as an engineer, and then morphing into an IT professional.  After being given the “opportunity” to become downsized, Gayle went back to school and obtained a Master’s of IT in “Big Data” (aka Data Analytics).  Since attending many hawk watches and a Raptor Fest, Gayle has gotten much more involved in MSRW day to day operations, by helping implement operational process efficiencies utilizing IT business solutions for non-profits.

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.

Cathy Freebairn

Cathy Freebairn | Treasurer

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.

Linda Orlow

Linda Orlow

Linda grew up in Sidney, Ohio and graduated from Miami University with a BS in Education. She is now a retired educator living year-round on Douglas Lake since 2000. She and her late husband discovered this area due to the nearby Girl’s camp that her mother created in the late 60’s.   Linda has enjoyed a variety of jobs and volunteer positions which include:  Reading specialist in Hamilton, Ohio, Supervising Student Teachers for Miami University, Teaching Ice Skating at Miami, a Director for NAEP (National Assessment for Educational Progress), Tour Director for Travel Adventures, Director of Little Traverse Sailors in Harbor Springs for ten years, and Charlevoix Mariners for two years, and now being a Fused Glass Artist.  Linda has held volunteer Board positions in northern Michigan (after many in Oxford, Ohio) in the Petoskey Women’s Club, P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization for women), Mackinaw City Arts Council and Douglas Lake Improvement Association. In August 2019, Linda organized a fundraising Nature Art Show for MSRW at the Pellston Airport.  She is passionate about sailing, unusual travel, kayaking, hiking, pets and several areas of art.

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.

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.

Michael Turisk

Michael Turisk

After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Planning and Environmental Design from the University at Buffalo, Michael began his career in land use planning in southeastern Arizona, where he also served as a docent for The Friends of the San Pedro River and as a member of the Bisbee Community Sustainability Commission. He continued his planning career in Colorado Springs before moving to northern Michigan, where he has held the position of Cheboygan County Director of Planning since 2018.  Michael previously worked as an environmental consultant, including contributing to a study of piñon-juniper woodlands thinning on avian occupancy in south-central New Mexico, and documented spring raptor and passerine migration along the south Lake Erie shore as part of an impact study for a utility-scale wind turbine project.  Michael’s interest in the natural world truly blossomed when, as a teen in Western New York, his late aunt shared an observation of a splendid male Cape May Warbler. His interest in birds continued to grow by virtue of living in proximity to the Hamburg Hawk Watch, where he considers himself fortunate to have experienced the spectacular annual spring passage of raptors and other migrants at this site. In addition, during his time in Western New York, Michael participated in the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory Passerine Bander Training program. He enjoys photography, gardening and traveling and “birding by bike.”

Will Peregord

Will Peregord

Will retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in September of 2022 after a 24-year career as an agent. His formal education includes a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Western Michigan University and a Juris Doctor from Wayne State University. Before joining the FBI, Will worked as a state prosecutor in Michigan. He has previous non-profit experience and currently serves on the Board of Directors for a 501(c)(3) organization that runs a community movie theatre in his hometown.  Will grew up in a household that placed great emphasis on respecting nature and enjoying outdoor experiences. He has spent a lifetime hiking, backpacking, fishing, birdwatching, cycling, and photographing wildlife throughout the world. He has frequented various raptor counts around the country and has been an official U.S. Fish and Wildlife volunteer at the Detroit River Hawk Watch since 2020.