Director Biographies

Jen Michelsen
President, Board of Directors

Bachelors of Science, Biology, Natural Resource Conservation, Sacramento State University, Sacramento, CA

Jen Michelsen is the Environmental Programs Manager for the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. Jen’s experience includes wildlife research/ conservation, water resource management, long range water sustainability planning, water quality, environmental compliance, watershed management/stewardship, watershed education, communications, water conservation, and restoration project management. 

Vice President, Board of Directors

Bachelor of Science, Environmental Resources, Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ

Portia Halbert is an Environmental Scientist with the Santa Cruz District of California State Parks. For 16 years she has been part of a resource management team who works to manage parkland and restore habitat in the 70,000 acres of Parks in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. Her experience is based on a wide variety of things she has had the opportunity to do such as restoration using heavy equipment for earthmoving, planting and maintaining large areas with native plants, refining the work on invasive exotic plants and incorporating early detection and rapid response, and working with sensitive species such as the California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake. As a last and personal favorite, she is also a member the statewide burn crew, helping to reintroduce fire to the landscape; through this work she has discovered that everyone is a closeted pyromaniac. In her consulting business she conducts inland surveys for the marbled murrelet, and eradicates non-native plant species. She is a member of the California Invasive Plant Council.

Secretary/Treasurer, Board of Directors

Bachelor of Science, Biology, UC Irvine
Master of Science, Ecology, Rutgers University
Certified Wildlife Biologist, TWS (formerly, see note below about TWS)

Steve is the owner of Steven Singer Environmental and Ecological Services, a local environmental consulting business that specializes in forest biology, old-growth redwood ecosystems, and inland habitat management for the Marbled Murrelet, an endangered seabird. He is the co-editor of the Marbled Murrelet Landscape Management Plan for the Santa Cruz Mountains (Zone 6). His pioneering research on the nesting ecology of the Marbled Murrelet has been partially recounted in the book, Rare Bird, by Maria Ruth. He continues to monitor murrelet numbers locally and is a member of the Marbled Murrelet Technical Committee of the Pacific Seabird Group. Formerly, he also consulted in wildland soil conservation work, which included road removal, trail design, repair of logged-over lands, channel stabilization, and gully control. Steve was the first person to formulate successful treatment methods for the abundant gullies found on sodic subsoils in coastal San Mateo County. For many years he was an adjunct faculty member at Cabrillo College where he taught a Soil Conservation class.  Steve is a Research Associate for the Santa Cruz City Museum of Natural History, and a member of the Cooper Ornithological Society, the Pacific Seabird Group, and the California Native Plant Society. He is a former member of the Wildlife Society but discontinued his membership when that organization betrayed its membership and its own stated goals by supporting the wildlife policies of the Trump administration.


Bachelor of Science, Natural Resource Management, Rutgers University
Masters of Science, Forest Resources, Oregon State University

Ramona is the first Natural Resource Manager hired by County of San Mateo’s Parks Department. Prior to joining Parks, she worked primarily in urban greenspace restoration in the Portland-metro area. She says, "My personal passion in natural resources began with my family’s love for outdoor recreation. Surfing along our beautiful coast and camping in our treasured California State and National Parks and Forests inspired an early passion for the environment. Over the years I pursued experiences, education, and career opportunities to enrich my understanding of different forest ecosystems from the hardwood forests of the Northeast to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. My personal master’s research focused on forest structure and composition changes along various environmental and anthropogenic gradients in a tropical montane cloud forests in southeastern Ethiopia."

"I served as a program manager for two nonprofits in the Portland, OR metro area. In one role, I coordinated open space restoration projects for various city, county, and federal agencies using community volunteers to achieve our restoration goals. In both roles I worked tirelessly to provide education and interpretation to the public concerning the importance of urban forests and open space restoration and on topics related to the forestry sector, from academia to the forest products industry. While there I served on the Oregon Community Trees board, whose mission is to promote healthy urban and community forests through leadership, education, awareness, and advocacy."

"Throughout my work and research both collaboration and stakeholder engagement has been a critical component in being successful. I have extensive experience in urban restoration, forestry research, and volunteer management. My career focus for the last fourteen years has been natural resource conservation and have worked both domestically and internationally."

