The Only Organization Working Exclusively to Conserve and Restore

California's Native Grasslands

2024 Board of Directors & Administration 

Officers


 JP Marié

CNGA President

Manager, UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve

Read more about JP

JP is the Manager of the U.C. Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve where he is in charge of the day-to-day management and operations of the Reserve. With 20 years of experience in land restoration, land management, erosion control, native grassland implementation and invasive plant control, he has an extensive knowledge of native grassland restoration techniques and vegetation management. JP is the Chair of the CNGA Workshop Committee and has been serving on the CNGA Board for seven years.


Julia Michaels

CNGA Vice-President

Restoration Ecologist & Designer, Hedgerow Farms


Read more about Julia

Julia Michaels completed her PhD in Ecology at UC Davis where she focused her research on strategies for restoring native CA vernal pool wetlands. Prior to joining Hedgerow Farms, Julia taught at Sacramento State and in the Biology Department at Reed College. Julia loves working at Hedgerow Farms because it is her favorite way to connect with the public about the fascinating world of native plants, and to recruit individuals to help us restore native ecosystems one project at a time.


Sarah Gaffney

CNGA Secretary

Restoration Ecologist, River Partners

Read more about Sarah

Sarah recently received her PhD in Ecology at UC Davis and is now a Restoration Ecologist for River Partners. The focus of her dissertation was on the competitive dynamics between native perennial grasses, naturalized exotic annual grasses, and the noxious weeds medusahead and goatgrass, exploring the role of plant soil feedbacks and long-term drought on community composition. With River Partners, she now works towards the restoration of floodplain and riverway restoration, and their associated grasslands, across the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.



Jodie Sheffield 

CNGA Treasurer

Sod and Seed Specialist, Delta Bluegrass Company

Read more about Jodie

Jodie Sheffield is the Sod & Seed Specialist in charge of Research and Development for Delta Bluegrass Company located in Stockton, California. With over 25 years of experience in the Turfgrass Industry, Jodie has worked with Plant Breeders, Seed Producers and Research Facilities throughout California and the Pacific North West developing premium quality turfgrass Sod. With a huge emphasis placed on water conservation and creating awareness of the vital importance of climate appropriate landscaping, Jodie has pioneered the development of California Native Grasses in Sod form. Her research has developed key information on maintenance and cultural practices that focus on the benefits landscaping with CA. Native Grasses. Jodie served on the CNGA Board as Secretary for three years and as Treasurer since 2020. (01/29/2020)

Board Members-at-Large


Welcome to the New Board Members for 2024 - 2025

Ernesto Chavez-Velasco, Scott Dunbar, Brian Peterson, and Brooke Wainwright


Ernesto Chavez-Velasco

Member-at-Large

Read more about Ernesto

I am currently pursuing a master's degree in natural resources at Cal Poly Humboldt where I'm researching commonly unused plant diversity in California grassland restoration projects. I completed my undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz in 2021, where I first gained research and restoration experience concerning California grasslands. Since 2019, I have been a restoration practitioner in Santa Barbara County and in Point Blue's Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed Program in the Bay Area. Most recently, I was an assistant field botanist for CNPS in the North Coast bioregions. I also volunteer and participate in regional prescribed burn associations where I can apply "good fire" in our grassland ecosystems. I enjoy sharing my genuine appreciation and love for California's grassland systems for their often-overlooked beauty and their vital role in supporting the state's diverse flora and fauna.


