Meet Our Chief Executive Officer


Stephanie SklarStephanie Sklar joined the Sonoran Institute as its Chief Executive Officer in October 2014. Prior to joining the Sonoran Institute, Stephanie served as Director of  Development for the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona since 2010. At the U of A, Stephanie was responsible for directing and managing all fund development activities for the Institute. Prior to working for the University of Arizona, she was the Executive Director of Social Venture Partners of Greater Tucson from 2007 – 2010. Sklar was formerly the Executive Director of the Arizona League of Conservation Voters, Arizona’s largest member-supported statewide conservation organization with offices in Tucson and Phoenix. Before moving to Arizona in 1994, Sklar was Vice President for Public Affairs for the National Wildlife Federation, the largest environmental education organization in the US. While in DC, she also served as Vice President for Communications at The Nature Conservancy in Arlington, VA, and was appointed by President Reagan as Communications Director for the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors. She also was an Associate Director of the Small Business Center for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. A graduate of Vassar College, Sklar earned her M.A.T. in English from Brown University and studied post-graduate business at George Washington University.

ALL Tucson Phoenix Mexicali
Laurel Arndt
Project Manager
602-393-4310 ext 312

Laurel Arndt is a Program Manager for the Sun Corridor Legacy Program in Phoenix, Arizona. She is an environmental and urban planner who has specialized in interdisciplinary impact analysis in social and natural sciences and strategic regulatory planning. She has over 15 years of broad environmental, urban, and conservation planning experience which includes environmental assessments, ecological inventory and site analysis, master planning, site planning, and public participation planning, environmental education and  policy analysis and development. She has spent many years working with the public and private sector to develop and preserve open space, recreation areas and trails. In her spare time she can be found mountain biking, rock climbing or mountaineering.

Celedonia Alvarado Camacho
Restoration Assistant
Elise Christmon
Development Coordinator
520-290-0828 ext 1149

Elise has been working as Development Coordinator for the Sonoran Institute since November 2016 assisting with fundraising and development activities. She graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in Art History and German, specializing in Medieval art. Upon graduating Elise returned to her home town of Tucson and began working in the nonprofit arts community specializing in Business, Operations, and Development. Outside of work Elise enjoys volunteering her time helping animals, children, the outdoors, or a combination of all three. She is a dog and chicken enthusiast and hopes to someday welcome goats into her family.

Francisco Cisneros
General Assistant

Francisco joined the Sonoran Institute in 2014 and serves as General Assistant, supporting the administrative area of the Colorado River Delta Program. Paco, as the team calls him, makes sales, purchases, quotes and other administrative processes that support different projects of the program. He practices mechanics in his free time, an activity he performed before joining the team. He is married, has two daughters and loves to cook for his family.

Fernando Contreras
Geographic Information Systems Specialist

Fernando Contreras is our Geographic Information Systems Specialist. He joined the Sonoran Institute Mexico A.C. in October 2015. Fernando is responsible for actualizing the Colorado River Delta geographic database, making spatial analyses, and cartography production. Prior to joining Sonoran Institute Mexico A.C., Fernando worked as a Hydrologist at the Environmental and Geographic Direction from Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography.  He is a Geodetic and Surveyor Engineer from the Autonomous University from Baja California.

Seth Cothrun
Senior Director, Marketing & Development
520-290-0828 ext 1110

As the Senior Director of Marketing & Development, Seth is responsible for the Sonoran Institute’s brand and marketing strategies as well as leading the suite of development strategies that support the mission of the Sonoran Institute. He joined the Sonoran Institute in 2013 to build the organization’s corporate partnership program and still leads this growing effort. Prior to joining Sonoran Institute,  he spent almost 7 years managing business development and marketing initiatives throughout the Americas in the institutional asset management space, working with some of the largest public and private funds in the world. Prior to the financial industry, he spent several years as a project, then program, manager in the US Forest Service throughout the West, in addition to serving nationally on Type 1 Incident Management and Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation teams tasked with managing high complexity wildland fire incidents and post-fire effects. He has also lived and worked in México as a photographer. He holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago in Anthropology & Latin American Studies and a B.A. from the University of Arizona in Anthropology & Latin American History. He is a native of the Sonoran desert, but also loves the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming where his wife is from.

