Image Credit: Thomas Leeman/USFWS
©Thomas Leeman/USFWS, licensed by cc 2.0

Chapter Board Members


Kacy Twist

Kacy is a Bakersfield native who graduated from CSUB where she obtained a BS in Biology. She started her career in biology as a consultant, first at QuadKnopf and then McCormick Biological, Inc., working almost exclusively on developments and energy projects such as wind, solar, co-generation plants, and oil and gas. After 13 years at McCormick Biological, Inc., she transitioned into working at Chevron as a Natural Resource Advisor in the Health, Environmental, and Safety department. In her role at Chevron, Kacy advises on threatened and endangered species compliance, conservation and natural resource protections, CESA/ESA permitting, spill response, emerging legs and regs, and everything else that goes along with being the only resident biologist in Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit. In addition, she has assisted the Endangered Species Recovery Program staff to gain access to Chevron lands in support of San Joaquin kit fox urban sarcoptic mange camera surveys and their San Joaquin kit fox Coalinga study. She provides access for researchers to conduct multi-year surveys for Temblor legless lizard throughout the species range, and provides Tejon Indian Tribe staff access to Lokern lands in support of recent inventory surveys. Her recent focus has been coordinating eDNA work for the Temblor legless lizard through collaboration with Chevron scientists, researchers, and university and private genome labs. This will be Kacy’s second time serving as president for the Chapter!


Alex Welch

Alex Welch grew up microscoping pond scum, collecting bugs, and hunting for the biggest trees in the woods and wilderness of the Appalachians and the Virginia Piedmont. After a childhood bouncing back and forth between Virginia and Bakersfield, Alex graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University and moved west. He then served two internships at the Kern and Pixley National Wildlife Refuges where he monitored population trends in waterfowl, San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, Tipton kangaroo rat, vernal pool fairy shrimp, and rare plants. In 2018, Alex joined McCormick Biological, Inc., (MBI) in Bakersfield where he continues his work with San Joaquin Valley species and serves as the botanical lead for the firm. While working at MBI he also completed an internship with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy and earned an M.S. in Biology from California State University, Bakersfield. In his free time, you can find Alex exploring the wineries of Central California, puzzling over a crossword, falling off of walls in a climbing gym, searching for hidden treasures in antique stores, or nerding-out in your local botanical garden.

Past President

Kiersten Abarca

Kiersten obtained a B.S. in Biology from California Lutheran University in 2014. She then continued into the zoological field as a rehabilitation volunteer and Docent at the California Living Museum (CALM). In 2016 she was hired as an animal keeper for CALM primarily working with the collection raptors and ambassador animals, while continuing to participate in their rehabilitation and outreach centers. In 2018 Kiersten accepted a position at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, continuing her work with birds as a primary bird keeper. During her time as a zookeeper, she was introduced to a variety of wildlife organizations, each having their role to play in conservation efforts. This led to an increased passion for learning more about how she could personally contribute to wildlife conservation. Currently Kiersten works as a biological consultant with McCormick Biological, Inc., and is pursuing an education in wildlife management.


Julie Vance

At the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Julie manages regulatory programs for activities proposed in CDFW’s Central Region, which includes the San Joaquin Valley, as well as in the Kern County portion of the Mohave Desert and San Benito, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo Counties. She has been at CDFW for the past 10 years, and prior to that time she worked for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) out of the Fresno Office. At DWR she spent much of her time conducting surveys for rare southern San Joaquin Valley species, such as blunt-nosed leopard lizard, kangaroo rats, San Joaquin kit fox, burrowing owl, and Swainson’s hawk. She has lived in the San Joaquin Valley (Fresno) since elementary school. She attended Fresno City College and CSU Fresno, where she obtained a BS in Ecology (1996) and an MS in Biology (2000). Her thesis was entitled “Instream Movements of the California Newt in an Intermittent Central California Foothill Stream.” Since 2001, she has continued to study PIT-tagged newts at the McKenzie Preserve in her free time. She also spends personal time gardening, cooking, hiking, camping, beach combing, and playing with her two young boys.


