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OM's Volunteer Board of Directors

 John Gerend
  Vice Chair

John is the newest Director, elected in June of 2015. In 2014, John volunteered for migration for two weeks as a driver and enthusiastically doing whatever else was asked of him. John's love for the outdoors and nature began in his early years growing-up on the shores of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where he spent endless hours watching shore birds and skipping stones over the smooth morning waters. Those early interests continued to grow when he attended college and received his degree in Psychology from Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Saint John's has a beautiful campus located in the woods and lakes of central Minnesota. Following graduation John entered the U.S. Army and earned his commission as an Infantry Officer, and soon gained a transfer to the Signal Corp. He served in Vietnam as the Battalion Communications Officer for the Americal Infantry Division in Chu Lai. John was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.

Upon returning from overseas, John began his corporate career in a management training program with a Fortune 50 company focusing on operations management, transitioning ultimately into the Human Resources field where he spent the rest of his career. He became an equity partner of a HR Consulting firm where he provided corporate sponsored transition services as well as executive recruitment.

John's community service volunteer involvement includes past board positions as: President, Rockford Area Boys and Girls Clubs; President, Promised Land Employment Services; Vice President, United Way of Wells County, Indiana and Junior Current activities include: Member of Friends of Volo Bog where John has led Bog tours and monitors a Bluebird trail; certified ski instructor at Wilmot Mountain in southern Wisconsin; avid cyclist and member of Lake County Bicycle Club; Meals on Wheels driver delivering meals to senior citizens; sings tenor with the Viking Park Singers, a community choral group; and, with his wife Barbara, participates in the IFC Mid-West Crane Count.

John's dream is for their 11 grandchildren and future generations to enjoy seeing Whooping cranes in the wild.


Doug Aanes

Doug recently retired from the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee where he managed the Clinical Informatics department. Doug and wife Christy Smith have been supporters of Operation Migration since October 2010.

He is a member of numerous committees and a member of the Faculty for Veterans Electronic Health University. Doug has extensive experience in policy development and information and is considered a facility expert on informed consent, advance directives, and the electronic medical record.

Doug believes his extensive experience in team building, team facilitation, negotiation, and skill at motivating and moving a group toward a consensus would be beneficial to him as a member of the Board of Directors. He is an experienced presenter, and his computer knowledge includes software such as MS Windows, SharePoint, Apple Lion, Adobe Photoshop and LightRoom.

Doug has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin and in his personal life enjoys cooking, travel, and the observation and study of nature. His love of wildlife has recently led to an interest in photography.

David Sakrison

David is the author of Chasing the Ghost Birds: saving swans and cranes from extinction, published in 2007, and two books on Wisconsin local history. Chasing the Ghost Birds chronicles three cutting-edge conservation projects: returning trumpeter swans to the Midwest Flyway, international efforts to save endangered Siberian crane populations, and the whooping crane recovery program.

David has been a professional writer and editor for nearly 40 years, working for businesses, associations, health care, non-profits, museums, political and fundraising campaigns, and the press. In 1994, he became a full-time independent copywriter, editor, and corporate trainer. Since then, he has worked for a wide variety of clients from start-up businesses to multi-nationals and Fortune 500® companies.

He has led successful fundraising campaigns and was instrumental in persuading his home city of Ripon, Wisconsin to adopt a new City Forestry Ordinance that significantly reduced the number of trees lost to street and utility projects. He is an avid hiker, cyclist, and amateur photographer. His wife Christal, a Family Physician, is a birder and gardener. They share a long-standing interest in environmental issues.

David serves on the board of directors of the regional chapter of the American Red Cross. He is a mentor at a student-run consulting business at Ripon College. As a volunteer, he helped prepare Operation Migration’s White River Marsh site in June 2011.

Peter Smith Peter Smith

Peter is a clinical psychologist/consultant living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His wife, Valerie (also a clinical psychologist), and he moved there 22 years ago from New England. Peter was born in Milwaukee, and, at about 11 years of age, moved to a 200-acre farm in SE Wisconsin. The back 100 acres were their own managed wetland, part of a 2200-acre game preserve. The preserve added to the pheasant population over the course of a prolonged season. His father added two terrific ponds to add to the habitat for the waterfowl. Together with his younger brother, they planted and cared for thousands of trees (as he does, on a much smaller scale, at his home now). 

He learned about OM and Whooping cranes pretty early in the program, seeing a presentation on the Today Show one Saturday morning.  Peter says that he was fascinated from the beginning. Peter was amazed at the mission - saving these glorious birds in this precious, limited window of time, and helping them grow in numbers to become self-sustaining.  OM's unique approach, costumes and imprinting and guided migration delighted him given his love for flying. 

One summer some years back Peter visited Necedah, met a few of the OM people and got a little marsh tour. As if it were scripted, a magnificent adult whooper flew past in pretty close proximity, enough that he says he felt like they'd been buzzed by a feathered 747, or maybe the Space Shuttle. 

