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 Labrador Retriever, Ernie, is her current canine partner for detection work and oversees the training for all of the organization's fieldwork canines. She is currently raising and training K9 Betty, the newest edition to the MCDI canine crew.
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.
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 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.
Carly Irland, Board President
Carly is a Wisconsin native, who has been actively involved in the local community for over 15 years. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts and has been a full-time employee of the Wisconsin Humane Society since 2007. She started her professional career in the Wildlife Animal Rehabilitation department, working alongside the veterinary care staff. From there, her passion for animals led her to becoming an Adoption Counselor, then an Adoption Supervisor. She is currently the Assistant Shelter Operations Manager at the Ozaukee County branch. As part of her job responsibilities, she regularly attends community fundraising and educational events, involving her own dogs whenever possible.
Carly's experience in the nonprofit sector combined with her love of all-things-dogs, makes her an excellent fit for the Midwest Conservation Dogs board. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and takes her canine companions along whenever she can. Her oldest dog, Harper, joined her on a trip to Alaska in 2015, and her youngest dog, Remus, joined her on a 2 week hiking trip to Maine in 2017. Since 2013, Carly and Harper have participated in the sport of K9 Nose Work, where they enjoy working together as a team and learning from each other. She currently resides in Milwaukee and shares her home with her dogs, cats, and a bearded dragon named Killian.
Tracie Feest, Board Treasurer
Tracie Feest joins Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc. with over 20 years of professional experience, including in the non-profit sector. She earned her MBA from Concordia University and since then has worked as Project manager, Investor Services Manager and Senior Account Manager at companies such as The United Way and Diamond Marketing. She has over 10 years’ experience working in finance to help elevate companies to build community collaboration that transforms lives both in and out of the office, and knows first-hand that client engagement is the key to success and it should happen year round. Tracie and her family reside in southeast Wisconsin, where they enjoy the great outdoors and look forward to camping season every year!
Holly Lewis, Board Secretary
Holly brings over 20 years of non-profit experience to the group. She was the president of Alliance of Wisconsin Animal Rehoming Efforts (AWARE) for 7 years and has been actively involved in running the Great Lakes Pet Expo (the largest pet expo in the Midwest) for 13 years. Holly has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from St Norbert College, but her career was written in stone when she started volunteering in dog rescue more than 15 years ago. During her early years of involvement in dog rescue, she shared her heart with a dog that sparked her interest and desire to learn more about dog behavior and training. Luckily, that interest has never stopped. In 2011, Holly launched Cold Nose Canine to share her passion and expertise with others. Each animal—human or canine—that crosses her path brings new insight and information to Holly, and she strongly believes in teaching people that animals have choice. Choice is a powerful resource for all beings. She also believes our paths cross for a reason and each interaction with our animals, and others, has a purpose. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her own dogs, reading up on the latest dog industry news, and getting her hands dirty in her garden.
Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, Board Member
Hannah Stonehouse Hudson is a public speaker, social media coach, photographer, and outdoor enthusiast. After losing her husband unexpectedly in 2013, Hannah began to focus primarily on inspiring others to follow their passions and to live life to the fullest. When Hannah is not out on the water or in the field, she can be found speaking about the power of social media, why it's important to live life to the fullest, and teaching organizations and businesses how to handle social media when something tragic occurs. Her TEDx talk on social media and the power of virtual communities is one of the most shared TEDx presentations on the internet.
Natalie Dutack, Board Member
Natalie is a passionate conservation professional with a background in restoration ecology, grant administration, and environmental outreach programming. She has made her personal goal of stewardship a reality through the active management, restoration, and protection of rare and threatened ecosystems. Most recently she joined the Milwaukee County Parks Team as the Area of Concern Program Supervisor in January 2020. Before this, she worked at the River Alliance of Wisconsin as the AIS & Watersheds Group Manager (and was a key person in getting MCDI partnered up with this group), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as an Administrative Officer, and as a Grant Quality Assurance Officer with the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group. She’s spent over a decade wrangling invasive species and facilitating education & outreach efforts. She earned her MS in environmental conservation from UW–Madison in 2017 and shares her home with her hilarious cats. She’s also an avid dog-lover and is incredibly enthusiastic to deploy conservation dogs in the midwest and one of K9 Ernie’s top fans.
PAST BOARD MEMBERS
Shana Magill, CPA, MBA
John Janssen, PhD
Lisa Kluslow, DVM, CVA, VSMT, CCRT, CVCH
Dr. rer. nat. Gerlinde Höbel