Our Staff

Carol Abrahamzon

Executive Director
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Carol Abrahamzon is the Executive Director at Mississippi Valley Conservancy. She has over 20 years of experience with non-profit management and donor relationship cultivation.  She and her husband Bill, own a sustainable farm in southeast Minnesota where they grow beef, pork, chicken, and most of their own fruits and vegetables. They employ conservation practices on their farm including wildlife enhancement projects, invasive species removal, and a forest stand improvement program. In her free time Carol enjoys running in nature, competing in triathlons, gardening, nature photography, and spending time with her family including her five grandchildren.

Abbie Church

Conservation Director
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Abbie brings a diverse background in natural resources, having worked in the state, federal, private and non-profit sectors. Abbie began her career working at the Wright County Conservation Board’s Lake Cornelia Park near Clarion, Iowa. She soon realized her passion lies in working with private landowners to conserve declining species in working with The Nature Conservancy in Iowa and Minnesota. Her background also includes national non-profit, The Conservation Fund, as well as a role as Mississippi Valley Conservancy's conservation specialist from 2007 until 2012. She earned a degree in biology from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

Abbie’s experience in land management, land and conservation easement negotiations, grant writing, species inventories and land use planning is valuable to the Conservancy. 

Abbie lives near Stoddard and enjoys canoeing, camping, gardening and especially hiking with her dogs Oscar and Hazelnut.

Chris Kirkpatrick

Conservation Manager
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Chris Kirkpatrick comes to the Conservancy with 20 years of experience in the land trust industry. He has spent most of his life growing up in the Driftless area, calling Galena, IL his hometown. Chris attended the University of Dubuque, IA and received a B.S. in Environmental Science and Biology. He then worked for the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, a land trust in northwest Illinois, to permanently protect areas in the same community he grew up in as a kid.

Prior to working for Mississippi Valley Conservancy, he served as the Executive Director for The Prairie Enthusiasts. Chris brings years of experience working with private landowners to help permanently protect their land, and offering technical assistance on ecological restoration & land management advice.

In his free time you can finding him hiking state natural areas, fishing, or camping. Chris is also a singer and song writer and plays guitar, mandolin and drums.

Mitchel Block

Conservation Specialist
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Mitchel is a conservation-minded individual, who spent much of his career doing habitat management in the Driftless Area. Originally from central Wisconsin, Mitchel graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a degree in Wildlife Ecology. During his time at UWSP, Mitchel interned on the State Natural Areas crew in Alma, Wisconsin, with the Wisconsin DNR. Here, Mitchel experienced what the Driftless Area had to offer, doing habitat management on a diverse assortment of wooded blufflands, remnant prairies, savannas, and bottomlands. He instantly fell in love with the region’s stunning diversity of lands and character.

After graduation, Mitchel returned to the region as a Conservation Biologist on the State Natural Areas crew in Alma. In this position, he had the pleasure of completing habitat-management activities on some of the most beautiful public lands in the state of Wisconsin and had several projects involving some of Wisconsin’s rare and threatened species, including the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the karner blue butterfly, and the timber rattlesnake. In addition to his work on state lands, Mitchel also has experience working with private landowners in the Driftless Area, assisting them with their land management and conservation goals.

Mitchel believes the Driftless Area is one of the most ecologically important regions of the state and nation, and he is passionate about conserving these lands. In his spare time, Mitchel loves to travel, hike, camp, and photograph wildlife. 

Connor Kotte

Stewardship Specialist
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Connor brings extensive experience to his role as the Stewardship Specialist with a diverse background in conservation, habitat restoration, and land protection. Originally from Oak Park, Illinois, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his degrees in Conservation Biology, Environmental Studies (BS) and Environmental Conservation (MS). 
 
Prior to joining Mississippi Valley Conservancy, Connor developed his skillsets through fieldwork in multiple roles and organizations. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s CLM Internship took him to western Nevada to conduct native seed collections in the Great Basin Desert for the Bureau of Land Management. The Huron Pines AmeriCorps program placed him with the Leelanau Conservancy in northern Michigan, where he learned restoration strategies and conservation easement monitoring in a land trust setting. The Lakeshore Nature Preserve at UW-Madison offered Connor the perfect opportunity to apply lessons learned in the classroom to the management of campus natural areas while completing his professional master’s program.
 
Connor believes that protecting native habitats and farmlands through conservation easement plays a vital role in the health and well-being of the Driftless Area. In his free time, you can find Connor exploring natural areas, hiking new trails, birding for lifers, and traveling with family.