Ryan Lopez

Ryan has been involved with The Wildlife Society for many years now, and is excited to help the San Joaquin Valley Chapter use its talent and resources for the benefit of the membership and our local environment. His involvement with local wildlife issues began in High School, continued as a Fresno State Presidents Scholar while receiving his bachelors and masters in Biology/Ecology, and continues today through his profession. During college, he worked in the Fresno State Forest Ecology lab on projects in the Sequoia National Park, the Sierra National Forest, and the foothills of Kern County. He worked with the NRCS mapping invasive vegetation on the Kaweah River, with the San Joaquin River Parkway as a canoe guide, completed over 600 hours of college level instruction for Fresno State and Fresno City College in science courses, and was an EPA Star-GRO Fellow from 2004-2006. After college he began work as a conservation biologist specializing in special status species surveys, mitigation development, entitlement, land acquisition, conservation budgeting and planning, and land management on multiple projects throughout California, as well as Oregon and Georgia. Ryan has been integrally involved with the permanent protection of ~40,000 acres of habitat for threatened and endangered species and habitat types. Ryan has experience with special status plants and animals including desert tortoise, vernal pool species, giant kangaroo rat, San Joaquin kit fox, salt marsh harvest mouse, and delta smelt, among others. Ryan currently works at the Natural Resources Group as a Senior Conservation Scientist.

Chapter Representative, Website Coordinator, & Newsletter Editor

Howard O. Clark, Jr.

Howard is a Certified Wildlife Biologist® with more than 25 years of professional wildlife and research experience. His work as a wildlife consultant focuses on the fauna and ecosystems of Northern, Central, and Southern California, and the Mojave Desert provinces and includes extensive baseline mammalian inventories, surveys focused on rare animals, and habitat assessment. He regularly works with the western burrowing owl, San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rat, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and the Mohave ground squirrel. He worked for H. T. Harvey & Associates for 10 years and Garcia and Associates for three years; he now works for Colibri Ecological Consulting. He completed his Master’s degree at CSU Fresno in 2001. His thesis studied the interactions between the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and the non-native red fox in Kern County, CA. Prior to his work as a consultant, he spent 7 years with the Endangered Species Recovery Program as a wildlife biologist. He is an instructor for Chapter San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and small mammal workshops. He was awarded the Raymond F. Dasmann Award for Professional of the Year in 2015 by The Wildlife Society, Western Section, and was awarded the Champions for Wildlife award by the San Joaquin Valley Chapter in 2020. He is the Layout Editor for the Western Section’s journal Western Wildlife.

Program Development

Ashleigh Pryor

Ashleigh has been excited about wildlife from a very young age. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in plant biology and a minor in entomology from the University of California, Davis in 2010, she assisted in pesticide research through the UC Davis extension. She then found her way to the biological consulting industry where she currently works for McCormick Biological, Inc., conducting surveys focused on San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, Tipton kangaroo rat, San Joaquin antelope squirrel, and giant kangaroo rat. In 2019, she received her M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from John’s Hopkins University where her capstone project focused on activity levels of San Joaquin antelope squirrels at various temperatures. Ashleigh has lived in the San Joaquin Valley her entire life and has been a member of the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of The Wildlife Society since 2014 where she has participated in many workshops and conferences.

Granting Committee Chair 

Lori Bono

Lori Bono received her B.S. and M.S. in Biology from California State University, Fresno.  During her undergrad, she worked on several research projects in the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests while her Masters research focused on identifying the flow of a land-based pathogen to sea otter populations off the coast of Morro Bay and Los Osos.  While obtaining her M.S., she worked for Quad Knopf, Inc. and URS Corporation before being employed with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife where she currently conducts CEQA and CESA review of renewable energy projects.

