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
Paulo Quadri BarbaConservation Director
Paulo Quadri Barba, PhD. joined Sky Island Alliance in 2020 with 12 years of experience in conservation science and policy projects in both Mexico and the United States. He worked for the National Commission of Protected Areas of Mexico (CONANP) in different areas including climate adaptation policy, and tourism and community development. He is coauthor of the book “Mexico: Un Estado sin Tierra” which analyzes the historical and contemporary challenges of conservation policy in Mexico in the context of land tenure systems. His research work has mainly focused on forest ecology and global environmental change processes in mountain ecosystems, as well as on examining the local socioeconomic impacts of protected areas in Mexico. He has also worked in the islands of Baja California on projects linking species conservation to public health outcomes. Paulo received his doctorate degree in 2018 in Environmental Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz and his masters’ in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 2012.
Paulo was born in Mexico City where since his high school years he started hiking the volcanoes of central Mexico – which he thinks of as his other Sky Islands. Now in Tucson, he is fascinated by the unique diversity of species and habitats of the Sky Islands region and he is excited to get to learn everything about its natural and human history. Paulo’s biggest conservation dream is to see a Sky Islands region where species like wolves and jaguars can roam free and safe again between the two countries he calls home.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 18
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
Zoe FullemCommunity Science Manager
I joined Sky Island Alliance in spring 2020 to lead the Border Wildlife Study in the field. A Tucson transplant by way of the Midwest and Upstate NY, I am already smitten with the Sky Island panoramic vistas, the starry night skies, and the unexpected blooms and fruits of the desert. I received a Bachelor’s degree from Macalester College in Economics and Environmental Studies, which led me to pursue microfinance and urban agriculture after graduation. I then joined the Peace Corps, serving in Panama for two years as a Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer, working with Indigenous Ngäbe cocoa and coffee farmers, and then served a third year as a liaison between the Peace Corps, local host communities, and Panamanian government agencies. Returning to the U.S., I worked as a community lender at Accion Chicago, providing capital and business coaching to historically excluded entrepreneurs. I then attended graduate school at the University of Michigan, receiving an M.S. in Natural Resources, with specializations in Conservation Ecology and GIS, and collaborated on projects involving wildlife tracking, citizen science, and ethnobotany in the Great Lakes region. In my free time I enjoy gardening, hiking, rock climbing, and DIY home projects.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 26
Anna SofiaCommunications and Advocacy Manager
I joined Sky Island Alliance in October 2020. In my role at Sky Island Alliance, I help direct our communications strategy, outreach, and engagement.
Born and raised in the Midwest (I spent most of my life straddling Minnesota and Wisconsin state lines), I transplanted to Arizona in 2018 and haven’t yet looked back. I moved to the Sky Island mountain town of Bisbee and fell in love with the flora and fauna in the region—the Mexican blue oaks, the cholla cacti, the turkey vultures, the hog-nosed skunks. Soon after my relocation, I decided to segue from my bachelor’s degree in Technical Communication and Professional Writing to a graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University, where I studied and wrote about the environmental work happening in the American Southwest. I graduated in August 2020 with a master’s degree in Science Writing.
My previous work experience includes developmental editing at a publishing house, communications and grant writing at several environmental / literary nonprofits, freelance reporting at multiple newspapers, and writing copy at a large software corporation. When I’m not writing, I enjoy drinking too much tea, learning how to roller skate, hiking our incredible mountain ranges, and reading nonfiction.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 25
Georgina WallerDevelopment Manager
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. At Sky Island Alliance Georgina interacts with our wonderful donors to keep them informed about all they are making possible and oversees our donor stewardship. 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
Bryon LichtenhanStewardship Specialist
I was born and raised in Tucson, and the deserts and mountains of the Sky Island Archipelago have always been my source of inspiration, beauty, solace and so much more. I am constantly struck by the amazing diversity of this place, and I feel that there is no more important work than the protection and restoration of the planet upon which we live, and the building of a deep connection between people and the natural world. My background as a homesteader and permaculturalist, ancestral skills instructor, tree service technician, and nature guide and educator, as well as my studies of Biology, Ecology, and Anthropology at institutions such as Carleton College in Northfield, MN and Prescott College in Tucson, have made me keenly aware of our undeniable connection to, and dependence upon, the natural world for our lives and livelihoods.
While my principal duties at SIA involve interacting with our amazing volunteers to prepare and implement our restoration and spring assessment field work, I am also an instructor with our wildlife tracking workshops and other education efforts. In my free time I might be found birding in our borderlands, partaking in a backcountry deer hunt, or sleeping next to a fire made by friction, under a hand-made shelter, up some hidden Sky Island canyon. I feel truly inspired by the chance to collaborate with all my remarkable co-workers as we help to improve the vitality of our native plants, animals and habitats, while creating a greater appreciation for, and understanding of, our incredible Sky Islands.Phone: 520-624-7080 x 27
Sami HammerSprings 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
Meagan BethelWildlife Specialist
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 draw, act in community theater, and am in several Star Wars costuming/charity clubs.Phone: (520)624-7080 ext. 28