Our small and dynamic team is dedicated to conservation of the Santa Lucia Preserve. Meet the staff:
Jamison Watts, Executive Director
Jamison is thrilled to be joining the team at Santa Lucia Conservancy and working with the entire community to advance The Preserve’s model of environmentally compatible development. He brings over 20 years of experience providing vision, leadership, and technical expertise in the protection and stewardship of land and other natural and agricultural resources.
Most recently, Jamison served for seven years as Executive Director of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT). Much of Jamison’s work at MALT involved interacting with stakeholders and landowners in Marin County. He worked closely with a community of more than 80 farming and ranching families, directed and oversaw a 20% increase in West Marin’s protected farmland, and led a capital campaign to protect the region’s working lands, helping raise over $28 million in private donations.
Prior to that, he led the Northern California Regional Land Trust, based in Chico, for six years. Earlier, Jamison served as a climbing ranger with the U.S. Forest Service on Mount Shasta and a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Jamison has a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology with an emphasis in Conservation Biology from UC Davis and a Master of Science degree from CSU, Chico in Biological Sciences. He lives with his wife and daughter in Carmel Valley, where he enjoys exploring the Santa Lucia’s with the family dog, Honor, and playing in the ocean.
Christy Wyckoff, PhD., Deputy Director
Christy has been with the Conservancy, leading our science program since March of 2014. In her current position as the Deputy Director, she continues to directly conduct and manage the science and research elements of our programs, she also supervises our stewardship program and easement monitoring program. We track, evaluate and adapt our programs through extensive monitoring of wildlife populations, botanical diversity, soil health, stream flows and the overall health of ecological processes. Christy received her BS in biology from Stanford University, chased feral pigs at Texas A&M University-Kingsville for her MS and delved into the molecular world of chronic wasting disease in elk at Colorado State University for her PhD. She jumped at the opportunity to move back to her home state of California in 2014 and immerse herself in the applied side of conservation ecology with the Conservancy.
When not romping though grasslands for research Christy is outdoors hiking, climbing, mountain biking or skiing.
Rodrigo Sierra Corona, PhD., Director of Stewardship
Ecologist by training, conservationist by heart and cattle rancher by accident, Rodrigo’s mission within the Preserve is to bridge the gap between cattle grazing, grassland management and science. Rodrigo works with the Grazing Technicians to help move our restoration cows through the undulating grassland landscape; at the same time, he monitors the program collecting vegetation and soil data. Rodrigo has worked in rangeland and wildlife conservation for 14 years studying and addressing the integration of livestock grazing and conservation in endangered landscapes. During his bachelor’s degree at Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro he studied black bears and had his first biologist position following jaguars in Northern Mexico. He then joined the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Ecology Institute’s Arid Grasslands Conservation Program in Janos, Chihuahua. There he took part in the designation of the Janos Biosphere Reserve; half a million hectares of federally protected lands in Northern Mexico. His PhD project on the Janos Reserve describes the ecological interaction of black tailed prairie dogs and domestic cattle, challenging the longstanding view of prairie dogs as an undesirable species. He stays connected to Chihuahua through his assistance to the grazing cooperative he helped establish and running his own cattle. He is excited to bring both his academic and his in-practice perspectives on grasslands, livestock and conservation ecology to the Conservancy’s Conservation Grazing Program.
Susan Giles, Director of Business Operations
With over 20 years of business and marketing experience in the environmental field, Susan brings a huge skill set to the Conservancy to keep it running as healthy and well-balanced as The Preserve ecosystem. Susan started her career as an Art Director for Foote, Cone and Belding in New York City. Moving on with her life and career, Susan worked with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Education Department on her Master’s thesis after she spent several years in the Caribbean as a scuba instructor. In 2007, Susan started a consulting business with her husband working with commercial existing buildings to help make them more resilient, efficient and sustainable. During this time, she also raised her son Oliver. Susan came to the Conservancy in 2019 and fell in love with the people and the land. She and her family live in North Monterey County where they self-built their own resilient and sustainable home. In her spare time, Susan enjoys swimming and spending time in the kitchen canning the fruits of the season!
Jenna Allred, Natural Lands Manager
Jenna received her BS in Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity from University of California, Davis. Her work has never taken her far away from the protection and restoration of native species of California wildlife. From identifying and preventing the spread of invasive species impacting butterfly habitats in Antioch, to maintaining the natural beauty of Catalina Island with weed-management programs, to mapping and treating invasive wildlife along the Colorado River, Jenna has a broad history of ecological conservation and land management. As the Conservancy’s weed guru, Jenna is on a mission, sniffing out opportunistic non-native plants before they expand their occupancy on The Preserve. When she isn’t helping foster a system in which native plants and wildlife can thrive, she can be found making delicious sourdough baked goods.
Jackson Brooke, Restoration Technician
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Jackson attended the University of Minnesota where he received a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. Following graduation he caught bats for an environmental consulting company then made his way to southern Nevada where he spent time doing ecological restoration work. Prior to joining the Santa Lucia Conservancy in early 2020, he was working in rural western Nevada where he planted and irrigated native grasses and shrubs and controlled invasive weeds as part of the efforts to rehabilitate and restore the Walker Lake watershed. He is excited to take on the challenges that come with learning how to best combat invasive plants in a new ecosystem and is looking forward to leading the seasonal field crew as they work to reduce weeds around the Preserve. When he isn’t working, Jackson spends much of his time hiking or playing and watching sports.
