Meet Our Chief Executive Officer


 

Michael Zellner joined the Sonoran Institute as chief executive officer in October 2020. Mike has 30 years of experience building award-winning collaborations for global organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Dow Jones & Co., and Euromoney. At The Nature Conservancy, Mike collaborated with international, regional and local stakeholders to conserve more than 450,000 acres, raise more than $30 million, build advisory boards in Latin America, and secure the largest corporate partnership in the history of the organization.

Before joining The Nature Conservancy, Mike worked for more than two decades as a business journalist in Mexico and the Americas. He helped to launch the editorial operations of AméricaEconomía (Dow Jones & Co.) and LatinFinance (Euromoney) in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Miami. At the end of the 1990s, Mike made the shift from editor-in-chief to owner, buying Miami-based business magazine Latin Trade. Mike led the publication to 27 editorial awards in seven years, and promoted the growth of the Bravo Business Awards into the premier awards ceremony in the Americas.

Mike studied Economics at Tufts University and speaks English, Spanish, and Portuguese fluently. Mike, his wife, artist and photographer Eugenia Vargas-Pereira, and their dog Batuco enjoy trekking, travel, and cooking.

 


ALL Tucson Phoenix Mexicali
Celedonia Alvarado Camacho
Restoration Assistant
+52-686-582-54-31
Luke Cole
Associate Director for Resilient Communities and Watersheds
520-290-0828 ext 1112

Luke became the associate director for Resilient Communities and Watersheds upon joining the Sonoran Institute in 2018. Luke manages the ongoing projects on the Santa Cruz River, working with staff and collaborators to restore and enhance this Living River in the heart of southern Arizona and northern Sonora. Prior to joining the Sonoran Institute, Luke worked for the Washington, D.C. city government tracking the District’s green infrastructure and water quality improvement programs with a focus on coordinating tree planting programs and policy. Luke has a Ph.D. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia, an M.S. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island, and a B.A. in biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Kim Egita
Chief Finance and Administration Officer
520-290-0828 ext.1114

Kim joined the Sonoran Institute in 2019 and serves as the chief finance & administration officer. Her primary responsibilities include all aspects of financial operations, financial reporting and forecasting, budgeting, and leadership among the finance and administration team both in the US and Mexicali. Kim earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Arizona and is a Certified Public Account. She also holds a certificate in management and organizations from the University of Arizona, Eller College. She has worked in the non-profit field for over 16 years in Tucson. In her previous roles, some of her significant accomplishments included handling the financial components of a merger, facilitating software conversions, and managing capital campaigns. Outside of work Kim enjoys hiking, traveling, walks with her dog, spending time with family, and is passionate about making choices to reduce her ecological footprint. She finds value in being an active community member and has been involved with Handi-Dogs as a board member and treasurer since 2014.

Angelica Cruz Favela
Associate Director, Finance
520-290-0828 ext 1102

Angelica Favela, associate director, finance, 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.

Elizabeth Díaz
Ecological Estuarine Monitoring Coordinator
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 110

Elizabeth Díaz is the ecological estuarine monitoring coordinator. She collects information on ecological environmental parameters to establish the baseline health of monitored sites in the Colorado River estuary, as well as to determine scientific processes and methodologies that can be implemented through public policies. She studied biology at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) in México City. Elizabeth has a certification as a Chemical Laboratory Technician and a master’s degree in health sciences from the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC). What she likes most is playing the violin and the cello, listening to music and going to concerts. She enjoys her work very much because it contributes to environmental and social well-being.

Guadalupe Fonseca Molina
Restoration Field Coordinator
+52-686-582-54-31
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.

Darcy Hill
Senior Director of Development
480-407-7254

Darcy joined the Sonoran Institute as the senior director of development in 2020.  She is responsible for creating and implanting a full-scale strategy for fundraising and donor relations at the organization, including our Hummingbird Circle and corporate partnersDarcy’s passion and career has consistently been focused on bridging the gap between philanthropy and environmental conservation, serving as the philanthropy officer for Grand Canyon Conservancy and campaign manager for Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. She is a graduate of the Association of Fundraising Professionals mentor program and has extensive experience with prospect research and donor stewardship. When she’s not working Darcy can be found hiking in the Superstitions, spending time with her husband, Pierre, son Pierre Jr., dog Benjamin, and reading anything she can get her hands on.  

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

Gabriela is the environmental education and investigation coordinator for our Colorado River Delta work 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 Bachelor of Science 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.

Waverly Klaw
DIRECTOR FOR RESILIENT COMMUNITIES AND WATERSHEDS
720-340-0020

Waverly joined the Sonoran Institute in 2019 and is director of Resilient Communities and Watersheds. She leads the Institute’s Colorado-based initiatives, including its Growing Water Smart program, climate resilience work, and water conservation efforts.

Throughout her career in the nonprofit and public sector, Waverly has worked closely with local governments, watershed coalitions and other civic organizations to increase the resilience of the built and natural environment to the impacts of climate change. Waverly was formerly a senior planner for the State of Colorado, where she spearheaded the State’s award-winning Planning for Hazards guide. She also served as a program manager for River Network, supporting riparian and watershed restoration efforts across the country.

Waverly is an accredited planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). She holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Colorado Denver as well as a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Syracuse University.

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

Rabí 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). Rabí was born in Chiapas in the small tropical town of Tuxtla Chico. He enjoys nature, piano, singing, and believes in collective development.

