Meet the Staff

Administration

Melinda Booth

Melinda Booth, Executive Director

Melinda has been SYRCL’s Executive Director since 2017, after having served as Director of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival since 2011. Melinda brings more than 18 years of experience in environmental conservation and advocacy to her leadership.

Email Melinda  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 202

Melinda has been SYRCL’s Executive Director since 2017, after having served as Director of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival since 2011. Melinda brings more than 18 years of experience in environmental conservation and advocacy to her leadership. Before joining SYRCL, she focused her career on saving iconic species like bears, wolves, and salmon in the American West. At Defenders of Wildlife, she led campaigns to keep bears alive and wild in the Tahoe basin and helped reintroduce the California Condor back to the wild. As Development Manager at the California Wolf Center, Melinda led education, conservation and research on the North American gray wolf, and specifically the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest. Her passion for wildlife eventually drew her to the Sequoia Park Zoo Foundation where she served as Development Director, securing millions of dollars for their red panda habitat and an award-winning Native Predator exhibit featuring river otter, bald eagle, and salmon.

Melinda holds a MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, where she studied human-bear interactions in the wildland urban interface. Her publications span scientific journals, periodicals, and books. On a personal note, the Yuba River is central to Melinda’s everyday life. She and her husband live on a small slice of land overlooking the South Yuba. Not only is she professionally motivated to protect and restore the Yuba River watershed, she is also personally invested as a Yuba River homeowner.

Andrea Mason, Finance and Administration Director

Andrea, a Nevada County resident since birth, joined our team as the Finance Manager in October 2017. Having worked in accounting offices since she was 18, Andrea found she had a natural affinity for numbers and appreciated the orderliness which only a cleanly balanced set of books can produce. 

Email Andrea  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 206

Andrea, a Nevada County resident since birth, joined our team as the Finance Manager in October 2017. Having worked in accounting offices since she was 18, Andrea found she had a natural affinity for numbers and appreciated the orderliness which only a cleanly balanced set of books can produce.

In 2006 she pursued her BA in Accounting from University of Phoenix, graduating in 2009. At the same time, she was working for a Nevada City firm as their Quality Control Manager, ensuring accuracy and compliance on income tax returns and accounting projects.

Andrea brings with her a broad knowledge base, a commitment to excellence, a prodigious attention to detail, and a dedication to serving the people of the community she lives in and loves. In her free time, Andrea enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, painting, wine-tasting, and book collecting.

 

 

Development & Membership

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Julie Pokrandt, Development Director

After 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.

Email Julie  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 214

After 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.

Maddie Davis, Senior Membership Coordinator

Maddie grew up in Nevada County and spent her childhood exploring the Yuba, visiting the vast natural landscapes of California, and writing short stories about animals.

Email Maddie  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 210

Maddie grew up in Nevada County and spent her childhood exploring the Yuba, visiting the vast natural landscapes of California, and writing short stories about animals. From a young age, she was taught to respect each living creature and plant. She graduated in 2018 from Mills College with a BA in Sociology. She focused her studies on restorative justice in education and environmental racism, ever interested in how people and systems interact. Upon graduation, she joined the development department at Mills where she organized volunteers, fundraised, and managed a telephone outreach program. She is delighted to join the SYRCL team and support the protection of the Yuba watershed. In her free time, Maddie enjoys reading, cooking, going for nature walks, and spending time with her dog, cat, and parakeet.

Watershed Science

Aaron Zettler-Mann, Watershed Science Director

Aaron grew up swimming and playing in the creeks and rivers near his coastal home in a small town in Humboldt County. Predictably, he found his way to working as a raft guide. He was a raft guide on rivers throughout the Sierra Nevada for nearly ten years.

Email Aaron  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 221

Aaron grew up swimming and playing in the creeks and rivers near his coastal home in a small town in Humboldt County.

Predictably, he found his way to working as a raft guide. He was a raft guide on rivers throughout the Sierra Nevada for nearly ten years, and even met his wife (also a guide) while working on the South Fork of the American. In addition to guiding, Aaron worked ski patrol and construction. After many years playing and working seasonally, the future began to call.

