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 Denver Mexicali
Celedonia Alvarado
TREE PLANTING AND PROPAGATION SUPERVISOR
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Celia has been part of the Sonoran Institute since 2009 and is the Supervisor of Tree Planting and Production in the Colorado River Delta program. Her main responsibilities are the collection and production of native riparian species, as well as the planting, irrigation, and maintenance of restoration sites. She is originally from Río Verde, San Luis Potosí, where she grew up surrounded by the nature that she cares for and appreciates so much. She is a talented birdwatcher and founding member of the group “Hang Gliders.” Her favorite birds are hawks, which she observed as a child in her homeland. Celia dreams of seeing the Colorado River again with water, birds, native trees and harmony between humans and their environment. 

Raúl Belmont
Hydrology Technician
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 105

Raúl is a geographer who graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He specialized in cartography, GIS management, satellite images and GPS. He has developed in different fields of work, so he considers himself a “multidisciplinary geographer.” For 5 years, he performed geospatial work in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food in the states of Veracruz and Baja California. His taste for cycling and American football has taught him that teamwork is fundamental to achieving goals, without neglecting individual abilities. 

6 months ago, He joined the Sonoran Institute team, where he carries out hydrological monitoring activities. Most of his work is in contact with nature and outdoors, which is very good after 2 years of confinement. 

Felipe Carmona
Field Assistant
+52 686 582-54-31

Felipe joined the Sonoran Institute in mid-2021 and serves as a field assistant in the Colorado River Delta program, where he supports restoration work with the care and propagation of native riparian species, maintaining irrigation systems, maintenance and support for ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites. Today he says he enjoys his work and companionship during his current work

Bianca Chavez
Development Associate
520-290-0828 ext 1003 

Bianca joined the Sonoran Institute in February 2022. She is reentering the workforce after taking time to care for her children. Earlier, she worked as legal secretary at the law office of Jacob Amaru and with optical firms Envision Eyecare Center and Nationwide Vision. She is bilingual. In her time off, Bianca enjoys outdoor activities, attending music events, and spending time with friends and, most importantly, her family.

Luke Cole
Director, Santa Cruz River program
520-290-0828 ext 1002

Luke is the director of the Santa Cruz River program within our Resilient Communities and Watersheds team. Luke joined Sonoran Institute in 2018 and 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.

Meryl Corbin
Program Manager, Growing Water Smart
913-669-8373

Meryl joined the Sonoran Institute in 2022 as the Program Manager of Growing Water Smart projects in Colorado and California. She focuses on workshop facilitation and providing technical assistance for participating communities. She recently completed a master’s certification in Environmental Management and Policy from the University of Colorado Denver, where she focused on western water issues. Soon after she joined WaterNow Alliance, during her time there she focused on updating the Project Accelerator Library to improve access to content and assisted in program design and management, policy analysis, communications, and graphic design. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in interior design and a minor in Regional and Community Planning from Kansas State University. Since graduating, she has worked as a project manager at various commercial architecture and interior design firms in Boston and Denver. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Colorado in her renovated van with her husband and dog, running on mountain trails, trying to complete various art projects, and completed a 50k trail race in 2022.

Melissa Cordero
Marketing Manager
520-290-0828

Melissa Cordero joined Sonoran Institute in October 2022 as Marketing Manager. Melissa has more than 10 years of marketing experience, including creating and managing campaigns, social media marketing, networking, video, graphic design, and content creation. Melissa also has many years of experience in sales and education. She enjoys researching market trends and creating marketing campaigns. On a personal note, Melissa can fly a helicopter, play rugby, and is originally from Guam.

Iliana De Jesus Lozano
Community Involvement Coordinator

Iliana is the Community Involvement Coordinator at Sonoran Institute, where she enjoys building bridges with people. She’s a Sociologist from Puebla, MX with a master’s degree in socioenvironmental Studies from FLACSO Ecuador. Her jobs have been related to multiple fields, mainly focused on political ecology, ecofeminism, gender, socioenvironmental conflicts, inclusion, and LGBTQ+ rights. Through her work she has learned that we can change the world with our actions, not just words. Iliana is a cat lover who enjoys nature, reading and wandering during her free time. She’s a passionate reader, focused right now on Latin American horror and Science Fiction written by women.

