Our mission is to protect and restore the diversity of life and lands in the Sky Island region of the U.S. and Mexico. We use science, education, and advocacy to connect the binational landscapes, people, and wildlife of the Sky Islands for the benefit of all. We envision the Sky Islands as a place where nature thrives, where open space and clean water are available to all species, and where people are deeply connected to the region and its innate capacity to enrich our lives.
Our Commitment to Diversity
Connecting this biological and social diversity is central to Sky Island’s work in the region. Sky Island Alliance is committed to fostering a culture that embraces diversity and representation in all the work that we do. Our programs, employment, volunteer opportunities, and participation in all of our activities are open to all. We value diversity in terms of experience, skills, abilities, and vocation, age, ethnic background and race, gender expression and sexual orientation, and in all other ways that having diverse voices enables us to better represent and serve our communities.
Meet Sky Island Alliance’s Board of Directors!
Board membership is a volunteer position. You can frequently see our dedicated board members attending our public events, volunteer trips, and making thank-you calls. We appreciate all of the time and commitment that our amazing Board of Directors dedicates to ensuring our organization stays strong, and our mission endures.
Michael Van AlsburgCo-Chair
I am a Tucson attorney with a wide variety of clients including those with land use, natural resources, environmental, and water law issues. Having grown up in Southern Arizona, I have been hiking, camping, mountain biking, fishing, and enjoying nature as long as I can remember. I spend most of my free time with my family exploring the Sky Islands, with a particular fondness for Santa Cruz County. The Sky Islands are a unique treasure, unprecedented in both beauty and biodiversity. I was drawn to serving as part of the Sky Island Alliance Board because of the important work this organization does in serving the community and preserving this resource for future generations. I am an advocate for conservation efforts designed to encourage sustainable practices balanced by the obligations we all share to protect the wildlife, plants, and fragile ecosystem vital to this region.
Elia M. Tapia VillaseñorCo-Chair
I´m a professor at Universidad de Sonora in Hermosillo, Mexico, and I hold a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Science in Geology from the same University. I spent the past nine years working for the Mexican and United States efforts on the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program for Universidad de Sonora and the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center. In 2014, I was accepted at the University of Arizona Arid Lands Resource Science Graduate Interdisciplinary Program. I defended my Ph.D. dissertation on November 1, 2019, with a thesis entitled “Water Resources in the Borderlands of the Colorado River Basin: Climate Uncertainties, Anthropogenic Impacts, and Binational Agreements.” I´m interested in hydrology, remote sensing, and groundwater management. I advocate for stakeholder engagement, knowledge improvement, and the sustainable use of water resources in the desert watersheds of the U.S. and Mexico.
I am a retired clinical social worker with over forty years of working in medical and behavioral health settings. My boyhood playground was the woods and fields of southern Michigan. The sense of the freedom and beauty I felt there was renewed when I came to southern Arizona. Donating and volunteering with Sky Island Alliance has been a way to give back to the land, and thanks to the staff, a way to learn and appreciate the environment on a deeper level. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue giving back by serving on the Board. I especially look forward to supporting the binational work that Sky Island does with our partners in Mexico to protect, restore, and preserve our magnificent shared home in the Madrean Archipelago.
Soy un trabajador social ya jubilado con mas que cuarenta años trabajando en entornos de salud y salud mental. De niño jugué en los bosques y campos del sureste de Michigan. La sensación de libertad y belleza que sentí ahí fue renovado al llegar al sur de Arizona. Donar y ser voluntario para el Sky Island Alliance ha sido una manera de devolver a la tierra, y gracias al personal, una manera de aprender y apreciar mas a la ecosistema de las islas serranas. Agradezco la oportunidad de continuarla devolviendo por servir en la junta directiva. Espero especialmente apoyar el trabajo binacional que hace Sky Island Alliance con nuestros socios Mexicanos para proteger, restaurar, y preservar nuestro magnifico paisaje compartido en las Islas Serranas.
Emiel Martin BrottTreasurer
I came to the Sonoran Desert in the early 2000s to pursue master’s research with local groups in the binational San Pedro River Basin. I knew I’d stay for good, as the US-Mexico border and its people, wildlife, and rich cultural history took hold. The next 13 years found me working at Sonoran Institute, with partners throughout Tucson and Mexicali, to help secure fresh water for the Santa Cruz River and the Colorado River Delta, respectively. What an adventure! Through it all, Sky Island Alliance staff were by my side, asking the tough questions and taking critical leadership positions. I was so impressed. I earned my MBA and am now an executive director at The Drawing Studio in Tucson. I am deeply honored and humbled to now be part of the Alliance’s board. Sky Island Alliance has always meant so much to me – for its unwavering commitment to the border and binational work; for its leadership on watersheds and especially seeps and springs; for its tremendous volunteer force; and for its focus on science and large-landscape restoration. Thank you Sky Island Alliance staff and volunteers!
