Melinda Booth, Executive Director (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 M.S. 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.
Julie Pokrandt, Development Director, (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.
Karl Ronning, Hydrologist, (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.
Jess Swigonski, Wild & Scenic Film Festival Programming Manager (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 Programming Manager, 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.
Andrea Mason, Finance and Administration Director, (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 Bachelor’s Degree 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.
Theresa Huck, On Tour Sales Manager, (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.
Ashley Overhouse, River Policy Manager, (530) 265-5961 ext. 215
Ashley is primarily responsible for managing the Stop Centennial Dam and Yuba Salmon Now campaigns as well as communications and general advocacy on a variety of current issues pertaining to the Yuba watershed. She brings a breadth of expertise in CEQA, land use, water, climate change, and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Prior to joining SYRCL in 2018, Ashley focused her career on environmental law and policy, working as a judicial extern for the Honorable Judge Robertson II and law clerk at environmental organizations including Earthjustice and the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR). While at OPR, and in the height of the most recent drought, Ashley worked on SGMA and discovered her passion for California water issues. She brought that passion to the University of London, where she compared international water governance policies with California regulations and served as Financing Director for the Public Interest Environmental Law UK. After returning to California, Ashley worked at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP on a variety of land use and municipal issues, and served as research assistant to Professor David Takacs.
Ashley holds a B.A. in history and literature from University of California Santa Cruz, cum laude, a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and an LL.M. in Environmental Law from the University of London, SOAS. Her dissertation analyzed the implementation of groundwater regulations in the face of climate change and the human right to water.
As a Bay Area native, Ashley is passionate about advocating for a sustainable water future for the golden state. When not in the office, Ashley can be found hiking or visiting her family.
Daniel Belshe, Community Engagement Manager, (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 Bachelor’s Degree 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.
Jorie Emory, Film Festival Director, (530) 265-5961 ext. 208
Jorie joined the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in 2018 following 10+ years in development, events, and communications with arts and environmental nonprofits across the U.S., most recently as Director of Community Strategies with River Network. Jorie is passionate about facilitating and researching creative intersections and collaborations across art, environment, and social justice, and she is experienced in elevating these themes in her professional work, community activism, and creative life. Jorie earned a Ph.D. in Arts Administration, Education, and Policy from the Ohio State University, where she researched critical social theories and practices that help explain how people teach and learn in public spaces, leading to critical consciousness and community transformation. She is a textiles weaver and water issues artist who has exhibited her work nationally. Jorie serves on the board of directors for Surface Design Association and Wheelhouse Institute and on the Water, Arts, and Culture advisory group for the U.S. Water Alliance. In her free time, you’ll find Jorie out exploring new hiking trails or at her loom, working out a complex overshot threading.
Frieda Nixdorf, Community Engagement Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 203
As 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, facilitation, and marketing and administration for 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, the healing power of nature and empowerment of ecological change-makers. 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.
Ray Lubitz, River Education Manager, (530) 265-5961 ext. 218
Ray grew up in Florida, but discovered she belonged in the mountains when she moved to Asheville, NC to serve as an environmental educator in AmeriCorps for a local elementary school. As a garden and cooking teacher, she loved collaborating with families and community members to improve Western North Carolina’s food sovereignty movements.
With a background in environmental education, gender equity movements, and non-profit work, she has developed a passion for grassroots, community and youth led environmental and social justice movements. Ray graduated with an MA in Sustainable Development from the School for International Training, focusing on the movement for women’s land ownership rights and sustainable agriculture in Gujarat, India. As an undergraduate, she worked with international exchange students, educators in Northern Ghana, and started a student-based organization focusing on the global women’s rights movement.
Ray came to Nevada City for the first time in 2017 to explore the Sierra Nevada Foothills, and instantly fell in love with the area. She is thrilled to be a part of sharing and celebrating the treasure that is the Yuba River with youth in our community. When she’s not on the water, she can be found cooking, gardening, traveling, soaking up local music or a yoga class, or hiking, biking and backpacking to explore all the natural beauty Cali has to offer.
Katy Gott, Development Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 210
Katy grew up in nearby Oroville along the waters of the Feather River in a family of foresters that instilled in her a love for the natural landscape. Taught about plant identification and sustainability from a young age, she honed her skills while receiving her degree from UC Davis, majoring in Environmental Horticulture and Urban Forestry with an emphasis in Biodiversity and Restoration. Since graduating, she has lived in varied landscapes around Northern California and has gained an appreciation for the rich biodiversity of the north state. She is most often found with her little dog, Sherwood, and is slowly developing her own property to live at in Rough and Ready.
Eric Robins, Membership Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 220
Eric grew up in North San Juan and Grass Valley, and has been swimming in the Middle and South Forks of the Yuba with family and friends since the age of six. He attended college at University of California Santa Cruz for a degree in Linguistics, spent a year studying in Berlin, Germany, and returned home, realizing few places were as special as Nevada County. Before joining SYRCL he was involved heavily in local activism, working with local campaigns, and serving on the Board of his old high school Bitney Prep. When he’s not at the office, he can usually be found reading or playing games, or helping his father build a home in Alta Sierra.
