Check back in mid March for 2019 biographies
Presenter Biographies 2018
Karen Amstutz lives on the edge of Yosemite National Park with her husband and their three daughters. Like many creatures, Karen and her family undertake a seasonal migration upslope to Tuolumne Meadows where she works each summer as a seasonal Ranger-Naturalist. Karen earned her MA from Humboldt State University in Environmental Education, and studied Marine Biology and Human Development at UC Davis. She has been fortunate to have worked as a naturalist in beautiful places for most of 25 years. With her binoculars always around her neck, Karen has traveled extensively in Asia, Central America, and Europe looking for adventures and feathered life forms.
Ted Beedy has spent most of his life birding in the Sierra, including the Mono Basin. He authored the wildlife chapters of the Water Rights EIR for Mono Lake, and spent three years doing field work in the Mono Basin. Along with Ed Pandolfino he is co-author of Birds of the Sierra Nevada: Their Natural History, Status, and Distribution, which includes color illustrations of about 270 species by Keith Hansen. Ted received his Ph.D. in Zoology from UC Davis in 1982
Savannah Boiano found her passion for amateur astronomy and storytelling as a seasonal interpretive ranger in Yosemite National Park. Fast-forward twenty-five years, she now lives in the foothill town of Three Rivers with her family where she continues to enjoy and share her passion for astronomy through the annual Dark Sky Festival and other popular dark sky programs and activities in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Now Executive Director of the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, she is super delighted to get back to her roots in interpretation, astronomy, and storytelling.
Barry Boulton is the current President of the Central Sierra Audubon Society (Tuolumne & Calaveras Counties) and has been Newsletter Editor for the last five years. He is an avid bird videographer and uses this technology to present avian behaviors to many regional community groups in order to raise awareness of birds as sentient beings that deserve care and conservation. That is, they are more than cute backyard attractions, or beautiful photos on calendars but, rather, have their own personalities and cultures with fascinating and meaningful behaviors.
Susanna Danner is the Land Conservation Program Director for the Eastern Sierra Land Trust. She comes to the Eastern Sierra from The Nature Conservancy's Idaho Chapter, where she was the Director of Protection, coordinating a statewide program to protect working lands and wildlife habitat. Before her time in Idaho, she spent fourteen years in California's Central Coast, where she received a Bachelor's degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and worked for Coastal Watershed Council and The Big Sur Land Trust. Though she grew up in Massachusetts, Sus and her family made frequent trips to the Sierra to ski and visit her uncle in Mammoth Lakes. She enjoys hiking with Baetis, her Catahoula leopard dog, flyfishing, bicycling, birdwatching, and poring over her Jepson Manual as she learns the flora of the Eastern Sierra.
Pete Devine directed the non-profit Yosemite Conservancy’s education programs for eight years, organizing the diverse field seminars and custom adventures that the Conservancy offers, and has now semi-retired to more of a naturalist role. Before coming to work for the Conservancy, Pete directed the education program of Yosemite Institute (now NatureBridge) for 14 years. Born and raised near Boston and schooled in biology in Colorado, Pete has been a park ranger in Utah, an archeologist in New Zealand, a guide on the Colorado River, and a teacher in Chile. He makes annual studies of the Lyell Glacier, and is married to a National Park Service archeologist. He’s the guy in the “Yosemite Frazil Ice” video, and has led the Conservancy’s trips to Yosemite’s sister national parks in China. Pete loves Steller’s Jays.
Scott Dietrich grew up in the Sacramento area before moving to Lake Tahoe in 2013. In the past he has worked in the Sierra as a biologist for the local Tahoe Resource Conservation District and Point Blue Conservation Science. Currently Scott runs his own bird guiding business in Lake Tahoe as well as continuing his research on Willow Flycatcher in the Little Truckee Watershed. Any opportunity Scott can steal, you can find him in the back country backpacking where he spends his time photographing, recording and videoing his favorite Sierra birds. • tahoebirding.com
Ryan DiGaudio was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and currently lives near Point Reyes, CA, where he is a senior ecologist for Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory). Ryan has enjoyed studying birds and their habitats throughout much of California and beyond, though his current research focus is on ecosystem function in California rangelands. Though Ryan's spends most of his birding time at lower elevations west of the Pacific crest, he finds the Mono Basin landscape and its birds particularly alluring, making it one of his favorite places in the universe.
