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.
Sasha Berleman, Ph.D., Consulting Director of ACR's Fire Forward program. Sasha received her doctorate in wildland fire science from UC Berkeley, and conducted her graduate research in Northern California on prescribed fire use 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 (Shasta, Trinity and Klamath regions). She is a wildland firefighter with “Fire Effects Monitoring” and “Squad Boss” qualifications. In 2017 and 2018, Sasha was a member of the Redding Interagency Hotshot Crew. She has planned and organized interagency private lands controlled burns, and has approximately 600 hours of hands-on prescribed fire experience. Sasha is a board member of the Central Coast Prescribed Fire Council and The Smokey Generation.
Julianne Bradbury, Resource Ecologist at Modini Mayacamas Preserves, joined ACR in May 2017. She has a B.A. in Biology from Sonoma State University, where she studied the impacts of management decisions on a variety of wildlife species in oak woodland, vernal pool, and coastal prairie habitats. In partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Parks Service, and Mountains Restoration Trust, she contributed independent research and restoration support to the Cloud Forest Restoration Project on Santa Rosa Island in the summer of 2016. Julianne has been an active research, stewardship, and environmental education volunteer with local conservation organizations, including Pepperwood Preserve and Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, since 2012. Julianne was a key contributor to the creation of the Hatchery Education Program during her four years with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Julia Clothier, Director of Operations, brings her strengths as a preserve manager, facilities director and problem solver — as well as her experience as master educator— to the day-to-day operational needs of the organization. Julia has worked in the conservation field for 25 years, from Southeastern Utah to the North Cascades, Mono Lake to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Before joining ACR in 2015, Julia served as director of the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center in Point Reyes National Seashore and, prior to that, as resident manager & education director of the Fairfield Osborn Preserve. She is the recipient of the Bay Nature Foundation's 2015 Local Hero for Environmental Education Award. Julia holds a B.A. in botany and an M.A. in natural history for which she wrote, illustrated and published 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.
Jared Childress, Prescribed Fire Specialist for ACR's Fire Forward program, identifies and assesses units for prescribed fire or other vegetation management treatments on ACR lands and on the lands of our partner agencies and land owners/managers. Jared holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Evergreen State College, a Wildland Firefighter II certificate, has participated in a Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX), and trained as a wilderness first responder. Jared’s commitment to the whole system has focused on community stewardship and education, most recently as the community wildfire organizer for the East Bay community of Canyon and as the director of education and watershed restoration at Spaulding Marine Center. His field research includes tracking pumas for UCSC Puma Project, tracking wolves for the Yellowstone Wolf Project, and monitoring coastal rangelands for Point Blue's Range Monitoring Network. Jared is a member of the Central Coast Prescribed Fire Council, Society of Rangeland Management and the California Native Plant Society.
Michelle Cooper, Modini Mayacamas Preserves Biologist & Manager brings to Audubon Canyon Ranch over a dozen years of experience supporting research, managing natural resources, monitoring plant and animal communities, and supervising field crews, volunteers and staff for the University of California Bodega Marine Reserve and Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT). She completed a B.S. in botany from the University of Washington and a M.S. in biology from Sonoma State University (SSU). The focus of Michelle's work at SSU was on the role hikers and bikers play as dispersal mechanisms of phytophthora ramorum, the organism that causes Sudden Oak Death.
Gwen Heistand is ACR's Director of Education and has been Resident Biologist at Martin Griffin Preserve since August of 2002. She teaches classes in all aspects of natural history – from parasites and slime molds to bird song and mammal tracks. Her love of marine biology, especially wee things that live in water, propelled her out of the business world and back to graduate school. Living and working on the same thousand acres for the last 15 years, Gwen’s heart has expanded to embrace our terrestrial neighbors as well … including a severe crush on spiders (the subject of most of her childhood nightmares). Gwen has a master’s degree in Environmental Science & Management / Applied Ecology from UC Santa Barbara. Her graduate work focused on cumulative impact assessment in coastal wetland watersheds. Gwen is the recipient of the 2017 Terwilliger Environmental Award.
Alex Hettena, Mountain Lion Research Associate 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.
Henry Inman, Resource Ecologist at Martin Griffin Preserve, joined ACR in January 2019. Henry earned her B.S. in physical geography from UC Santa Barbara. She began her journey as a habitat restorationist and botanist in Hawai'i with the University of Hawai'i in Hilo and Kure Atoll Wildlife Sanctuary. She then returned to the Bay Area, where she was raised in foggy Pacifica, to work with the National Park Service in Golden Gate National Recreational Area and Point Reyes National Seashore, gaining expertise in locally invasive plants as a technician with the Invasive Species Early Detection and Rapid Response program.