Corinne Matesich
Marketing Communications Manager
520-290-0828 ext 1105

Corinne came to the Sonoran Institute in 2017. She works to highlight the mission and vision of the Sonoran Institute, and raise awareness of the projects and programs that improve Western lands, rivers and communities. She helps to develop campaigns, print materials, e-newsletters, and maintains the web and social media. Prior to joining the Sonoran Institute, Corinne was a graphic designer at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where she worked with marketing and development staff as well as exhibits. She has also worked for the San Francisco Arts Commission funding artists and non-profits. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Arts Management from the University of San Francisco. She spends free time enjoying the arts and nature. As a native Tucsonan she seeks to spend time in the desert and mountains whenever possible—especially if the creeks are flowing. 

Angela Melendez
GIS Coordinator
+52 686-582-54-31

Angela is the Geographic Information Systems coordinator. She joined the Sonoran Institute in 2016, as a program associate in Phoenix, and moved to Mexicali in 2018 to continue her work with a GIS focus. She works in the integration, analysis, presentation and management of spatial information generated in the organization, with an emphasis on the ongoing projects in the Water and Ecosystem Restoration team, as well as also collaborating closely with the Sustainable Landscapes and Communities team. Angela was born in Los Angeles and lived in Mexicali for much of her life, where she received her bachelor’s degree in architecture and her master’s in sustainable planning and development, from the Autonomous University of Baja California. Outside of work she loves music, painting, and advocating for social and environmental justice.

Edlin Nuñez
Human Resources and Administration Manager
520-290-0828 ext 1128

Edlin joined the Sonoran Institute in 2019 as our human resources & administration manager. A native Tucsonan, she is a graduate of Grand Canyon University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She has spent her career serving with community-based organizations, including seven years with CODAC Health, Recovery & Wellness. She has also worked with United Cerebral Palsy of Southern Arizona and Leman Academy of Excellence. Her focus is in human resources, and she specializes in personnel planning, operations, project management roles, including facilities, and customer service management.

Rocío Torres Moguel
Director
+52-686-582-54-31 ext 103

Rocío became the director for Sonoran Institute México in 2019. She oversees operations of the Colorado River Delta programs in our Mexicali office. With 15+ years in project management experience, Rocío has planned and implemented all operations in several programs, including the Sustainable Business Area in the National Commission for Protected Areas in Mexico. She has been a sustainability consultant for the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and the United Nations Development Program (PNUD). Rocío has given conferences in Peru and Chile regarding her work with local communities in World Heritage Sites/Protected Areas in Mexico. Rocío studied in Okinawa, Japan, Sustainable Development & Environmental Education for Local Communities sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), she has an M.F.A. on Museum Studies and a B.A. in graphic design from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.

Alfredo Ramos Tolento
Restoration Assistant
+52-686-582-54-31
Tomás Rivas Salcedo
Estuarine Restoration Specialist
+52-686-582-54-31

Tomás Rivas Salcedo is the estuarine restoration specialist for the Colorado River Delta 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 Bachelor of Science 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
+52-686-582-54-31

Edith Santiago is an associate director for our Colorado River Delta work 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.

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.

Amanda Smith
Program Coordinator
520-290-0828 ext 1144

Amanda Smith is a program coordinator working on our Growing Water Smart program, as well as the Santa Cruz River and assorted open space planning projects. She joined the Sonoran Institute in 2017. She is excited to support the power of collaborative partnerships necessary for protecting open landscapes and planning smart cities that foster a high quality of living. Having been raised in Wisconsin, living all over the United States, and now a resident of Arizona since 2012–she has lived in the common ground between diverse cultures. Inclusive planning is a priority. Her background combines a master’s degree in urban planning and water policy with several years as a wildlife biologist and volunteering in disaster recovery. She likes to spend time in the wilder parts in and around Tucson.

Shane Stanzel
Marketing Intern

Shane joined the Sonoran Institute in 2020 and serves as our marketing intern. His responsibilities include delivering and managing online content for the organization’s various communications channels as well as assisting the marketing communications manager. Shane has a Bachelor of Arts in Information Science and eSociety from the University of Arizona. He previously worked as a marketing assistant at the University of Arizona where he managed social media accounts and helped organize student events. Outside of work he enjoys team-focused gaming, listening to tech podcasts, and spending time with his dog. 

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 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 Bachelor of Science 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.

Michael Zellner
CEO

Michael Zellner joined the Sonoran Institute as chief executive officer in October 2020. Mike has 30 years of experience building award-winning collaborations for global organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Dow Jones & Co., and Euromoney. At The Nature Conservancy, Mike collaborated with international, regional and local stakeholders to conserve more than 450,000 acres, raise more than $30 million, build advisory boards in Latin America, and secure the largest corporate partnership in the history of the organization.

Before joining The Nature Conservancy, Mike worked for more than two decades as a business journalist in Mexico and the Americas. He helped to launch the editorial operations of AméricaEconomía (Dow Jones & Co.) and LatinFinance (Euromoney) in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Miami. At the end of the 1990s, Mike made the shift from editor-in-chief to owner, buying Miami-based business magazine Latin Trade. Mike led the publication to 27 editorial awards in seven years, and promoted the growth of the Bravo Business Awards into the premier awards ceremony in the Americas.

Mike studied Economics at Tufts University and speaks English, Spanish, and Portuguese fluently. Mike, his wife, artist and photographer Eugenia Vargas-Pereira, and their dog Batuco enjoy trekking, travel, and cooking.

Claire Zugmeyer
Ecologist
520-290-0828 ext 1143

Claire Zugmeyer is the lead ecologist and project manager for the Santa Cruz River projects. Joining Sonoran Institute in 2007, she leads a variety of efforts including production of the Living River series that summarizes river conditions, monitoring fish and other parameters along the river, and organization of the annual Santa Cruz River Research Days, an event promoting collaboration and awareness of regional research and conservation efforts. She completed a Master of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology at the University of Arizona, a Bachelor of Science 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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