Staff

Lorayne Meltzer - Executive Director and Environmental Studies Faculty

Lorayne Meltzer - Executive Director and Environmental Studies Faculty
Lorayne

Lorayne has explored, studied, admired and worked to protect marine and coastal landscapes for decades. As Director of the Kino Bay Center, Lorayne is active in collaborative conservation efforts in the Gulf of California. Lorayne coordinates the Center’s research, education and community outreach programs toward the realization of the mission and vision of Prescott College and the Kino Bay Center. Through her Marine Conservation classes, students learn firsthand about complex issues confronting marine and coastal environments. It is one thing to read in a book that 85% of everything caught on a shrimp trawler is discarded dead as by-catch back into the sea. "It is quite a different learning experience to be sorting through the by-catch on the deck of a trawler, working along fishermen whose livelihoods depend on destructive fisheries practices".

Gregory Smart – Assistant Director of Operations

Gregory Smart – Assistant Director of Operations
Gregory

Greg Smart is originally from Seattle, Washington; he is a Prescott College graduate with a major in Marine Studies and is certified aa USCG licensed captain. He has been part of the Kino Bay Center as a student, teacher, and employee since 2006. He worked as manager from 2010 to 2014 and returned in 2018 to assume the same position. In his absence he worked in Alaska and Washington State. Greg coordinates the use of the station for residents, classes and visiting groups, and oversees maintenance, safety and emergency response. He occasionally teaches in ecology, Spanish and marine conservation classes and acts as captain of the pangas when necessary. Both at work and in his spare time, Greg likes to be active and everyone at the Center usually looks for him to find creative solutions to any situation.

Ana Gabriela Martínez - Assistant Director for Development and Communications

Ana Gabriela Martínez - Assistant Director for Development and Communications
Ana

Ana is originally from Hermosillo, Sonora; she majored in Biology at the University of Sonora with a specialty in Marine Ecology. After obtaining her degree her deep interest in wildlife led her to participate in several population studies of different species and scientific communication in Sonora. She completed her master's studies at the Research Center for Food and Development (CIAD) in Guaymas, Sonora with a project focused on the ecological and molecular aspects of a land crab species on the island of San Pedro Nolasco. Upon completion of her studies, she worked as a biology teacher and later joined the Prescott Center team in the summer of 2019, serving as Assistant Director for Development and Communications. Ana promotes the Center's programs and leads fundraising efforts. She is excited to be part of an institution that works to protect and preserve the species and habitats of the Gulf of California, a place that she has always considered unique and very special.

Héctor Pérez Puig - Conservation Coordinator/ Marine Mammals Research and Community Outreach

Héctor Pérez Puig - Conservation Coordinator/ Marine Mammals
Héctor

Originally, from Mexico City, Hector has had a keen interest in natural science since he was a boy; this later developed into a passion for marine mammals. He studied Biology at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma in Puebla, México, with an undergraduate thesis based on the craniometrics of coastal Pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata graffmani). He completed his Master's in Marine Ecology at CICESE, a research and education center in Ensenada, Baja California, with a thesis focused on Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) calf abundance estimation from shore-based surveys near the city of Ensenada. Since 2009, he has been working as a Research Coordinator of the Marine Mammal Program for the Kino Bay Center. This exciting job focuses on documenting the spatial and temporal distribution of all cetacean sightings from the Eastern Midriff Islands Region of the Gulf of California, and the application of photo-identification methods in more than ten species. Hector collaborates with national and international scientists to study cetacean ecology in both the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful Gulf of California. Hector also teaches classes to students from Prescott College, local schools and universities in Mexico.

"Working at the Center, allows me to develop on a professional basis while enjoying what I like most in life, and it promotes the sense of wonder for what I see in the Gulf of California."

Jaime Martínez- Conservation Coordinator/ Waterbird monitoring

Jaime Martínez- Conservation Coordinator/ Waterbird monitoring
Jaime

Jaime is originally from Hermosillo, Sonora. From a very young age he showed his interest in wildlife, nature and the relationship that indigenous peoples had with them. This curiosity led him to study Biology with a focus on Marine Ecology at the University of Sonora. He has worked in waterbird and pinniped monitoring on different islands in Mexico, from the Pacific coast of Baja California to the Revillagigedo Islands. His experiences of living in isolated places for long periods of time taught him how vulnerable we are to the forces of nature and how fragile ecosystems can be. He joined the Kino Bay Center’s team in the summer of 2018 to monitor waterbrids and to work with local communities to foster waterbird appreciation and protection. Jaime likes hiking in nature, swimming, sailing, discovering other cultures and sharing his own. He also likes to write stories about the natural world and is continually searching for new knowledge.

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be discovered."

Paulina Camarena – Conservation Fellow / Waterbird monitoring

Paulina Camarena – Conservation Fellow / Waterbird monitoring
Paulina

Paulina was born in the State of Mexico; from a young age she manifested an interest in nature, which led her to study Biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Her interest grew particularly for birds, so she focused her work experience on activities such as monitoring migratory raptors and studying the impact of renewable energy farms (wind and solar) on birds. Paulina has had the opportunity to work in various states of the Republic; however, the desire to learn more is always there, so she looked for opportunities abroad focused on the conservation of birds, with which in addition to learning, she was able to visit beautiful places in the USA, Republic of Georgia and Norway. Paulina loves to travel, so combining her love for birds and new places is very valuable to her. In 2017, she obtained a Master's degree in Wildlife Health and Conservation from the University of Bristol (UK) and soon after she joined the Kino Bay Center’s team.

"Among so many places, I can say that during my time at the Center I have seen some of the most incredible species and landscapes..." In her free time, you can find her walking, reading, taking photos or planning her next adventure.

