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Our Staff

Sara Barth, Executive Director

Email Sara, (650) 949-1453 x201

Sara Barth joined Sempervirens Fund in 2016 after 12 years working in leadership positions at The Wilderness Society (TWS), most recently as Senior Regional Director for the Pacific and Southeast regions. Sara oversaw TWS efforts to protect wildlands around the country, including successfully preserving over 1 million acres of federal land in California, and she completed a major climate adaptation project for the organization. Prior to TWS, Sara served as an environmental advisor to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in Washington, D.C. Her other professional experience includes working for the National Wildlife Federation and the World Wildlife Fund on U.S. land and wildlife policy. Sara holds a B.A. in Biopsychology from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Michael Kawalek, CFRE, Deputy Director

Email Michael, (650) 949-1453 x209

Michael Kawalek joined Sempervirens Fund in 2013, and he currently serves as Deputy Director. He began his nonprofit career over three decades ago and has worked at several well-known Bay Area organizations, including KQED and the San Francisco Zoo. Mike earned his Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential in 2015. He then served on the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Golden Gate Chapter Board of Directors, for two years, driven by the desire to educate new development professionals about the importance of ethical fundraising practices. He is a Bay Area native, loves areas with streams and waterfalls, and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Patrick Gibbons, Chief Financial Officer

Email Patrick, (650) 949-1453 x202

Patrick Gibbons joined Sempervirens Fund in 2014 and is responsible for all financial and accounting functions, human resources, information technology and office management. Before coming to Sempervirens Fund he worked as finance director at various local nonprofit organizations including The Hearing and Speech Center of Northern California, Meals on Wheels of San Francisco, San Francisco Parks Trust, Strybing Arboretum Society and Haight Ashbury Free Clinics. Patrick is a native of San Francisco and has a B.S. in Accounting from San Francisco State University.

Laura McLendon, Director of Land Conservation

Email Laura, (650) 949-1453 x206

Laura McLendon is the Director of Land Conservation at Sempervirens Fund. She joined Sempervirens in 2006, and has spent the majority of her career working on land conservation projects that protect and restore redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As Director of Land Conservation, Laura oversees all land acquisition and strategic conservation projects, as well as the stewardship and care of all of Sempervirens’ properties and conservation easements. Previously, Laura worked at The International Ecotourism Society in Washington, D.C., and in the environmental education department of the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens. Laura holds a B.A. in Human Biology and M.A. in Anthropological Sciences with concentrations in environmental science, policy, and resource management from Stanford University. Laura is a native Californian, professional visual artist, and currently resides in San Francisco, California.

Julie Seelen, CFRE, Chief of Philanthropy

Email Julie, (650) 949-1453 x212

Julie Seelen joined Sempervirens Fund in 2018 as Associate Director of Philanthropic Engagement. She comes to Sempervirens Fund with more than a decade of experience working locally in the land trust community, including many years as the Development Director for Save Mount Diablo. More recently she was with California Trout and The Fund for People in Parks. She serves on the Board of Directors for Las Trampas–an organization supporting adults with developmental disabilities–and holds an active CFRE fundraising credential. In her spare time, she wanders in Redwood Regional Park and is looking forward to explore the trails among the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Julie has a Master’s degree in Architecture and Building Construction from the University of Technology in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

Matt Shaffer, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer

Email Matthew, (650) 949-1453 x217

Matt Shaffer joined Sempervirens Fund in 2020. For more than two decades Matt has worked with national and local nonprofits and foundations to advance brand, marketing, and communications strategies, and align and improve organizational priorities and health. Most recently he has served as Director of Marketing for The Trust for Public Land, Senior Brand Strategist with Mission Minded, and Vice President of Marketing for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. He is non-native to California, but has been a low-impact invasive resident in San Francisco and Marin County since 1996. He earned his Masters from San Francisco State University.

Ann Blanchard, Manager of Annual Philanthropic Giving

Email Ann, (650) 949-1453 x205

Ann Blanchard joined Sempervirens in 2012. Ann has more than 10 years in non-profit service working in the social services field assisting adults with developmental disabilities. A Bay Area native who grew up camping at our local state parks, she holds a B.A. in Art History from the University of California, Davis and a B.F.A. in Visual Communications and Graphic Design from the International Academy of Design and Technology, Sacramento.

Melisa Cambron Perez, Field Operations Manager

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Melisa joined Sempervirens Fund in 2021 as the Field Operations Manager. She holds a B.A. in Biology from Lake Forest College in Illinois and is currently an M.S. candidate at the University of San Francisco for Environmental Management. Passionate about working outdoors, Melisa has extensive experience with habitat restoration, community engagement, and vegetation management across the Bay Area. An avid backpacker and lover of sunsets, she spends her free time planning hiking adventures throughout the west coast.

