PPA Staff Directory & Bios

A group of people standing and kneeling in front of a forest, including a blooming dogwood tree.

Get to know the people of the Office of Policy Analysis (PPA) with a high-level directory and more detailed bios, below.

PPA Staff Directory

Director's Office

The PPA directorate is responsible for the overall direction and operations of the Office.

  • Jacob Malcom, PhD, Director
  • Jonathan Steele, Deputy Director
  • Melissa Jennings, Administrative Specialist

Policy Team

PPA’s policy analysts bring experience from across federal agencies and outside of government, and varied educational backgrounds, to analyze and synthesize policy issues for the Department. The policy team provides leadership and coordination on topics spanning the Department’s mission, including natural and cultural resources, science and evidence, and supporting our Trust obligations to Native Americans.

  • Janet Cushing, Chief Policy Analyst
  • Noah Van Gilder, Policy Analyst
  • Whitney Boone, Policy Analyst
  • Ryan Richards, PhD, Program Analyst
  • Yelizaveta (Liza) Khmara, Policy Analyst

Economics Team

PPA's economists bring a wealth of experience and education to help Interior address a full range of complex policy and economic issues related to natural resources, energy, and the environment. The economics team provides leadership and routinely works jointly with economists in Interior's bureaus, as well as with other federal agencies. 

  • Kawa Ng, Chief Economist 
  • Christian Crowley, PhD, Economist
  • Kristin E. Skrabis, PhD, Economist
  • Ann Miller, Economist
  • Fabiano Franco, Economist
  • Patrick Lee, Economist
  • Melissa Braybrooks, Economist

Program Coordination Team

Whether it’s long-standing invasive species policies and programs or new programs and their underlying policies, like for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), PPA’s policy team brings a combined decades experience and insight to advance the Department’s mission.

  • Hilary Smith, Senior Advisor for Invasive Species
  • Alisa Wade, PhD, Ecosystem Restoration Program Manager
  • Graham Perner, Presidential Management Fellow
  • Helen T. Czernik, Financial Specialist
  • Allison Leidner, Senior Advisor for Nature Conservation and Management
  • Margaret Powell, Environmental Protection Specialist

Staff Bios

Whitney Boone, Policy Analyst
Whitney joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2020. She began her DOI career as a Presidential Management Fellow with the National Park Service (NPS) in 2015. She has held positions within the NPS and Bureau of Land Management in Alaska as well as NPS Headquarters in DC. Her professional experience includes resource management planning, coordinating environmental compliance activities, developing park planning policy and overseeing studies of potential additions to the National Park System. Whitney holds a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University and a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Melissa Braybrooks, Economist
Melissa joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2020 after a decade as a lead Economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Melissa works on a variety of projects including the Great American Outdoors Act, state and tribal grant formulas, and cross-bureau research related to price forecasting of oil and gas leases. In addition, Melissa provides both policy and economic analysis support to the Office of Insular Affairs, working on projects related to economic development, statistical capacity development, and the role of DOI support in insular areas. Melissa holds a Master of Public Policy from Oregon State University and a B.S in Economics from Washington State University. 

Christian Crowley, Economist
Christian began his career at the Department of the Interior in 2005, after working as a contractor in the Department of Energy. He has worked on projects in the areas of recreation, wildland fire, energy, royalties (hardrock minerals, oil and gas, renewable resources), and economic impacts. He helped launch and develop the DOI Economics Community of Practice and organizes recurring workshops for the Community to share current research and leverage training opportunities. Christian also provides economic support for the Restoration Program in NRDAR policy, case-work, and training capacities. Christian holds a Ph.D. in economics from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Janet Cushing, Chief Policy Analyst
Janet joined the Office of Policy Analysis as the Chief Policy Analyst in 2023. Prior to this, she served as the Deputy Chief of the National Climate Adaptation Science Center (NCASC) in the U.S. Geological Survey since 2015. In this role, she helped to oversee nine regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers across the nation, as well as leading the partnership engagement and policy coordination throughout the CASC network. During her federal career, Janet also worked in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, first in Jacksonville District, in the Regulatory and Planning Divisions, then later at the Institute for Water Resources, where she was an enterprise Group Manager and Senior Environmental Planner. Janet is a graduate of the 2022-2023 Cohort of the Asian American Government Executives Network Senior Executive Development Program and a 2011 Fellow of the National Conservation Leadership Institute. She holds a M.S. degree in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Hawaii, and a B.A. degree in Geology from Colgate University.

Helen T. Czernik, Financial Specialist
Helen joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2023 to assist with the allocation of DOI’s Ecosystem Restoration Program funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. From her experience as a Budget Analyst and Administrative Officer for the US Fish and Wildlife Service she brings knowledge of allocations, obligations, budgeting, and outlay forecasting. She also brings her expertise in fiscal year appropriations law as well as year-end close-out requirements. Helen has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Barton College.  

