John Petersen Executive Director of Audubon Canyon Ranch since 2014, leads the strategic direction for the 55-year organization and oversees an operating budget of $3.1M. John works collaboratively with ACR staff, board of directors and community to find creative solutions to our environmental challenges, and further the mission of conservation in action. With a focus on increasing ACR’s impact in science and education, John has directed new and innovative programs that use the latest in research and technology.
As only the third leader in ACR’s history, John began his career with ACR in 1987 while on a graduate fellowship at Sonoma State University. From Resident Biologist to Associate Director, Chief Operating Officer, and Executive Director, John has participated in all aspects of the organization and applies over 30 years of nonprofit and science experience to his role as a leader in regional conservation. John holds a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from University of San Francisco and a master’s degree in biology from Sonoma State University.
John is also an accomplished artist, commissioned by the National Parks of Costa Rica to create fundraising posters, and honored by President Oscar Arias Sanchez with a showing at the National Museum in San Jose. Read John Petersen's letter to the ACR community.
Sherry Adams, Preserve Biologist & Manager, has been at the Modini Mayacamas Preserves since 2009 and received her introduction to the property from Jim and Shirley Modini. Sherry has worked for Audubon Canyon Ranch since 2007, starting at the Bouverie Preserve. Sherry brings to ACR a decade of natural resources field experience with an emphasis on plant inventorying to support research questions, along with significant experience in fire and fire ecology. She earned a Master's Degree in Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology at Frostburg State University/University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory and a Bachelor's Degree from UC Berkeley. Her graduate research focused on the impact of an invasive grass on plant communities.
Sasha Berleman, Ph.D., Fire Ecologist at Bouverie Preserve, joined ACR in October 2015. Sasha is the lead for the new Fire Ecology Program. She recently completed a PhD in Scott Stephens’ wildland fire science research lab at UC Berkeley. She conducted her PhD research on prescribed fire use in California landscapes for restoration of ecosystem health. She has been an active participant in Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX) since 2010, with most being located in Northern California (Mt Shasta and Klamath regions). She is a qualified firefighter with “Fire Effects Monitoring” and “Squad Boss” taskbooks and approximately 600 hours of hands-on prescribed fire experience. In addition to her PhD work, she has been actively involved in fire ecology and fire-use in the North Bay region since 2011, planning prescribed fire and monitoring projects with managers at Mitsui Ranch of Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation and at Pepperwood Preserve. Sasha is a board member of the Central Coast Prescribed Fire Council.
Julia Clothier, Education Programs Manager, joined ACR in October 2015. She is the recipient of the Bay Nature Foundation's 2015 Local Hero for Environmental Education Award and most recently served as Director of the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center in Point Reyes National Seashore. Additionally, Julia designed and implemented programs, and trained and mentored naturalists as resident manager and director of education and stewardship at Fairfield Osborn Preserve on Sonoma Mountain. Julia holds a B.A. in botany and an M.A. in natural history, both from Sonoma State University. Her thesis work included writing, illustrating, and publishing an ethnobotanical field guide to common plants of Sonoma Mountain.
Emiko Condeso, Ecologist/GIS Specialist, has a master's degree in biology/landscape ecology from Sonoma State University and a dual B.A. in biology and environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz. Emiko's research interests include understanding how spatial patterns, particularly in human-altered landscapes, influence biological communities. Her graduate work focused on Sudden Oak Death and examined the role of the spatial pattern of host woodland on disease dynamics. At the Cypress Grove Research Center, Emiko manages ACR's long-term biological monitoring projects and collaborates with staff and partners in conservation research. She is an active member of the local conservation GIS community.
Gwen Heistand is ACR's Director of Education and has been Resident Biologist at Martin Griffin Preserve since August of 2002. She has a master's degree in environmental science & management/applied ecology from UC Santa Barbara. Her graduate work focused on assessing cumulative impacts of land use on coastal wetland watersheds. Gwen has taught field and lab classes for both UC Santa Barbara and the College of Marin in limnology, invertebrate zoology, parasitology, mammalogy, introductory biology and marine biology. She was curator for the invertebrate collection at UCSB's Museum of Ecology and Systematics. Gwen teaches classes to volunteers in all aspects of natural history and works with the ACR science staff on research and resource management programs specific to the Martin Griffin Preserve as well as the larger family of ACR preserves. Gwen sits on the Bolinas Lagoon Technical Advisory Committee and the Sanctuary Advisory Council for the Gulf of the Farallones.
Alex Hettena, Mountain Lion Project Research Assistant is currently working on a M.S. degree in Environmental Science at Pace University. Her research interests include carnivore-human interaction, specifically the carnivore-livestock conflict, with a greater goal of carnivore conservation. Alex has a B.A. in Biology from Vanderbilt University. After graduating, she went on to participate in field studies with mule deer at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, CO, white-lipped peccaries in Brazil, jaguars and pumas in Paraguay, degus (bush-tailed rats) in Chile, and gray wolves in northeastern Washington.
Scott Jennings, Avian Ecologist at Cypress Grove Research Center, joined ACR in January 2016 to focus on regional heron and egret populations including field studies, data analysis, technical reporting and conservation planning. After undergraduate studies in vertebrate ecology, restoration ecology, and conservation biology at UC Santa Cruz, Scott worked for many years as a field biologist and Avian Ecologist at PRBO (now Point Blue Conservation Science) where he contributed to a range of projects on songbirds and northern spotted owls. Scott’s graduate research for his MS degree at Oregon State University addressed the relationships between growth and survival of Adélie penguin chicks relative to the type and amount of food provisioned by their parents. Over the last 11 years, Scott has conducted several field studies in the coastal lagoons and hills of Marin County.