Oscar Delgado
Chief Finance & Administration Officer
520-290-0828 ext 1114

Oscar Delgado joined the Finance Department of the Sonoran Institute as the Chief Finance and Administration Officer in February, 2017. He brings over fifteen years of experience as a finance professional with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit sector. He provides leadership and strategic direction for all financial and administrative functions, while directly overseeing finance, accounting, human resources, and information technology. Oscar earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting from Robert Morris University in Chicago, IL, and a Master of Business Administration in financial planning from Saint Xavier University, also in Chicago, IL. Outside of work, he enjoys a variety of recreational activates that the Southwest has to offer and enjoys spending time with his son and family.

Ian Dowdy
Director - Sun Corridor Program
602-393-4310 ext 308

Ian is the Program Director for the Sun Corridor Legacy Program based in Phoenix. He began working for the organization in 2013 and is guiding the Sonoran Institute’s efforts on integrating long-term sustainability with growth and economic prosperity in the arid deserts of Arizona and California. Ian is a certified urban planner who has worked at municipalities and in private industry in Arizona. He specializes in crafting solutions that protect the natural and cultural heritage of the region while supporting economic development and promoting vibrant and high quality communities. Ian is leading a number of projects that involve renewable energy development, sustainable infrastructure, large-landscape conservation, military base protection, water sustainability, and resilient urban communities. In the past few years, Ian co-founded the White Tank Mountains Conservancy and the Arizona Alliance for Livable Communities and is serving on several committees in the region that focus on conservation and urban development. In 2013, the Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation plan that Ian helped to develop won the Best Project award from the American Planning Association-Arizona Chapter and was introduced into Congress. Among his many interests, Ian enjoys the outdoors, golf, performing arts, and is a singer and assistant choir director at his church.

Angelica Cruz Favela
Grants and Contracts Manager
520-290-0828 ext 1102

Angelica Favela, Grants & Contracts Manager joined in 2016. Her primary responsibilities include compliance, monitoring and financial reporting, budgetary review, and invoicing funders. She works closely with Program Directors and staff to insure that grant budgets and financial reporting needs are met. Angelica earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining SI Angelica was with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe from 2007-2016. During her time at the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Angelica worked in the Finance Department in several accounting fields, which included Accounts Payable, Enterprise Fiscal Analyst and Senior Grants & Contracts Accountant. Angelica is a proud member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe she loves to garden, ride in El Tour de Tucson and spend time with her family.

Guadalupe Fonseca Molina
Restoration Field Coordinator
Toni Garcia-Bullington
Executive Assistant
520-290-0828 ext 1113

Toni joined the Sonoran Institute staff in 2016 and serves as the Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer. Her responsibilities include being the primary point of contact for all matters pertaining to the CEO. She also serves as liaison to the board of directors and senior management teams; and oversees special projects.

Rocio Garcia Villanueva
Finance and Adminstrative Coordinator

Rocio Garcia is the Finance and Administrative Coordinator at the Sonoran Institute office in Mexicali, Baja California. She graduated from the University of Baja California with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and has completed several graduate courses in Marketing from the CETYS University (Center for Technical and Higher Education). Rocio worked for several years as the coordinator of EmpreSer de Mexico A.C. in collaboration with the University of Baja California implementing a free consultancy support project for university students to develop business plans and open small businesses in the area. She worked with AEURHYC (Ecological Association of Users of the Hardy and Colorado Rivers) to provide administrative support and recently worked as an assistant sales manager at a transport company. She is proficient in English and fluent in Spanish. Rocio has been married two years and has a 6 month old baby named Andrea. In her free time she enjoys looking for business opportunities to create hand-made crafts and confectionery for events.

Gabriela González Olimón
Environmental Education Coordinator - Colorado River Delta Program
+52 686-564-9399

Gabriela is the Environmental Education Coordinator for the Colorado River Delta Program at Sonoran Institute Mexico, A.C. in the Mexicali, Baja California. Since joining in 2016, Gaby focuses on promoting ecological restoration in communities near the Delta, coordinating school and community presentations and workshops, guiding interpretive walks in our restoration sites and developing the environmental education program. She holds a BS in Biology from Autonomus University of Baja California and has implemented environmental education programs in Baja California, Grand Canyon National Park, and in an ecology school in Maine. While exploring forests and deserts and climbing rocks for fun, she became passionate about fuzzy and feathered creatures from an early age. She also has experience in wildlife monitoring, especially the endangered California condor and bats. Gaby aims to inspire youth to be out in nature, she loves exploring new places and cooking.

