Staff

Tamara Muruetagoiena

Tamara Muruetagoiena

Executive Director

Tamara Muruetagoiena, a conservation and sustainability executive with a background in forest research, joined Great Mountain Forest in October 2019 as Executive Director.

Tamara comes to GMF with an impressive professional and academic record. She also brings extensive experience working collaboratively as a team leader to establish strategic goals that can be implemented and measured. GMF is delighted to have a leader like Tamara to help it grow into the future as it fulfills its mission in the community.

In her most recent role, Tamara was Senior Global Manager of Sustainability and R&D for Driscoll’s, the big California berry grower. She was responsible for setting a long-term sustainability mission, along with operating standards and principles, while working with many businesses and stakeholders. Before joining Driscoll’s, Tamara was an environmental program manager in the Dominican Republic and in New York City, as part of Columbia University’s management and implementation of USAID-funded projects supporting marine conservation and sustainable fisheries in the United States and in Latin America.

A graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Tamara has managed research sites throughout the Yale-Myers forest in northeast Connecticut. She also was a forestry consultant to the Southern Europe Forest Owners Association, analyzing the effects of climate change, and was an adviser to the European Parliament on fisheries policy.

Tamara also holds an MBA and International Marketing Diploma, a joint degree, from the University of California at Berkeley and the ESEUNE Business School in Bilbao, Spain, and a BA from Washington State University.

The GMF Board welcomes Tamara to the team and looks forward to working with her to implement its vision of a progressive new forestry in the region that includes promoting research and public outreach, and continuing as an educational resource for students at all levels—from grammar school through graduate school.
Tamara and her husband, Noel Rodriquez, have one child. They live in Salisbury. Tamara’s email address is tamara@greatmountainforest.org

Jody Bronson

Joel E. Bronson

Forest Manager

Joel (Jody) Bronson, a fourth-generation land manager and forester, began working at Great Mountain Forest as a seasonal student forester in 1976 after attending Unity College’s Forest Technician program. He transferred to Keene State College as an environmental science and geography major and continued his seasonal employment at GMF. In 1978, he began his forestry career under the guidance of then forest manager Darrell F. Russ and in 1990, became forest manager upon Darrell’s retirement.

Jody oversees all phases of forestry operations including timber harvesting, wildlife habitat improvement, road building and maintenance, assisting researchers, and supervising student forestry interns, to name a few. Jody also manages the forest deer population through a periodic census and oversees an annual deer hunting program. He is a member of The Society of American Foresters, Connecticut Forest and Park Association, and is a Connecticut licensed forester. He is also a professional member of The Forest Guild. In 2002, he was the recipient of the Austin Cary Practicing Professional Award given by the New England Society of American Foresters. This award recognizes NESAF members who have shown exceptional achievement as practicing forest managers.

Jody and his wife Jean live in Falls Village, CT and have two daughters, Emily and Rachel. Jody’s email: jody@greatmountainforest.org

Russell Russ

Russell M. Russ

Forester

Russell Russ, a 1987 graduate of SUNY ESF with a bachelor’s degree in Forest Resources Management, began his employment at Great Mountain Forest in 1984 as a student forester working on the summer crew. After graduation he briefly worked for the Connecticut Division of Forestry and then spent many years working in the landscape and building construction industries. In a career change that brought him back to the profession and lifestyle where he is deeply rooted he joined the full-time staff of Great Mountain Forest in 2001. Russell now holds the position of forester/weatherman. He is responsible for recording and monitoring daily weather activities for GMF and for the National Weather Service – a position formerly held by his father, forest manager Darrell Russ.

Russell’s main duties are weather observing and maintaining all weather records and managing the Yale Forestry Camp located at GMF. As manager for the camp he is in charge of overseeing all camp operations as well as scheduling and coordinating all camp groups. Assisting forest researchers, helping with on-site seminars, mapping/boundary work, timber harvests, maple syrup production and managing the GMF Shelter are just a few of Russell’s other duties. Russell is a Connecticut licensed forester and has been a continual member of the Society of American Foresters since 1987.

Russell grew up in Norfolk and now he and his wife Kim live in Colebrook, CT with their two children, Taryn and jack. Russell’s email address is
russell@greatmountainforest.org

Mary B. O’Neill, Ph.D.

Director of Communications

Mary B. O’Neill has worked in numerous non-profit and educational organizations before joining GMF part-time in July 2020. Her experience includes communications, fund development, event planning, finance, staff development, employee engagement, and strategic planning. She has worked for organizations such as Arthur Andersen & Co. and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and founded Praxis Engagement, which delivers high-quality, bespoke employee training on a range of topics.

Mary is also the Career Experience Coordinator at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village. In that part-time role, she helps students develop the skills they need to be nimble in today’s workplace and relates those skills to the academic curriculum. She also connects students with information and professionals to educate them about potential career paths and how to navigate them.

For eight years Mary was a lecturer at Western Connecticut State University, teaching philosophy and ethics, humanities, and global business. She developed courses in the philosophy of happiness, nature studies, environmental sustainability, and business ethics. She was the Roots and Shoots student club advisor, a member of the advisory board for the Jane Goodall Center, co-coordinator of and instructor in the First-Year Experience program, instructor in the Kathwari Honors Program. She was the recipient of the 2014 Systemwide Adjunct Teaching Award for excellence in teaching, chosen from amongst adjuncts in the 17 colleges and universities in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

Mary is a senior contributing writer for Main Street Magazine in Millerton, NY.

She holds bachelors’ degrees in accounting and philosophy from the University of Scranton and a doctorate in philosophy from DePaul University.

Mary’s email address is mary@greatmountainforest.org

Heath Hughes

Office Manager

Heath came to Great Mountain Forest in an atypical fashion. He spent 32 years living in Nashville, though he enjoyed traveling around the United States during that time. This sense of adventure is what compelled him to make several life changes in two months: he met and married his wife, quit his job as an office manager, and then he and his wife promptly began traveling all over North America as a professional pet and house sitters. 

Since embarking on their housesitting journey, Heath has also used this time to expand his voracious curiosity for learning new things. In the past five years, Heath has studied Spanish at Northwest Connecticut Community College and San José El Viejo in Guatemala, takes guitar lessons from local experts and many willing friends, trained in multiple martial arts, and taken thousands of pictures. Some of which have been featured in galleries, literary journals and won local competitions. He is the proud plant dad of several plants, although one has recently died, so maybe do not ask him about his orchids. 

During their long-term house sit in Norfolk, Heath became well acquainted with the town. He started volunteering for the Norfolk Lions Club Ambulance and the Norfolk Fire Department, and he joined the Gifts and Finance committee at the Congregational Church.

He has worked for over a year at the Norfolk Hub as liaison staff, before also joining the team at Great Mountain Forest as office manager. Heath is excited to utilize his organizational and managerial skills to enhance office efficiency and assist GMF in their long-term strategic plan to be a locally-, nationally-, and internationally-recognized forest.

Heath’s email address is heath@greatmountainforest.org