George D. Gann, Executive Director, Chief Conservation Strategist
A founder of IRC, George is responsible for IRC's core Regional Conservation Models program, and contributes to national and international outreach on behalf of IRC. George has spent the last 40 years working on the conservation of rare plants, the restoration of ecosystems and a host of other conservation and sustainability issues. He has played a leadership role in a number of organizations including IRC, the Society for Ecological Restoration, the Florida Native Plant Society, and Tropical Audubon Society, and has received a number of awards for his conservation work. Originally from South Florida, he attended the University of Colorado Boulder, where he received a B.A. with distinction in International Affairs and Environmental Conservation in 1984. He has traveled widely in Latin America, as well as Europe, Asia and Australia.
Cara Abbott, MSc, Education & Outreach Coordinator
Cara joined IRC in 2015 as Education and Outreach Coordinator. She is responsible for organizing and implementing volunteer events, providing educational talks and programs, and managing IRC social media. She also served as Program Manager during a leadership period from 2017-2018. A native of northern Virginia, Cara graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Biology with Teacher Licensure in 2012. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant for an ongoing study on the federally threatened Peaks of Otter Salamander (Plethodon hubrichti). Cara then moved to South Florida where she earned a Master's Degree in Environmental Science from Florida Atlantic University in 2015. Her thesis research focused on the effects of sea level rise on the Black needle rush (Juncus roemerianus) grown in a high nutrient environment. Cara also teaches biology courses for a Broward County homeschool enrichment program and volunteers with the Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island.
Samantha Gabriel, Administrative Assistant
Samantha joined IRC as Administrative Assistant in 2017. She is responsible for all aspects of office administration and also contributes to our programs, including uploading new photos to our websites, entering field data into the Floristic Inventory of South Florida, digitizing historical data, and editing repots. She graduated from Barry University (Miami, FL) with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Fine Arts in 2015. She has a great appreciation for nature and wildlife.
Michelle Smith, Field Biologist
Michelle joined IRC in 2018 as a Field Biologist, but has spent more than a year helping to run our Ecological Restoration and Management Program. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Florida State University. Michelle gained botanical experience in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Atlantic Coastal Plain of Georgia and Florida, and in the high-desert, sagebrush-steppes of eastern Oregon. More recently, Michelle has gained experience in north and south-central Florida conducting rare plant and invasive plant surveys, gopher tortoise surveys, and vegetation monitoring surveys, and is a contributer to the University of South Florida Herbarium. Michelle's interests include botany, dendrology, fire ecology, habitat restoration (land management), and photography.
Hans van der Heiden, Crew Leader
Growing up in an environmentally conscious family, Hans developed a deep appreciation for the natural world. As a teenager, he helped his father collect data in the Everglades, worked with aquatic snakes at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and volunteered at a local community garden. After graduating Broward College with an Associate's of Arts degree, he moved to Ichauway, a 29,000-acre outdoor laboratory of the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in southwestern Georgia. During that time, he participated in telemetry, small mammal trapping, and deer surveys. Hans moved back down to South Florida in 2016 to work as technician for IRC, becoming a Crew Leader in 2017.
Our Conservation and Research Associates are a critically important part of the IRC team. Most Associates have worked as staff member of IRC in the past, and choose to stay affiliated even after they pursue other professional opportunities. Other Associates have collaborated with IRC on conservation or research programs and have joined as Associates because they want to contribute to our mission. They assist in a variety of ways with our conservation programs, and bring a wealth of experience and skills our organization.
Michael J. Barry
Mike is a well-rounded field biologist, with broad experience in southwestern Florida and tropical America. He has a B.S. (University of Michigan), and has worked for the University of Florida as a research assistant and at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research center in Immokalee. He has worked for area environmental consulting firms, at Panther Island Mitigation Bank, and for the Florida Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He has managed many inventory, monitoring, prescribed fire, and invasive plant control projects. Mike has also worked in Ecuador and Panama on poison dart frog (Dendrobates spp.) behavior, and in Costa Rica with conservation-minded residents of the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve. He is bilingual and trains field crews in plant identification in Spanish. Mike joined IRC in 2007 as a Senior Biologist. His work for IRC has primarily focused on monitoring, mapping and coordination of invasive plant control projects for the Picayune Strand Restoration Project. Mike has also mapped changes in coastal vegetation in southwestern Florida. Using ArcGIS at a detailed scale, Mike has documented responses to sea level rise (SLR) since 1940 at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. He has also participated in other SLR projects in southwestern Florida, including the use of vegetation maps to produce storm surge and SLR models for local government. He transitioned into a Research Associate position in 2018 in order to focus on his private consulting practice.
