I am the Conservation Director at WILDCOAST and oversee all of our U.S.-based conservation programs, including marine protected area management, wetland protection and restoration, and natural climate solutions.
As a kid I spent a lot of time tidepooling at the beach, exploring the animals at the San Diego Zoo, and visiting parks with my mom. She instilled in me a love of nature, exploration, and getting my hands dirty.
The rule in our house was “if you come home clean you didn’t have a good enough day!” Nature shaped who I am today and I want to make sure that nature is still around to provide these pivotal experiences to future generations.
I have a diverse background in conservation, with undergraduate degrees in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution and Biological Anthropology from University of California San Diego and a Master’s Degree in Biology from Miami University in Ohio. Through my studies I have done projects on everything from stingless bees in Brazil to birds in Puerto Rico to carnivores in the Sierra Nevadas.
I specialize in a field of science known as social ecology.
“Social” meaning social or human aspects of conservation and “ecology” meaning how organisms interact with their environment. I study human dimensions of conservation and strive to find ways for humans to work in harmony with nature, especially in the face of climate change.
I worked abroad for several universities as well as for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance on wildlife conservation projects in Mexico.
HOW HER WORK IMPACTS CLIMATE CHANGE
Blue carbon ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, salt marshes, and seagrass beds, naturally take carbon out of the atmosphere every day. As Conservation Director, I oversee WILDCOAST’s blue carbon program in the United States.
I get to be involved in activities such as restoring natural habitat at Batiquitos and San Dieguito Lagoons by removing non-native species and planting natives, digging up mud that is hundreds of years old to study carbon stocks of our local wetlands, and meeting with State Assemblymembers and Senators to advocate for stronger protections.
Wetland restoration, a natural solution to climate change, is really the future of coastal conservation, and I get to be at the forefront!
BIGGEST CHALLENGE WE ARE FACING NOW
Our biggest challenge is finding funding and political will to protect the wild places we love. That is why our work at WILDCOAST is so crucial. We can be the bridge and make conservation and nature more accessible for all.
HER FAVORITE THING TO DO IN THE FIELD
Explore new places! I was first hired at WILDCOAST to manage the Marine Protected Area Watch program that engages volunteers from throughout coastal California to collect scientific data on human use of marine protected areas.
The program has about a dozen partners in California and I get to visit them all, go off the beaten path, and see coastal sites that not many other people get to see!
Some of my favorite field experiences have included diving the crystal clear kelp forests at Catalina, hiking a secret trail to the beach with several cows in Santa Barbara, and learning the long and rich history of places like the Klamath River on the North Coast.
FAVORITE CREATURE + ECOSYSTEM
My all time favorite animal is the picasso fish — so named because it looks like a painting by Pablo Picasso! This little tropical fish is full of curiosity and can often be seen zooming between rocks and generally looking for mischief.
My favorite ecosystem is actually right here in California — our iconic kelp forests. I love diving down 120 feet and looking up at the towering giant kelp and just watching the myriad life that calls the kelp forest home.
It is from this angle that you can see why it is called a forest! I especially love night dives when thousands of brittle stars emerge from the kelp’s holdfast to look for food.
Favorite Memory at WILDCOAST
My favorite memory at WILDCOAST is participating in a Comic-Con panel with Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci from MythBusters. The MythBusters is a team of special effects experts on the Science Channel that test theories to prove or disprove what is real and what is truly urban myth, often blowing things up in the process.
The panel was called “Popular Science: Beyond Entertainment,” and we discussed the scientific method and how failure in science is not failure. I have never made anything explode like the MythBusters have, but I have my fair share of stories about having to science my way out of unexpected situations!
ONE THINGS SHE WISHES EVERYONE KNEW ABOUT HER JOB
There are actually two things I wish everyone knew about my job, but they go hand-in-hand. My job is fun! I get to explore new places, get muddy, meet amazing people, and actually make a tangible difference to the planet.
We also need your help! I encourage everyone to choose one thing you can do to help save the planet — whether it be something big like becoming a professional scientist or something like volunteering your time or donating to a cause you believe in, it is going to take all of us to save the planet we call home.