Meet the AWCC Staff
Interim Executive Director
Director of Operations, Sales & Marketing
Dr. Michelle Oakley
Dr. Michelle Oakley is the only all-species veterinarian for the Yukon territory and is the star of the National Geographic Wild’s series Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet.
Director of Education
Maintenance & Projects Manager
Social Media & Administrative Manager
Animal Behavior and Training Manager/Avian Curator
Lead Animal Keeper
Grader Operator & Maintenance
A 40+year resident of Alaska, Lana Johnson is a former journalist who worked her way through the ranks at the Anchorage Times to become the newspaper’s first female managing editor. After leaving the Times, Lana performed corporate communications for Chugach Electric Association and later became a public relations professional. She currently is senior vice president at MSI Communications. Active in the community, she is a founding board member of Girdwood 2020 and sits on the board for the Alaska Council for Economic Education. Lana is the author of Alaska’s Perfect Mountain, a history of the gold rush community of Girdwood where she has lived since 2003. She also was instrumental in development of the Roundhouse at Alyeska, Alaska’s only ski museum. She is a political science graduate of the University of Wyoming where she was a member of the ski team.
Jason Graham is a lifelong Alaskan. He graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks after spending two years at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Jason has worked as an engineer, project manager and estimator for a number of the larger civil construction firms in Alaska over the course of his career. Having been raised in Alaska, he has spent a lot of time skiing in Girdwood, boating in Prince William Sound and Resurrection Bay, and hunting across the State. He is currently working on obtaining his pilots license. Jason enjoys sharing the State with his three daughters and wife Jessica. They currently split their time between Anchorage and Girdwood.
Toni has been a player in the Alaska tourism industry for years. She owns and operates Logistics LLC, a successful meeting and event planning company in Anchorage. She is known in the industry as the go-to person when an event needs to be done right and brings with her incredible partnerships in the worldwide event planning business. Toni lives in Anchorage and is often spotted at the Center with clients, or on a day out with her daughter, Taylor.
Bruce Bustamante is the President & CEO of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and has lived and worked in Alaska for 28 years.
Previously, Bruce was Vice President of Community and Public Affairs for Princess Cruises where he served for 8 years. Prior to that Bruce was President and CEO of the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau, now known as Visit Anchorage, where he served in that capacity for seven years. During that time Bruce was directly involved with two campaigns to build a new convention center in Anchorage, which passed voter approval in 2005.
Bruce also worked for Alaska Airlines as Regional Sales Director where he managed three sales offices in the state from 1992 – 2000. Bruce worked for Alaska Airlines for 17 years and lived and worked in Seattle, Tucson, and Los Angeles before moving to Alaska.
Bruce has served as chair of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, and continues to serve on the Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Board, the Alaska Department of Labor’s Workforce Investment Board and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center board.
Bruce holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Chad is the President and co-founder of Steel-N-Iron Equipment, LLC, Steel-N-Iron Construction, Inc., Far East Pile Driving (Russia) and Far East Pile Driving (Canada) each of which provide oilfield support for clients in Alaska, Canada and Far East Russia. Prior to working for himself, Chad worked as a Project Manager for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation completing oil and gas, telecommunications, power and missile defense projects statewide.
An Alaskan since age 3, Chad graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in Biology. His greatest joy is sharing his love of Alaska’s beauty and wildlife with his wife, young daughter, family and friends — particularly skiing the Chugach Mountains, including Alyeska, and fishing the Kenai Peninsula and southwest Alaska. Chad and his family also enjoy extensive world travel, with favorite spots including Punta Gorda (Belize), Des Roches Island (Seychelles), Ndutu Lodge (Tanzania), and Koh Lao Liang (Thailand).
Melissa LaRose is a Vice President at Alaska’s premier destination ski and Summer resort and neighbor to AWCC and Alyeska Resort. Melissa focuses on Retail, Guest Services, and Design at Alyeska while living in Girdwood and enjoying everything the Alaskan outdoors has to offer in all seasons. Melissa began her career in the resort and outdoor industry with a break from graduate school to teach backcountry travel and mountaineering that became a lifelong path and passion. After guiding guests throughout the US and Patagonia, Melissa transitioned to resort management and has worked her way through the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain ranges, including 10 years as a Director at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky Montana, eventually finding her home to the North in Alaska. Melissa enjoys biking, skiing, hunting, snow machining, and hiking with her husband Eric and their dogs. Melissa also loves spending time each year traveling outside the US but is always happy to come home to Alaska!
