Sky Island Alliance has a skilled and passionate staff, dedicated to getting great things done in the Sky Islands. We welcome you to join us in the field, meet us at the office, attend our special events, and get to know us in person!
Louise MisztalExecutive Director
I’ve worked at Sky Island Alliance for the past nine years, most recently as Conservation Director. I was the principal architect of a regional climate change adaptation workshop series designed for resource managers to advance understanding of impacts on ecosystems and wildlife. This led directly to critical new work to survey, protect and restore fragile spring ecosystems. In 2015, I conducted sabbatical work in Australia, where I met with natural resource colleagues to share methodologies for assessing vulnerability of biodiversity, water sources, and human communities to climate change, and developing responsive science, policy and adaptation strategies. I’m committed to crafting creative solutions to pressing conservation issues and building collaboration among diverse partners. I’m currently principal investigator on a project to collaboratively develop a climate-smart landscape conservation design for the Sky Island Region, focused on springs, streams and grasslands. I hold a B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, a B.S. in Microbiology, and an M.S. in Geographic Information Systems, all from the University of Arizona. For my Master’s work, I mapped bi-national conservation priorities for wildlife corridor and habitat protection in the Sky Island region. I am currently Vice Chair of the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and a member of the Community Water Coalition Advisory Committee, the Art and Environment Network Executive Committee and the Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Change Adaptation Fund Advisory Committee. I love hiking desert rivers and Sky Island creeks to look for birds and swimming holes, and seeking out quiet camping spots with lots of bear sign nearby.
Revisit Louise’s sabbatical in Australia on her blog, Springs Down Under.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 19
Emily BurnsProgram Director
Emily Burns, Ph.D. joined Sky Island Alliance in 2019 with 15 years of research, conservation, and restoration experience. Most recently, Emily was the Science Director for Save the Redwoods League in California. As Science Director, she led the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative, Redwood Genome Project, multiple conservation planning efforts, and co-founded Redwoods Rising, a public-private partnership to restore more than 70,000 acres of logged coast redwood forest in Redwood National and State Parks. She started the citizen science project, Fern Watch, to track the health of a common understory plant (Western sword fern) along forests of the Pacific Northwest to learn how climate change and recent drought affects this inhabitant of coastal forests. Under Emily’s leadership, Save the Redwoods League established a restoration program, grew the education program to teach more students how climate change affects their local forests, grew a stewardship program to care for thousands of acres of private redwood forestland, and sequenced the coast redwood and giant sequoia genomes to aid conservation efforts for the species. Emily received her doctorate in 2010 from the University of California, Berkeley in Integrative Biology and conducted postdoctoral research on drought tolerance in ferns at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she remains a research associate today. Emily lives in Tucson with her family which includes three rescue tortoises that have been in the family for more than 30 years. You can read more about Emily’s work on DoctorFern.org.
Emily spent her early career studying how plants adapt to drought and is fascinated by the climate extremes within the Madrean Archipelago of the Sonoran Desert. While working in the coast redwood forest of Northern California, she discovered that most redwood forest plants are able to absorb fog water directly into their leaves and stems, an adaptation helping redwood forest flora take advantage of ephemeral water sources and stay hydrated during rainless times of year. She also discovered that the most common plant in the coast redwood forest, Western sword fern, shrinks in size during drought, making this species an excellent indicator of forest hydration and climate change. Emily is eager to learn more about the unique adaptations of the Sky Island species and dedicate herself to protecting the diversity of life, habitats, and water sources of this spectacular region. When she isn’t hiking around in hopes of witnessing reptiles like desert tortoises and gila monsters in the wild, she enjoys doing modern botanical embroidery.Phone: (520)624-7080 ext. 14
Maggie TrinkleChief Financial Officer
I returned to The Old Pueblo in 2010 after straying miles from home. In my twelve years away from Tucson, I worked as a quality and systems manager for a manufacturing firm in Silicon Valley, started my own internet solutions business, and, most importantly, created a few DNAlings. Once my son and daughter were of school age, I was ready for my next journey and found Sky Island Alliance. I appreciate the atmosphere of learning and collaboration here, and that I am able to give back to the region that nurtured me into adulthood all those years ago. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Operations Management from the Eller College at the University of Arizona. I provide program support behind the scenes, and mange our accounting and finances. In my free time, I exercise in excess, write, dance, and secretly arrange fresh roses from my garden on my coworkers’ desks.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 10
