"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




Bettymaya Foott, International Dark-Sky Association, Director of Engagement

Bettymaya Foott grew up in picturesque Moab, Utah. Spending summer nights sleeping on the family trampoline under the stars, she fostered an early appreciation for the night sky. Her childhood was filled with hiking, camping, boating, and wandering in the desert, both below the hot sun and under clear dark skies. She graduated from the University of Utah Honors Program with an H.B.S. in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and a Minor in Spanish Language and wrote a thesis entitled “Light pollution hazards within ecosystems and mitigation strategies for the future.” Her dark sky career began with working for Utah State Parks as a Dark Sky Intern and then seasonal employee, starting 12 International Dark-Sky Park Applications across the state. She then worked as Coordinator for the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative and the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies at the University of Utah. Now, she is incredibly excited to join the team at IDA as Director of Engagement. When off the clock, Foott loves to practice night sky photography. Preserving dark skies is her life goal and she is incredibly excited to continue this journey of saving 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

Dr. Vayujeet Gokhale is an astronomer and an associate professor of physics at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. His research interests include the study of asymmetries in eclipsing binary stars and the study of various ways of quantifying light pollution. Dr. Gokhale earned his PhD from Louisiana State University in 2007. Before joining the PhD program at LSU, Dr. Gokhale earned his Masters and Bachelors degrees in Physics at the University of Bombay in Mumbai, India.

Dr. Gokhale has been involved in light pollution related research, outreach, and activism for the past five years. Dr. Gokhale and his students have worked on quantifying the sky brightness in the Kirksville area, and have helped in establishing the "SQM program" for the Missouri chapter of the International Dark Sky Association. He is leading an effort to install dark sky friendly outdoor lighting at Truman State and in Kirksville. Some of his work is supported by grants from the NASA Missouri Space Grant Consortium.

Dr. Gokhale lives just outside of Kirksville with his wife Michelle and their two children and dog. His interests include traveling, camping, and astrophotography. Dr. Gokhale loves the night sky and National Parks, and dreams of someday becoming an astronomy park ranger at the Arches National Park in Utah. 


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. Gallaway is a professor of economics at Missouri State University.   His first academic presentation relating to the economics of light pollution was in 1997.  Ten years later he returned to the subject and has been actively researching light pollution and the value of dark skies ever since. He has presented this research at multiple international conferences and has eight peer-reviewed publications related to the light pollution and the value of dark skies.  He has also published research on digital commerce, environmental economics, and economic anthropology.   





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

Dr. Bernard Kitheka is an assistant professor at Missouri State University. His research and teaching interests include sustainable tourism, ecotourism, human dimensions of parks and recreation, urban sustainability, and sustainable development.   He has done research and consulting on travel and tourism competitiveness in the East African region, including the preservation of open spaces and advocating for recreation programming in large cities.





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

Dr. David Mitchell is professor of economics, director of the Bureau of Economic Research and director of the Center for Economic Education at Missouri State University.  He has been researching light pollution and dark-sky recreation since 2007. He has presented this research at multiple international conferences and in numerous peer-reviewed publications. His other research and professional interests include economics of the environment, housing, regional economic growth, and economic forecasting.


Brooke Widmar, Missouri Prairie Foundation, Director of Administration Operations and Member Engagement


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


Greg Swick, Greater Ozarks Audubon Society


Jay McEntee, Greater Ozarks Audubon Society