meet the speakers

Dr. Amber Pairis 

Climate Science Alliance - South Coast

Dr. Amber Pairis is the Director of the Climate Science Alliance-South Coast covering southern California and Baja. Her current work focuses 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. Pairis leads several initiatives related to innovative community engagement including Climate Kids and the role of art and artists in building community engagement on climate change. In 2013 Pairis was appointed by Governor Brown as the Assistant Secretary for Climate Change-California Natural Resources Agency and worked collaboratively to coordinate the State's activities related to climate change adaptation. Preceding the appointment, Pairis served as the Climate Change Advisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for five years and created the Department's Climate Science Program and CDFW Climate College. In 2006 Pairis worked for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Washington D.C. where she was the Science Liaison coordinating between the states and federal natural resource agencies on energy and climate change. Pairis is a scientist by training and completed her Ph.D. in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England. Pairis is a fellow of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.

2018 San Diego climate summit

March 6, 2018  |  Robert paine scripps forum


Dr. Mark Merrifield

Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Mark Merrifield  is the new director of the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Merrifield is an internationally recognized researcher in the areas of sea-level rise and climate variability, coastal oceanography, and nearshore processes.  He received his Ph.D in Oceanography from Scripps in 1989, was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia from 1989 to 1991, followed by a return to Scripps as a project scientist and researcher.  In 1994, he joined the faculty at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the Ocean Engineering department, subsequently moving to the Oceanography department from 1997-2017.  Mark brings experience from two decades of studying both global and regional sea-level change to the CCCIA, where his initial focus is sea-level rise, but he also plans to address issues related to climate change such as water supply shortages from droughts, the effects on energy production, marine ecosystem impacts, and engaging with community stakeholders to build resiliency. 

Mike Schneider 

San Diego Gas & Electric


Michael M. Schneider is Vice President of Operations Support and Sustainability, and Chief Environmental Officer for San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Company. Schneider is responsible for facilities, fleet services, and environmental services for both companies. Schneider holds a master's degree in business administration from George Mason University with an emphasis in finance and a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Arizona. Schneider is a member of the advisory board and director's circle for the Lamden School of Accountancy at San Diego State University. He also serves on the board of directors of the San Diego River Park Foundation, the industry advisory board for the Eller School at the University of Arizona, and the National Board of Advisors for the Eller College of Management.

Dr. Dan Cayan 

Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Dr. Daniel R. Cayan is a Research Meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), University of California, San Diego, and is also a Researcher in the U.S. Geological Survey. His research is aimed at understanding climate variability and changes over the Pacific Ocean and North America. Specific interests concern impacts of climate changes on water resources and other sectors in western North America.

Cayan heads the California Nevada Applications Program and the California Climate Change Center, climate research programs to improve climate information and forecasts for decision makers in the California region; see

Cayan received a BS degree in Meteorology and Oceanography in 1971 from the University of Michigan. He received a Ph.D. in Oceanography in 1990 from the University of California, San Diego. He has been employed by Scripps since 1977 and by the U. S. Geological Survey Water Resources Division since 1991.

Dr. Megan K. Jennings 

San Diego State University


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 (2013). 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 serves as the Science Program Manager for the Climate Science Alliance - South Coast and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at San Diego State University.

Dr. Julie Kalansky 

Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Julie is a climate scientist and program manager of CNAP (California Nevada - Climate-Application Program) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. CNAP is a NOAA funded RISA team whose objective is to work with decision makers to facilitate the integration of climate science into decisions. Julie’s research interests stem from trying to understand weather and climate in order to better prepare for extreme events and future conditions. These efforts include using historical observations to understand historical weather variability in the Western US and the impacts associated with this variability as well as future projections of climate variability. She is actively involved with the California 4th Climate Assessment with a focus in sea level projections and the regional application of the information that is coming out of the effort. Julie engages with regional stakeholders to better understand how this climate and weather information can be applied in decision making.

Dr. Hiram Rivera-Huerta

Universidad Autónoma de Baja California


Trabajo en el área de sistemas de información geográfica y percepción remota. Educación al aire libre de ambientes costeros y terrestres. En los últimos años mi interés se centra en los bosques semiáridos de la Provincia Florística Californiana y el efecto de la supresión de fuego en California y los bosques homólogos en Baja California bajo diferentes políticas de manejo, uso e intensidad en los últimos 150 años.

Dr. Dawn Lawson 

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSCPAC)


Dawn Lawson, Ph.D., is a plant ecologist working primarily with the Navy and Marine Corps in southern California.  Her work has taken her back and forth across the science/management interface.  She is interested in practical solutions to conservation problems faced by land managers across a range of topics relevant to the ecology and management of natural systems including wildland fire, invasive plant species, and plant community ecology.