William Dueñas
FIELD ASSISTANT
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

William Dueñas has been a field assistant since 2019 working towards wetland reforestation and monitoring the area. William is proactive in the activities he performs, aids both in the nursery and monitors the fish hatchery, water quality probes and zooplankton populations. William is an enthusiast in auto mechanics and enjoys fishing in the river and open sea. 

Kim Egita
Chief Finance and Administration Officer
520-290-0828 ext.1004

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.

Sanda Escareño
Administrative Assistant

Sandra has a degree in marketing from the University Autonomy of Baja California UABC. Her piror work experience includes assistant director at Hotel Araiza and as an administrative assistant at Sol del Niño. Sandra enjoys going on hikes with her dog “Benito”, watching movies, sushi, listening to music, and spending time with her family.

Cesar Enrique Felix Anaya
Environmental Education Coordinator

Cesar Enrique Felix Anaya is the Environmental Education Coordinator at Sonoran Institute Mexico. Since high school, his passion for education was awakened when he was a catechism teacher, leading him to a degree in Education Sciences at ITSON in Cd. Obregón, Sonora, Mexico. In addition, he has always been very curious about nature and how climate change will affect nature, and he wants to do his part to help solve this problem. Cesar has a Master of Science in Ecosystem Management in Arid Zones at UABC, where he was an instructor inclusive science education group “Serendipia,” a program on climate change taught elementary schools in and around Ensenada, Baja California. While working with Serendipia’s, his master’s project focused on training teachers about the effects of climate change in arid-coastal zones, which was implemented in the last quarter of 2022 in Ensenada. Since then, his interest in environmental education has only grown and he looks forward to making positive impacts to our ecosystems and their communities at Sonoran Institute.

Edgar Flores Alvarado
Nursery Security
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Edgar Flores serves as a guard at the Sonoran Institute. His responsibilities consist of safeguarding the area and the restoration sites where machinery, tools, and part of the equipment used for the work of the organization are located.

Cristal Galindo Jimenez
FIELD SUPERVISOR
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Cristal joined the Sonoran Institute in 2014 doing restoration work in Laguna Grande, since the beginning of the Colorado River Delta program in Mexico. Today she works as Field Supervisor and is responsible for coordinating restoration activities such as clearing, collection and production of native riparian species, planting, irrigation, maintenance and support for ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites. Cristal’s favorite activity is spending time with her son and watching cartoons together.

Adrián Galindo Sanchez
Nursery Security
+52 686 582-54-31

Adrián joined the Sonoran Institute in mid-2022 and serves as a nursery security for the Colorado River Delta program, where he supports restoration work with the care and propagation of native riparian species, maintaining irrigation systems, maintenance and support for ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites. He enjoys his work and spending time in nature with his colleagues. 

Galdino Garcia
Field Assistant
+52 686 582-54-31

Galdino joined the Sonoran Institute in mid-2021 and serves as a field assistant in the Colorado River Delta program, where he supports restoration work with the care and propagation of native riparian species, maintaining irrigation systems, maintenance and support for ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites. Today he says he enjoys his work and companionship during his current work. 

Masiel García
Communication Coordinator

Masiel García has a bachelor’s degree in communications sciences from UVM (Universidad del Valle de México) and a master’s in psychology. She joined Sonoran Institute as part of the Communication Department. She loves giving new ideas for activities with people in-person and in the digital world. Masiel is a very active person who always strives to create peace with those around her. She is a fan of coffee, movies and TV shows, my personal hobby is Writing. She has a beautiful family of 4 and enjoys going out and spending time with them.

 

Toni Garcia-Bullington
Executive Assistant to the CEO
520-290-0828 ext 1000

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.

José Guadalupe Gutiérrez
Nursery Security
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

José Guadalupe works as a security guard at the Sonoran Institute. His responsibilities consist of safeguarding the restoration sites where machinery, tools, and the equipment used for the nursery are kept.

Rosa González Gomez
FIELD ASSISTANT
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Rosy Gonzalez joined the Sonoran Institute in 2015 and works as a field assistant in the Colorado River Delta program, where she supports restoration work such as clearing, collection and production of native riparian species, planting, irrigation, maintenance and support for ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites. Rosy used to devote herself to household chores before working in the fields and since then she has enjoyed balancing her work, caring for trees and learning about the natural world around her. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and children. 