Sabine Cudney, Wildlife Technician
Sabine is an ecologist passionate about wildlife conservation and sustainable management. Having grown up in one of the last cloud-forest remnants of Mexico, she developed a great love for the outdoors and an intrigue for the complex interactions of nature and humans. This passion led her to become a biologist at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) and to conduct extensive fieldwork in Peru, Costa Rica, and different regions of Mexico in order to assess the conservation status of numerous animal and plant species. More importantly, it motivated her to study her Ph.D. at UNAM where she dedicated her thesis to the understanding of the complex ecological impacts of landscape-scale deforestation on arboreal mammals in the Lacandona rainforest, Mexico.
Sabine wants to expand her career into California’s ecosystems and to apply her knowledge to manage sustainable landscapes where humans and nature can thrive. As a wildlife technician, she is excited to become part of such a unique conservation scheme as the Santa Lucia Preserve, and to see for herself how can humans coexist with nature having a minimal impact. And as a scientist, she is also excited to be able to unveil and share the ecological stories that nature in the preserve has to tell.
Claudio Nunez, Grazing Technician
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from The University of Michigan, Claudio began working in bars and restaurants across the US. It was while working as a cheesemonger in San Francisco that he discovered the earth-shaping potential of conservation on working lands. Since then, Claudio has worked on farms, ranches and wineries across the country and in Europe. As a native Californian, he is excited to work in yet another stunning California biome. In his spare time, Claudio enjoys hiking, overeating, and being crafty.
Alix Soliman, Communications & Outreach Coordinator
Originally from Illinois, Alix earned her B.A. in environmental studies concentrated in international law and policy from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. She comes to us with over 6 years of experience in writing for, editing, and designing various newspapers, law school magazines, and nonprofit websites.
In her previous role at a steelhead conservation nonprofit in the Pacific Northwest, Alix developed a multi-tiered approach to provide more organizational clarity and engagement through digital and in-person communications. Passionate about land conservation and community building, Alix is thrilled to support the Conservancy’s mission by elevating its transparency and status in The Preserve community and beyond. Her work at the Conservancy involves developing digital and print resources, hosting events, building partnerships, and managing the website, newsletter and social media platforms. After hours, Alix can be found rock climbing, skiing, longboarding, hiking, and reading.
Izaac Tompkins, Stewardship Associate
Born in Kansas City and raised amongst the splendor of the Ozark Mountains and Lake of the Ozarks, Izaac developed a life-long love for conservation. He earned his B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he formed a bond with the unique ecosystems and endemic plants of California’s Central Coast. Before joining the Conservancy, he worked as an Environmental Assistant with the County of San Luis Obispo Public Works to conduct the research, monitoring, and mitigation of roads and bridge projects throughout the County. He is incredibly excited to move further up the Central Coast and protect such rich biodiversity. In his free time he enjoys hiking the coast, roller-skating, and trying new food trucks.
Alicia Khuon, Intern
A transfer student from Stockton, Alicia, is pursuing a degree in Environmental Science with a concentration of Applied Ecology at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). She has also joined the Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROC) community in the summer of 2019. Here at the Conservancy, Alicia will focus her UROC research on the Tricolored Black Birds, using acoustic monitoring at two different sites as well as helping the Conservancy band birds.
With her passion for wildlife conservation, Alicia has been able to learn different projects here at the Preserve under the direction of Dr. Christy Wyckoff; such as vegetation surveys, bird surveys, pond sampling, as well as butterfly surveying. She is grateful for the opportunity to meet different wildlife biologists who have helped her broaden her perspective for future employment and explore different specialties.
Ellie Oliver, Intern
Ellie is a Master’s Candidate at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey. She is studying International Environmental Policy, with an emphasis in Natural Resource Policy and Management, and her background and BS in Biology has been particularly useful in her current position. She is a huge bird nerd, but is working with the Conservancy with a different flying critter: Smith’s Blue Butterfly. Most of her time lately has been spent not in the field, but in the wild fields of data that the Conservancy has collected over the years. Her work with the conservancy will be used to better understand where the endangered blue butterfly might be found, a goal that will help with management decisions both in the Preserve and beyond.
Ihlara Gray, Intern
Ihlara Gray is an undergraduate at Harvey Mudd College, majoring in biology. She grew up in Carmel Valley and is excited for the opportunity to learn more about her native habitat. At the Preserve, she is working on the Where the Wildlife Wander camera project and helping out with other field research such as raptor surveys and pond surveys. She is enjoying gaining experience in the field and hopes to apply what she’s learned at the Preserve to a future career in ecological research.
Leslie Dorrance, Senior Conservation Grazing Adviser
Leslie was raised in Carmel Valley. After working on her husband’s family ranch for 32 years growing grass for the ranch’s cow herd, she is deeply interested in conservation grazing. The Dorrance family has a conservation easement on their family ranch. They are committed to practicing good grazing management to provide grass for their cattle and diversity in their rangelands. Leslie is thrilled to be a part of the Conservancy’s grazing project. She believes that cattle and grazing are a good tool for restoring health to land that has been rested for long periods. Along with her dogs, Leslie brings her love and knowledge of the land and livestock with her to work every day.