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, Lake Michigan Senior Correspondent (Chicago)
Gary Wilson reports from Chicago where he lives with his wife, Diane. He’s a Michigan native from the Downriver area of Detroit. He has worked for DPTV’s Great Lakes Bureau for 5 years.
He has covered the range of the region’s diverse environmental issues while specializing in the policy and politics of the Great Lakes at the national and state level.
Gary has reported extensively on the federal Great Lakes restoration program, water wars in Wisconsin, budding scientists on Beaver Island, environmental injustice in urban areas, algae in Lake Erie, and even the “6th Great Lake” – the groundwater of the Great Lakes, and all the problems associated with it these days.
Prior to joining Great Lakes Now, Wilson did commentary for Detroit Public TV’s Great Lakes Week coverage, commentary for Great Lakes Echo and contributed to the Great Lakes Month in Review segment for WKAR Public Radio in Lansing.
He is also an occasional contributor to WMUK Public Radio in Kalamazoo. Wilson became Great Lakes Now’s Senior Correspondent in September.
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.
Andrew Reeves, Contributor (Ontario)
Andrew Reeves is an award-winning, Toronto-based environmental journalist and the author of Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis, his in-depth look at how the invasive fish Asian carp have spread throughout America to the Great Lakes.
Andrew is also the editor-in-chief of Alternatives Journal, Canada’s oldest environmental publication. Before A\J, he was an energy and resource reporter with Queen’s Park Briefing, part of the Toronto Star Media Group, and a political reporter with Queen’s Park Today. Andrew was also the environmental columnist at This Magazine from 2015-2017 and, when called upon, is a contributing editor at the Missouri-based journal The New Territory.
In 2009, Andrew received his Masters degree in human geography from the University of Toronto and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2016.
Jack Nissen, Lake Superior Contributor (Duluth)
Jack Nissen is a reporter at the Duluth News Tribune, has a Masters in Environmental Journalism from Michigan State University and is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.
He spent a year reporting on environmental news in the Great Lakes region during graduate school while conducting research on the coverage of the Flint Water Crisis.
He has published articles in the Detroit News, Bridge Magazine and the Minnesota Star Tribune.
Along with covering protests at Michigan State University in 2018, he’s also reported undercover at white supremacy rallies, covered political races and regional business trends and filed stories from disaster zones.
James Proffitt, Lake Erie Contributor (Marblehead)
James Proffitt was a freelance reporter for papers in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky before moving north to Marblehead, Ohio.
He worked for Gannett’s Newspaper Network of Central Ohio as a reporter and photographer for eight years and is now a frequent contributor to the Outdoor News Network.
He has work forthcoming in Lake Erie Living and Cooperative Living magazines.
Many of his news and photo features received AP awards and his verse and fiction have appeared in dozens of university and literary journals.
He writes and does videos about fishing, hunting, outdoors, conservation and all things Lake Erie, as well as its tributaries. In 2015 he published Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie: Ohio’s Historic Beacon (now in its second printing) with Arcadia Press.