KELP Spotlight        
Susan Metzger
September 2012 Newsletter
Susan Metzger began her environmental quest after she graduated from the University of Mary Washington. She continued on to obtain a master’s degree from Old Dominion University in 1999. Upon graduating, she began her environmental career by working with engineering firms responsible for military environmental compliance and land development. In 2003 she accepted a position at the Kansas Water Office (KWO) as an environmental scientist. Later she was promoted to the manager of the Watershed Coordination Unit. This summer she began her current position networking with organizations, the legislature, and congressional delegates to ensure water policy issues are addressed.
Susan began a career in environmentalism because she loved all outdoor activities.
“I am very fortunate to be able to align my hobbies so well with my work,” she says. ”The saying “do what you love and love what you do” fits for me.” She says she wouldn’t want to ever change her choice.
Throughout her life in an Army family, she has learned to be flexible, plan, and cherish opportunities. These attributes have played a major role in her career and life successes. In most careers you have ups and downs, but so far Susan believes every positive and negative experience has taught her something in return. Her number one highlight is the fact that she is involved directly with the Kansas environment.
“I feel that I actively make a difference for our Kansas citizens by addressing our highest priority water resource issues,” she says. An example of this was the reallocation of storage at the John Redmond Reservoir, which she was a part of. This project will extend the reservoir’s life by up to 15 years.
In order to get to where she is today, Susan gives credit where credit is due, explaining the number of people who have positively impacted her career. The most recent example is Earl Lewis, assistant director of the Water Office. “Earl has a knack for evaluating all sides of a water policy or research issue,” she says. Susan says this quality is what has made him such a valuable influence.
Finally, KELP contributed to Susan’s career success because of the level of diversity. “My class was comprised of federal and state employees, county sanitarians, and interested citizens from every corner of the state,” she says. The differing opinions and ideas created a variety of relationships that Susan still calls on.
With that, her advice to anyone in this field is to build a strong network. “Every connection made will be valuable at some point in your career,” she says. Thank you Susan.
Donn Teske
July Newsletter Spotlight
When some think of a 56-year-old Kansas farmer, they might picture a man set in his old ways of farming the land. But when you meet 56-year-old Kansas farmer Donn Teske, you might picture the opposite. As twelfth-year president of the Kansas Farmers Union, Donn is dedicated to improving the land he works daily. He is a KELP graduate and a fifth generation farmer from Wheaton, Kan. He runs a dairy farm alongside his most prized individuals: his wife Kathy, four children, and three grandchildren.
After farming full time from 1973 to 2004, Donn took a position at Kansas State University as a farm analyst. In that position, he assisted farm operations with financial and crisis planning. A year later, he started with the Kansas Rural Center, where he currently serves on the executive board. While at the center, he worked with their land stewards on the Clean Waters Farm Project which developed a plan for farmers, grant programs, and strategies for improving water quality. While traveling across the state, he was in awe of the environmental stewardship he was capable of.
“Sometimes I would be out on someone’s farm looking at nature around me and the good that could come from what we were looking at and wonder that someone was actually paying me to do this job!” he says.
Through his involvement with the Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Rural Center,Kansas Graziers Association, and other organizations, he’s able to implement environmental change in an educated way that others understand, relate to, and are motivated by. Donn continued to expand his knowledge base when he took the opportunity of a life time to travel to the village of Keur Ali Gueye in Senegal, Africa, and work with their millet production. “It was a life-changing experience,” he says.
Donn also believes through his experience running a multi-generational farm he has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly ways of farming. With that, he feels a responsibility that can’t be explained in a classroom. “I have the ghosts of four previous generations of stewards of this land looking over my shoulder,” he says, “and it’s my responsibility to care for it the best that I can.” Although he’s had some great successes, he credits much of it to those who, “gently showed me that there is much more to stewardship of our resources.”
Donn is not a professional environmentalist, conservationist, or environmental advocate, but he does consider himself an environmental steward because it is “just part of the responsibilities of humans on this planet.”
After all of his experiences, Donn leaves a piece of advice: “Be ready to absorb rejection, especially here in Kansas where farmers and business don’t like anyone else messin’ with their system,” he explains, “but you HAVE TO DO THIS. Someone has to.”As a husband, father, and grandfather, Donn feels very strongly that everyone has their own part to play in preserving the land and our resources. He believes we should feel the obligation to contribute for our future selves, and family members
MARCH 2012 Newsletter
Libby Albers, like many young teenage girls who attend a summer camp outdoors, loved it so much she never wanted to leave. Unlike many girls at summer camp, though, Libby began what would be her dream career. “My family often jokes that I never really came home from summer camp,” she says while explaining the beginning of her environmental journey.
When she was 16 years old, Libby went to a Girl Scout day camp with her sister, where she got the opportunity to probe the camp staff about the perks of their job. As her luck would have it, the camp was in dire need of more staff, which led to her first environmental education job. As a young, shy teenager she presented self-consciously. She hoped to continue gaining knowledge about the topics through camp. After many summers, her persistence paid off with a part-time job opportunity at the Great Plains Nature Center.
