Sky Island Heroes

We want to acknowledge some of the amazing people who are champions of conservation in the Sky Islands – from our annual awardees, to community volunteers, scientists, and advocates like you.  For every person we highlight here there are hundreds more, each doing their part to make this a more connected, healthy and vibrant place. Thank you!

Valeria Cañedo, Sky Island Hero

Valeria Cañedo has opened our eyes to the power and importance of young professionals in conservation. Under Valeria’s leadership, Alianza Mariposa Monarca has exceeded all of our expectations! In just one year she has smoothly led the group to a whole new level of volunteerism and commitment. Alianza Mariposa Monarca now has their own projects, fundraising events and volunteers helping them out. Through initiative and commitment, Valeria has demonstrated herself to be a dedicated leader with a promising future in pollinator conservation, and that’s why she deserves the title of Sky Island Hero!

Being a volunteer with Sky Island Alliance has been a great experience. I began volunteering in 2015 and since then, it has changed my life and the lives of other people who are involved in the Alianza Mariposa Monarca group, based in Sonora, Mexico. In July of 2017, I participated as an intern working on various projects related to pollinators. It was a great experience, thanks to the team at Sky Island Alliance for teaching me many things.

– Valeria

Julie and Billy Martin, Sky Island Heroes

It is with great pleasure that we at Sky Island Alliance announce our new Sky Island Heroes: Billy and Julie Martin! Billy and Julie joined us most recently on a springs assessment trip in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Julie has volunteered on numerous trips since 2015 (the spring assessment was Billy’s second outing), including multiple springs assessments, restoration work in Aravaipa Canyon, and a BioBlitz! This power couple has also donated multiple times in response to our seasonal appeals, and they have donated seed packets from their co-owned Native Seed Company for silent auctions.

(Julie even made brownies for everyone on the most recent spring assessment trip, which went over quite well with all the hard-working volunteers and staff members!)

Volunteering for Sky Island Alliance is always so rewarding. We get to explore places in our own backyard that we never knew existed. It is citizen science at its best. Most impressive has been the sincere gratitude shown by SIA staff every time we donate or volunteer.
– Billy and Julie

From the bottom of our heart, THANK YOU, Billy and Julie, for being our Sky Island Heroes!

Naomi Primero, 2016 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar

Naomi Primero, one of our amazing 2016 Doris Duke Conservation Scholars, spent three weeks this summer exploring and learning with us in the Sky Islands—and she wants to share her Sky Island Alliance story with you.

On our hikes lugging buckets of plants or searching for invasive fountain grass, each small patch of shade provided by the mesquite felt like a gift. I caught the merest glimpses of the magnificent hummingbird, heard the weirdly feline growl of the leopard frog, and saw three tiny fawns bound up the steepest rock face with their mother. I had never truly understood or sympathized with others’ love for rain, but when it poured in Patagonia—the first time the monsoons had hit since I had arrived in southeastern Arizona—I stood outside for over an hour and danced in the rain.

Margaret Evans

Margaret Evans is an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Arizona, teaching the concepts of Conservation Biology to our future biologists and scientists.  She frequently invites staff to give talks to her students about our work and encourages them to intern and volunteer. “We are fortunate to have in our community a world-class array of local conservation organizations — Sky Island Alliance, Cienegas Watershed Partnership, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, The Center for Biological Diversity, and the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, just to name a few. Amazing people get amazing things done here. SIA knocks my socks off every time I look into what they are up to! Sky Island Alliance does it all: mapping and advocating for wildlife corridors, biodiversity discovery expeditions, restoration, protected areas, and climate change adaptation. It is with great enthusiasm then, that I recently became a new member of SIA. There is no better way to affirm the beauty of this place, nor feel more at home in the amazing community, both natural and human.  Become a member of SIA!

Guillermo Molina Padilla, 2014 Volunteer of the Year

2014 Volunteer of the Year

Guillermo is the winner of our 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award, given to a Sky Island Alliance volunteer in recognition of his or her generous contribution of time, effort and dedication to scientific inquiry, restoration and protection of the Sky Island region. Guillermo is an Electromechanical Engineer with a Masters degree in Computing Sciences, from the Instituto Tecnológico de Nogales, Sonora. From an early age, Guillermo was interested in science and nature and he now combines his work with outdoor activities and volunteering near his hometown of Cananea, Sonora. He has hiked, camped and led hiking groups helping to forge an understanding of the need for conservation and restoration. Guillermo is a committed educator, combining his prior work in the local industry with technical classes as a professor, and is currently a coordinator of two engineering programs at Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Cananea (ITSC). Muchas gracias Guillermo!