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Staff

Charles R. "Chipper" Wichman, Jr.
- President, Chief Executive Officer and NTBG Director

Chipper joined NTBG's staff in 1976, after graduating from the Horticultural Internship program. He spent his early career developing Limahuli Garden. During this time, he obtained a Special Subzone designation in the Conservation District for the entire Limahuli Valley, restored ancient taro terraces, developed a collection of rare and endangered native Hawaiian plants, opened the garden to educational tours, and added the 989-acre Limahuli Preserve. Subsequently Limahuli was named the Best Natural Botanical Garden in the United States by the American Horticultural Society.

In addition to his work in conservation and education, he has led efforts to perpetuate and preserve native Hawaiian culture with projects such as a four-year Indigenous Communities Mapping Initiative Project at Limahuli.

When he assumed leadership of the organization in 2003, Mr. Wichman brought renewed focus to NTBG's conservation and horticulture efforts and a greater appreciation of the native Hawaiian culture.

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Janet L. Mayfield
- Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Janet assumed dual responsibilities in 2004, having served as CFO since 2003 and Controller from 1997-1999.

In addition to overseeing all the financial aspects of the institution, Ms. Mayfield oversees human resources, information technology, the communications office, and office services for the headquarters facility,

Janet has B.S. in Accounting and has been a CPA for over twenty years. She has extensive experience in management and finances of non-profit organizations and continues to serve on the boards and advisory committees of other non-profit organizations in the community. Ms. Mayfield has also been an instructor and lecturer at the local campus of the University of Hawai'i.

David H. Lorence
- Director of Science and Conservation

Dr. David Lorence occupies the B. Evans Chair of Botany and came to the National Tropical Botanical Garden in 1987. Research specialties are systematic studies of tropical plants, floristics, and invasive plant species. His systematic research focuses on Pacific and neotropical members of the large and diverse Rubiaceae family, which includes coffee, quinine, and gardenias. He also studies Pacific island pteridophytes and the Monimiaceae family of the Malagasy region.

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Diane Ragone
- Director of the Breadfruit Institute

Dr. Ragone was appointed Director of the Breadfruit Institute in 2003 and has worked at the National Tropical Botanical Garden since 1989. She is an authority on the conservation and use of breadfruit, conducting horticultural and ethnobotanical studies on this important Pacific staple crop for 30 years. Her extensive fieldwork on more than 50 islands in Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia enabled NTBG to establish the world's largest collection of breadfruit. The Breadfruit Institute was created to promote the conservation, study, and use of breadfruit for food and reforestation.

Current research involves collaborative research projects in breadfruit agroforestry systems and regenerative agriculture, developing  in vitro methods to conserve and distribute breadfruit cultivars; nutritional salinity studies; molecular and morphological studies to understand taxonomic relationships, origin, and distribution of breadfruit; and ethnobotanical studies on traditional uses of breadfruit in Polynesia and Micronesia.

Dr. Ragone is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Hawai'i in the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences. She is the author of more than 1000 publications on breadfruit, ethnobotany, horticulture, and native plant conservation. Dr. Ragone holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Horticulture from the University of Hawai'i and a B.Sc. from Virginia Tech.

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Michael J. DeMotta
- Curator of Living Collections

Michael (Mike) DeMotta has served as head curator for living collections for NTBG organization since the latter part of 2006. He previously served as Horticulturist and then Manager of Living Collections at NTBG’s Limahuli Garden and Preserve.

Mike was born and raised in Honolulu and attended the University of Hawai'i. His interest in horticulture was inherited from his family, and he began growing orchids and ferns at the age of 12. His exposure in school to Hawaiian studies and the art of hula led to a keen interest in native Hawaiian plants, which he began growing in earnest in 1997. During this time he developed many of his own techniques to germinate plants from seeds and cuttings which were otherwise difficult to grow.

In addition to curating the collections for all of NTBG's gardens and preserves, and overseeing plant records, Mike is responsible for other activities in the Lawa'i Valley Conservation and Horticulture Center, including plant production.


Tobias Koehler
- Director of South Shore Gardens

Tobias Koehler joined NTBG’s staff in February 2016 as director of its gardens on the south shore of Kaua'i. A member of NTBG’s senior management team, he is responsible for the activities within the McBryde and Allerton Gardens, including horticultural care and visitor program, as well as facilities upkeep for these gardens and NTBG’s adjacent headquarters campus.

Tobias spent nearly a decade in the private sector as an environmental planner, project manager, and operations manager. In addition to his extensive experience in the for-profit world, he has a strong background in non-profit management as well as in marketing, business development, business process improvement, budgeting, financial management, resource management, and contracting.

After completing an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of California at Berkeley and conducting botanical research in Panama and French Polynesia, Tobias relocated to Hawai'i and earned a Master’s degree in botany and one in business administration.

Kawika B. Winter, Ph.D.
- Director of Limahuli Garden & Preserve

Dr. Kawika B. Winter joined NTBG in 2005 as the Director of Limahuli Garden and Preserve. He received his Ph.D. in botany from the  University of Hawai'i at Manoa (UHM).  His dissertation research focused on biocultural conservation, and specifically examined the reciprocal influences that cultures and plants have on each other’s evolutionary trajectories.  

Dr. Winter’s current research interests are focused on social-ecological system resilience, and he plays a leading role in the Hā`ena Ahupua`a Alliance by coordinating the mountain-to-sea research which is critical to informing the adaptive management of biocultural resources in the region.  He is also an active collaborator in various partner institutions and organizations — namely as an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at UHM, a member of Steering Committee for the Hawaii Conservation Alliance, and a member of the Advisory Council for the E Alu Pū Network.

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Michael Opgenorth
- Director of Kahanu Garden and Preserve

Michael “Mike” Opgenorth came to NTBG in February 2015 with a wide skillset. In addition to his lifelong background in horticulture, Mike holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He also received an academic minor in Plant Production/Plant Management from the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawai'i.

Prior to joining the NTBG team as director of the organization’s Maui garden, Mike served in numerous capacities at the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture where he worked with a wide range of stakeholders at all levels in Hawai'i’s agriculture community. In his spare time, Mike works as a tropical plant advisor for a garden lifestyle application, identifying plants from all over the tropical world as well as plant diseases and plant pests.

Craig Morell
- Director of The Kampong

Craig Morell was appointed Interim Director of NTBG’s Florida garden in July 2016, having joined NTBG’s staff the prior January as Curator of Living Collections at The Kampong. Inspired by David Fairchild’s book Garden Islands of the Great East, Craig began his career in horticulture in 1974 and earned a degree in Ornamental Horticultural at the University of Florida-Gainesville. He worked as a nursery inspector for the Florida State Department of Agriculture before managing an orchid grower company and spending a decade as a resort horticulturist. Prior to coming to NTBG, Craig served as horticulturist for Pinecrest Gardens in Florida.


Heidi Whitman, CFRE
- Director of Philanthropy

Heidi Whitman, CFRE, joined NTBG in 2015. Heidi is the chief fundraising strategist for the Garden, overseeing all programs to raise philanthropic support for NTBG. Prior to arriving at NTBG, she served as the Director of Development for the University of California Santa Cruz’ Coastal Sustainability Initiative. Heidi has over 15 years of experience in development. Born in Honolulu, Heidi is an avid gardener, and has worked as both a field botanist and a National Park Service Ranger, sharing her love of plants with thousands of visitors. She has also served on a number of non-profit boards for educational and environmental causes.

 

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