Operation Migration Co-founder and C.E.O.
Born in 1949 in rural Ontario, Joseph Duff developed an early appreciation for nature and a love of flying, earning his pilot's license while working in the Yukon Territories. Duff was one of Canada's leading commercial photographers, known primarily for his work with the world's major automobile manufacturers. After twenty years of operating a studio in downtown Toronto, he began to look for new adventures.
Joe joined Bill Lishman in 1993 and helped him conduct the first human-led bird migration. The two "artists turned naturalists" used two ultralight aircraft to lead 18 Canada geese from Ontario to Virginia. The success of this initial study led to the founding of Operation Migration the following year, and the making of "Fly Away Home" in 1995. For the film, Duff trained the "actor geese" to follow the aircraft, and worked closely with the production crew; even contributing some of the footage. In the same year Joe led Sandhill cranes in flights around southern Ontario, as well as leading 60 geese to South Carolina with Lishman and the OM crew.
Once the 1997 Sandhill crane migration was completed, Duff assisted Dr. William Sladen and Gavin Shire in the first ultralight-led migration of Trumpeter swans, which was carried out by Warrenton, Virginia’s Airlie Environmental Studies Centre.
To address the problem of tameness in birds conditioned to follow aircraft, Duff worked with the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to establish the innovative costume-rearing protocol used in a 1998 study. He developed the protocol for the preliminary Sandhill-crane study and for the current Whooping crane reintroduction project.
Joe heads the team of pilots that annually lead a new generation of Whooping cranes on their1200+ mile migration from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin to the
St. Marks and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuges in Florida.
In early 2006 Duff led a team of pilots on an aerial survey conducted Arkansas and Louisiana in search of the elusive Ivory-billed woodpecker.
His personal aircraft went permanent display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 2008.
In 2012 a second of Operation Migration's retired aircraft went
on display at Conservation Station at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Park in Florida.
Joe has developed a keen interest in the science of migration and crane
behavior, and has accumulated more hours in flight alongside more species of birds than any other human.
Joe and his wife Diana have one daughter, Alex. The family lives in the small town of Port Perry, Ontario, the home of Operation Migration’s headquarters.
An experienced ultralight pilot and mechanic, Brooke joined the OM flock during the 2002 training season. He first heard of Operation Migration when we were leading Canada geese and Sandhill cranes to Environmental Studies at Airlie Center in Warrenton, Virginia. He was one of a very few trike pilots back then. He became so interested in the project that he started working for Environmental Studies and eventually ran their Trumpeter swan reintroduction project, leading birds from New York state to Maryland - something not typically found on the resume of pilots.
Brooke joined us after Deke had his stroke and was no longer able to fly with us. He often wore a T shirt emblazoned with the caption, “A poor substitute for Deke” but it was more a testimony to his humor than his ability.
Armed with a degree in English Literature, Brooke once panned for gold, fought forest fires, and floated down the Mississippi River on a raft while reading Huckleberry Finn. He was a saturation diver spending weeks at a time working in 500 feet of water and living in a compression chamber. He was a construction supervisor, a hydroelectric developer and retrieved crashed
aeroplanes for a salvage company. How is that for a diverse career?!
Brooke spends all summer at the
White River Marsh State Wildlife Area working with the juvenile birds. After our annual migration
is completed, he stays on in Florida to monitor the Class of the
year over the winter and until their self-initiated return north
in the spring.
Richard Van Heuvelen
Richard Van Heuvelen spent 28 years honing his skills as a creator of works of art in metal. He can bend steel to his own will the way you or I would fashion putty. His art is at once lifelike and surreal, as he captures the soft human form in hard plate or the gentle texture of feathers and fur in hammered alloy.
Creating sculptures used in the making of the IMAX films The Last Buffalo and Titanica is only one of his achievements. Richard built lifelike metal figures of athletes and dancers to adorn the Sculpture Garden at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada.
One of Richardís latest works includes five life-like Whooping crane sculptures commissioned by the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin.
See examples of Richard's amazing work on his website
Richardís participation in Operation Migration dates back to the time when leading birds with aircraft was little more than a good idea. He worked as ground crew chief during the first migrations with Canada geese, and helped to assemble the very first aircraft and travel pens. He used his expertise to build aluminum propeller guards to protect birds, and trailers to transport the pens.
The same year Richard learned to fly, he worked daily with the crew during the filming of the Columbia Pictures hit movie, Fly Away Home. He built props for the film sets, aircrafts used in the flying scenes and sculptures featured as the work of lead actor Jeff Daniels.