Michelle Hernandez
Urban Projects Coordinator

Michelle Hernandez is the Urban Projects Coordinator for the Colorado River Delta program in the Mexicali office, where she is in charge of urban project implementation in the field. In 2016, Michelle and the team led the first urban project in the city of Mexicali, conducting drain sanitation along with government agencies and the community. She began working with Sonoran Institute in 2011 as a student conducting economic surveys with spring break visitors along the Colorado River. Michelle joined the organization as a full-time staff member in 2014. She has a Bachelors in Business Administration from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC). Additionally, she is a National Hammer Throw Gold Medalist and represented Baja California in Hammer Throw for 10 years.

Rabi E. Hernandez
Urban Projects Communication Coordinator
+52 686-582-54-31

Rabi is responsible for advising, developing, designing and implementing communication and dissemination strategies for our urban projects in Mexicali, including our Mexicali Fluye campaign. He joined the Sonoran Institute at the end of 2016, and previously worked as a freelancer, advising on marketing and corporate design for small businesses; event photography; community management; and generating audio/video content for governmental, educational, NGO and religious institutions. He as additional experience as a speaker, graphic designer, and institutional journalist. He holds degrees in Electromechanical Engineering from the Technological Institute of Tapachula (ITT), and Communication and Media from the University of Montemorelos (UM). Rabi was born in Chiapas in the small tropical town of Tuxtla Chico. He enjoys nature, piano, singing, and believes in collective development.

Fátima Luna
Project Manager - Environmental and Natural Resource Economist
520-290-0828 ext 1115

Fátima joined the Sonoran Institute in 2013 and serves as the Environmental and Natural Resource Economist for the Colorado River Delta Program. Fatima’s role in the program is to make a socioeconomic argument for Delta conservation. Fátima has experience conducting Benefit Costs Analysis, ecosystem valuation methods and economic impact of environmental, social, and cultural benefits of restoration efforts. She received a B.A. in Environmental Economics and Policy from the University of California Berkeley and a M.S. in Agriculture Resource Economics from the University of Arizona. Born and raised in a small rural farming community in Mexico, Fátima understands the value of rivers, wildlife, and culture. She has traveled throughout Mexico. Today, she enjoys home gardening with her husband and two children in South Tucson, AZ.

Sarah Martin
Development Manager
520-290-0828 ext 1150

Sarah Martin joined the Sonoran Institute as Development Manager in December 2016 and is responsible for the implementation of the Sonoran Institute’s annual fundraising plan, as well as donor cultivation and stewardship. Prior to joining the Sonoran Institute, Sarah worked for the Center for Biological Diversity where she developed a solid understanding of fundraising strategies, which included donor analytics, database administration, financial reporting, internet acquisitions, and direct donor response. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from the University of Arizona and as an undergraduate, worked as a research assistant in the UA’s Laboratory of Tree Ring Research. She also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador where she organized a women’s focus group and facilitated a micro-banking program. Sarah is a passionate baker and spent a number of years as a professional pastry chef. She is also an enthusiastic hiker and loves spending time outside with her husband and young daughter.

Sandra Ortiz
Ecological Restoration Coordinator

Sandra is the Ecological Restoration Coordinator. She is responsible for implementing the restoration projects for the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program. She joined the Sonoran Institute Mexico A.C. team at the end of 2016 and previously worked on restoration projects of mangrove and floodplain forest in Veracruz, México. She is a Renewable Natural Resources Engineer, from Universidad Autónoma de Chapingo and has a Masters in Integral Environmental Administration from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Carla Cristina Perea
Urban Projects Department Assistant

Cristina Perea has worked as the Urban Projects Department assistant since 2016. She holds an International Relations degree from the Social and Political Sciences Faculty of the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) and a master’s degree in Planning and Sustainable Development at the same institution. She is part of a contemporary dance group and she is also dedicated to teaching dance classes to young people.

