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Our Staff



Amy Thorstenson is Golden Sands RC&D's Executive Director and an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Coordinator. Amy has worked for Golden Sands RC&D since 2003, primarily working on AIS issues.  Amy holds a BS in Water Resources, and an MS in Natural Resources from the UW-Stevens Point. Her thesis work on native milfoil weevils was published in 2013 by the Journal of Aquatic Plant Management. Amy and her registered therapy dog, Mija, enjoy visiting schools and libraries to help children learn how to read. 

Contact Amy at: Amy.Thorstenson@goldensandsrcd.org


Joshua Beneš is Golden Sands RC&D's Assistant Director. He serves as the Project Coordinator on projects dealing with forming woodland cooperatives and managing terrestrial invasive species.
Josh received his BS in Environmental Science and a Masters of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Vermont. Prior to joining Golden Sands RC&D, Josh worked on forest and water quality research for five years interning with the USGS on stream and forest ecology research and as a Research Technician working on a long-term research project on arctic stream ecosystems. Josh also volunteered as a member of his town’s Conservation Commission for four years where he worked to organize community events around ecological restoration projects at local parks and provided consultation to town administrators regarding conservation management of forests, wetlands, and contiguous wildlife habitat. In spring 2017 Josh completed an internship with Marathon County’s Department of Conservation, Planning, and Zoning. In his spare time, Josh enjoys kayaking, hiking, and spending time outdoors.

Contact Josh at: Joshua.Benes@goldensandsrcd.org


Chris Hamerla is the Regional Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Coordinator for Marathon, Portage, Taylor, and Wood Counties.  Chris received his BS in English from UW-Stevens Point. He has been working with AIS since 2008.  He was one of the first Water Guard Deputy Conservation Wardens, a position that focused on public outreach, education, and enforcement regarding WI AIS laws.  Chris brings his knowledge from being a Conservation Warden and a previous AIS Coordinator to this position with Golden Sands RC&D. Chris's interests include traditional outdoor recreation, snorkeling, cooking, and photography.

Contact Chris at:  Chris.Hamerla@goldensandsrcd.org

Denise Hilgart is the Administrative Manager for Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D). Denise owns and manages a beef grazing business with her husband.  Their farm is active in promoting pasture walks, created and implemented grazing plans, nutrient management plan, and a comprehensive nutrient management plan, as well as a conservation stewardship plan and others.  She is a member/producer of Farmshed as well as an active member and Financial Officer of Auburndale Food Cooperative.  Denise enjoys working with small businesses to conquer business challenges as well as the passion to maintain a balance in human and sustainable ways to care for farm animals, land and water.

Contact Denise at:  Denise.Hilgart@goldensandsrcd.org

Anna Cisar is the Regional Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Coordinator for Waushara, Waupaca, Marquette and Green Lake Counties. Anna received her BS in Environmental Science and minor in Chemistry from Carroll University. Prior to joining Golden Sands RC&D, she was working with a regional planning commission assisting in lake and stream surveys- including AIS, and assessing watershed data, and writing lake management plans. In her spare time, Anna enjoys camping, kayaking, running, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Contact Anna at: Anna.Cisar@goldensandsrcd.org