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. Read more about Rick at ricklobello.com
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: https://kristenlear.wixsite.com/batconservation/
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
Brittany Knight is the new Zoo Adventure Coordinator at the El Paso Zoo. Zoo Adventure Curriculum Programs are fun Field Trip Upgrades. Brittany was born in a small, rural town in northern Arkansas and was raised to appreciate the wonder and the beauty provided by the Ozark Mountains. While in primary school, her mother joined the United States Army and Brittany then travelled the world with her parents learning about and emerging herself in varying cultures and communities across the globe. After spending many of her formative years in Europe, her military-connected family was then stationed at Fort Bliss, where Brittany finally settled down as she made the El Paso borderland her permanent home.
Diane is a substitute teacher for the Anthony Independent School District and Ski Instructor at Angel Fire, NM since 2015. She retired from El Paso Water Utilities as the Water Conservation Education Specialist where she managed the education programs for the Carlos M. Ramirez TecH2O Water Resource Learning Center, developed and implemented educational programs to teach people about total water management in the Chihuahuan Desert and how to commit to conservation throughout schools and the community where she served as the utilities liaison for area schools. She partnered with environmental agencies and organizations in Texas, New Mexico and Juarez and is co-founder of the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition (CDEC) with Rick LoBello.
Lorian Flores is a student at the University of Texas at El Paso with a major of Environmental Science and a concentration in Biology. She has worked with a couple of different professors from UTEP in their research and in their labs including Dr. Mata by helping him file his data from Indio Mountain Research Station at Van Horn, Texas. Dr. Mata has taken her to the Station to do some research regarding the pollution created by monsoon season in the bodies of water found in the area, including the Rio Grande. She has also worked as a work study at the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, where she helped both inside the museum itself with the exhibits and collections, as well as in the gardens with cleaning and maintenance. Her love for nature has been there since she was little and she really hopes in the future to help educate people regarding the importance of each ecosystem, especially one such as the Chihuahuan Desert, as well as help maintain the sustainability in our environment and even improve it.
Lois Balin is El Paso’s Urban Wildlife Biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife now for 21 years. She received her B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science at the University of Arizona and her M.S. in Range and Wildlife Science at Texas A&M, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Her professional work includes providing technical guidance on sensitive urban development and management for the City and County of El Paso, promoting biodiversity, wildlife conservation, natural open space, and native plant landscaping to benefit wildlife. Conducting wildlife research on burrowing owls is her passion and she has provided artificial nest sites for burrowing owls throughout the City and County of El Paso. She is the State Advisor to the local Trans-Pecos Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist Program and has served on the Keystone Heritage Park Board for 7 years, City of El Paso’s Open Space Advisory Board for 8 years, and the Frontera Land Alliance Advisory Board for 3 years.