"Seeking The Dark: 
Nighttime, Beauty, Biology, and Tourism"


2021 Annual Conference
Missouri Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association

Sunday, October 3rd - Monday, October 4th

Hosted by Missouri State University




Ruskin Hartley, International Dark-Sky Association, Executive Director

Ruskin Hartley joined the International Dark-Sky Association as its executive director in 2019. Ruskin brings more than 20 years of conservation experience to guide IDA’s work to protect the night sky.
Ruskin has spent his career directing and managing conservation programs that protect land, water, and ocean resources. He served as executive director of Save the Redwoods League, a non-profit dedicated to protecting and restoring the redwood forest. He also served as the president and CEO of Heal the Bay in Los Angeles, and as vice president of resource development at Fair Trade USA, an award-winning social enterprise seeking to alleviate poverty around the world. Ruskin has developed public-private partnerships and scientific collaborations, including his work to launch the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Ruskin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cambridge and a master’s degree from the University of East Anglia. When not working, Ruskin loves to head out on the trail with his wife and kids or cookout under the stars.


Dr. Brett Seymoure, Washington University in St. Louis, Living Earth Collaborative Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Brett Seymoure is a visual ecologist who studies the role that both natural and artificial light play in animal visual systems, behavior, and community ecology. Brett dove into light pollution research during his first postdoc position with the National Park Service Night Sky division and Colorado State University. He now is a Living Earth Collaborative Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, USA where he is studying the effects of light cycles and anthropogenic light on predator-prey interactions. 



Dr. Vayu Gokhale, Truman State University in Kirksville, Associate Professor of Physics


Trish Erzfeld, Perry County Heritage Tourism, Director; Missouri Eclipse Task Force, Chair

Trish Erzfeld was born and raised in Perryville, Missouri. She is the Director of the Perry County Heritage Tourism.

In 2015, the Perry County Commission and the City of Perryville jointly created the Perry County Heritage Tourism division which Trish has built and operated since its inception. Leading the Tourism Advisory Council, a collective group of government, cultural and tourism industry partners working collectively to promote Perry County.

In 2016, Trish created the Perry County Eclipse Taskforce. Serving as chairperson the taskforce grew to 50+ including city, county, regional and state leaders coordinating the charge to create the best possible eclipse experience for Perry County in 2017. Perryville turned two minutes and forty seconds of totality into a four-day weekend of science themed events for both residents and eclipse visitors alike. They hosted Solarfest, a 5K Glow-Run/Walk, a mobile planetarium, the 573 MudFestival and a chalk art festival among other activities. Over 31,000 pairs of eclipse glasses were sold or distributed through the tourism office. Perryville created and promoted four public viewing areas for eclipse day. They logged 147 airplanes that touched down at their Perryville Regional Airport which was promoted as a unique fly-in viewing destination. Thirty-eight states and seventeen countries were represented in Perry County during The Great American Eclipse 2017, and many are planning to return for Eclipse 2024.

Trish’s latest achievements include being a 2018 graduate of the Delta Leadership Institute’s Executive Academy, Missouri Division of Tourism’s 2018 Missouri’s Rising Star, 2018 Missouri’s Innovator Award. Trish also serves on Missouri’s International Dark Sky Board of Directors, Missouri Travel Alliance Board of Directors, and the Missouri Humanities Executive Board. She is currently part of the American Astronomical Society’s local planning subcommittee for the 2023 and 2024 Eclipses for North America.

Trish lives in Perryville, Missouri with her husband Dave and daughter Kaycee. Trish enjoys genealogy, crafts, antique shopping and of course traveling.


Don Ficken, Missouri Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association, President

Don Ficken is retired business executive and an amateur astronomer whose passion for protecting our night sky from light pollution grew out of his love for nature and the science of astronomy.  In 2018, Don joined with others to launch a Missouri Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association (www.darkskymissouri.org) where he currently serves as Chapter President.

Don has applied his business skills to both astronomy and the International Dark-Sky Association.  In 2014, leveraging a program designed by the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, he launched a library telescope program in metro St. Louis, growing the program to 80 libraries offering 172 telescopes and 135 binoculars for checkout like a book.  Also in 2014, he founded the St. Louis Eclipse Task Force which grew to over 160 organizations working together to prepare the St. Louis area for the historic 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. He currently serves as a member of the Missouri Eclipse Task Force preparing Missouri for the 2021 Total Solar Eclipse.

Under his leadership with Missouri Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association, the chapter operates state-wide to measure the brightness of the night sky and build public awareness and support about the importance of protecting Missouri's night skies.  As part of his work with the chapter, he launched a collaborative called “Lights Out Heartland” which brings together organizations from multiple states to protect birds as they migrate at night. 


Dr. Terrel Gallaway, Missouri State University in Springfield, Professor of Economics


Dr. Bernard Kitheka, Missouri State University in Springfield, Assistant Professor


Dr. David Mitchell, Missouri State University in Springfield, Professor Economics


Jean Favara, St. Louis Audubon Society, Vice President of Conservation


DeAnn Gregory, Missouri Sierra Club - Thomas Hart Benton Chapter, Member


Syd Hime, Missouri Master Naturalist, Education Outreach Coordinator


Matt Kantola, Missouri State Parks - Grand Gulf, Interpretive Resource Specialist


Dan Zarlenga, Missouri Department of Conservation - St. Louis Regional Office,  Media Specialist


Stephanie Todd, Missouri Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association, IDSP Program Coordinator