Staff

Alexandra Branton, Weather Observer & Education Specialist
Alexandra BrantonGrowing up in Pensacola, FL, Alex was able to experience a variety of exciting weather that sparked her interest in meteorology. From Category 4 hurricanes to a couple of surprising instances of frozen precipitation, and everything in between, Alex became intrigued by the weather. Additionally, Pensacola is home to a high volume of military aviation activity including the Navy’s Blue Angels.

The combination of interesting weather and aviation that Alex was exposed to while growing up inspired her to study Aviation Meteorology at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, FL. While in school, she was a member of the women’s cross-country team and competed in club rock climbing. In the summers between busy academic years, Alex discovered her love for the mountains through her work as a zip line guide and as a via ferrata guide in North Carolina and West Virginia. In her free time, she was able to explore her interests in hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and mountain meteorology. She also completed a thru hike of the 211-mile John Muir Trail.

In the summer of 2021, Alex wanted to gain a deeper understanding of mountain meteorology and was lucky enough to intern at Mount Washington Observatory. She fell in love with the White Mountains and the Obs’ mission and decided to go for a full-time Weather Observer and Education Specialist role after graduating in 2022. She is excited to experience the extreme weather on the mountain and take advantage of the many opportunities for outdoor recreation in her new home.
 
Jay Broccolo, Director of Weather Operations
Jay BroccoloJay was born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island. Having grown up along the southern coastline of RI gave Jay the opportunity to experience all sorts of diverse and extreme weather from hurricanes to Nor’easters. Jay’s enthusiasm for the outdoors and the natural world only increased since childhood. His parents insisted that he spend as much time outdoors as possible. He joined the Boy Scouts and spent a weekend every month, regardless of the weather, learning useful outdoor skills, camping, and hiking all over New England. He became enamored with the White Mountains, but specifically Mt. Washington, its geology, and unique extreme weather.

Following graduation of high school and obtaining his Eagle Scout, Jay attended the University of Rhode Island. In the middle of his second year he took a semester off and lived in Boulder, Colorado where he had the opportunity to experience mountain weather and hiking the Flatirons. After returning home he continued and completed his B.S. degree in Geology and Geological Oceanography at URI. While at URI he also attended a Geology Field Camp operated by University at Buffalo, geologically mapping various regions Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

With the completion of his Bachelors, Jay went on to work in the oilfield industries as a Mud logger on drill-ships in the Gulf of Mexico. After a couple years of working offshore and not feeling fulfilled with his career path, he interned at Mt. Rainier National Park where he was charged with observing and recording the weather on the mountain while conducting various research projects. Upon completion of the internship, Jay attended the University of Leeds in Leeds, England and completed an MRes in Climate and Atmospheric Science where he focused on factors that influence the development and intensification of extratropical cyclones over the Northeast United States.

With his intrigue in extreme weather events and his love for Mt. Washington, Jay is more than excited to be working here at the Mount Washington Observatory, home to the World’s Worst Weather. In his off time, Jay enjoys the outdoors, board and video games, reading, and learning to play the piano, just to name a few.

 

Charlie Buterbaugh, Director of Communications
Charlie

Charlie joined the observatory in 2020 with a multi-disciplinary background in communications and a passion for supporting climate science. After graduating with a BA in English from Susquehanna University in his home state of Pennsylvania, he pursued graduate studies that led to teaching college writing. Charlie then spent five years engaging audiences as a journalist and news editor, often drawn to writing about natural resource conservation and the interdependence of ecosystems and recreation-based rural economies. In 2007, seeking experience in business communications, he joined the scientific company VWR, where he helped develop their R&D services segment. Working in several brand, communications, and content marketing roles over the course of 11 years, the experience provided rewarding opportunities to lead marketing program planning while collaborating with international teams to engage scientists in university, biotech, and other research settings.

In 2013, intent on their return to rural living, Charlie and his life partner Mindy moved to Maine, a place that had sparked love for adventure earlier in life during ski, canoe, and camping trips to the Northwoods. They eventually found a home near the Village of Fryeburg, where they live with their three kids. In addition to the trials and tribulations of gardening in northern New England, Charlie enjoys cycling, hiking, and skiing through the region’s stunning landscapes. After joining Mount Washington Observatory as the Development Coordinator in 2020, he took on the role of Director of Communications in 2021. He also serves as the editor of our bulletin, Windswept.

Dr. Peter Crane, Curator
Dr. Peter Crane

Peter oversees the Observatory's Gladys Brooks Memorial Library, which features books, maps, prints, photos, and other material relating to the Observatory, Mount Washington, and the White Mountains.

