Founded by Alaskans in 1978, the Alaska Wildlife Alliance is the oldest grassroots, Alaskan-based group dedicated entirely to the protection of our state’s wildlife. 

Meet our Board of Directors


James Kowalsky

Jim’s passion for wildlife and the environment has inspired decades of activism. In 1971, Jim was the founding Executive Director for what is now the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, and was heavily involved in securing the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act legislation, which established 104 million acres of Alaskan national parks and wildlife refuges. Later, Jim served as Director of Wildlife and Parks for the Tanana Chiefs Conference Interior Alaska subsistence advocacy program. Forever an outdoor enthusiast and teacher, Jim operated a wilderness guiding service and worked with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Educational Program. Jim holds several degrees in music from the University of Wisconsin and remains an active orchestral trumpeter. He lives outside of Fairbanks with his wife Suzanne, three dogs and four cats.


Ed schmitt- President

Ed is passionate about preserving habitat for all wildlife in Alaska. Now a retired surgeon and rancher, Ed holds a BS in Molecular Biology and an MD from the University of Colorado. Ed began his involvement in environmental activism with the Colorado Whitewater Association and the Pikes Peak Cattleman’s Association, advocating for sustainable recreation and animal husbandry. In Alaska, his work with the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition brought him to the Alaska Wildlife Alliance in 2014. If he’s not fishing, you will likely find Ed kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, hunting, or skiing somewhere in Alaska’s vast open spaces. Ed hopes that his children and grandchildren will still be able to experience the fish and wildlife that brought him to Alaska in 1987. He lives just outside Soldotna on the Kenai river with his dog, Josephine.


John Toppenberg

John joined the AWA in 1997, later becoming the director for over a decade. Along the way, he indulged his obsession with wildlife photography and led wildlife photo tours across the state. John began his environmental activism in Colorado, when he was working as a major crimes investigator for the Ft. Collins Sheriff’s Department. He retired from that position in 1996 when he and his wife Peggy, a Certified Nurse Midwife, followed their dreams to a lakeside log home near Soldotna, Alaska. They and their dogs spent 19 glorious years there living that dream. Now semi-retired in a small community on the south side of Puget Sound, John he has no doubt that his heart remains in its permanent home, Alaska.

Meet our Staff

Nicole Bio Photo 18.jpg

Nicole Schmitt

Director of Development and Programs
Nicole has dedicated her professional life to grassroots mobilization and philanthropic administration. Holding a Bachelors degree from the University of Denver in partnership with Peking University in Beijing, Nicole split her environmental studies between the United States and China. After completing her research thesis abroad, Nicole returned to the US to work in research and grants management for conservation-focused government agencies and nonprofit organizations—including the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Yosemite National Park, and the Global Greengrants Fund. Nicole was excited to return to Alaska, the place she calls home, to exercise her skills for Alaska’s wildlife. When she’s not training for the Alaskaman, Nicole can be found biking, running, kayaking, or climbing across Alaska.


Mandy Migura

Anchorage Regional Director of Programs
Mandy is a wildlife conservation professional with two decades of extensive, practical expertise in wildlife conservation and management, with a focus on marine mammals. She holds a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University; a M.S. in Biology from American University in Washington D.C; and a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Regulations and Permitting from University of Alaska Anchorage. Mandy participated in or led research studies about marine mammals, worked at vet clinics caring for animals, coordinated government programs for endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales and stranded marine mammals in Alaska, and most recently, started her own conservation-based business (Broad Conservation LLC). It is through her business that AWA has the opportunity to partner with Mandy. Mandy and her husband John have lived in the Anchorage area for over 12 years. When not actively working to save wildlife, Mandy enjoys playing with her four rescue dogs, wildlife watching off her back deck, and reading.

Alaska Wildlife Alliance- Southeast Chapter


Jos Bakker
Irene Morris
Pat O'Brien (President)
Linda Shaw
Pauline Strong

AWA Advisory committee

Our Advisory Committee supports the Board of Directors in areas of strategy and outreach

Bob Armstrong
Tina M. Brown
Valerie Connor
Marybeth Holleman
Nick Jans
Johnny Johnson
Andrew Josephson
Robert Glenn Ketchum
Dune Lankard
Michael McBride
Jenny Pursell
Kathy Sarns
Alex Simon
Kneeland Taylor
Lowell Thomas Jr.