Beatrix Jiménez, Natural Resource Manager

Email Beatrix, (650) 949-1453 x216

Beatrix Jiménez joined Sempervirens Fund in 2018 as a Land Stewardship Associate. Previously, she worked throughout California in environmental consulting and remediation performing plant and wildlife surveys, habitat restoration, and environmental compliance. Prior to that, she interned at Peninsula Open Space Trust assisting the Land Stewardship team. In her free time, she enjoys botanizing, birding, and hiking at a naturalist pace throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Beatrix holds a B.A. in Biology (CCS) and a minor in Earth Science from UC Santa Barbara.

Amanda Krauss, CFRE, Director of Tribute and Legacy Giving

Email Amanda, (650) 949-1453 x204

Amanda Krauss is the Director of Tribute and Legacy Giving. She originally joined Sempervirens Fund 2011. After a short leave, she returned to Sempervirens Fund in 2019 to continue sharing her love of redwoods with others. Amanda currently serves on the Board of Directors for Cancer Support Sonoma, an organization that provides integrative therapies for people with cancer in Sonoma Valley, and holds an active CFRE fundraising credential. She graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in Art Studio and Avian Sciences and continues to go birding to gain inspiration for her artwork.

Paige Rausser, Senior Project Manager – Land Transactions

Email Paige, (650) 949-1453

Paige Rausser joined Sempervirens Fund in 2012 after nearly 15 years at The Trust for Public Land (TPL). As a Senior Project Manager at TPL, Paige’s projects protected thousands of acres of southern California coastal habitat from Otay Mountain in San Diego, to the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles, to ocean properties in Santa Barbara County. After managing the complex Cahuenga Peak project, which included an international communication and fundraising effort as well as public and private funding, Paige decided it was time to do conservation work closer to home. Growing up in Los Altos, Paige spent her childhood hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains and hanging out on the beaches. At Sempervirens Fund, Paige works to protect priority properties through fee acquisition, conservation easements and other tools that will most effectively save redwoods for future generations to enjoy. Paige earned her B.S. in Political Economy of Natural Resources from U.C. Berkeley and her M.E.M. from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Ian Rowbotham, Senior Land Stewardship Manager

Email Ian, (650) 949-1453 x208

Ian Rowbotham joined Sempervirens Fund in 2016 as the Land Stewardship Project Associate. He holds an M.S. in Earth Systems from Stanford University, with a focus on sustainable resource use. Before coming to Sempervirens Fund, he conducted research on the effects of climate change on forests of the Sierra Nevada and the movement and physiology of white sharks and bluefin tuna.

Lizzy Shramko, Digital Marketing Director

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Lizzy joined Sempervirens Fund in 2021. Lizzy has worked as a storyteller for over a decade, leading digital campaigns and communications strategies in support of gender justice, youth leadership, and racial equity. Most recently she led digital strategy at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, advancing reproductive freedom across the country. Lizzy inherited a deep love for nature from her grandmother and grandfather, Anne and Sam, who were lifelong conservation advocates. She received an interdisciplinary B.A. from New York University and an M.A. in Gender Studies from Central European University in Budapest. As a recent transplant to Southern California, she spends her free time getting to know the plants in and around Los Angeles.

Lillian Tsai, Manager of Philanthropic Engagement

Email Lillian, (650) 949-1453 x203

Lillian Tsai joined Sempervirens Fund in 2019 as the Manager of Philanthropic Engagement.  Lillian grew up on the Northern California coast and developed a full appreciation of the majesty of the forest while at the University of California in Santa Cruz (and earned her B.A. in Economics as well). While her background in is Finance, Lillian has worked for numerous not-for-profit entities and joins Sempervirens Fund’s development team with a strong desire to promote the preservation of our natural surroundings.

Isabella Wilcher, Donor Services Coordinator

Email Isabella, (650) 949-1453 x210

Isabella Wilcher joined Sempervirens Fund in 2021 as a Donor Services Coordinator. She holds a B.A in Philosophy and Human Rights and previously worked at an education research center at Stanford University. Isabella is new to the Bay Area and fell in love with the redwoods during her first visit to Northern California in 2018. In her free time, she enjoys going on coastal bike rides or trail running adventures in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Board of Directors

Pamela Koch, President

Board Member, Coastside State Parks Association; Docent, Ano Nuevo State Park; Board member, Redwood Meadows Ranch Homeowners Association; former Leadership Team, Mid-Peninsula Democratic Volunteer Center; former hospital administrator and health policy analyst; resident of Menlo Park and Bonny Doon.

