Mary Ellen Geist, Great Lakes Bureau Chief
Mary Ellen Geist is an award-winning broadcast journalist and author who was born and raised in the Detroit area. She began her career as a broadcast journalist in Northern Michigan where one of her first investigative reports involved the discovery of trichloroethylene in the ground water of a small town. She later won several awards for her investigative reporting on the spraying of the pesticide Malathion in Los Angeles.
She became a broadcast journalist at ABC and CBS radio stations on the West and East coasts as well as in Chicago, Salt Lake City, and in Michigan. She spent several years writing for Traverse Magazine and MyNorth.com in Northern Michigan, worked for CMU and Interlochen Public Radio, and eventually wrote a book called “Measure of the Heart” which won the Michigan Notable Book Award.
Her many honors have included national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for best newscast and investigative reporting, and Associated Press Awards for best newscast, live coverage, investigative reporting, and Reporter of the Year.
She is now living in the Detroit area with her husband Tim.
Sandra Svoboda, Great Lakes Now Program Director
The Great Lakes region has always been home for Great Lakes Now Program Director Sandra Svoboda. Born in Chicago, college educated at Indiana University, and spending nearly her entire professional career in Michigan and Ohio, she’s traveled between Minnesota and Tadoussac, Quebec, both on the water and on land.
Sandra has been in the storm sewers of Duluth, hiked Isle Royale, watched freighters squeeze through the Soo locks, anchored in Door County harbors, motored on the flow-reversed Chicago River, relaxed in Georgian Bay, chronicled Detroit’s waterfront revitalization, kayaked the Maumee River as it empties into Lake Erie, guided a sailboat through the Welland Canal, toured Niagara Falls, cruised the Thousand Islands, docked in Old Montreal, and photographed whales in the St. Lawrence River. A competitive sailor, she sails hundreds of miles each season on the Great Lakes, including on Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, and once threw out a pitch at a Detroit Tigers game as recognition of her win with her team at the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship. She’s also eaten Asian carp as part of her coverage of invasive species.
Her journalistic print, digital, broadcast, and community engagement work has won awards from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, Michigan Press Association, State Bar of Michigan, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and Society of Professional Journalists-metro Detroit chapter, and in 2018 the University of Michigan-Dearborn named her “Mentor of the Year.” For her work covering Detroit’s bankruptcy at WDET-FM, Detroit public radio, she received numerous awards including the Distinguished Alumni of the Year from Wayne State University’s public administration program. She has had multiple fellowships from the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and the Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at City University of New York. After a stint with FEMA where she supported disaster response and community redevelopment in Louisiana, she is keenly interested in how local governments can create sustainable, resilient communities in the Great Lakes Basin.
Sandra also teaches American Government at Wayne State University and strategic communication in the graduate public administration program at University of Michigan-Dearborn. She earned a bachelor’s in journalism from Indiana University and holds two master’s degrees from Wayne State, one in public administration and one in library and information science where she has been recognized for her research and writing.
She lives with her husband and too many rescue animals in metro Detroit just in earshot of freighters at the head of the Detroit River. Find her bicycling (road and mountain, but mostly road), shopping local farmers’ markets, browsing museums, and hiking Midwestern trails when she’s not on the water or working.
Gary Wilson, Journalist
Gary Wilson is an independent journalist who focuses on the Great Lakes and related environmental, economic and social issues.
He wrote the Chicago View column for Great Lakes Echo and served as a commentator for Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Week coverage. Gary comments for the Great Lakes Month in Review segment on WKAR in Lansing and is an occasional contributor to WMUK in Kalamazoo.
Though Gary covers a wide range of Great Lakes issues, he is best known for his coverage of Great Lakes restoration, the Waukesha water diversion and the Toledo and Flint water crises. He is focussing on environmental and social issues in urban areas.
Gary is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and has completed fellowships with the Institute for Journalism & the Natural Resources.
Gary was raised in the Downriver area of Detroit and is a life-long resident of the Great Lakes region. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife Diane.
Dr. John H. Hartig, Contributor
Dr. John Hartig is currently a Fulbright Scholar serving as the Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Global Governance at Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ontario.
The focus of his Fulbright is multi-disciplinary research on cleanup of the Great Lakes. For the past 14 years he served as Refuge Manager for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
John has received a number of awards for his work, including the 2017 Community Peacemaker Award from Wayne State University’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, the 2016 Edward G. Voss Conservation Science Award from Michigan Nature Association, the 2015 Conservationist of the Year Award from the John Muir Association, and the 2013 Conservation Advocate of the Year Award from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
He has authored or co-authored over 100 publications on the environment, including four books: Bringing Conservation to Cities; Burning Rivers; Honoring Our Detroit River, Caring for Our Home; and Under RAPs: Toward Grassroots Ecological Democracy in the Great Lakes Basin.
John’s most recent book titled Bringing Conservation to Cities won a Gold Medal from the Nonfiction Authors Association in the “Sustainable Living” category and a bronze medal from the Living Now Book Awards in the “Green Living” category.