Connecting Wildlands
& Communities
Meet the CWC Team
Megan Jennings
Rebecca Lewison
Diane Foote
Alicia Kinoshita
Sara McGaugh
Jack Mikesell
Diane Foote
Sherry Ryan
Becca Smith
Erin Conlisk
Mark De Guzman
Megan Jennings
Rebecca Lewison
Isabel Rojas-Viada
Erin Conlisk
Doug Stow
Emanuel Storey
Alexandra Syphard
Krista West
Project Focus: Coordination, Biodiversity

Megan Jennings is a Conservation Ecologist and Co-Director of San Diego State University's Institute for Ecological Monitoring and Management. The research she works on is primarily focused on informing conservation and management planning in terrestrial systems with particular interest in incorporating landscape dynamics into connectivity planning. Dr. Jennings earned a Ph.D. in Ecology from San Diego State University and the University of California, Davis. She worked for over a decade as a wildlife biologist for the US Forest Service in San Diego where her years of experience in land management for a federal agency informed her perspective as a researcher. Dr. Jennings strives to work at the interface of science and management - developing applied research to address management and conservation issues and communicating results and real-world recommendations to decision-makers and managers. Dr. Jennings is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at San Diego State University, an affiliated researcher with the Scripps Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation, and serves as an advisor to the Climate Science Alliance.​

Project Focus: Coordination, Biodiversity

Rebecca Lewison is a conservation ecologist and a Professor at San Diego State University. She also serves as Director for the Institute for Ecological Management and Monitoring, a multi-disciplinary research institute at SDSU. Dr. Lewison received her Bachelor's degree from Vassar College and went on to complete her doctorate in Ecology at the University of California, Davis. Using innovative field, quantitative and lab-based approaches, her research focuses on vulnerable wildlife populations that live in both terrestrial and aquatic environments and face pressing conservation issues, e.g. fragmentation, habitat loss, harvest and incidental mortality, disease, and other disturbances. Over the past decade, she has been spearheading integrative research in conservation ecology, policy, and resource use, with expertise and experience across a wide taxonomic range of organisms. Dr. Lewison has served as a leader of several research initiatives designed to develop new tools and methodological approaches to understand the magnitude and extent, of population-level and landscape level effects of human-mediated activities.

Project Focus: Coordination, Planning

Diane Foote is the Project Manager and a researcher for Connecting Wildlands and Communities. After a career in Information Technology she followed her passion for making the places we live more sustainable by taking classes in Urban Planning and GIS. After graduating from San Diego State University’s Master of City Planning Program, she worked on multiple research projects analyzing active transportation demand and safety data. She is thrilled to be part of a team providing data and tools to inform and improve planning decisions leading to better environments for both humans and wildlife in Southern California.

Project Focus: Fire, Biodiversity

Dr. Erin Conlisk is a quantitative ecologist integrating field experiments with novel quantitative techniques to aid management of California plants and wildlife threatened by climate change, land-use change, and altered disturbance regimes (fire!). She grew up in San Diego, California, received a PhD in 2007 from UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, and currently work with Point Blue Conservation Science. With the CWC, Dr. Conlisk will explore the relationship between fire risk, damage, and home price.

"I subscribe to Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard’s 'secret to a good life: always be the oldest one in the room'. Thus, when I am not working, you will find me talking to young people about science, getting outside, being active, and whatever newfangled stuff we didn’t have in my day."

Project Focus: Biodiversity

Mark De Guzman is an environmental scientist and ecophysiologist who is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at University of California Davis. Dr. De Guzman earned his Bachelor’s degree from California State University Bakersfield and completed his doctorate in Ecology at University of California Riverside. He is interested in how chaparral responds to environmental stressors such as fire and drought. His previous work has gained insights on the diverse strategies of the species that make up the biodiverse plant community of the chaparral. His current research efforts are focused on valuating the ecosystem services of Southern California chaparral in the context of carbon dynamics, which will inform decision-making tools for land managers. Dr. De Guzman is thrilled to contribute to the goal of the CWC team.

Project Focus: Water

Dr. Alicia Kinoshita is an Assistant Professor in the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department. Her research group (Disturbance Hydrology at San Diego State University; focuses on understanding water and hydrologic processes after natural and human disturbances such as urbanization or wildfires. Her studies have focused on post-fire hydrology water quality, vegetation recovery, and long-term flow regimes. Her research also investigates short- and long-term watershed processes to improve hydrologic prediction and management. This work incorporates field data, remote sensing products, and hydrologic modeling to evaluate the response of impacted watersheds. 

