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.

Jim is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His background is in science, research and associated research budgets. He has served as a Director on the Saint Paul Audubon Society Board for the last three years and is familiar with the Society’s activities, policies and budget matters. Activities he enjoys include Warbler Weekend preparations and Big River Journey. Jim and his wife are Audubon members and have participated in many domestic and international birding trips.

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.

Rebecca is a longtime resident of the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul. She has spent her professional career in public sector service. For 30 years she worked at the Metropolitan Council and ran the environmental programs for the Council’s regional wastewater treatment plants. In 2008, she became an Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, overseeing the agency’s statewide water quality programs. Since retiring in 2018, Rebecca enjoys having more time for birding, gardening, and helping family, friends and the community.  She is excited for the opportunity to be more active in the Saint Paul Audubon Society.

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, “For us 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 positively impact St. Paul Audubon’s efforts in this area.”

Greg recently served on the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter board, including three years as president, and as membership chair.  He also 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.

Born in Montana, raised in Pennsylvania, Kathy moved to Minnesota in 1987 and attended law school at the University of Minnesota. Before moving to Minnesota, she worked in governmental relations and development for a number of institutions including the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pennsylvania, the Franklin Institute, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  After practicing law for a number of years at the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Faegre & Benson law firm, she returned to development and worked for the University of Minnesota Libraries, retiring in 2018.  Though a beginning birder, Kathy has always been a supporter of environmental causes with a particular concern on wildlife and conservation issues.  Involvement with the St. Paul Audubon Society offers a wonderful opportunity to use her experience and skills to advance the Society’s mission of “building a community that values and protects birds and the natural environment.”