FRED mcpherson

(Recently deceased)

BA in Biology and California Science Teaching Credential, San Fernando Valley State College (now Northridge State University.)
Fellowship to the University of Chicago, and MA in Biology. 
Ph.D., Paideia (William James Association sponsor, Santa Cruz) General Studies in Human Ecology, working on the restoration of the San Lorenzo River with Page Smith for doctoral project. 

Fred was born and grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California and spent much of his summers on the Kern River in Kernville, California, where during college he spent summers working for the U.S. Forest Service. He has worked as a teacher in the areas of Biology, Environmental Education, and Natural History for over 45 years, teaching in a variety of public and private school settings with different age groups for various institutions including Bakersfield School District, the San Lorenzo Valley School District, Pacific High School, Camp Campbell Outdoor Education School, San Jose City College, De Anza College, Cabrillo College, UCSC Extension and the Environmental Studies Department Summer Session, including Field Studies and Natural History of the Santa Cruz Mountains classes. He has also worked for California State Parks and as a resource management consultant with Harvey-Stanley & Associates Ecological Consultants. 

Fred is a co-founder of the Camp Campbell Outdoor Education School, San Lorenzo Valley Charter School, Past President and Board Member of the Santa Cruz Chapter California Native Plant Society (CNPS), Past Director of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, and contributing member of many other local environmental and community organizations. He is presently a consulting biologist, naturalist, educator and videographer.

will russell
Member, Board of Directors

Member, Board of Directors

Bachelor of Arts, Biology, UC Santa Cruz
Master of Science, Environmental Studies, San Jose SU
Doctor of Philosophy, Environmental Science Policy and Management, UC Berkeley

Will Russell is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at San Jose State University where he teaches Sustainable Forest Management and Natural Resource Analysis. His research is focused on disturbance, conservation, and restoration of forest ecosystems, with an emphasis on coast redwood forests. He has also done extensive work on ecological disturbance in the Sierra Nevada mixed conifer and sub-alpine forests. He supports graduate student research including the effects of timber harvest of redwood forests, fire ecology, and environmental education. Dr. Russell also spent two years with the USDA Forest Service, four years with the USGS Biological Resources Division, and one years with the California State Parks.

Member, Board of Directors

Bachelor of Science, Conservation, San Jose SU
Master of Arts, Natural Science, San Jose SU
Doctor of Philosophy, Aquatic Ecology, UC Davis

Jerry Smith is a retired former Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at San Jose State University, where he taught Aquatic Ecology, Fisheries Management, and Conservation Biology. Since 1972 he has conducted research on the distribution and ecology of freshwater fishes in the central coast of California. Since 1984 most of his fish studies have been concerned with stream and estuarine ecology of steelhead, coho salmon, and tidewater goby. He served on the federal recovery team for the threatened delta smelt (San Francisco Bay Delta – native fishes), the state restoration team for the endangered coho salmon, and on the federal recovery team for the threatened coastal Chinook and steelhead, and endangered coho salmon. Since 1995 he and his students have conducted detailed studies of California red-legged frogs and western pond turtles at Waddell Creek in Santa Cruz County and Coyote Creek in Santa Clara County. Dr. Smith has been the major advisor for 21 master's degree theses on: stream and estuarine invertebrate ecology; steelhead, red-legged frog, foothill yellow-legged frog, and western pond turtle ecology; and steelhead, tidewater goby, and spotted owl genetics.

Member, Board of Directors

Landowner & Steward

Georgia is the founding director of Native Habitats, a privately funded science-based conservation organization focusing on restoration and preservation of biodiversity. She is also the resident co-owner and steward of a private 40-acre nature preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains that she is managing for increased habitat values. Georgia has several years of field experience, particularly non-native plant removal, including leading volunteer habitat restoration groups as a volunteer for the National Park Service in Yosemite National Park. She was raised in the SCM bioregion and is a life-long nature activist. Her professional background includes over 35 years of management and business administration experience; with a particular emphasis on communication, streamlining processes and conflict resolution. She is vitally interested in helping to educate people regarding native species and biodiversity issues, using constructive and accessible methods. She was the 2003/2004 president of CNPS Santa Clara Valley chapter. Other affiliations and memberships include California Invasive Plants Council, Society for Ecological Restoration California, Sequoia Audubon Society and Mono Lake Committee.