Fabiano Franco, Economist 
Fabiano began his career at Interior in 2015 with the U.S. Geological Survey, where his research was primarily associated with transdisciplinary matters ranging from assessment and valuation of ecosystem services to Multi-Resource Analysis. Fabiano joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2019, where he works on a variety of issues reflecting Interior’s widespread research areas, including assignments related to the Endangered Species Act, wildland fire, recreation, energy, economic contributions of DOI bureaus, among others. Fabiano holds an M.S. in Socio-Ecological Economics and Policy from the Vienna University of Economics, Austria; a B.S. in Business Management, and a B.A. in Sociology from Siena College.

Noah Van Gilder, Policy Analyst
Noah joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2015. His current portfolio includes program evaluation, wildfire, American Indian/Alaska Native issues, and general policy research. His past professional experience includes water resources, land and wildlife conservation policy. Before joining Interior in 2015, Noah served in various roles at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget and the Nature Conservancy. Noah graduated from Cornell University in 2006 as a bachelor of sciences (B.S.) in natural resources and from the George Washington University in 2012 as a master of public administration (M.P.A.)

Melissa Jennings, Administrative Specialist
Melissa Jennings joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2023. Her Federal career began in 2009 with the Department of Homeland Security, working within FEMA and USCIS. She has also spent time with the Department of Navy and Fayetteville, NC's VA Hospital. In her role as Administrative Specialist, Melissa has used her expert knowledge in the high level, executive offices of the departments she has served in. During her time with FEMA, Melissa was active with the National Response Coordination Center, where she helped in times of disaster, including during hurricanes and the earthquake in Haiti. These experiences led Melissa to become a volunteer Advanced Emergency Medical Technician in Loudoun County, VA.

Yelizaveta (Liza) Khmara, Policy Analyst 
Liza joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2024 after serving as a Climate Adaptation Fellow with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where she supported nature-based solutions policy development and project coordination. Prior to this, she served as a Legislative Fellow in the office of U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse (CO District 2) through the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, with a portfolio that included biodiversity, science, tribal affairs, and animal rights. Her past professional experience also includes ecological economics, sustainable development, and interdisciplinary science co-production. Liza holds a B.A. in Geography and Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Miami, where she studied the economics and governance of protected areas.

Patrick Lee, Economist
Pat joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2019. He provides both policy and case-work support to the Office of Restoration and Damage Assessment. Pat has worked on projects related to the Endangered Species Act, energy and mineral price forecasting, and recreation, among other topics. Pat holds a Master’s degree in Applied Economics and a B.S. in Accounting, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Allison Leidner, Senior Advisor for Nature Conservation and Management
Allison Leidner joined the PPA office in May 2024. As a senior advisor, she works across DOI and with external partners to advance the conservation of nature and management of wildlife and their habitats. Allison came to DOI from the NASA Earth Science Division, where she led numerous programs and the initiatives spanning biodiversity, conservation, climate change applications, early career research, and communications. Additionally, she was the NASA lead for the GLOBE program, an interagency and international environmental science and education initiative. Allison is a conservation biologist by training and joined NASA as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow in 2010. Allison's academic research focused on the ecology and conservation of rare and endangered species. Allison earned a Ph.D in Zoology from North Carolina State University and a B.S. and M.S. in Biology from Standford University.

Jacob Malcom, Director
Jacob Malcom is the Director of the Office of Policy Analysis and the Department's Statistical Official under the Evidence Act. His career with the Department began in 1997 as a volunteer for the National Park Service at Shenandoah National Park and then at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He joined the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000 at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, then from 2001-2008 on the US-Mexico border at San Bernardino and Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuges in Arizona. From 2008-2013 he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin studying community ecology and ecological genomics, and was a postdoc at the University of Connecticut from 2013-2014. In 2015 he joined Defenders of Wildlife as a science and policy analyst, rising to become a vice president and the Director of the Center for Conservation Innovation, leading the team on the integration of science, technology, and policy for conservation. When not working, Jacob, his wife, and his daughter spend their time packrafting and bikerafting, backpacking, camping, cycling, or visiting museums, zoos, and aquaria, reading, and more...almost always looking for plants and critters.

Ann Miller, Economist
Ann joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2017. She specializes in data visualization and has worked on a wide variety of projects, including issues related to wildland fire, energy, invasive species, recreation, and tribal economic development. In addition, she assists in producing the DOI Economic Contributions report, which is published annually. Ann has an M.S. in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a B.S. in Economics and Statistics from the University of Rochester.

Kawa Ng, Chief Economist
Kawa joined the Department of the Interior (DOI), Office of Policy Analysis in 2024. Prior to DOI, Kawa was the branch lead for the USDA Forest Service Social Science and Economics Branch, after serving as the regional economist in Milwaukee, WI for the USFS Eastern Region. His Forest Service career covered a range of topics, including regulatory analysis, ecosystem services, land and resources management plans, economic analysis supporting National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) projects, regional economic modeling, and socio-economic sustainability. Earlier in his career, Kawa spent ten years in Colorado, working first as a staff economist in Ft. Collins, CO, followed by a regional economist role at the Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Golden, CO. He holds a Ph.D. in Ecological Economics from Colorado State University, along with M.S. and B.S. degrees in Natural Resources Management and Resource Economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Outside of his professional pursuits, Kawa enjoys hiking, running, frisbee-golf, and playing various musical instruments, especially the tuba.