Daniel ArmentaDevelopment Director
My roots run deep in Tucson. I was born and raised here just like my parents and their parents before them. As early as I can remember I have looked on at the mountains surrounding the city with awe and wonder. To this day, when the sun catches the peaks of the Catalinas just right, I’m stopped in my tracks! This appreciation for the wildlands around me was a gift from my parents who, on most weekends, would take me on long drives throughout Southern Arizona. Along with my wife who is also a steadfast environmentalist, we hope to give our two sons the same gift. After graduating from the University of Arizona, I had the opportunity to work for some incredible organizations such as Native Seeds SEARCH and The Tucson Audubon Society and ultimately spent eight amazing years as a horticulturist at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. It was there that I gained an interest in fundraising and began to focus on helping the organizations I love work together with their supporters to build resources to make real change in the community and the environment. I have admired the mission of Sky Island Alliance for as long as I can remember and I am so grateful to be a part of it.Phone: (520) 624-7080 ext. 11
Bryon LichtenhanField Coordinator
I was born and raised in Tucson, and the deserts and mountains of the Sky Island Archipelago have always been my source of inspiration, beauty, solace and so much more. I am constantly struck by the amazing diversity of this place, and I feel that there is no more important work than the protection and restoration of the planet upon which we live, and the building of a deep connection between people and the natural world. My background as a homesteader and permaculturalist, ancestral skills instructor, tree service technician, and nature guide and educator, as well as my studies of Biology, Ecology, and Anthropology at institutions such as Carleton College in Northfield, MN and Prescott College in Tucson, have made me keenly aware of our undeniable connection to, and dependence upon, the natural world for our lives and livelihoods. While my principal duties at SIA involve interacting with our amazing volunteers to prepare and implement our restoration and spring assessment field work, I am also an instructor with our wildlife tracking workshops and other education efforts. In my free time I might be found birding in our borderlands, partaking in a backcountry deer hunt, or sleeping next to a fire made by friction, under a hand-made shelter, up some hidden Sky Island canyon. I feel truly inspired by the chance to collaborate with all my remarkable co-workers as we help to improve the vitality of our native plants, animals and habitats, while creating a greater appreciation for, and understanding of, our incredible Sky Islands.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 27
Sami HammerConservation Biologist & GIS Specialist
I work with Sky Island Alliance’s Adopt-A-Spring monitoring, restoration weekend trips, and spatial analysis and mapping. I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Trinity University and a Master’s degree in Natural Resources from The University of Arizona. My Master’s thesis explored how the vegetative, hydrological, and geomorphological characteristics of ephemeral and intermittent streams influence their use by wildlife species of concern. Before coming south, I worked in Wyoming and Idaho as a wildlife technician surveying for species such as Wyoming pocket gophers and pygmy rabbits, as a range technician inventorying range improvements on BLM allotments, and even as a recreation/wildlife intern mapping two-track dirt roads. While living in Tucson as a student, I spent many weekends exploring the Sky Islands. I am excited to continue to work in and learn about this region as a part of SIA. I love exploring new landscapes, starry nights, ridge tops, and the quiet of remote places.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 16
Mirna MantecaMexico Conservation Manager
Hiking and camping through the stunning Sonoran sky islands every summer as a child triggered my profound love for open spaces and wildlife. My wild childhood lead me directly to study biology in University of Sonora. I recently worked alongside CONANP in the wildlife monitoring department of Ajos-Bavispe National Forest Reserve and Wildlife Refuge. Using remote cameras and track identification techniques we monitored the priority species of Sierra Los Ajos. I also worked in beaver and black- tailed prairie dog monitoring and conservation efforts in the San Pedro Watershed along with Naturalia. Working side by side with landowners we strove to protect two species that can be controversial to local ranchers, and to preserve the very last black-tailed prairie dog colony in the state of Sonora. I have a deep passion for butterflies and am on a constant quest to learn more about the incredible diversity of Sonoran butterflies. Ideal days for me involve a good hike, the swishing of butterfly nets, and an evening serenaded by the reassuring sound of coyote songs in the distance.
