FLOW Staff

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Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director

As executive director, Liz oversees FLOW’s policy, legal, technical and communications work.  After working as an environmental lawyer in both the U.S. and oversees, she has returned to the nonprofit sector because she is mission-driven and passionate about protecting the Great Lakes. Read more here.

What connected you to the Great Lakes: The magic of the Great Lakes lured Liz to permanently move here after years of summering along the shores of Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan.  

Favorite place in Michigan: This is it. This whole region of northern lower Michigan is my favorite place.  I just am angling for more time to explore and adventure with friends and family.

Fun fact: I still dream of being a photographer.  I spent most of high school in a photo lab developing silver gelatin photographs.

Jim Olson, Founder and President

Jim Olson has nearly 40 years of experience as an environmental, water, and public interest law advocate and champion, dedicated to protecting waters and ecosystems in the Great Lakes Basin. Jim currently contributes to FLOW’s legal and policy work, including policy analyses, law review articles, comments, reports, and other publications. He also speaks on behalf of the organization through presentations, lectures, and panel discussions. Read more here.

What connected you to the Great Lakes: Polling a home-made raft with my brothers up and down the shore of the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. I was fortunate that my parents moved their family—two girls, three boys—to Traverse City, by the time I was 5 years old we lived on the Bay, so, we grew up in and on the bay, felt its cold and warm temperatures, sensed its sweetwater smell, moods, its seasons and cycles, seches’ that flooded the beach, tore out docks, flipped over moored boats, ice skating, fishing, watersports, dressing up like pirates and pushing each other off row boats into the water..

Favorite place in Michigan: There are so many places that are “favorites,” it’s hard to say—Michigan’s beauty is soft, gentle, rough, rugged, and diverse from the ends of both peninsulas to the other ends. A few places-- Cathead Point, Lake Michigan’s Dunes, and vistas from the worn down mountains, cliffs and beaches that rim Marquette and Lake Superior.

Fun fact: The distance from the border of southeastern Michigan to Ironwood and the Wisconsin border in the UP is almost 650 miles-- an 11-hour drive! Perhaps, longer than any distance within any state in the lower forty-eight! With lots of shoreline, rivers, lakes, creeks, wetlands, wildlife, pastures, farms, hills and ridges, Great Lakes shoreline all the way.

Dave Dempsey, Senior Advisor

Dave Dempsey has 35 years experience in environmental policy. He served as environmental advisor to former Michigan Governor James Blanchard and as policy advisor on the staff of the International Joint Commission.  He has also provided policy support to the Michigan Environmental Council and Clean Water Action.  He has authored several books on the Great Lakes and water protection. Read more here.

Favorite Great Lakes activity: Watching sunrise from southern Lake Huron.

Favorite Great Lakes book: Freshwater: Women Writing on the Great Lakes, edited by Alison Swan.

Favorite Great Lakes fact: It takes 173 years for nature to replenish all the water in Lake Superior.

Kelly Thayer, Deputy Director

Kelly plays a lead role in strategic communications and overall program development and implementation. Kelly is a wonderful communicator, researcher, and community organizer. His leadership has enabled him to work successfully on a diverse array of local, state, and national environmental campaigns. Read more here.

What connected you to the Great Lakes: My wife, who grew up near Lake Michigan.

Favorite place in Michigan: Any place in Michigan where land meets water. There’s so much beauty here! My family and I highly recommend camping in the Western Upper Peninsula’s Porcupine Mountains.

Fun fact: Half of all Michiganders, from Mackinac Island to the Motor City, rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, as do more than 48 million Americans and Canadians in total.

Nayt Boyt, Office Manager

After attending Western Michigan University for writing and spending time in nature, Nayt decided to focus on what should be a priority for everyone in the Midwest: the Great Lakes and public water.Read more here.

What connected you to the Great Lakes: Growing up in Traverse City, I spent most of my time less than a mile from a lake and less than five miles from Lake Michigan. More than anything else, the Lakes represent a physical home.

Favorite place in Michigan: A backcountry camper never reveals his secrets. Traverse City is pretty great, which is why I still call it home.

Fun fact: Nayt currently holds two high scores on pinball machines at the local arcade, The Coin Slot.

Lauren Hucek, Fund Development and Grants Specialist

Lauren is currently a student at Western Michigan University, studying freshwater science and sustainability. Read more here.

What connected you to the Great Lakes: Childhood summers spent swimming in Grand Traverse Bay and kayaking the Crystal River in Glen Arbor.

Favorite place in Michigan: Empire Bluff Trail, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Fun fact: I was a former competitive figure skater for 10 years and currently coach for the Traverse City Figure Skating Club.

Kaitlyn Bunting, Communications Coordinator

Kaitlyn is an outdoor educator who is passionate about sharing her love of and connection to the outdoors. She strongly believes in protecting the Great Lakes and loves living so close to the awesome expanse of freshwater. Read more here.

What connected you to the Great Lakes: Playing in Lake Michigan with my family as a kid, picking up every rock I could find, and watching the sunsets reflect off the water.

Favorite place in Michigan: Moomers!

Fun fact: A seagull once snatched a peanut butter and honey sandwich out of my hand as a kid. I'm still not over it.


Kirsten Nolet, FLOW Intern

Kirsten is interning with FLOW for two months this summer as part of a Patagonia-sponsored environmental internship. She currently resides out west in Reno, Nevada, but spent a lot of her childhood in the Grand Traverse area.

What connected you to the Great Lakes: Growing up in the outdoor paradise that is Northern Michigan made me a lifelong lover of the outdoors and being in and around water. Now living away, I have a greater appreciation of how incredibly valuable and unique the lakes are and how lucky we are to have them. 

Favorite place in Michigan: It's a solid tie between Pictured Rocks and Moomers.

Fun fact: An avid lover of the outdoors, Kirsten is also an avid lover of reality television. The more drama, the better, in her opinion.

Julius Moss, FLOW Legal Intern

Julius Moss is the legal intern at FLOW for summer of 2018. He is currently on summer break from the Vermont Law School and has joined FLOW to help preserve the fresh water resources that in his opinion makes the Great Lakes Region so special. Read more here.

What connected you to the Great Lakes: I am an avid paddler who grew up on Grand Traverse West Bay.

Favorite place in Michigan: Pictured Rock National Lakeshore

Fun fact: I participated in the Ecology of the Mountains study abroad program in the Himalayas mountain range.