2022 Board of Directors – Officers
Jason Giessow, President
Drew Kerr, Vice President
Drew Kerr is currently the Treatment Program Manager for the California State Coastal Conservancy’s Invasive Spartina Project (ISP). Before joining ISP in 2005, when Estuary-wide Spartina treatment was just beginning, Drew was the Aquatic Noxious Weed Specialist for the King County Department of Natural Resources in Seattle, where he began his career in wetland ecology and invasive species management in 1999. During his years at KCDNR, Drew also worked on land use policy and regulation that established protected wildlife corridors and wetland complexes, and worked extensively with native Pacific Northwest amphibians. He received a BS in Environmental Policy & Behavior and a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan and holds a professional certificate in Wetlands Science and Management from the University of Washington. Drew’s first involvement with Cal-IPC was attending the annual symposium in 2005 and he has only missed one annual symposium since then. Drew has a passion for ecology, particularly wetlands and aquatic systems, as well as protecting these ecosystems from the impact of noxious weed invasions.
Matt Major, Treasurer
Project Manager, Orange County Parks
Amanda Cantu Swanson, Secretary
Amanda is currently the Orange County Reserve Manager for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Previously employed as the Restoration Coordinator for the Newport Bay Conservancy (NBC), she has five+ years of experience in vegetation monitoring, plant community assessments, soil sampling and analyses, quantifying soil carbon and nutrient pools, invasive plant management, data management and data analysis. In September 2017, she received her PhD in Plant Biology with emphases in plant, soil, and landscape ecology. Her dissertation used biogeochemical approaches to assess the impacts of human disturbances on plants and soils and how restoration facilitates recovery of ecosystems. After graduating, she became a postdoctoral research associate with the University of Wyoming. While a postdoc, she also taught Biology at Saddleback Community College and performed vegetation monitoring for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. At NBC, she has focused on surveying and managing invasive Limonium species, Volutaria tubuliflora, and EDRR in and upstream of Upper Newport Bay. Amanda led the Big Canyon Habitat Restoration and Adaptation Project which involves the removal of several acres of Brazilian peppertrees and other invasive plants, restoration of the canyon’s hydrology, and reestablishment of native plant communities. As Upper Newport Bay is home to sensitive saltmarsh habitat and is complex in its land ownership, she is working to strengthen partnerships between reserves in the area and community stakeholders to improve conservation of the Bay’s ecosystems.
Josie is a former field biologist at the Laguna Canyon Foundation with experience implementing habitat restoration and monitoring at various sites in Orange County. She has expertise in the local natural history including plants, plant communities, insects, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Prior to joining Laguna Canyon Foundation, she worked for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and the Natural Resource Management department of California State Parks in Orange County. Josie received a BS in Biological Sciences with an emphasis on Ecology and Environment from California State University, Long Beach. She is certified through the National Association for Interpretation as a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG).
Tanya Chapple is the Director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council Plants Program. Since 2009 she has directed program growth starting from three invasive plant control projects to a diversity of plant restoration projects, including watershed level management of priority invasive plant species, revegetation at fisheries restoration sites, monitoring burned areas, wilderness weeds management, native seed collection, and educational events. Tanya coordinates the Klamath Alliance for Regional Invasive Species Management, primarily composed of local Tribes, Forest Service, and non-government representatives, working together to manage regional invasive species concerns. Tanya earned a Bachelor of Science degree from UC Berkeley in Plant Biology and Genetics, with a minor in Forestry and Natural Resources.
Doug is the Executive Director and Principal Scientist of the Nature Collective, managing one of the west coast’s premier wetlands, located in San Elijo. During his nearly 20 years in the position, he has raised millions of dollars for restoration and stewardship. He has also worked as a private consultant to several resource agencies and NGOs. He holds a B.S. in Ecology from San Diego State University with a specialty in wetland ecology. He worked for Dr. Joy Zedler at the Pacific Estuarine Research Lab for six years, researching rare plants and monitoring estuaries for fish, invertebrates, water quality, and vegetation. He lives with his family in Encinitas.
