Meet our new development coordinator.
Leanne Kruse grew up just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Indian Ocean and surrounded by the bush in Perth, Western Australia. She grew up barefoot, exploring nature to the sounds of gallahs and kookaburras and the smell of eucalyptus trees (and actively avoiding magpies during the swooping season!). Many of her winter holidays were spent ‘down south’ camping with her family, and having competitions with her brothers on who could catch the biggest yabby, crab, or fish. One of her funniest childhood memories includes a kookaburra swooping down and stealing a sausage right out of her hand!
Leanne has always been a lover of animals and was often found searching for pobblebonks, rescuing injured baby birds, and riding horses. So, it was no surprise when she decided to study Zoology and Conservation Biology at the University of Western Australia and pursue a career in the environmental world. Since then, she has interned at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Napanee, Ontario, been the foster care coordinator for stray cats in Perth, picked copious amounts of garlic mustard, and searched for moose tracks up in Northern Minnesota. All of these experiences, and her childhood growing up in such a unique drought-stricken environment, taught her the value of water, a good hat, the importance of accessible green spaces, and the devastation that invasive species can cause.
In 2016, Leanne moved to La Crosse to be with her husband Mark Kruse, whom she met when they were both studying abroad in Norway. Mark Kruse is an ISA certified arborist, currently working at Winona State University. They recently moved to Winona so Mark could swap his 40-minute commute for a 4-minute bike ride and to have more precious time as a family. They spend every opportunity they can getting their son, Oliver, out into nature. Oliver is 20 months old and fascinated by bugs. He will happily spend hours crouched down watching ants, saying hi to the bees, and following moths as they fly around the yard. Seeing her son get outside and feel the earth between his toes, constantly reminds her of the importance of preserving our natural areas and farmlands for current and future generations. Leanne and her family are excited to continue to build their community in Winona, establish a healthy garden, and explore more of the driftless area.
Since moving to the Midwest, Leanne has challenged her patience and taken up flyfishing. She firmly believes that catching trout on a dry fly is the epitome of fly fishing, everything is far more visual and exciting. Remember, she grew up using bait to catch large black bream or barramundi and trudging through estuaries searching for a feed of crabs with a scoop net! Whilst, the driftless region could not be more different than Australia, she has fallen in love with this area. She loves exploring the marshlands looking for muskrats and turtles, learning all the prairie wildflowers, and most importantly, making maple syrup! Leanne and her family have harvested their own maple syrup for the past three years now, it’s a sweet reward for surviving another harsh winter here. Each year, their bounty has gotten bigger and better and they love sharing their maple syrup goodness with friends and family and experimenting with different baking recipes.
Leanne’s relationship with Mississippi Valley Conservancy began when she was in the United States on a working visa in 2014. She volunteered on some environmental education hikes, assisted with mailings, and other general office duties. Leanne then returned to Australia, but the Conservancy was never far from her mind and she has generously offered her services when life has allowed. Most recently, she has been serving on the Advancement Committee and volunteering her time to editing and proofreading fundraising materials and other documentation for MVC and collaborating with the team to secure funds and bring our new pilot program, Naturehood Connections, to life. She loved working out the nitty-gritty details of grant writing and making connections with the greater La Crosse community. Most of all, Leanne states that she loved being a part of a project that empowers the community to get outside and take ownership of the land. Leanne is passionate about wildlife conservation, environmental justice, sustainability, gluten-free baking, and just getting outside in nature with friends and family. She is excited to continue learning the business side of conservation and connecting with you all.
The Conservancy team is very pleased to welcome Leanne!
Some fun facts/Australian-ness:
- The Southwest Australia Ecoregion is one of the world’s 34 internationally recognized biodiversity hotspots. About half of plant species found in this area are found nowhere else, as are many other animals including the numbat, western swamp tortoise, and the honey possum.
- The quokka, unofficially titled the world’s happiest animal’ is found on an island just off the mainland of Western Australia. They are a small marsupial with round ears, small black noses, and photoshoot-ready smiles!
- Every year, feral cats kill 1.4 billion native Australian animals. Each individual cat kills approximately 390mammals, 225 reptiles, and 130 birds. Feral cats are not the only problem too, approximately 3.8 million pet cats kill up to 390 million animals every year. Source
- The phrase ‘Put another shrimp on the barbie’ is inaccurate, they’re prawns!
- Australians love to abbreviate everything, some words to add to your vocabulary: brekky (breakfast), choccy bikky (chocolate biscuit aka a cookie), sunnies (sunglasses), arvo (afternoon), servo (gas station), and dunny (toilet).