During early studies with Sandhill cranes, Richard continued to lead the ground crew, occasionally filling in as back-up pilot. He officially joined Operation Migrationís aircrew full time in 2002.
Richard comes from a family of 13 siblings and has 4 grown daughters of his own. When not engaged by OM, Richard spends his time at home in Ontario where he lives not too far from OMís main office. He also operates his business, The Wooden Anvil, from this location. All of these skills and experience make him an integral part of the team.
Walter Sturgeon - Volunteer,
Migration Crew Chief
Walt was born in Point Pleasant, WV in 1941 when there were 21 whooping cranes left on earth.
He graduated from Yale University in 1963 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and from the University of Rhode Island with a Masters Degree in Business Administration in 1971. For 38 years he worked in the nuclear industry, first as a Senior Test Engineer on nuclear submarines, then as the Manager of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station, and finished his nuclear career as Executive Director of the NC Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Authority.
In January 2001 Walt took the position of Assistant Director of the NC State Museum of Natural Sciences where he is responsible for its day to day operation. The museum has 140 employees and attracts over 700,000 visitors a year. In this job Walt is able to pursue his life long interest in conservation of the world’s wildlife and other natural resources on a full time basis.
Walt and his wife Gay maintain a captive collection of waterfowl and cranes for conservation, research, and public education purposes in Spring Hope, NC. Over the past 30 years Walt has made more than 20 trips to the Canadian and Alaskan arctic to do field research on waterfowl and cranes. He is recognized around the world as an expert on the biology of arctic nesting geese.
Walt has been President of the International Wild Waterfowl
Association for twenty years and a Trustee and past President of
the Whooping Crane Conservation Association for 15 years. He
currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Sylvan Heights
Waterfowl Park and Eco-Center which opened in October of 2006 in
Scotland Neck, NC. This non-profit facility is open to the
public and provides education to all ages on the importance of
maintaining our natural environment and conserving the worldís
2013 will be Walter's 10th migration.
David and Linda Boyd -
Linda and Dave Boyd met while attending Michigan State
University, (back in the days when MSU football teams went to
the Rose Bowl). Dave holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from MSU, and Linda holds
a B.A. in journalism from MSU, and a M.A. in interior design from the
University of Minnesota.
They moved to Rhinelander, Wisconsin 35 years ago. There, Dave
established a veterinary practice, and Linda worked in public relations
at Nicolet Area Technical College, and later, she did marketing for the
They raised their family of three daughters and numerous pets in
Rhinelander and are now retired from both work and childcare (except for
two and soon-to-be three grandchildren).
When not enjoying Wisconsin's beautiful north woods, they can be
found in their camper van. They have traveled from Alaska to southern
Mexico, from southern California to northern Maine, and places in
Because of their affinity for animals and
love of nature and conservation, they are thrilled to be a part of the
OM migration team. David will be driving one of our vehicles pulling a
trailer, and Linda will be assisting with outreach and at flyovers. They
look forward to contributing however they can to help with the
reintroduction of the Eastern Migratory Whooping crane population.
Cooper - Volunteer
John first joined OMís migration team in 2006 when he volunteered as a top cover observer/spotter. Knee surgery kept him away from the action in 2008, but he
again joined pilot Jack Wrighter in the cockpit to fly Top Cover for the í09
and 2010 migrations.
John grew up in Lakeland, FL and claims an uneventful childhood, with one high point being his having made Eagle Scout. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1964 with a degree in Industrial Engineering and immediately began flight training with the US Navy. John flew A4F Skyhawk and A7E Corsair II aircraft during the Vietnam war. He flew 200 plus combat missions and made over 400 carrier landings, mostly on the USS Ticonderoga.
After active duty John stayed in the Naval Reserve but started flying for Delta Airlines. He retired from the Naval Reserve as a Navy Captain after 22 years, and had the pleasure of commanding an A7 squadron and also served as the Reserve Commanding Officer of NAS Cecil Field, FL. During Johnís 32 year career with Delta he flew 10 different aircraft, amassing some 20,000 flight hours. He served as a Lead Line Check Airman on the Boeing 727, 767 and 777, training pilots as they checked out on each new aircraft. John continue to fly, although now, in a Cirrus 22 single engine general aviation aircraft.
