Meet the Staff

Caleb Dardick, Executive Director, (530) 265-5961 ext. 207

Caleb DardickCaleb Dardick returned to Nevada County in 2011 from the Bay Area with over 18 years experience in community outreach and advocacy to serve as the South Yuba River Citizens League’s (SYRCL) executive director.

Raised in Nevada County with a love for the Yuba River, Caleb is pleased to lead SYRCL in fulfilling its mission to unite the community to protect and restore the Yuba River watershed. Whenever possible, Caleb, his wife Carolyn, and their puppy, Roxy, head down to the Yuba to hike, swim and picnic.

In the mid-1990s, Caleb moved to Berkeley and served as acting chief-of-staff and legislative aide in the Berkeley Mayor’s Office. He then worked in UC Berkeley’s Office of Community Relations before starting his own consulting firm in 2000.

For nearly a decade, Caleb provided public relations and public affairs consulting to a broad range of clients in business, government, the nonprofit sector and politics, and earned a reputation for integrity and diplomacy. Caleb secured political and community support for a diverse array of community-serving projects including the Ed Roberts Campus, a community center for people with disabilities, and the David Brower Center, a center for environmental nonprofits.

From 2009-2011, Caleb served as Director of Local Government and Community Relations for UC Berkeley’s Office of the Chancellor, where he facilitated positive community engagement in what has frequently been a challenging town-gown environment.

Caleb earned a B.A. in History with honors at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Melinda Booth, Film Festival Director, (530) 265-5961 ext. 202

Melinda BoothMelinda Booth has been the Festival Director for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, an environmental and adventure festival that uses film to inspire activism, since 2011.  Wild & Scenic kicks off in Nevada City, CA in support of river conservation and activism work undertaken by the South Yuba River Citizens League.  Next, it travels the globe partnering with more than 150 organizations to increase the groundswell for the environmental movement as a whole and support local campaigns.  Before her passion for environmental conservation brought her to the festival, she focused her career on saving iconic species like bears, wolves, and salmon in the American West. Melinda holds a M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, where she studied human-bear interactions in the wildland urban interface. Melinda’s publications span scientific journals, periodicals, and books.  When not working, Melinda enjoys extreme tubing, hiking with her husband and two dogs and yurt improvement projects.

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Rachel Hutchinson, River Science Director, (530) 265-5961 ext. 205

Rachel is responsible for SYRCL’s conservation, restoration, monitoring, and education programs. She joined SYRCL in 2013 from the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences where she worked as a riparian ecologist for almost ten years. Rachel received her master’s degree in Water Resources from The University of Idaho. Her thesis focused on how plant communities on restored river floodplains responded to invasive plant species removal in the lower reaches of the Cosumnes watershed. Her time at UC Davis allowed her to work on multiple, complex grant-funded projects as a project manager, vegetation ecologist and GIS analyst on rivers throughout California. When not on the river, Rachel can be found in any number of her favorite yoga poses, botanizing the hillsides and cracks in the pavement, or trying to fill her passport.

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Georgette Aronow, Finance Director, (530) 265-5961 ext. 206

Georgette served as Treasurer of SYRCL from 2010 through 2014 and then joined the staff as Finance Director at the beginning of 2015.  Georgette has been a “number cruncher” for many years doing infrastructure finance and economic consulting since 1994, after graduating from Harvard’s JFK School of Government.  For the past five years (prior to joining SYRCL staff), Georgette has consulted independently to local agencies and cities on water and sewer finances and prior to that Georgette was the Finance Director at ECO:LOGIC (now Stantec), an engineering firm in Rocklin.

A native Californian, Georgette grew up in the agricultural and coastal town of Watsonville.  However, she is truly a mountain girl at heart.  When her husband, Gabe,  asked her to relocate from Roseville to Nevada City in 2003, Georgette readily agreed and has been happily settled here breathing the pine scented air ever since.  In her free time, Georgette loves to relax at the Yuba River, hike, camp, backpack, and generally spend time with her husband and two children.

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Julie Pokrandt, Development Director, (530) 265-5961 ext. 214

Julie_Pokrandt_smAfter graduate school, Julie became the first executive director for a wildlife rehabilitation group in San Diego. There she saw first-hand how devastating habitat loss can be, especially for raptors and songbirds. Urban areas, where streams and wetlands are often sacrificed to development, are tough on wildlife and this inspired her to make a change. She moved to northern California to help put habitat back in the ground and joined a river habitat restoration organization. There, as the development director, she helped recruit members and educate the public on how river systems and riparian areas not only benefit birds, fish and mammals, but people and whole communities too. After working in Tucson with a national environmental organization dedicated to protecting endangered species, Julie is pleased to be back in California and be a part of SYRCL. She and her partner Matthew love rivers, and are looking for their next canoe so they can get back on the water.

