Meet The Crew

Nathan D. Simons, Executive Director

Nathan D. Simons is a registered landscape architect and executive director of Blue Heron Ministries, Inc. Mr. Simons graduated with Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and Bachelor of Science degrees from Ball State University with a minor in Natural Resources (1985). Nathan is an accomplished botanist and is credited with the rediscovery of Lathyrus ochroleucus in Indiana. Nathan’s specialization is in historic modeling of wetland, prairie, and savanna communities. Nathan is a skilled ecological restoration specialist focusing on restoring natural areas through the control of exotic/invasive species, the reintroduction of native plant species communities, and prescribed burn management. Combining landscape architectural design and ecological restoration principles within the context of economic development is of special interest to Mr. Simons.

In addition to directing Blue Heron Ministries, Inc., Mr. Simons is employed on a part time basis by the Division of Nature Preserves as an Ecologist Aide. Nathan’s responsibilities include resource management planning and stewardship of State nature preserves in northeast Indiana.


Phillip Bieberich

Phillip is a registered herbicide applicator and serves as the project manager for Blue Heron Ministries. He daily manages most of Blue Heron Ministries’ ecological restoration projects including site inspections, project development, cost estimating, and field crew assignments. Mr. Bieberich graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University with a major in Wildlife Science (2007). Phil is a pretty good amateur botanist and his interest is in restoring the prairie-oak continuum landscape indigenous to northern Indiana and southern Michigan. Phil’s practiced exploration is in restoring wild places through the control of exotic/invasive species, the reintroduction of native plant species communities, and prescribed fire management. He has also served on the Indiana Prescribed Fire Council since its inception. Phil’s passion is applying the art and science of prescribed fire on the land to restore floral and faunal diversity within fire-dependent ecosystems.

In addition to leading field crews with Blue Heron Ministries, Phil is employed on a part-time basis by the Division of Nature Preserves as a field steward. His responsibilities include resource management and stewardship of State nature preserves in northeast Indiana.

In his spare time, Phil enjoys exploring the remnant prairie-oak landscapes in the neighborhood in search of native prairie seed. He also established and operates Mongo Seed, a source for local geno-type prairie seed and plants.


John Brittenham

John Brittenham is a native of LaGrange County, being born and raised near South Milford, IN. After graduating from Prairie Heights High School in 1998, John went on to obtain a B.A. in Biology and Biblical and Religious Studies from Huntington University in 2002. John worked as an environmental educator near Santa Cruz, California for two years and then worked for the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies on the Puget Sound in Washington State and in the North Woods of Michigan for 3 years. In 2009, John graduated from Taylor University with a Master of Environmental Science. Before joining the Blue Heron Ministries team in 2012, John worked for one year at The Nature Conservancy in south west Michigan as a seasonal management assistant and two years at Native Connections in Three Rivers, Michigan as a restoration biologist. The driving principle in John’s working life has been to share God’s creation with others and to do the work of stewarding this magnificent creation. Along with his enjoyment of restoring the natural communities on his own property, John spends most of his time loving on his family of four kids and wife.


David Drogos

Dave’s interest in the natural world began with fishing and hiking trips with his father in the forest preserves around Chicago. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Planning, Public Policy, and Management (2003). During the summers of 2001 and 2002, Dave worked at the Bureau of Forestry in Chicago inspecting tree plantings and working to mitigate damage from the invasive gypsy moth. After a field season at The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands site (2008), and a year as a steward with NICHES Land Trust (2009), Dave enrolled in a master’s program at Southern Illinois University. He graduated from the Forestry Department after completing research related to sustainability-based curriculum. Dave then worked first as a field technician, and then as the operations manager, for Cardno JFNew’s Monee, Illinois office.

In 2015 Dave moved to northeast Indiana. He worked for the Nature Conservancy as a seasonal field technician out of their Northeast Indiana office (2015, 2016). Dave then worked at Pokagon State Park as both the certified wastewater treatment plant operator and the park’s natural resource manager (2016-2019). He was hired by Blue Heron Ministries in the summer of 2020. He enjoys implementing impactful land stewardship projects. He currently volunteers as a lands committee member for Clear Lake Township Land Conservancy.


Josh Hall

Josh is a Michigan native who has always enjoyed the outdoors.  He went to Albion college (2010) where he broadened his horizons (2014) by studying the wildlife and human interactions in the savannas of Eastern Africa as a senior.  He then returned home to study much smaller and less deadly specimens, the humble Eastern Box Turtle for his college internship.  After graduating he worked for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division (2015) in various capacities as a field steward. In 2017 he felt the call to join Blue Heron Ministries and continue his passion of restoring and stewarding God’s creation.  

Outside of work he enjoys serving in his home church back up in Michigan, hosting his friends in games of Dungeons and Dragons, going fishing, camping, hiking, and walking his pet Eastern Box Turtle Aurora.


Shelby Holsinger

Shelby grew up in Mongo, Indiana and has lived in LaGrange County for 30 years. She started with BHM as a seasonal field steward in June of 2018 and fell in love with land restoration and conservation. Shelby now works at BHM part-time as she is pursuing a career in real estate with Century 21 – Bradley Real Estate Company. Her favorite thing about BHM is prescribed fire, about which she says, “The benefits of prescribed fire are remarkable and it is very satisfying to contribute to land restoration in such a unique way, especially with an efficient and professional burn crew.” 

Shelby and her fiancé Greg recently purchased a property by Big Long Lake, where they have begun building and restoration work. They attend South Milford Church of Christ and love spending time with their church family, as well as with their three dogs Luna, Rocky, and Ronix. During the summer months, Shelby enjoys hiking, water-sports, kayaking, and land restoration/ conservation. During the winter, she loves splitting wood, making maple syrup, and vacationing in Florida at the beach.


Emily Schmidt

Emily joined the BHM staff in 2019 as a summer intern and has since remained on as a field steward. She is a Michigan native whose love for the outdoors is inspired by family camping trips on the shores of the Great Lakes. This love for the outdoors led her to earn a B.S. in Environmental Science from Taylor University (2018). During college, Emily interned with the Fulton County SWCD/NRCS in Wauseon, OH and performed undergraduate research on the formerly endangered Kirtland’s warbler at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in Mancelona, Michigan. She has a passion for restoration of any kind, and among her favorite activities at BHM are planting plugs and burning prairies. In her spare time, Emily enjoys dog sitting, kayaking, reading mystery novels, and spending time with her family. 


Sarah Wilson

Sarah is an Angola native and began her journey with Blue Heron Ministries back in 2018 as a summer intern. She rejoined the crew in the fall of 2020. Her favorite part of her job is participating on prescribed fires with the rest of the crew. Sarah graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in the spring of 2020 with a degree in Recreation and Camp Administration. In her free time, Sarah enjoys working on her flower farm, Scott Twp Flower Farm, with her mom, restoring her house with her dad, gardening, reading, making music, and playing with her dog.


  

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