Project BudBurst Staff

Who we are

Project BudBurst is managed by the following individuals and organizations. Project BudBurst is further funded by generous contributions from our sponsors.


Dr. Jean Bryan

Dr. H. Jean Bryan, Director, is delighted to be involved in as vibrant and exciting a Citizen Science activity as Project BudBurst.  She brings to the table a life-long interest in nature and gardening; she is a Master Gardener trainee.  Jean’s expertise in online learning, and teacher development as well as website design and management is a natural fit during this transitional period. Before joining Project BudBurst, the Citizen Science Academy, and the Chicago Botanic Garden, she served as a Senior Instructional Technology Consultant at DePaul University, Chicago, where she also taught in First Year Programs.


Dr. Kayri Havens

Dr. Kayri Havens-Young, Co-Principal Investigator, is Medard and Elizabeth Welch Director at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Her research interests include reproductive ecology and conservation genetics of plant species. Her research focuses on invasive plant species and has worked with a team that developed the Chicago Botanic Garden's Invasive Plant Policy. Kay has worked with students from Northwestern University, Loyola University, and the University of Illinois Chicago. She leads work on conservation and restoration projects at University of Illinois Chicago in partnership with Chicago Botanic Garden.



Dr. Jennifer Schwarz Ballard, Co-Principal Investigator, is Vice President of Education and Community Programs at the Chicago Botanic Garden. As such, she supervises youth and adult education, horticultural therapy and the Windy City Harvest urban agriculture programs. Jennifer brings expertise in both formal and informal science education. Her areas of expertise include diversity studies, program design, and evaluation. Before joining the Garden she completed her graduate studies in Learning Sciences at Northwestern University.


Former Staff

Although no longer actively associated with Project BudBurst, the following people were instrumental in its creation and development:  

Sandra Henderson

Dr. Sandra Henderson, Director, was a senior science education specialist with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado. She oversaw program collaboration, management, and resource development. Her background is in climate change science education with an emphasis on teacher professional development and citizen science outreach programs. Before becoming a science educator, she worked as a project scientist studying the effects of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems.


Dennis Ward

Mr. Dennis Ward, Web Technologist works at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado. He coordinated the technical aspects of Project BudBurst, including data collection and analysis tools. Dennis has more than twenty years experience in distance learning and online citizen science programs, focusing primarily on teacher professional development.



Ms. Kat Bevington, Science Educator works at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado. She developed and designed educational activities and professional development materials to support Project BudBurst. Kat received her B.S. in Geology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her M.A. in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. She has also held positions at the Boston Museum of Science, Milwaukee Public Museum, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Australian Museum.


Dr. Alycia Crall

Dr. Alycia Crall, Science Educator & Evaluator  works at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado. She lead a research initiative to examine recruitment, retention, and online learning in Season Spotter, a crowdsourced citizen science project hosted on Zooniverse. Prior to NEON, Alycia developed and evaluated a national invasive species citizen science program for her dissertation research while at the University of WI-Madison. She also served as the Director of the Virginia Master Naturalist program where she engaged approximately 2,500 volunteers in citizen science, environmental education, and stewardship projects.


Dr. Paul Alaback

Dr. Paul Alaback, Lead Science Advisor, is Professor Emeritus of Forest Ecology at the University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation, and principal of Melipal Consulting, LLC. His research centers on understanding patterns of plant biodiversity of forest and grassland landscapes, and how they are affected by disturbances and climatic variation. He has been conducting field studies on plant phenology for over 20 years.


Ms. Sarah Newman

Ms. Sarah NewmanCitizen Science Coordinator worked at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). She developed content for Project BudBurst and consults on other citizen science projects. Most recently she was a Citizen Science Director at Beaver Creek Reserve in Wisconsin where she worked with dozens of citizen science programs from the local to state level. Past positions have also included stints as an herbarium curator and as a technician for the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge program.



Dr. Leah A. Wasser, National Geographic FieldScope Coordinator was a Senior Science Educator, Universities with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado. As the National Geographic Coordinator, Leah assisted with the development of online data visualization and analysis tools. Leah has a Ph.D. in remote sensing ecology from Penn State and over 10 years of University Level teaching experience.



Ms. Liz Goehring, was a Senior Science Educator, Programs with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, Colorado. She helped develop materials for K-12 educators for Project BudBurst in classroom settings. Liz has over sixteen years experience developing K-12 science education programs and teaching at the middle and high school level. She has a Masters in ecology from the University of Minnesota where she studied environmental factors triggering reproductive diapause in monarch butterflies.



Ms. Kirsten K. Meymaris, Web Technologist with KKM Consulting in Boulder, Colorado. She designed the original Project BudBurst web site and database, as well as working on online education and tutorials. Kirsten has over fifteen years of experience in educational technology and online citizen science programs. She also teaches online college courses in mathematics.