Peter has lived in the White Mountains for more than thirty years, and has worked for the U.S. Forest Service and Appalachian Mountain Club in resource management, public information, and educational roles. He began his Observatory career in 1988 as a weather observer, museum manager, and Summit Shift Leader. After three years of summit duty, he served for several years as Director of Programs before transitioning to his current position.

Peter did his undergraduate work at Harvard College, and earned his doctoral degree in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. An avid year-round hiker, he is also a volunteer trail maintainer for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue (AVSAR), and serves on the board of the New Hampshire Outdoor Council.

Linda & Hank Dresch, Volunteer Coordinators
Linda & Hank Dresch

Linda is the daughter of Mount Washington Observatory co-founder Robert S. Monahan, and enjoys continuing her father’s legacy as volunteer coordinator with her husband, Hank.

Married for more than 40 years, Linda and Hank have one daughter and two very active grandsons. During Hank's 30-year U.S. Coast Guard career they lived in several locations including Alaska and England. Linda’s diverse career has spanned positions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, and the Editorial Staff of the Wall Street Journal. Linda and Hank both also had "retirement jobs" in Portland, Maine, where they continue to volunteer at Merrill Auditorium. They have been very active volunteers wherever they have lived.

Linda and Hank now reside in Jackson, New Hampshire, where they keep very busy with year-round activities in the great outdoors.

Donna Dunn, Interim Executive Director
Sharon Shilling

A native New Englander, Donna’s work in and with nonprofits spans 30 years. She has experience working with nonprofits in times of transition and transformation. As a nonprofit staff member, she has worked in the areas of communications and membership. She served as executive director/CEO of four different organizations, all going through varying transitions. As a consultant in the nonprofit space, Donna has supported organizations through strategic planning, enhanced governance, organizational design and restructure, and program evaluation. She is passionate about nonprofit work and helping individuals and organizations achieve success.

Donna is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in plant science and a master’s degree in agricultural and applied economics. Donna also has a Master of Science degree in not-for-profit management from the University of Maryland University College.

Outside of her professional life, Donna enjoys cross-country skiing, hiking, home renovations, and an almost-annual long-distance (180 - 200 miles) walk in the UK. She lives in Jackson, NH with her two rescue dogs Sadie and Tucker.

 

Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Education
Brian Fitzgerald

Brian began his observatory career as a winter intern on the summit in early 2012 after attending the University of New Hampshire where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Conservation Studies. Following intervening seasons as a Backcountry Hut Naturalist and Education Assistant for the Appalachian Mountain Club, Brian returned to the Observatory as a full-time Observer and Educational Specialist on the summit where he performed daily weather observations and led weather station tours, distance learning programs and media interviews.

After nearly three winters on the summit, Brian headed south to work as the Chief Weather Observer at Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center just south of Boston while going to graduate school at night. In early 2016, Brian graduated from Boston University with a Master’s of Education with a focus in Science Education, and moved back to the Mount Washington Valley to serve as Mount Washington Observatory’s Director of Education. When Brian’s not administering and teaching educational programs and summit adventures, you can find him hiking, mountaineering, trail running, skiing or staring at the clouds. He currently resides in North Conway along with his partner, Stephanie, and their son Cameron.

 

Stephanie Turnbull Fitzgerald, Development Director
Stephanie Turnbull

Stephanie has been on a steady move north since receiving her Masters in Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Originally from Massachusetts, she headed back to Boston after school to work for Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum and the State Library of Massachusetts. After a few years, she knew she was done with city life and when the opportunity arrived to move to the Mount Washington Valley, she took it.

While Stephanie started working at the Observatory in the Summer of 2016 as a contract worker, it only took a few months before she was hooked and joined the valley staff full time as the Membership and Database Coordinator. Between her background in organizing and curating information and her experience in various customer service roles, it seemed like a perfect fit. After 4 years supporting appeals, stewardship, events and getting to know the enthusiastic members of MWO, Stephanie is excited to take the role of Director of Development.

She currently resides in North Conway along with her husband, Brian, and their son Cameron.

 

Keith Garrett, Director of Technology
Keith Garrett

Keith brings over 25 years of experience in IT hardware, software and business networks. He has experience in working with municipalities, non-profits and individuals.

Prior to his work with the Observatory Keith was the owner of Wolfeboro Computer Solutions in the Wolfeboro and Lakes Region area. His services spanned all aspects of IT including deployment and maintenance of a wide range of systems.


 

Alexis George, Weather Observer & Meteorologist
Alexis George

Alexis’ interest in the weather began when she was a kid, when she witnessed the formation of a waterspout in Ocean City, MD. Born and raised in Arlington, VA, she discovered that her favorite season was winter when she witnessed thundersnow from a blizzard that hit her hometown in 2016.