Brandon Ruiz
Program Associate
602-393-4310 ext.307

Brandon began at the Sonoran Institute in 2016 as a Program Associate working under the Western Lands and Communities program — a joint partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Brandon is involved with program initiatives in the areas of water, resilient communities and exploratory scenario planning, working with a variety of stakeholders from city planners and academics, to local residents and organizations. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Sustainability and a Bachelor’s of Science in Urban Planning from Arizona State University, and will be pursuing a master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning. His main points of interest are in energy, community development and the interconnections between the natural and built environment. He has had the opportunity to be involved with local schools, businesses, and student organizations in a range of community engagement and leadership positions. Outside the office he enjoys exploring new places in between the calm of mountains and trees.

Dzoara E. Rubio López
Environmental Education Assistant
+52 686-564-93-99

Dzoara joined the Sonoran Institute in 2016 as an Environmental Education Assistant in the Colorado River Delta Program.  Her main responsibilities include supporting outdoor education processes, delivering talks, workshops and presentations in schools and community centers, and the development of educational programs and materials to raise public awareness of the importance of the Colorado River Delta. She holds a Communication Sciences degree from Autonomous University of Baja California(UABC), and with a nature love twist she has centered her professional development working on education and communication programs for the preservation of protected areas. Prior to Sonoran Institute, she spent five years working on Mexico’s National Commission of Protected Areas, and operated the Cultural Conservation program for Constitución de 1857 National Park in Sierra Juarez, Baja California, Mexico. Dzoara was born in the peaceful bay of Ensenada and loves every corner of it, especially its native plants. She’s also into cats, dance-karaoke therapy and ecofeminism.

Tomás Rivas Salcedo
Ecological Monitoring Coordinator

Tomás Rivas Salcedo is the Ecological Monitoring Coordinator for the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program and has been working in the program since 2012. Tomás is responsible for the implementation of vegetation, fauna and water quality monitoring in the Colorado River Delta and estuary area. He graduated in 1999 with a B.S. in Marine Biology from Autonomous University of Campeche with emphasis in ecology, and has implemented coastal zooplankton and water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico. He has experience in managing conservation and restoration projects in Southeastern Mexico and training in estuarine and coastal ecosystems restoration and management. He also has experience in wildlife monitoring, especially insects (bees, wasps and their nests), phylogenetic analysis, taxonomy and systematics.

Edith Santiago Serrano
Associate Director - Colorado River Delta Program

Edith Santiago is the Associate Director for the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program and has been working in the Program since 2005. Edith is responsible for overseeing the operation of the field office in Mexicali, including the administration and implementation of projects. She supports the Program in establishing work plans, identifying funding needs with foundations and private donors. She has experience managing conservation and restoration projects in Mexico and training in estuarine and coastal ecosystems restoration and management. Edith speaks Spanish and English and some French. She holds a master’s degree in Integrated Environmental Studies from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and studied Oceanology at the University of Baja California in Ensenada Baja California with emphasis in water quality.

Karen Schlatter
Adaptive Management Specialist, Program Manager - Colorado River Delta Program

Karen is the Adaptive Management Specialist for the Colorado River Delta Program and has been working in the Delta Program since 2010. Karen manages the ecological monitoring program, guides adaptive management of restoration sites, and provides program support in communications and fundraising. She is a co-manager of the Minute 319 binational monitoring team and specializes in vegetation monitoring and riparian restoration ecology. Karen has led research initiatives on wetland restoration success criteria in California and adaptive management of restoration treatments and environmental flows in the Delta. She enjoys working at the nexus of ecological restoration, policy, natural resource management, and social values. Karen has an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder and a B.S. in Biology from McGill University, Montreal. She previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay and is fluent in Spanish and Guaraní.

John Shepard
Senior Director of Programs
520-290-0828 ext 1108

John Shepard is the Senior Director of Programs at the Sonoran Institute, responsible for ensuring that the organization’s programs align with the mission and vision of the organization. John oversees all programs and works with staff in program planning, implementation, and evaluation. He also is responsible for new program development and assists with fundraising at the organizational and program level. John has launched the Institute’s renewable energy program, as well as training programs on community land-use planning for rural western county commissioners, integrating conservation into master-planned communities for developers, and partnership building for public land managers and gateway communities. He also established Building from the Best of Tucson, a project that promotes development consistent with Tucson’s building traditions and appropriate for a desert community. Before joining the Institute, John worked for seven years in resource development at The Wilderness Society and for five years conducting a series of investigative reports on federal health and safety programs for a consumer advocacy organization.