Aaron is a Geographer at heart. He has completed three degrees in Geography; a BA at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a MA at the University of Denver, and a PhD at the University of Oregon. His academic training and research are in fluvial geomorphology and remote sensing. Aaron has taught a variety of courses including remote sensing, geomorphology, climatology, and geographic information systems. In addition, he has been involved in river research projects across the western US, and internationally. Aaron’s drive to protect and improve the health of the West’s watersheds led him to SYRCL. As Watershed Science Director, he will work closely with the community, government, and private entities to develop, implement, and monitor restoration efforts across the Yuba River watershed.

When not working, Aaron can almost certainly be found outdoors playing on the water with his wife. Whitewater kayaking and rafting, skiing, surfing, and mountain biking keep Aaron busy year-round. Aaron also enjoys cooking and baking.

Alecia Weisman, River Science Program Manager

Growing up in North Georgia and Florida, Alecia had an eventful childhood full of creek hikes and beach visits. Her love for water has been a central theme in her life.

Email Alecia  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 224

Growing up in North Georgia and Florida, Alecia had an eventful childhood full of creek hikes and beach visits. Her love for water has been a central theme in her life.

Alecia received her BS in Environmental Science from the University of Florida. As an Undergraduate researcher, she studied the relationship between Acacia trees and elephants in Chobe National Park, Botswana. Moving out west in 2009, Alecia worked with the Bureau of Land Management as a Conservation Land Management Intern in Pinedale, WY. While in Pinedale, she explored the Wind River Mountain Range and discovered her love of montane landscapes. Continuing further west, Alecia settled in Nevada County before attending Graduate school at The University of Nevada Reno.  During her graduate program, she managed the Castle Lake Limnological Laboratory in Mt. Shasta. Her graduate research had two facets: 1) she investigated community respiration rates in near-shore and open water habitats in lakes across a trophic gradient, and 2) she studied the response of community respiration to nutrient loading in Lake Atitlan, a deep, high elevation lake in Guatemala. Earning her MS degree in Hydrology, Alecia graduated in 2014, receiving the Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

Working with SYRCL, Alecia can be found heading up meadow restoration projects, helping out with the River Education Program and diving into datasets that tell a story about the amazing Yuba River. Outside of work, she enjoys yoga, mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding, gardening and exploring with her 2 German/Belgian Shepherds.

Aliya Ingersoll, AmeriCorps Restoration Coordinator

Aliya grew up in Nevada City and spent her childhood backpacking with her family in the Sierra, swimming in the Yuba, and occasionally ditching class to go backcountry skiing with her dad after a good snowstorm.

Email Aliya  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 208

Aliya grew up in Nevada City and spent her childhood backpacking with her family in the Sierra, swimming in the Yuba, and occasionally ditching class to go backcountry skiing with her dad after a good snowstorm.

She holds a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the UC Santa Cruz, where she studied coevolution and mutualism between insects and plants in the John Thompson Laboratory. She fell in love with botany while completing a field research project on serpentine endemics in Big Sur, and she has since worked as a botanical technician and scientific communicator at Joshua Tree National Park and for the BLM throughout the sage steppe of eastern Oregon. 

Aliya is delighted to be back in Nevada County working in the Yuba watershed with SYRCL, an organization that she has long admired. When not serving the Sierra, Aliya can be found gardening, playing her fiddle or banjo, baking bread, painting, tinkering with code projects, and dreaming of building a cobb house.

Andrew Salmon, Forest Conservation Program Manager

Andrew Salmon graduated from the University of CA Berkeley in 2019 with a master’s in Environmental Planning. As a member of the Riverlab Research Group, he focused on wildland urban interface fire effects on receiving waters. 

Email Andrew  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 230

Andrew Salmon graduated from the University of CA Berkeley in 2019 with a master’s in Environmental Planning. As a member of the Riverlab Research Group, he focused on wildland urban interface fire effects on receiving waters. During his studies, Andrew worked for the Stephens Wildland Fire Science Lab in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service Sierra Cascade Ecology Program examining post-fire conditions in Plumas and Lassen National Forests. 

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Karl Ronning, Hydrologist

Karl grew up in St. Louis, MO, but preferred spending his time on lakes and rivers of Minnesota and Missouri.  

Email Karl  | (530) 265-5961 ext. 227

Karl grew up in St. Louis, MO, 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. In 2015, 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 legacy mining and conducting the hydrological monitoring for SYRCL’s meadow restoration projects in the Yuba headwaters. 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 whitewater kayaking, hiking, disc golfing, skiing, running, or cooking.

Kelley Ahlers, AmeriCorps Watershed Monitoring Technician

Kelley studied Environmental Science at The Ohio State University and worked as an ecology research assistant. 