Graham Perner, Presidential Management Fellow
Graham joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2023. He currently supports implementation of Section 40804 of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which focuses on Ecosystem Restoration funding across the Department. His past professional experiences have included customer service, scientific field work in national parks, and community engagement and organizing. Graham graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014 as a Bachelor of Sciences (B.S.) in Wildlife Ecology, from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2022 as a Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) in Environmental Policy, and from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School in 2022 as a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.).

Margaret (Meghan) Powell, Enviornmental Protection Specialist 
Meghan joined the Office of Policy Analysis during 2024 in a time-limited promotional position to assist in the implementation and DOI’s Ecosystem Restoration Program, funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Her expertise is in natural resource stewardship, strategic planning, and environmental compliance. She worked in the National Park Service for over 14 years and in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Refuges Program of DOI Region 1 for nearly 9 years. While in the NPS, she was the Environmental Protection Specialist and NEPA Coordinator for Gateway National Recreation Area (NJ/NY) most recently, worked in the resource stewardship and park planning divisions of Valley Forge National Historical Park (PA) and the Outer Banks Group (Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Wright Brothers National Memorial; NC), and completed a short-term detail assignment in the Damage Assessment National Program Office. Meghan holds a B.S. and M.S. in Biology, both from West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

Ryan Richards, Program Analyst
Ryan joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2021. Prior to joining PPA, he spent six years on the public lands team at the Center for American Progress where he covered a range of topics, including conservation and restoration policy, natural climate solutions, rural development, and wildfire management. Before his time at CAP, Ryan worked on conservation domestically and internationally. He conducted his doctoral research on reforestation incentive programs in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, and was a Fulbright visiting researcher at the University of São Paulo-ESALQ and the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas. He also worked with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute on their Global Tiger Initiative and has worked on habitat restoration projects with farmers in Namibia and California’s Central Valley. He holds a Ph.D. from George Mason University, an M.S. in conservation biology and an M.P.P. in environmental policy from the University of Maryland, and a B.S. in wildlife biology from the University of California, Davis.

Kristin E. Skrabis, Economist
Kristin joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 1999. She has worked on a variety of projects while at PPA, including economic valuation of natural resource damages, tribal cultural resources, and FERC licensing of hydropower dams and pipelines. Kristin’s efforts include providing policy support to the Office of Restoration and Damage Assessment, along with claim development work on over 120 damage assessment cases. Kristin has an M.S. in public policy analysis from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in natural resource and environmental economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Hilary Smith, Senior Advisor for Invasive Species
Hilary is DOI’s senior advisor for invasive species and joined PPA in October 2014. In this role, Hilary guides the development and coordination of the Department’s national invasive species policy and program initiatives and provides recommendations on invasive species issues for DOI leadership. She works closely with bureaus and offices and facilitates inter-bureau coordination to strengthen strategic implementation of DOI invasive species efforts. Hilary also serves as the Departmental contact for external partners and stakeholders on invasive species issues. In addition, Hilary supports DOI’s Principal appointee to the National Invasive Species Council, an interdepartmental body of which DOI is a co-chair, and she serves as DOI's liaison to the National Invasive Species Council staff. Prior to joining DOI, for 12 years Hilary directed a landscape-level invasive species program in the Adirondack region of New York. Hilary has a M.S. in Biodiversity, Conservation and Policy from the State University of New York at Albany, and a B.A. in Biology from Hamilton College.

Jonathan Steele, Deputy Director
Jonathan Steele is the Deputy Director of the Office of Policy Analysis. His career at DOI started in 2004 with the National Park Service. He completed the Department’s Office of the Secretary Management Development Program, and he served for two years in DOI’s Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution. Jonathan has been with the Office of Policy Analysis since 2009. He has experience leading policy analysis and program coordination on a wide range of DOI management issues. He completed a two-year staff detailee assignment in the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. Jonathan served as a communications specialist in the U.S. Army. He has a B.S. in Telecommunications and a M.S. in Environmental Studies, both from Ohio University.

Alisa Wade, Environmental Protection Specialist
Alisa joined the Office of Policy Analysis in 2022 to assist in the implementation and coordination of DOI’s Ecosystem Restoration Program, funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Her expertise is in conservation science, climate adaptation, and environmental policy. Prior to PPA, Alisa worked within the USGS Climate Adaptation Science Center network, ran a Food-Energy-Water Nexus graduate training program and served as a member of the research faculty at the University of Montana, and was the Executive Director of a Colorado land trust. Alisa holds a PhD in Earth Sciences from Colorado State University and completed her postdoctoral research with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). She also holds a Master of City and Environmental Planning from UC Berkeley, a Master of Public Administration from San Jose State University, and a B.A. in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara.

 

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