I’m a Research Professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona. My teaching and research interests focus on large landscape conservation, climate change adaptation, public lands policy, and international conservation and sustainable development, and I remain actively involved in a range of field projects related to public lands management, both in the U.S. and internationally. I grew up in California (which actually wasn’t that bad), but have always loved the desert Southwest, and was lucky enough to marry a third generation Arizonan, Tahnee Robertson, and become part of the landscape here.
I am a Staff Scientist at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and a Senior Lecturer at the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning at the University of Arizona. My background is in Architecture and I worked as an Architectural Designer in Mexico for several years before coming to the University of Arizona to do my Master’s in Design and Energy Conservation and later my PhD in Arid Lands Resource Sciences. For my research I study green spaces in cities and how they allow the functioning of both social and ecological systems, and are key spaces for resilience and human wellbeing. I am originally from Monterrey, Mexico, but I grew up in Mexico City and lived in Sonora for many years. I moved to Tucson in 2017 and since then, I fell in love with the desert landscape. I enjoy hiking in Sabino Canyon and other recreational areas near Tucson. Because I raised my children here and found great friends, I consider Tucson and the Sonoran Desert my home.
Although I grew up scurrying around the green woods of eastern Tennessee, travels in the western U.S., and living in other regions (Santa Barbara for graduate school and then to Tucson in 1992), deepened my connection to the wonderful diversity of semi-arid natural landscapes and to the Sky Island region, in particular. My professional life has followed suit. With a Master’s in geological sciences, I began my career as hydrologist in California and then spent 23 years as a watershed planner and ultimately as the Director of the Sustainable Environment Program at Pima Association of Governments in Tucson, Arizona. In 2015, I joined the University of Arizona, where I served as the Water Resource Research Center Associate Director and as the Program Director for the Water, Environmental, and Energy Solutions Initiative. In my current position as the Director of UArizona Pima County Cooperative Extension, I oversee programs on youth development, nutrition and family health, and horticulture throughout Pima County. In this work, and by being part of the Santa Cruz Watershed Collaborative, the evident connections between healthy people and a healthy ecosystem are daily reminders about why we need to think holistically about our natural resources and how to protect them. I am particularly concerned about issues related to the importance of groundwater and springs to desert ecosystems, the need to maximize urban stormwater benefits, the threat of invasive species, and the very special bonds between people, animals, water, and habitat in our fragile environment. Beyond my career interests, my life circles around family and my love of music and dance. I play traditional Irish and American Old-time music in sessions, jams, and in various bands, and for 25 years I have built community and connected people to music and dance by calling and organizing contradances.
A native Arizonan, I grew up camping and hiking in every remote corner of this state. Except for a brief (and cold!) period living in Denver, Arizona has been my home. Have spent 40 years in the industrial wireless communications industry as a writer, publisher, event manager and public speaker, and 25 years ago, founded a company serving international clients in that industry, translating complex technology into marketing, sales, PR, social media and advertising messages. Also, I deliver sales training for people who think they hate sales (fellow introverts – raise your hands!) and, thorough a process called “story listening”, provide guidance to non-profit boards on easy and fun fundraising methods. I support STEM and music education and women’s healthcare with service on national and local boards. My work as a sculptor explores the relationship of people and animals. A SIA donor and supporter for several years, it’s humbling to serve on this board. I hope to help with initiatives that broaden the visibility of and support for the Sky Island Alliance. And stop border wall construction.
I am the host of the climate change podcast, America Adapts, where I interview experts, policymakers, journalists and thought leaders in this emerging field of climate adaptation. I’m also the host of a new streaming TV climate adaptation channel at Cimpatico Studios, where I interview academics, policy makers, journalists, researchers, and climate adaptation professionals. My background: I first started doing adaptation in Queensland, Australia, focusing on the impacts of climate change on the agriculture sector. Upon returning to the United States, I joined the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and quickly assumed the duties of their first Climate Change Coordinator. My interests increasingly turned national, so I took a position as Climate Change Liaison with the National Park Service’s Climate Change Response program. In that role, I had the privilege of contributing to some of the earliest federal policy discussions around adaptation. I then took the role as North America Policy Director at the Society for Conservation Biology, working on climate change adaptation, endangered species and science communication issues. I’m married to Lindsey and have two sons, 16 and 11, and I love taking my boys out hiking in the Catalina Mountains. Nothing brings me greater joy than in monsoon season when a tarantula decides to come up to the back door and say hi.
