Jamison Watts, Executive Director
Jamison is a conservation executive with over 30 years’ experience providing vision, leadership, and technical expertise in the protection and stewardship of land and other natural and agricultural resources.
As Santa Lucia Conservancy’s Executive Director, Jamison collaborates with a talented staff and board, community members, and national conservation leaders to advance a unique, first-of-its kind model of community conservation. Responsible for conservation and community engagement on the 20,000-acre Santa Lucia Preserve, he works in close partnership with multiple Preserve entities to ensure the coordinated management of the Preserve lands are consistent with the successful and sustained implementation of the Preserve’s Comprehensive Development Plan.
Prior to working for the Conservancy, Jamison served for seven years as Executive Director of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT)—the first agricultural land trust in the Nation. Much of Jamison’s work at MALT involved interacting with stakeholders and owners of agricultural land in Marin County to increase economic viability and prevent conversion out of agriculture. During his tenure, the acreage conserved by MALT increased by 20% to more than 54,000 acres.
Earlier he led the Northern California Regional Land Trust, based in Chico, for six years. During his tenure the organization’s operations increased by nearly 600% and total acres protected more than tripled. Jamison also served as a climbing ranger with the U.S. Forest Service on the Shasta Trinity National Forest and a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A fifth-generation Californian, Jamison has served on the City of Chico’s Parks and Playground Commission, the Advisory Committee of the Bay Area Open Space Council, Marin County’s Agricultural Workforce Housing Task Force, and Marin Carbon Project Steering Committee. He has expertise in business development and is an accomplished fundraiser and public speaker. He also has more than 10 years’ experience researching and consulting on special-status species as a wildlife biologist
Jamison lives with his wife and daughter in Carmel Valley, where he enjoys walking the family dog, Honor, in Garland Ranch Regional Park and exploring the Central Coast region.
Deborah Wallace, Director of Finance and Administration
As Director of Finance and Administration, Deborah is responsible for the financial operations and reporting of the Santa Lucia Conservancy. She has over two decades of not-for-profit leadership experience in organizational strategy, financial forecasting, budgeting and grant accounting. Most recently, Deborah served as Chief Operation Officer at the Community Foundation for Monterey County. Previously, she held the position of CFO for the YMCAs.
Prior to joining the Conservancy, Deborah was employed in public accounting affording her the opportunity to help clients achieve business success through practical and sound tax and financial processes in various industries, including nonprofit, real estate, retail, hotel, senior care, construction, and manufacturing.
Deborah and her husband, Marshall, live in Fort Ord and have two children.
Deborah holds a B.S. in Business Administration, with a concentration in Accounting from the University of Buffalo in New York.
Andrew Nguyen, Stewardship Manager
Originally from Fairfax County, Virginia, Andrew received a B.S. in Biology concentrated on Ecology and Environmental Biology from James Madison University. Afterwards, he attended UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management where he conducted research on how beaver dam-building could support water resource management in New Mexico, earning him a Master of Environmental Science and Management degree. Since then, he has served as an AmeriCorps member to protect Vermont’s watersheds and most recently worked to connect artists with the natural beauty of the Santa Cruz mountains. He is excited to join the Santa Lucia Conservancy team and looks forward to how he can continue finding solutions for people and the natural world to help each other thrive.
Sarah Jeffries, Stewardship Associate
Sarah was previously an editor for the Journal of Phycology where she utilized her editorial and communication skills as well as her scientific expertise. She also concurrently worked for the Bureau of Land Management on the Fort Ord National Monument, where she spearheaded a field project assessing the efficacy of the habitat restoration program and mentored undergraduates in native plant identification and field research methods. Originally from Minnesota, Sarah was drawn to the Monterey Bay by her love of the land and sea and has been here for over 15 years. As an undergraduate at CSU Monterey Bay in Marine and Coastal Ecology, Sarah’s interest in terrestrial and marine plants began first with an internship with the National Park service at Santa Monica Mountains NRA and then an undergraduate research position focused on seaweed at Moss Landing Marine Labs. MLML became her home away from home for the next decade, where she earned her masters’ degree in the Phycology Lab, worked for a wetland plant propagation and restoration program, and participated in countless research dives (including a memorable scuba diving course in Chile!) In her spare time, Sarah enjoys reading a book with a good cup of tea, and exploring the many trails of Fort Ord – her favorite hiking spot on the peninsula. She has also traveled widely with her family.
Nicole Roy, Finance & Administration Coordinator
Nicole assists with the coordination and organization of the conservancy’s daily operations. She has lived in Mexico City, Marin County, Connecticut, San Diego, and currently resides here in Carmel. She went to college for graphic design and marketing in San Diego and has over 20 years of combined experience in office management, administration, property management, public relations, and human resources. Nicole truly enjoys helping others and is passionate about conserving the environment and wildlife within it. Outside of work, Nicole enjoys photography, art, hiking, gardening, kayaking, snorkeling, traveling, and camping. She also loves floral and landscape design, decorating, volunteering, and spending quality time with family and friends.
Claudio Núñez, Conservation Grazing Manager
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. For over 6 years, Claudio has worked on farms, ranches and wineries across the country and in Europe. As the Conservation Grazing Manager, Claudio leads program development, planning, and implementation of the day-to-day operations that facilitate the use of cattle for land management. Claudio works with program associates to help move cattle through the undulating grassland landscape and collects vegetation and soil data in support of the Program’s goals and objectives. In his spare time, Claudio enjoys hiking, overeating, and making crafts.