Claudio Hernández
Project Manager, Mexicali Fluye

Claudio Hernández is from Mexicali, Baja California. He is driven by his desire to contribute his time and knowledge to social and environmental causes. His experience leading educational and social programs focused on promoting sustainability and environmental protection led him to become the Project Manager of the Mexicali Fluye project at the Sonoran Institute. Since 2022, he has been working hand in hand with communities and the Sonoran Institute team to transform our urban drains into iconic spaces for the city, aiming to improve the quality of life for our communities and ecosystems. He strongly believes that we are a great team, and with everyone’s support, we can create resiliency in the Colorado River Basin and Delta… He also loves soccer!

Ezequiel Hernández Cardenas
Nursery Security
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Ezequiel joined the Sonoran Institute in 2014 and works as a field assistant in the Colorado River Delta program, where he supports restoration work such as clearing, collecting and producing native riparian species, planting, irrigation, maintenance and supporting ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites. He is originally from the Mexicali Valley and lives in the town of Ricardo Mason Guerrero. Since childhood he has enjoyed the countryside, where his grandfather taught him to create items with natural materials such as Cachanilla. In his spare time, Ezequiel builds colorful benches, tables and chairs and even animal figurines using salted pine branches and that are part of the attraction of Laguna Grande. 

Kashja Iler
Marketing Coordinator
520-290-0828

Kashja joined the Sonoran Institute in October 2021 as the marketing communications intern and as of March 2024 she serves as the marketing coordinator. From the University of Arizona, she has her bachelor’s in environmental science with a minor in Spanish, and extensive work towards her master’s in watershed management and ecohydrology, focusing on translative science for policy. She helped form the University of Arizona’s HydroCats program which focuses on water harvesting and green infrastructure planning and implementation in and around the campus. Kashja has been a lifelong advocate for equitable access to the outdoors and protecting the natural environment. Outside of work she enjoys dancing with her non-profit dance company Leaps for Lives, spending time with her pets, gardening, cycling, backpacking, and any other form of connecting with nature.

Noah Kaiser
Program Manager, Growing Water Smart
(505) 231-5772

Noah serves as the Program Manager of the US-Mexico Border Growing Water Smart Program at the Sonoran Institute. He has experience in consulting, academia, and non-governmental organizations, through which he has developed expertise in governance, management, strategy, and policy related to water resources. Noah is interested in transboundary cooperation related to shared resources and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering focused on water, sanitation, and hygiene – both from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is passionate about the application of his skills and privileges to the region’s most pressing challenges. Noah is fluent in Spanish.

Before joining the Sonoran Institute, Noah served as a Consultant at Aither, a global water advisory firm. In this role, he worked with a variety of clients, including water utilities, government agencies at multiple levels, and corporations to make better decisions about water strategy, management, and use. In his free time, Noah enjoys exploring Colorado’s mountains on foot, bike, or snowboard, perusing record stores, cooking, making stained glass, and drinking espresso.

Waverly Klaw
DIRECTOR FOR growing water smart program
720-340-0020

Waverly Klaw, AICP, is the Director of the Growing Water Smart program for the Sonoran Institute, which has trained representatives from over 100 local governments across Colorado, Arizona, and California on integrating water-saving measures into land use plans and policies. Throughout her career, Waverly has worked closely with local governments, watershed coalitions and other organizations to increase the resilience of the built and natural environment to the impacts of climate change. Waverly was formerly with the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs, where she assisted communities with disaster recovery planning and spearheaded the State’s award-winning Planning for Hazards guide. She also worked for River Network, supporting riparian and watershed restoration efforts across the country.  She holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Colorado Denver.

Alvaro Lucero
Maintenance Technician
+52 686 582-54-31

Alvaro has worked at Sonoran Institute since mid-2020 as a maintenance technician performing maintenance activities of the office facilities and vehicles, in addition to providing support by performing administrative diligences. In his personal time, he really enjoys spending time with his family. 

