Ryan Postema, Executive Director
Ryan Postema is a Michigan native, born and raised in the Grand Rapids area. He attended Michigan State University and graduated in 2001 with a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife. Ryan began at Chikaming Open Lands in 2013 as a Land Protection Specialist, and was named Executive Director of the organization in 2016. Prior to joining Chikaming Open Lands, Ryan spent eight years working as a project manager for Cardno, an international environmental consulting firm, where he managed and implemented large-scale ecosystem restoration and native landscaping projects. Ryan's experience includes managing and implementing projects in wildlife habitat restoration, invasive species control, prescribed burning, and native landscaping.
In his free time, Ryan enjoys birding, botany and gardening. He also spends time at his family's 10 acres of woodland in Cannonsburg, MI doing invasive species control and landscaping.
Jennifer Thompson, Development and Marketing Manager
Jen has retreated to Southwest Michigan after 22 years in Chicago, where she worked in development and communications for Loyola University Chicago, Loyola University Health System, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Rush University Medical Center. She received her B.A. in Art History from Loyola University Chicago.
She discovered this corner of Michigan in the summer of 2011, when she rented a cottage on the weekends in Union Pier. Jen bought a home in the area in the summer of 2012, and hasn't looked back since. She enjoys cooking, travel, reading, running barrels on her horse Beau, and trekking the beautiful beaches, dunes and preserves in the area with her dog Scout.
Stacey LaRocco, Project Coordinator
Upon moving to New Buffalo via Chicago in 2011, Stacey volunteered for Chikaming Open Lands. After a childhood spent in rural Western New York and in a cabin nestled between protected lands in Mid-Missouri, Stacey studied English, Ecology and Marine Biology as an undergrad and had an internship with Coastal Zone Management in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Stacey has worked for Loyola University, UIC and eventually, her husband's general contracting company where she learned accounting and business management.
Stacey's interests include aquatic biology, watershed management, and community outreach and education. Whenever possible, she'll be kayaking along the Sima Marsh Trail.
Casey Struecker, Education and Outreach Coordinator
Casey was born and raised in Iowa but transplanted to Chicago, where she worked for Park Ridge, Evanston Park Districts, and volunteered at Lincoln Park Zoo leading and writing various environmental education programs. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science at Simpson College in 2012 and has traveled around the country doing various conservation and restoration work. From grassland restoration work in the plains of northern Minnesota to trapping and researching coyotes in central Nevada, Casey has found her calling in land conservation and environmental education.
Outside of work she enjoys traveling, camping, hiking, gardening, and her new adventures of worm composting. After visiting this southwestern corner of Michigan for the first time in 2016, she knew that Chikaming Open Lands was the perfect organization for her.