Who we are:

The Rethinking Lawns Project is made up of folks of a bunch of different expertises, but all sharing a love for plants and the species they support.

Dr. Becky Barak portrait, a white woman with dark hair

Becky Barak, Ph.D.

Conservation Science
Chicago Botanic Garden

Becky is an Assistant Conservation Scientist at Chicago Botanic Garden and Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University in the Program in Plant Biology and Conservation. Becky studies seed biology and biodiversity in restored tallgrass prairies, and how decisions are made for restoration, particularly for seed mix design.

Dr. Rebecca Tonietto portrait, a tan woman with dark hair

Rebecca Tonietto, Ph.D.

Community Ecology & Conservation Biology
University of Michigan – Flint

Rebecca is an Assistant Professor at University of Michigan–Flint in the Department of Natural Sciences. She studies native bees and plants that support them in urban and restored landscapes, with a focus on how we can alter our cities to benefit bees.

Dr. Lauren Umek, a tan white woman with streaky blonde hair

Lauren Umek, Ph.D.

Urban Ecology
Chicago Park District

Lauren is a Project Manager at the Chicago Park District, managing natural area sites all over the Chicagoland area. She studies urban restoration ecology, invasive species, and their impacts on soil.

Liz Anna Kozik, a freckled white woman with blonde hair

Liz Anna Kozik

Environmental Education & Science Communication
University of Wisconsin – Madison

Liz is an artist, storyteller, and social scientist, doing all of the above as a Ph.D. student. She uses art and comics to share stories of midwestern landscapes and the intertwined relationships between people and plants. Mostly, she draws pictures and talks too much about goldenrod.

Tony Troche

Senior Project Scientist / Botanist

Tony is part of the Cardno team assisting Chicago Park District restore over 1,500 acres of natural areas. He’s a proper plant nerd and a fan of Thismia americana, Chicago’s own endemic, potentially extinct semi-parasitic plant.

Brad Swanson

Restoration Technician

Brad is also part of the Cardno team assisting Chicago Park District natural areas. He has been working to manage and restore ecosystems with Cardno for 6 years. He went to Illinois State University and is interested in geography, GIS, cartography, and applied spatial science He’s been known to chase butterflies when no one is looking.

Alex Kaplan

Restoration Technician

Alex is also part of the Cardno team assisting Chicago Park District natural areas. He has been working on urban ecosystem management for 3.5 years and just began graduate school at DePaul in the Department of Environmental Science.

Eddie Washington

Restoration Technician

Eddie is in his third year of conservation management, his first with GreenCorps Chicago. When he’s not controlling invasive species, he’s playing softball. When asked about his work, he said: “I love this field. That’s why I’m still here. Every time I’m out here with you guys, I learn something new.”


Alex Peake

Trent Adams

Tony Nosike

Rose Menzies

Norm Engel

Tonietto Lab
University of Michigan – Flint


Aidden Tapia

Brian Lovejoy

Barak Lab
Chicago Botanic Garden / Northwestern University