Staff & Board of Directors


Farzad Farr
Executive Director, Animal Care Instructor

Tara Smith
Full Time Animal Care, Office Administration, Phone Guru, Event Coordinator

Megan Stanton
Part Time Animal Care, Office Administration, CRM Manager, Web Admin

Board of Directors

Wildwoods is seeking resourceful, energetic individuals from a variety of backgrounds, who are willing to volunteer their service on its Board of Directors. Individuals with skills and expertise in areas such as education, technology, legal counsel, fundraising, accounting, marketing, strategic planning, event management and human resources are particularly desired. Learn more about joining our Board of Directors!

Cynthia Hagley
As an extension educator, Cindy shares the science of lake and stream management with coastal communities, property owners, educators, and resource managers. Cindy also develops outreach products and programs related to Great Lakes ecosystem research and monitoring, storm water management, shore land property management, aquatic plants and animals, and the relationship between land use and water quality. Cindy holds a M.S. in Aquatic Ecology/Limnology from the University of California Davis and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Minnesota.

Peggy Naylor
Peggy is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator at Wildwoods. In addition, she manages the Wildwoods Facebook page, has written Wildwoods articles for the Duluth Budgeteer, and is responsible for some of the Wildwoods stories that are picked up by the local and national media. She loves using animals’ individual stories as keys to open hearts and help educate the community about the larger problems facing wildlife and our world.

Laura Novitzki
Laura grew up in Duluth and attended both the University of Minnesota, Duluth and the University of Minnesota where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education, a Graduate degree in Environmental Health and Safety, and a Graduate degree in Natural Resources Science and Management. Following college, she worked as an environmental educator for the National Park Service and the Minneapolis Park Board. Since 2004, she has been working as an environmental consultant in the Duluth area, with specific experience in environmental assessment and remediation, safety, ecological risk assessment, quality management, and industrial hygiene. Since childhood, Laura has had a love for animals and a natural instinct to try to help wildlife in need. Through the years, she has come across a number of orphaned or injured animals and has volunteered with three wildlife rehabilitation organizations. One of her most memorable wildlife tales is when a duck fell from the sky right in front of her after hitting a power line. (That duck was successfully rehabilitated and released.)

Mike Schrage
Mike is a Wildlife Biologist at Fond du Lac Resources Management Division. Mike has been living in Duluth and Cloquet area for the last 22 years. In his spare time, he enjoys fishing, hunting, tending to pollinator garden and hiking the many trails around Duluth. He is an active member of Peace United of Christ and the Izaak Walton League.

Elda Hein
Elda grew up on the range in Minnesota and then received her bachelor degree from UMD with a major in Secondary English. Her first job as teacher and coach was in Worthington, Minnesota, where she met Rex. She followed him to Morris and taught at Herman-Norcross K-12 school. After coming to Duluth, she subbed many years in the Barnum 7-12 schools. Her favorite pastimes are playing tennis, reading and doing any sort of puzzle. The latest overwhelming interest is in Wildwoods. She and Rex drove over 15,000 miles of transport in 2016. She volunteers to do many other things at Wildwoods, as this has become her passion.

Rex Hein
Rex earned his bachelor degree in social studies from University of Missouri, Kansas City. While doing that, he pitched for the Kansas City Royals minor leagues in the summers. After teaching and coaching for six years in Missouri, he went back to school and got his masters degree in Education Administration. That led to a job in southwestern Minnesota as assistant principal of Worthington Senior High School. He went on to be principal of Morris Area High School, and then director of curriculum for the Duluth school system, and currently works two days a week in the mail room. He is active in French River Lutheran Church in church council, call committee, and hand bell choir. During his tenure in Morris, he was also a grant writer and successfully applied for multiple grants responsible for eight trips for teachers, students and townspeople to Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Leslie Clapper-Rentz
After graduating with a B.A. in Biology from the University of Minnesota, Moris, Leslie spent a year as a field biologist for a Native American tribe in South Dakota. While there she began volunteering for a wildlife rehabilitation organization and adopted a "hard luck" rescue dog. Those experiences led her to pursue a career as a veterinarian. She received her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 2005 and currently works at Airport Animal Hospital in Duluth, is the consulting veterinarian for the Great Lakes Aquarium, and serves on the board of directors for the Arrowhead Veterinary Medical Association.

Jackie Dolentz
Jackie grew up in the Duluth area and has a Bachelors and Masters in Health Service Administration and just recently completed her MBA.  Her entire work career has been in healthcare until a recent change to education.  During the spring, summer and fall, she volunteers at Wildwoods in the nursery.  During the winter months, she volunteers with Community Action Duluth as part of the Free Tax Site program helping prepare and review tax returns.  She started volunteering at Wildwoods after a call she made seeking help for a beautiful bird who struck a window at her place of work (thanks to the instructions she received, it fully recovered).  That phone call put her in touch with others who felt as strongly as she did about helping wildlife.  The rest is history.  Her love of Wildwoods evolved to joining the Board of Directors in 2018.  When not working, feeding squirrels, or preparing taxes, you can find her hanging out with her husband and four-legged kids, roller-skating or learning/attempting to curl.

Connie Gunderson
Connie Gunderson, PhD, LISW, is an associate professor at The College of St. Scholastica. Having completed her undergraduate studies at The College of St. Scholastica in 1981, she worked in Germany until 2012. She completed her MSW in clinical social work at the Alice Salomon Hochschule in Berlin, Germany and received her PhD from the University of Bremen, in Bremen, Germany. Her areas of scholarship include Relational-Cultural theory, human trafficking, and international refugee resettlement. Her life passion is to protect the beaver, nature’s eco-engineer and a keystone specie, through education and ethical/environmentally sound land and water management.She has written, edited, and published numerous books and articles grounded in Relational-Cultural theory to address social issues including trauma and addiction, human trafficking, diversity, and the environment.

As a former volunteer at Wildwoods, she is touched by the commitment and care for our four legged, winged, and finned beings. She would like to support Wildwoods staff, volunteers, and interns; provide community based educational programs about Wildwoods; and help secure the financial resources necessary to maintain the high quality of services Wildwoods provides for our region.

Leah Prussia
Leah Prussia is a self-described “tree hugging dirt worshiper.” She uniquely blends teachings from Nature, Peter Levine’s Somatic Experience work, Relational-Cultural Theory, and Cognitive-Behavioral approaches to address the biopsychosocial and spiritual aspects of individuals, groups, and communities. Her background includes knowledge and practice in mental health services, substance use, trauma, and program administration. Leah is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in the State of Minnesota and sole proprietor of Natural Connections LLC. Leah is a full-time assistant professor at the College of St. Scholastica in the MSW program and an adjunct professor at Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College. Leah recently completed her dissertation, which focuses on the role of nature in the healing process, through St. Catherine University – University of St. Thomas. Now that her doctoral program is complete, Leah looks forward to resuming her learning of Ojibwe language, plants, and taking on an active role with the Wildwoods Board in Duluth.