John P. Kelly, Ph.D., serves as Director of Conservation Science. He develops and oversees programs in conservation research, ecological restoration and natural resources management on ACR lands and associated systems, such as Tomales Bay. His scientific interests focus on habitat relationships, foraging, and energetics of coastal and estuarine birds, and on the breeding biology of herons and egrets in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also works on local and regional conservation issues, and serves on the Tomales Bay Watershed Council and the Tomales Bay Advisory Committee. Before coming to ACR in 1988, John worked as a biologist and educator for several public and private organizations, including the U. S. Forest Service, Humboldt State University, the National Audubon Society, Santa Rosa Junior College, and the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. He holds a doctorate in ecology from the University of California, Davis, and a master's degree in wildlife from Humboldt State University.
David Lumpkin, Avian Ecologist at Cypress Grove Research Center, joined ACR in March 2017 as a lead scientist on the Heron and Egret Telemetry Project. David earned a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Oberlin College. While there he conducted research on the role of plumage and bill coloration in goldfinches as a signal of physiological health. After graduating, David worked as a field technician for a variety of organizations conducting research on wild birds, banding migrants, and aiding conservation and recovery efforts. Focal species David has worked with include Golden-Cheeked Warblers, Yellow-Billed Cuckoos, Golden Eagles, and San Clemente Island Loggerhead Shrikes.
Quinton Martins, Ph.D., Wildlife Ecologist at Bouverie Preserve, is the lead researcher on the ACR Mountain Lion Project. Dr. Martins is the former founder and CEO of the Cape Leopard Trust, a successful predator conservation NGO based in South Africa. He has over 20 years of field experience having worked in wilderness areas throughout much of Africa, Saudi Arabia and the USA. From specialist safari guiding, leading a scorpion collecting expedition for the Smithsonian Institution in the desert of Namibia, to mist-netting birds in central African rainforests, Quinton turned to studying predators in 2003. He completed his Ph.D. “The Ecology of leopards in the Cederberg Mountains, South Africa” through the University of Bristol, U.K. in 2010 and is considered the world’s leading expert on Cape mountain leopards and a skilled predator trapper. Quinton is a research associate and fellow at Bristol and Stellenbosch Universities.
Jennifer Potts, is a Resource Ecologist at the Bouverie Preserve. Along with the Resource Ecology and Stewardship team, she co-leads Bouverie Preserve’s habitat protection and restoration projects, including oak woodland restoration, vernal pool monitoring and wildlife camera trapping. Jennifer is also the field assistant for the ACR Mountain Lion Project. She has a background ranging from fire ecology to farm work, and earned her graduate degree from UC Berkeley in environmental science, policy and management. Prior to landing at ACR, Jennifer worked around the country with the Nature Conservancy, California State Parks and Arizona Department of Fish & Game.
David Self has been ACR’s Resource Ecologist at the Modini Mayacamas Preserves since 2012, where he is responsible for stewardship, education and outreach. He earned a M.S. in Biology from Sonoma State, where he studied the ecology of vernal pools in the Laguna de Santa Rosa and contributed hundreds of plant specimens to the North Coast Herbarium, recorded in the Flora of Sonoma County. Dave brings over 40 years of experience developing and implementing preserve management plans, controlled burns, invasive plant inventories and vegetation management and monitoring projects for national parks, wildlife refuges, county parks, environmental organizations and corporations. He has taught college courses on Forest Ecology and Plant Identification, led hundreds of nature walks, co-founded and served on the board of conservation non-profits, and chaired Indigenous Knowledge and Ethnobotany conference sessions. Additionally, Dave has developed information systems and apps that facilitate learning about and stewardship of wild plants and their habitats. Dave is also a photographer, illustrator and poet.
Eileen Shanahan, Education Program Coordinator at Martin Griffin Preserve, joined ACR in January 2016 and works closely with Director of Education Gwen Heistand. She has a degree from CSU, Chico in anthropology and parks & recreation. Eileen is a San Francisco native who experienced Audubon Canyon Ranch as a child. Today, she is an accomplished environmental educator and interpreter. She most recently served as a Teacher-in-Residence at Slide Ranch where she taught environmental education, designed and implemented programs, and lived in beautiful West Marin. Eileen also worked as an Interpretive Park Ranger at Muir Woods National Monument, Angel Island State Park, and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Additionally, she spent time in the High Sierra working at the Great Basin Outdoor School. Eileen is passionate about fostering environmental stewardship and connection in people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.
Jeanne Wirka is ACR's Director of Stewardship. A field ecologist, Jeanne has more than 15 years of experience designing and implementing habitat restoration, vegetation management and monitoring programs in Northern California. Before her current role, Jeanne served as resident biologist at ACR’s Bouverie Preserve from 2005 to 2015. She developed strong ties with the communities and partner organizations with whom ACR collaborates. She has been instrumental in developing and guiding multiple large restoration projects in native grassland, oak woodland, riparian and vernal pool habitats. Jeanne has a M.S. degree in Ecology from U.C. Davis and a B.A. from Harvard University.
Volunteers also are essential to all of Audubon Canyon Ranch's programs. ACR relies on the knowledge, commitment and experience of a large cadre of trained volunteers who we consider the heart and soul of this organization. Learn how to become an ACR volunteer.