Scott Dunbar

Alternate Member-at-Large

Read more about Scott

Born and raised in the rolling hills of southwestern Marin County, I developed a profound appreciation for open space and the ecosystems and ecosystem processes within. I am an alumnus of the University of California, Davis, having been awarded a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. Following graduation, I applied these skills to help manage the livestock and orchard component of an organic farm in Sacramento. Utilizing management-intensive-grazing practices, I developed an appreciation for the grasses and forbs that constituted the sustenance for the ruminants and non-ruminants I managed. While in a career transition, I stumbled across Holistic Management International, and participated in multiple trainings culminating in a whole farm/ranch intensive training class, which placed significant value on assessing an ecosystem as a whole to treat the root causes of a given management issue, rather than the symptoms. This aerial perspective of ecology was a profound shift for me in developing management tools to suit a desired outcome. After these realizations, I pursued, and was awarded, a Masters in Natural Resource Stewardship with an emphasis in Rangeland Ecology from Colorado State University. This program further instilled in me a management-forward approach to ecological stewardship grounded in a science-based approach. I have used this degree and my years of experience in management and advocacy for the past 2.5 years as a Stewardship Program Manager for the Marin Agricultural Land Trust where I manage our proactive stewardship grants programs and offer technical assistance, including dryland pasture management techniques, to Marin County farmers and ranchers. I have an enthusiastic appreciation for California and the rangelands and grasslands, and the managers here, however, I believe that there is always more to be done. I highly value the role of education, networking and collaboration in achieving a desired objective and I believe that the California Native Grassland Association is a crucial vehicle to increasing awareness and value on preserving, maintaining, and restoring native grasslands.


Brian Peterson

Member-at-Large

Read more about Brian

I have been the fire ecologist for Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Fire Forward Program since 2019, where I work to use fire for ecological benefit in the diverse ecosystems of Sonoma and Marin counties. I work with landowners to help plan and implement prescribed burns to meet a variety of stewardship goals and have designed monitoring protocols and experiments to better inform stewardship decisions. I am especially excited about using fire in grassland ecosystems to help increase botanical diversity. Two years ago, I initiated and organized a native grassland restoration and conservation working group in Sonoma and Marin counties to help connect people working to improve grasslands in those areas. I received a B.S. in Environmental Studies (2011) and an M.S. in Conservation Biology and Evolution (2014) from San Francisco State University. Before working at Fire Forward, I worked as a botanist for eight years with Nomad Ecology, doing rare plant surveys, monitoring rare plant and invasive weed populations, and mapping vegetation. During this time, I developed a deep passion for California’s grassland ecosystems and their botanical diversity. I would be excited to serve on the California Native Grassland Association board to help better connect projects from Sonoma and Marin counties to the greater state, work to help better educate the public on the importance of grasslands, and continue learning about grasslands from all of the amazing grassland experts in the organization.


Brooke Wainwright

Board Liaison to the Executive Committee

Alternate Member-at-Large

Read more about Brooke

I am a third year Ph.D. student at UC Davis studying the functional trait variation of California grassland plants with the goal of informing grassland restoration and management amidst a changing climate. I began working with and becoming enamored by California grasslands in my third year as an undergraduate at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I continued to learn about grasslands and began restoring them as a preserve ranger in Kern County, California. There, I became passionate about investigating novel ways of restoring California grasslands to be more resilient, native-dominated, economical, and biodiverse. In 2021, I received my master’s from the University of New Mexico where I studied the recruitment dynamics of foundational desert grass species under a drier and more variable climate. At UC Davis I lead a student organization dedicated to connecting the Davis community to their local natural landscape and removing barriers to learning about and restoring these local ecosystems. I have been involved in leadership and committee work since high school and I enjoy working on a team toward a common goal.


Continuing Board Members



Chad Aakre

Conservation Committee Chair

Senior Ecologist, Western Regional Office, Westervelt Ecological Services

Read more about Chad

Chad Aakre has been enjoying and working with native grasses since 1995 in both California and Minnesota, starting with tallgrass prairie restoration in Minnesota and extending into California’s central valley. Chad has been involved in native grass restoration in California through his job as a restoration ecologist since 2006 and has developed a working knowledge of native grass identification, propagation, establishment, monitoring, and management. Chad believes in conservation of native plant and animal species in order to sustain and bolster ecological health of natural landscapes and has worked both professionally and privately to facilitate that goal. Chad grew up on a rural Minnesota farm, attained a bachelor’s degree from Winona State University, and then taught high school for 7 years prior to moving to California in 2005. Chad served on the CNGA board for three years previously and [is pleased to] have the opportunity to serve again. (11/01/2019) .