Colin Dillingham has spent his entire 30-year career working with the US Forest Service, first for 12 years on the southern coast of Oregon, and for the past 17 years on the Plumas National Forest out of Quincy. He has traveled widely, always in search of birds, to Europe, Central America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand, with his next trip planned to Ecuador in October. Colin recently spent six weeks birding Panama with his wife Angie and broke his personal year list record by finding 726 species in 2017. Colin's favorite bird is the Pileated Woodpecker.
Santiago M. Escruceria is a Colombian-born American citizen residing in California for the past 39 years. He graduated with a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Environmental Studies from Sonoma State University in Northern California. He has taught environmental education, in Spanish and English, for the past 26 years, 18 of which he has spent with the Mono Lake Committee. At Mono Lake he manages the Committee’s Outdoor Education Center program for Los Angeles youth and other California schools and Community Groups. Santiago is an avid birder and bird photographer, leading birding adventures in Colombia during the winter and walks for school groups and the public in the Mono Basin during the rest of the year. He has been birding the Americas since 1986. • www.guadualitobirdingtours.com
Lisa Fields is an ecologist for the Southern Service Center of California State Parks. She is based in San Diego but works in parks extending from the Mexican border to central California. Her passion is raptor management, particularly the Osprey at Mono Lake. She initiated the nest monitoring program that began in 2004 and the nestling banding program that was started in 2009, and the use of GPS transmitters in 2013 to track migration. In San Diego, she manages the “San Diego Osprey Project”, to document and monitor osprey nesting in San Diego County. She works with volunteers and college interns in San Diego and the eastern Sierra.
Jora Fogg grew up and went to college in Washington, moving to California in 2004 and the Eastern Sierra in 2012. Previously she spent four years in Colorado with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies as a biologist managing state and national park service bird monitoring programs. Jora is currently the Policy Director at Friends of the Inyo, working on public lands projects and leading exploration outings to special places in the Eastern Sierra. She lives in June Lake with her husband and daughter. Jora enjoys time "naturalizing" (especially birding), skiing, hiking, and cycling.
Lacey Greene loves deserts and mountains. She is an enthusiastic observer who has spent nearly twenty years working locally on species management and conservation. She feels lucky to have worked with Yellow-legged Frogs, Phainopepla, Desert Tortoise, pupfish, Speckled Dace, Willow Flycatcher, Pika, and Sage Grouse. She currently works for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep recovery program out of Bishop.
Tom Hahn is a field biologist with Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Biology from Stanford University and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Washington. He has been studying crossbills, White-crowned Sparrows, and other songbirds all over the west since the mid-1980s, and has spent countless hours in the field around Tioga Pass. He enjoys observing animals in their natural habitats, exchanging observations with fellow naturalists, and learning from his students. Tom is currently on the biology faculty at UC Davis, and lives in Davis with his wife Julie and his son Lyle
Keith Hansen is a wildlife artist who specializes in the imaginative and accurate portrayal of birds. Coming from a large family of artists and naturalists, Keith began birding in the sixth grade. Following his older brother through the woods of Maryland, a single Cedar Waxwing changed his life forever. He began to illustrate birds in 1976 and has not looked back (unless there was a bird behind him). He has illustrated 13 books, innumerable birding articles, logos, and even a 128-foot-long mural. He and his wife Patricia operate Sacred Monkey Tours, a tour company specializing in nature and cultural trips to the Central American tropics.
Kirk Hardie founded Red Tail Adventures, LLC (redtailadventures.com), that provides bird watching and ecotourism guiding services to individuals and organizations, primarily in the Lake Tahoe Basin, the northern Sierra Nevada, and the Great Basin, but also the United States and internationally. He has been adjunct faculty at Sierra Nevada College since 2010. His academic interests focus on ornithology and teaching students field-based skills that can be used for research projects, to further academic careers, or future jobs. His research has focused on Gunnison Sage-Grouse, Lewis’s Woodpeckers, and breeding bird surveys in Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, and California.
