Happy Holidays from the New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Team

The New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Team


Dear Friends of New Jersey Audubon’s Stewardship Team,

As the days grow shorter and nature takes a much-needed rest, I hope you too find time to reflect and recharge while being surrounded by family, friends, love, and warmth. As I write this note, I can’t help but notice how New Jersey Audubon, the Stewardship Team, and our natural world has changed this past year. Change can be difficult and challenging, but with it brings opportunity and a chance to stop, reflect, and refocus. What has remained constant is not only our commitment to restoring critical habitat for New Jersey’s rare, common, and imperiled species, but most importantly your unwavering support and dedication for our natural resources. Without our partners, landowners, stakeholders, and supporters, we would not be able to accomplish what we have over the past year.

This past spring, I had the honor and privilege to assume the role Vice President of Stewardship. After 10 years working with the Stewardship Team in southern New Jersey, I welcomed the opportunity to broaden my focus and become even more intimately involved in the work that has occurred statewide. This year, the staff at New Jersey Audubon came together to collaborate and to set goals for the next three years, creating the next phase of our Conservation Priorities. This was no small feat, but it will help to guide and prioritize our work for the future.

As part of the that process, we looked back over the last three years and reflected on the 24,000 acres of forests, farms, grasslands, wetlands, and urban ecosystems you and the team helped to restore. In 2022, we worked with close to 100 private landowners interested in restoring their piece of nature for species like golden-winged warbler, bog turtle, swamp pink, Atlantic white cedar, Northern bobwhite quail, American black duck, and monarch butterfly. We developed a state-of-the art modeling study to review the long-term viability of ruffed grouse in our state. We continued working with landowners in Salem County to connect and restore bog turtle habitat, while celebrating with our partners, landowners, and political leaders in Washington, D.C. We developed and implemented at least 7 Forest Stewardship Plans on publicly owned properties across the state.

We connected with people through birding programs on private properties, trolley tours, outreach events, a Bio Blitz in Cape May County, our Garden for Wildlife webinar series, and workdays with corporate sponsors, the New Jersey Youth Corps, college students, and volunteers. We celebrated and showcased the important habitat work at Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area to our professional colleagues. We continue to play a major role in the New Jersey Forest Task Force, a diverse group of natural resource professionals and community members from across the state to develop and provide a report to the New Jersey state legislature on how to best care for our public forests.

The list of accomplishments could go on and on, but what I am most proud of is the people who make up the Stewardship Team. The talented and enthusiastic staff, along with your willingness, support, and excitement, make all this possible. I’m pleased to introduce you to our staff and to let them tell their story of what they are reflecting on this holiday season.

On behalf of the Stewardship Team, I want to express deep gratitude for your continued support, commitment, and most of all, your friendship. For those of you who I have met, I hope we get a chance to reconnect in the New Year. And for those of you I have yet to meet, I look forward to connecting with you soon. I hope you and your loved ones have a safe and warm Holiday Season.

Best Wishes and Happy Holidays,

Kristen Meistrell, Vice President of Stewardship



 Meet our Stewardship Team!

Welcome Alyssa & Levi, the Newest Members of the Stewardship Team

Alyssa Bright, Stewardship Technician


Alyssa Bright – Technician

What work are you most proud of in 2022?

“I am most proud of the work we at NJ Audubon have done with farmers to really ensure that they are conscious of the practices they implement on their farm and how they impact our natural resources and wildlife. What is even more gratifying than just educating farmers on conservation practices is watching them take our recommendations and physically implement them. Farmers are some of the most important stewards of the land and it feels good to know they take conservation to heart just as we do at NJ Audubon.”


Levi Morris, Stewardship Technician


Levi Morris- Technician

What work are you most proud of in 2022?

“The invasive plant control at Cape May Point State Park. It is still very much an ongoing battle, but we were able to significantly reduce the invasive pressure. It felt very daunting at the outset, but once I started to see some of the native regeneration in the spring and summer, I started feeling much more optimistic.”



Hear from a Few Familiar Faces from the Stewardship Team

Lindsay Gafford, Stewardship Project Director


Lindsay Gafford – Project Director, Sanctuaries & Garden for Wildlife

What work are you most proud of in 2022?

