Meet the Board

We are the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition

Chair, Rick LoBello 

In addition to Board Chair for the Chihuhuan Desert Education Coalition, Rick LoBello  also serves as Education Curator and chair of the Zoo Conservation Committe for the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  As one of the co-founders of CDEC with Diane Perez, Rick’s longtime passion in life has been helping to save endangered species and their related habitats.  Today, Rick continues his work at the Zoo while also leveraging influence and leadership skills to help people who are trying to legally migrate to the United States at a shelter near my home in Mexico.  Read more about Rick at 

Vice Chair, Dora Hernandez 

A native El Pasoan, Dora Hernandez has held an interest in science and biology since her first biology course.  Dora earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science at Washington State University, and eventually accepted a fulltime position as the Parks and Lands Division-Volunteer Program Coordinator for Clark County Public Works.  Dora has spearheaded 3 successful restoration and community stewardship programs: VINE (Vancouver Ivy Near Elimination) Squad, VolunTOUR and the Summer Riverside Cleanup Series. She is passionate about environmental issues, helping others connect with nature, and building relationships. 

Treasurer 2, Robert Vines 

Robert Vines was Plant Manager at Lexmark / IBM when he retired and started a second career consulting on specialty recycling where he helped set up the world’s largest recycler of laser cartridges. With a passion for the environment, Robert was responsible for the first successful LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) approved industrial building in Mexico. He has also been involved in efforts to bring awareness to local water issues and climate change initiatives.  He has been a Texas Master Naturalist for 10 years, has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and maintains a PE and C.P.M. certification. 

Treasurer 1, Jacob Croft 

Jacob is an aspiring, self-driven, conservation and wildlife biologist focusing on maintaining and protecting biodiversity. A biological science major from Arizona State University, Jacob also spent time in Albuquerque, New Mexico completing several observational projects upon the common blotch lizard and Rio Bosque biodiversity He is passionate about wildlife and conservation and is excited to make a difference to the community. 

Secretary 1,Dr. Kristen Lear 

Kristen Lear has led bat research, conservation, and education projects in the U.S., Australia, and Mexico. Her PhD work in Integrative Conservation at the University of Georgia focused on the conservation of the endangered Mexican long-nosed bat in Nuevo León and Coahuila, Mexico. She now works with Bat Conservation International, leading their Agave Restoration Initiative to restore and protect agaves, supporting pollinating bats.  Kristen is an award-winning public speaker and science communicator, with talks on platforms ranging from radio shows, podcasts, the national Geographic stage, and CBS’s “Mission Unstoppable” TV show about women in STEM. Read more about Kristen at: 

Secretary 2, John Sellers 

Coming from a family of homesteaders in Dog Canyon, New Mexico on the northern boundary of what is now Guadalupe Mountains National Park, John has a long history of environmental interest. He holds a background in water resource engineering, as a pastor and an economic assistant with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  John boasts over 60 week-long trips into the back country of the Chihuahuan Desert, including National Sierra Club outings.  And is a strong supporter of protecting the ecosystems of our southern Rockies and Chihuahuan Desert. 

Joseph Montisano

Joe Montisano started his career as a sales rep for Anhueser-Busch in the entertainment division of Busch Entertainment Parks at SeaWorld of Ohio working his way up to VP of Marketing.  After 8 years in corporate America, Joe left his position and accepted an executive director role for the non-profit Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. Since then, Joe has served as CEO to the Central Florida Zoological Park and Botanical Garden, Executive Director of Coastal Humane Society and Lincoln County Animal Shelter and later, for the Great Lakes Aquarium and Science Center in Duluth, MN.  In 2019, he accepted the position as Director of the El Paso Zoo. Joe enjoys the dry-heat, constant sunshine and hiking in the dessert.

Stephen Hummel

Stephen Hummel is the Dark Skies Initiative Coordinator for the University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory, and chair of the Greater Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest certified dark sky place in the world. In these roles Stephen works to protect the night sky and nocturnal environments from light pollution across far west Texas and northern Mexico. Stephen works with local conservation groups, governments, and area industries to promote better lighting standards that save energy, improve safety, and reduce environmental impacts. Stephen’s educational background is in International Relations with additional experience in astronomy. In his spare time Stephen is an award-winning photographer of the night sky, with works published by National Geographic, the BBC, NASA, and more. 

Kenneth Berba

Kenneth Berba was born and raised in El Paso, TX. He always had an affinity of the desert from hiking in the trails in his youth. Kenneth also had a plant ‘jungle’ collection, despite living in the desert, so much so that he studied horticulture at New Mexico State University. After graduating, he moved away from the Chihuahuan desert and worked in various jobs from a foliage technician, a tax preparer, and a meal manager for a non-profit organization. After being away from the desert and missing the sunsets for almost 10 years, Kenneth moved back to El Paso and now works as a licensed real estate agent. The common thread between all of these jobs is the degree of meeting people. Kenneth has certainly gained a worldview on connecting with people. And what a better way to help connect with people as a board member. Kenneth is honored to serve as a board member.

Anne Ellzey
Anne Ellzey was born in Corpus Christi, Texas.  She lived her first 18 years in Alice, Texas, where she grew up water skiing, swimming, and playing flute in the high school band.  She went on to get a B.A. and J.D. from U.T. Austin, graduating in 1981.  Her love of the Big Bend area and the Chihuahuan Desert have led to her interest in the dream of a Rio Bravo – Rio Grande Transboundary Protected Area and a desire to contribute time and energy to cooperation with Mexico in transboundary research and education in ecology, wildlife, climate, and to foster just plain enjoyment of the Chihuahuan Desert now and into the future.

Eric Yan

Eric Yan was born and raised in Northern Virginia. He enjoys the outdoors and a continued curiosity for the natural environment. He currently works in the environmental industry, providing project management support and analyses through the use of GIS and other environmental modeling programs. He earned his BS in Environmental Science from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and earned his MS in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He has a particular interest in supporting education and outreach efforts, and fostering a community of scientific literacy and communication.

Juaisca Rodriguez

Brittany Knight

Stephanie Chavez 

Diane Perez 

Dr. Jennifer Smith

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