Justin Hite is now in his third year supervising the field operations of the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project after more than a decade and a half of wandering aimlessly through this beautiful birdy world. Justin launched his ornithological career perched on Mono Lake's islands in the company of the noble California Gull, and will always consider the Mono Basin home.
Sarah Hockensmith leads a very active lifestyle, but will always find time to slow down to watch the birds sing. After working for the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and various governmental agencies in the natural sciences, Sarah decided to settle down her migration and is Outreach Director for the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science. With a smile on her face and her binoculars in hand, she leads folks on wildflower and bird tours throughout the Tahoe Basin and Sierra Nevada.
Ann Howald is a retired botanist from Sonoma who lives in the Eastern Sierra all summer, hanging out at Hilton Creek in her used Airstream, and continuing her long-term studies of the plants of Mono County. This summer she’s also leading several field trips for the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and will continue helping the Mono Lake Committee and others to rid Mono County of invasive weeds. In early August she’ll teach her always-popular Mono Lake Committee field seminar, High Country Plants and Habitats.
Oliver James fell in love with birds and the Mono Basin at a young age. He first arrived at Mono Lake as a participant in the fifth annual Chautauqua in 2006. In 2008 he joined a study of breeding Tachycineta swallows in Lee Vining Canyon and in 2011 was the Mono Lake Committee's Birding Intern. Oliver has sought birds and other creatures from Alaska to Peru but currently resides in Oakland, CA. He is the author-illustrator of Birds of Berkeley published in 2018 from Heyday Press.
Maya Khosla was recently selected to serve as the Poet Laureate of Sonoma County (2018-2019). She has written “Web of Water: Life in Redwood Creek” (non-fiction) and “Keel Bone” (poems). Her new collection of poems, “Unknown World on Fire,” is forthcoming from Sixteen Rivers Press. Awards from Save Our Seas Foundation have supported her writing about climate change and other impacts on sea turtles. She has won awards from Bear Star Press, Flyway Journal, and Poets and Writers. Her screenwriting efforts include narratives for Shifting Undercurrents and Village of Dust, City of Water, award-winning documentary films. Support from Audubon Society, Patagonia, Fund for Wild Nature and Environment Now assisted in the completion of “Searching for the Gold Spot: The Wild after Wildfire,” her first film. She is currently continuing her efforts to document post-fire habitats and biodiversity in the Sierra Nevada and Cascades Mountains. “Fire Works,” a short excerpt and trailer of the film project, can be found at https://conbio.org/publications/scb-news-blog/fire-works. Recent research has revealed that California spotted owls and other raptors fare well in post-fire forests (https://boomcalifornia.com/2017/10/20/heating-up-california-spotted-owls-and-wildfire).
Sara Kokkelenberg is the Stewardship Coordinator for Eastern Sierra Land Trust. She is pleased to be living and working in the incredible beauty of the Eastside and to be continuously learning from conservation experts in their fields. Although born in a suburb of Chicago, she couldn't be happier with Bishop's desert paradise and easy access to the mountains. She spends most of her free time running from one adventure to the next - highlining, hiking, and climbing.
Linda LaPierre lives in Yerington, NV, but she has spent most of the last 40 summers at Lundy Lake. She and her husband also had the experience of a lifetime spending the winter of 1978-79 snowed in at Lundy. That winter introduced her to birds, as David Gaines asked them to keep a log of the birds they saw in Lundy Canyon. Linda’s interest in researching Lundy began in 1984, when she located the foundation of the Lundy schoolhouse, scraping up pen nibs and the metal rings on pencil erasers. She began her research in the Mono Lake Committee's research library, spending many hours going through material in the backroom of the old Committee. She has been a Mono Lake Volunteer leading a History/Nature tour in Lundy Canyon for the last 11 summers. It has been said that we all have "a place of the heart". Linda found hers long ago in Lundy Canyon.