Peter says he is honored to serve on OM's Board and adds that he is a "roll my sleeves up doer, good listener, diplomatic but direct and honest as the summer day is long. I am eager to continue to help OM and whooping cranes in any and every way I am able. I would love to help more children learn about conservation, and particularly about our mission with our glorious big white birds."

Norman St. Amour

A strong supporter of OM since August 2003, he also supports The Peregrine Fund’s work to reintroduce California Condors into the wilds of Arizona and California, is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and is active in its efforts to restore the health of one of the nation’s most important waterways. 

Norm grew up in rural Quebec but he and his wife now live outside Washington DC. Inspired by Doug Tallamy’s book,” Bringing Nature Home”, for the last four years Norm has been transforming his once barren suburban lawn into a haven for wildlife by planting native trees, shrubs and flowers. He enjoys watching and identifying the native bees, myriad butterflies, and the bluebirds, cardinals, hummingbirds, and other wildlife that now visit his yard. 

Norm earned an undergraduate degree in history at Carleton University in Ottawa, a graduate degree in Sino-American relations at the University of Virginia, and a law degree from The George Washington University Law School. An avid reader and book collector, Norm enjoys exploring used bookstores. 

He currently serves as an Acting Assistant General Counsel at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission where he is responsible for supervising staff attorneys conducting environmental and security reviews for fuel cycle and uranium enrichment facilities and related matters. He has previously served as a senior government contracts attorney, the agency’s fiscal law expert, and as an agency representative to the German, Dutch and British governments on nuclear security issues. 

Norm hopes to use his love of nature and his expertise in regulatory, environmental and fiscal law to further the mission of OM in its efforts to restore the magnificent Whooping crane. 

 Jeff Weingarz 

Jeff has had a lifetime passion for the outdoors and conservation. Jeff grew up playing and working in the cornfields of central Illinois – learning about topics such as crop rotation, invasive plant species, and erosion management long before he could actually read about them!  

Jeff has been an avid supporter of OM since 2007 – the Class of 2006 tragedy opened his eyes to the plight of the Whooping Crane and he is extremely vested in continued efforts to develop a self-sustaining eastern migratory flock of cranes. 

Jeff’s professional career has been in the tech industry in various supply chain leadership roles over the last 30 years. He has overseen operations, inventory and demand management around the globe for both the medical device and telecommunications industries, most recently at Coriant, which is an optical networks equipment provider to large carriers such as AT&T and Verizon. 

Jeff received an MBA degree from DePaul University and has a BS from Bradley University in Operations Mgmt. Jeff is married to his wife, Dr. Julie Weingarz, and they have one daughter, Amelia. The whole family are avid supporters of local natural history museums in their area and love adventure travel to the western US for birding, hiking, and fossil hunting.

Joe Duff
Ex Officio Director,
Co-founder & CEO

Born in 1949 in rural Ontario, Joseph Duff developed an early appreciation for nature and a love of flying, earning his pilot's license while working in the Yukon Territories. Duff was one of Canada's leading commercial photographers, known primarily for his work with the world's major automobile manufacturers. After twenty years of operating a studio in downtown Toronto, he began to look for new adventures.

Joe joined Bill Lishman in 1993 and helped him conduct the first human-led bird migration. The two "artists turned naturalists" used two ultralight aircraft to lead 18 Canada geese from Ontario to Virginia. The success of this initial study led to the founding of Operation Migration the following year, and the making of "Fly Away Home" in 1995. For the film, Duff trained the "actor geese" to follow the aircraft, and worked closely with the production crew; even contributing some of the footage.

In the same year Joe led Sandhill cranes in flights around southern Ontario. Thereafter they began a series of experiment to determine if the technique could be applies to an endangered species. Once the 1997 Sandhill crane migration was completed, Duff assisted Dr. William Sladen and Gavin Shire in the first ultralight-led migration of Trumpeter swans, which was carried out by Airlie Environmental Studies Centre in Warrenton VA.

To address the problem of tameness in birds conditioned to follow aircraft, Duff worked with the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to establish the innovative costume-rearing protocol used in a 1998 study. He developed the protocol for the preliminary Sandhill-crane study and for the Whooping crane reintroduction project.

Joe headed the team of pilots and handlers that annually led a new generation of Whooping cranes on their 1200+ mile first migration from the introduction site in Wisconsin to the wintering grounds in Florida.

In early 2006, Duff led a team of pilots on an aerial survey conducted in Arkansas and Louisiana in search of the elusive Ivory-billed woodpecker.

His personal aircraft is on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 2008. In 2012 a second of Operation Migration's retired aircraft went on display in Conservation Station at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park in Florida. 

Joe has developed a keen interest in the science of migration and crane behavior, and has accumulated more hours in flight alongside more species of birds than any other human.

Joe and his wife Diana have one daughter, Alex. The family lives in the small town of Port Perry, Ontario, the home of Operation Migration's headquarters.



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