Email Kelley  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 205

Kelley studied Environmental Science at The Ohio State University and worked as an ecology research assistant. She studied the population dynamics of vulnerable species of solitary bees in central Ohio. In her free time, she applied her studies by helping local environmental nonprofits plan and organize restoration projects. She is so excited to be working at SYRCL. Kelley loves to hike, ski, and travel.

Kyle McNeil, AmeriCorps River Monitoring Coordinator

Kyle grew up in the suburbs of Ventura County, CA. He moved to Davis for his undergraduate studies at UC Davis where he studied Environmental Science & Management. 

Email Kyle  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 213

Kyle grew up in the suburbs of Ventura County, CA. He moved to Davis for his undergraduate studies at UC Davis where he studied Environmental Science & Management and had a plethora of experiences in different research labs ranging from soil science, gut microbiota, environmental toxicity, to white abalone. During his time there, he also volunteered to reduce campus food waste and in his final year served as a coordinator for the 50th Annual Whole Earth Festival in 2019.

After graduating, Kyle moved to Sacramento, CA to work in stormwater permitting at the State Water Resources Control Board and volunteered at Effie Yeaw Nature Center helping to take care of the resident raptors and herps.

Kyle is excited to join our community organization focused on protection of the Yuba River watershed. In his free time, Kyle enjoys cooking, hiking, skiing, and playing board games with friends.

Mary McDonnell, Forest Conservation Coordinator

Mary grew up near Sacramento, where she spent her summers fostering a love for the diverse landscapes of California. In college, she studied land management techniques, completing a BS in Conservation and Resource Studies and a minor in Forestry from UC Berkeley. 

Email Mary  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 216

Mary grew up near Sacramento, where she spent her summers fostering a love for the diverse landscapes of California. In college, she studied land management techniques, completing a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a minor in Forestry from UC Berkeley. Mary has worked as a research assistant in range ecology and forest ecology, and most recently, as a land steward for a land trust organization. Mary is eager to learn more about community-based management practices, and feels she found the right place at SYRCL, an organization that is community founded and focused. In her free time, you can catch Mary dancing, reading, baking, and doing puzzles.

Tyler Goodearly, Fisheries and Restoration Manager

Tyler grew up in Livermore, California where his passion for fish conservation started with his first fish tank. In 2015, he earned his BS in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology from the UC Davis.

Email Tyler  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 229

Tyler grew up in Livermore, California where his passion for fish conservation started with his first fish tank. In 2015, he earned his BS in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology from the UC Davis. He has worked with UC Davis to conduct research on how the mid-2010s drought affected inland fish assemblages throughout California. With the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Tyler participated in a Chinook salmon carcass survey on the American River. Tyler worked with Cramer Fish Sciences on a number of projects including conducting baseline monitoring on SYRCL’s Hallwood restoration site. In 2017, Tyler moved to Dublin, Ireland to pursue a Master of Science degree in Biodiversity and Conservation at Trinity College Dublin.

As SYRCL’s Fish Biologist, Tyler is interested in California’s native freshwater fishes and restoring habitat for their long-term stability. Tyler is passionate about fish of all sizes and hopes to put that passion to action by being their biggest advocate. In his free time, Tyler enjoys reading sci-fi, camping, and spending time with his three sisters.

Jacob Potter, Forest Restoration Crew Leader

Jacob graduated from Humboldt State University in 2015 with a BS in Environmental Science.

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Jacob graduated from Humboldt State University in 2015 with a BS in Environmental Science. Since graduating, he has focused on invasive plant removal in various capacities, from leading volunteer groups in the expansive Bob Marshall Wilderness to implementing restoration projects in the urbanized Southern California. 

River People - Advocacy, Communications, Outreach and Education

Betsy Brunner, Communications & Engagement Director

Betsy is happy to call the Sierra Nevada her new home and to get back to playing (when she isn’t working, of course) in the mountains and rivers with her husband and her dog.

Email Betsy |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 220

Betsy grew up playing in the hills and creeks outside Cincinnati, Ohio with her brothers. Her time in the outdoors helped her cultivate a close relationship with and appreciation of all of our non-human neighbors. It also led her to pursue a BA in English literature at Ohio University. After graduating, Betsy pursued her MFA in Painting and Art History, also at Ohio University, with a focus on gender.