Recorriendo las impresionantes islas del cielo Sonorenses todos los veranos como niña desencadenó mi profundo amor por los espacios abiertos y la vida silvestre. Mi infancia me llevó directamente a estudiar Biología en la Universidad de Sonora. Recientemente trabajé en conjunto con CONANP en el departamento de monitoreo de fauna de la Reserva Forestal Nacional y Refugio de Fauna Silvestre Ajos-Bavispe. Utilizando cámaras trampa y técnicas de identificación de seña monitoreamos las especies prioritarias de Sierra Los Ajos. Asímismo, trabajé en monitoreo y esfuerzos de conservación de castor y perrito de la pradera en la Cuenca del Río San Pedro en conjunto con Naturalia. Trabajando lado a lado con propietarios de predios nos esforzamos en proteger dos especies controversiales para los ganaderos locales, y para preservar la última colonia de perrito de la pradera en el estado de Sonora. Tengo una pasión por las mariposas y constantemente busco aprender más sobre la increíble diversidad de mariposas de Sonora. Días ideales para mí involucran una buena caminata, redes de mariposa y una noche acompañada por la serenata de coyotes en la distancia.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 15
Emma Rocio FajardoBilingual Conservation Coordinator
I immigrated to Tucson from Durango, Mexico, 17 years ago and have been in love with the Sonoran Desert ever since. While growing up in Durango I spent most of my time outdoors, exploring the natural world any way that I could. When my family immigrated to Tucson, it was very easy to continue that tradition, since the Sky Islands always provided a place to feel at home while I adjusted to my new life in the US. Nature was my safe place, it was my constant in a life where everything had been turned around, so even at that early age I understood that my duty would be to protect the very same spaces that had once protected me. For that reason, I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Arizona and began my conservation career working as a Biologist Technician at Saguaro National Park. While on-the-ground restoration has been one of my passions, years of experience in the field of environmental conservation and a Masters of Science in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University have shown me that equity in access, diversity in participation and decision-making, and environmental justice are all equally as important to me. Consequently, working for Sky Island Alliance has been a dream come true. I am grateful to be in a position where not only do I get to implement and advance my ecological restoration skills, but I also have the opportunity to work with diverse stakeholders and facilitate the path for participation for underrepresented audiences.
Emigré a Tucson desde Durango, México, hace 17 años y desde entonces amo el desierto de Sonorense. Mientras crecía en Durango, pasaba la mayor parte de mi tiempo al aire libre, explorando el mundo natural de cualquier manera que podía. Cuando mi familia emigró a Tucson, fue muy fácil continuar esa tradición ya que las Islas Serranas siempre me proporcionaron un lugar para sentirme en hogar mientras me adaptaba a mi nueva vida en los EE. UU. La naturaleza era mi lugar seguro, era mi constante en una vida donde todo había cambiado, por lo que incluso a esa temprana edad comprendí que mi deber sería proteger los mismos espacios que una vez me habían protegido a mí. Por esa razón obtuve una Licenciatura en Geografía de la Universidad de Arizona y comencé mi carrera de conservación trabajando como técnica bióloga en el Parque Nacional Saguaro. Si bien la restauración en el terreno ha sido una de mis pasiones, años de experiencia en el campo de la conservación ambiental y una Maestría en Ciencias en Dimensiones Humanas de Recursos Naturales de la Universidad Estatal de Colorado me han demostrado que la equidad en el acceso, la diversidad en participación y la toma de decisiones y la justicia ambiental son igualmente importantes para mí. En consecuencia, trabajar para Sky Island Alliance ha sido un sueño hecho realidad. Estoy agradecida de estar en una posición en la que no solo llego a implementar y avanzar mis habilidades de restauración ecológica, sino que también tengo la oportunidad de trabajar con públicos diversos y facilitar el camino para la participación de audiencias poco representadas.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 18
Meagan BethelConservation Coordinator
I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona and my passion for biodiversity and interest in wildlife conservation began with riding on my father’s shoulders. Pointing out wildlife, crouching under bushes, and peering under rocks. I learned to love the Sky Island region and appreciate the species that occupy it. But my interest in wildlife conservation started in 4th grade when a Sky Island Alliance employee came to my class to teach us about the ocelot, and I was hooked. I have volunteered with Sky Island Alliance ever since, helping with tracking workshops, checking and analyzing remote camera data, and conducting my own research projects in High School to better understand the environment around us. I followed my passion for wildlife and habitat conservation all throughout school and I graduated from the University of Arizona in the School of Natural Resources with an emphasis on wildlife conservation and management. In my free time I love doing art especially drawing wildlife, as well as horseback riding, community theater, and costuming.Phone: (520)624-7080 ext. 28
Georgina WallerDevelopment Assistant
Georgina Waller joined Sky Island Alliance in 2019. Georgina was born and raised in Nogales, Arizona,
and graduated from the University of Arizona earning her bachelor’s degree in merchandising and
fashion promotion. She spent over 30 years in the retail merchandising world gaining considerable
experience in sales, buying, marketing and management. Towards the end of her career, she provided
administrative support to members of Stores district management team. Georgina and her husband
enjoy watching sports and spending time with family and friends. One of their favorite activities is
attending their two youngest grand-daughters softball games.