Verónica Maldonado – Conservation Coordinator/ Environmental Education and Community Leadership

Verónica Maldonado – Conservation Coordinator/ Environmental Education and Community Leadership
Veronica

A proud Sonoran native, Veronica was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Ever since she was a child, she and her father have shared a passion for nature and the great excitement to know and discover places in this beautiful state. With an adventurous and curious spirit, she concluded her studies at the Universidad de Sonora, specializing in Management of Natural Resources. While in school, Veronica shared environmental education and wildlife monitoring experiences and activities with fellow students. She still loves to learn about nature, communities, and the management of natural resources and collaborates with regional institutions dedicated to their care. She joined the Prescott College Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies as a Conservation Fellow in the Environmental Education and Community Leadership program in August 2015 and is now the coordinator of the program.

Nebai Soria – Conservation Fellow/ Environmental Education and Community Leadership

Nebai Soria – Conservation Fellow/ Environmental Education and Community Leadership
Nebai

Nebai ("e;Neba"e;) grew up in rural central and southernMexico. always with lots of curiosity to learn new things and share. She has a Psychology Major from the Autonomous University of Puebla; she also has a master’s degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City. Neba studied these two disciplines because she believes environmental problems are directly related to human behavior, which contributes to deterioration or conservation of nature. She came to the Kino Bay Center in the summer of 2019 to work as an Environmental Education Fellow. Her work consists of giving ecology classes to kids in elementary schools, and she participates in field outings and other community activities within the program. Neba believes the Environmental Education Program is a huge opportunity to promote an appreciation for nature and environmental awareness in the communities of Kino, Punta Chueca, Desemboque, and Hermosillo. She loves landscapes, animals, plants, arts, food, sports, wandering around, reading, drawing, making friends, and sharing.

Natalia Blancas Gallangos - Conservation Coordinator/ Wetland Conservation and Community Projects

Natalia Blancas Gallangos - Conservation Coordinator/ Wetland Conservation and Community Projects
Natalia

Natalia was born in Mexico City; she studied a Bachelor of Marine Biology at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) and a specialty in Environmental Management at UABC. Her passion is the conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems. She has developed mangrove restoration projects in the southern part of the country and has participated in Blue Carbon projects. She has also collaborated in the development of local and regional strategies, such as mechanisms to improve the livelihoods of rural communities and the development of community projects. Natalia joins the Prescott Center work team as the Coordinator of the Wetlands Conservation and Community Projects Program, her work consists of developing and implementing planning and adaptive management instruments for the conservation and sustainable use of coastal habitats through the involvement of the rural and indigenous communities. She enjoys going on walks, diving, riding her bike, and reading.

Leonel Hoeffer - Conservation Coordinator / Indigenous community Partnership

Leonel Hoeffer - Conservation Coordinator / Indigenous community Partnership
Leonel

Leonel grew up in his hometown of Desemboque in Pitiquito, Sonora, which is part of the ancestral territory of the Comcaac people. He studied Ecology at the Sonora State University; has collaborated with the Kino Bay Center since he was a student. In 2019 he joined the staff as Coordinator of the Indigenous Community Partnership Program. Leonel believes that he can generate positive results and impacts in the program in the short and long term. His work consists of forming a relationship between the Comcaac community and the Center, combining important efforts for the conservation and protection of the habitat, involving the youth, the elderly and members of the community in general. This program combines traditional knowledge with technical and scientific information, creating a union that allows everyone to achieve the goals of protection and conservation. Leonel likes to travel by boat, fish, observe nature and walk through the desert.

Julio Carrasco - Head of maintenance

Julio Carrasco - Head of maintenance
Julio

Julio was born in Mexico City and came to Bahía de Kino with his family in 1981. Over the years he has developed skills in construction, , carpentry and many other maintenance abilities. He started working at the Kino Bay Center in 2004 and now we count on Julio to keep the station running smoothly and to help and support with events and classes.

"I have learned many new things in my work here at the Kino Bay Center that I did not know before; for example, ecology and caring for the environment. Conservation is not directly part of my work, but I support it and it has been a great satisfaction to work all these years here. I've also made a lot of good friends."

Cosme Damián Becerra - Transportation Coordinator and Boat Captain

Cosme Damián Becerra - Transportation Coordinator and Boat Captain
Cosme

Cosme was a fisherman for more than 15 years before he came to work at the Center and decided to dedicate his life to protecting endangered species and working for the well-being of his community. Cosme is an expert and leader in community-based conservation. He is not a biologist, nor did he study a specialized career; his expertise comes from his intimate knowledge of the natural history and ecology of the region, combined with his passion for the sea. In 2007, he began working at the Kino Bay Center as the transportation coordinator and boat captain. His work involves taking staff members, university classes, researchers, and local students on the panga to look for whales, study birds, visit the islands of the central gulf, among other activities. At the Center, Cosme also applies all his knowledge of welding, electrical work, motor repairs, maintenance, and furniture construction to the ever-expanding Center. Cosme is also the leader of Grupo Tortuguero de Bahía de Kino, which was formed in 2010; and has become a role model for the Kino Bay community.

Virginia Yañez - Administrator

Virginia Yañez - Administrator

Vicky is originally from Bahía de Kino and began working at the Center in 2014 as an administrative assistant. Vicky is currently the Administrator and manages the fiscal operation of the Kino Bay Center. Vicky very much enjoys working at the Center and having the opportunity to accompany the staff on trips to the islands and learn every day about the species of the region and their ecological importance. Vicky is very skilled in the kitchen, so she also participates in activities with Prescott College classes and events teaching students how to prepare delicious Mexican dishes.

Photo Credits: Thurman O’Herlihy and Savanna Houston