Her love of nature and education led her to work at the Franklin Park Conservatory as an Education Specialist. While there, she helped with the Growing to Green program, which sought to bring community gardening and education to underserved populations in Columbus, Ohio. Life then took Betsy to Chicago and a new career as a project manager and event planner at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After several years in the Windy City, Betsy decided to return to school to pursue another master’s degree—this time in Communication–at the University of Colorado Denver. 

In 2011, after graduating, Betsy moved from the Front Range to the Wasatch to pursue a PhD in Communication at the University of Utah. There she studied the use of social media in environmental activism in China. She has published numerous articles on media and activism as well as a book, Environmental Activism, Social Media, and Protest in China: Becoming Activists. After 10 years of research, Betsy decided to leave academia to help in the efforts she studied.

She is happy to call the Sierra Nevada her new home and get back to playing (when she isn’t working, of course)—this time in the mountains and rivers—with her husband and her dog.

Dan Saski, River Education Assembly Presenter

Dan is thrilled to join the SYRCL team! He recently relocated to Grass Valley, after working artistically in and around The San Francisco Bay Area for the past 15 years.

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Dan is thrilled to join the SYRCL team! He recently relocated to Grass Valley, after working artistically in and around The San Francisco Bay Area for the past 15 years. As a Teaching Artist, he has led master classes and workshops focusing on Shakespeare, Physical Comedy, Stage Combat, Improvisation, Scene Study, Auditions, Memorization Techniques, Team Building, and Public Speaking at numerous schools and theater companies. Dan has also directed and performed in many productions, and has toured with various productions to China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Qatar, and all over the United States.

Daniel Belshe, Community Engagement Manager

Spending much of his child-hood picking up crinoid fossils in the creek near his family farm in central Missouri, Daniel developed a life-long curiosity of the ecology and history of our earth’s lands.

Email Daniel  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 201

Spending much of his child-hood picking up crinoid fossils in the creek near his family farm in central Missouri, Daniel developed a life-long curiosity of the ecology and history of our earth’s lands. He received a BS in Geography from the University of Missouri-Columbia, while working on humanitarian-aid in the Middle East and mapping archeology site in the caves of Belize.

Daniel’s passion for protecting the health of our waterways grew after a summer internship with an environmental non-profit Missouri River Relief, mapping and analyzing garbage deposits on the banks of the Missouri River. Through his twenties, he volunteered hundreds of hours, connecting people to the Missouri River through clean-ups, river education, eco-excursions and outreach across four states.

For nearly 15 years, he has lived abroad in dozens of countries working on projects mapping the ocean floor in Brazil, studying overfishing in communities in Baja, mapping Olive Riley nesting sites on the beaches of Costa Rica, working with big cats in India, and teaching children English in remote villages of Nepal.  Most recently, he worked at a children’s charity, organizing and guiding volunteer surgical teams to hospitals in developing countries to provide complex surgeries for kids.

After nearly 20 years of working abroad, Daniel is ready to put away his suitcase, plant some roots and start a garden. He is enthusiastic to be living in a community passionate about their environment and thrilled to explore the Sierra, meet the people, the wildlife and enjoy the beauty of a river again. In his free time, he can always be found outdoors, creating eco-art, splashing in the Bear River, hiking, paddling, camping, mountain biking, or planning his next adventure.

Monique Streit
River Education Manager

Growing up in Grand Canyon National Park, Monique’s connection to nature was cultivated at a young age by exploring the forest and canyon that lied outside her backdoor.

Email Monique  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 218

Growing up in Grand Canyon National Park, Monique’s connection to nature was cultivated at a young age by exploring the forest and canyon that lied outside her backdoor. Early on, she was inspired to learn about the rivers, trees, rocks, flowers, and animals in her surroundings, which taught her the importance of protecting our natural resources. Monique found that through education she can share her love of the outdoors but can also teach others how they can be active environmental stewards.

Monique earned her BS in Elementary Education and went on to teach 4th grade in Flagstaff, AZ. Through incorporating environmental education into her classroom as much as possible, she decided to change career paths. Monique earned her MS in Environmental Education and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Southern Oregon University. She is particularly interested in providing students the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to make informed and sustainable decisions that will positively impact their community. She believes this can be achieved through hands-on, experiential outdoor learning opportunities. She is thrilled to join the SYRCL team and continue to give students meaningful environmental education experiences throughout the Yuba watershed.

