Staff

Paul Ritter is the Executive Director and Founder of Operation Endangered Species. He is a Biology, Ecology, and Earth Science teacher at Pontiac Township High School whose pioneering and engaging approaches to environmental education have led to numerous awards including the 2014 White House Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) and the 2012 National Environmental Science Teacher of the Year award. His Operation Endangered Species Program students are responsible for raising, and reintroducing regionally extinct species of reptile, the Alligator Snapping Turtles, to their native home range.  Over 500 turtles have been released to date.  His International Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program (P2D2) was named the number one environmental program in the nation by the United Nations in 2012 for leading his own students to properly dispose of over 6.5 million lbs. of pharmaceuticals.

Jessica Daniel leads outreach and communications for the US EPA’s online EnviroAtlas mapping and decision tool, and helps stakeholders apply geospatial resources to their work. She is invested in translating scientific information and utilizing web tools and technology to inform decision-making, research, and education.

Jenna Hartley is a research fellow at the Oak Ridge Institute for Science & Education, hosted by the US EPA. She has taught science at the high school level and developed and led interactive environmental lessons for students of all ages while at the US EPA. She is currently pursuing a doctorate focused on environmental education at North Carolina State University.

Megan Gavin is the Environmental Education Coordinator for the U.S. EPA Region 5 Office in Chicago. She is responsible for administering and managing the Regional environmental education grant competition and coordinating the regional competition for the President’s Environmental Youth Awards. In addition she works with formal and non formal educators on ways to integrate EPA’s resources both in and out of the classroom. 

Kara Belle is the lead for the Region 5 School Assistance Center, responsible for school environmental health initiatives including coordinating the Asbestos Center for Excellence (ACE) activities. She previously served as the lead for instituting the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act (WIIN) and America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) grant programs that supports lead testing in drinking water at schools and child care facilities. Prior to her work in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, she served as the lead Healthy Schools Coordinator for EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection. She began her career at the EPA Regions 6 (Dallas) Office of Compliance Assistance and Enforcement as the Special Projects Coordinator and later moved to EPA Region 4 (Atlanta) to serve as Public Liaison in the Office of External Affairs.

Todd Katz is the Regional Director of Operation Endangered Species. He teaches AP Environmental Science and Honors Biology at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago. In 2016 Todd received the Golden Apple Award, the highest award recognizing outstanding teachers in IL. In 2010 he created the Mycelia Project which works to empower students to improve the quality of the environment within their community; however they define environment, and however they define community. This past year he became a certified National Geographic Teaching Fellow and is working to fulfill his dream of traveling with National Geographic to explore Antarctica. He shares his love for the outdoors, teaching, traveling, and birding with his students as he takes them on trips around the world with Green Edventures to places like Alaska, Trinidad and Tobago, Baja, Galapagos, Peru, Iceland, South Africa, and next Uganda.

>