Karla Luna Urias
administration and finance manager
+52 686 582-54-31

Karla has a degree in Administrative Computer Systems from the Center for Higher Studies of the State of Sonora. At the beginning of her career, she worked in education for 6 years, but her life took a turn, and she started working in the federal government with the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection. That’s where she discovered that she was interested in environmental issues, it was a very eye-opening experience. She also had the opportunity to work in the municipal government as a municipal operator of drinking water and sewage sanitation, which is the body that regulates water in the city of San Luis Rio Colorado. Her jobs have always been in the administrative area and currently she really enjoys working at Sonoran Institute. It is the first time she has worked in a civil society organization and every day she learns something new. Even if we are remote, she likes the work environment we have and how passionate her colleagues are in the different areas where they work. What she enjoys most is spending time enjoying the sea with her family and friends. 

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

When asked what Angela likes to do, she likes to respond simply by saying that she is a cardboard architect, and she makes maps. Her favorite reaction to that has been from someone who let out an incredulous laugh when asked how she made maps and if she drew them by hand. She would like nothing more than to say yes, in fact, she illustrates them by hand, but no, the reality is that she works with a sensational computer universe where she can manipulate zeros and ones into photos, vectors, tables and instructions. In that process, a lot of information about different landscapes is abstracted and portrayed. And that is the key, her life is the landscapes, and she lives to remember them, recognize them, imagine them, draw them and paint them, but, above all, she lives to be part of a great team that reinvents them by bringing the landscapes to life.  
 
At Sonoran Institute she coordinates the Geographic Information Systems department, where she joins the research and monitoring efforts of the organization through the collection, administration, analysis and visualization of data. One of the most fun and interesting projects in which she has participated in was developing and establishing methodologies to determine the health of vegetation in restoration sites using unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones. Outside of work she loves music, painting, and advocating for social and environmental justice.

Alma Merendón
FIELD ASSISTANT
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Alma joined the Sonoran Institute in 2013 and serves as a field assistant in the Colorado River Delta program, where she supports restoration work such as clearing, collecting and producing native riparian species, planting, irrigation, maintenance and ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites.  Her favorite activity at work is removing salt cedar and other shrubs. Alma enjoys attending parties and dancing cumbia and to romantic songs.

Mariana Miranda
PUBLIC POLICY COORDINATOR
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 106

Mariana is passionate about nature and an enthusiastic reader of science fiction, fantasy and essay novels. She loves running, where she can enjoy scenic landscapes and feels at peace when she is one with nature. In 2016 she started running 5 and 10 km races and soon became fond of long-distance running. She has run 20 half marathons and one marathon. The experiences she has in training and preparing herself both physically and mentally for marathons helped to unlock new perspectives she had on life and her understanding of herself: She is disciplined, committed, passionate, and capable to achieve whatever she sets out to do.  

This has reflected in her professional career as well—She has a degree in administration from the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Azcapotzalco where she began her work with public administration and environmental issues. She has spent 13 years with the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources in Baja California as the Chief of the Department of Sector Development.  

During the last two and a half years, Mariana has been a part of the Sonoran Institute team as the Public Policy Coordinator. She supports the Institute in carrying out the management of projects with state and federal authorities as well as plans and implements actions for our wetland sites, Ramsar 814 and 1822.

Edlin Nuñez
Associate Director of Administration
520-290-0828 ext. 1004

Edlin joined the Sonoran Institute in 2019 and is our associate director of administration. 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.

Humberto Pacheco
FIELD ASSISTANT
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Humberto has been part of the Sonoran Institute since July 2018 as a Field Assistant. Some of his main duties include the surveillance and protection of CILA Park, one of our most emblematic restoration sites, and the support in monitoring in the estuary of the Colorado River. Humberto is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico, knows the art of fishing and enjoys doing this activity whenever possible. 

Ana Lupita Ramírez
Administrative accountant
+52 686 582-54-31

Lupita has a degree in Accounting from the Autonomous University of Baja California. She loves working with numbers and has specialized in Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). She is currently a part of the Sonoran Institute team, where she works as Administrative Accounting Coordinator.

One of the most important activities she carries out at Sonoran Institute is to support the preparation of budgets and preparing new project proposals, coordinating financials, taking budgetary control of each project and area once they are authorized. This is a complex task given that we are a binational CSO (Mexico-USA), and we work with both fiscal years; following the fiscal and accounting rules of both countries. At the beginning of her career Lupita worked in private sector companies, until she worked for the first time in a CSO, Sol del Niño Museum, where she worked for just over 9 years. From there, she knew the satisfaction that her skills and experience can contribute to achieving a common good and she knew that she wanted to continue her career in civil society institutions. Those of us who have worked in an organization of this type, know that it is essential to be efficient with the resources that are normally scarce and the activities to be carried out are many, so she manages the areas of accounting, payroll, purchasing, auditing, projects and administration.

