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Joint Venture Staff

The Rainwater Basin Joint Venture includes partners from across Nebraska, all cooperating to make a difference on the land we love. Our staff in Grand Island and Wood River work with landowners, conservation agencies, researchers, agriculture businesses and associations, and others, in pursuit of our shared goals and vision. Together we demonstrate that wildlife and agriculture can not only co-exist, but thrive together.

Andy Bishop

Coordinator, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture

(308) 380-8691

Andy is a native of Nebraska - born and raised in Kearney. He earned his B.S. and M.S. at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, after which he worked for the Central Platte Natural Resources District, focusing on Geographic Information System data analysis and development of spatially explicit Decision Support Tools. In 2003, Andy joined the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture and then the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Much of his work during that time involved developing biological and geographic models to help quantify the habitat needs of migratory waterfowl in the Rainwater Basin and to identify locations with the greatest potential habitat value. Since becoming RWBJV coordinator in 2009, Andy has worked on broadening and diversifying the partnership and its funding sources, and has supported initiatives that benefit both agriculture and wildlife habitat. When not working, Andy enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife, Kristen, and three children, Riley, Addy, and A.J. (photo credit: Lori Potter/Kearney Hub)

Dana Varner, Ph. D.

Science Coordinator

(308) 218-0056 x216

Dana joined the RWBJV in September 2014 in the position of Science Coordinator after completing her doctoral degree at Auburn University. Dana has also completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences at Ohio University and a Master of Science degree in Zoology at Southern Illinois University. Her graduate research projects focused on the survival and winter foraging habits of Trumpeter Swans in the Midwest and the survival and habitat use of Florida Mottled Ducks in South Florida. Dana first became interested in bird conservation and research while completing an internship at Audubon National Wildlife Refuge. She also gained experience in avian field studies while working with passerines in Hawaii, raptors in northern California, and ducks in north-eastern North Dakota. Dana grew up in Ohio and now resides in Grand Island with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

Niki Messmer

Office Administrator

(308) 382-8112

Niki joined the RWBJV in 2012 as the Office Manager, a role that includes grant administration, project tracking and Chair of the Communication Workgroup. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Paralegal from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. Prior to joining the RWBJV, Niki has worked at law firms in Nebraska, Oklahoma and Minnesota specializing in estate and probate administration, corporate law, family law and personal injury litigation. She resides in Grand Island with her husband, two sons, Tiger the Cat, Cedar the yellow Lab, and Chuy the Chihuahua.

Ele Nugent

Habitat Specialist, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture

(308) 382-8112

Ele Nugent, a Michigan native with a B.S. from Michigan State University and M.S. from Oklahoma State University, moved to Nebraska in 2011. After spending four years working in the RWBJV GIS Lab, she became the RWBJV Habitat Specialist. As the habitat specialist, she lines up management on public and private Rainwater Basin wetlands, helps landowners sign up for conservation programs, and integrates wetlands into agriculture operations. She enjoys working in such an important stopover landscape for migratory wetland-dependent birds. When not at work, she spends her time reading, baking, and being outside.

Roger Grosse

GIS Specialist

(308) 218-0057

Roger received a degree in Environmental Geography from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2008. Upon graduation, he started working for the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, where he performs geospatial analysis and data management, and oversees daily operations of the GIS lab. Roger believes kayak fishing is the greatest sport known to man. He lives in Hastings with his wife Amanda, their two children, and a dog, Polly.