Sarah Godfrey has worked in wildland habitats and across highly urbanized landscapes throughout California, treating invasive species and developing partnerships to implement integrated plant control strategies. After working for non-profit Land Trusts for more than fifteen years, Sarah has expanded her scope of work to provide mapping and data management services to the greater global community. She combines significant field knowledge of flora and fauna monitoring methodologies with Remote Sensing and GIS capacity to understand change across multiple scales in ecological communities. Sarah has been restoring native plant communities and controlling invasive weeds since 2003, and maintained a Qualified Applicator Certificate with the Department of Pesticide Regulation throughout that time. Sarah has a B.A. in Environmental Studies (Conservation Biology) from University of California at Santa Cruz, and a M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology from the University of Southern California.
Dr. Metha Klock is an Assistant Professor at San José State University in the Department of Environmental Studies. She specializes in invasive species biology and restoration ecology. Her research focuses on better understanding the mechanisms that drive invasive plant establishment to inform and improve environmental restoration. She is particularly interested in the role that interspecific interactions play in species invasions and has targeted plants in the legume family that are native to Australia and have been introduced to, colonized, and invaded natural areas in California. Dr. Klock has also examined the expansion of native species due to climate change in the northernmost city in the world, Tromsø, Norway, studied the life history of the highly invasive shrub, Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) in Louisiana, and evaluated the nitrogen-fixing potential of legume cover crops for organic farming. Dr. Klock received her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University (LSU), her M.A. in Forestry from LSU, and her B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. She served as a Post-Doctoral Associate at Cornell University studying cover crops and sustainable agriculture.
Michael is an Environmental Scientist with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) where he is involved in environmental clearances, encroachment permitting, and GIS-related work across California. Prior to DWR, he worked at California State Parks, focusing on regulatory compliance, monitoring, outreach, and control efforts for invasive aquatic plants in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its southern tributaries. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies from California State University, Sacramento, in addition to Certificates in Field Ecology and GIS. Outside of work, he enjoys gardening with native plants, playing musical instruments, lounging around with his dogs, spending time at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and volunteering as a Snowy Plover Docent at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Tanya Meyer is a Program Manager at the Yolo County Resource Conservation District in Woodland, CA. She grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas and went off to UC Davis to earn a B.S. and an M.S. in Community and Regional Development. She has been restoring native plant communities and controlling invasive weeds since 2000. Tanya has worked at Hedgerow Farms (California native plant seed producers), and the Center for Land-Based Learning’s Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship Program, doing restoration with high school students along the Sacramento River and tributaries. She worked at the YCRCD from 2006 – 2010 as a vegetation management specialist controlling invasive and noxious weeds and again since 2016 and is currently managing restoration projects and the newly resurrected Yolo County Weed Management Area. She also spent six years in Northern Central Pennsylvania controlling invasive plants along 45 miles of stream bank. Tanya holds a Qualified Applicator License and certifiably dislikes invasive plants.
Deputy Agricultural Commissioner, Sealer of Weights & Measures, El Dorado County Agriculture Department
Scott Oneto is a farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension serving El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. Scott has been with UCCE since 1999 serving in various capacities as a researcher, educator, and administrator. He possesses a B.S. in Plant Sciences and a M.S. in Weed Science both from UC Davis. As a weed scientist much of his research focuses on developing weed control strategies and preventing the spread of non-desirable plants. Over the past twenty years, he has developed control strategies for several invasive weeds including Scotch broom, tree tobacco, hedge parsley, periwinkle, houndstongue, oblong spurge, skeletonweed, and several others. Scott lives in the gold rush town of Jackson with his wife Cheryl and their four-legged companions. During their free time they enjoy gardening, camping, hiking, biking, wine/beer tasting, and travelling the globe.