Bennett, Conservation Grazing Associate
Bennett is thrilled to be working with like-minded company towards a more sustainable future. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Bennett obtained his BA in English from the University of North Texas. After moving to California, he spent 18 months on a roving trail crew based out of Sacramento, working on a variety of projects from bridge construction to herbicide. He then decided to embrace his family roots of ranching and love of animals by researching cattle as a tool for conservation. When not working on The Preserve, he can be found studying early hominid anthropology, working on his shoegaze project, and wandering aimlessly in the forest.
Belle Watkins, Conservation Grazing Associate
Belle cares for the Conservancy’s cattle herd, builds and removes portable fencing, and tends to our grassland habitat as a Grazing Associate. Prior to joining SLC, she worked in food service, pet care, and customer service, her most recent position being the Monterey Bay Aquarium Cafe. Belle is excited to learn all of the grassland plant species on The Preserve. After work, she loves to be outside whenever possible, go for ocean plunges, swim, create, and enjoy life to the fullest.
Breanna Rodgers, Restoration Manager
Breanna earned her B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Cruz, where she led forest ecology research crews to inventory and monitor mixed forest ecosystems, completed a thesis modeling forest succession following rapid dieback of and madrone and tanoak trees in the Santa Cruz mountains, and developed horticultural and greenhouse experience working at the UCSC Arboretum and Botanical Garden. After college, Breanna worked as an Americorps member for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Maui, where she managed a habitat restoration program on 80 acres following wildfire to reintroduce native lowland dryland vegetation to the refuge. She also managed the refuge greenhouse, producing over 8,000 plants for restoration per year. At California State Parks, she gained experience in wildlife biology, restoration, and weed management in the San Luis Obispo Coast District. Throughout her time working in California and Hawaii, Breanna has also taken on several part-time jobs at organic and regenerative agriculture farms where she could form close relationships to the land and the community. At the Conservancy, Breanna leads restoration efforts on The Preserve, assists with biological monitoring, and manages fuel reduction and prescribed fire projects. In her free time, Breanna loves cooking, playing music and making ceramics.
Kirsten Stember, Lead Environmental Education Contractor
Since 1999, Kirsten has developed and operated SLC’s environmental education program with a goal to inspire wonder and curiosity through hands-on activities and nature immersion. As the lead environmental education specialist, Kirsten conducts ongoing outreach to new teachers and schools, coordinates field trips, develops new curriculum, and leads interpretive programming for schools, youth groups, and Preserve residents. She grew up in the beautiful Monterey Peninsula exploring the forests, mountains, rivers and sea by foot, horseback, and boat. She studied literature, environmental science and biology at UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz and received a B.A. in literature and a Life Science Waiver Certificate for teaching secondary education from UC Santa Cruz, and an Adult Education Teaching Credential in Life Science and General Science. Kirsten has over 30 years of experience in outdoor education and concurrently works to develop environmental education programs and lead interpretive walks for the Del Monte Forest Conservancy, Point Lobos State Reserve, and Pacific Grove Adult School. In the past, she helped start the “Let’s Go Outdoors” program for the Monterey Regional Park District, the “Ocean Guardianship” program for the Big Sur Charter School, the first summer camps for MEarth, and has led interpretive ocean kayak tours for Adventures by the Sea and horseback tours for the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center. Kirsten has raised three wonderful children who are outdoor enthusiasts and enjoys riding horses, hiking with her dogs, ocean kayaking, gardening, and cooking in her free time.
Suzanne Gill, Communications & Outreach Coordinator
An Oakland native who frequently visited the Monterey peninsula growing up, Suzanne holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Santa Fe. With more than 30 years’ experience as a writer, editor, publicist, and event planner in a variety of industries, she loves collaborating with a great team of conservationists to share the news of their work and help fulfill the mission of the Conservancy. In her words, “my passions include conservation, sustainability, preservation, and education. I don’t just want to live on the Central Coast; I want to contribute to the community in a way that might outlast me.”
Emma Levy, M.S., Conservation Ecologist
Emma grew up in Carmel Valley and loves exploring terrestrial and marine environments. She earned her B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she focused her studies on marine mammal behavior, sensory systems, and long-term population monitoring. After graduation, she continued as a marine mammal field biologist and worked in several education positions around Monterey Bay, teaching school groups and the public about local marine and wetland ecosystems. In 2019, she started a master’s program in biology at Cal Poly Humboldt, investigating the successful breeding range expansion of northern elephant seals into Humboldt County with a specific focus on dispersal behavior. Following her graduate work, Emma returned to Santa Cruz to join the California State Parks Interpretation Team at Año Nuevo State Park. At State Parks, she expanded her knowledge of the coastal terrestrial environment, educating the public about northern elephant seals, hundreds of bird species, endangered amphibians and reptiles, and coastal wildflowers. At the Conservancy, Emma manages biological monitoring and research programs that support the evaluation and maintenance of protected natural resources on the Preserve. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, photographing wildlife, and spending time with her dog, Echo.
Rue, Cattle Dog
Rue joined the Conservancy staff after rigorous training in becoming a cattle dog. As a short-haired border collie weighing under 30 pounds, Rue moves over 100,000 pounds of cattle between our managed grasslands. Even so, like us all, she sometimes confuses clockwise and counterclockwise. Her obedience, focus, collaboration, and support contribute to the Conservation Grazing Program and Ecological Management Department’s efficient operations. Often found stationed underneath Grazing Program trucks, Rue may not be the friendliest to other dogs, but is a softy for human affection and treats.