Rian Bylsma

Environmental Educator

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

As an environmental educator, Rian fosters curiosity, discovery and wonder in Merry Lea's PreK-12 and public programs. Rian gathered experience in public science programming, curriculum development and community learning to complement degrees in biochemistry and wildlife genomics before coming to Merry Lea fall 2021. On weekends and evenings, Rian enjoys backpacking, kayaking and cooking with friends while exploring northern Indiana. Read more »

Kaeli Evans

Farm Manager

Office: Rieth Village at Merry Lea

Kaeli Evans, Goshen, Ind., joined the Merry Lea Team as the new farm manager in November 2019. Kaeli is a graduate of the 2011 Agroecology Summer Intensive and a 2014 graduate of Goshen College. After moving away from Goshen post-graduation, she spent two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the University of Georgia, and took graduate courses in food studies at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. She's worked in areas related to food security and farming, in addition to her communications and events background. Read more »

Elena Fischer

Communications Specialist

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Elena manages Merry Lea's communication efforts for promoting stories, programs, events and other opportunities for the public to engage in and further Merry Lea's mission. She creates and edits content for The Merry Leaflet, social media, website, news releases and more. Elena first arrived to Merry Lea in August 2019 as an environmental educator, teaching PreK-12 school programs. She also assisted with the masters in environmental education program, coordinating opportunities for the students and developing recruitment strategies. A native of Elkhart, Ind., Elena is excited to re-invest in a place she calls home. Read more »

Carol Good-Elliott

Environmental Educator

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Carol has 20 years experience educating people of all ages about the natural world. She is especially fond of working with young children. When not scheduling, teaching or writing curriculum for the PreK-12 education program she can be found hunting fairy shrimp in a temporary pond or spotting birds to add to her birding team's list. Carol came to Merry Lea in 2001. Read more »

Kerry Goodrich

Property Supervisor

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Kerry, a native of Noble County, has cared for Merry Lea's physical plant since 1980. He has completed coursework in heating systems, industrial management and horticulture at IVY Technical College. His real passion, however, is working outdoors. Kerry is an avid hunter and observer of wildlife. Read more »

Tom Hartzell

Coordinator of Residential Undergraduate Programs

Environmental Educator

Office: Rieth Village at Merry Lea

Tom came to Merry Lea as a student in the Master of Arts in Environmental Education in 2011. In the MAEE, he carried out a research project on sediment contamination in the Elkhart River. Upon his completion of the MAEE in 2012, he was added to the Merry Lea staff in order to provide programmatic and educational support to the Sustainability Leadership Semester and Agroecology Summer Intensive programs. Other aspects of his work include leadership of the PROWL after-school program with Central Noble Schools, as well as speaking engagements for the promotion of Merry Lea’s collegiate programs. Read more »

Jason Martin

Executive Director

Interim Director of the Graduate Program in Environmental Education

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Jason Martin joined the Merry Lea team as executive director in July 2020. He brings over 10 years of programmatic leadership across a range of environmental management and environmental education programs. This included efforts in wetland mitigation, green infrastructure construction, teaching science courses to audiences of all ages, and directing the NestWatch and NestCams citizen science programs at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Jason currently lives in Warsaw, Ind. with his wife Suzanne Beyeler (a 1995 Goshen College graduate), their dog and several cats. During his free time, Jason enjoys hiking, camping, bird watching and attending baseball games. Read more »

William Minter

Director of Land Management

Assistant Professor in the Sustainability and Environmental Education Department (SEED)

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Bill is a certified professional forester who has served on the staff since 1991. He has restored over 100 acres of wetland and prairie at Merry Lea. When not practicing land management, he teaches courses on related subjects to both Goshen College undergraduates and Merry Lea's graduates in environmental education. Bill takes a special interest in oak savanna ecosystems. Read more »

John A. Mischler

Director of Agroecology and Assistant Professor in SEED

Office: Rieth Village at Merry Lea

John is a biogeochemist with special interests in systems thinking and the relationship between agriculture and climate change. John oversees Goshen College's Food Systems major and Merry Lea's Agroecology Summer Intensive. He will work with undergraduate research and help Merry Lea build its research capabilities. John also teaches a course in Earth Science, Climate and Meteorology. John and his wife, Ruth, arrived at Merry Lea in January 2017. Read more »

Ruth Mischler

Assistant Professor in SEED

Office: Rieth Village at Merry Lea

Ruth's roles include teaching courses for the Agroecology Summer Intensive and further developing animal husbandry on the Merry Lea Sustainable Farm. Cover crop research is one of her areas of expertise. Ruth especially values apprentice-style learning--working beside her students and coaching them in the field. Ruth and her husband, John, arrived at Merry Lea in January 2017. Read more »

Joel Pontius

Director of the Sustainability Leadership Semester

Associate Professor in the Sustainability and Environmental Education Department (SEED)

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Joel directs Merry Lea’s Sustainability Leadership Semester. He also teaches courses in the graduate program about the history, issues and principles of environmental education. Additionally, he teaches the May term course, Field Experience in Environmental Education course for Goshen College education undergraduate majors. Before coming to Merry Lea, Joel served as a science coordinator in Wyoming’s public schools. He also worked as an interpretive naturalist and guide in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Joel finds deep joy and inspiration in the diversity of the natural world and the human experience. Read more »