Stephanie Ponce is a Wildlife Biologist with a specialty in vegetation pest management. She works as a Vegetation Management Specialist with California Department of Transportation in Alameda County and holds an Agricultural Pesticide Control Advisor (PCA) License. Stephanie is always inspired to protect wildlife habitat and provide and promote responsible weed management. Stephanie received her Bachelor’s in Wildlife Management and Conservation Biology at Humboldt State University and also attended Humboldt’s Secondary Education Credential Program in life science. Though Stephanie has not elected a career in education, she uses her educator skillset daily in her profession life as well as for her vernal pool and other outdoor volunteering endeavors and raising her two young daughters. After years of enjoying temporary assignments as a field biologist surveying flora and fauna of both terrestrial and marine habitats, Stephanie began her career with the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) working with the Natural Community Conservation Planning program in San Diego. It was her San Diego experience that drove her passion for land management and obtaining her PCA license. Stephanie now lives in Sacramento County with her husband and two daughters, where they enjoy all things outdoors, music, family, and friends.
Lauren is a botanist in the Cleveland National Forest, where she enjoys planning and implementing various restoration and weed removal projects, and surveying and monitoring rare plants. Lauren holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology and a Master of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Cal Poly Pomona. Aside doting over her mini succulents and small patio garden, her other favorite past time is meandering through montane meadows and tracking the Laguna aster (Dieteria asteroides ssp. lagunensis) in the Laguna Mountains. Lauren is excited to assist in supporting the Cal-IPC mission and providing resources to students and land managers. She looks forward to connecting and sharing ideas with fellow Cal-IPC members!
Tom is a lifelong Californian who grew up in Los Angeles and has a degree in Environmental Studies from San Francisco State University. He has spent his career working for land management agencies in California concentrating on botany and invasive plant management. Tom worked as a Biological Science Technician performing plant surveys throughout Yosemite National Park, ran an interagency vegetation program as a Natural Resource Specialist with Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and most recently worked as the IPM Coordinator with Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. He is now the Vegetation Field Data Specialist for the California Native Plant Society.
Marcos has served as Director at Audubon Center at Debs Park for nearly two years, and during that time has nurtured a growing community of volunteers, youth, and community organizations; implemented a facility and grounds improvement plan; and partnered with the National Parks Service to establish the only native plant nursery in northeast Los Angeles. Born and raised in Northeast LA, Marcos has deep roots in the community. Prior to coming to Debs, he served as Director of Audubon Youth Environmental Stewards (a program of the Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society), where he engaged and inspired community members to connect to nature and their community through restoration and volunteer science projects. He has also spent time as a Biology Technician for the U.S. Forest Service and an Urban Forester for organizations such as Northeast Trees and TreePeople. Marcos’ formal education is in geology and anthropology. Marcos is an avid birder, and frequently he leads trips to the LA River, Owens Lake, and the Salton Sea.
Katherine Brafford is a PhD Student at UC Davis in the Ecology Graduate Group (Funk Lab) and a Eugene Cota-Robles Fellow. Her research interests include weed and invasive plant ecology, trait-environment interactions, plant community composition, phenotypic plasticity, and ecophysiology. She is from the mountainous California-Oregon border region and has worked on several ecological restoration projects on family land. Katherine graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Plant Sciences and a minor in Religious Studies. For her senior honors thesis, she investigated the potential adaptive changes in yellow starthistle to serpentine soils in California. During her undergraduate years at Davis, she worked in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s Sustainable Horticulture Learning by Leading Program. Katherine is working towards a career that bridges the divide between experts, who do research, and lay people, who work with and manage land.
