Meet The Headwaters Team
Megan Seifert, PhD
Program Manager & Outreach
Mary Ellen Benier
University of Nevada, Reno
In 2019, Gabriela completed her second Master’s of Science in fungal ecology at the University of Nevada, Reno. She researched the disease dynamics of fatal bat fungal disease, White nose syndrome. While she worked as a graduate student she also worked at UNR’s Museum of Natural History where she taught all ages natural history and science lessons using real museum specimens. She had the unique opportunity to bring these lessons to the Black Rock Desert at Burning Man for the last few years. Previously, she managed a amphibian disease lab in New Mexico where she mentored students in designing research projects and data collection. Gabriela enjoys paring research with learning and has also developed scientific inquiry based curriculum as a part time Truckee Meadows Community College Biology instructor in Reno. She hopes to continue to mentor in science for the rest of her career.
Boise State University
Kerri has her MS in Geoscience from Boise State University, with a focus on geomorphology and landscape change. For her research, she used geochronology and geochemistry to understand how drylands have been influenced by climate change over glacial-interglacial cycles. She works as an environmental scientist, mainly in water and soil quality monitoring and remediation. She has also worked for several outdoor science education programs with students of all ages, and really enjoys the opportunity to teach science in the field. She also likes to backpack, mountain bike, and explore new places.
Ashley M. Pierce is an environmental scientist with a background in atmospheric pollutants, specifically, mercury, ozone, and particulate matter. A Master’s and Ph.D. in Environmental Science gave her experience in environmental measurement and monitoring, requiring extensive field site management, cooperation with multiple agencies, and proficiency with analytical instrumentation, technological systems, data analysis programs, and software. Ashley previously was the grants coordinator for the Headwaters Science Institute and helped develop science programs for K-12 students with a focus on underserved communities. She is currently a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow placed at the National Science Foundation where she works on programs that are cross-disciplinary with a focus on sustainability. Ashley is interested in creating and improving scientific conversations that will lead to collaborative solutions to some of the most pressing current and future environmental problems
University of California, Berkeley
Anna Holmquist is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley in the department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Her dissertation focuses upon the interplay of ancient versus modern processes in structuring biodiversity of spiders on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Previously, Anna studied the impact of the urban heat island effect, in which urban areas are hotter than surrounding suburban and rural regions, on communities of spiders living in street trees. Outside of her own research, Anna enjoys encouraging students of all ages in their scientific interests and is passionate about finding effective ways to make science more accessible and more exciting for all. In her free time, Anna likes surfing, backpacking, and playing her upright bass.
University of California, Davis
Aviva is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Davis, where she studies the genetics of North America’s largest freshwater fish, the white sturgeon. Her work focuses on using molecular genetics to advance our understanding of sturgeon population dynamics with the goal of improving conservation efforts for endangered populations of white sturgeon. She also helped start a program at UC Davis called GOALS (Girls’ Outdoor Adventures in Leadership and Science) a free two-week summer backpacking and field science expedition in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains for high school girls. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking with her dog, and gardening. She loves mentoring young scientists, and is excited to be a part of Headwaters Science Institute!
University of California, Davis
Hanna Kahl is a Ph.D. student at UC Davis in the Department of Nematology and Entomology, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and co-lead of Women in Data’s Sacramento Chapter. Hanna researches citrus pest management, particularly how to improve pest management for European Earwigs in California citrus. Previously, she obtained an MS degree at the University of Maryland in Entomology and was a middle school math teacher in South Korea. Hanna is passionate about helping farmers produce food and teaching. In her free time, Hanna enjoys backpacking, skiing, and gardening.
Headwaters Board of Directors
Alec is currently the Director of Performance Improvement at Crestwood Behavioral Health. He previously worked for over 15 years at Hewlett Packard. He has his Mechanical Engineering degree from MIT, an MBA from the London Business School in England, and a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Villanova University. He spent 6 years living and working in Japan in the automotive/manufacturing sectors and is fluent in Japanese. Alec is a member of the MIT Educational Council. He is involved in his children’s schools as a Science docent and has been president several School Site Councils. He and his family enjoy the outdoors and are avid cross country skiers.
Shandon has spent the past 20 years volunteering for nonprofits and local government while raising two kids. She has served on several boards, chaired town committees and has fundraised and organized events for local schools. Her professional experience includes event planning for Stanford University and for sporting events in England. She holds a BA in History from UC Santa Cruz and has done graduate study in the geography of water resources. Her interests and hobbies include watershed restoration, western water resources, climate change, biking, skiing, paddling, and hiking.
Jack holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Berkeley and Master’s from UC Davis in human ecology. He is retired from UC Davis, where he worked as a Programmer Analyst focusing in biostatistics, UCD/USDA relational database design, Geographic Information System Laboratories Design, as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, and worked in grant writing. Jack now sits on the Board of Directors of the Sacramento Youth Symphony Foundation and the Camellia Symphony Association.
Donna L. Luisi, PhD
Donna is currently an Associate Research Fellow at Pfizer Inc. She holds a PhD in Chemistry and completed her post-Doctoral work in Biophysics. Donna is currently leading a group of scientists and engineers in the Pharmaceutical Research and Development group at Pfizer. She has over 20 years of experience in research and development in the pharmaceutical industry.
Donna enjoys baking, gardening, and volunteering and fostering those passions in her three boys.
Craig is a career communicator, holding a variety of roles involving public outreach, academic communications, corporate marketing, fundraising, and writing. Most notably, he was the Director of Communications for several years at The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, one of the nation’s premier high schools, and one of four founding members of The National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools. Craig has been a full-time contract writer for seven years, works as a wilderness guide, and is a strong proponent of experiential education and all forms of hands-on education. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Professional Communication from Nazareth College.
Toyin Weaver, MD
Toyin is a Family Medicine physician working in Reno, NV. She received her medical degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University and completed her family medicine in Albany Medical College.
She has 13 years of experience and her specialties include hyperbaric oxygen therapy, wound care, hospitalist medicine and urgent care. She is also a Clinical Instructor of Family Medicine at University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine.
In her off time, she loves traveling with her husband and kids. She enjoys being a Girl Scout’s leader and volunteering with several different organizations.
Michelle has been a licensed architect in the state of California for over 32 years. She has a passion for both the natural and built environments. She believes that in an ever-increasing technology based world, environmental education, awareness, and interaction are vital for survival and sustainability. She has been self employed for the past 32 years, is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and has volunteered countless hours at her local schools. She hopes to bring collaboration, ethics, and creativity into Headwaters processes, problem solving, and development. Michelle loves swimming, cross country skiing, hiking, kayaking, and just enjoying the beauty of our natural environment. She graduated from the University of California in Environmental Design with an emphasis in Architecture.
Important notes about our staffing and emergency policies:
Headwaters Science Institute is committed to maintaining the highest safety and security standards for our programs. When your children are in our care, you can trust that they are safe.
- All employees and contractors are background checked before they start working with us. We use a national-level background check program called National Crime Search (nationalcrimesearch.com) that searches all states and county records for any criminal records, sex & violent offenders, and includes a terrorist search.
- Our staff members are all first-aid and CPR certified. Some are Wilderness First Responder certified as well.
- We have a safety plan for every field site we use and know where the nearest fire station is located. We are never more than a few minutes walk to the nearest road.
- In the unlikely event of an emergency, we always work in areas that are easily served by 911. Our field site on Donner Summit is less than 2 miles from the nearest fire station with full-time EMT services and the hospital is a short 10-minute ride away.