Michael Reitz

Restoration Ecologist
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Michael is an ecologist with a passion for protecting the vulnerable species of the Great Lakes region. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Forest Science from UW-Madison and a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University.

Michael previously worked in the Forest Service’s Fire Lab collecting data on fire behavior, fire ecology, and endangered species to guide fire management. He also worked as a field ecologist with The Nature Conservancy, researching climate change resilience and adaptive management strategies. In recent years, he worked as a consultant to identify protected resources and implement mitigation or restoration plans while completing a Master’s research project on northern forests. He has several years of experience coordinating with various levels of private and public groups to achieve management goals.

In his spare time, Michael enjoys kayaking, cross country skiing, and playing guitar in and around the Driftless Area.
 

Levi Plath

Land Manager
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Levi is an avid outdoorsman and a wildlife biologist with experience managing an array of different habitat types. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in ecology and field biology with wildlife emphasis from St. Cloud (Minnesota) State University. Levi comes to Mississippi Valley Conservancy with a variety of experiences. He previously worked with the Minnesota DNR, Iowa DNR, Iowa State University and the Minnesota Conservation Corps. He worked as an authorized Mojave Desert tortoise biologist in Southern Nevada and has an array of volunteer experiences in the field of natural resources and biological research. Levi manages The Conservancy's lands to retain high quality habitat for wildlife and educating the public about effective land stewardship.

In his free time, you can find Levi out fishing on the river, out west backpacking, or hiking the local state natural areas.

Nancy Larson

Finance and Operations Manager
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Nancy began her management career by working her way up through the Fortune 500 Company, G. Heileman Brewing. She has over 30 years of success in management, administration, accounting and organizational skills and puts those skills to work for the Mississippi Valley Conservancy. 

Nancy, her husband Randy, live in Chaseburg. Nancy likes to volunteer in her local community. She currently volunteers as treasurer and council member in her church.

In her free time, Nancy enjoys music, camping, boating, walking and sporting activities.

Shane Drey

Development Associate
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Although Shane is new to conservation work, she understands the important role that protected natural spaces play in the future health of the Driftless region and the people who call it home. Throughout her childhood, she had the incredible fortune of experiencing the awe of wilderness and the support of a family encouraging her to identify and follow her own passions. Now, as Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s Development Associate she is dedicated to ensuring those same opportunities for generations to come.

Shane has 25 years of experience in community work (with over 10 of those in non-profit organizations), focused on supporting others to explore their interests and realize the best version of themselves. She knows that building strong meaningful relationships and communicating compelling stories of impact are the foundation of building support for our mission. With Mississippi Valley Conservancy, she aims to support and grow conservation projects and help increase awareness of wilderness's unique impact on our well-being.
 

Sarah Bratnober

Communications Director
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Sarah brings extensive communications skills to her role at the Conservancy. During her eight-year tenure as Organic Valley’s Director of Marketing Communications, she promoted the land/water stewardship role of family farms across the country. Sarah has also offered her services as an independent content strategist and creative director to help socially responsible businesses to build their brands. She served four years on Valley Stewardship Network’s board of directors, where she crafted communications about conservation challenges and solutions in southwest Wisconsin. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, her years of land ownership, trail maintenance, and silent sports recreation have endowed Sarah with much respect for our fragile environment and all the creatures who depend on it. She enjoys kayaking on the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries. 

Karen Solverson

Communications Associate
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Born and raised on a farm in Vernon County, Karen is no stranger to hard work and is at home with a chainsaw as she is with a computer. She is excited about the opportunity to not only contribute to the protection of valuable resources in the Driftless Area but also to educate and inspire others about the work we do.
 
Karen received a biology degree from UW-La Crosse, and later a master’s degree from Hamline University, which was focused on finding better ways of serving the needs of students in rural districts. After teaching science and later teaching courses for teachers at Winona State University, she opened a professional photography studio near Viroqua where she offers photography services to individuals and businesses.
  
Most recently, as a marketing director for several large businesses, she successfully created and executed marketing campaigns, including developing and managing a new outdoor market experience near Readstown with a mission of helping families unplug and get outside together to develop a greater appreciation for nature. She currently serves on the board of directors for Driftless Wisconsin, and she mentors young hunters and anglers. Throughout her life, she has made it a priority to be a positive role model to young people by volunteering, coaching, and helping with local conservation club events.

In her free time, Karen loves to spend time fishing, hunting, and hiking in the woods. She enjoys spending time with her family, helping with fencing and wood-cutting duties at the family farm, going on long-distance bike rides, and training for physical challenges. She is passionate about the outdoors and the preservation of natural resources in the Driftless Area, and she is eager to contribute her unique blend of skills and experiences to support our mission.