Cody Wasuta, Restoration Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 211
Cody learned to kayak at the age of 13 and it dramatically altered the course of his life. Growing up in the bay area, his love for the rivers of California only grew as he discovered the placid blue hues and steep canyons that characterize the Sierra Nevada. At Saint Michael’s College outside of Burlington, VT, he pursued a dual degree in English and Environmental studies, while running a whitewater kayaking program for boys and young adults. Returning to the west coast and looking for a place to build community, Cody re-connected with the whitewater of California and through a serendipitous meeting found himself at SYRCL. When it starts to rain you’ll find him on the South Fork of the Yuba or running shuttle on Pleasant Valley Road. If he can pull himself away, he may be climbing, skiing, fishing, or learning about all the fantastic things SYRCL does!
Eric Dunn, Film Festival Program Coordinator, (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.
Hunter Jones, On Tour Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 232
Hunter recently moved back to Nevada County after a decade on the East Coast where he worked in various advocacy roles at the Center for Study of Responsive Law in Washington, DC. He has a master’s degree from Georgetown and a bachelor’s from Hampshire College.
He is passionate about the written word and its capacity for persuasion and for effecting change. He brings to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival years of experience in communication, outreach and event coordination. When he’s not in the office, he’s playing music, reading, writing, or hiking with his dog Greta.
Alecia Weisman, River Science Program Manager, (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 B.S. 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 M.S. 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.
Mary McDonnell, AmeriCorps Restoration Coordinator, (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.
Jaclyn Sherman, AmeriCorps River Monitoring Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 213
Jaclyn was born in Northern California and spent her early childhood exploring the redwood coast region. Her family later moved to Nashville, TN where she spent her free time hiking in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. In 2019, she graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a double major in Environmental Studies and Economics. Her passion for sustainability and food systems compelled her to take on jobs with the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market and other local biodynamic farms. While in college, she studied abroad in New Zealand, was a member of the ocean paddling team, and spent her weekends backpacking, biking, and hiking on the west coast. She has recently returned from traveling in Nepal and Thailand and is excited to spend a year working with SYRCL!
Shannon Hedge, AmeriCorps Outreach & Education Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 212
Shannon grew up in the suburbs around Houston, Texas where she spent most days outside exploring anywhere where there was water. She obtained a bachelors degree 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.
Allison Thompson, Forest Health Watershed Coordinator, (530) 265-5961 ext. 231
With deep roots in the forest products industry from Nevada and Yuba Counties to the Santa Cruz Mountains, Allison has been told she has sawdust in her blood. Sustainably harvested sawdust, that is. Pioneers of sustainable forestry in California, her family has instilled in her a deep respect and excitement for our natural ecosystems. After receiving BS degrees from UC Berkeley in Forestry and Environmental Sciences, she worked for multiple environmental non-profits, timber companies, and private forestry consultants across Northern California. While living on the rural North Coast, she took a three-year pause from forestry and stream restoration work to start and operate a small farm – an enlightening endeavor she calls “homemade business school.”
Allison recently moved back to her home turf in Nevada County, where she is happily reconnecting with the activities and places she enjoyed as a child. She is excited to bring her passion for sustainable forestry and sustainable business back to the watershed and community she has always loved. She constantly seeks a balance between ecologic and economic sustainability, as the effective landscape scale forest conservation and restoration needed throughout the Sierras cannot be accomplished without creative approaches that are founded in solid economic bases.
When she’s not working in the forest (or in the office thinking about the forest), Allison can be found enjoying it: hiking, running, swimming, botanizing (and photographing said botany), cloud- and star-gazing; or snuggled at home with her fuzzy cat, cooking, baking, knitting, trying to learn to paint, and growing more vegetables than she can eat.
Andrew Salmon, Forest Health Watershed Coordinator, (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. Andrew now works as the Forest Health Watershed Program Coordinator with the South Yuba River Citizens League.
Tyler Goodearly, Fish Biologist, (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 University of California, 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.
Aaron Zettler-Mann, River Restoration Project Manager, (530) 265-5961 ext. 221
Aaron grew up on the coast in a small town in Humboldt County, California. He grew up swimming and playing in the creeks and rivers by his house. Predictably, he found his way to work as a raft guide. He was a raft guide throughout the Sierra Nevada for nearly ten years and even met his wife (also a guide) on the South Fork of the American River. 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, whose academic training is in fluvial geomorphology and remote sensing. He finished his B.A. at the University of Colorado at Boulder, M.A. at the University of Denver, and PhD at the University of Oregon – all of which were in Geography departments. Aaron 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 River Restoration Project Manager, he will work closely with the community, government, and private entities to develop, implement, and monitor restoration efforts on the lower Yuba River.
When not at the SYRCL office with his black lab Bodhi, 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.
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. 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.