Who are we?

Our departmental mission: We serve as conservation leaders, by studying and advocating for native plants, communicating their value, and convening people in support of them.

Eli Balderas

Herbarium Curatorial Assistant

photo of Eli BalderasEli is an herbarium curatorial assistant in the Clifton Smith Herbarium. He works to maintain the Garden’s herbarium by mounting plants with volunteers, processing incoming plant specimens, and digitizing the collection. He earned his B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara where he volunteered and interned at the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration. Eli has experience collecting California native plants, curating plant collections as well as performing research into taxonomic questions. He is interested in developing a greater understanding of lichens while also cultivating his knowledge of the general flora of California

Stephanie Calloway

Conservation Technician

photo of Stephanie CallowayStephanie works with conservation staff at the Garden on various projects focusing on insect-plant interactions, rare plants, and restoration. Stephanie has a B.S in Entomology from the University of California, Davis. She has diverse work experience, ranging from working with tardigrades to mangrove gastropods, but most of her work has focused on California plants. Stephanie is currently interested in documenting plant-pollinator interactions within our project systems. She has worked in several regions across California, including the Sierra Nevada, Channel Islands, and Mojave Desert for nearly a decade.

Sean Carson

Rare Plant Technician

photo of Sean CarsonAs the Rare Plant Technician, Sean works to conserve California's rare and endangered flora. His work includes surveying and documentation of rare plants as well as seed collection for long term conservation, research, and restoration. Sean received his B.A. in Environmental Studies at California State University, San Bernardino. Sean has many years of field experience working in restoration ecology, where he worked in the San Bernardino National Forest before moving to the Channel Islands and eventually to the California Central Coast.

Susana Delgadillo

Herbarium Curatorial Assistant

photo of Susana DelgadilloSusana works at the Garden’s Clifton Smith Herbarium as an herbarium curatorial assistant. Her duties consist of developing and maintaining the Garden’s herbarium collection, as well as digitally imaging the collection to upload onto a public online database. Susana received her B.A in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she was a restoration assistant at the university’s North Campus Open Space restoration project. Susana also spent three years as an assistant at the university’s library where she managed records and kept inventory of varied print collections. Her interests include curating natural history collections to make them more readily accessible to a diverse global community.

Matt Guilliams, Ph.D.

Ken and Shirley Tucker Plant Systematist

Curator of the Clifton Smith Herbarium

Photo of Matt Guilliams, Ph.D.

Matt is a plant systematist and curator of the Garden's Clifton Smith Herbarium. As a botanist/plant systematist, his overall focus is the study of the flora of California, which includes floristics, biodiversity description, inferring evolutionary patterns, and conservation genetics of rare plants. Matt earned his B.S. and M.S. in Evolutionary Biology at San Diego State University and his Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from U.C. Berkeley. He has been working as a botanist in the state since 1998.

Denise Knapp, Ph.D.

Director of Conservation and Research

photo of Denise Knapp Ph.D.Denise oversees the Conservation program at the Garden, including all biodiversity, rare plant, restoration, and outreach/advocacy work, and conducts ecological research. Denise has a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and an M.A. degree in Geography from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has worked on vegetation, fire ecology, invasive species, habitat restoration, and rare plant projects; her current focus is plant-insect interactions. She has worked as a plant ecologist in California (particularly the Channel Islands) for nearly two decades, including the consulting, University, and nonprofit worlds.

Kristen Lehman, Ph.D.

Conservation Geneticist and Lab Manager

Photo of Kristen Lehman, Ph.D.Kristen oversees the conservation genetics lab at the Garden. She integrates field studies, molecular tools and histological techniques to document biodiversity and understand the interplay of ecological and evolutionary effects on plants of conservation concern. After receiving a M.S. at San Diego State University, Kristen earned her Ph.D. in Botany at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and worked at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in the plant DNA barcoding lab. She has worked with California native plants since 2006.

Rikke Reese Naesborg, Ph.D.

Tucker Lichenologist and Curator of the Lichen Herbarium

Photo of Rikke Naesborg, Ph.D.Rikke is the Garden lichenologist and curator of the Garden’s lichen herbarium. She is interested in investigating lichen community composition and ecology in order to identify why different lichen species are distributed differently across the landscapes. Another major interest is conservation of lichens; a complicated task that is only possible by expanding knowledge of lichen distribution and ecology. Rikke received her B.S. and M.S. at University of Southern Denmark and went on to earn a Ph.D. in systematic botany from Uppsala University in Sweden. She has lived in California since 2011.

Casey Richart, Ph.D.

Invertebrate Biodiversity Postdoctoral Scholar

Photo of Casey Richart, Ph.D.Casey's research foci include species delimitation, biodiversity data management, and the conservation of short-range endemic organisms. He is broadly trained as a naturalist, but his research primarily focuses on terrestrial gastropods, millipedes, and harvestmen arachnids. Casey received his Ph.D. in the Evolutionary Biology Program at San Diego State University jointly with University of California, Riverside. Casey’s position at the garden is to document the terrestrial invertebrates from San Clemente Island. This research has already resulted in documenting many new species for the island, and likely many new species to science. This systematic faunal survey aims to lay the groundwork for important future research including developing baselines upon which to evaluate future trends and ecological restoration, and to attain a better understanding of the biogeographical scenarios that led to the unique fauna of the California Channel Islands.

Heather Schneider, Ph.D.

Rare Plant Biologist

Heather Schneider, Ph.D.Heather oversees the rare plant program, including conducting research, managing the conservation seed bank, and participating in outreach related to California's rare plants. Heather has been studying California's flora for over 12 years. She has interest and experience in plant ecology, seed banks, conservation, invasive plants and evolutionary biology. Heather has a PhD from the University of California, Riverside, worked as an Ecologist for the US Geological Survey and was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Adam Searcy

Invertebrate Technician

Adam Searcy portraitAdam works with Dr. Casey Richart, Invertebrate Biodiversity Postdoctoral Scholar, on our invertebrate survey of San Clemente Island. He assists with sorting, identification, and curation of arthropod specimens collected over the 2019 field season. He earned his B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Adam has field experience collecting and identifying California insects, and California native plants, and has worked extensively on research projects involving California’s avifauna. He is interested in developing a greater understanding of the invertebrate fauna of the Channel Islands and mainland California.

Emily Thomas

Laboratory Technician

Emily ThomasEmily is a lab technician in the Conservation Genetics lab where she performs DNA isolation, quantitation, and PCR along with helping to curate the Garden’s tissue bank. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara, and her work experience has primarily revolved around ecological restoration. She participated in active restoration projects on UCSB’s campus as an undergraduate, and she has contributed to research that will inform future restoration of fuel breaks in Los Padres National Forest. Emily is particularly interested in the causes of diversification of plants in southern California, and she is excited to be a part of the Garden’s efforts to study and protect the native flora.