In her free time, Monique enjoys exploring her natural surroundings, whether that means hiking, camping, backpacking, or floating down a river. She is excited to explore the Sierra Nevada and find the best places to sit back, relax, and soak up the breathtaking views.

Shannon Hedge, AmeriCorps Outreach & Education Coordinator

Shannon grew up in the suburbs around Houston, Texas where she spent most days outside exploring anywhere she could find water.

Email Shannon  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 212

Shannon grew up in the suburbs around Houston, Texas where she spent most days outside exploring anywhere she could find water. She obtained a BS in Evolution and Ecology at The Ohio State University and helped work in diversity programming as an ambassador of the multicultural center.

She found her true love of education and outreach while in graduate school at Humboldt State University as a teaching associate and volunteer coordinator for the citizen science program FrogWatch. She is excited to combine her passions of environmental conservation and interacting directly with the community at SYRCL.

Outside of work, she can often be found cooking, crafting, or looking for frogs or other herps outside.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Eric Dunn, Film Festival Producer

Growing up in the Midwest, Eric’s love of nature and waterways was established early at a summer camp with a focus on extended wilderness tripping in the north woods.

Email Eric  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 223

Growing up in the Midwest, Eric’s love of nature and waterways was established early at a summer camp with a focus on extended wilderness tripping in the north woods. After crafting his own unique degree at The Ohio State University, Eric began his professional career with over a decade of experiences managing and booking musicians at high profile events around the globe. Following years of life in the Midwest he relocated to the Nevada City region in 2012. Over the past 7 years Eric was the owner & manager of an award-winning essential oils and aromatherapy products company with his partner of 16 years. Eric brings with him to Wild & Scenic a deep well of experience in logistics, marketing, & sales.  

Today Eric continues to be an avid outdoorsman. He is an enthusiastic photographer, especially long exposure and astrophotography. He enjoys sharing his vision and the natural beauty of our earth to help connect others in appreciation and gratitude for the natural world. In his spare time Eric enjoys getting outside and exploring the region with his wife & dog in a variety of ways including hiking, camping, canoeing, skiing, & soaking in hot springs. 

Jess Swigonski, Wild & Scenic Film Festival Director

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.

Email Jess  |  (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 social and environmental justice; coming in close second is watching films. With a background in communications focusing in documentary film making, 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 Film Festival Director, taking the lead on creative content for the film festival and curating the film sessions that you will see at the event. Since moving to Nevada City for the job at Wild & Scenic in 2014, she has been endlessly fueling her curiosity and excitement for the various opportunities for adventuring in Northern California. Other than wildflower walks, mountain hikes, river dips, and hot spring trips, 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 hanging out with her cat Charlemagne.

Tara Moran, On Tour Coordinator

Tara is thrilled to be helping organizations far and wide engage their community around a shared love of nature and inspire local action to protect our planet.

Email Tara  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 232

Tara joined SYRCL as the On Tour Coordinator for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in November of 2020. She is thrilled to be helping organizations far and wide engage their community around a shared love of nature and inspire local action to protect our planet.

Since graduating from Virginia Tech, Tara has spent the greater part of her career managing operations and logistics for events across the country, including the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series Tour, IRONMAN triathlons, the NYC Marathon, and many more. After a decade in the endurance sports industry, she turned her focus to the nonprofit world, where she has produced galas, walks, and other successful fundraisers for both local and national organizations.

A recent transplant to Nevada City, Tara looks forward to exploring the trails surrounding her new hometown, hiking, running, and backpacking with her partner and two dogs.

Theresa Huck, On Tour Sales Manager

Theresa attended her first Wild and Scenic Film Festival in 2008 and it changed her entire life. Growing up in California and traveling all over has given her an immense love of nature and the environment.

Email Theresa  |  (530) 265-5961 ext. 204

Theresa attended her first Wild and Scenic Film Festival in 2008 and it changed her entire life. An avid camper and a fish in a previous life, she fell in love with the Yuba River and describes it as a spiritual experience. Growing up in California and traveling all over has given her an immense love of nature and the environment.

Theresa brings a lifetime of sales experience to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival team. As a social entrepreneur, her goal is to use Wild and Scenic On Tour as her voice for change. She considers her position as Sales Associate to be a dream come true. Her intention is to use her extensive experience in sales, business management and public relations combined with her passion for the environment, to grow SYRCL’S Wild and Scenic On Tour Program.