Dr. Shasta Gaughen

Pala Band of Mission Indians


Shasta Gaughen is the Environmental Director and the Tribal Historic Preservation
Officer for the Pala Band of Mission Indians in Pala, California. She has worked for
the Pala Band since January 2005, and established Pala’s Tribal Historic
Preservation Office in 2008. She is also an adjunct professor in the Anthropology
Department at California State University San Marcos. Dr. Gaughen received her
B.A. in Anthropology and B.S. in Natural Resources at Humboldt State University
in 1996, her M.A. in Anthropology from San Diego State University in 2001, and
her PhD in Anthropology from the University of New Mexico in 2011. She is
Secretary of the Board for the Native American Environmental Protection
Coalition, a member of the advisory board for the Climate Science Alliance - South
Coast, a member of the Institute of Tribal Environmental Professionals’ Climate
Advisory Group, a board member of the National Association of Tribal Historic
Preservation Officers, and a director for the Upper San Luis Rey Resource
Conservation District. Dr. Gaughen has made presentations on cultural and
environmental topics for the Navy, the Border Patrol, the California Indian Legal
Association, the San Diego County Archaeological Society, the California Mission
Indian Association, and many other private and public organizations.

Dr. Kristen Guirguis

Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Kristen Guirguis is a Project Scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her
research focuses on natural climate variability, climate change, and health impacts. She
uses information from observations and climate models to study relationships between long term climate and daily temperature extremes, such as heat waves. In addition to her
interest in climate and weather from a scientific standpoint, she is also interested in
working with stakeholders to translate relevant scientific information into practical applications. At Scripps, she has been involved with research focused on medium range predictability of temperature extremes for energy applications and precipitation extremes for water resource management. She has also collaborated with Epidemiologists to study health impacts of heat waves in California. She received her B.S. in Earth Sciences from UCSD in 1998 and her Ph.D. in Hydrology and Fluid Dynamics from Duke University in 2009.

Dr. Sula E. Vanderplank

San Diego State University


Sula Vanderplank is a field botanist who studies natural history, floristics, and conservation science, her research has focused on the botany and ecology of the mediterranean-climate region of Baja California, Mexico, one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. For the last thirteen years Sula has published broadly on the flora of this region including field guides, academic books chapters and more than 25 peer-reviewed papers. Sula serves as adjunct faculty at San Diego State University and the center for scientific research and higher education (CICESE) in Ensenada. She is also is a research associate at the San Diego Natural History Museum and science advisor at Terra Peninsular AC.

Dr. David W. Pierce

Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Dr. Rachel E.S. Clemesha

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

David is a Programmer Analyst at the Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography (CASPO) Department at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His research interests include El Nino and La Nina forecasting and impacts, human induced climate change and its global and regional affects, ocean warming and changes in salinity, decadal timescale prediction and natural climate variability, and statistical bias correction and downscaling techniques. He received his Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from University of Washington in 1993, his M.S. in Physical Oceanography from University of Washington in 1989 and his B. S. in Physics from University of California Santa Cruz in 1984.


Rachel joined Weather and Climate Analytics (WACA) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in January 2011 as a Climate Science PhD student. Her research first focused on the volatility of weather extremes as a part of the the Scripps Partnership for Hazards and Environmental Applied Research (SPHEAR). During  the summers of 2011 and 2012 she first began her research on marine layer clouds through internships at the local utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).  In 2012 she was awarded a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship to continue her studies of these low level clouds as her PhD research.  In August 2015 Rachel successfully defended her PhD dissertation entitled: “California Coastal Low Clouds: Variability and Influences across Climate to Weather and Continental to Local Scales.”

Dr. Alexander (Sasha) Gershunov

Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Sasha’s research focuses on interrelated aspects of weather, climate and society. His professional interests include understanding the links between regional weather extremes and large-scale climate variability and change, long-range climate prediction, the atmospheric water cycle, precipitation and drought, heat waves, cold snaps, marine layer clouds, atmospheric rivers, Santa Ana winds, extreme weather and climate impacts on wildfire, energy, ecosystems, water resources and public health, climate influence on society and human influence on climate.

Sasha is affiliated with various organizations focused on regionally relevant climate research with benefit to society ranging from education to resource management. He enjoys conveying scientific results not only to the scientific community via peer-reviewed research articles published in professional journals, but also beyond, to stakeholders and the public via various other means, documents, presentations and good old-fashioned human interaction. Sasha enjoys working with colleagues and friends across borders and disciplines. He has recently co-organized Weather on Steroids: the Art of Climate Change Science.

Michael McCormick

California Governor's Office of Planning and Research


Michael McCormick, AICP was appointed to the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) in May 2011. OPR serves the Governor and his Cabinet as staff for long-range planning and research, and constitutes the comprehensive State planning agency. Michael’s work at OPR, along with recent work with NOAA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is focused at the nexus of high level climate change goals and local implementation. His focus is on institutional transformation by leading the development of partnerships, tools, resources, guidance and programs that support strong action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing community resilience to the impacts of a changing climate. Michael was one of the leads on the new 2017 General Plan Guidelines, co-founded the California Adaptation Forum, founded the CivicSpark AmeriCorps Governors Initiative and was on the founding Board of Directors of the Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation. Michael has a Bachelors in Sociology and Masters in Urban Regional Planning from Florida State University.