Mary Truglio Fesmire
Mary is the founder of and currently leads the Imperiled Butterflies of Florida Work Group (IBWG), which addresses critical issues facing threatened, endangered and imperiled butterflies in Florida. She holds a Bachelor's of Science in Wildlife, Watershed and Rangeland Resources from the University of Arizona, and has 15 years of experience working with Florida's threatened, endangered and imperiled wildlife. For 12 years she led regional and statewide implementation activities for threatened and endangered species for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), and is a co-author of Florida's State Wildlife Action Plan. She was also responsible for administering marine ecosystem grants through the State Wildlife Grants program. She has experience surveying, monitoring and managing habitats for a multitude of taxa, including imperiled butterflies, gopher tortoises, Miami tiger beetles, wading birds, Bonneted bats, burrowing owls, and shorebirds. Mary worked as the Butterfly Conservation Coordinator for Florida at the University of Florida from 2016-2018, and continues to lead the IBWG collaborating with all agencies and entities to identify species and management needs for Florida's imperiled butterflies. She does genetic research on the imperiled Florida duskywing (Ephyriades brunnea) in order to evaluate the level of population connectivity across a network of remnant critically imperiled Pine Rockland fragments in south Florida, in order to inform habitat management and restoration actions necessary for the conservation of a wealth of invertebrate and pollinator species.
Steven E. Green
Steve is an ecologist with Mitigation Resources L.L.C. based in Clermont, Florida, where he conducts ecological site assessments and designs, oversees and implements vegetation monitoring programs on mitigation bank sites from South Florida to the Panhandle. Steve joined IRC as a field biologist in 2005 as a part of IRC's restoration crew for the US Fish and Wildlife Service Private Stewardship Grant Program, controlling exotic species on privately-owned pine rocklands. Steve participated in, or managed a myriad of other IRC projects including long-term rare plant monitoring and surveys in Everglades National Park; status surveys of threatened, endangered and candidate plant species for the US Fish and Wildlife Service; floristic inventories for Miami-Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program and Lee County Parks, and; exotic plant surveys and mapping for the Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Steve moved to Orlando in 2008 and assumed a new roll as IRC Associate. In this capacity, Steve has instructed grass identification and invasive plant identification workshops for local CISMAs including the Central Florida CISMA, the Heartland CISMA and the Lake County CISMA.
Kirsten N. Hines, MSc
Kirsten Hines is a writer, photographer and environmental educator. With a Master's Degree in biology, she has studied tropical frogs, South Florida plants and animals, and Bahamian iguanas, and is a member of the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group. Kirsten is coauthor of IRC's Natives for Your Neighborhood, the online nativ plant conservation resource. Her award-winning photography has appeared in numerous publications, websites, and brochures and is featured in the Birds of Fairchild, and Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens, which she co-authored. She also is coauthor of Images of America: Key Biscayne. Through her writing and photography, she aims to expose the intricacies of the natural world, to lure readers and viewers into the lives of plants and animals. She attributes her interest in South Florida's native plants and the re-greening of the urban corridor (both championed in her Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens book) to her experiences at IRC.
James Johnson, MSc
Growing up on one of Georgia's oldest farms, James developed a deep appreciation and a never-ending curiosity for the natural world. His grandfather and father impressed upon him the practice of good stewardship of the land and the conservation of its natural resources, and this wisdom guided him into his current field of work in environmental conservation. James graduated with honors from Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU) in Savannah, Georgia with a degree in biology. While at AASU he worked as a biological research assistant on a project aimed at better understanding the metabolic pathways of epiphytic bromeliads. James then came to South Florida in 2009 to pursue the life of a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University and found himself at home in the environment of the Everglades and the coastal landscape. While at FAU, James was involved in many research endeavors spanning from the peat bogs in northern Alberta, Canada, to the tree islands of the Everglades. He graduated with a Master's Degree in 2012 after completing a thesis titled Estimating the Vulnerability of Everglades Peat to Combustion. During his time in graduate school, James became very familiar with the Greater Everglades ecosystem and joined the team at ICR in 2012 as a field biologist. In 2014, entered a Ph.D. program at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia, Athens.
