Friends of the Dunes (FOD) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has been involving the community in the conservation of coastal environments since 1982. Based in Humboldt County California, FOD is best known for coastal ecosystem restoration, education programs and guided walks. In its role as a land trust, FOD acquired 113 acres of coastal dune property now known as the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center (HCNC).
Our Mission Statement
Friends of the Dunes is dedicated to conserving the natural diversity of coastal environments through community supported education and stewardship programs.
- Provide community education that fosters understanding and appreciation and inspires conservation.
- Build community-based restoration programs that serve to maintain and enhance the natural diversity of coastal environments.
- Conserve strategically located coastal properties through conservation easements and land acquisition to ensure that land use is consistent with the ecological values of native coastal dune systems.
- Develop an effective and efficient organization capable of conserving coastal environments in perpetuity.
Suzie Fortner, Programs Director / Interim Executive Director
Suzie has been a nature lover her entire life. Growing up in San Diego, she spent a lot of time camping, hiking, and swimming in the ocean. This love of nature inspired her to pursue a B.S. degree in Marine Biology at UC Santa Cruz, where she became infatuated with redwood forests. So she came to Humboldt County and earned a M.A. degree through the Environment and Community Program at Humboldt State University in 2010. Suzie has been working in the field of Environmental Education since 2004, and her Masterís Project focused on place-based environmental education. She started volunteering with Friends of the Dunes in 2007, and has been involved with Friends of the Dunes education programs ever since.
Jess Barger, Programs Manager
Jess was hired as the Restoration Volunteer Coordinator in the summer of 2015. She graduated from Humboldt State University in spring 2015 with a B.S. in Wildlife Management and Conservation. Jess absolutely loves the beach and dunes, and is excited to have the opportunity to share her passion for conservation and natural biodiversity. She hopes to inspire others to help with restoration projects and to find the joy in getting your hands dirty while helping the planet. During her free time she enjoys birding and going on adventures with her dog, often to the beach and dunes.
Ashley Hansen, Outreach Coordinator
Ashley moved to Humboldt County from San Diego where she gained experience rehabilitating native species through volunteer work at a Wildlife Center. She currently studies Wildlife Conservation at Humboldt State University and plans on applying her degree towards preserving and restoring local ecosystems. In her spare time, Ashley can be found hiking with her dog, Akela.
Brenda Pease, Bookkeeper
Brenda has been the Bookkeeper since June of 2015. She moved to Humboldt County in 1989 and has since earned her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting from Humboldt State University. She is an independent contract bookkeeper for several local nonprofit organizations focused on environmental conservation and restoration. In her spare time she can be found hiking and exploring the trails in Humboldt with her husband, George.
Daisy York, Operations Assistant
Daisy graduated with a B.S in Environmental Science from Humboldt State University in may of 2017. She moved to Humboldt in 2007 from Markleeville C.A, where she spent much of her childhood hiking and backpacking through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. She now spends much of her time hiking with her dog ďBugĒ through the redwood forests and along the Humboldt coast line.
Arturo Paz, Latino Community Specialist
Originally from Bakersfield, Arturo came up north to live in Humboldt County in 2013 to pursue a degree in Communications as a freshman. However, he soon fell in love with the redwoods and decided to also enter the field of Environmental Education. He currently is in his final year of studies at HSU. Looking to apply his fields of study for the betterment of the environment, Arturo was welcomed aboard at Friends of the Dunes. He aims to use his education and cultural experiences to make our beautiful beach dunes a more inclusive space for Spanish speaking members of our community. During his free time, Arturo enjoys music, films, artwork, and experiencing nature.
John St. Marie, Facilities Manager (Board President)
John has been involved with Friends of the Dunes since 1988. He was the Director of the organization in the beginning and helped play a key role in helping Friends of the Dunes become an official 501(c)3 nonprofit. John has served on the Land Trust Committee, helping secure the 115 acres that are part of the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center. John is also the caretaker of the Nature Center, helping maintain the building, native landscaping, and helping manage public use on the property.
Carol Vander Meer, Executive Support Volunteer
When Carol arrived in Humboldt County from Nebraska in 1994, she was immediately drawn to the coastal dunes. They were curiously reminiscent of the Nebraska sandhills where she did her Masterís work on the ecology of the Niobrara River valley. Carolís experience includes being a high school biology teacher, a nature center director and naturalist. She started with Friends of the Dunes as a volunteer docent while she worked as a park ranger at Redwood National Park. She served as Executive Director of Friends of the Dunes from 2004 to 2015. Carol lives in Manila along the shores of Humboldt Bay with her husband Steven. When the tide is high, they enjoy paddling the waters of the bay and up into the Mad River Slough.
Steven Vander Meer, Webmaster (volunteer)
Steven is an artist, animator and home brewer with an awesome studio in Manila, near the dunes. He owns and operates Meer Image, an art rubber stamp business, and is a self-taught hand-coder of HTML and CSS.
Our quarterly printed newsletter is mailed free to members and is one of the benefits of becoming a member! On the cover you will find an inspirational essay by our executive director, and on the inside - news, Naturalist Notes, a calender of events, volunteer highlights, thank-you's, announcements and more.
Thank you for your interest in working with Friends of the Dunes! We currently have no job openings, but please check back soon.
Or... You Could Volunteer!
Volunteering not only helps us keep things going around here, it's also a great way for you to get your foot in the door. Plus, you'll be one of the first to know about future job openings! Check out the volunteer page!