To pursue her passion for the climate and weather, Alexis graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Meteorology in 2022. She spent her spring breaks during college photographing clouds and storm chasing on the beaches of Florida. Alexis learned how to snowboard later on and fell in love with the sport. Obsessed with snow and mountains now, Alexis landed her dream job as a Weather Observer and Meteorologist at Mount Washington Observatory. She is excited to explore and study more about the most extreme weather in the world.
 
In her downtime, Alexis enjoys hanging out with her dog, hiking, crocheting, rock climbing, and photography.  
Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer & Meteorologist
Ryan Knapp

Originally from the Lake Tahoe region of California, Ryan was born into the alpine lifestyle. He came to the Observatory as a winter intern in 2005, and started as a Weather Observer in 2006.

Ryan’s interest in weather started as a child, when he would watch the morning weather report before going skiing. In high school, he enjoyed giving weather reports to fellow students and ski clubbers, and decided to pursue a career in meteorology. He graduated from San Jose State University in 2004 with a B.S. in Meteorology, and spent the first three years of his career as a weather observer for San Jose International Airport.

Ryan came to Mount Washington for the unique weather, and to explore and study the worst weather in the world. When he’s not watching the weather, he enjoys backpacking, ski boarding, aggressive inline skating, traveling, video games, and movies.

Nimbus, Resident Summit Cat
Linda & Hank Dresch

Nimbus joined Mount Washington Observatory staff in April 2021 as our resident summit cat. A sociable gray shorthair adopted from the Conway Area Humane Society, he shares his name with large gray clouds that bring precipitation.

Cats have been members of the observatory family and weather station since our founding in 1932, and Nimbus proudly continues this tradition. He succeeds longtime resident cat Marty, who was beloved by thousands of visitors from around the world.
 
When he’s not catching mice or stealing a seat in the weather room, he writes the “News from Nimbus” column, translated by observers and published in our magazine, Windswept.
Hayden Pearson, Weather Observer & Research Specialist
Hayden PearsonHaving grown up in southern Maine, Hayden spent much of his youth exploring the outdoors of New England throughout the year. This, combined with a passion for skiing, eventually led him to attend the University of Maine to study earth and climate sciences, focusing on the climatological changes that are occurring within our natural world. Attending field camp for the summer of 2018 in Svalbard — Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean — cemented his interest in the cryosphere. This program allowed students to work with long-term recorded weather data from specific areas across the region to study how changes in temperature trends, snow accumulation, and an increase in rainfall events were affecting the archipelago. Students were then encouraged to predict the implications these changes could have for the safety of the residents living there.
 
Building on this passion, Hayden moved to Norway in 2019 to pursue a Master’s degree from the University of Tromsø, ultimately leading him to studying changes to Arctic glaciers in both central Spitsbergen and the western coast of Greenland. This move furthered his climatology work, and many days were spent outside in well-below freezing temperatures to study the flow dynamics of glaciers in these regions. In his free time, he pursued his passion while ski touring in the Norwegian Alps, spending time in the mountains, and understanding the importance of accurate weather forecasting for those recreating in the mountainous regions.
 
The extreme weather and Mount Washington winters are what drew Hayden to working for the Observatory. He's excited to advance the institution’s mission in weather and climate sciences, and when he’s not on top of the mountain, he enjoys skiing, diving, hiking, and working on his Series Land Rover.

 

Sam Robinson, Weather Observer 
Ryan Knapp

Born and raised in Northern Massachusetts on the NH border, Sam is no stranger to the crazy weather of New England. Spending the majority of his childhood outdoors, he developed a strong passion for the woods and mountains, all while closely observing what was going on above him.

Unlike many, Sam would rather be shivering than sweating and winter is without a doubt his favorite season. Seeking cold air and elevation he enjoys hiking, nature photography, skiing, and backcountry snowmobiling.

Apart from the natural world, Sam has a strong mechanical aptitude and passion to troubleshoot, repair, and modify any machine he can get his hands on. His experience started with his own small engine repair business at the age of 12, eventually becoming a heavy equipment mechanic during high school. He went on to get a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2020. While attending UML, Sam started submitting storm reports to the National Weather Service, realizing his hobby for the weather was turning into a professional goal.
 
Landing the position of his dreams on Mt. Washington integrating extreme weather and engineering, Sam looks forward to joining the team at the highest office in the East and combining all his favorite aspects of life.

Sera Shaughnessy, Interpretive Coordinator
Sera Shaughnessy

Recently graduated from Butler University in Indiana with B.S. degrees in physics, astrophysics and astronomy, Sera is eager for new adventures in New England. During three years working with Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium as a docent, research assistant, and planetarium programmer, she developed a passion for science education.

