Our Staff

Christine Crissman, Executive Director

Christine was named The Watershed Center’s Executive Director in November 2013. “I am honored to join the dedicated staff at the Watershed Center and be a part of working to protect and preserve the Grand Traverse Bay watershed,” she says. “Our freshwater resources are valuable to our economy, well being and way of life, and I am passionate about advocating for its protection.”

Prior to working for The Watershed Center, Christine served as Director of Education and Conservation at the Grand Traverse Conservation District and as Education Director and Chief Scientist at Inland Seas Education Association.

Crissman holds a Master of Science in Aquatic Resource Ecology Management from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. She earned her Bachelor of Science at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame. She has served as adjunct faculty at Grand Valley State University and Northwestern Michigan College.

Her publications in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management include “A Comparison of Methods for Sampling Round Gobies in Littoral Rocky Areas” and “Consumption of Hatchery Trout by Walleye in Two Major Rivers in Michigan,” which is currently under review. She served as Fisheries Technician for the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians Natural Resources Department in 2001 and 2002.

Christine won U of M’s Karl F. Lagler award for outstanding fisheries scholarship. She also won the Janice Fenske Memorial Award from the Michigan Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. In 2017 & 2018, Christine was recognized as a 40 Under 40 leader in the Traverse City Business News.

She enjoys fishing, sailing, boating, scuba diving, hiking and camping.

Christine can be reached at ccrissman@gtbay.org,  231.935.1514, ext. 1, or directly at 231.299.0707.

Sarah U’Ren, Program Director 

Sarah U’Ren has worked for The Watershed Center since 2002. She authored the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Protection Plan and administers its many grant-related programs. Sarah also directs the Watershed Center’s beach and volunteer monitoring programs, and she launched its Stream Search program in 2003.

Before moving to Traverse City, Sarah was employed by the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University and authored the initial version of the Muskegon River Watershed Management Plan.

Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree in Science from Alma College and a master’s in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland.

Sarah lives in Suttons Bay with her husband Randy, and two daughters, Danielle and Megan. Randy has an optometry practice in Suttons Bay. She loves the small-town atmosphere of Suttons Bay and especially enjoys the countryside view of cherry trees from her house outside of town.

As a 10+ year veteran of The Watershed Center, Sarah holds the Bay and its watershed near and dear to her heart. She loves working on the Bay and with rivers, wetlands, forests, urban downtowns, small creeks and inland lakes. But most of all, she enjoys working and protecting water quality at our many local beaches~even though she can’t ever seem to get a suntan! You can often find Sarah with a smile on her face, laughing and wise-cracking jokes at the office and at meetings. She loves her job, loves life, and really thinks that laughter cures all.

Sarah can be reached at  suren@gtbay.org, 231.935.1514, ext. 2, or directly at 231.299.0095.

Heather1Heather Smith, Grand Traverse Baykeeper

Heather Smith took the helm as the Grand Traverse Baykeeper® in August 2016.

Heather grew up in Leelanau County and attended schools in Suttons Bay. She earned her undergraduate degree in Biology and Environmental Science from Michigan State University and a graduate degree in Water Resources Management from the University of Wisconsin Madison.

Heather’s background includes watershed outreach, water quality monitoring, community engagement and volunteer management. Most recently she was with the Sacramento Tree Foundation and returned to her native roots for her new position.

As Baykeeper, Smith will advocate for the environmental health of the Grand Traverse Bay watershed by serving as a liaison between concerned citizens, regulatory bodies, municipalities, planners and developers; conducting outreach and education programs; providing oversight and comments on proposed projects that require permits when water quality could be affected; and monitoring area waters.

“As a northern Michigan native educated in the Great Lakes region, I wholeheartedly believe in The Watershed Center’s mission,” Heather says. “The Bay and its watershed are a beautiful, unique natural resource and I am dedicated to being an advocate for its protection.”

Heather can be reached at hsmith@gtbay.org, 231.935.1514 ext. 3, or directly at 231.299.0118.

TJ Andrews, Legal Counsel 

TJ is a private practice attorney specializing in environmental law who works for The Watershed Center on a contract basis. TJ served on the Watershed Center board for four years.

She most recently served as Environmental Litigation Attorney for the U.S. Air Force in Washington, DC, on hazardous remediation sites.  She was twice recognized by the Department of Justice for her outstanding legal advocacy.

TJ has also worked on environmental and natural resource issues in and around Traverse City, with the law firm Olson, Bzdok and Howard. Before that, she was an Honors Assistant Attorney General for the Texas Office of Attorney General’s Natural Resources Division.

TJ attended the University of Texas School of Law. She served as Editor in Chief of the Texas Environmental Law Journal.

She has been a member of the State Bar of Texas since 2002, and of Michigan since 2004.

TJ is a devoted yoga practitioner, having attended the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, in winter 2008.

She enjoys exploring the Grand Traverse region with her husband Mike and their two young children. “My favorite area in the watershed is Boardman Lake,” TJ says. “We find so many ways to enjoy this resource almost every day.  We live nearby, so we walk down to the shore most every morning to check water levels, throw rocks, count ducks and plan our day. We use the trails around the lake to get around town and for exercise. In any other community, Boardman Lake would be the prized natural resource. We happen to be in such a lovely place surrounded with ample resources, so this convenient, peaceful lake in the heart of town is almost an afterthought.”

TJ can be reached at tjandrews@gtbay.org or 231.935.1514 ext. 3.

John Nelson, Baykeeper Emeritus

John served as Grand Traverse Baykeeper from 2001-2015 and continues to be an advocate for clean water in the Grand Traverse Bay watershed after retirement.

John’s roots are five generations deep in the Leelanau County region. John earned a master’s degree in Science Education from the University of Michigan in 1971. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, served five years of active duty, served 15 years in the Naval Air Reserve, and retired as a Commander in 1986.

John lives in Traverse City with his wife Lynne. He is a board member of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council and serves on the Garfield Township Planning Commission. John is one of the few members of the Grand Vision Coordinating Group who has served continuously since its inception in 2005. He is also on the Executive Committee of the Traverse City Transportation and Land Use Study.

John says, “This special place has nurtured me in my life. My dad was born and raised at Point Betsie and the Manitou Islands. I grew up on the beach of Grand Traverse Bay in a cottage hand-built by my great grandfather in Northport. The Watershed Center is an important, independent and influential organization allowing me to give back to this wonderful place and help protect the waters that define it.”

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