Emily Allen

Workshop Committee Chair

Botanical Consultant

Read more about Emily

Emily has a deep appreciation for the native grasslands in California and the people who work preserving, restoring and managing them. She is a restoration and botanical consultant based out of Ukiah in Mendocino County and is gaining an appreciation for California natives found in the Coast Range. She is also a board member of the local California Native Plant Society (CNPS) Sanhedrin Chapter. Previously she worked almost 10 years for Hedgerow Farms working to ensure the availability of high quality, locally sourced native seed for revegetation and restoration projects of all sizes and scales. She obtained her B.S. in Environmental Biology from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA and was previously on the CNGA board in 2014-2016 and served as treasurer in 2015 and 2016. She is the current Workshop Committee Chair. (3/2019)


Michelle Halbur

Grasslands Committee Chair

Ecology Research Manager, Pepperwood Foundation, Santa Rosa

Read more about Michelle

Michelle serves as Pepperwood’s Preserve Ecologist (Sonoma County) where she manages research projects that monitor long-term ecological responses to climate change and land management practices. In 2011, she developed Pepperwood’s annual grassland monitoring program to inform the adaptive management and restoration of over 900 acres of rich grassland communities. She has a B.S. in Plant Biology (emphasis in ecology and evolution) from UC Davis and an M.S. in Plant Biology from Purdue University where she studied the impacts of wetland mitigation and assisted migration on the genetics and ecology of a rare California vernal pool plant, Sebastopol meadowfoam. Michelle values building relationships between land managers, ranchers, and scientists through effective communication, education, and setting clear objectives to promote native grassland diversity and health. She has a deep passion for conserving California’s rich floristic diversity using science-based solutions and is thrilled to be working with CNGA to promote native grassland conservation.


Michele Hammond

Grassland Research Awards for Student Scholarship Committee Chair

Botanist, East Bay Park District and Staff Research Associate, UC Berkeley

Read more about Michele

Michele is the Botanist for the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and currently assesses rare plant communities and practices vegetation management for parkland in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. She maps and manages rare plants including the introduced Santa Cruz tarplant, Holocarpha macradenia, in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park as well as newly acquired parkland within the East Contra Costa Habitat Conservation Plan. Michele earned a B.A. and M.S. in Environmental Science from U.C. Berkeley. (10/2017)


Haven Kiers

Member-at-Large

Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, Department of Human Ecology, UC Davis

Read more about Haven

Haven is an assistant professor of landscape architecture at UC Davis. She received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a Master of Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley and has worked as a landscape architect, a city and environmental planner, a project manager, and a consultant. Haven’s research investigates the intersection of ecology, aesthetics, and health & well-being through studies examining the environmental benefits, technological progress, and cultural acceptance of green infrastructure and multi-functional landscapes. Her research program addresses the question: how can science, design, and practice converge to inform the creation of accessible, multi-functional greenspaces that maximize cultural and environmental values? She is especially interested in testing CA native grassland species on green roofs to determine their suitability for use in urban landscapes. (11/16/2021)


Richard King

Member-at-Large

Rangeland Management Specialist, USDA-NRCS, retired

Read more about Richard

I have 36 years of experience in USDA-NRCS as a rangeland management specialist (and biologist) assisting landowners before retiring. I worked in Flagstaff, Arizona, for eight years and subsequently throughout northern California since 1982. I am a member of the Society for Range Management and strive to help the range profession shed its old paradigms because I know that rangeland health in California’s “annual” grasslands can be greatly improved. I believe: (1) that we underestimate how “native” perennial species on “annual” grasslands can be increased by mimicking the natural processes in which the perennial species evolved, (2) our “invasive species” are typically a symptom of biodiversity loss from past or current management, (3) planning livestock use based on perennial species vigor and reproduction remains the most misunderstood and underutilized tool for grassland management and “restoration”. Since 1991, I have enjoyed raising grass-fattened beef, building biodiversity above and below ground, and watching “native” perennial grassland species increase on 40 acres that were part of my great-grandparents’ farm. I’m excited that genuine shifts in long-held paradigms are steadily occurring in California as people become better observers of what’s happening on the land and how livestock can be used to improve soils, land health, and wildlife productivity. I’m a Certified Rangeland Manager with the California State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Society for Range Management. I’m also a Certified Holistic Management Educator with both Holistic Management International and the Savory Institute. My passion is helping others learn this new framework for decision-making that will simultaneously address the complexity of managing land, people, and money successfully, both short-term and long-term. (10/2017)



Justin Luong

Research, Science & Education Committee Chair

USDA Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Davis, Department of Plant Sciences