Originally from southern California, with summers enjoyed in Michigan, Sera was constantly outdoors and up for any new challenge. She fell in love with the White Mountains in March 2022 and immediately knew she had to come back. As a nature photographer and star gazer, there's no better place to be.
 
Out of the office, you'll find Sera hiking with her dogs or up in the air, hoping to get her pilot's license as soon as she can.
 
Carrie Slife, Development Assistant
Carrie Slife

Carrie began her career with Mount Washington Observatory in the summer of 2019 when she joined the summit staff as Museum Attendant. She later returned to live and work on the summit for two seasons as a Park Guide for New Hampshire State Parks. She is thrilled to rejoin the observatory staff full-time as Development Assistant.

Carrie made her first trip to the White Mountains in the early 2000s, when she moved to Boston after graduating from Penn State University with degrees in Advertising and Psychology. Having grown up 30 minutes from where the Appalachian Trail passes through Catoctin, Maryland, she was eager to visit the trail’s storied New Hampshire high peaks. Her first time above tree line made an indelible impression, and she ventured north frequently to hike, ski, and decompress from the frenetic pace of the city. Meanwhile, Carrie’s professional pursuits in Boston led her first to the hospitality industry and later to earn a Master’s degree in Interior Design from Suffolk University, after which she practiced as an Architectural Lighting Designer for nearly a decade.

In the winter of 2019, Carrie pressed pause on her design career to take a seasonal job at Bretton Woods ski resort. In the shadow of Mount Washington, she spent that first season pondering whether it was possible to unify her passion for the White Mountains – with their extreme weather, amazing recreational opportunities, and rich history – and her career. Carrie is happy to report that yes, this is possible, and working for Mount Washington Observatory has been a vital piece of this journey.
 
Brenda Sullivan, Director of Finance & Administration
Brenda Sullivan

With an Animal Science degree from the University of Maine, Brenda started her career as a veterinary hospital technician and office manager on the East End of Long Island, NY. After going back to school and completing her MBA, Brenda spent a number of years in central Connecticut as Finance Manager for Protein Sciences Corporation, where her responsibilities included the financial oversight of multi-million dollar government contracts and shareholder relations. In 2017 Brenda, her husband, two dogs and two cats moved to Madison, NH. After continuing to work for the same CT based company for over a year, she decided it was time to focus her attention on her new community by joining the team at MWOBS. With an MBA in Business and years of Finance experience, she now focuses on supporting The Observatory where needed.

Francis Tarasiewicz, Weather Observer & Education Specialist
Francis Tarasiewicz

Francis was born in Connecticut, a hotbed for all kinds of extreme weather. Between the beauty of winter storms and nor’easters, and the excitement of summertime thunderstorms, he quickly caught the weather bug at age 4. Growing up, he spent his days watching the Weather Channel and Jim Cantore’s “Storm Stories,” which told tales of extreme weather, further fueling his passion for meteorology.

This fascination followed Francis in high school where he started an online weather forecasting account on Twitter called “The Francast.” During this time, it was not uncommon for teachers to ask him if he thought there might be a snow day! He spent his first paycheck on a weather station and camera to observe and document some of the extreme weather Connecticut has to offer.
 
For college, Francis headed to the snowy mountains of northern Vermont, where he received a bachelor’s in atmospheric sciences/meteorology at Northern Vermont University (formerly Lyndon State College). While there, he was able to participate in many forecasting opportunities from forecasting for hikers attempting to summit Mt. Everest to the foggy depths of California’s Central Valley. In addition to weather forecasting, Francis became interested climate change education and outreach. This inspired him to join the Climate Consensus, a student-led group focused on communicating climate change science to the public. Francis also served as the president of the NVU AMS & NWA club, where he planned and chaired the 44th annual Northeastern Storm Conference, the largest student-run weather conference in the Northeast. While earning his bachelor’s degree, he focused his research on the impacts of extreme weather on electrical outages in the state of Vermont.
 
Francis decided to continue studying meteorology at Plymouth State University, where he focused on boundary layer variables and their potential influences on power outage density. His time at Plymouth also afforded him an opportunity to work with MWOBS, where he helped install and maintain snowpack sensors in Pinkham notch. He further dialed in a passion for communicating and teaching meteorology when he served as a teacher’s assistant for three courses.
 
Once out of school, Francis worked for the New Hampshire Department of Emergency Management, where he used his meteorological knowledge to inform public safety. While there, he helped create disaster scenarios to help towns prepare for extreme weather. He also focused on helping communities in NH mitigate against weather-related disasters, as well as the future impacts of climate change.
 
When he is not thinking or talking about the weather, Francis can be found enjoying the outdoors, reading, or playing with his synthesizer. 

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