Please join one of our 90 programs often featuring one of BTG's 'perennial' speakers....
Naturalist, Forrester, Purple Martin expert
Jack learned about plants and birds as a teenager from Jamestown Audubon specialists Gib Burgeson and Bob Sundell and that set him on his path to earning a BS in Forest Management at Syracuse. He was employed by the US Department of the Interior for 13 years working in parks with diverse a landscape from Yellowstone, Grand Teton to Cuyahoga Ohio. A nationally known expert on Purple Martins, he attends to dozens of houses on the Institution grounds and throughout Chautauqua County, carefully charting out their records per house. Jack's knowledge of his subject matter and friendly manner make him an ideal speaker/guide for all ages. Join in on a Nature Walk at 9:15 Friday mornings starting at Smith Wilkes Hall and then meet up again lakeside between the Bell Tower and Sports Club at the Purple Martin houses at 4:15.
Caroline Van Kirk Bissell
Appropriately named for her 15 years of experience and expertise examining bats thru hands on learning, Caroline has presented bat chats for Chautauqua Institution audiences, book clubs, garden clubs, church groups and private families filled with fun and facts.
Caroline studied bats domestically and thru extensive international travel. In 2001 she lived in Brazil on an Amazon riverboat studying fruit, nectar, pollen, insect and blood eating bats with Bat Conservation International. In 2004 she participated in a hands-on seminar in the Chiricauhau Mountains of Arizona observing many of the 27 species of bats found in the desert southwest also with Bat Conservation International. She has also observed the giant fruit bats of Australia and the exotic bats in Southeast Asia. She's an expert in Chautauqua's little brown bats, recently suffering from white nose virus. 'Who you gonna call?' = firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more Wednesdays 4:15 at Smith Wilkes Hall,
Chautauqua Institution Supervisor of Gardens and Landscapes
Betsy earned a Bachelor of Science in earth science and biology education and a Master’s in science secondary education at Fredonia. She then taught biology for seven years at Panama Central in southern Chautauqua County. There, from 2008 to 2009, she held a grant position that promoted outreach and greater public awareness of the effects of human activity on the health of Chautauqua Lake. Growing up in Lakewood near the Cummins plant, Burgeson is the daughter of a prominent Jamestown attorney and an elementary school teacher in the Jamestown area. But Burgeson is a “third-generation gardener,” and it was that love for gardens, ecology and Chautauqua Lake that led her to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, often known simply as the ’Shed. In her brief tenure at Chautauqua she has taken the task of transforming the grounds to a new level by designing and implementing innovative ecologically and economically sound plans. She has taken on exemplary work and effort with trees. Betsy has also been a valued partner to the BTG community supporting our key initiatives regarding the Monarch Moments program, redesign of the Arboretum, lake walks and more! Check the program guide for all of Betsy's talks.
Joe grew up in the local area and after a 3 year agricultural stay with the Peace Corp, a BA in Comparative Literature, and tree work and landscaping in Denver, he returned to Chautauqua county. His span of his experience ranges from raising grapes on Lake Erie plain, starting a landscaping company, becoming a certified arborist and farming juice grapes. The BTG is fortunate to have Joe share his knowledge for the local flora and fauna on Garden Walks and Talks. Join him Tuesdays 4:15 at Smith Wilkes Hall.
Lynda Acker, BTG board member
Master Gardener, Landscape Designer, Ph.D.,
Dr. Lynda Acker earned her Bachelor of Science in biology at Allegheny College, completed her Masters in Science coursework in biology at the College of William and Mary, earned her Ph.D. in molecular physiology at The Pennsylvania State University, and completed a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation postdoctoral fellowship in successful aging at Duke University. A lifelong gardener raised in Chautauqua county, Lynda has been a Master Gardener since 2005. After retiring her clinical documentation company in 2006, she began designing large gardens for local healthcare facilities and schools. She heads up the BTG Monarch Moments program along with Betsy Burgeson of the Chautauqua Institution and a team of experts in the field.
Sara B Michalak
Sara was raised in Western New York, spending many years in and around Chautauqua Creek where she grew to love all things wild. Drawn to a creative life, Sara followed a career in the visual arts - drawing from nature for subject matter. An increased focus on native flora developed while an interdisciplinary graduate student in Nature and Culture at SUNY Fredonia. Sara owned and operated Canadaway Wildflowers, a native plant nursery in Fredonia. She has offered many presentations on the region's native flora, gardening for wildlife, and wildflower propagation; her writings have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Upstate Gardeners Journal, Nature Photographer Magazine and Buffalo Spree. Sara lives with her family on Canadaway Creek, where she gardens and operates an art studio.
Jack and Diane Voelker
Jack and Diane Voelker, who live on 65 acres of land a few miles north of Mayville, NY, are recently retired - but busier then ever! Jack, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, served as Chautauqua Institution's Director of Recreation and Youth Services for over 25 years. Diane, a registered nurse, founded Family Health Medical Services in Mayville in 1982. In 2014, they traveled to Mexico to visit one of the monarchs' winter migration sites and were 'hooked'! They were the featured speakers at the BTG Life Member luncheon as well as the Brown Bag series and also at Boys and Girls Club. They launched a thriving monarch project with Chautauqua Lake Central School and speak throughout the region on Monarchs. The Voelkers joined BTG's monarch team and will be lecturing on how to plan a trip to Mexico and visit the monarch's winter home!
Nature Coordinator, BTG board member
Johanna coordinates the BTG nature programs, garden talks and walks, Monday evening lake walks, bird walks, bat chats, and nature walks. These are regular weekly events and posted on our BTG calendar and in the Daily paper.
Although her background is in health care, she has volunteered as a nature educator for local elementary schools and served on the local nature conservancy board. Most of her 19 seasons in CHQ Johanna served on the Chautauqua Property Owners Association board, the Chq Traffic Task Force, or the BTG's board. She truly cares about the health of her community!
John Jablonski III
Executive Director Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, Conservationist;
With a focus on land conservation and watershed education, the CWC, a 501C3 is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. Working with residents, landowners, landscapers, developers, contractors, public officials, and governmental entities, CWC promotes best land management practices and preserves and restores the waterways/sheds of the region. CWC has led efforts resulting in the conservation of more than 1,000 acres of land and 2 miles of shoreline! chautauquawatershed.org
Master Gardener, BTG board member
An active Master Gardener, BTG board member Chris Flanders is in charge of the new Butterflies & Blooms program which encourages eco-friendly garden habitats. From a family with a long history at Chautauqua, Chris is also a sailor, a writer and a retired nurse practitioner. She coordinates and often presents the Garden Workshops - a program that presents practical and interesting hands-on gardening topics with a unique sense of humor!