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.
Natasha Lekach, Education Specialist at Martin Griffin Preserve, joined ACR in September 2018 and brings her skills as an educator, a naturalist and a storyteller to ACR’s educational programs. Natasha served in director and educator roles for organizations in Vermont and Washington before opting to return to her native Bay Area and assist Golden Gate Raptor Observatory with their education outreach. Natasha believes that utilizing student-centered experiences in research-based education has the capacity to foster a personal connection to content and a sense of place and, in return, spark an investment in science-based stewardship of the land on the local and global level. Natasha holds a B.S. in wildlife and fisheries biology from the University of Vermont’s School of Environment and Natural Resources.
Jacqueline Levy, Education Specialist at Bouverie Preserve, joined ACR in September 2018 and brings her strong conservation ethic, field experience and skills as an educator to ACR’s educational programs. Prior to joining ACR, Jacqueline spent nearly a dozen years teaching science at Sonoma Valley High School. She has held science positions at Sonoma Ecology Center and Bodega Marine Lab. Her fieldwork has included the ecology of many animals such as: birds, tortoises, insects, and monkeys, and she had led field studies for AmeriCorp's Adopt-A-Watershed program. Jacqueline holds a teaching credential from Sonoma State University, received her M.A in ecology and systematic biology from San Francisco State University and a B.A in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College. Jacqueline is a member of the California Landscape Contractors Association.
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.
Liz Martins, Living with Lions Education Coordinator, brings her passion for connecting children to wildlife to Living with Lions' education program, which teaches children about our wild neighbors and the valuable role mountain lions play in the ecosystem. Liz draws on her experience as an environmental educator in South Africa, where she set up and ran the Cape Leopard Trust's Education Project. Liz was previously a Waldorf teacher and has a degree in Anthropology and Archaeology. She has been a docent at ACR's Bouverie Preserve since 2016 and recently completed a children's book for her daughter, Oh no, not the Grandmother Tree!, based on California wildlife.
Quinton Martins, Ph.D., is the Director of Living with Lions, ACR's community conservation project centered around the North Bay's mountain lion population. 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.
Sheila McCarthy is a field technician developing and providing oversight of the Living with Lions Trail Camera Project and assisting in field research and education relating to mountain lions. She earned a bachelor's degree in recreation from CSU East Bay and a certificate in natural resources management from Santa Rosa Junior College. Sheila is also a U.C. certified California Naturalist and her background includes both paid and volunteer wildlife camera work with Sonoma County Regional Parks, California State Parks and Landpaths. Additionally, Sheila has over 16 years of experience working in the field of education in both public schools and non-profit organizations.
Brian Peterson, Consulting Fire Ecologist for ACR’s Fire Forward program, received a master’s degree from San Francisco State University in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology in 2015. His graduate research investigated the relationship between seed caching rodents and manzanita recruitment after fire. Getting his start in 1997 doing oak woodland restoration and fuels reduction work in Southern Oregon, Brian has gone on to work as a botanist and vegetation ecologist all across the California floristic providence, including on research projects at the Farallon Islands, Yosemite’s Illoette Valley, Sierra Foothills, Mount Diablo State Park, Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, Sugarloaf State Parks and Pepperwood Preserve. Most recently, he has been working with Nomad Ecology where he has focused on botanical studies in post-fire chaparral. Brian has completed two Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX) and is trained as a wilderness first responder.
Jennifer Potts, is a Resource Ecologist at the Bouverie Preserve and leads the 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's Living With Lions. She has a background ranging from fire ecology to farm work, and earned her master's degree from UC Berkeley in environmental science, policy and management. Prior to joining ACR, Jennifer worked around the country with the Nature Conservancy, California State Parks and Arizona Department of Fish & Game.
Nils Warnock, Ph.D., ACR's Director of Conservation Science, began his tenure in August 2018 and brings to ACR his 30+ years of experience pertaining to the ecology and conservation of Pacific Flyway birds, especially shorebirds. He has done extensive research in California (especially Marin County and San Francisco Bay) as well as throughout the Pacific and East Asian-Australasian flyways. From 2010-2018, Nils served as the executive director of Audubon Alaska and a vice president of the National Audubon Society. His career began in West Marin at Point Blue, where he was the co-director of the Wetlands Division from 2000-2008. Nils received his doctorate in ecology from the University of California at Davis and San Diego State University and is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society.
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.