“Receiving basic chainsaw training was not only a practical skill to learn but it was also really fun!  Many of the department’s staff took part in The Game of Logging Chainsaw Training this year.  It covers how to safely operate a chainsaw and fell a tree.  It’s fun to go outside your comfort zone to learn something as important as this.  I can already see this skill coming in handy with basic property management around our sanctuaries, but also in various stewardship projects, like converting an overgrown field back to a grassland!”


Brittany Welch, Stewardship Project Director


Brittany Welch – Project Director, Farms, Grasslands, and Wetlands

What is your favorite memory from the field this year?

“Seeing our projects expand and react from year to year specifically the bog turtle project in Salem County has been very rewarding to see the changes we made over time. It is rewarding to find more turtles at our sites from year to year – a direct response to the ongoing stewardship work at these sites.”



Ryan Hasko, Stewardship Project Director

Ryan Hasko- Project Director, Forest Health & Resiliency

What species do you like doing Stewardship work for the most?  And why?

“Oaks. Oak/Hickory forests throughout New Jersey are experiencing a decline in health, structure, and a severely reduced ability to perpetuate themselves due to a number of influences and impacts – exclusion of fire, Mesophication (species shift), absence/lack of proper management, deer browse, and invasive species.”

“Engagement of the conservation/professional community to bring awareness to the necessity of forest management for the benefit of wildlife species and ecosystem health. NJA hosted a Stewardship Roundtable meeting at Sparta Mountain WMA to show other conservation professionals our successful management projects and discuss the use of ecological forestry as a natural resource management tool. NJA has also been significant in supporting and contributing to the NJ Forest Task Force.”


Danielle Bara, Stewardship Project Coordinator


Danielle Bara- Project Coordinator, Forest Health & Resiliency

What is your favorite memory from the field this year?

“One of my favorite experiences this year was getting to attend the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange’s Fire Camp in May. This was hosted in the Pine Barrens and brought together fire science professionals and students for a week of learning and hands on experience with prescribed fire and its effects. I was able to meet so many knowledgeable and enthusiastic people from a variety of backgrounds and participate in my first growing season burn. Opportunities like this are invigorating to me personally as well as invaluable for information sharing and elevating the work that we do.”


Liz Matseur, Stewardship Technician

Liz Matseur – Stewardship Technician

What species do you like doing Stewardship work for the most?  And why?

“One of my favorite species to manage for is the Golden-winged Warbler. That work focuses on working with landowners to create early successional or young forest habitat for not only Golden-winged Warblers, but a variety of other species. I love going out to meet with landowners walking through their forest and hearing about their goals for their property. Being a part of the process every step of the way and watching the forest transition and then seeing the regrowth come Spring is very rewarding. My favorite part of the process is participating in the monitoring effort every Spring. I love going out with the landowners and educating them on the new species we are seeing using the young forest. This past Spring, we had an exciting sighting, a Red-headed Woodpecker, which is a species we had never recorded using a young forest patch created through our work.”

Thank You to Two Long-standing Team Members

This year, we also said goodbye to two longstanding team members, John Parke, Stewardship Project Director – North, and Don Donnelly, Stewardship Project Director – Forestry.

John Parke, a familiar face to many, was with New Jersey Audubon for over 17 years and will be bringing his enthusiasm and passion to a local preserve in northern New Jersey. During his tenure, John was instrumental in creating the S.A.V.E. program, the Corporate Stewardship Council, the reintroduction of Northern Bobwhite quail into the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and so much more. With his passion for conservation and his knack to excite people about the natural world, John worked with diverse landowners and stakeholders to create long-lasting conservation impact across the state.

Don Donnelly, who was with New Jersey Audubon for more than 11 years, will be bringing his expertise in ecological forest stewardship to a federal agency in New Jersey. During his tenure, Don was responsible for developing and implementing many Forest Stewardship Plans on both public and private lands, including NJ Audubon’s Hovnanian Sanctuary, Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and for the city of Linden, just to name a few. Don has spent his career working to protect and restore the health of New Jersey’s forests through stewardship, planning, and advocacy.

We thank John and Don for their dedication to New Jersey Audubon, the Stewardship Department, and New Jersey’s natural resources and we wish them well on these new chapters!

Thank You & Happy Holidays!