Guadalupe (Lupe) Sotelo
I am a bilingual-Latinx plant enthusiast currently working as a biological science technician under the Resource Management Department at Saguaro National Park. Prior to working at Saguaro, I attended the University of Arizona and studied biology with an emphasis in medicine. I now combine my passion for botany with my interest in medicine to explore ethnobotany in the Sonoran Desert. I am a member of Lideres del Sendero, a Latinx young adult hiking club, co-founder of Latinos for Park, and the Ambassador/Outings Leader for Latino Outdoors which is an organization meant to connect the Latinx community to the outdoors. In my spare time I enjoy botanizing, gardening, hiking, camping, reading, volunteering at the UA Herbarium, and exploring new places. My love and devotion for the outdoors has left me with the intent to share my knowledge with the community about the importance of natural spaces and conservation. Moving forward, I hope to continue to connect people of color to the outdoors with the help of Sky Island Alliance.
Dr. America N. Lutz Ley
I am a research professor at El Colegio de Sonora, in Mexico, where I teach a graduate course on sustainability and development. I was born in Hermosillo and have lived my entire life in the Greater Sonoran Desert region on both sides of the border. In 2012, I received a Fulbright-Garcia Robles scholarship, as well as a fellowship from the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), to study a PhD in Arid Lands Resource Sciences with minor in Global Change at the University of Arizona. I also have a Master’s in Social Sciences with concentration in Public Affairs, and background in Educational Psychology from my bachelor’s degree. My research and outreach activities range from topics of policy and organized civil society around environmental issues, to social and institutional factors contributing to global change adaptation in critical aspects of human development, such as water security, rural sustainable livelihoods, and gendered environmental impacts of change. My recent funded projects focused on the gendered socio-ecological effects of mining in the upper San Miguel Watershed in Sonora, and on the combined impacts of mining and climate change on local water security in Sonora State. In my free time I like to take long walks, read narrative, play with my cat, and take photographs. I am (non-stop) fascinated by the extravagant biocultural diversity of this part of the world, and I think we all need to commit to protecting these amazing landscapes and social-ecological systems that we are so fortunate to share.
Juan Carlos Bravo
I am the Director of the Mexico Program for Wildlands Network, a partner group of SIA for many years, and I’ve been living in the Sonoran Desert since late 2005, working on projects like the Northern Jaguar Reserve, the recovery of prairie dogs in the Mexican portion of the San Pedro River and the first Mexican wolf reintroduction into Sonora. My work revolves around fostering connectivity between distant landscapes and different people; promoting conditions necessary for large carnivores to thrive; and effecting strategic changes that add up to a continental-scale vision of conservation. I’m a native of Mexico City and could not be happier to have left that huge city behind as I enjoy immensely the wide empty spaces of northwestern Mexico.
Soy Director del Programa México de Wildlands Network, un grupo socio de SIA desde hace muchos años, y he vivido en el Desierto Sonorense desde finales del 2005, trabajando en proyectos como la Reserva Jaguar del Norte , la recuperación de los perritos llaneros en la porción mexicana de la Cuenca del Río San Pedro y la primera reintroducción de lobos mexicanos a Sonora. Mi trabajo gira alrededor de fomentar conectividad entre paisajes distantes y personas distintas; promover las condiciones necesarias para que los grandes carnívoros prosperen; y efectuar cambios estratégicos que contribuyan a una visión de conservación a escala continental. Soy originario de la Ciudad de México y no podría estar más feliz de haber dejado atrás esa enorme ciudad pues disfruto inmensamente los vastos espacios abiertos del noroeste mexicano.
When I was growing up, spending time outside was my refuge and sanctuary. I carried this love of the outdoors into adulthood with my graduate degrees and early work experiences focused on the conservation of native species and landscape continuity. These principles guide me and influence every decision I make in my current role as Manager for Land Resources with Tucson Electric Power and UniSource Energy Services. I have lived in Tucson since 2007, and I quickly developed a connection and enduring affinity for the Sky Island Region. My wife and I are avid campers and hikers, and our greatest joy has been introducing our 6-year-old daughter to the incredible beauty and biodiversity of this region. I appreciate Sky Island Alliance’s work and collaboration with agencies, jurisdictions, and the public to inform and influence policies and actions that encourage sustainable development and sound, science-based decisions on landscape planning. It is an honor to be part of the board and have a role in contributing to this important work.
I have been a member, supporter, and active volunteer with Sky Island Alliance for years, and I also support numerous environmental, social, economic, racial justice and arts organizations. I’ve led 80+ Sierra Club Outings, including domestic service and rafting excursions, and international trips in Latin America and Asia. I previously served on the Board of Directors of the Tucson Center for Women & Children (domestic violence prevention and survivor support) and the YWCA of Southern Arizona (one of the first males on a local YWCA board in the USA). Today, I’m mostly retired, but continue to serve as a gender equity educator and diversity trainer in Arizona. My wife Carolyn and I have two adult children and four grandchildren.