Barbara Donatelli joined CIRI in 1980 and has been a Vice President of the company since 1987. In her current position as Senior Vice President, Donatelli is responsible for government relations, shareholder services, public relations, human resources, information technology and serves as the company’s Chief Administrative Officer. Donatelli is Yup’ik, a shareholder of CIRI and Doyon, Limited and grew up in Anchorage. Prior to joining CIRI in 1980, Donatelli studied Economics at George Washington University and the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Caryn has more than 20 years of experience working in the oil and gas industry in Alaska, primarily within the Arctic coastal plain and outer continental shelf. She has also co-authored publication of numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals, successfully shared environmental data in databases available to the public, presented at numerous conferences (national and international), community meetings, and served on a variety of science advisory groups.
A life-long Alaskan from Fairbanks, John Binkley is president of CLIA Alaska, which represents the large cruise lines that call on Alaska. Binkley served as chairman and CEO of the Riverboat Discovery for 14 years and as president of the El Dorado Gold Mine for 12 years. Both are popular visitor attractions in the Fairbanks area. In 1977, John and his wife, Judy, moved to Bethel, where they started Northwest Navigation, which hauled freight on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. It was there that he started his public service career, first as a member of the Bethel City Council from 1982 to 1985 and then representing the region in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1985 to 1986. John ran for the Alaska State Senate in 1986 and represented District M until 1990. John has an extensive record of civic service, including serving as chairman of the Alaska Railroad Corporation from 1997 to 2011. He serves on many other corporate and nonprofit boards and was named the president of CLIA Alaska in 2007. One of four recipients to be selected by his business peers for into the Alaska Business Hall of Fame. John Binkley, one of four peers recently selected for outstanding Alaska leaders to join the Alaska Business Hall of Fame.
A recent addition to the AWCC Board, following her time on staff, is Karen Cowart. Karen’s love for Alaska started in 1976 when Navy husband, Rob, was stationed on Adak Island. Along with 2 children, they hiked and fished, and loved their time in the Aleutians. They moved to Anchorage in 1980, and Karen started a journey in nonprofit management in tourism and the oil and gas industry. She recently retired from BP Alaska after having served as the Community Affairs Director. A Board member convinced her that getting involved with the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center would be fun and rewarding. They were right! She’s having a ball, learning more every day about the animals she now represents and humbled by watching the dedicated staff care daily for each animal.
Jim Barnett is an Alaska attorney in private practice in Anchorage, representing a host of commercial and non profit ventures, including recent representation of AWCC. He also helped develop the cruise dock, marina and other recreational facilities in nearby Whittier, the western gateway to Prince William Sound.
A fourth-generation Californian, his principal leisure pursuit is the early history of the west coast of North America, particularly Alaska. He has written or edited seven books on these topics, focusing on the voyages of Captains James Cook and George Vancouver and other topics of Anchorage and Alaska history.
Dr. Herb Schroeder
Dr. Schroeder created the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) in 1995 with a single Alaska Native engineering undergraduate. ANSEP has evolved into a longitudinal education model that provides a continuous string of components with 2,500 currently enrolled students beginning in sixth grade, continuing through high school, into engineering and science undergraduate majors, and through graduate school to the Ph.D. The Urban Institute has found that ANSEP students outperform national averages for all students at every education level. Dr. Schroeder has been recognized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with a 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), the 2005 Alaska Federation of Natives Denali Award, the greatest honor presented by the Federation to a non-Native. He has also been awarded the 2009 National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) and Reginald H. Jones Distinguished Service Award (Founders Award) created to honor individuals whose efforts and accomplishments have resulted in increased underrepresented minority participation in the nation’s engineering workforce.
Laura McLaughlin is a 15-year resident of Alaska. She received her degree in Elementary Education at Boston College and also ran a sheep and chicken farm in Massachusetts for 15 years. Laura is the proud mother of ten children and is a 4th-grade teacher in Anchorage. In her spare time, she enjoys kayaking and fishing on the Kenai River near her Cooper Landing cabin.
Chris von Imhof
Chris H. von Imhof, born and raised in Germany immigrated as a young ( 19 years ) man to the USA. The first 5 years he worked in the Hotel and Airline business in Beverly Hills, California. In 1963 he moved to Anchorage, AK and was Sales Manager for SAS, Scandinavian Airlines System. In 1965 Governor Egan appointed him as Alaska State Director of Tourism. Chris married Nina Whaley, Miss Alaska and they had 3 sons, Rudi, Chris Jr. and Fabian. In 1967 the CEO of Alaska Airlines, Charlie Willis, Jr, hired Chris as General Manager of Alyeska Resort. For over 40 years he managed and developed Alaska’s premier Summer and Winter Resort. In 1980 he sold the Resort to Seibu/Prince Hotels of Japan and continued as CEO & GM of Alyeska. From 1985 to 1995 Chris was transferred to Hawaii and built and managed Prince Hotels in Maui and Honolulu. Chris was very active in the tourism industry, including President of the Alaska Visitor Association. While at Alyeska Resort, Chris got involved with the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and was its first President.