Project Focus: Water

Jack Mikesell is a Civil Engineering – Water Resources Engineering graduate student with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from San Diego State. His current research focuses on watershed modeling, including using high-resolution spatial datasets to model post-wildfire hydrologic and sedimentation processes. His past research involves utilizing remote sensing products to develop computational tools informing post-wildfire hydrogeomorphic risk assessment. Jack has been a Water Resources Engineer Intern at Paradigm Environmental since 2017 and has gained experience supporting stormwater and watershed management initiatives in California through the compilation, analysis, and synthesis of large climate, geospatial, and environmental monitoring datasets. He has supported multiple regional planning efforts which incorporated elements ranging from stormwater master planning and watershed modeling to capital planning and conceptual design.

Project Focus: Water

Sara McGaugh is a senior at SDSU earning her undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering. She has a passion for the environment and believes that bringing communities together to study the changes occurring within our environment, both of natural and human causes, can lead to success in adapting to climate change. She is using her knowledge of hydrology and her skills with GIS to support the project's water team with measurements of downstream data, utilizing proper data collection and management skills. Sara has been a Land Development engineering intern with the County of San Diego, where she focuses on reviewing hydrology and stormwater quality management plans. She is also an officer of Engineers Without Borders-SDSU. Currently, their team is working to design and install a water pipeline system to bring water to a small community within Nicaragua. Her primary interests are fluid and soil mechanics.

Project Focus: Outreach & Engagement

Dr. Amber Pairis’ work centers on building a science focused network of leaders, scientists, and managers focused on sharing ecosystem-based resiliency approaches to safeguard our communities and natural resources from climate change impacts. Pairis serves as the Director of the Climate Science Alliance, and is also on the team for the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Pairis leads several initiatives related to terrestrial ecosystem resilience and natural resource conservation, including innovative community engagement programs. In 2013, Pairis was appointed by Governor Brown as the Assistant Secretary for Climate Change at the California Natural Resources Agency. Pairis worked in Washington, DC as a Science Advisor at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies before starting the Climate Science Program at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Pairis holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies-Conservation Biology from Antioch University New England.

Project Focus: Outreach & Engagement

Kim Reasor was born in London and raised in Texas and Colorado. She always enjoyed making art and studied life drawing and oil painting with master teachers in Denver and New Mexico before earning her BFA at Metropolitan State University. In the 1990s, she began to make oil paintings that explored the man made landscape. In 2003 she moved to San Diego and added Southern Californian sprawl and stucco to her repertoire, showing in a variety of gallery and museum shows. In 2016, Reasor spent several months in Finland and did an art-science residency in the Arctic. This experience gave her a new perspective of deeply appreciating nature and urgently fearing for it when the second half of her project had to be radically trimmed down after the snow melted several weeks earlier than normal. From this residency, she created a group of paintings that worked as both data visualizations and aesthetic art objects. In 2019, Reasor worked on a National Science Foundation funded outreach project in Utqiagvik, Alaska that dealt with sea ice loss. Back home in San Diego, she is intrigued by the tightly interwoven quality of nature and development in the region, and is looking forward to exploring these themes in her work for the Climate Art Fellowship. Of her art she says, “My work illuminates the overlooked and invisible through exploration of discarded landscapes and hidden worlds of science and nature.”

Project Focus: Biodiversity

Dr. Isabel Rojas-Viada's interest is to advance understanding of and promote solutions for environmental problems using scientific methods. She seeks to find ways to balance human’s demands for natural resources with the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Rojas-Viada just earned a Ph. D. in Forestry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she focused my research on uncovering how increasing riparian forest corridors through the enforcement of current regulation and restoration would permit species to thrive around agricultural lands; in Chile, her home country. She is excited to join the CWC interdisciplinary team to support southern California to move toward a more climate smart and resilient community. Specifically, she will join the biodiversity team to quantify the value of existing linkages maps for various species that are at risk of extinction, and incorporate this biodiversity knowledge into decision-making tools.

Project Focus: Planning

Dr. Sherry Ryan is a Professor in City Planning and the Director of the School of Public Affairs. She earned her undergraduate degree in Romance Languages and Latin American Studies at Princeton University, and an M.S. in Civil Engineering and a Ph.D. in Transportation Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Her research interests are focused on understanding transportation–land use interactions, and the influence of land use patterns on travel behavior, physical activity, and health. She has published research in several scholarly journals, including Urban Studies, the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Transportation Research, and the Journal of Physical Activity & Health. She is currently a co-investigator on three research projects funded by the California Department of Transportation and the National Institute of Health.

Project Focus: Planning

Becca Smith is a Master’s of City Planning student and Graduate Research Assistant at San Diego State University. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis in Environmental Psychology at the University of Washington. Her research interests include human behavior within urban space, place-making, biophilic design, and sustainable cities. She hopes to focus on Urban Design and Environmental Planning while attending SDSU.

