Meet Our Founders

Wally Van Sickle
Founder / President

Wally’s career in the world of natural history started at an early age with a preoccupation with dinosaurs.  This initial interest led to a couple of degrees in zoology and a lifelong interest in travel.  Thesis work conducted with mountain lions in southern Utah confirmed his passion for wildlife research and conservation.

Various trips to foreign countries with volunteer experiences in Kenya, Belize, and Australia led to the initial vision of IDEA WILD.  Wally was deeply impressed with the importance of “front lines” work being done in tropical countries by passionate dedicated individuals and he wanted to help them with their equipment needs.

Thirty years later he continues to be inspired by those working to conserve the many species and ecosystems on the planet and has provided equipment to over 7000 individuals in 140 countries.  While not working at the office, Wally enjoys time fossil hunting with friends, river rafting trips, snow skiing, meditation, and taking his dogs out for neighborhood walks.

A growth mindset continues to open up new opportunities and Wally enjoys sharing motivational presentations at youth camps and as a keynote speaker at conservation conferences.

Joni Triantis Van Sickle

Joni’s love of the wild started when her father took her on geology field trips all over the west.  She befriended many wild things during these years including her favorite horned toad, Betty.  Since then her love for animals and wildlife in general has continued to grow and she has cared for pet birds, reptiles, and many wonderful dogs and wears stylish animal print whenever she can. 

Joni has a graduate degree from the University of Wyoming and years of experience at Colorado State University (CSU) in studies focused on animal health and diagnostics.  She continues to keep both researchers and animal workers safe and healthy at CSU in her position as Occupational Health program administrator.  

She is passionate about youth and chairs Rotary leadership camps for middle school kids that inspire the future of the next generation of leaders, including environmental leaders. Hundreds of young hearts and minds have been touched by Joni’s dedication to the creating empathetic and open minded leaders. 

Joni is proud to be a co-founder of IDEA WILD and has served in every aspect of the organization since the beginning.  Her commitment to turning a wild idea into IDEA WILD has contributed greatly to the long term success of the organization.  She had already signed up for the next thirty years and believes the best is yet to come!

Meet Our Staff

Chloe Abbott-Phillips

Chloe Abbott-Phillips started volunteering for IDEA WILD as a visual artist at the age of 14. Since her middle school introduction to the organization, Chloe has continued to volunteer and broaden her service efforts with IDEA WILD and other Colorado-based nonprofits.  She now serves as our Grant Administrator and works as a visual artist and illustrator on the side.  (Many of you have witnessed the elaborately Painted Ladies at our events -- those are her creations!)  She brings an educational background in visual arts and business, with a business & entrepreneurship specialization certification.

Annette Penny

Annette Penny joined IDEA WILD in August 2023 with a background in environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

After having grown up in Fort Collins, Annette studied environmental science in the Redwoods of Northern California (Humboldt State University), bioclimatic design in the Negev desert (Ben Gurion University research campus), and permaculture in the Arava valley (Kibbutz Lotan Center for Creative Ecology).
Her working experience includes hands-on ecological restoration work, co-running a sustainable living demonstration house, participation in environmental engineering programs in the Dominican Republic and Uganda, and guiding American students through 10-day work-study community-building eco-tours in Ecuador and Panama. Her most recent work experience includes environmental and green building consulting.

Annette is thrilled to be working with IDEA WILD to support researchers and educators in their hands-on work conserving the world’s one-of-a-kind plethora of biodiversity!

Gailmarie Kimmel

Gailmarie joined the IDEA WILD team in January 2020.  She brings a B.S. in Biology, two Master’s degrees, and over four decades of leadership in non-profit and university programs focused on environmental sustainability.

Meet Our Board

Betsy Burton
Owner, Lyons Farmette, Lyons, Colorado

Betsy Burton’s career reflects her entrepreneurial spirit and includes such diverse roles as art gallery owner, teacher and, now, owner of the two largest outdoor event venues in Lyons, Colorado, where she has lived for 24 years. 

Betsy is very passionate about the environment and, especially, working to protect animals in the wild. She hosts fundraising events to support these causes and devotes much of her personal time to them.

Though her career has been diverse, her love of animals has never wavered. She believes that her venue owes its success, in part, to the animals on the property. Guests enjoy the llamas, the goats, the chickens and the roaming donkey. Betsy is a horse lover and has been a horse owner many times in her life.

An avid global traveler, she prefers trips that give her an opportunity to be outdoors, in nature and surrounded by wildlife.  She is fortunate to have been on many trips in various countries trekking and biking and is looking forward to visiting scientists and sites where projects have been funded by Idea Wild.

She is honored to be on the board of Idea Wild because of its mission and because she believes in its success.


Alexander Higgins, J.D.
Board Chair, Attorney, Seattle, Washington

Alex was raised in Seattle, Washington. He had a stint working for the U.S. Park Service in Montana 1987. Later, he attended law school and has practiced law in Seattle since then. Alex loves rivers, fly fishing and bird watching. He carries his binoculars everywhere! He has been a Board Member of Idea Wild since its inception in 1991.

