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

Suzie Fortner

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

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

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

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.

Arturo Paz

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.

Adjunct Staff

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.

Carol Vander Meer

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

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.


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.

Job Opportunities

Non-Profit Intern

The non-profit intern will assist in the day-to-day operations of Friends of the Dunes, including reception at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center, data entry, organization, events planning, volunteer management, publicity, and special projects.

This is a work-study position. Pay is $11 an hour, 12-15 hours per week, including Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and one weekday (day and time to be determined).

Click here to download the full job posting.

To apply, email a cover letter, resume and two references to Please indicate if you qualify for Work-Study and include your days and hours of availability.

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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