Presenter Biographies

We have not confirmed all of our presenters for 2017 yet, but here are last year's presenter bios. Check back for updates!


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.


Hillary Behr lives in Bishop and coordinates Outdoor Education programs for the Inyo County Superintendent of Schools. She is currently serving as Eastern Sierra Audubon Society's board president and leads monthly bird walks for birders of all levels. Hillary is originally from a small town in New Hampshire, but has lived in the Eastern Sierra since working for the Mono Lake Committee during the summer of 2009. She is excited to participate in the Chautauqua as a leader, after years of attending this awesome event!


Peter Bergen, Out Side in Nature's director, is known as one of the most sought-after nature connection specialists in California. He is famous for his ability to guide children and adults in creating and developing lifelong personal relationships with the natural world, doing so in accordance with time-tested best practices of indigenous wisdom, harvested from around the world and from our ancestral lineages by dedicated and passionate elders, mentors, and colleagues. A deep nature connection is easily accessible to anyone who experiences and practices primitive skills, tracking, and bird language. And there is a lot of joy and laughter along the way! • outsideinnature.com


Ryan Burnett is the Sierra Nevada Group Director with Point Blue Conservation Science. He grew up in the shadow of the Santa Monica Mountains in Ventura County where his passion for nature and birds arose. He now resides on the shores of Lake Almanor at the biologically diverse intersection of the Sierra and Cascade ranges. He has fifteen years of experience designing, leading, and publishing findings from avian ecology and conservation research across the Sierra Nevada. He has trained numerous budding ornithologists in field methodologies and Sierra bird identification. In recent years, he spends more time enjoying the chickadees, grosbeaks, and tanagers in his yard with his children than adding on to the life list.


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.


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 on the southern edge of Point Reyes National Seashore in Bolinas, CA, where he is a senior avian ecologist for Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory). Most of his work with Point Blue has kept Ryan close to his native California habitats, including San Francisco Bay tidal marshes, the Farallon Islands, Central Valley riparian forests, coastal prairie along the Sonoma Coast, and coastal strands of Monterey Bay. Most recently Ryan's research has focused on monitoring birds, vegetation, and soil health on California rangelands. He is also helping to develop a new a grassland bird conservation plan for California Partners in Flight. Though most of Ryan's 20+ years as a birder and ecologist have been spent chasing birds around Northern California, he also has birding experience in Hawaii, Midway Atoll, the Channel Islands, Mexico, the rest of the Americas, Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa.


Colin Dillingham has spent his entire 26-year career working with the US Forest Service, first for 12 years on the southern coast of Oregon, and for the past 13 years on the Plumas National Forest out of Quincy. He has traveled widely, always in search of birds, to Europe, Central America, South America, and New Zealand, with his next trip planned to Australia later this year. Colin recently spent six weeks birding eastern Australia and broke his personal year list record by finding 625 species in 2014. Colin's favorite bird is the Pileated Woodpecker.


Linda Dore and her husband David have been catering in the Mono Basin for over a decade. Prior to starting Linda Dore Foodservice in 2002, Linda gained experience in several area restaurants including Nevados and The Mono Inn. She studied for eight years under a graduate of the Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Linda says, "I like to think that my diploma comes from Catastrophe Cooking 101A—out of the frying pan and into the fire ... that great school of experience!" Linda has been serving the Chautauqua's Friday night dinners since they began. Spring of 2016 will usher in a new venue, Epic Café, where Linda and David will continue to cater, but now offer their summer guests and locals a lovely Lee Vining restaurant. Come visit anytime, relax and enjoy some delicious fresh food, a glass of wine or cold beer, and watch for birds in the adjacent park-like setting just above the Lakeview Lodge.


Santiago Escruceria is a Colombian-born American citizen residing in California for the past 30 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 17 years, 13 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 inner-city youth. Santiago is an avid birder, leading bird walks in Colombia during the winter and walks for school groups and the public in the Mono Basin during the summer. He has been birding the Americas since 1986. • 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.


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 Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory as a biologist managing state and park service bird monitoring programs. Jora is currently the Preservation Manager at Friends of the Inyo, working on the Inyo National Forest plan revision process, commenting 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.