Rebecca Nelson is a PhD Student at UC Davis in the Ecology Graduate Group in the Harrison Lab. Her research interests include invasive plant ecology, community ecology, global change biology and restoration ecology. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in Ecology and Evolution and minors in Creative Writing and Science Communication. Her undergraduate research included examining plant-herbivore interactions in California oaks, comparing the thermal tolerances of invasive ants and native ants, and investigating wood density-allometry relationships in California trees and shrubs. For her dissertation, she is currently researching how the invasion of hairy vetch affects plant-pollinator interactions in California grasslands. Rebecca is working towards an academic career as a professor. She hopes to foster partnerships between the applied and academic sides of plant invasion ecology.
Clarissa Rodriguez is a PhD student at UC Riverside in Dr. Loralee Larios’s lab. Her research focuses on investigating the drivers and impacts of invasive species in dryland systems. Clarissa received her B.S. in Environmental Biology from Cal Poly Pomona in 2017. She has since worked as a Restoration technician for Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in California, as well as a Field Botany technician for the Institute for Applied Ecology in Oregon. Clarissa also actively engages in outreach programs and events directed towards engaging youth and underrepresented minorities in STEM. Her ultimate goal is to become a professor at a university where she can engage in translational invasion ecology to help bridge the gap between scientists and land managers, while pursuing her love for teaching.
Stuart Schwab is a graduate student at UC Riverside in the Botany and Plant Science department co-advised by Loralee Larios and Darrel Jenerette. He received his B.A. in Biology from Occidental College in 2016. His dissertation research is focused on how invasive plants prevent the establishment of native species even after the invasive have been removed. During his graduate work, he has worked with land managers from state parks, conservation agencies, and agricultural natural reserve systems to merge management concerns with basic science questions in his dissertation chapters. He hopes to continue to integrate and center the invaluable insights and perspectives of land managers with ecological questions to form better research projects to address why native species recovery fails. His ultimate goal is to become a cooperative extension specialist and improve upon the academic scientist manager communication bridge.
Doug Johnson, Executive Director
Doug became Cal-IPC’s first staff person in 2002. He holds an M.A. in Geography from San Francisco State University with an emphasis on conservation biology, GIS, and perceptions of wilderness. He is a Switzer Environmental Fellow. Doug also holds an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. He has worked in wildland weed control with California State Parks and The Nature Conservancy, and as a private consultant. Other work experience includes municipal energy conservation, engineering design, environmental and science education. Doug served as the first chair of the California Invasive Species Advisory Committee, and currently serves as treasurer for the National Association of Invasive Plant Councils. He is a founding member of the California Horticultural Invasives Prevention (Cal-HIP) partnership and the PlantRight partnership. In his spare time, Doug plays soccer and has fun with two sons. Email Doug.
Agustín Luna, Director of Finance, Operations and Administration
Agustin is an administrative senior manager and executive with over 30+ years of experience. He has worked with professional non-profit arts organizations like the Hollywood Bowl, Cal Performances, South Coast Repertory, and is currently the Executive Director of Savage Jazz Dance Company. Agustin was the General Manager of Movement Strategy Center, where he oversaw finance, human resources, IT, operations, facility management, and the fiscal sponsorship program of the organization. Previously, Agustin worked with college students in UC Berkeley’s Student Music Activities Department and high school students in Oakland School for the Arts charter school, teaching the fundamentals of arts administration and management. Agustin is an avid salsa dancer and instructor, and is a presenter of salsa events through his company Agustin Luna Presents. He has danced Bomba y Plena with Bay Area Boricuas, assisted them in their initial organizing as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, and briefly served as their Managing Director. He was for 5 years the Board Treasurer of the 501(c)(3) non-profit Center for Media Justice, now known as Media Justice. Agustin is one of the last beneficiaries of California’s elementary school music program that ended in the mid-1980s and has played his trumpet continuously since 1982. He hopes that music in the schools does not disappear and supports efforts to keep it alive. Email Agustin.