Although Johnís wife Jane was a Flight Attendant for Delta, they actually met at a ski outing in Snowmass, CO. Since their retirement, they have traveled to Europe extensively, and they spend time with their 4 children and 4 grandchildren. Johnís enjoys golf, tennis and backpacking. He volunteers each year at the Tour Championship golf tournament in Atlanta where he works as a troubleshooter for the Shotlink laser operators.
Jack Wrighter - Volunteer
Originally from Northeast Pennsylvania, Jack spent most
of his adult and working life in and around Atlanta, GA.
He attended Georgia State University in Atlanta, and Shorter
College in Rome, Georgia where he earned Bachelor of Science
degree in Business Administration. One of Jackís early jobs was
as a back up pilot for the 'Eye in the Sky' traffic reporter
over Atlanta in the late 1960s.
Beginning in 1965 and until its demise in 1990, Jack worked in
Atlanta for Eastern Airlines in several areas of operations and
administration. It was while with Eastern that he met Judi, his
wife of 38 years who was working for rival airline, Delta. With
the benefits available through the couple's employment, they
traveled the world extensively for over 30 years.
Leaving aviation for a career in education, Jack spent 14 years
with the Cobb County School System in Marietta, Georgia as Assistant Director of
Operations. He retired at the end of 2004, and he and Judi spent
the next year building a log home on a mountain top in eastern
Tennesseeís Cherokee National Forest.
Jack and Judi still enjoy flying recreationally, and make
several trips a year to visit family and friends, or to attend
air shows and other aviation events. Jack says, "We seize just
about any old excuse to get into the airplane and go flying."
Testament to this, is the fact that he has flown over 400
volunteer missions under the Experimental Aircraft Association's
'Young Eagles' program. This program provides free introductory
flights to youngsters, aged 8 to 17 years, who may not otherwise
have the opportunity to experience the thrill and wonder of
flight. In fact, Jack holds the record for the most number of
Young Eagle missions in the EAA's Marietta Chapter.
In 2005, Jack was recruited as a Top Cover pilot for OM by his
friend and fellow pilot, Dave Mattingly, President of the
organization 'Touch Our Planet'. Dave also recruited retired
commercial pilots John Cooper and Tom Miller, who in turn, assist Jack
with his top cover duties.
A quiet and unassuming type of
fellow, he continually impresses the team with his cheerful,
can/will-do attitude. Jack has a great sense of humor, and you
can often be alerted that he's about to hit you with a zinger by
the twinkle in his eye.
and raised in New Hampshire, Geoffrey took interest in conservation
at an early age. While in 4-H, he was an active part of its
conservation group through elementary school to high school, and
also compiled a wildflower journal containing several hundred New
England flora species.
In 2002 Geoffrey followed in his big sisterís footsteps to attend
Texas A&M where he majored in Wildlife and Fishery Sciences,
specializing in conservation biology. During the course of his
education, he took several study-abroad courses in Dominica, New
Zealand, and Fiji.
After graduating in 2007, Geoff spent six months interning with the
Northeast Exotic Plant Management Team at the Delaware Water Gap in
Pennsylvania, poisoning and exterminating some of the very plants he
cataloged ten years ago; namely, the invasive exotic ones. During
his internship, he traveled to national parks along the eastern
seaboard clearing out various invasive plants using herbicides,
chainsaws, and his bare hands.
Until signing on with Operation Migration, Geoff continued being the
scourge of invasive plants everywhere as part of an exotic plant
strike team based in the Florida Keys. Geoff continues to take his
unbridled wrath out on unsuspecting invasive plants such as
Brazilian pepper, Australian pine, oyster plant, and air potato on
public and private properties using his ever-trusty herbicides and
When heís not maniacally poisoning or hacking up defenseless plants,
Geoff spends his time hiking, keeping a sharp eye out for unique
wildflowers, fly fishing, bike riding, and occasionally kayaking.
Back in his college days, he was a swash-buckling saber fencer, and
holds the title of Saber Fencer of the Year for 2007.
2014 will mark Geoff's sixth season with OM. He began working
at the Patuxent's chick rearing facility
in early May and will continue with us through to the end of the migration
Chase, Crane Handler
Florida resident Colleen Chase is a long time volunteer with OM.
Between serving on the Board of Directors, driving our CraneCam,
and acting as OM's shipper for its sale merchandise - among
several other tasks that get tossed her way - it's hard to
imagine that she has much time for anything else.
Colleen joined the migration team for the first time in 2012 and
took to the experience like a duck to water.