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Jenn Tamo, Community Engagement Manager, (530) 265-5961 ext. 201

Jenn, a Central Valley native, was raised in the small town of Oakdale on the Stanislaus River. Growing up, she was nestled between the coast of San Francisco and Sierra mountains of Yosemite. Her close proximity to these natural treasures afforded her the opportunity to explore California’s unique geography and cultivate a love of the outdoors.

One of Jenn’s passions is travel.  In college, she was fortunate to spend a summer in Central America as a volunteer in Costa Rica.  She helped implement low-cost sustainable agriculture and assisted with small-scale enterprise that benefited the local habitat and community.  Jenn graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in International Development.  After university, she spent two summers in the backcountry of Yosemite which was the catalyst that launched her in search of stewardship roles in the Sierra Nevada. After a year of service as SYRCL’s AmeriCorps Stewardship Coordinator, Jenn was hired as the Community Engagement Manager.  She loves coordinating events and working with SYRCL’s extraordinary volunteers.  In her spare time, if not experimenting in the kitchen, Jenn can be found hiking near a river or alpine lake.

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Johan Ehde, On Tour Manager, (530) 265-5961 ext. 223

Johan EhdeJohan’s path in event production began early in life. Growing up, Johan worked eclectic events at his parent’s art gallery where he helped them plan, curate and interact with the public. In his teenage years, Johan began working for Del Rio Country Club as a member of their banquet staff. There he learned the process of planning, setting, hosting and breaking down an event in full. In his twenties, Johan began working as a freelance event professional for companies who produce large-scale music and art events in California, Nevada, Oregon, Canada and Portugal. Johan is currently the On Tour Manager for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and is thrilled to be involved with SYRCL assisting in their efforts to protect the Yuba Watershed and inspire environmental activism globally.

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Karl Ronning, Hydrologist, (530) 265-5961 ext. 227

Karl_Ronning_smKarl grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, but preferred spending his time on lakes and rivers of Minnesota and Missouri.  In 2012, he earned his BS in Soil, Environmental, and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  After college, Karl worked alongside the National Weather Service studying fire weather in Missouri, volunteering at La Grande Weather Service forecasting for ski resorts in Oregon, and finally serving two years in AmeriCorps throughout California and Hawaii.  Last year, Karl finished his last term of service as SYRCL’s River Monitoring Coordinator and managed over 70 river monitors collecting data to protect the Yuba watershed.  His current job as SYRCL’s Hydrologist entails spending his days examining the impacts from historic mines throughout the watershed and hydrologic monitoring for restoration projects in the Yuba’s headwater meadows.  He is very interested in water conservation and managing fresh water as a sustainable resource to protect the environment to meet current and future human demand.  When he isn’t working, you will find him hanging out with friends, hiking, disc golfing, skiing, running, and cooking.

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Betsy Harbert, River Science Project Manager, (530) 265-5961 ext. 224

Betsy_Harbert_smBetsy manages and facilitates meadow restoration projects as the River Science Project Manager at SYRCL.  Having spent many happy years in her youth swimming and exploring in the Yuba River, she is glad to support restoration within the watershed that originally inspired her passion for the outdoors.  Betsy completed her M.S. in ecology at Colorado State University where she investigated the environmental drivers of wetland vegetation and assessed meadow disturbance in the San Juan Mountains.  She completed her B.S. in Plant Biology at UC Davis.  Before completing her M.S., she spent nine years as a field botanist working throughout California.  After six years away from California which included working in wetlands of Wyoming, Colorado, South Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine (phew!) she is happy to be back home in California.  In her free time she can be found improving her Salsa and West Coast Swing moves, botanizing, or searching out the spectacular swimming holes and hot springs California has to offer!

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Stephanie Romanella, Wild & Scenic Film Festival Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 215

Stephanie was born and raised in New Jersey. She graduated from Rutgers University with an American History/Art History degree and a new found love of the outdoors, camping, hiking and mountain biking. After college, she got a job at MTV in Times Square (pretty much as far from history or the outdoors as one could be) but would still drive out west every year to vacation with her backpack and bike in tow.

She was eventually able to achieve a more harmonious work/life balance when she accepted a marketing job at Backpacker Magazine where she organized, produced and attended all types of fun outdoor events for folks locally and around the country. And she got to travel and experience these adventures herself, everything from backpacking and biking, to rock and ice climbing. She finally made it to California permanently after accepting a job in the marketing department at Gregory Mountain Products, where she focused on branding, strategic planning, market research and all aspects of the fun stuff too – working with non-profits, corporate and athlete sponsorships, online and print media, and being a hands-on brand ambassador.

Stephanie ultimately decided that Nevada County is what’s up and after spending many a weekend battling traffic on the way to Tahoe and the foothills from Sacramento, she left the city and moved to Grass Valley. She is psyched to join the Wild & Scenic Film Festival team and help support the area she lives and loves.