Jutta Burger, Science Program Director
Jutta moved from Southern California to the Bay Area to join Cal-IPC in fall 2018. She has had a life-long fascination with plants and can date the germination of her interest in invasive species and conservation many years ago to a high school field trip to a small prairie preserve in the Palouse in eastern Washington. Formerly, she served as Managing Director of the Science and Stewardship Department at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, which manages nearly 40,000 acres of open space in Orange County and where she oversaw their natural resource management staff and programs. Prior to joining the Conservancy, she sampled several different environments, completing a bachelor’s at Washington State University, a master’s at the University of Nebraska, a PhD at UC Riverside, and spending a year at the University of Georgia as a post-doctoral researcher. Her interests lie in understanding invasiveness from a biological, ecological, and evolutionary perspective, and in preserving our native ecosystems by properly prioritizing and implementing invasive control, developing native seed resources, and facilitating restoration. She previously served as Cal-IPC President and as Board Secretary. Email Jutta.
Bertha McKinley, Program Assistant
Bertha is an avid gardener using mostly natives who came to Cal-IPC in 1992 after recognizing the threat posed by invasive plants to native plant habitats. She started volunteering in our office in 2004 and is now part-time staff. Bertha handles membership communications and data, runs our sales program, and assists on projects. She holds a B.A. in English (with a minor in Biology) and a M.A. in Education from UC Berkeley. She was formerly president of the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, served on its state board, and is currently the chair of the CNPS poster program. In her spare time, she volunteers in the canine training program at the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society. Email Bertha.
Claire F. Meyler, Communications & Development Manager
Claire joined Cal-IPC in 2017, bringing 16 years of experience in non-profit administration and communications. She started her career at the Oakland Museum of California, providing marketing and fundraising support, to help exceed their goal of $62.2 million for the museum’s complete transformation. Claire then joined Kulintang Arts, Inc. (Kularts), where she re-designed the organization’s website and digital communications to promote a busy events calendar. As marketing manager and webmaster at Yosemite Conservancy, she oversaw the creation of the biannual magazine and annual report. At Cal-IPC, Claire leads our membership and fundraising efforts, marketing and outreach, database oversight, and training and events planning. In her free time, Claire enjoys several creative pursuits, including: tending a veggie garden, drawing, sewing or knitting clothes, and exploring nature with her family. Email Claire.
Constance Taylor, Conservation Specialist
Constance grew up in Ohio and spent her free time as a kid harassing bugs, climbing trees, and pretending to be a witch. One of her favorite places to make potions out of mud and twigs was under the cave-like boughs of a shrub she dearly loved — which she now knows as the highly invasive Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). As she grew up, life took her on a winding path — she explored careers as an editor at a comic book publishing company, a muralist, and a car mechanic; she traveled the world and had opportunities to be involved in trail crews in Appalachia, an endangered wallaby breeding program in Australia, a feminist comic book shop in New Zealand, a lion research project in Mozambique, and a community muralist at a women’s shelter in Guatemala. All this time, Constance kept learning about the ecologies around her, realizing that many of the plant species she saw in her travels were starting to look familiar because she was seeing them everywhere. Thus began a long-standing fascination with invasive organisms and IPM principles! Since moving to Oakland in 2010, Constance has worked with dozens of environmental organizations around the Bay Area. She brings to Cal-IPC 15+ years of experience tailoring information to audiences; blending cultural literacy and JEDI principles into environmental education; providing naturalist outreach and adult-centered education; and developing, coordinating, and marketing programs. Email Constance.
Nikki Valentine, Conservation Specialist
Nikki is a graduate of Reed college in Portland, Oregon, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. Since graduating she has held several positions collecting ecological data throughout the Great Basin Region. She has partnered with agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Department of Wildlife to collect rangeland health data in support of nationwide monitoring programs. She has also supported the Seeds of Success program in the collection and documentation of plant materials throughout Nevada. The seed she collected is being put to use in restoration and research studies throughout the Great Basin region. Outside of work, Nikki enjoys spending time in the Sierra Nevada mountains, snowboarding, and botanizing. Email Nikki.