Born and raised in Los Angeles, Craig has a master’s degree in civil engineering from Purdue University. After graduation, he worked in heavy and highway construction where he held positions of design engineer, project engineer, estimator, project manager, and area manager for firms in Illinois, Texas, and New Mexico. He also worked overseas on projects in Australia and Estonia. He is a hiker, backpacker, and, in another life, was president of the El Paso Climbers Club. Since volunteering at the Nature center, he has worked in the Nature Shop, fed hummingbirds, helped at festivals and the macro count, and spent a lot of time at the front desk.
Bill Balassi – Vice President
Bill Balassi has been a volunteer at the Rio Grande Nature Center since 1994. Over the years, he has led interpretive walks and twilight hikes, volunteered in the Nature Shop, shared his spotting scope with visitors in the Observation Room, served on the Friends’ board, and lined up bands to provide music (for free) at the Friends’ annual Herbfest. He holds a Ph.D in English from UNM and taught English for more than 20 years, followed by a second career as a technical writer and project management professional, retiring in 2014. Bill enjoys cooking, hiking, making music with friends, and spending time with his family, especially his three grandchildren.
Patti Plagge – Secretary
Patti Plagge has been an active volunteer in the RGNC native plant garden for over since 2012 and thoroughly enjoys the garden. Retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as budget chief for the refuge program, Patti worked for the Department of the Interior for over 30 years in various programs, including the refuge system, fisheries, and administration. She loves birdwatching and gardening in her yard and at the Nature Center. “I am honored to be part of the Friends’ board,” she says.
Now retired, Jo was on the faculty of the UNM Masters in Public Health degree program and director of the Public Health Outreach Education Program. A New Mexico resident since 1965, she has intensive experience in academia and as a public health practitioner throughout the state. She has co-authored two public health textbooks and conducted research in health disparities. Jo has previous board and supervisory experience and has been a Nature Center enthusiast and volunteer for many years.
Yolanda Homann -Board Member
A computer operator employed at GTECH, Yolanda has been with the Friends of the Rio Grande Nature Center since its inception in 1984. She volunteers “behind the scenes.” Yolanda is a self-proclaimed neighborhood activist who provides balance to the Board of Directors by voicing neighborhood concerns.
Ruth Salvaggio – Board Member
Ruth has spent her entire career in academics as a professor of literature, including a decade in the American Studies department at UNM in the late 1990’s. A native of New Orleans, her scholarly work took a sharp turn after hurricane Katrina, toward the regenerative energies of poetry in restoring severely damaged ecosystems. After retiring from the University of North Carolina in 2018, she returned to Albuquerque where she volunteers at the Nature Center in the Mariposa Pollinator Garden and in the Restoration area. She also serves as liaison between the Friends of the Rio Grande Nature Center and the Friends of our new neighbor, the Candelaria Nature Preserve.
Dave Hutton-Board Member
A physicist with extensive experience in nuclear physics and high speed electronics development, Dave Hutton is a retired science and engineering manager from Honeywell in Albuquerque. Dave is a former president of the Friends and a member of the Friends’ research committee.
Brian Hanson-Board Member
Brian Hanson volunteers for Albuquerque Open Space as well as for the Rio Grande Nature Center. He has led the plant restoration team at the Nature Center since November 2015. He has a passion for observing wildlife and establishing native vegetation. After receiving a BS degree in wildlife biology in 1974, Brian has enjoyed the outdoors and been deeply involved in report writing and contributing to conservation through various venues. Brian retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a fish and wildlife biologist after 30 years, mostly in New Mexico.
Lindsey Evans – Board Member
Growing up in Albuquerque just up the street from what is now the Rio Grande Nature Center, the Rio Grande and the Bosque played a big part in Lindsey’s childhood. Taking no particular direction after high school, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, and trained and worked as a Petroleum Laboratory Technician. Receiving a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, he opted to work at a boarding school in the Pecos Mountains until he landed a job as a field technician involved in studying the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He accepted a job as a process engineer at a uranium mill, while pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Engineering. The next 20 years he worked in the areas of groundwater and hazardous waste remediation. He ended his engineering career working for Sandia National Laboratory’s Advanced Materials Department and retired in 2018. As a volunteer at the RGNC he has worked at the front desk, assisted with educational outreach activities and helped out where ever needed. His hobbies are varied but they are all connected with the outdoors. He considers himself a Jack of all trades.