Jonathon Schramm

Associate Professor in the Sustainability and Environmental Education Department (SEED)

Director of the Institute for Ecological Regeneration (IER)

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Jonathon is primarily a teacher and researcher at Merry Lea for Goshen College. At ML he teaches natural history for the Master's in Environmental Education program and also advises master's students as they pursue their research projects and develop curriculum. He is part of the teaching team for the Sustainability Leadership Semester and guest lectures in the Agroecology Summer Intensive. On campus he teaches courses in the interdisciplinary Sustainability Core, and also coordinates faculty in that effort. Jonathon's responsibilities also include ecological and educational research and direction for the Institute for Ecological Regeneration. He joined the Merry Lea faculty in 2012. Read more »

Jennifer Halteman Schrock

Leader of Mennonite Creation Care Network

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Jennifer has served Merry Lea in a variety of capacities since 2002. Current responsibilities include nurturing congregations in ways that also nurture the earth. In the past, she has also managed Merry Lea's website, edited the Merry Leaflet, written grants, coordinated the public programs, served on the team that developed the Sustainability Leadership Semester, and taught a course entitled Faith, Ethics and Eco-justice. When outdoors, she focuses on plants and birds. Read more »

Kaitlyn Sproles

Environmental Education Outreach Coordinator

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Kaitlyn first came to Merry Lea as a student in the Master of Arts in Environmental Education in 2016. She returned to serve on the Merry Lea team in 2021 as Environmental Education Outreach Coordinator, working with Merry Lea's school and public programs to provide logistical support and teaching. Prior to working at Merry Lea, Kaitlyn served in the Peace Corps in rural Paraguay as an environmental educator and worked as the Interpretive Naturalist at Chain O’Lakes State Park. Originally from Missouri, she now resides in Albion with her husband and two fur babies, and enjoys hiking, gardening and reading in her spare time. Read more »

Marcos Stoltzfus

Director of Environmental Education Outreach

Assistant Executive Director

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Marcos joined the Merry Lea team in 2016, and brings more than 10 years of experience in informal and environmental education settings. He graduated from Goshen College with majors in Biology and Environmental Studies, and has worked at nature centers and museums in Colorado, New York, and Minnesota. He completed a Masters in Nonprofit Management, where his thesis focused on nonprofits engaging in urban farming practices. Marcos oversees the Public & PreK-12 Environmental Education programs at Merry Lea, and works with MAEE students in their practicum experience. Read more »

Maria Tice

Administrative Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Maria returned to the Merry Lea staff in 2012. She graduated from Goshen College in 2002, served with the Elkhart EnviroCorp from 2002 to 2004 and then served as a Merry Lea intern from Fall 2005 to Spring 2006. She now serves as the administrative assistant and also coordinates all the volunteers who assist in our education and land management efforts. Maria's experience both in environmental education and administration enable her to bring support and expertise to the wide range of Merry Lea programs. Read more »

Merry Lea Board Members

The board consists of 9-12 voting members, to include a broad representation of those served by Merry Lea.

Colleen Banta
Certified Child Life Specialist at Parkview Women and Children’s Hospital in the Pediatric and Pediatric Intensive Care Units
Served since 2016

Heather Harwood (Chair 2019-2020)
Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation Executive Director
Served since 2013

Melissa Kinsey
Goshen College Adjunct Business Instructor
Wellfield Botanic Gardens Environmental Educator
Served since 2018

Reena Ramos
Advancement Coordinator and Outreach Manager
ACRES Land Trust
Served since 2021

Fancheon Resler
Retired educator
Served since 2013

Blair (Andy) Rieth
Welch Packaging General Manager
Served since March 2020

Ryan Sensenig, Ph.D.
Goshen College Professor of Biological & Environmental Science, ES Program Director
Served since October 2019

Jerry Sweeten, Ph.D.
Restoration ecologist
Served since 2019

Jason Martin, Ph.D. (Ex officio)
Merry Lea Executive Director
Served since 2020

Ann Vendrely, Ph.D. (Ex officio)
Goshen College Vice President for Academic Affairs/Interim Academic Dean
Served since 2018


Luke Gascho

Retired June 30 2019; emeritus status in process

Luke was the executive director of Merry Lea from 1997 to his retirement in 2019. He was also a professor in the Sustainability and Environmental Education Department (SEED). Luke's interests include leadership, sustainable building design and creation care from a faith-based perspective. Luke oversaw the design and construction of Rieth Village, a facility at Merry Lea that earned a platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. He also chairs the Creation Care Council of the Mennonite Creation Care Network and is the author of Creation Care: Keepers of the Earth. Read more »

David Miller


Dave is an entomologist who joined Merry Lea in 1988 and has served in many roles since then, including program director. Most recently, he taught a natural history class in the graduate program in environmental education and chaired Goshen College's biology department. Dave retired from Merry Lea in 2008, but continues to oversee Merry Lea's insect collections and answer occasional entomology questions. Read more »

Larry Yoder


A botanist and educator, Larry became Merry Lea's executive director in 1981, serving until 1997 and continuing in other roles until retiring in 2007. Currently, Larry devotes his time to his family farm near Huntertown, IN. Larry also continues as a guest lecturer on soils and geology. Read more »