Conservation Affairs 

Skip Moss

Skip is a conservation biologist whose personal and professional focus is on the development of land conservation projects.  He received his B.S. in zoology from U.C. Santa Barbara and his M.S. in biology from Fresno State. The wildlife of the San Joaquin Valley has always been a major interest, and his Masters research focused on the wildlife habitat value of agricultural land in the Tulare Lake Basin.  As the San Joaquin Valley Chapter’s Conservation Affairs Committee Representative, Skip keeps the Chapter informed about outreach and advocacy opportunities that are of interest to the Chapter and its membership.  If you have a conservation affairs issue that you would like the Chapter to consider, please send Skip an email.  Skip works for Natural Resources Group, Inc., as the President of its Mitigation and Conservation Division.

Merchandise Manager

Megan McCormick

Megan earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Humboldt State University in May of 2018, and joined McCormick Biological, Inc., (MBI) as a staff biologist in February of 2019. Prior to this, she gained biological field experience over seven blunt-nosed leopard lizard survey seasons as a biological field technician (2011–2016 and 2018). In 2011 and 2012, Megan worked year round for MBI as a biological technician gaining experience on other resources in the San Joaquin Valley. She also worked as a biological field technician in Arcata, California conducting marbled murrelet protocol surveys for two seasons (2017–2018). Currently, Megan serves on teams of biologists providing biological survey support on oil and gas development, linear, solar, and urban development projects; and participates on teams of biologists conducting inventory and monitoring tasks associated with biological consulting activities including focused blunt-nosed leopard lizard surveys, pre-activity/pre-construction surveys, nesting bird surveys and monitoring, and San Joaquin kit fox den monitoring.

Outreach Coordinator

Michelle Harris

Michelle graduated from Cal Poly Humboldt with a bachelor’s in wildlife in 2017.  Over the past several years, Michelle worked seasonally as a field technician on various avian studies, including nest searching and monitoring for Island Scrub-jays on Santa Cruz Island and pinyon-juniper bird species in New Mexico, retrieving and attaching geolocators on Painted Buntings along the southeastern coast of the U.S., and surveying for southwestern willow flycatchers and yellow-billed cuckoos in the Kern River Valley. In between field seasons, Michelle has been employed as an environmental educator for the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and for science centers in Alaska and California.  Born and raised in the Sierra foothills of the Central Valley, Michelle returned to Fresno in 2022 to work as a field biologist for Colibri Ecological Consulting.  Michelle currently conducts nesting bird surveys, monitors Tricolored Blackbird colonies, performs biological surveys for state and federally listed species on a giant sequoia restoration project, and more. Most of Michelle’s free time is spent hiking, rock climbing, open water swimming, pet sitting, and painting landscapes and wildlife.

Membership Coordinator

Mitchell Coleman

Mitchell is a conservation biologist working with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, specializing in plant ecology and physiology. His master’s thesis focused on the ecophysiology of saltbush shrublands (Atriplex polycarpa) in the San Joaquin Desert, with an emphasis on factors affecting seedling recruitment and restoration strategies. His Ph.D. dissertation (in progress) focuses on the broad-scale ecophysiology of salt-loving plants (halophytes). He has a passion for applied strategies for the restoration of arid shrublands. In his current role, Mitchell manages the Tejon Ranch Conservancy’s science and stewardship programs, as well as serving as the organization’s dedicated easement monitor for the 10 active conservation easements on the Ranch. He holds a B.S. in Biology from Westmont College, an M.S. in Biology from California State University, Bakersfield, and is currently working on a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology at the University of California, Riverside.


Jeff Davis

Jeff is Principal Scientist at Colibri Ecological Consulting in Fresno and Project Scientist at the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz. He previously managed a wetland sanctuary in the Sacramento Valley, ran a research and education center in Big Sur, and curated a natural history museum at UC Santa Cruz. He received a B.S. in wildlife biology from UC Davis in 1992. Jeff has been a member of an oil spill response team since 1995. In connection with that role, he conducts monthly aerial surveys of marine birds and mammals throughout California continental shelf waters through UC Santa Cruz under contract with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Jeff and other team members have responded to more than one dozen oil spill incidents along the Pacific, Gulf, and Atlantic coasts of the United States, providing response, natural resource damage assessment, and restoration support for trustee agencies. Jeff is a past president of the San Joaquin Valley Chapter and Western Section of The Wildlife Society.