MEET THE PEOPLE
The staff and volunteers of Midwest Conservation Dogs is made up of a diverse and committed team of experts in dog training, scent work, nonprofits and restoration ecology. During project development, they advise and train their project partners. During fieldwork, they're part dog guide/part dog translator. Within the community, they're educators who raise awareness and teach the value of scent detection within conservation.
Laura Holder, CPDT-KA, CNWI™
Co-founder, Executive Director
Laura's lifelong fascination with canines, especially their unique ability to work alongside humans, inspires her every day in the field. She loves training and deploying the MCDI canine teams to support clients in their critical conservation efforts.
Driven by her boundless curiosity about how dogs think, learn and detect scent, Laura has spent more than a decade as a professional in the fields of scent-detection, nose work and dog training.
She is a Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI™) through the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NASCW) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) through the CCPDT. Laura has also trained for obedience and agility.
In addition to co-founding Midwest Conservation Dogs, Laura is also owner of Connecting with Dogs, co-founder of the Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin, and has a long list of continuing education credits.
Her two Labrador Retrievers, Ernie & Betty White, are her current canine partner for detection work and she oversees the training for all of the organization's fieldwork canines.
Director of Programs
Amy earned a degree in Environmental Science and Resource Conservation from Carroll University, allowing her to study around the globe in places like Alaska, Minnesota, and Australia. She uses her professional experiences and her passion for working with dogs to develop and manage many of the programs at MCDI. Amy ensures each project and program are scientifically sound and well researched.
After spending her childhood working with sled dogs, joining the team at MCDI is a perfect fit. Amy's background in volunteer outreach, project management, data collection and research are invaluable when it comes to assisting MCDI clients with their work. And she's particularly excited about sharing MCDI’s work with the public through social events and educational opportunities.
Amy lives in the Milwaukee area with her family and newly adopted Labrador Retriever, Cap. When not wrangling her hurricane-boys she loves to cook, spend time in the north woods, and to see how many pages she can read before being asked for a snack.
Director of Communications
Growing up an avid camper, Tracie has always had a deep love for the natural environment and creation as a whole. That, coupled with her involvement in the growth of nonprofit brands such as Exploit No More, Camp Hometown Heroes, Gold in September, the JJ Watt Foundation, United Way and more, make her a great asset for MCDI and its continued growth.
Tracie brings 17+ years of B2B and B2C branding, marketing and public relations experience to the organization with a passion to kindle fires in the hearts of diverse audiences; inspiring them to take action and be the change they desire to see in the world.
In addition to working with MCDI, Tracie is the Owner & Ringmaster at Front & Center Creative, a full-service communications agency helping clients spotlight their brand.
Like our other team members, Tracie also adores dogs and she comes from a long line of canine lovers! She and her family recently welcomed Lola the Labrador Retriever to their home after saying goodbye to their 10-year old Golden Retriever, Bela, who died of cancer in 2018. Of this Tracie shared, “The part of our hearts that she inhabited will forever remain hers… She made us better people.”
Ever since she was little, Clairess has been surrounded by just about every pet you can think of—cats, fish, birds, turtles, frogs, snakes, gerbils—but never dogs. In 2015, she added her first canine to her life, Alvarado (Alva), and as the saying goes, the rest was history. Shortly thereafter she welcomed Harriet to her family and began learning about detection dog work in 2017 under the guidance of Laura. Clairess' natural ability to observe canine behavior combined with her deep love for nature and conservation make her a natural fit for MCD's team. Clairess is currently seeking her CPDT-KA certification.
Originally from the UK, Jo's fascination with animal behavior and her concern for nature began as a young child through collecting and observing the animals around her, first at her home near Oxford, and later in Bahrain where her family lived until she was 15.
With a degree in Management Science and three years of doctoral research in a tool for strategic planning and decision making, most of Jo’s early career was spent working with human behavior but after moving to the USA she discovered scent detection and has been working with her canine partner Willow ever since. Willow acquired many of her search skills as a search and rescue dog trained to find missing people before transitioning to providing scent detection services for conservation projects.
Following a project recording bat fatalities around turbines at wind farms Jo became concerned for our native bats and began researching this problem and exploring the current solutions which led to her writing a white paper. The paper proposes a solution that draws on the principles of behavior and learning to help the bats to choose safer migration routes which avoid close contact with wind turbines through the establishment of “migration corridors”.
Research and Outreach Assistant
After getting her undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance, Lindsay realized that her love of conservation outweighed her love of singing opera. She returned to school at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and received her Masters of Biology with a focus in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior.
In conjunction, she began working at a doggy daycare, and quickly rose through the ranks to become a manager specializing in canine behavior observation and modification. Pursuant to her fascination with working dogs, she enrolled her corgis in herding classes in 2013.
In 2016, Lindsay read an article about Tucker, the Labrador Retriever who specializes in sniffing out whale poop in Puget Sound. She realized this was the perfect field to combine her love of conservation and dogs,
Lindsay lives in Milwaukee with her husband Jake and her ever-energetic son, Hudson. She loves to garden, bird watch, and cycle, and trains her corgis, Devyn and Fletcher, in agility and nosework.
Raised as an avid outdoorswoman, Amy comes to MCDI with a great appreciation for conservation - having found her roots in the teachings of Aldo Leopold and the Land Ethic. From an early age, she has been active in conservation both at home and throughout her community. With the help of their trusty labradors, Amy and her family have spent years fighting buckthorn and other invasive species on her family’s farm.
Amy will graduate in May of 2020 from St. Norbert College with a degree in Communication and a background in Global Politics. Apart from that, Amy spends her free time volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter in Green Bay, called Happily Ever After.
During Amy’s third year of college, she realized that her love for service, animals, and the environment was going to impact her future career, which lead her search for organizations that would align with her passions. Hence her sniffing out MCDI.
In her free time, Amy enjoys hiking, hammocking, and walking her two lovely black labradors, as well as her sister’s sassy beagle.
Carly with Remus and Harper
In addition to serving as our current Board President, Carly is a seasoned presenter for the WI Humane Society (including Kids’ Camps). She and her dogs, Remus and Harper, also assist MCDI with our education programs. Carly is fluent in English and Spanish.
Mary with Bonnie
With over 30 years’ experience teaching elementary school, Mary assists MCDI’s education programs by advising program development. Her canine companion, Bonnie, assists in public demonstrations for scent work, tricks and dog safety.
Board of Directors
Since 2017 Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc. has been overseen by a group of dedicated, volunteer board members.
Past Board Members
Carly Irland • Hannah Stonehouse Hudson • Shana Magill, CPA, MBA • John Janssen, PhD • Lisa Kluslow, DVM, CVA, VSMT, CCRT, CVCH • Dr. rer. nat. Gerlinde Höbel