Janin Guzman-Morales

Scripps Institution of Oceanography


Janin is interested in the relative contribution of different types of fuels to submicron particles in California urban areas. She joined the Russell Atmospheric Aerosol group at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in winter 2011 as a research scholar, after obtaining her B.S. in Chemistry at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She became an SIO graduate student in Fall 2012 in the Marine Chemistry curricular group. She was actively involved in aerosol sampling, collecting data with the High Resolution Aerosol Mass Spectrometer at the Mt. Soledad, La Jolla, California Project in May-June 2012 and at the Western Atlantic Climate Study in August 2012.

Dr. John M. Randall

The Nature Conservancy, California Chapter


John is a Lead Scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s California Chapter. He supervises a team of four other scientists who focus on conservation of protected areas and corridors linking them into a statewide network. Much of his time is devoted to three projects: conservation and management of Santa Cruz Island and the other Pacific Islands of California and Baja California; urban conservation in Greater Los Angeles with a focus on assessing the distribution of biodiversity and opportunities for enhancing it across the region; and completion of a regional network of conservation lands in the southwestern corner of the state with a focus on identifying key linkages and ways to facilitate wildlife movement.

John earned a Ph.D. in Ecology at the University of California, Davis where he studied the ecology, effects, and control of invasive non-native plants in protected lands and forests managed for timber production. He also holds an M.S. in Marine Science from Louisiana State University where he studied phytoplankton productivity in a shallow, nutrient-rich, and turbid estuary on the Gulf of Mexico.

Laura Hampton

Climate Science Alliance - South Coast


Laura is a Program Manager for Innovative Community Engagement in Climate Kids and Regional Conservation Planning. Her background in physical geography from San Diego State University and love for weather and climate has sparked her passion to educate children about the importance of natural resource conservation in our changing world. Laura has used Geography Information Systems in numerous biological surveys, developing an appreciation for animals and plants. She will be working with the Climate Kids program and as GIS support for ongoing mapping efforts.

Olivia Drummond 

San Diego Zoo


Olivia Drummond has worked in the San Diego Zoo’s education department since 2014. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science: Biology at Northern Arizona University in 2013 and completed an undergraduate study of American flamingos. Her passion for wildlife and sustainability enhances her desire to educate the public about climate science and inspire positive change. Given the opportunity to create a new program for San Diego’s East County schools, Olivia worked with the Climate Science Alliance to develop curriculum that teaches climate science and sustainability. In her free time she enjoys camping, hiking, and basking in southern California’s natural beauty.

Alexandria Warneke 

Cabrillo National Monument


Alex is committed to a life inspiring others to create positive change, for themselves and the
world around them. She earned her Masters degree in chemical ecology from San Diego State
University investigating the effects of anthropogenic pollutants on the chemical communication
between organisms. She is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and
extending the broader impacts of science to the general public. She currently leads the
Innovative Community Engagement Working Group for the Climate Science Alliance- South
Coast and is a Climate Kid to her core.

Danielle Boudreau

Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve


Danielle Boudreau is the Coastal Management Specialist at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. In this role, Dani connects binational decision-makers with cutting-edge skills needed to address complex natural resource management issues. Currently, she leads the Reserve's Resilience Initiative, an interdepartmental and multi-organizational effort linking leaders, scientists, and communities to the best-available climate science and adaptation planning tools. Previously, Dani worked with The Nature Conservancy to advance coastal adaptation in North Carolina, while pursuing her masters at Duke University. Before attending graduate school, she worked at the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE) at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Lucia Stone

San Diego Gas & Electric


Lucia serves as Senior Environmental Communications Manager for San Diego Gas and Electric where she leads SDG&E’s environmental communications strategy, sustainability planning, and environmental stakeholder engagement. In addition, Lucia leads the sustainability strategy, environmental agency outreach, and the SDG&E Green Team, a group of employees dedicated to improving SDG&E’s operational excellence. Prior to joining SDG&E, Lucia served as vice president of a public relations firm focused on environmental and cleantech clientele. Lucia holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Journalism and a minor in Ethnic Studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Lou Hexter

MIG Consulting


Lou Hexter has been a project manager of public involvement, community and organizational development, and strategic planning projects for more than 25 years. He has designed and conducted strategic planning, team building, and process management workshops and retreats for a wide range of clients at all levels from Board members to management executives to administrative staff. Lou’s projects have involved inter-agency collaboration, communications, public outreach, consensus building and strategic visioning. He has also served as a meeting facilitator, graphic recorder and outreach coordinator for a variety of community participation activities and programs, working with community-based and non-profit organizations in addition to public and private sector clients. Lou participated in the Southwest Tribal Climate Change Summit in San Diego last September, and he is a co-facilitator of the University of California’s Climate Stewards Education and Service Program strategic planning process, currently underway. Lou has received recognition from the International Downtown Association, the American Planning Association and the American Society of Landscape Architects for his work in facilitating community-based planning processes.  He received his Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and Architecture from Stanford University.

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