Nora Livingston is a passionate naturalist who spent her childhood immersed in nature from day one. She got her professional start as a naturalist/interpreter through the Mono Lake Committee intern program in the summers of 2008 and 2009, where she led natural history tours of the lake and weekly birding walks. Her next job as a seasonal ornithologist took her to the most beautiful corners of the country and beyond for seven years. She is now the Mono Lake Committee's Lead Naturalist Guide. It is her utmost joy to share her love of birds and nature with anyone and everyone to help foster a deeper respect for this unique planet.
Burleigh Lockwood has been a field biologist since the age of four, lying on her belly watching ant-highways and caterpillars chewing on leaves. She pursued biology through high school and into college. While she was finishing her degree in Environmental Biology, she began working for California Fish & Game as a seasonal biologist. In a career shift to the Forest Service, she became an official 'hooter' on Spotted Owl surveys, learning the habits and hoots of the owls in the Sierra. While doing field work in the Sierra, she began volunteering for Fresno's Chaffee Zoo Education Department. Leaving the Forest Service, she became a staff biologist for the Zoo, presenting 'Natural History Stuff' to children of all ages.
Paul McFarland has pushed dirt, paper, politics, broken vehicles, dead trees, a few too many rocks and the bounds of rationality while working on and for the public lands and wildlife of the Eastern Sierra. A true amateur in the Latin sense of the word, there isn't one facet of our natural world that has taken precedent on any of his guided natural history explorations over the past two decades, from birds to butterflies to basalt and bedrock mortars, everything has a story that's tied to everything else. Paul lives in Lee Vining with his wife, Yvette, and children Solomon, Henry, and Lydia dreaming of a future where Highway 395 is a railway, but not much else has changed on the landscape.
Geoff McQuilkin is the Executive Director of the Mono Lake Committee. Geoff's goals are ensuring Mono Lake's continuing protection, restoring Mono Lake's tributary streams, developing a permanent education program, and continuing that the strong tradition of scientific research at Mono Lake. Geoff has worked for the Committee since 1992, and he's happy to live close to the lake with his wife Sarah and their daughters Caelen, Ellery, and Cassia.
Peter Metropulos has spent over 30 years exploring and birding throughout Mono County and has an intimate knowledge of Mono Basin birds. He has served as one of the sub-regional editors of North American Birds magazine for over 30 years, and has co-authored several articles and bird-finding guides. Peter is a practicing horticulturist and is therefore able to identify and share many of the area’s botanical wonders as well.
Connie Millar is a Senior Scientist with the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, in Albany, California. Connie is recognized for her leadership in developing climate-adaptation strategies and tools for management of western public lands. She directs the Consortium for Integrated Climate Research in Western Mountains and the North American Chapter of the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments. Her research team addresses a wide range of issues related to mountain environments and climate, including responses of subalpine forests and montane mammals (including American pikas) to historic and ongoing climate change in Great Basin ecosystems. Connie received her PhD in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) in 1984, holds a MS in forest genetics from UCB and a BS in forest science from the University of Washington, Seattle. She divides her time between the Bay Area in winter and the summer field season in the Mono Basin.
Kristie Nelson has had a love for birds since her earliest memories. Kristie serves on the California Bird Records Committee, the American Birding Association Checklist Committee, and is a California reviewer for e-butterfly. She has conducted ornithological fieldwork throughout the state, and has been the project leader of California Gull research at Mono Lake since 2005. She lives in the Mono Basin and is very familiar with its assemblage of bird life. When not engaged in birding activities, she is busy running a small farm with her husband Joel.
Kay Ogden saw Mono Lake for the first time when she rode in her first of three Bike-A-Thons, and her heart never recovered. She worked for the Mono Lake Committee for four years before leaving to ride her bike around the world for a year. After returning, she became the Associate Director for the Sierra Nevada Alliance, and is now home, working as the Executive Director for the Eastern Sierra Land Trust. Kay is thrilled to be back to the Eastern Sierra, and recently married her longtime partner, spending their first night married together camping overlooking Mono Lake with their rescued German Shepherd, Rush Creek.