Jeremy Stapleton
Program Manager
602-393-4310 ext 307

Jeremy joined the Sonoran Institute in 2016 as Program Manager of Western Lands and Communities, a joint program between the Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy that looks at the economic, environmental and community needs of the West with a long-term, strategic perspective focusing on shaping growth, sustaining cities, protecting resources and empowering communities. Jeremy’s work aims to reconnect neighbors and nature and help people live lighter on the land and each other. His philosophy and strategies are inspired by over a decade in the fields of urban design, planning and landscape architecture and as a backcountry guide in Grand Canyon and throughout the world. He is currently Chair of the Environmental Quality Commission for the City of Phoenix and spends any remaining free time in his garden or wandering off into the wild to recharge with his family

Alfredo Ramos Tolento
Restoration Assistant
Ryan VanDero
Manager - Human Resources and Accounting
520-290-0828 ext 1128

A native of New Jersey, Ryan always dreamed of moving west.  That dream was realized in the fall of 2004 when he left behind all that he knew and took a (permanent) cross country road trip to Tucson, AZ.  Having spent his life until then in the lush northeast, the southwest was a bit different than he expected.  However, he quickly came to appreciate the natural beauty, great climate, and diverse wildlife of the Sonoran desert.  Ryan landed at Sonoran Institute in the spring of 2012 and has been a part of the team since.  Ryan provides human resources and finance support to our team and enjoys knowing his support helps keep the west an extraordinary place to live, one program at a time.

Francisco Zamora
Director - Colorado River Delta Program
520-290-0828 ext 1137

Francisco Zamora Arroyo joined the Sonoran Institute in April 2002 to manage activities in the Delta of the Colorado River. Dr. Zamora has more than fourteen years experience working in the Delta as a researcher and project manager. As the Director of the Colorado River Delta Legacy program, he is responsible for integrating community stewardship, applied science, and local values in an alliance to reform water policy, conserve and restore priority areas, and build knowledge and capacity for collaboration between water managers and local leaders. Over the past fourteen years Dr.Zamora has developed close relationships with Mexican and U.S. agencies involved in water and land management, and communicates frequently with regional or national officials dealing with issues in the Colorado River Delta. He spends a good portion of his time in the field working with communities, visiting potential restoration areas, and doing field research and restoration work. He obtained his Ph.D. in Resource Geography from Oregon State University in October 2002, with a minor in natural resource economics. He also holds a master’s degree in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University and a BS degree in Oceanography from Autonomous University of Baja California. He has published his work on ecological restoration, policy, and bi-national collaboration issues in the Delta.

Pedro Zapata
Finance coordinator
520-290-0828 ext 1133

Pedro Zapata joined the Sonoran Institute full time in 2016 as a Finance Coordinator. He is responsible for accounts payable in Tucson, accounting for our Mexicali office, and control of encumbrances. Pedro began his accounting career in his hometown, México City, in the mid-90s as an auditor for Ernst & Young. He also spent time in Ernst & Young administration. In addition to being an accountant, he also owns and runs a meat market in Tucson. He enjoys time with his wife and two daughters who are both in college.

Claire Zugmeyer
520-290-0828 ext 1143

Claire Zugmeyer is an Ecologist leading the Santa Cruz River Initiative within the Sun Corridor Program. Joining Sonoran Institute in 2007, she has led a variety of efforts including monitoring vegetation and fish along the river, production of the Living River series that summarizes the river health, and organization of the annual Research Days, an event promoting collaboration and awareness of regional research and conservation efforts. She completed a Masters in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology at the University of Arizona, a B.S. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution at the University of California, Los Angeles, and has worked on a variety of research and management projects focusing on birds, mammals, fish and amphibians, including Arizona’s endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel.

Looking to leave a legacy? Want to work with smart, passionate people? We’d love to chat with you. Browse the open positions we have on our team and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

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