Meet the Staff

Michael Nelson – Refuge Directormike with hawk

Michael is a graduate of Penn State University with a BS in Recreation and Parks Management with a focus on Outdoor Education & Environmental Interpretation. Michael started volunteering at the Refuge in 1991, began working full-time as an Educator / Naturalist in 1996, and became the Refuge Director in October 2000.

Marisa Nelson – Program Directormarisa with screech

Marisa has been familiar with the Refuge since 1992, when she worked as a co-op student through SouthamptonCollege. She then became a registered nurse after graduating from Pace University. Having a love for both careers, Marisa had spent her summers working at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, and returned to her nursing career during the rest of the year. Marisa has worked full time at the Refuge as an Environmental Educator since 2003, and was hired as Assistant Director in the spring of 2006.

Tonito Valderrama – Environmental EducatorTony on Sky Backgrounds

QWR welcomes Tony to our staff. Tonito has a background in museum and art education from C.W. Post Long Island University. He is also a national exhibiting environmental artist who has focused on local environmental issues such as deforestation and endangered species. Tonito has studied and enjoyed birds of prey, botany and Long Island’s varied ecosystems. His passions of nature, education and art have been well blended for the environmental educator position as of April 2010.

Brendan Dickson — Environmental Educatorbrendan with python

Brendan Dickson is a graduate of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, with a major in Wildlife Management and Resources.  He started at Quogue Wildlife Refuge through the Southampton Summer Job Placement at age 14, and has been at the Refuge every summer since.  This early interest in conservation and wildlife inspired him to pursue a career in this field.  As head counselor of the Summer Ecology Program, Brendan has educated and encouraged the youth of the East End to become more environmentally aware.  Brendan’s enthusiasm for the outdoors and passion for nature truly embodies the spirit of Quogue Wildlife Refuge.


Renee Allen — Environmental Educatorrenee with princess

Renee Allen graduated from SUNY Brockport with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and a concentration in Terrestrial Ecology.  During her time at Brockport, and several summers working at Quogue WildlifeRefuge, Renee has had great opportunities which have only helped to expand her passion and knowledge for wildlife.  It is her desire to share her love and appreciation for the environment to local community, so that they leave the Refuge with a greater understanding of wildlife and the diverse environment we live in.