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Leadership Board

Advisory Leadership Board

CFWEP is supported by an advisory leadership board of education, science, and local experts. 

Dr. Colleen Elliott

Dr. Colleen Elliott is geologist who makes geologic maps for the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology. She takes great joy in her work as an earth scientist, which she has been doing for well over 30 years. To share her love of outdoors science, she has made it a goal to get every child outdoors doing science at least once. With that goal in mind, Colleen founded the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program. Colleen also serves on the board for the Science Mine in Butte, Montana, a hands-on, informal approach to scientific learning and development for kis and adults alike. 

Joe Griffin

Joe is a hydrogeologist who retired from Montana Department of Environmental Quality (Superfund Section) in 2015. He was the State’s project manager for Butte Priority Soils, a technical advisor for the Anaconda Smelter Site and the monitoring program manager for the Clark Fork Operable Unit. In a prior life, he was the office manager for Environmental Science and Engineering, Inc., contracted by Atlantic Richfield to study smelter effects on groundwater and the four streams in the Anaconda area and to monitor groundwater levels and water quality for the Berkeley Pit Superfund site. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from the University of Montana. In addition to being an avid skier and mountain trail runner, his passion still lies with the restoration of the upper Clark Fork watershed.

Dr. Marisa Pedulla

Dr. Pedulla received her B.S. in Chemistry with a bioscience option at the University of Pittsburgh with coursework including studies in French and Japanese. She received her Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Pittsburgh in the laboratory of Dr. Graham Hatfull. After a brief postdoctoral position at Washington State University, she ran the Phage Genomics facility at the Pittsburgh Bacteriophage Institute and co-developed phage discovery program with Dr. Graham Hatfull. She brought phage discovery to teachers and students across Montana beginning as an assistant professor of Biology at Montana Tech in 2005. Over 10,000 students have participated in her phage discovery program. She has been awarded several significant research grants, including two 5-year NIH SEPA grants in collaboration with CFWEP.org entitled “Bringing Research Into the Classroom” and “Phages Helping Acquire Genuine Experiences in Science.”

Michelle McCarthy

Michelle McCarthy,  joined the OPI in the summer of 2015. She graduated from Bozeman Senior High before earning a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Education, Ed Tech. from Montana State University-Billings.  Michelle completed her K-12 Principal certification in 2012 and worked as a teacher/principal in a three-room school house.  Her love for both roles lead her to begin working toward a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction, and helped her determine the focus of her dissertation research.

Michelle has taught over twelve years students from kindergarten to pre-service graduate students.  In her current role as OPI’s Science Instructional Coordinator, Michelle feels privileged to be working with Montana teachers to inspire students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Amy Verlanic

Amy’s full-time career is as the Executive Director of the Institute for Educational Opportunities at Montana Tech where she works to provide teachers and students with college-based programs that enrich statewide science, engineering, and technology education. Her educational grant-writing skills have garnered over $60 Million in public and private funding.

Amy has held elected office at the local, state, regional and national levels. She was the Board Chair for the Council for Opportunity in Education in 2013, where she was charged to represent the needs of 2,900 federally funded TRIO programs serving 840,000 Americans.

Ms. Verlanic is a sought after lecturer on educational access issues, grant writing, funding, management and leadership, and data management; her work has been shared at the European Access Network and across the US, She has been contracted by entities such as Indiana State University, The South East Association of Opportunity Program Personnel (SAEOPP), and the Montana Office of Commissioner for Higher Education to train their members on topics ranging from strategic planning, organizational management, grant writing and compliance, best practices in student recruitment and retention, and effective governmental relations.

Dr. Erick Greene

Erick Greene is a professor in the Division of Biological Sciences and in the Wildlife Biology Program at The University of Montana.  Erick grew up in Quebec, Canada.  He dropped out of high school to work for a year in the Galapagos Islands, conducting research on Darwin’s Finches.  He then returned for undergraduate studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he studied biology, music and mathematics, and then received a PhD in Ecology from Princeton University. 

Erick has conducted research on wildlife all over the world, including the Canadian high arctic, Mexico, Peru, Botswana and New Zealand.  Ospreys have been a passion, and Erick has studied them all over the world for almost 40 years.  Erick and his family have made Montana home for over 30 years. 

Justin Ringsack

Justin Ringsak is a science and technology communications specialist and Montana Tech alumnus (M.S. Technical Communication 2005) with more than a decade of experience in technology, science and education issues. Justin currently works as the Web Applications Developer for the Montana Department of Agriculture, having previously served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CFWEP in 2007, and as the program’s Communications and Public Education Coordinator from 2008 until 2011. Justin has also worked as an adjunct professor and communications and technology consultant, and in his spare time can be found hiking or fishing if he is not playing music around the state in one of Montana’s local breweries.