Sky Island Alliance has a skilled and passionate staff, dedicated to getting great things done in the Sky Islands. We welcome you to join us in the field, meet us at the office, attend our special events, and get to know us in person!
Louise MisztalExecutive Director
I’ve worked at Sky Island Alliance for the past nine years, most recently as Conservation Director. I was the principal architect of a regional climate change adaptation workshop series designed for resource managers to advance understanding of impacts on ecosystems and wildlife. This led directly to critical new work to survey, protect and restore fragile spring ecosystems. In 2015, I conducted sabbatical work in Australia, where I met with natural resource colleagues to share methodologies for assessing vulnerability of biodiversity, water sources, and human communities to climate change, and developing responsive science, policy and adaptation strategies. I’m committed to crafting creative solutions to pressing conservation issues and building collaboration among diverse partners. I’m currently principal investigator on a project to collaboratively develop a climate-smart landscape conservation design for the Sky Island Region, focused on springs, streams and grasslands. I hold a B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, a B.S. in Microbiology, and an M.S. in Geographic Information Systems, all from the University of Arizona. For my Master’s work, I mapped bi-national conservation priorities for wildlife corridor and habitat protection in the Sky Island region. I am currently Vice Chair of the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and a member of the Community Water Coalition Advisory Committee, the Art and Environment Network Executive Committee and the Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Change Adaptation Fund Advisory Committee. I love hiking desert rivers and Sky Island creeks to look for birds and swimming holes, and seeking out quiet camping spots with lots of bear sign nearby.
Revisit Louise’s sabbatical in Australia on her blog, Springs Down Under.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 19
Emily BurnsProgram Director
Emily Burns, Ph.D. joined Sky Island Alliance in 2019 with 15 years of research, conservation, and restoration experience. Most recently, Emily was the Science Director for Save the Redwoods League in California. As Science Director, she led the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative, Redwood Genome Project, multiple conservation planning efforts, and co-founded Redwoods Rising, a public-private partnership to restore more than 70,000 acres of logged coast redwood forest in Redwood National and State Parks. She started the citizen science project, Fern Watch, to track the health of a common understory plant (Western sword fern) along forests of the Pacific Northwest to learn how climate change and recent drought affects this inhabitant of coastal forests. Under Emily’s leadership, Save the Redwoods League established a restoration program, grew the education program to teach more students how climate change affects their local forests, grew a stewardship program to care for thousands of acres of private redwood forestland, and sequenced the coast redwood and giant sequoia genomes to aid conservation efforts for the species. Emily received her doctorate in 2010 from the University of California, Berkeley in Integrative Biology and conducted postdoctoral research on drought tolerance in ferns at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she remains a research associate today. Emily lives in Tucson with her family which includes three rescue tortoises that have been in the family for more than 30 years. You can read more about Emily’s work on DoctorFern.org.
Emily spent her early career studying how plants adapt to drought and is fascinated by the climate extremes within the Madrean Archipelago of the Sonoran Desert. While working in the coast redwood forest of Northern California, she discovered that most redwood forest plants are able to absorb fog water directly into their leaves and stems, an adaptation helping redwood forest flora take advantage of ephemeral water sources and stay hydrated during rainless times of year. She also discovered that the most common plant in the coast redwood forest, Western sword fern, shrinks in size during drought, making this species an excellent indicator of forest hydration and climate change. Emily is eager to learn more about the unique adaptations of the Sky Island species and dedicate herself to protecting the diversity of life, habitats, and water sources of this spectacular region. When she isn’t hiking around in hopes of witnessing reptiles like desert tortoises and gila monsters in the wild, she enjoys doing modern botanical embroidery.Phone: (520)624-7080 ext. 14
Maggie TrinkleChief Financial Officer
I returned to The Old Pueblo in 2010 after straying miles from home. In my twelve years away from Tucson, I worked as a quality and systems manager for a manufacturing firm in Silicon Valley, started my own internet solutions business, and, most importantly, created a few DNAlings. Once my son and daughter were of school age, I was ready for my next journey and found Sky Island Alliance. I appreciate the atmosphere of learning and collaboration here, and that I am able to give back to the region that nurtured me into adulthood all those years ago. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Operations Management from the Eller College at the University of Arizona. I provide program support behind the scenes, and mange our accounting and finances. In my free time, I exercise in excess, write, dance, and secretly arrange fresh roses from my garden on my coworkers’ desks.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 10
Sami HammerConservation Biologist & GIS Specialist