For the next few years she became a “sponge” as she was introduced to all aspects of nature. “I visited places and learned about things that I had never considered before.” This led to networking with other individuals interested in the environment and resource interpretation. As time lapsed, Libby recalls discovering a feeling of accomplishment. “For the first time, I felt I was successful at teaching youth about nature and the environment.” Although that confidence appeared, she still struggled with other professionals. “I did not feel I knew enough, that I was not an “expert” on a topic.” On her quest to conquer her feeling of lack of expertise, Libby spent the next year in the AmeriCorps National Service at Cheney State Park.
After contributing by building trails and designing brochures, she took on a seasonal position at the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks Fisheries Division. Reflecting on the opportunity, Libby expresses that it, “turned out to be the best experience of my life.” She felt this way primarily because the fisheries biologist took a genuine interest in the staff’s opinions. “This was the first time that I felt confident in the environmental knowledge I had gained.” This confidence now shines on her current career as the WATER Center Coordinator -Environmental Services Specialist for the City of Wichita.
Throughout her time since 2001 at the WATER Center, she has had many expectations, responsibilities, goals, and tremendous successes. One of which includes creating, presenting, marketing, and evaluating the environmental education activities for the WATER Center. She manages the environmental education grants, “successfully leveraging $150,000 for education.”In addition, she coordinates several community activities, and contributes to public relations for the City of Wichita.
Prior to her career, she found higher education by attending Kansas Newman College where she obtained an English degree. Later, she aspired to learn more and attended Wichita State University finishing with a Biology degree. Finally she was a graduate student of Stephen F. Austin State University gaining a Master of Science degree in the field of Resources Interpretation. Her educational experience has helped her grow as an environmentalist.
Libby was rewarded for her successes and hard work recently by being recognized as the KWF’s 2011 CAP award recipient in the field of Water Conservation. An honorary banquet was held February 25th for the Conservation Achievement Program Awards for recognition of excellence in every field of wildlife conservation. Although she has done great things, Libby acknowledges proudly that her accomplishments have come with great support from a variety of places; “from the women who first introduced me to environmental interpretation, to biologists who nurtured my intellectual self-confidence.” Libby explains how important it was for her career for these people to be in her life. As a result of much of her mentorship coming from fellow naturalists, Libby suggests to future KELP Classes to enjoy the “KELP family!” She expresses how the KELP teammates can be great friends and informational resources. “You might be surprised how often you will reconnect with team members on projects, job leads and othey opportunities for collaboration.”
Tonya richards
January 2012

 “My spirituality is renewed through nature and the Earth on a daily basis,” says Tonya Richards, a 2011 KELP program graduate. “My place of worship is found boating down the river setting fish lines, feeding our garden with beneficial nutrients from our home-grown compost, collecting farm-fresh eggs from our hens, or just cooling off under a shade tree.” Richards says she feels best connected to nature when she steps outside her door. She realized this when she was a young child. Growing up a distance away from the nearest town, Tonya learned to reduce, reuse, and recycle at home.
“My parents were always resourceful and never wasted,” Tonya says. “We ate wild game my father hunted or fresh fish from the creek a stone’s throw away. My mother wrapped presents in newspaper, and washed and rewashed Ziploc bags.”
After a childhood of learning to make efficient use of environmental resources, she knew she wanted to keep it in her career. “Naturally, I think a career in environmental health chose me,” she says. “Even as a child, it is always where I have been happiest.”
Pursuing this calling she went to St. Martins University, in Lacey, Wash., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a minor in biology and management. Upon graduation Tonya began looking for possible careers that would suit her love for Mother Nature. She landed a job as the Planning and Zoning Director and County Sanitarian in Marion County, Kan., where she conducts environmental health inspections. Tonya loves what she does because it combines indoor and outdoor activities to keep things interesting each day. She is also a certified asbestos inspector and floodplain manager.
Now as a wife and mother, Tonya thanks her own mother, because “she instilled a core set of values and ethics within myself that I use daily.” These ethics taught her that she is able to make a difference in the world in whichever way she pleases, especially in the way she feels the most successful: “Helping educate citizens and keeping communities and the county safe.”
This vision keeps Tonya focused on ways to grow as an environmentalist. She recently completed the KELP program and says that it was “a great well-rounded experience. I have gained a lot of insight from the program and a useful set of leadership skills, skills that I will carry with me to inspire our community and move into forward thinking progress.”
Tonya also used KELP to her advantage to broaden her career by completing KELP for credit. It allowed her to finish the needed credits to be eligible for the Registered Sanitarian test at the national conference in June of 2012. In partial obtainment of the credits, Tonya is working with Dr. Lauri Baker of Kansas State University on a quantitative analysis study concerning water quality issues in Kansas. They have applied for a Communication Securities conference in April 2012 for their project.
KELP has helped her continue her successes within her career and as a lover of the natural world around her. Tonya tells the class of 2012, “Go into the class with an open mind and you will come out with a world full of resources, education, and great friends.”


If you have someone in mind you would like to nominate for the KELP Spotlight let us know! Email Brandi Nelson at with your nomination and a brief explanation of how they stand out in their career, community, and KELP.