Meet the WEN Staff


Deb Fassnacht, Executive Director

Deb fell into a pond as a small child and has been playing and working with water ever since. She is one of the founders of the organization, along with Wendy Sturgis and Eric Ringleberg. What began as a volunteer stream monitoring effort in 1996 has grown into a successful non-profit organization focusing on watersheds, wetlands and education. Deb brings science teaching and education/outreach experience to WEN. She is nearly finished with her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in science education at the University of Montana. Deb has returned from an education position at Salish Kootenai College to serve WEN again as Director and looks forward to resuming WEN’s many community relationships! She is eager to hear from WEN friends and partners and warmly welcomes you to stop by our office to say hi!


Rebecca Paquette, Program Coordinator

Coincidentally, it was a field trip in the third grade that inspired Rebecca to pursue a career in the sciences. It wasn’t odd to her parents when she decided to study zoology at the University of New Hampshire after that field trip to a local zoo and the subsequent years of mammalogy encyclopedias and studying everything featured on Animal Planet. Some highlights of her coursework there was obtaining her scuba license and teaching two semesters of Vertebrate Morphology. She moved to Montana last February from New England in hopes of a new adventure and she loves exploring the state through hiking, biking, and skiing. Rebecca started her exploration of the community as well through volunteering with the Montana Natural History Center when she first moved to MT. Through her experiences there and a mutual friend, she was introduced to Deb Fassnacht and WEN. It wasn’t long after their introduction that Rebecca fell in love with WEN’s mission and the passion that was evidently driving it. Towards the end of April, Rebecca was brought on as Program Coordinator and has been immersing herself with everything WEN ever since.


Heather Brighton

Heather Brighton, Development Coordinator

Heather is the Development Coordinator for WEN and feels fortunate to be a part of this wonderful organization that promotes water health, youth and innovative teaching. She came to WEN after five years with Trout Unlimited and the rest is history. Heather grew up on the front range of Colorado and had the good fortune to have a teacher as a mother, an adventurous brother and father, and cottonwood creek to play in. She credits those resources and experiences for her love of nature and learning. Heather received a Certificate in Restoration Ecology from University of Idaho and a B.S. in Natural Resource Management and Forestry from Colorado State University. Most of her career has been spent as a project manager in the field of restoration however she’s no stranger to fundraising. Heather has been a part of the Missoula community for eight years and has volunteered for many non-profits including serving on the Rattlesnake Creek Watershed Group board.


Abra Kaiser, Volunteer Coordinator

Abra Kaiser grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, hiking, camping, and backpacking as much as she could.  In high school, she had a life altering opportunity to go on a month-long trip through the desert South West during which she participated in various activities including hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, rafting, and camping under the stars. This trip also allowed her to visit Grand Canyon National Park, Lake Powell, Havasu Falls, and Moab, Utah. The experience was an eye opener! Abra fell in love with nature all over again and realized how limited and invaluable natural resources really are.  This understanding led her to the University of Montana where she has spent the last 6 years.  During this time, she earned her degree in Biology and Ecology and has loved exploring the wild surroundings of Missoula.


davidDavid Hecker, Youth Conservation Crew Leader

On a family rafting trip at a young age, David discovered that jobs exist which allow one to float beautiful rivers and enjoy the company of fellow adventure seekers.  The dream was dreamt and in his early college years he began guiding whitewater rafting trips on the Salmon River in central Idaho.  Being raised in Boise, ID allowed him to explore many outdoor activities from a young age. Often joined by his three siblings and close friends he began to ski, mountain bike, float rivers and continually pursue Idaho’s fresh air. In further pursuit of open spaces he found Montana.  Here David is studying Natural Resource Conservation along with Ecological Restoration.  While the future holds uncertain endeavors he looks forward to world travels and application of his knowledge of Ecological Restoration.


Sanders pic

Sanders Smith, Montana Campus Compact Americorps VISTA Assistant Program Coordinator

Sanders is a third year student in the envrironmental studeis program at the University of Montana. He grew up beside Prickly Pear Creek in the foothills of the Elkhorn Mountains just outside of Helena, MT.  That area was the perfect environment to foster a love for the natural world and a passion for reacreating in it. Environmental educators left lasting impressions on Sanders’ life and their lessons helped shape his current worldview. He is happy to be working with WEN in an effort to provide a similar positive educational experience.