Terri Geissinger is a historian/guide for the Bodie Foundation. She is active in the Mono Basin Historical Society, and has been interviewing the last surviving residents of Bodie to collect their stories and memories before they are lost. Terri has a talent for making history come alive—her interpretive programs are immensely popular because of her enthusiasm and commitment to Bodie's history.


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 is co-founder and co-Executive Director of the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science. He has been an environmental educator in Idaho, Oregon, California, and Nevada, highlighting the beauty of birds in the natural world, among many other topics. In 2009, he received his Master of Science degree in Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno, where he developed a four-week high school curriculum based on the ecology of the Great Basin. He has conducted field studies on Gunnison Sage-Grouse and Lewis's Woodpeckers and has been an adjunct faculty at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, NV since 2010 where he teaches Field Ornithology courses. He has been leading eco-tours for Portland Audubon in the western US since 2009.


Justin Hite recently stumbled into his first "real" job 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.


Ann Howald is a retired botanist from Sonoma who this spring checked off one more item on her bucket list by going on a bird- and whale-watching cruise along the coast of Baja and into the Sea of Cortez. This summer she'll be continuing her long-term studies of Mono County flora, taking time to pull some weeds and volunteer with the California Native Plant Society and California State Parks, while living in her newly acquired used Airstream. In late summer she'll teach her always-popular Mono Lake Committee field seminar, Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats.


David Jaffe has climbed up the face of an elephant in Nepal, looked into the eyes of Masked Boobies in the Galapagos, sought nudibranchs on the Great Barrier Reef and walked the Ghats along the Ganges River in India. He has led backcountry trips in Denali National Park, learned from students in Kentucky and gained great insights while hitchhiking home from work in Yosemite National Park. He thrives on the privilege of travel and feels extremely fortunate for the lessons granted while visiting new places and learning from various cultures.


Rodd Kelsey is a native Californian who spent two summers studying White-crowned Sparrow breeding ecology at Tioga Meadow and completed his PhD studying Red Crossbills across the western US. Rodd is currently the Lead Scientist for Forests & Agriculture at The Nature Conservancy, where they are actively working to conserve and improve management in Sierra meadows and forests. Prior to The Nature Conservancy, Rodd was the Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon California.


Nora Livingston is a passionate naturalist who spent her childhood immersed in nature from day one, exploring her local ecosystems in Marin County and camping every summer in the Northern Sierra and the Black Rock Desert. She got her professional start as a naturalist/interpreter through the Mono Lake Committee intern program in 2008, where she lead natural history tours of the lake and weekly birding walks. She worked as a seasonal ornithologist for seven years; a job that took her to the most beautiful corners of the country and beyond. 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 (smashed worms and crumpled caterpillars in inquisitive hands). 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. It was a career shift to the Forest Service that brought her into contact with owls. As an official "hooter" on Spotted Owl surveys for the Forest Service, she learned the habits and hoots of the owls in the Sierra. She is currently a biologist for the Education Department of the Chaffee Zoo in Fresno.


Chris McCreedy has worked in the Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran, and Antarctic deserts with PRBO Conservation Science since 1999, and in the Mono Basin since 2001. He enjoys ecology, illustration, writing, and talking to lizards and penguins. His current graduate work at the University of Arizona researches the impacts of drought on Sonoran Desert passerines. He coordinates Point Blue Conservation Science's land bird projects in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts and is currently helping the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on an Eastern Sierra Willow Flycatcher demography study. Some of his work can be found at researchgate.net/profile/Chris_Mccreedy


Paul McFarland's lasting addiction to wandering across open spaces can be blamed on the prickly pear hills surviving on the outskirts of suburban Southern California. After working across California to enhance public stewardship of public lands, Paul now lives in Lee Vining with his wife, Yvette, and children Solomon, Henry, and Lydia. He currently manages Friends of the Inyo's Frontcountry Stewardship program and envisions a future where Highway 395 is a railway.


Steve McLaughlin is a University of Arizona Professor Emeritus, past president of the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and former board member of the Friends of the Inyo. He is an enthusiastic birder and an experienced botanist with extensive knowledge of the taxonomy, life histories, evolution, and ecological adaptations of plants throughout the western United States.