I work with Sky Island Alliance’s Adopt-A-Spring monitoring, restoration weekend trips, and spatial analysis and mapping. I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Trinity University and a Master’s degree in Natural Resources from The University of Arizona. My Master’s thesis explored how the vegetative, hydrological, and geomorphological characteristics of ephemeral and intermittent streams influence their use by wildlife species of concern. Before coming south, I worked in Wyoming and Idaho as a wildlife technician surveying for species such as Wyoming pocket gophers and pygmy rabbits, as a range technician inventorying range improvements on BLM allotments, and even as a recreation/wildlife intern mapping two-track dirt roads. While living in Tucson as a student, I spent many weekends exploring the Sky Islands. I am excited to continue to work in and learn about this region as a part of SIA. I love exploring new landscapes, starry nights, ridge tops, and the quiet of remote places.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 16
Emma Rocio FajardoCommunity Engagement Program Manager
I immigrated to Tucson from Durango, Mexico, 17 years ago and have been in love with the Sonoran Desert ever since. While growing up in Durango I spent most of my time outdoors, exploring the natural world any way that I could. When my family immigrated to Tucson, it was very easy to continue that tradition, since the Sky Islands always provided a place to feel at home while I adjusted to my new life in the US. Nature was my safe place, it was my constant in a life where everything had been turned around, so even at that early age I understood that my duty would be to protect the very same spaces that had once protected me. For that reason, I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Arizona and began my conservation career working as a Biologist Technician at Saguaro National Park. While on-the-ground restoration has been one of my passions, years of experience in the field of environmental conservation and a Masters of Science in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University have shown me that equity in access, diversity in participation and decision-making, and environmental justice are all equally as important to me. Consequently, working for Sky Island Alliance has been a dream come true. I am grateful to be in a position where not only do I get to implement and advance my ecological restoration skills, but I also have the opportunity to work with diverse stakeholders and facilitate the path for participation for underrepresented audiences.
Emigré a Tucson desde Durango, México, hace 17 años y desde entonces amo el desierto de Sonorense. Mientras crecía en Durango, pasaba la mayor parte de mi tiempo al aire libre, explorando el mundo natural de cualquier manera que podía. Cuando mi familia emigró a Tucson, fue muy fácil continuar esa tradición ya que las Islas Serranas siempre me proporcionaron un lugar para sentirme en hogar mientras me adaptaba a mi nueva vida en los EE. UU. La naturaleza era mi lugar seguro, era mi constante en una vida donde todo había cambiado, por lo que incluso a esa temprana edad comprendí que mi deber sería proteger los mismos espacios que una vez me habían protegido a mí. Por esa razón obtuve una Licenciatura en Geografía de la Universidad de Arizona y comencé mi carrera de conservación trabajando como técnica bióloga en el Parque Nacional Saguaro. Si bien la restauración en el terreno ha sido una de mis pasiones, años de experiencia en el campo de la conservación ambiental y una Maestría en Ciencias en Dimensiones Humanas de Recursos Naturales de la Universidad Estatal de Colorado me han demostrado que la equidad en el acceso, la diversidad en participación y la toma de decisiones y la justicia ambiental son igualmente importantes para mí. En consecuencia, trabajar para Sky Island Alliance ha sido un sueño hecho realidad. Estoy agradecida de estar en una posición en la que no solo llego a implementar y avanzar mis habilidades de restauración ecológica, sino que también tengo la oportunidad de trabajar con públicos diversos y facilitar el camino para la participación de audiencias poco representadas.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 18
Meagan BethelConservation Coordinator
I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona; and my passion for biodiversity and interest in wildlife conservation began with riding on my father’s shoulders. Pointing out wildlife, crouching under bushes, and peering under rocks. I learned to love the Sky Island region and appreciate the species that occupy it. But my interest in wildlife conservation started in 4th grade when a Sky Island Alliance employee came to my class to teach us about the ocelot, and I was hooked. I have volunteered with Sky Island Alliance ever since, helping with tracking workshops, checking and analyzing remote camera data. Even conducting my own research projects in High School to better understand the environment around us. I followed my passion for wildlife and habitat conservation all throughout school and I graduated from the University of Arizona in the School of Natural Resources with an emphasis on wildlife conservation and management. In my free time I love doing art especially drawing wildlife, as well as horseback riding, community theater, and costuming.Phone: (520)624-7080 ext. 28
Georgina WallerDevelopment Assistant
Georgina Waller joined Sky Island Alliance in 2019. Georgina was born and raised in Nogales, Arizona, and graduated from the University of Arizona earning her bachelor’s degree in merchandising and fashion promotion. She spent over 30 years in the retail merchandising world gaining considerable experience in sales, buying, marketing and management. Towards the end of her career, she provided administrative support to members of Stores district management team. Georgina and her husband enjoy watching sports and spending time with family and friends. One of their favorite activities is attending their two youngest grand-daughters softball games.Phone: (520)624-7080 ext. 12