Friends of the Dunes

About Us

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.

Our Goals

Our Staff

Kim McFarland

Kim McFarland, Executive Director

Originally from the Midwest, Kim first taught school kids about dunes ecology along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan (yes, there are real dunes there!). Upon arrival in California in 1998, she immediately gravitated to our coastal dunes and settled in Humboldt to complete a BS in Biology at HSU in 2001. Kim first got involved with Friends of the Dunes through our Coastal Naturalist Training program in 2007 and can often be found out in the dunes telling folks about the nesting and mating behavior of our native dune silver bee, the topic of her Masterís thesis. After serving on the Board of Directors for the past few years, she is very excited to completely immerse herself in the organization. When not at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center, you can usually find her in a kayak on the bay or with her head in the sand (literally) researching the underground nesting habits of solitary bees. (Go to our Science and Nature page and check out the Get Out, Explore! video about our native bees.)

Emily Walter

Emily Walter, Stewardship/Operations Director

Emily has been involved with Friends of the Dunes since she interned as an education assistant in 2001. Emily enjoys working with the community to help them connect to the coast through restoration and education activities. In addition to managing our stewardship programs, Emily helps with the operational tasks of Friends of the Dunes. Her education includes a B.S. and an M.S. from Humboldt State University in Natural Resources Planning and Interpretation.

Evelyn Lichwa

Evelyn Lichwa, Non-Profit Intern

In 2016, Evelyn moved to Humboldt County from South Lake Tahoe where she attended community college, and got her Associates degree in Natural Science. She is attending Humboldt State University to earn her B.S. in Ecological Restoration. Evelyn wants to apply her degree to restoring natural ecosystems and native biodiversity. In her spare time Evelyn loves to take her dog, Mitzie, on hikes in the forest and to the beach.

Suzie Fortner

Suzie Fortner, Education Manager

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.

Ashley Hansen

Ashley Hansen, Non-Profit Intern

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.

Jess Barger

Jess Barger, Restoration Volunteer Coordinator, Education Assistant

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.

Adjunct Staff

Carol Vander Meer

Carol Vander Meer, Special Projects Manager (subcontractor)

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.

John St.Marie

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.

Steven Vander Meer

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.

Job Opportunities

Thank you for your interest in working with Friends of the Dunes! We currently have no job openings, but please check back soon.


Dunesberry Newsletter

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.

Download a PDF of the current issue here.

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!

Friends of the Dunes | PO Box 186, Arcata CA 95518 | 707-444-1397 |

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