Notables: Nature and the Environment

Movers & Makers asked organizations working in service of nature and the environment to introduce their notables to our readers, part of a regular feature highlighting people making a difference in Greater Cincinnati’s nonprofit community. 

Dave Schmidt

Dave Schmitt widens impact of Mill Creek Alliance’s work 

After 25 years as an environmental attorney, Dave Schmitt became executive director of Mill Creek Alliance in 2017. Under his watch, MCA has expanded its award-winning environmental education and water quality monitoring programs, with emphasis on communities impacted by environmental justice issues. He is a leader in efforts to complete both the Mill Creek Greenway Trail section of the CROWN and the Triangle Trail linking multiple suburban communities and three major county parks. In his time, MCA has also raised over $7 million to complete stream restoration projects along Mill Creek. The stream, once nearly lifeless, is now home to over 60 species of fish, bald eagles, ospreys, beaver, mink and many other species, and regularly hosts paddling, pedaling and fishing outings. 

When not at work, Schmitt’s favorite pastimes are hiking, especially near Red River Gorge, and cheering for the FC Bayern Munich soccer team.

Nicole Gunderman

Nicole Gunderman’s passions: resilient food systems and family

Nicole Gunderman is executive director of Gorman Heritage Farm. She builds partnerships with regional organizations that support the farm’s mission to educate about agriculture, nutrition, sustainability and the environment. Gunderman has a passion for creating a food system that is environmentally, socially, and economically resilient for the benefit of all, and to this end works closely with the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, the Hamilton County Farm Bureau, the Mill Creek Alliance and others. Each summer, Gunderman facilitates a graduate course for Project Dragonfly at Miami University called, “Issues in Cincinnati Conservation.” She holds an MA in biology with an emphasis in regenerative agriculture and farm-based education. 

In her free time, Gunderman enjoys traveling, horseback riding and spending time with her husband, son and their two dogs. In 2015, she and three friends founded a women’s social bourbon club called The 51% – Bourbon’s Better Half.

Braden Trauth

Braden Trauth’s innovative projects, teachings rooted in ecological ethics 

Since 2008, Braden Trauth has lived his belief in permaculture as the most holistic approach to sustainable, regenerative systems as it is rooted in ecological ethics and principles. He spends his personal and professional time designing and establishing projects and systems that strengthen local resilience through education and activism. Cincinnati Permaculture Institute has educated more than 250 adults, dozens of whom now lead projects of their own. They are authors, homesteaders and farmers with flagship installations, teachers of regenerative agriculture and food production, and nonprofit leaders. Trauth established Growing Value Nursery which provides perennial, edible plantings at nonprofit prices. He led the design, installation and maintenance of food forests/forage gardens in Cincinnati neighborhoods, touching hundreds of people in Evanston, Madisonville and Lincoln Heights, and at the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University and Cincinnati Public Schools. His legacy of determined solutions, innovative thinking and progressive action is part of a global resilient future.

Miriam Wise
Miriam Wise

Miriam Wise works to get more city teens outside

Miriam Wise, Adventure Crew’s director of support and engagement, joined the nonprofit in 2015 and has worked tirelessly to advance the organization’s mission: connecting city teens with nature and each other through outdoor adventures. She has been a driving force in growing the organization to where it is today, 10 years after its founding. Her contributions have included helping develop and execute the nonprofit’s first strategic plan, building its development strategy from the ground up and conceiving new programs. Adventure Crew has gained a broader audience through projects such as Ohio River Paddlefest. Under Wise’s direction, the nation’s largest paddling event grew to become the major annual fundraiser for the Crew. Her innovative approach keeps the organization moving forward, and her ability to build relationships keeps supporters engaged. 

When she’s not working, Wise enjoys sipping a good cocktail with friends, cooking tasty meals and, of course, spending time outside.

Mark Fisher

NetZero at the zoo: Mark Fisher leads conservation progress

Soon after Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s VP of facilities and sustainability, Mark Fisher, started working at the zoo in 2006, he noticed that the water bills were high. He led the charge to fix leaks, install low-flow toilets and faucets, reduce use and capture and reuse rainwater. Thanks to these efforts, the zoo has saved 2 billion gallons of water. Fisher was also responsible for installing a 1.56 megawatt solar canopy over the zoo’s main parking lot in 2011. It held the title of “largest publicly accessible urban solar array in the country” for a decade. Fisher is now focusing on improving the zoo’s waste management systems so it can be NetZero (water, electricity and waste) by 2025. 

When Mark isn’t at the zoo, he enjoys outdoor activities, especially hiking with his family. He also founded an adventure club for zoo employees so he can share his passion with coworkers.