Karyn "Kestrel" O'Hearn began following birds around during Natural History Field Quarter at UC Santa Cruz. After graduating in 1996 she worked as a naturalist at several outdoor schools landing in the Sierra and ultimately Yosemite National Park, where she has worked as a ranger naturalist since early 2002. When not rangering in the Sierra, she has been a docent and trip leader for Yosemite Area Audubon, designed and led programs for Sierra Foothill Conservancy, and worked as a middle school science teacher. She has also been a co-instructor for UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve's California Naturalist course. She is currently a master's student in the Avian Sciences Graduate Group at UC Davis where she is developing research that will investigate avian species richness following the Rough Fire in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park using avian soundscapes. She hopes to return each summer to live and work as an Interpretive Ranger Naturalist in Yosemite's high country where birds are her guide and natural environments her teacher.
Roy Poucher has been a Sea and Sage Audubon Society (Orange County, CA) general trip leader and trip leader in their introductory birding classes (including for aural birding) for 26 years. He has led Audubon trips to Arizona, Texas, North Dakota (sparrows), the Great Lakes (warblers), the eastern seaboard (shorebirds), and up & down California. Through his company, Bird Odyssey Tours, Roy has led international trips to Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Thailand, Cambodia, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Costa Rica and India. Tours to Chile and the Upper Texas Coast are upcoming. His passion is bird vocalization, and he has mentored aural birding with Dick Walton (author of the Peterson bird sounds audio series), Luis Baptista (late of the California Academy of Sciences), Tom Hahn (UC Davis) and Sylvia Gallagher (Southern California educator). He presents the bird festival aural events for the Morro Bay and Monterey Bay festivals.
Mike Prather has lived in Inyo County since 1972, both in Death Valley and Lone Pine. He has worked tirelessly on desert issues such as wildlife return at Owens Lake, water, wilderness and parks. He currently is chair of the Inyo County Water Commission and a board member of Friends of the Inyo. Mike and his wife Nancy are retired public school teachers and have two grown daughters Robin and Phoebe. They also have four grandchildren: Corvid, Kestrel, Veery and Wren. Mike lives in the Alabama Hills above Lone Pine.
Will Richardson has been birding and conducting field research in the Sierra Nevada since 1994, including several seasons working for the organization formerly known as Point Reyes Bird Observatory in the Mono Basin and elsewhere in the Eastern Sierra. Will received his PhD in Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology from the University of Nevada in Reno, studying bird communities in Sierra Nevada aspen habitats. He resides in Truckee and now focuses most of his attention on the natural history of the Lake Tahoe region. He is slowly chipping away at authoring a status and distribution guide for the birds of the Lake Tahoe basin, and is co-founder and Executive Director of a research, education, and outreach organization: the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science.
Michael Ross lives with his wife in El Portal at Yosemite’s western boundary, perched on a bluff overlooking the Merced River where they hear dippers sing and watch herons hunt. For more than 30 years he has led field classes and custom hikes for the Yosemite Conservancy, including many programs for children and families. He wrote and illustrated his first two children’s books in 1979 and has written 40 more since then. Rolypolyology, Become a Bird and Fly, Snug as a Bug, Bird Watching with Margaret Morse Nice, and Baby Bear Isn’t Hungry are a few of the titles inspired by his life and work in the mountains. Michael graduated with a BS in Conservation of Natural Resources with a minor in Entomology from UC Berkeley and earned a teaching credential in early childhood education from Fresno State University.
Ane Carla Rovetta is a multi-talented presenter. She holds the Renaissance belief that art and science are kindred disciplines, each supporting and enhancing the other. She has illustrated seven books, and illustrates natural history stories in front of live audiences throughout the west. She also creates her own art supplies using local soils, stones, seeds and roots. Ane Carla was named Environmental Educator of the Year in 2015 by the Terwilliger Foundation and has received numerous grants to make non-toxic art installations with children. She lives in Sonoma County where her pastel chalks are rolled in a “funky little outbuilding that used to be a chicken coop.” Ane’s playful spirit makes each of her gatherings a joyful learning adventure.
