Please join one of many programs often featuring BTG's 'perennial' speakers....


Jack Gulvin
Naturalist, Forester, 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. 2020 will be Jack’s 20th season as a BTG guide. Join in on a Nature Walk at 9:15 Friday mornings starting at Smith Wilkes Hall. Close out your afternoon meeting up again lakeside between the Bell Tower and Sports Club at the Purple Martin houses for a peek into the Purple Martin Houses at 4:15. 


Betsy Burgeson
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. Having finished her fourth season 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 returning 'The Arboretum' to its original purpose as an 'outdoor nature classroom.' Betsy has also been a valued partner to the BTG community supporting the Club's key initiatives regarding the Monarch Moments program, redesign of the Arboretum, lake walks and more! This season she lead the implementation of a unique Shipman garden at the Miller Edison Cottage.


Joe McMaster
Arborist, Naturalist

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 experience ranges from raising grapes on the 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.


Dr. Lynda Acker, Monarchpalooza! co-chair, Monarch Moments and More chair
Master Gardener, Landscape Designer, Ph.D., BTG board member,

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 and More program along with Betsy Burgeson of the Chautauqua Institution and a team of experts in the field. Be sure to attend the Monday 12:15 lectures at Smith Wilkes Hall, and bring your lunch!


Sara Baker 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. 

Dennis McNair
Nature Coordinator, BTG board member, Emeritus Biology Professor


Dennis coordinates the BTG nature programs, garden talks and walks, Monday evening lake walks, bird walks, and nature walks. These are regular weekly events lead by local guides with great knowledge of the flora and fauna in the area.  Dennis is a PHD, Emeritus Biology Professor, Univ of Pittsburgh - Johnstown and frequent BTG lecturer and guide. Dennis received his A.B. in Biology from Whitman College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Zoology from Southern Illinois Univ. He taught at Western Illinois Univ. and Wright State Univ. before moving to the Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 1980. He chaired the Biology Dept. for 21 years with research centered on aquatic insects, especially dragonflies and damselflies.


Chris Flanders, Native Plant Sale lead, Butterflies & Blooms Coordinator
Master Gardener, BTG board member

An active Master Gardener, BTG board member Chris Flanders is in charge of BTG's 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! If you'd like a free consultation about your Chautauqua garden, please contact Chris at and schedule a complimentary appointment.