Leaf Litter

Get to Know the Ohio River Bioregion Staff

We introduce our staff in the Ohio River Bioregion.

By Amy Nelson

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Located smack dab in the heart of the Ohio River Bioregion, near the banks of the Ohio River, is a brick building constructed in the 1870s that has housed the manufacturing of split bottom chairs, saloon fixtures, mirrors, and even pies. Today, Bakery Square is home to Biohabitats Ohio River Bioregion office (or “ORB,” as wee affectionately call it). Among the exceptional goods produced there today are some of the finest conceptual plans, technical reports, and construction documents around.

Step inside and say hello to our ORB leader and water resources engineer, Mike Lighthiser and trusty teammate and environmental scientist Suzanne Hoehne. These two truly embody the good natured spirit and hospitality you’ll find all over the Bluegrass State. But don’t let this fool you. Underneath their smiles lies steely reserve, impassioned tenacity and mind blowing technical and analytical skills that can help you through even your toughest conservation planning, ecological restoration and regenerative design project.

Level-headed and virtually unflappable even in the middle of a crisis (not that we ever have any), Mike has the remarkable ability to investigate, dissect and analyze a challenge in a way that leads him to conceptualize and engineer a creative solution that works with – rather than against ecological systems. Perhaps this is because whether he’s working with rivers, grasslands, salt marshes, coastal lagoons, or shorelines, Mike understands the greatest engineer of all time — mother nature.

Among his many projects, Mike is currently leading the Biohabitats team in the development of the Floyds Fork Parks, Open Space, & Trails Master Plan, a project highlighted in this issue of Leaf Litter. Before joining Biohabitats, Mike worked for a West Coast firm, where he played an important role in developing empirical hydraulic geometry relationships for tidal channels in the San Francisco Bay Estuary. Mike earned his Masters of Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and his B.S. in Civil Engineering from The Ohio State University. An innate do-gooder and heck of a nice guy, Mike also devoted two years of his life to the Peace Corps, working as an Environmental Sanitation Specialist in the Dominican Republic.

When he isn’t busy leading the Ohio River Bioregion office, Mike enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, exploring the outdoors and of course, taking things apart and putting them back together.

When she was little, Suzanne dreamed of exploring unknown lands and making new discoveries. Since she couldn’t fathom going into space, she settled instead for science. After earning a bachelors degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison, Suzanne boldly ventured into the emerging realm of water resources engineering applied to ecological restoration.

Now a potamologist and a Certified Ecologist, Suzanne applies her expertise in the hydrology, ecology, geomorphology and hydraulics of natural systems to water-resources related projects such as watershed wide strategic plans, stream restoration projects, storm water best management practices, and hydrologic and hydraulic studies. Recently, Suzanne has participated in several stream mitigation projects for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a habitat enhancement project along a degraded stream in Nashville. She also played a critical role in the restoration design layout and construction oversight of Terry’s Branch, a stream restoration project featured in this issue of Leaf Litter.

Before joining our team, Suzanne worked on stream restoration projects for Larson Design Group in Williamsport, PA and designed preliminary bridge structures for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. As a graduate student, she participated in wetland research that studied the effects of ground water levels and nutrient concentration on reed canary grass and of nutrient concentration on cattail migration.

When she is not working, Suzanne can be found doing a number of things: trying to figure out how to live more sustainably; learning how to build a patio; volunteering in her community; building relationships with people; cooking; hiking; or playing one of the 11 (yes…ELEVEN) instruments she somehow knows how to play. While Suzanne’s ultimate dream is to be on a PBS reality series such as Frontier House or Colonial House, we hope she stays around Bakery Square for quite some time.

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