When she’s not working, you’ll find her enjoying time with her family and watching a horror series or movie! 

Tomás Rivas
RESTORATION SPECIALIST
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 110

Tomás Rivas is a marine biologist who graduated from the Autonomous University of Campeche , specializing in marine ecology and biological diversity of coastal zones. He currently works on restoration and conservation projects in the Colorado River and its estuaries. In the last ten years, he has focused on conservation and restoration projects, monitoring water quality, zooplankton, fish and other freshwater and marine aquatic fauna. He is concentrated on a resilient future for the Sonoran Desert, the Colorado River, its estuary and the Gulf of California. He also has experience in monitoring fauna, especially insects phylogenetic, taxonomic, and systematic analysis. 

Alejandro Rosas
HYDROLOGICAL MONITORING COORDINATOR
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 105

Since he was a child he was driven by a curiosity to explore the world, this has led him to observe nature and form questions, leading him to choose a professional training Geophysics at BUAP and later a postgraduate degree in Applied Geosciences from IPICY. The knowledge acquired brought him closer to understanding the physical properties that act on Earth, the dynamic processes that gave rise to rivers, mountains and what shaped the landscape we see. At the end of his studies, he worked 5 years in geophysical exploration projects to locate groundwater and mineral storages in arid areas of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí and Puebla. These experiences were his introduction to drought and the impact of anthropogenic actions on the pollution of water resources, which inspired him to do more for the environment. Since June 2017, he has been the coordinator of hydrological monitoring at Sonoran Institute, where he leads a team of water professionals that collects hydrological data to measure environmental impacts in the Colorado River Delta. He turns data into information that is the scientific basis for decision-making in water management. He collaborated in designs and ecological restoration plans where he identified areas that require actions to improve hydrological connectivity and optimize the use of water that sustains the flora and fauna of the region. Outside of work, he is a hiker who continues to explore the world, from the paths, the lyrics, the music, conversations and silence.

Enrique Rosas
FIELD ASSISTANT
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Enrique joined the Sonoran Institute in mid-2017 and serves as a field assistant in the Colorado River Delta program, where he supports restoration work such as clearing, collection and production of native riparian species, planting, irrigation, maintenance and support for ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites. Enrique has almost ten years of experience working in the fields of the Mexicali Valley where he used to collect and pack vegetables. Today he says he enjoys coexistence and companionship during his current work. Every day he rides his bike to stay in shape and to appreciate the surrounding landscape, he also plays baseball and soccer. 

Mateo Sánchez
Hydrological and Ecological monitoring technician
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 110

Mateo is a Hydrological and Ecological Monitoring Technician, responsible for the collection and analysis of data in monitoring sites. He is a Bioengineer and graduated from the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) and later obtained his Masters in Life Sciences with Orientation in Marine Biotechnology from the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada, B.C. (CICESE). During his professional training he has specialized in environmental microbiology, microbial detection techniques and bioinformatics analysis. During his personal time, he enjoys extreme sports such as surfing, skateboarding and mountain biking, as well as playing bass guitar. 

Edith Santiago
Associate Director - Colorado River Delta Program
+52-686-582-54-31

Edith discovered her love of ocean creatures at a young age watching Jaques Cousteau documentaries. This led her to study oceanology at the University of Baja California in Ensenada. Wanting to learn more about how different aspects of the environment work together, she received her Master’s of Science in comprehensive environmental science in the UK. During her time in the UK, she focused her studies on wetland ecology. When she returned to Mexico, she worked with the ANP Lagoon terminal with the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), the Natural Spaces and Sustainable Development (ENDESU), and later with the Mexican Petroleum Institute. Her work has focused on wetland restauration and working with the communities that rely on them. 
She has worked with the Sonoran Institute since 2004, where she currently focuses on making work plans, identifies the financial needs of the Delta program and supports the development of the Institutes project proposals. She is the contact point for donors and partners of the Sonoran Institutes project partners. In her free time Edith listens to music, spends time with her family and friends, spends time exercising in the outdoors, and enjoys puzzles.

