Board Bios

Meet the members of the board of the Saint Paul Audubon Society

Kiki Sonnen, a life-long resident of St Paul, has been involved with St Paul Audubon since the 1970s. She served on the Board and the Conservation Committee in the past. In the 1970s Kiki and Peggy Lynch, St Paul League of Women Voters, founded the Pig’s Eye Coalition, which successfully stopped threats to the Pig’s Eye Heron & Egret Rookery. Kiki was on the St Paul City Council from 1984-1989. Her career also included community organizer, social service case worker, director of a community-based family service agency, and crime analyst/ community liaison for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. Now retired, Kiki’s interests are sketching, wood carving, birding, gardening, her cats and her Llewellin Setter Chicory. She continues efforts to secure improvements, clean-ups, and habitat restoration to Pig’s Eye Regional Park.

Martha enjoyed a 31-year career in Communications at the University of Minnesota, including 20 years as a communications director at the University of Minnesota Foundation.  In this work, she led teams of writers and designers in preparing communications materials covering every corner of the University. She has degrees in English and Liberal Studies, both from the University of Minnesota. Now retired, Martha is active in many personal interests, including birding. A relatively new birder, Martha values opportunities to learn from more experienced birders, including guided hikes sponsored by the St. Paul Audubon Society and other organizations.  Working to preserve birdlife and natural habitats is one of Martha’s highest concerns and goals.

Debbie Brown describes herself as an “Army brat” who continued moving around as an adult. She has lived in multiple places on both coasts, in Texas, Germany, and southwest Africa, and in St. Paul for the past 11 years. “I am not an expert birder, but I do have strong interests in nature, conservation, birds, and all animals. Observing and admiring birds are my favorite pastimes when I travel and spend time outdoors.” Professionally, Debbie is a certified industrial hygienist and certified safety professional. She was employed by the government and then industry for 25 years before starting her own consultancy five years ago. Among other volunteer activities, she has been a member of our Conservation Committee for the past year.

Craig grew up in Saint Paul and has spent 40-plus years working to protect natural resources with a particular emphasis on water and wetlands. He started his career with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 1979 helping protect and repair habitat in State Parks.

After 10 great years, he headed to Washington DC and spent the next 30 years working at the intersection of agricultural and environmental policy in various positions including the National Academy of Sciences, Senate Agriculture Committee, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Soil and Water Conservation Society and is now stepping down as Senior VP and Midwest Director at the Environmental Working Group. He was hooked on birding when watching Cedar Waxwings feeding in a meadow on the North Shore. Now binoculars are always with him, including in his fishing vest when he’s pursuing his other passion – flyfishing for trout.

He recently returned to Saint Paul after many years gone and is thrilled to be engaging with Audubon once again.

Greg Burnes and his wife recently moved to Stillwater to be closer to their family and are enjoying the beauty of the local outdoor spaces.

Greg says, “To reach our shared goals of preserving and growing our natural resources, it is important to reach and engage a more diverse audience. I hope to impact St. Paul Audubon’s efforts in this area positively.”

Greg’s professional career included many different and challenging opportunities.  At the heart of each was his passion for increasing the engagement and success of professionals across many industries.  He was involved in and led efforts at Siemens, Cappella University, RSM, and many other organizations in complex project and change management efforts, professional development, and process reengineering. He also owned and operated three successful IT and Project Management Consulting firms.

Greg recently served on the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter board, including three years as president and membership chair, and led their Christmas Bird Count.

Monica Bryand started her career as an accountant but was fortunate to spend over 22 years in the philanthropic community, including 16 years at Headwaters Foundation for Justice. In 2015 she decided to make a major career change and has taken on many consulting opportunities and followed her passion for birding and bird photography.

Monica is currently a Co-Executive Director at Voices for Racial Justice as well as leading and supporting the Urban Bird Collective that provides safe and welcoming spaces for BIPOC and the LGBT community to bird in the Twin Cities. Monica believes in community service and has served on many boards and committees for over 25 years and currently volunteers with her local District Council, the West Side Community Organization, and Audubon St. Paul’s Conservation Committee; and serves on the board of Hawk Ridge, based in Duluth and The Great River Passage.

Monica is a Latina who believes that it is critical to work across issues that affect us all and to work for systems change at the same time. Her passions include environmental, women’s, people of color, and LGBT issues. She feels extremely fortunate to pursue her passions for both people and the birds.

Growing up as a 4-Her in Southwestern Minnesota, Neil Carlson developed his love for the outdoors while attending conservation camp at Lake Itasca. In 2022, he became a Master Naturalist and volunteers at the Three Rivers Parks District. He became interested in wildlife photography as a member of the In Focus camera Club. He enjoys observing the Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets at the Marshall Terrace rookery.  With the help of others, he has self-published several nature photography books.  He works as a public health specialist for the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Minnesota and currently serves on the Pesticide Safety and Environment Education Advisory Board.

Amanda has been an advocate for the outdoor environment since elementary school. She even has a plaque at that elementary school for environmentalist of the year for her fifth-grade year. After pursuing an education in biology and environmental health, she has worked to keep laboratory and manufacturing employees safe for 20 years.

In 2022, she completed the Big Woods, Big River training with the University of Minnesota extension program. Since then, she has renewed her passion for conservation and habit restoration through volunteer events. Some of those events included birding education, which has led to her interest in joining the St Paul Audubon Society board.