Her background is in the medical profession working as a lab
technician before changing careers to become a dental hygienist.
Now retired, she loves to take time to explore refuges and
conservation areas wherever she travels to enjoy the birds
and wildlife that live there. Colleen says her passion is
volunteering and that working with Operation Migration is the
most satisfying thing she has ever done.
Chris Danilko - Office
Chris Danilko joined Operation Migration in 2001 and quickly became the mainstay of our busy office. A nature-lover who had avidly followed the accomplishments of Bill and Joe, she was a natural fit in the office.
Though Chris grew up in rural Ontario, her parents encouraged travel, and
as a result she has had the opportunity to see many parts of the world. Her favorite destinations
- Holland and Florida.
In 2005 Chris finally had the chance to visit Necedah and to
not only meet the many people that make the annual migration happen.
It also gave her a chance to put faces to the name people she
exchanges emails with, or speaks to on the phone. She was taken by the beauty of the refuge
and the majesty of the birds; something she says simply cannot be adequately captured on film. Adding to her first time experience was a spin in
an ultralight with Joe. An experience she has not forgotten.
Throughout her life Chris has filled many roles but she believes her most important one has been as a mother. She has raised three smart, successful children
before moving to a fourth 'project' - Maggie the Golden Doodle.
In recent years Chris has taken on a sixth 'project'... she is
the doting grandmother of three grandchildren.
In her spare time (as much as working at OM allows), Chris loves to ski at the many small resorts scattered around southern Ontario. In summer she enjoys swimming in her backyard pool. Her friendly nature, sense of humor, and juggling skills make Chris an integral and indispensable member of the OM team.
Liz Condie - Chief Operating
& Financial Officer, Director of Communications, Education
Liz gets around. She
was born in eastern Ontario, raised in northern Ontario,
worked in southern Ontario, and left to spend a decade
living abroad when she threw over a lengthy and successful
career as a non-profit association manager to move to St.
Lucia in the Caribbean.
There she turned entrepreneurial, starting up a several
businesses including partnering with a Brit and a Dutchman
to charter a 51 foot Beneteau sailboat up and down the
Then, an opportunity presented
itself to live and work in Australia, and away she went Down Under.
(She says she tried and tried to play the didgeridoo and couldn't. It still
irks her.) Taking advantage of proximity, Liz visited as much of
that side of the world as could she could until family health issues
called her back to Canada.
But it wasn't long before she was
off again, this time to Europe where she worked her way through
England, France, Spain, the Czech Republic and several others
countries before returning to live in St. Lucia. When her Mom's
failing health drew her back home, she founded her own company,
Solid Solutions, contracting as a consultant to non-profit
charitable and trade organizations.
Liz has a Masters in Business, degrees in Communications and
Journalism, and holds Marketing, Public Relations, and Fundraising
certifications, all of which, combined with her many years of
experience in the non-profit sector, come in handy at OM.
Her likes include: golf, reading, Hagen Daz chocolate ice cream, a
glass of good wine, black licorice, and cheese Ė which she says is
her 'favorite vegetable'. Liz likes to putter at doing her own repairs
and renovations around the house, and spending time learning to obey
her dog Teddy's commands.
In addition to her office
responsibilities, as part of the ground crew on the annual fall
migration, Liz coordinates the outreach and educational
presentations given along the migration route as well as hosting
departure flyovers at each stopover. She also handles migration
press releases, media inquiries and interview requests.
Heather Ray - Director of
Heatherís passion for science
and love of nature drove her to contact us in 1998 when
Sandhill cranes were the test species and the Whooping crane
reintroduction was still three years off. Prior to her
departure in early 2005, she served as OMís Administrative
and Development Director, and co-chaired the WCEP
Communications and Outreach Team. She was also OMís
Education and Outreach contact for four migrations.
A fortunate confluence of circumstances Ė for both Heather
and OM Ė allowed us to bring her back and take advantage of
her years of experience with the organization, and her vast
knowledge of the project.
In addition to her proven dedication and many talents,
her advanced technological proficiency is a welcome addition
to the teamís skill set. Incredibly determined and
persistent (some would say stubborn), Heather is no stranger
to the strange schedule and long hours involved in working
A self-admitted tree-hugger, Heather is both a
conservationist and an environmentalist and has been
recycling, reducing, and reusing well before it was popular.
She proudly admits to being a birder and spends spare time
traipsing through the woods in search of warblers each
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