Meet the WisCorps Staff
Matthew Brantner is the Executive Director of WisCorps and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He got his start in conservation corps programs as a Crew Leader and eventual Program Manager for the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps in 2005. In 2009, after four years with the corps in Vermont, he worked to bring a conservation corps back to Wisconsin by founding WisCorps.
In addition to loving his role at WisCorps, Matthew is an avid outdoors person who loves camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and cycling. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters on their small farm where they garden and care for the land.
Director of Conservation Corps Programs
Eric Robertson started with WisCorps in August 2021 as the Director of Conservation Corps Programs. Before coming to WisCorps, Eric and his fiancé were thru-hiking the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Eric grew up in Madison, Wisconsin but had been out west living and working in California for the better part of a decade. More recently, he worked for the American Conservation Experience, another non-profit corps, as the Pacific West Director and was responsible for developing models and launching programs based in California, Oregon & Hawaii. Eric got his start in conservation corps as a AmeriCorps member in 2012 and then transitioned into a wilderness Crew Lead before pursuing AmeriCorps program support and non-profit administration. He holds a Bachelor’s degree of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When not at WisCorps, Eric enjoys backpacking; cross-county skiing, and hiking with his partner, Jenny.
Eric is incredibly excited to settle in at WisCorps and to have the opportunity to contribute his expertise to an expanding conservation corps in his home state.
Visitor Services Manager
Amber Bydynkowski fell in love with nature as a young girl in the rural backwoods of central Wisconsin. She never missed a day of adventures outside with her older brother, Nick and childhood dog, Bo. Amber went on to graduate from UW-LaCrosse with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology: Pre-Veterinary Science and Environmental Studies. During the summer of 2016, Amber joined a WisCorps conservation crew and has since moved through several AmeriCorps positions here. After completing three AmeriCorps service terms, Amber has eagerly accepted a full-time position with WisCorps as the Visitor Services Manager. In her free time, Amber enjoys hiking, kayaking and camping, but most of all, spending any time she can outside with her partner, two kids, and their dog, Nala.
Ashley grew up in rural central Wisconsin surrounded by forest and the Wisconsin River. She had a privileged upbringing in the sense that she was able to don mud-boots and tromp around her backyard before her mother was yelling for supper at the door or her grandfather was swinging by with fishing poles for them to go sit on the culvert at the nearby creek. Her interest in the outdoors, but her desire for change brought her to La Crosse for college at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where she explored many interests. This included a summer internship in the Caribbean studying coral and parasites in fish, a summer spent working on a pre-Native American dig-site, and a volunteer opportunity with the Brice Prairie Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Onalaska, WI. After exploring all of these opportunities she graduated with a Bachelors in Biology and Archaeology with a minor in Environmental Studies. Following graduation, she decided to pursue another avenue of working with the environment—a Roving Crew with WisCorps. It was such an amazing experience that she returned to lead a summer Mayor’s Crew, followed a Naturalist Corps position where she taught environmental education. Some of her hobbies outside of work include hammocking, SCUBA diving, kayaking, reading, and art!
Director of Development
Deb Ward is the Director of Development for WisCorps. Deb graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and from Saint Mary’s University in Winona with a Master’s degree in philanthropy and development. She has held a variety of positions in the nonprofit sector and has experience with donor solicitation and stewardship, grants, special events, annual appeals, and capital campaigns. Deb has her Certified Fund Raising Executive designation from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Originally from Pennsylvania Dutch country, Deb moved to Minnesota in 2006 and now calls Winona home. She loves to travel and has been to 42 states, Guam, England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Iceland, and her personal favorite, Greece.
Deb is a published author and writes and journals or just carries stories around in her head! She loves cats and shares her home in Winona with Tanda, an affectionate and beautiful Calico she adopted from the Humane Society. In her spare time, she loves reading novels and bestsellers, making pottery, gardening, walking, going to museums, volunteering in the community, taking photos and hanging out with artists and friends.
Her goal at WisCorps is to provide donors with opportunities to support the mission through philanthropic gifts.
Director of Administration
Emily grew up camping with her family all over Wisconsin, which sparked a lifelong love of the outdoors. She moved to La Crosse in 2009 to attend UW-La Crosse and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Environmental Studies. After college, Emily did an SCA AmeriCorps Internship with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge. Then, Emily spent two summers working as a ranger for the U.S. National Park Service in Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Her love for the Driftless region brought her back to La Crosse. She loves exploring with her husband and kiddos, Colton, Will, and Charlotte. She enjoys hiking, camping, playing guitar, crafting, baking, and musicals.
Crew Program Manager
Paul began his conservation journey as a Crew Member with WisCorps in the spring of 2017. What was meant to be six weeks of service has turned into a five-year career with conservation non-profits. A Crew Leader position with the Arizona Conservation Corps brought him to Tucson, where his deep appreciation for the saguaro cactus flourished. Paul then worked as an Outreach and Donor Programs Coordinator from 2019 to 2021 with the Upper Valley Land Trust in Hanover, New Hampshire, exploring the White and Green Mountains on the weekends. He returned to Tucson in March of 2021 to join the Tucson Audubon Society Invasive Plant Strike Team. After developing his restoration skills and creating strong bonds with several amazing coworkers, he returned to the organization that began his journey in conservation. Paul was proud to begin his work as Crew Program Manager at WisCorps in March of 2022, fulfilling a dream of returning to WisCorps as a Conservation Corps staff member.
Director of the Myrick Park Center
Tammy Schmitz received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UW-La Crosse in 2009, beginning her career in non-profit youth development. She has served as a Disability Support Specialist at Catholic Charities and District Executive, Senior District Executive, and District Director at the Gateway Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. Tammy became acquainted with the WisCorps mission while the WisCorps Office neighbored the Boy Scout Office on Quarry Road. After years of enthusiastically watching the organization grow, Tammy excitedly joined the WisCorps team in September 2016 as the Facility and Events Coordinator.
Tammy grew up on French Island resides there once again with her partner Jon and their dog Joplin. She enjoys traveling, spending time outside, perpetual pursuit of learning, and being involved in the community.
Community Program Manager
Known as WisCorps’ Nature Teacher and token Canadian, Stephanie has been an educator in an informal setting in the La Crosse Area for 21 years. Stephanie’s constant connection to nature ever since she played with and likely ate June bugs in her sandbox at a very young age, has helped shape her role as an environmental/nature educator. She enjoys walking and hiking with Astro, her precocious poodle, as well as cycling, yoga, reading, and just being outdoors as much as possible.
Stephanie earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan and worked as an elementary and middle school teacher for 9 years before moving to the Driftless Area. She loves to learn and to teach others about what she knows. Stephanie is also an avid film fan and dreams of the day when she can join some of her favorite famous biologists in the great outdoors to film some amazing interactions with nature’s creatures.
Individual Placement Coordinator
Holly Pierro grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. While her love of the outdoors didn’t begin until adulthood, this passion led her to working many seasonal jobs across the country including as a Youth Conservation Corps Crew Leader with Montana Conservation Corps. Holly has worked mostly in Environmental Education, and eventually took on a Coordinator role at a small non-profit camp in California for three years. She is excited to join the Conservation Corps world again as the Individual Placement Coordinator!
Holly holds a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Texas A&M University, and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Environmental Science from University of Idaho. When not at Wiscorps, she enjoys hiking with her husband and their two dogs.