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Jess Swigonski, Wild & Scenic Film Festival Liaison, (530) 265-5961 ext. 219

Equipped with a degree in Film Production and a natural affinity for the outdoors, Jess’s work with one of the nation’s premiere environmental and adventure film festivals has absolutely been a dream come true. Originally from Erie, PA, Jess moved to California after graduating from Allegheny College (Meadville, PA) in order to work for Wild & Scenic Film Festival as the Filmmaker Liaison. Her greatest passion is the art of story-telling. With a background in communications focusing in documentary film making and experience in executing multiple film festivals at college, Jess has always been intrigued by the stories of individuals, communities, events, creatures, places that often go untold. Jess feels honored to be a facilitator for the telling of some remarkable, vital, and timely stories.

Jess has now transitioned into the role of Festival Liaison, working more closely with the On Tour program and spreading the stories presented at Wild & Scenic far and wide in addition to her roles as Filmmaker Liaison for the home fest. She is growing accustomed to seeing the sunshine more than one month out of the year and is taking full advantage of all the new and exciting opportunities for outdoor adventure here in Nevada City – especially learning about and exploring the beloved Yuba River! Other than that, you can most definitely find her watching films, discovering music, dancing, dreaming, reveling in the time she gets to spend with the amazing and inspiring humans in California, and sitting on her stoop.

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Annika Alexander-Ozinskas, River Education Manager, (530) 265-5961 ext. 218

Annika is passionate about land-based communities and finding ways to connect people more deeply to one another and to the rest of the natural world. She earned an MS in Environmental Earth Systems Science and a BS & MS in Earth Systems at Stanford University, where she was fortunate to join the D1 field hockey team, a research team in the Tambopata rainforest in Peru, and a soil science lab and research group. Annika worked as a student advisor and program assistant, designing and teaching courses in environmental science, and volunteered as a docent at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, leading public tours and teaching ecology to students from East Palo Alto. She balanced her thesis, a geostatistical analysis of hexavalent chromium contamination in CA groundwater, with leading wilderness trips and working with land-based communities in Maine every summer and fall.

She taught at the Chewonki Semester School in Maine, the Woolman Semester School in Nevada City, and became a yoga teacher before finding an exciting new home at SYRCL as the River Education Manager. When not working, Annika likes to roam the forest, admire wildflowers, bake, and play music and sing with friends.

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Courtney Hudson, Restoration Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 216

Courtney grew up in the mountains of North Idaho where she spent her childhood fishing, swimming, attending free public library programs, and poorly imitating Lion King characters with her brother and neighbor friends. After high school she received the Congress-Bundestag scholarship and spent a year studying abroad in Germany where she was astonished by Germany’s sophisticated recycling program and her host grandparents insistence on putting solar panels on their 170-year-old barn. After being accepted into Eastern Washington University, Courtney combined her passions for social and environmental justice by pursuing a B.A. in Anthropology with an emphasis in Cultural Ecology.

In 2014 Courtney relocated to California with her husband Alex and their two well-behaved yet incredibly spoiled dogs. Following stints as a canvasser and a utility forester, Courtney had the honor to be accepted into the 2015-16 SNAP program. Courtney is thrilled to be working as a Stewardship Coordinator for the SYRCL and is excited to get to know the South Yuba River as well as the community of Nevada City.

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Carrie HoferFinance and Administrative Assistant, (530) 265-5961 ext. 209

Carrie_Hofer_smCarrie grew up along the American River where she developed a love for all things wild and natural; she remembers the exact moment she fell in love with the South Yuba River – on a frosty Christmas day hike at Edwards Crossing.

Carrie has a degree in Physical Geography from CSU Sacramento and chose to follow her love of natural sciences and extend her studies with a year at Humboldt State University. She has spent the last 10 years working in a variety of ecological capacities that have included vegetation surveys in the backcountry of Lassen Volcanic National Park; teaching basic geology and ecology in the Eastern Sierras at an Outdoor Science School; and working as an ecological scientist on a diverse range of large-scale remediation projects throughout California conducting habitat, threatened & endangered species and rare plant surveys, aquatic monitoring, biological oversite, regulatory compliance, and habitat restoration.

When she’s not providing day-to-day support for her fellow team members at SYRCL, Carrie can be found with her fiancé trekking up a mountain, climbing a rock, exploring the river, working in the garden, strumming the guitar, taking pictures, studying biodynamic agriculture, growing her wellness practice in Integral Neurology, and generally encouraging humans to seek the best in each other and follow their passions.

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Frieda Slavin, Community Engagement Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 203

Frieda_Slavin_smAs a child Frieda spent her days playing in the muddy creek behind her house, eating from her family garden and exploring the beaches and trails of her home—the Point Reyes National Seashore. Before leaving Point Reyes in 2009, she vowed to hike every trail within the National Park; and she did.