Project Focus: Fire

Dr. Douglas (Doug) Stow is a Distinguished Professor of Geography at San Diego State University (SDSU) and has been on the faculty there for almost 36 years. He has worked in the remote sensing field for over 40 years and his research focuses on multitemporal image analysis, with an emphasis on mapping and monitoring of land use and land cover, vegetation and habitat condition, fire spread and post-hazard damage. He is the primary instructor of remote sensing courses at SDSU and is the Co-Director of the Center for Earth Systems Analysis Research. Doug has served as major advisor of 14 doctoral and 62 master’s degree students. He has authored 167 refereed publications and served as a principal investigator for 42 grants and contracts with funding totaling over $30 million, mostly on remote sensing topics. Doug is an ASPRS Fellow and received the SAIC John Estes Teaching Award from ASPRS, and the Association of American Geographers Remote Sensing Specialty Group, Outstanding Contributions in Remote Sensing Award. He was selected as the Albert W. Johnson Lecturer for the 2015-16 Academic Year and with it was designated Distinguished Professor of Geography.

Project Focus: Fire

Emanuel is an environmental scientist, landscape ecologist, and biogeographer working in the Department of Geography at SDSU. His major research interests are in the application of satellite remote sensing to the study of vegetation dynamics, and especially changes in shrubland vegetation associated with fire, climate change, and invasive plants. Emanuel is interested in these topics from the standpoint of ecosystem services, and aims to discover ecological insights to support more effective land, water, and fire management in the southern California region and beyond. His other key interests lie in environmental policy and stewardship philosophy. He has taught environmental conservation, wildfire science, and remote sensing subjects at SDSU, and continues to be involved in a variety of collaborative research projects. He believes strongly in the value of nature experience and enjoys to work with others in the outdoors.

Project Focus: Fire

Dr. Alexandra D. Syphard is chief scientist at Sage Underwriters, an affiliate of the Conservation Biology Institute, and an adjunct professor at San Diego State University. She has spent more than two decades analyzing the ecological and social drivers and impacts of landscape change. She uses a variety of mapping, statistical, and modeling approaches to investigate how change has occurred in the past, how it is likely to occur in the future, and how different policy or management scenarios may impact ecological and social well-being. For the last decade, Alexandra’s research has focused intensely on wildfire risk to communities and identifying the best approaches for balancing fire risk reduction with biodiversity conservation. Her research also focuses on the interactions among wildfire patterns, land use change and urban growth, climate change, vegetation dynamics and biodiversity, invasive species, and species’ range shifts.

Project Focus: Outreach & Engagement

As the Creative Projects Manager for the Climate Science Alliance, Diane works with the Alliance team and partners to create captivating and engaging materials in order to deliver the important messages of our climate resilient projects to all levels of our community. She explores the evolving world of science communication, utilizing graphic and web design as well as social media. This passion stemmed from her time at Gaia, a student magazine that covered sustainability-based issues through art and creative journalism, in which she was the editor-in-chief of while completing her B.A. in Environmental Studies/Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Project Focus: Outreach & Engagement

Alex is committed to a life of inspiring others to view science through a more dynamic and empowering lens. Alex obtained her M.Sc. in Chemical Ecology from San Diego State University and most recently resided as a Science Programs Manager and Marine Scientist for the National Park Service. As an ecologist, storyteller, and community engager, she has spanned critical boundaries between stakeholders in education, academia, non-profit, and government to translate the most current scientific bodies of work in ways that are accessible and inclusive. She is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and extending the broader impacts of science to the public using the outlets of art, digital media, education, and citizen science. As Deputy Director for the Climate Science Alliance, her hope is that through her work and experience she can get the world to think differently about how we connect and impact the thriving ecosystem around us and commit to fostering a more resilient future.

Project Focus: Fire

Krista West has been part of the remote sensing community for over a decade. After earning her B.A. in Geography (and minor in Geological Sciences) from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), she spent one summer as an intern with the DEVELOP Program at NASA Ames, where she worked in a team to create geovisualizations of extreme storms in the Pacific Ocean. After that, she was a Research Associate at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). While at NPS, she earned her M.S. in Remote Sensing Intelligence, and then put that degree to use working for the U.S. Air Force. She was an Intelligence Specialist and later an Instructor of Geosciences at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Most recently, Krista was the Remote Sensing Scientist and an Account Manager for Intterra, a company that has created a geospatial software utilized by both metropolitan and wildland fire departments. She worked with fire personnel ranging from departments in Coastal California to Western Missouri, and supported firefighters during the Thomas, Lilac, Woolsey, Hill, Carr, Mendocino Complex, and Camp Fires (to name a few in just California) by providing both software support and also image data and products to incident management teams. In Fall 2019, Krista will begin her path to a Ph.D. as a member of the San Diego State University / UCSB joint program in Geography. She is passionate about using image data to aid first responders.

Climate Science Alliance logos Final-01.

 “To safeguard natural and human communities in the face of a changing climate.”

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon

The Climate Science Alliance is fiscally sponsored by the California Wildlife Foundation (Tax ID: 68-0234744).

© Climate Science Alliance 2019