Staff & Volunteers

Staff & Volunteers

Natalie Payne
Executive Director

Natalie has been involved with the Finger Lakes Museum since its inception in 2008. Having grown up in the Finger Lakes region, she has always had an intrinsic motivation to bring to life a destination that can celebrate the countless places and stories that make this region one she still chooses to call her home.  She earned her MS degree, with a focus on nonprofit leadership, from Keuka College, and her BA degree in history from St. John Fisher College.  Prior to joining the FLM, she held numerous leadership positions at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion in Canandaigua, NY, including historical curator.  She brings over 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit and tourism industries. Natalie and her husband, Alex, live between three of their favorite Finger Lakes (Canandaigua, Seneca and Keuka) with their two sons, Roland and Huxley, and two English Springer Spaniels, Noma and Tali. Natalie is passionate about family, the great outdoors, traveling (wherever dogs are allowed), cooking, gardening, the environment, and, of course, everything Finger Lakes!

Natalia Kivimaki
Director of Operations

Many people ask Natalia why she and her husband moved from Florida to the Finger Lakes in late 2012. The response is always the same-it's beautiful in the Finger Lakes! The last years have been about exploring the Finger Lakes and all it has to offer. The charm of the Finger Lakes, with its fantastic scenery, beautiful lakes, quaint downtowns and incredible history, has won her over.  She lives in Geneva with her husband and two children. 

Debbie Lyon
Program Director and NY State Licensed Guide

Debbie has been an environmental educator for the past 10 years after a career as Captain with the United States Air Force and then as a Civil Engineer. Deb’s diverse background as an environmental educator has taken her to Belize, Guatemala, and to various institutions here in the United States.  Her passion for learning and educating enable her to be an ideal education leader with the FLM and if you haven't experienced it yet, Debbie also ensures that all experiences she leads are laced with FUN!

Gail Pollard
Director of Philanthropy and Grants Administrator

Gail has enjoyed her time as a project manager spanning a 25-year career, working for Fortune 500 companies including Charles Schwab, Franklin Templeton Investments, Corning, Inc., and various high tech start-ups.  She moved to the Finger Lakes region in 2009, where she and her husband, JC, share a love of the outdoors, and spend quality time with their 3 English Setters.  She has been a longtime museum supporter, involved in various roles since its implementation. 

Sydnie Brown
Assistant Director of Fundraising and Communications

Sydnie is a recent graduate from Keuka College where she studied Art & Design and Marketing. During her time at Keuka College, she helped with various design-related projects for the Finger Lakes Museum. She is very excited to join the FLM team and to be a part of their future development. She loves living in the Finger Lakes region with all its natural beauties and hidden treasures.  In her free time, she enjoys painting murals, hiking, kayaking, and exploring new places!

Jim Higgins
Project Director

Jim has been involved with the Museum since 2008.  He initially assisted in the Museum site selection process.  Since, he has volunteered to assist the Museum staff with general site work, small projects and special assignments.  Recently, Jim was appointed as the Museum's Project Director overseeing an array of capital projects.  He has been a professional project manager for over 30 years with skills in design, engineering and field implementation.  In 2014, he retired from LeChase Construction Services after leading two final paramount capital projects at Penn Yan Academy and the Student Leadership Center at SUNY Alfred.  Jim and his wife, Kathy, have been residents of Branchport since 2006 and have owned a cottage on Keuka Lake since 1995.

Pat Atkinson
Museum Educator and NY State Licensed Guide

Pat was born and raised on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island where the beach and bay fostered her curiosity and love of the natural world. After earning a BA from the University of Rhode Island, Pat managed college stores for Barnes and Noble in several states until 1986.  That same year she earned her MS.Ed from Nazareth College of Rochester, NY, and began her teaching career as an Elementary Educator in the Penn Yan School District, where she worked for the next 27 years. Upon her retirement in June of 2013, she joined the museum staff as an educator and licensed guide. Pat lives in Canandaigua with her husband, Marc. Pat and her family enjoy paddling, hiking and bicycling.

Kathy Corry

Kathy joined FLM in 2015 as volunteer bookkeeper.  She retired from Canandaigua National Bank after 42 years during which time she served as VP/Accounting Manager. Kathy and her husband Steve live in Canandaigua.

Helen Heizyk
Social Media Manager and Photographer

If you follow the FLM on Facebook, you have been fortunate to see the beautiful photographs taken by Helen Sullivan Heizyk. Helen is a retired systems analyst from Harris RF Communications. She is an active participant in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project Feeder Watch with over 25 winters counting for them!   Most of the beautiful photographs of the Museum’s grounds, programs, and 2018 Focus on the Finger Lakes campaign are by Helen. She has given countless hours helping with office work, gardening, writing blog posts, updating social media, and outreach for the FLM. If there is a need at the Museum, Helen is one of the first to offer assistance.