Dave Shuford is a wetland biologist with Point Blue Conservation Science and became immersed in avian studies at Mono Lake in 1983 when he began research on California Gulls nesting on the lake’s islands. Dave has conducted breeding bird atlas projects in Marin County and the Glass Mountain region of Mono County and has surveyed shorebird and waterbird populations throughout the interior of California. He has spent countless hours exploring the hinterlands of the state and has a passion for understanding and adding to knowledge on the status and distribution of California’s diverse avifauna. He regularly teaches classes with the Mono Lake Committee and with San Francisco State’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus at Yuba Pass, and he looks forward to sharing his knowledge with you and learning from you as well.
Stephen Shunk rode his first Mono Lake Bike-A-Thon without ever having seen the lake itself. After his first view of the Mono Lake shoreline, Steve became a Monophile for life. Since then, Steve has become an accomplished professional birder, leading birding tours from Alaska to Peru and speaking at birding festivals and meetings across North America and beyond. In 1997, Steve landed on the east slope of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, where he co-founded the East Cascades Bird Conservancy and the Oregon Birding Trails program. Over the last 20 years, he has become a pathological woodpecker fanatic, and his recently published book, the Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America, is available for signing at the MLC Information Center & Bookstore. Steve’s infectious enthusiasm for birds and the outdoors will leave you with many fond memories and a new appreciation for the nature that surrounds us. • paradisebirding.com
Greg Stock is the first-ever Yosemite National Park geologist. He received a degree in Geology from Humboldt State University and a PhD in Earth Sciences from UC Santa Cruz. A near-lifelong resident of the Sierra Nevada, Greg has studied and mapped the geology of the Sierra Nevada and Mono Basin for over 20 years. He resides in Yosemite Valley with his wife Sarah and daughter Autumn.
Sarah Stock is the Terrestrial Wildlife Biologist at Yosemite National Park where she has overseen the park's program for land-animal biodiversity since 2006. She studies wildlife ranging from songbird population dynamics to Great Gray Owl and Spotted Owl responses to fire, to the ecology of bats. She earned her Master’s degree at the University of Idaho in 2001 where she focused on the migration ecology of forest owls. Before moving to Yosemite Valley with her family, she studied birds in locations ranging from Alaska to the South Pacific islands. Sarah has authored many technical reports and peer-reviewed publications on wildlife ecology and management.
John Wehausen is an applied population ecologist who has studied bighorn sheep populations in California since 1974, beginning with his PhD dissertation work in the Sierra Nevada, where he has continued to work since completing his dissertation. His studies have had a strong conservation orientation. Beginning in the 1970s, he has worked closely with various resource management agencies to help establish and carry out data-based conservation programs for bighorn sheep. He was a member of the recovery team for bighorn sheep in the Peninsular Ranges in California and helped draft the recovery plan for that distinct population segment of desert bighorn sheep. Following their listing as a federal endangered species, he wrote most of the recovery plan for bighorn sheep in the Sierra Nevada. Most recently he has drafted for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife a conservation plan for desert bighorn sheep in California outside of the Peninsular Ranges. In 1995 John helped found the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation and serves as its president. In 2012 John retired as an Associate Research Scientist with the University of California’s White Mountain Research Station, but continues to work full-time on bighorn sheep conservation issues in California including the Sierra Nevada. • www.sierrabighorn.org
David Wimpfheimer worked for the Mono Lake Committee in the mid-1980s, accomplishing a variety of educational, lobbying, and promotional objectives. On eleven 350-mile fundraising Bike-A-Thons pedaling from Los Angeles to Mono Lake, he was known to pedal off-course to pursue birds. As a professional nature guide, David educates and interprets all aspects of the environment, not just birds. For over 30 years, David has led tours and taught classes for organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution, Point Reyes Field Institute, Mono Lake Committee, Oceanic Society, Road Scholar and Wild Wings. David's seasoned focus and knowledge make for very enjoyable and educational outings. • calnaturalist.com