With a background in psychology, adult education, and non-profits, Frieda has served the environment for most of her adult life. She earned a BA in art history from UC Santa Cruz and an MA in psychology from Meridian University in Petaluma. Frieda is particularly interested in eco-psychology and the healing power of nature.

Frieda first connected with SYRCL when her 6-year-old son requested to participate in a river clean-up. Frieda is excited to serve as River People Coordinator for SYRCL. In her free time, Frieda can usually be found on her yoga mat, with her hands in the dirt, her nose in a book, or enjoying the great outdoors with her family.

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Vanessa Lambert, Development Assistant, (530) 265-5961 ext. 210

Vanessa_Lambert_smVanessa grew up in Nevada City, with Deer Creek running through her backyard. Calling the Sierra Nevadas home has given her a profound appreciation of the natural beauty of California, which stayed with her as she lived and traveled throughout Canada and Oregon. While living in Portland, OR from 2004-2013, Vanessa worked at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry as Membership Coordinator/Manager, raising funds to support informal science education and fun family learning experiences. During that time Vanessa embraced her other lifelong passion of textile arts, sewing and apparel design, and runs a small business creating original designs and offering apparel restoration. She returned to Nevada City in 2013 with her husband, three cats and a basset hound-terrier mix Franklin, and is very excited to work with the SYRCL Development Team to help protect the home she’s always loved.

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Alena Loomis, Membership Assistant, (530) 265-5961 ext. 220

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Alena grew up nearby in Meadow Vista, after living on a very rural ranch in her early years of life. This is where her love of nature started, which grew with the many places she’s lived. Alena attended UC Santa Cruz, and then graduated from UC Davis in 2015. During her time in college, Alena studied Cultural Anthropology and Community and Regional Development. She also learned about the devastating impacts of industrialization on the watersheds and wildlands of California and grew a passion for Environmental Justice. After graduating, Alena interned with the Nevada County Planning Department and decided that Nevada County was the community she wanted to be a long-lasting part of. Alena has always cared for animals, ranging from cats, dogs and fish, to horses, donkeys and chickens. She can often be found tending to her large garden, hiking one of the beautiful trails nearby, or restoring one of her many inherited antiques. She has always loved the Nevada County area and is now very excited to be part of SYRCL as their Membership Assistant, making a difference for the great Yuba River and being an active part of this amazing community.

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Whitney Logue, Stewardship Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 212

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Whitney had the privilege to grow up a few miles away from the Sequoia National Forest in Three Rivers, California. She spent most of her days exploring the flora and fauna around her home, and became intimately acquainted with the stunning natural spaces in Mineral King and the eastern Sierra through hiking and backpacking trips through her youth.

She chose the University of Oregon for her undergraduate study in Planning, Public Policy and Management with a focus on Environmental Management and a minor in Cultural Geography. While at the University of Oregon, Whitney had the opportunity to work with organizations that used research based data to advocate for social issues. Whitney combined her passion for education and natural resource management through extensive coursework in public participation and endangered species management, and graduated in 2016. A resident of Nevada County for five years, she also worked as a Special Education Teacher’s Aide for the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools for the Extended School Year program, and thoroughly enjoys and appreciates all that her fellow residents bring to sustaining the community. Whitney spends her free time rock climbing, hiking, running and exploring bread baking with her two huskies.

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Anna Schwyter, River Monitoring Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 213

anna_schwyter_smAnna is an avid outdoorswoman and passionate environmentalist new to the Sierra Nevada. Originally from Pennsylvania, she grew up hiking with her family throughout the northeast and is now an experienced backpacker who also enjoys climbing, cycling and practicing yoga.

Studying at the Pennsylvania State University nurtured her appreciation for the environment, sustainable agriculture, and community involvement through experiential learning opportunities in agricultural research and volunteering on sustainable farms. She recently graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Resource Management focusing in Soil Science and a minor in Watersheds and Water Resources and is eager to utilize her skills as the River Monitoring Coordinator with the South Yuba River Citizens League. While Anna is thrilled to begin a lifelong career in watershed stewardship, she is also looking forward to exploring the Sierra Nevada through hiking, paddling, climbing, snow shoeing and skiing!

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Nick Harrell, River Policy Support & Outreach, (530) 265-5961 ext. 221

While Nick hails from Metro Detroit, a natural curiosity and love for nature led him to pursue a Bachelor’s in Geological Sciences/ Environmental Studies & Sustainability. Various road & field trips drew him to nearly the edge of western civilization, where he’s come through CivicSpark to join SYRCL’s cause.  Nick enjoys hiking, climbing, camping, sloppy gymnastics, and developing music with The Heat Pipes.

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