Sky Island Heroes

We want to acknowledge some of the amazing people who are champions of conservation in the Sky Islands – from our annual awardees, to community volunteers, scientists, and advocates like you.  For every person we highlight here there are hundreds more, each doing their part to make this a more connected, healthy and vibrant place. Thank you!

Tom Swenson-Healey, Sky Island Hero

Whether he’s bushwhacking up a side canyon in search of a spring or chatting with passersby at a local outreach event, Tom has gone – and continues to go – beyond the call of duty as a volunteer for Sky Island Alliance. In 2017 he contributed innumerable hours of his own time to many of our various projects, and he’s already racking up the hours for 2018 too! Perhaps more importantly though, Tom has a wicked sense of humor, constant enthusiasm in the field, and humility about the impact he has on our organization. It seems only necessary to call Tom a Sky Island hero.

A few years back, I had been a retired nurse with too much time on my hands and really needed to get out of the house. One day, I happened upon a Sky Island Alliance information booth at the Festival of Books and found what I was looking for. As a volunteer these past two years, trips with SIA have taken me to places very few have ever walked and introduced me to people I might not have ever known otherwise; students, other retirees, ranchers, birders, animal trackers, botanists, entomologists, biologists, hydrologists, astronomers, resource and land managers. I am especially encouraged from meeting young people passionate about the environment and seeing their potential. Beyond that, I’m learning about the flora, fauna, and geology of the area and the enormous importance of water. – Tom

Bill Bemis, Sky Island Hero

Bill exemplifies everything a nonprofit could hope to have as a donor, volunteer, and all-around supporter. Bill has attended numerous field outings over the past three years, from pond plantings to seed collections; he also participates in our Adopt-a-Spring program, visiting a spring site in Parker Canyon five times a year to record vital data for our springs program. Beyond that, Bill has helped with multiple outreach events and attended, donated, and spoken on behalf of our organization at many of our fundraising events. Everyone on staff has been helped by Bill in one way or another, and we continue to be amazed at his generosity, spirit, and commitment to helping us protect and restore the Sky Islands. Thank you Bill!

I give to Sky Island Alliance because I support preserving, protecting, and restoring our unique ecosystem in Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora. I give to Sky Island Alliance because in a time when politicians insult and attack our neighbors, Sky Island Alliance is an organization that builds alliances and relationships with like-minded individuals and organizations in Mexico. I give to Sky Island Alliance because they give me the opportunity to contribute my sweat as well as my money. I give to Sky Island Alliance because they are providing me with a wonderful education about our environment. – Bill

Julie & Billy Martin, Sky Island Heroes

It is with great pleasure that we at Sky Island Alliance announce our new Sky Island Heroes: Billy and Julie Martin! Billy and Julie joined us most recently on a springs assessment trip in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Julie has volunteered on numerous trips since 2015 (the spring assessment was Billy’s second outing), including multiple springs assessments, restoration work in Aravaipa Canyon, and a BioBlitz! This power couple has also donated multiple times in response to our seasonal appeals, and they have donated seed packets from their co-owned Native Seed Company for silent auctions.

(Julie even made brownies for everyone on the most recent spring assessment trip, which went over quite well with all the hard-working volunteers and staff members!)

Volunteering for Sky Island Alliance is always so rewarding. We get to explore places in our own backyard that we never knew existed. It is citizen science at its best. Most impressive has been the sincere gratitude shown by SIA staff every time we donate or volunteer. – Billy and Julie

From the bottom of our heart, THANK YOU, Billy and Julie, for being our Sky Island Heroes!

Valeria Cañedo, Sky Island Hero

Valeria Cañedo has opened our eyes to the power and importance of young professionals in conservation. Under Valeria’s leadership, Alianza Mariposa Monarca has exceeded all of our expectations! In just one year she has smoothly led the group to a whole new level of volunteerism and commitment. Alianza Mariposa Monarca now has their own projects, fundraising events and volunteers helping them out. Through initiative and commitment, Valeria has demonstrated herself to be a dedicated leader with a promising future in pollinator conservation, and that’s why she deserves the title of Sky Island Hero!

Being a volunteer with Sky Island Alliance has been a great experience. I began volunteering in 2015 and since then, it has changed my life and the lives of other people who are involved in the Alianza Mariposa Monarca group, based in Sonora, Mexico. In July of 2017, I participated as an intern working on various projects related to pollinators. It was a great experience, thanks to the team at Sky Island Alliance for teaching me many things. – Valeria

Guillermo Molina Padilla, 2014 Volunteer of the Year

2014 Volunteer of the Year

Guillermo is the winner of our 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award, given to a Sky Island Alliance volunteer in recognition of his or her generous contribution of time, effort and dedication to scientific inquiry, restoration and protection of the Sky Island region. Guillermo is an Electromechanical Engineer with a Masters degree in Computing Sciences, from the Instituto Tecnológico de Nogales, Sonora. From an early age, Guillermo was interested in science and nature and he now combines his work with outdoor activities and volunteering near his hometown of Cananea, Sonora. He has hiked, camped and led hiking groups helping to forge an understanding of the need for conservation and restoration. Guillermo is a committed educator, combining his prior work in the local industry with technical classes as a professor, and is currently a coordinator of two engineering programs at Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Cananea (ITSC). Muchas gracias Guillermo!