Evan Siegel, Vice President, Audit Committee Chair

Senior Vice President of Virtual Channel Sales Strategy at Wells Fargo; strategy and process improvement management consultant at Bain & Company, Computer Sciences Corporation, and Ernst and Young; B.A. Brown University; M.B.A. Stanford School of Business.

Gage Dayton, Secretary

Administrative Director of Natural Reserves & Coordinator of field Studies at the UCSC; Research Affiliate and Program Director of Central Coast Wetland Working Group at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, SJSU; BS Humboldt State University; Ph.D. Texas A&M University.

Channing F. Chen

Managing Partner and Founder, Breakaway Energy Partners; Former executive at NRG Energy, SunEdison, and Solar Power Partners (acquired by NRG Energy). BA in Environmental Chemistry, UC San Diego; MBA, University of Southern California. Active cyclist, Bay Area native, and resident of Burlingame, Calif.

Meagan Demitz

A senior-level nonprofit professional with more than 15 years of management and fundraising expertise at SF Parks Alliance, Ms. Demitz has successfully cultivated relationships with philanthropic donors to diversify revenue, scale fundraisers and events such as Party for the Parks to increase revenue and brand, and improve collaboration between internal departments to support strategic planning and new HR initiatives.

Kevin Flynn

Director Product Marketing, Blue Coat Systems; former Senior Marketing Manager, Fortinet, Inc.; former Senior Marketing Manager, Cisco Systems, Inc.; former Product Manager, Apple Computer; member, Steering Committee, Neighbors Against Irresponsible Logging; resident of Los Gatos.

William N. Harris

Former Vice President, AWD Technologies; former Quality Assurance Manager, Guy F. Atkinson Company; President, Myrtle L. Atkinson Foundation; Former President, Friends of Menlo Park Library; resident of Menlo Park.

Kent Putnam

President, Putnam Automotive, Inc.; Former President, Burlingame Chamber of Commerce; resident of Woodside.

Stephen Reed

A thirty-year career in California higher education (University of California, California State University); post-retirement consultant for all facets of political and issue-based campaigns; active sailor and cyclist; and an elected Member of the Santa Cruz Port Commission.

Peter Staple

Former President and CEO of Corium and BioSeek, Inc.; former Executive VP and General Counsel of ALZA Corp. and corporate counsel at Cetus and Chiron. Current board member of biopharmaceutical companies and the non-profit organizations Campaign Legal Center and Issue One; B.A. Stanford University; J.D. Stanford Law School. Resident of Los Altos.

Diane Talbert

Woodside Community Foundation, Board of Directors; Amah Mutsun Land Trust, Board of Directors; Formerly, Senior Vice President of Cornish & Carey Commercial Real Estate; Former owner, Cornish & Carey Residential Real Estate; Former Board Member Woodside High School Foundation; UCB California Naturalist.

Vishy Venugopalan

Vice President, Venture Investing at Citi Ventures; former investment professional at Bessemer Venture Partners and Longworth Venture Partners; former cofounder and head of product at a tech startup; hiking and camping enthusiast; resident of Redwood City.

Michael Watkins

Educator at the local, County of Santa Cruz, and California state level, including most recently as Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools. He served as President of California’s 58 County Superintendents Association and of the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators. He also served on the Task Force that created California’s “Blueprint for Environmental Literacy: Educating Every Student In, About, and For the Environment.”

Jacqueline Wender

Former senior administrator at Stanford and Santa Clara Universities, including serving as Associate Provost, Assistant to the President (Stanford), and Senior Assistant Dean in the Schools of Law and Engineering (Santa Clara). Bay Area native, long-time outdoors enthusiast, and artist. Resident of Menlo Park.

Stephen N. Wyckoff

Retired Santa Cruz attorney; member and former hike leader, Sierra Club; resident of Soquel, California.

Science Advisory Panel

Gage Dayton, Ph.D., Chair

Natural Reserves Director, UC Santa Cruz

Gage Dayton has served as administrative director of the UCSC Natural Reserves since 2008. The UCSC reserves include Año Nuevo Island Reserve, Fort Ord Natural Reserve, Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve, Younger Lagoon Reserve, and the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve. The NRS is a unique assemblage of protected wildland sites throughout California encompassing more than 756,000 acres and providing undisturbed environments for research and teaching.

Anthony Ambrose, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher, Dawson Lab, UC Berkeley

Anthony Ambrose is broadly interested in understanding interactions between trees and their environment, and how drought and climate change affects forest ecosystems. His current research is focused on examining the effects of climate change on coast redwood and giant sequoia trees in California as part of the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative and through a collaborative project with scientists from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, U.S. Geological Survey, and Carnegie Airborne Observatory at Stanford.