Sandy Koi, MSc
Sandy is a Ph.D. student at Florida International University's Department of Earth and Environment, where she is researching at-risk plant and insect taxa in selected pine rockland fragments. She earned an MSc in Entomology from the University of Florida and has a BSc in Environmental Science and Biology from Nova Southeastern University. Her scientific research primarily revolves around the object of her thesis, the Atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala), an imperiled South Florida species that she has been studying since 2001. Sandy currently spearheads an assisted relocation project for the Atala butterfly from eruption sites into suitable new sites in southeastern Florida. She actively coordinates butterfly surveys for organizations such as the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) and IRC. She is a contributing member of the Imperiled Butterfly Working Group (IBWG), and a founding member of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting this globally imperiled ecosystem. Many of her photographs and plant information about South Florida butterfly host and nectar plants grace the national NABA website and she is a frequent speaker at local organizations in Florida, including Butterfly Days at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the Southern Lepidopterists Society. In addition to her other talents, Sandy is also a biological illustrator.
Jimmy graduated with honors from the University of Florida with a Bachelor's of Science in Environmental Science. He began his research career studying under the guidance of graduate mentor Jenny Schafer in the Mack Ecosystem Ecology Lab. He went on to join the Plant Ecology Lab at Archbold Biological Station where he assisted on a number of research projects including demography of rare plant populations, effects of fire frequency on scrub habitat, experimental restoration of scrub habitat on reclaimed pasture, and plant community structure and composition of differing scrub management regimes. He then began work at the Michigan Tech Research Institute where he conducted ground-truthing surveys of Great Lakes wetland plant communities and worked to generate a map of both the current and possible future extent under modeled hydrologic scenarios of Phragmites australis. Jimmy attended graduate school at Florida Atlantic University where he studied combined legacy impacts of the invasive species Melaleuca quinquenervia, and management practices on plant communities in the northern Everglades. In 2014, Jimmy worked for IRC as a Field Botanist, transitioning to Research Associate as he joined the South Florida Conservation Team at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. He continues to focus on rare plant conservation and habitat management, and is currently Chair of the Board of Directors for the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.
Hailing from the wilds of New Jersey, Sarah received her degree in Environmental Studies and French from Seattle University in 2005. She has also interned and studied at The University of Pennsylvania's Morris Arboretum, studied and worked in Belize and France, worked as a deck hand and environmental educator on a restored oyster schooner, and as a gardener at Seattle University's organic, sustainable campus garden. Before joining IRC, Sarah worked with the Florida Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies in South Florida with a conservation focus. She has worked in a number of regional ecosystems including cypress swamp, scrub, pine flatwoods, maritime hammock, freshwater marsh, coastal strand and the beautiful riverine systems of Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, the Loxahatchee. Her primary responsibilities revolved around invasive exotic species removal, prescribed fire, installing native plants, water quality testing, species monitoring, volunteer coordination and environmental outreach and education. Sarah joined IRC in late 2010 as the Program Coordinator for our Pine Rockland Initiative and later was in charge of IRC's Ecological Restoration and Management Program. She stepped into a Research Associate position in 2015.
Maha Nusrat Guliani, CERPIT
A graduate from Florida International University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, Maha has six years' experience working in the academic, non-profit, and private environmental industries of South Florida. With the Plant Ecology Lab at FIU, she has studied the pollination biology the Apocynaceae, and the fragmentation of the pine rocklands on the Miami Rock Ridge. She has teamed up with local organizations, such as the Deering Estate Foundation, Tropical Audubon Society, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Miami-Dade County's Park Conservation Corps, and the Broward and Miami-Dade chapters of the Native Plant Society, to work on conservation issues. Maha joined the IRC in 2016 as the Coordinator for the Pine Rockland Initiative program and transitioned in an IRC Associate position in 2017. Maha is an ecologist at Johnson Engineering, Inc. in Miami, Florida where she works on environmental permitting and compliance projects including land management oversight, wetland delineations, wildlife management, and listed species surveying and monitoring for the Florida bonneted bat, crested caracara, burrowing owl, and several other state and federally listed species. Maha also serves as an Ambassador for the South Florida National Parks Trust, and on the Marketing and Outreach Committee for the Society for Ecological Restoration's Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner program.
Sonali Saha, Ph.D.