Jennifer Hafner-Spieser

Jennifer Hafner-Spieser raises more than flower beds at Parks Foundation

As executive director of Cincinnati Parks Foundation, Jennifer Hafner-Spieser has done much more than raise millions on behalf of Cincinnati Parks. She’s on a mission to help everyone do more in the city’s historic park system by making the parks more welcoming and more accessible to everyone. From there, visitors turn into advocates, who often turn into lifelong supporters and donors. To Hafner-Spieser, it’s all about partnerships. She worked with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to welcome their be.well program into our parks, a nationally recognized, award-winning keystone of what park partnerships look like. She’s approaching the new Sawyer Point roller skating rink with the same thoughtfulness, inviting new groups with programs that set trends across the country.

A member of Leadership Cincinnati Class 45, Hafner-Spieser is known for her karaoke covers of Whitney Houston songs and hosting family dinners featuring her Nonna’s meatballs and sauce.

Eileen Budo
Eileen Budo

Eileen Budo brings P&G logistics expertise to Last Mile Food Rescue

Eileen Budo was recently named chief executive officer of Last Mile Food Rescue, succeeding co-founder Julie Shifman. Budo had served as chief operating officer since joining Last Mile at its inception in 2019.  Prior to joining Last Mile, Budo honed her logistics expertise as a senior executive at P&G, securing multimillion dollar partnerships with suppliers around the world and crafting the first shared service for P&G manufacturing plants. Her logistics expertise has been critical to Last Mile’s success in diverting 5 million pounds of desirable food from the landfill and delivering it to those who need it most. 

An Air Force veteran, Budo proudly served in the Air Force Systems Command and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Budo holds dual citizenship in the US and the Republic of Ireland. She is an avid reader, loves visiting the Jersey Shore and traveling the world.

Ania Cosby
Ania Cosby

Ania Cosby helps communities improve beauty and safety

Ania Cosby works full time as the community engagement coordinator at Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, responsible for managing the Safe & Clean grant program. Meanwhile, she’s completing her master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in social justice at the University of Cincinnati. She has overseen the distribution of nearly $500,000 in community grants, which have helped communities in ways such as increasing pedestrian safety, reducing gun violence and supporting beautification. She believes all communities should have the ability to live safely and be supported so that they can thrive and grow. 

Cosby’s favorite things to do when she is not working are to explore Cincinnati and look at nature. Her favorite things to do in Cincinnati are looking at art downtown, trying new foods in her neighborhood restaurants, and going to local events.

Rich Cogen

Rich Cogen is a champion for the entire Ohio River watershed

Since founding Ohio River Foundation in 2000, Rich Cogen has led ORF to regional and national prominence and has become one of Cincinnati’s largest conservation nonprofits. Under Cogen’s leadership as executive director, ORF’s staff has grown its youth programs to educate and train more than 60,000 students to be the next generation of environmental stewards.  ORF’s restoration program has installed thousands of trees and plants to create native habitat, stabilize riverbanks and reduce pollution. Cogen has raised more than $2 million to remove dams and barriers, restoring and reconnecting more than 500 miles of creeks, rivers and streams. ORF is the only organization dedicated to protecting and improving the water quality of the entire Ohio River watershed, and it is recognized as the lead advocate for strong federal laws and regulations to protect the watershed’s water quality. 

When not working, Cogen enjoys hiking the region’s parks and trails.

Carrie Harms

Carrie Harms helps make it possible to recycle and reuse, not discard   

Carrie Harms is the warehouse director for the Cincinnati Recycling & Reuse Hub. Her interest in diverting items from the landfill began in 2009 when she got involved with ZeroLandfill, which coordinated the reuse and distribution of samples from the design community. By 2010, Carrie was running the program. In 2020, Harms connected with others who were also trying to divert items from the landfill and helped found the Hub. Since then, the Hub has diverted 31 tons of ZeroLandfill and the entire Hub operation has diverted 204 tons total (ZeroLandfill, plastics, electronics, etc.) from the landfill. 

You can find Harms during her downtime in her tropical-themed sun porch admiring her lovely garden. If you catch her out and about she’ll likely be sporting UC gear – she’s a proud alum.

Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson

Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson champions climate and environmental justice

Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson leads the Climate Safe Neighborhoods partnership at Groundwork Ohio River Valley. Hawkins-Johnson also ensured that resident and community voices were elevated throughout the 2023 Green Cincinnati Plan. Whether organizing workshops, supporting community councils or connecting resident experience to policy, Hawkins-Johnson is a champion for environmental justice. 

In her spare time, Hawkins-Johnson connects nature to poetry and other creative writings. She also recently bought a stack of vinyl records at the Northside Record Fair.

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