Read more about Justin

I am a researcher at UC Davis. I focus on restoration in California, specifically how future extreme droughts may impact newly planted natives and how that drought may affect and interact with competition from non-native species. My work is aimed at determining mid-to-long-term outcomes of grassland restoration projects up to 30 years post-restoration ranging from Santa Barbara to Humboldt. I also consult for various non-profits and manage a grassland ecology internship program started in 2017 to present, first out of UC Santa Barbara then UC Santa Cruz and now Davis where I provide mentorship for interested students. I previously worked as a field coordinator for the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) at UCSB overseeing grassland and vernal pool restoration. I love California grasslands because they are unique, underappreciated and they host a wide diversity of flora and fauna. On the board I work within the Conservation, Education and Outreach committees to advocate for the protection of our beautiful native grasslands.


Kendra Moseley

Member-at-Large

Certified Range Manager

Read more about Kendra

Kendra is a Certified Range Manager (CRM) #120 on California forested rangelands and an ecologist working on soil-site relationships, nonequilibrium dynamics and resistance and resilience concepts throughout the West. She has over 15 years of experience working with native plants, native plant ecology, and adaptive management, conservation, and restoration. She got her B.S. in Rangeland Ecology and Management (RE&M) with minors in Botany and Biology, and her and M.S. in RE&M with an emphasis on Restoration Ecology both from University of Idaho. Her M.S. project focused on developing a training module for Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) employees on the value and practice of using multiple functional groups of native plants and soil amendments to improve roadside revegetation across the State, as well as finishing the ITD Roadside Revegetation Handbook, continuing their research on using nurse crops to assist native plant establishment in roadside seedings, and native plant germination trials to identify best/cost-effective species for seeding success on roadsides. After graduating, she got a job as Research Faculty at University of Nevada-Reno in the Plant Ecology Department working on a 4-state native plant restoration project in cheatgrass-infested sagebrush grasslands. Kendra has dedicated most of her career to this ecological work because she believes that having a better understanding of the patterns and relationships that exist between soil and site characteristics and how they drive vegetation expression and their ecological dynamics is crucial to the success of all land management objectives, including the conservation and preservation of important and continuously threatened ecosystems like California native grasslands. (10/7/20)

Patrick Reynolds, MS, 

Member-at-Large

General Manager, Heritage Growers

Read more about Pat

I am a restoration ecologist with more than 30 years of professional experience in the design, implementation and monitoring of restoration projects including the effective use of native seed. I am the Sacramento Valley Regional Director of River Partners, the former General Manager of Hedgerow Farms and a past Associate Restoration Ecologist at H.T. Harvey & Associates. I sit on the Yolo County Planning Commission and am the restoration ecologist on the Science and Technical Advisory Committee for the Yolo County Habitat Agency. I also lead a community-based habitat enhancement project in my south Davis neighborhood. I have been a member of the California Native Grassland Association (CNGA) Board of Directors since 2017 where I often serve as an instructor for CNGA restoration workshops and events and periodically contribute to the CNGA’s Grasslands journal. (11/1/2021)


Grasslands Journal Editor

Whitney Brim-DeForest

Grasslands Journal Editor 

Read more about Whitney

Whitney Brim-DeForest is the County Director for University of California Cooperative Extension Sutter-Yuba, and the UCCE Rice and Wild Rice Advisor for Sutter, Yuba, Placer, and Sacramento counties. She holds a M.S. in International Agricultural Development and a PhD in Horticulture and Agronomy from the University of California, Davis. She also holds a dual BA in Biology and Music from Brown University. Whitney has been working in rice for more than 15 years, with her research and extension activities focusing primarily on the identification and management of weeds in rice and wild rice systems. She was also a Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer with the United States Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa, where she served three years.

Administration


Diana (Immel) Jeffery

Administrative Director

Read more about Diana

Diana served two terms on the CNGA Board of Directors as chairman of the Education & Information Committee before taking over as Administrative Director in July 2016. She has worked closely with USFW on reintroduction projects with the federally endangered grassland plant, showy Indian clover (Trifolium amoenum). She is co-author of the Sonoma Marin Coastal Grasslands Working Groups's “California’s Coastal Prairies” website. She received a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Sonoma State University and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis.

Members! We invite you to join the CNGA Board of Directors. Learn more...

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