An all-around lover of plants, Sonali is particularly interested in how plant structure and function affects their ecological distribution. She's excited about how this information can be applied to restoration planning to maintain appropriate plant communities in natural landscapes. A native of India, Sonali received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. She has worked with a variety of plant taxa in different ecosystems including subtropical deciduous forests of the Indian subcontinent, subtropical forests of Argentina, the Florida scrub ecosystem and most recently, pine rockland habitats in the Everglades. Sonali served for several years as IRC's Everglades Vegetation Biologist, a cooperative post with Everglades National Park. Saha co-authored a report titled Sea level rise and South Florida coastal forests published in the journal Climate Change. She is currently working at Miami Dade College as Adjunct Professor of Biology and participates in community based water and forest conservation projects in collaboration with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a nonprofit organization based in Bengaluru, India.
Originally from the farmlands of Missouri, Christina grew up with a deep respect for nature but a yearning for the big city life. At the age of 21, she endeavored on a trip to make the dream of big city living a reality and moved to Miami. After 8 years in the field of accounting, she began to miss her connection to nature and decided to return to school to pursue a Bachelor's of Science in Biology at Florida International University. In 2010, she left accounting for good to fully focus on her new love, botany. Armed with her new found plant knowledge and her reliable accounting skills she was chosen for an internship at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden as the Conservation Research/Plant Records Intern in 2011. During the year-long internship she contributed to the floristic and conservation research being conducted here in South Florida and abroad including the Cockpit Country of Jamaica, the Caribbean Basin and Indonesia. She also contributed to the maintenance of plants records for the garden including the integration of the American Orchid Society's orchid collection into Fairchild's Living Collection. After the internship ended and her bachelor's degree completed, Christina started working for the IRC in 2012 helping to maintain the databases the fuel the many floristic inventories that the IRC has to offer. In addition to database management she also assists in floristic and taxonomic research. With a thirst for knowledge she strives for excellence by continuing her education. She is an ISA Certified Arborist and a Florida Master Naturalist.
J. Carlos Trejo Torres, Ph.D.
A native of the Mexican Yucatan, Carlos Trejo is responsible for IRC's program in the Yucatan and also plays a primary role in our work in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean. He is co-author of the IRC websites Plants of the Island of Puerto Rico and Plantas del Mayab (Mexican Yucatan Peninsula). His expertise is in plant taxonomy, biogeography, and the regional history of botanical science. He focuses on rare, endemic, and poorly known species, and has described five new species of trees from Puerto Rico. He recently disentangled the history of the sisal (Agave sisalana), a culturally significant plant of the Maya that was previously considered not present and nonnative in its homeland, the Yucatan. He is deeply interested in disseminating botanical knowledge. He manages two botanical Facebook groups, PLANY - Plantas de la Peninsula de Yucatan, and Plantas de Puerto Rico. He has given dozens of invited talks to varied audiences, from kindergarden children to scientists as far away as the Canary Islands. He has published brief notes on the history of Yucatan botany, and has exhibited his personal native plant collection at gallery and museum art exhibitions in his home town of Merida. He is interested in the use of native plants and native environments in gardening and landscaping, and has taught botany courses for landscape architects and other professionals at the university level. He organizes educational and cultural botanical activities for the general public and is currently Chief of Urban Trees (Jefe de Arbolado Urbano) for the Municipality of Merida, a brand new and novel office.
Steven W. Woodmansee
A South Florida native, Steve worked as a biologist at IRC for 11 years starting in 1997. While there, Steve helped co-author the IRC published book Rare Plants of South Florida: Their History, Conservation, and Restoration (Gann, Bradley & Woodmansee 2002). He has deposited over 2000 herbarium specimens at FTBG, including additions to the South Florida flora, and many new county records. While at IRC, Steve also lead projects, wrote reports, and helped train staff. In 2008 Steve left IRC to start his own business Pro Native Consulting, where he still conducts floristic inventory, rare plant, exotic plant, and ecological restoration research, native plant and landscape education, in addition to selling native plants with partner Silent Native Nursery in Redland, Florida. Since then, Steve has maintained his relationship with IRC as Research Associate, where he continues to support the IRC mission. Steve also taught for 7 years at Miami Dade College as adjunct faculty. Since 2000, he has served as co-chair of the Miami-Dade Native Plant Workshop, a free program which educates the public in plant identification techniques. He has also served in several leadership positions in the Florida Native Plant Society, including President.