Emily Burns, Ph.D.

Program Director, Sky Island Alliance

Emily Burns, Ph.D. is the Program Director for Sky Island Alliance in Arizona and northern Mexico. Dr. Burns was formerly the Science Director for Save the Redwoods League in California, where 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.

Nona Chiariello, Ph.D.

Staff Scientist, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford University

Nona Chiariello has contributed groundbreaking work in grassland ecology, plant ecophysiology, and global change biology; much of it relating to the global change experiment that she has helped lead at Stanford University’s Jasper Biological Preserve over the past two decades. She was elected as fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in 2017.

Philippe S. Cohen, Ph.D.

Former Executive Director, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford University

Philippe S. Cohen is chair of the Science Advisory Panel. He served as executive director of Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve from 1993 to 2016. He is the former Resident Director, Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, University of California; board member, Organization of Biological Field Stations; resident of Menlo Park.

David L. Freyberg, Ph.D.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

A hydrologist and water resources specialist, Dr. Freyberg studies reservoir sedimentation and hydrology, hydrologic ecosystem services, summer drying of Pacific coast intermittent streams, tropical rainfall and throughfall, surface water-ground water interactions, especially in reservoir/sediment systems, and scaling and spatial distribution of recycled water systems.

Alan E. Launer, Ph.D.

Land Use & Environmental Planning, Stanford University

Alan Launer was associated with Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich’s research group, the Center for Conservation Biology, in the late 1970s to early 1980s and again from 1988 to 2006. While with that research group, Dr. Launer worked on multiple projects generally focused on the population biology and conservation of butterflies and plants across the western United States. Since the mid-1990s Alan has worked with Stanford University on designing and implementing the University’s conservation planning efforts, including being part of the team that developed the Stanford Habitat Conservation Plan. His current research activities focus primarily on the conservation biology of organisms inhabiting human-modified landscapes, particularly with respect to conservation planning on the 8,180 acres of Stanford’s main campus. Other topics of field research include: the ecology and conservation of biotic diversity restricted to the serpentine soil-based grasslands of the San Francisco Bay area; land use and conservation planning for the coastal grasslands and scrub of central California; and land use planning and endangered species preservation in the north Livermore Valley (Alameda County, CA).

Virginia Matzek, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Santa Clara University

Virginia Matzek is a restoration ecologist whose research focuses on the provision of ecosystem services and preservation of natural capital. Her recent work involves quantifying the carbon sequestration that comes from restoring riparian areas and Mediterranean oak woodlands, as a strategy for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. She is also interested in deepening connections between academic researchers and local land stewards by integrating monitoring, research, and student experiential learning.

Lisa Micheli, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Pepperwood Foundation

Dr. Lisa Micheli has more than 25 years’ experience applying her technical, policy, and fundraising expertise to the design and implementation of ecological restoration, research and education programs. She completed her graduate studies at UC Berkeley as a NASA Earth Systems Research Fellow in 2000 and now focuses her research on relationships between watershed health and biodiversity. She is the co-chair of the Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative (TBC3), a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Bay Area climate adaptation research initiative. She joined Sonoma County’s Pepperwood Foundation in October of 2009 as its premiere Executive Director.

Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow, Middlebury Institute for International Studies; Author, Blue Mind

Wallace J. Nichols is currently Chief Evangelist for Water (CEH2O) at Buoy Labs, a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies’ Center for the Blue Economy, a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and co-founder of Ocean Revolution, an international network of young ocean advocates, SEE the WILD, a conservation travel network, Grupo Tortuguero, an international sea turtle conservation network, and The Blue Mind Experience, a global campaign to tell the new story of water.

Scott Stephens, Ph.D.

Professor of Fire Sciences, UC Berkeley

Scott Stephens is interested in the interactions of wildland fire and ecosystems. This includes how prehistoric fires once interacted with ecosystems, how current wildland fires are affecting ecosystems, and how future fires, changing climates, and management may change this interaction. He is also interested in fire policy and how it can be improved to meet the challenges of the next decades, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Chris Wilmers, Ph.D.

Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UC Santa Cruz

Chris Wilmers’ research is focused on the impacts of land use change and global warming on wildlife communities. He and his lab use a combination of in depth field work, cutting edge technology and mathematical models to discover how humans shape and change wildlife communities over time. While his work is global in scope, his labs work is currently focused on studying carnivore communities in California and Africa. Since 2008, he has led the Santa Cruz Puma Project focused on understanding how humans influence the ecology, conservation and management of mountain lions (or pumas) in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Founding Directors

  • Andrew P. Hill
  • George C. Collins
  • Howard J. King
  • Claude A. “Tony” Look
  • Dorothy Varian

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