Marci Caballero-Reynolds – Intern2017 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar
Join us in welcoming our 2017 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, Marci Layden! Read up on Marci’s many accomplishments and her excitement about working with Sky Island Alliance this summer:
I grew up overseas and began my curiosity for the world and its species at a very young age. I am a student at the University of Arizona majoring in Natural Resource Management with a concentration in Global Change Ecology and Management. I’m joining Sky Island Alliance as an intern under the Doris
Duke Conservation Scholar’s program, which promotes diversity, leadership, and education for students in the natural resources field. I have a keen interest in soils and the unseen world that lives
beneath us. I hope to one day be able to understand how underground processes work using remote sensing technologies and apply this to agricultural settings. I have a previous degree in Printmaking and use this as a tool to promote visual aids in scientific fields. I come to Sky Island Alliance with four years of trail work around the West and a fascination for the biodiversity that surrounds us. I am an avid gardener, cyclist, hiker, lover of food, artist, and all around curious person. That being said I am extremely excited to be interning at Sky Island Alliance for the summer of 2017 and continue this journey of learning!
Vivian Garcia – Intern
2019 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar
I am in my senior year at Cornell University studying Environmental and Sustainability Sciences with a concentration in Policy and Governance and a minor in Climate Change, Archeology, Anthropology, Latinx Studies and Law and Society.
I’m a second generation Mexican American from Los Angles, which played a monumental role in how I began to view the environment and our place in it. I was able to see how the environment included forests and concrete jungles, and how a diversity of perspectives, greatly affects how you view nature. Being raised in a culturally Latino home and a culturally American world has allowed me to see firsthand how different communities see and value the world differently. Without urban environments, I couldn’t fully conceptualize what “natural” environments meant, and without the Latino values I was raised with I could not fully appreciate my American Values and vice versa.
I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program and Sky Island Alliance has afforded me to pursue my childhood dreams of making the environment a better place for all of the diverse living things that call this beautiful place home!
Joshua Pil – Intern
2019 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar
I study Environmental Technology and Management at North Carolina State University. After graduation, I hope to find a career in habitat restoration working with invasive plants, unsustainable urban development, or any other human stressors on the environment. I am a first generation Filipino American born in New York but raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the weather is humid but moderate. I decided to work in the sweltering heat of Arizona because I understand the importance of an open mind when dealing with issues in conservation, so I make an effort to expand my perspective with global experiences. Although I can draw parallels between the problems of North Carolina and Arizona, such as habitat fragmentation, pollution, and urban sprawl, the vast differences in our problems still amazes me. Water management in Arizona is much more important than in North Carolina due to limited access and wildlife management is complicated by political borders. I have left my comfort zone, but I am rewarded every day by meeting people from different walks of life, sharing their experiences and how they deal with the problems in their part of the world.
Mary Rose Davis – Intern
2019 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar
I am studying wildlife conservation and management at the University of Arizona. Moving throughout the whole country, I gained a true appreciation for nature, all kinds of people, and their culture.
Being with nature gives me peace, serenity, and freedom, this made me want to extend my knowledge of conservation and make nature and wildlife accessible to all people. This influenced me to major in wildlife conservation and management and why I’m so excited to be in the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program and to intern at Sky Island Alliance. I wish to not only gain professional experience in helping wildlife via research but I also hope to help all people learn more about the world around them and enable them to enjoy the great pleasures of the environment. I hope that these amazing opportunities will help me as I continue on to attend graduate school for forestry or restoration in the hopes of one day working to restore habitats for both wildlife and people.