Grecia Sanchez Rosales
Hydrology monitoring technician

Grecia Dayana Sanchez Rosales, monitoring technician in the hydrology department at the Sonoran Institute. She holds a degree in Biotechnology in Aquaculture from UABC Ensenada and completed her Master’s in Life Sciences with a focus on Marine Biotechnology at CICESE. Her research involved studying the transcriptomic resilience to climate change in two populations of clams cultivated in the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. She also interned at the ecophysiology laboratory at CIBNOR La Paz. She is passionate about applied science and contributing to the movement towards a sustainable environment. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and baking.

John Shepard
Senior Advisor
520-290-0828 ext 1002

John Shepard is the senior adviser at the Sonoran Institute. He currently leads the Institute’s One Basin Program, which focuses on policies that ensure the Colorado River is managed in a more holistic, inclusive, and adaptive fashion to benefit communities and wildlife. John also advises staff in program development and assists with organization-wide fundraising. Over his 27-year tenure at the Sonoran Institute, John 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 The Wilderness Society, a conservation organization focused on public lands, and Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization.

Eliza Stokes
Program Manager, Growing Water Smart

Eliza joined the Sonoran Institute in 2022 as the Program Manager of Growing Water Smart activities in Arizona, training and assisting communities to ensure that land use planning makes the most strategic and equitable use of water resources. Eliza brings several years of non-profit experience to this role, with specialties in building coalitions and partnerships, policy advocacy, and communications. She most recently served as the Communications & Campaign Manager at the Tucson-based Watershed Management Group, working to restore desert river flows through community-based water conservation solutions. She previously worked at the environmental organization MountainTrue, where she led advocacy campaigns to improve water quality, expand renewable energy, and safeguard regional forests in Southern Appalachia. Eliza is also pursuing a master’s degree in Public Policy at the University of Arizona, and in her free time she can be found exploring the Sonoran Desert, rock climbing, and hanging out with her mellow Great Pyrenees named Maggie.

José Tadeo
HYDROLOGY TECHNICIAN
+52-686-582-54-31

José is a Civil Engineer and graduated from the Autonomous University of Baja California. He previously dedicated himself to civil works in the private and government sector, where his role was supervising construction of dirt roads, foundations, black work and finishes. At the end of 2019 he started at Sonoran Institute, working as a Hydrology Technician. His responsibilities include programming, supervision, and monitoring of surface water deliveries at restoration sites, and supporting different engineering projects. It is the first time he has worked in a civil society organization, where he has learned about the importance of caring for the environment and restoration work. He is very satisfied to be able to better the natural resources of the Colorado River. In his free time, he enjoys the company of his family and friends, drawing and visiting the local aquarium. 

Karina Velderrain Ramos
Administrative Coordinator
Karina Velderrain Ramos has been with the Sonoran Institute in October of 2023 as an administrative coordinator. Originally from Navoja Sonora, she received her degree in public accounting from the University of Sonora. She has 14 years’ experience at Almater Hospital in Mexicali where she worked in customer service and insurance collections, working with different organizations and government institutions. Karina enjoys going for hikes and strolls with her two children, family gatherings and loves making flour tortillas and cooking for her loved ones.
Enrique Villegas
Director for Delta Program
686-221-6757

Enrique has a background in public service and private sector work, including roles such as director of Ecology of Mexicali and Secretary of Environmental Protection of the State of Baja California. Enrique holds a bachelor’s degree in oceanology from the Autonomous University of Baja California and a master’s degree in aquaculture from Auburn University.

Francisco Zamora
Senior Director of Programs
520-290-0828 ext 1002

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 senior director of programs 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. 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.

Alfredo Zavala
FIELD ASSISTANT
+52-686-582-54-31 Ext. 107

Alfredo joined the Sonoran Institute in mid-2014 and serves as a field assistant in the Colorado River Delta program, where he supports restoration work such as caring for and propagating native riparian species, irrigation, maintenance and support for ecological monitoring activities at restoration sites. He is originally from Ciudad Coahuila City and has worked in the countryside all his life. Alfredo enjoys nature and is a great sports fan.

Michael Zellner
CEO
520-290-0828

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 1002

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!

Join Our Team