Alex says, "I joined the Board of IDEA WILD because I deeply believe in the intrinsic value of other forms of life -- our fellow passengers on the planet.  The Earth is not to serve human wants and needs.  It's home to millions of species -- each valuable for the amazing manifestation of natural selection.  I serve on IDEA WILD to help those who wish to protect biodiversity -- the true wealth of our planet."

Fred Lindzey
Professor of Zoology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming

In 1976, Fred Lindzey received his Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology from Oregon State University. Since that time, natural resource and wildlife managers representing every major agency have relied on him for advice.  Fred has served as a wildlife commissioner for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, assistant leader for the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and is currently a professor emeritus of zoology and physiology at the University of Wyoming.   

Much of Fred’s research and expertise deals with large carnivores such as mountain lions, grizzly and black bears. Fred’s work has improved the way predators and many other animals are currently managed in the West. Fred has received numerous outstanding performance achievement awards relating to his conservation efforts. He has presented papers at symposia throughout the west and abroad, and his research is well represented in numerous wildlife management journals and books.  

Fred has mentored many graduate students who have had an exponential impact on the field of conservation biology.  He has been on the IDEA WILD board since the beginning in late 1991. He continues his conservation efforts by supporting IDEA WILD and converting his private ranch to a wildlife paradise including hosting breeding populations of the endangered Wyoming boreal toad. 

Chan Mortimer
Investment Advisor, Boulder, Colorado

Since I am a professional investor with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Planning, IDEA WILD has two attributes which are close to my heart. It is very economically efficient, and by addressing biodiversity it deals with one of the most important issues for our survival and for the future of our planet.

The unique plan of supplying equipment to scientific researchers worldwide, is very clever: the IDEA  WILD team is often able to procure the equipment at a discount, and the red tape and costs of international shipping are handled by the researchers.  As a result, the vast percentage of each dollar goes directly to the scientific program. 

When you support IDEA WILD, you can select your own project. And you can often contact the researchers for progress reports, and even visit them to see them in action.  My family has donated far more money to IDEA WILD than to any other non-profit.

Jim Quinlan
Owner, Jax Outdoor Gear & Farm and Ranch, Fort Collins, Colorado

As an entrepreneur, I focus most of my time and work figuring out ways to better serve JAX customers to help them get their projects done and get outdoors having fun. But I like to direct a portion of the proceeds from my company to effective conservation efforts because I understand that my business, our employees, our customers, my family, and future generations all require a healthy, diverse biosphere.  IDEA WILD’s program is a local nonprofit which offers our company a unique and effective means to empower like-minded individuals around the world to study ecosystems, educate people, and help protect the life-support system that nature provides.

Rich Reading
Director of Research and Conservation, Butterfly Pavilion, Westminster, Colorado

Richard Reading, Ph.D. is Director for Research and Conservation at Butterfly Pavilion. He is also Executive Director of the non-profit Coalition for International Conservation. Dr. Reading holds affiliations with the University of Denver, Colorado State University; and the University of Nebraska. He received a Ph.D. and three Master’s degrees from Yale University and an Honorary Doctorate from the National Education University of Mongolia. Rich has conducted or overseen projects in dozens of countries, working primarily on grassland and arid ecosystems on six continents, with a focus on the Great Plains of N. America, the steppes and deserts of Mongolia, the savannahs and deserts of Botswana, and the Altiplano of Peru. Dr. Reading has experience studying and conserving a wide variety of wildlife from butterflies to wild camels; from frogs to hedgehogs; from snakes to wild dogs; and many more species. His work focuses on developing pragmatic, effective, and interdisciplinary approaches to the conservation of wildlife and protected areas through research, capacity development, and working with local people and governments. Dr. Reading serves as an associate editor for 5 scientific journals; has published over 230 scientific papers and book chapters; written dozens of popular articles; and written or edited 9 books.


Kate Readio
Manager, Nature’s Own, Boulder, Colorado

I’ve been working with Nature’s Own since 1987.  Roy Young’s goal when he started this business was to be able to help support environmental groups. I first learned about IDEA WILD about 20 years ago when Wally came to our warehouse, along with a milk crate or two with piles of proposals from wildlife biologists who needed equipment for their work. We were impressed and wanted to help so Roy came up with the idea of giving Wally products to raise money to fund projects. The collaboration between Nature’s Own and IDEA WILD was born. Idea Wild sold our products at various venues including at a store near Mount Rushmore. We next held annual events at Nature’s Own Fort Collins where we donated all of the sales to IDEA WILD. Eventually, the store fundraisers evolved into the current events where donors pledge on projects. When Wally asked me to join the board, I was honored. What I like the most about IDEA WILD is the direct impact of putting tools into the hands of scientists. It’s easy to understand that GPS units, binoculars, a tent or a laptop might be exactly what a conservationist needs to begin or continue the work of protecting biodiversity.