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.


Lisa Murphy is the lead Ranger-Naturalist at White Wolf in Yosemite National Park. Her first foray into star programs was in 1993 assisting with a planetarium and observatory for sixth grade students at the Clemmie Gill School of Science & Conservation in Tulare County. Lisa is enchanted by the night sky, especially as seen from the open spaces in Yosemite's high country and the Mono Basin.


Kristie Nelson has had a love for birds since some of her earliest memories. She has conducted ornithological fieldwork throughout much of the state, serves on the California Bird Records Committee, and has been the project leader for 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 diversified 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 ranging in the Sierra and teaching middle school science, she is a docent and trip leader for Yosemite Area Audubon and Sierra Foothill Conservancy, where she has developed a local bird walk series. She also co-instructs for UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve's California Naturalist course. She has recently been accepted to the Avian Sciences Graduate Group at UC Davis where she will pursue a masters in avian science and conservation. She returns 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 aural birding) for 24 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 trips to Kenya, Thailand, Cambodia, the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica and Ecuador. Tours to South Africa and Trinidad/Tobago are upcoming. His passion is bird vocalization, and he has mentored aural birding personally 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.


Bob Power has been the lead field seminar leader for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society for the past eight years, leading and co-leading both domestic and international birding eco-tours. Bob has been a day-leader for the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory's HawkWatch program for the past ten years, taught Introduction to Birding at Palo Alto Adult School for seven years and has been a field trip leader for the Chautauqua since 2007.


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 Co-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 six 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. An accomplished weaver, she uses willow, tule, and cattails to create containers and baskets. 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.


Ali Sheehey is an avid naturalist and birder. She is the Programs Director for Sequoia ForestKeeper. As a naturalized member of the California fauna her introduction to the state began in 1976 with her permanent migration to Kern County in 1980. She has been an active volunteer with Audubon beginning in 1985 and served as the Outreach Director at Audubon California's Kern River Preserve from 2006 until 2012. Her education about nature began with her explorations of the desert environs of Kern County's Temblor Range (the western border) where she fell in love with the intricacies of the geology, flora and fauna in a place many regarded as an ugly wasteland. Seeing beauty in every natural niche is one of the many talents of "Nature Ali." She has studied the natural history of Kern County and has documented the Rose-ringed Parakeets of Bakersfield. Ali is a staunch environmental advocate and prefers to quietly affect policy through education. She looks forward to sharing her deep appreciation of our precious planet with the Mono Lake Chautauqua community. • sequoiaforestkeeper.org, natureali.org


Christy Sherr is a retired National and State Park Ranger, now working as an outdoor educator and serving as the Education Coordinator for the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute. She is also a field biologist currently participating in a multi-year nest density study of the Black-backed Woodpecker and loves the special beauty and dynamic biodiversity found in recently burned forests.


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 18 years, he has become a pathological woodpecker fanatic, and his new book, the Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America, will be ready for signing at this year's Chautauqua. When Steve is not guiding or studying woodpeckers, he is traveling and writing for the online Nature Travel Network. 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 15 years. He resides in Yosemite Valley with his wife Sarah and daughter Autumn.


Sarah Stock has worked as a Wildlife Biologist at Yosemite National Park since 2006, where she oversees the Terrestrial Biodiversity Program. Sarah currently manages research projects ranging from Great Gray Owls to songbirds, and bats to bighorn sheep. Sarah earned a BS degree from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MS degree in Zoology from the University of Idaho. Before moving to Yosemite, Sarah coordinated or assisted a variety of bird projects in Idaho, Washington, Hawaii, the Marianas Islands, Louisiana, Alaska, and California. Living in Yosemite Valley, Sarah enjoys birding, climbing, and playing in the river with her daughter and husband.


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


Stuart Wilkinson is a longtime Mono Lake paddling guide and veteran kayaker. He and his wife Sue own and operate Caldera Kayaks, and have been operating on Mono Lake for nearly 20 years. When he's not kayaking Stuart assists with monitoring the Long Valley Caldera for the US Geological Survey. • calderakayak.com


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 28 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