Reclaiming the Sierra

Speaker Biographies

Charlie Alpers, United States Geological Survey
PANEL 1: Hydraulic Mines and Mine Features
10:00 am – 11:15 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

PANEL 2: Mercury in Forest and Land Management
11:30 am – 12:30 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dr. Charles N. Alpers is a Research Chemist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s California Water Science Center in Sacramento, California. He has an undergraduate degree in Geology from Harvard University (1980) and a Ph.D. in Geology from the University of California, Berkeley (1986). Dr. Alpers has authored or coauthored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications on various topics related to the environmental legacy of historical mining including: acid mine drainage; sulfate minerals; mercury contamination and bioaccumulation; and arsenic speciation and bioavailability. His current projects include quantification of erosion and sediment sources at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park in Nevada County, California; investigations of mercury transport, methylation, and bioaccumulation in Clear Lake and the Cache Creek watershed, Lake and Yolo counties, California; and geochemistry and mineralogy related to extreme mine drainage (including negative pH) at the Iron Mountain Mine Superfund Site in Shasta County, California.

Brian Bisnett, Blue Point Partners
Mercury in the Headwaters Tour
Friday, October 18, 2019

Brian Bisnett is a licensed landscape architect, certified planner, and realtor with experience in all phases of urban and rural land planning.  Mr. Bisnett is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the American Institute of Certified Planners, and a board member of the South Yuba River Citizens League and the Smartsville Church Restoration Fund, Inc. 

In 2003, Mr. Bisnett was hired to explore development options for the 505-acre Blue Point property.  Impressed by the property’s abundant natural and cultural resources, he became a part-owner of the property.  In 2011, Mr. Bisnett partnered with the Trust for Public Lands, the Bear Yuba Land Trust, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to purchase the adjacent 900-acre Black Swan and Yuba Narrows Ranches, placing the majority of the area in permanent conservation.  Now sole owner of Blue Point, Mr. Bisnett is in negotiations with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to add the property to this exceptional public conservation holding.

Sue Britting, Sierra Forest Legacy
PANEL 2: Mercury in Forest and Land Management
11:30 am – 12:30 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Susan Britting has been with Sierra Forest Legacy since 1998 serving first as the primary science and policy consultant, and in July 2012 she assumed the role of Executive Director. She received her doctorate in biology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1992. After working with the Forest Service for four years in forest planning, Susan left to become a science and policy consultant to non-profit organizations. Her primary area of interest is habitat planning in the Sierra Nevada, although her interests in policy development extend statewide. Her consulting services have included advising on implementation of federal and state environmental policies, analysis of management plans, habitat analysis using a geographic information system (GIS), and database development for natural resource management. She has been an active volunteer with the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) serving as a board member at the chapter and state level since 1993. Susan also has been an active volunteer and board member for a local land trust in the Sierra Nevada foothills previously serving for 16 years. She served as a Governor-appointed member of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection for seven years.

Lori Copan, California Department of Public Health
PANEL 4: Mercury Exposure via Fish Consumption
3:00 – 4:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Lori Copan is a Research Scientist Supervisor with the California Department of Public Health. She serves as Chief of the Community Education and Exposure Prevention Section in the Environmental Health Investigations Branch. She directs exposure prevention and risk communication activities for the department around heavy metals and naturally occurring exposures such as mold. She also directs education and surveillance for California’s asthma control program. Through these and other projects, Lori integrates partnerships and bi-directional participatory learning to increase community capacity to achieve environmental health equity.

Bill Craven, Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee
Keynote Speaker: “A Policy Framework for Addressing Mercury Source Reduction”
Thursday, October 17, 2019, 1:00-1:40 pm

Attorney William Craven is the chief consultant of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. The Natural Resources and Water Committee is chaired by Senator Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park. The committee has jurisdiction over legislation such as water supply, flood policy, mining, oil and gas, forestry, state parks, coastal protection, and ocean policy, among other topics. Bill is the Senate’s staff designee to the California Parks and Recreation Commission and the Ocean Protection Council.

Jacob Fleck, United States Geological Survey
PANEL 3: Mercury-Contaminated Sediment in Reservoirs
1:45 – 3:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Jacob Fleck is a Research Hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Sacramento , California, where his research has focused on organic matter and mercury cycling in the environment.  Jacob received a Bachelor’s in Biosystems Engineering and a Master’s in Soil Science, with emphases in biogeochemistry and water resources, from the University of Minnesota and began his career studying mercury cycling in the Great Lakes region. For the past 15 years, he has investigated mercury cycling in wetland habitats and mercury contamination related to historic gold and mercury mines. Jacob is currently leading the assessment of ecosystem effects from the Lake Combie Sediment Removal Project and is co-leading several mercury-related studies across California. 

Nick Graham, The Sierra Fund
Mercury in the Headwaters Tour
Friday, October 18, 2019

Nick Graham, Environmental Scientist, received his undergraduate degree in 2013 (B.S., Hydrology) and his graduate degree in 2017 (M.S., Hydrology and Hydrogeology) from California State University, Chico. His thesis research investigated the effect of metal-based coagulants on the sedimentation of fine grain materials as part of the Nevada Irrigation District’s Combie Reservoir Sediment and Mercury Removal Project. Nick has been The Sierra Funds Environmental Scientist since 2018 and spent the previous 3 years as a Hydrologist for the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Dr. Jane Hightower
Keynote Speaker: “Fish Mercury: Medical Literature Review”
Thursday, October 17, 2019, 9:15-10:00 am

Dr. Hightower is notable for her landmark study on mercury levels in patients in her San Francisco practice, which was published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2002 and lead to the current FDA recommendations on fish consumption. In 2000, she developed a formula for estimating a patient’s mercury level using dietary recall and known mercury levels in the fish consumed. This formula has been adopted by many organizations to help the public stay within the health guidelines for mercury. Certified through the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Hightower has earned an undergraduate degree from California State University, Chico, and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Illinois. With a deep knowledge in her field, Dr. Hightower authored “Diagnosis Mercury: Money, Politics and Poison.”

Eli Ilano, United States Forest Service- Tahoe National Forest
PANEL 1: Hydraulic Mines and Mine Features
10:00 am – 11:15 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

PANEL 2: Mercury in Forest and Land Management
11:30 am – 12:30 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Eli Ilano is the Forest Supervisor for the Tahoe National Forest and has been in this position since 2016. He worked as the Deputy Forest Supervisor for both the Tahoe National Forest and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit in South Lake Tahoe.  Ilano brings years of natural resource and public land management experience to the field, not only from his current position, but also from working for the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Senate, and for the non-profit sector in communities around the country.  Eli earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1995, and his Master’s degrees in Environmental Policy and Landscape Architecture, and City and Regional Planning, from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001.

Allan James, University of South Carolina
PANEL 1: Hydraulic Mines and Mine Features
10:00 am – 11:15 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dr. Allan James recently retired from his teaching position at the University of South Carolina and now resides in Lincoln, California where he remains active in research on fluvial geomorphology and historical sedimentation.  He has degrees from the University of California (B.A., Geography, 1978), and the University of Wisconsin, Madison (M.S., Water Resources, 1981; M.S. Geography, 1983; Ph.D. in Geography and Geology, 1988). Dr. James is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and has received distinguished career awards from the Water Resources Specialty Group (WRSG) and Geomorphology Specialty Group (GSG) of the American Association of Geographers and the Grove Karl Gilbert Award for Excellence in Research from the GSG.  He has served as chair of the WRSG and GSG and is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Geomorphologists. He has published five books, 48 refereed journal articles and book chapters, and several non-refereed articles. His research applies field, hydrologic, historical, remote sensing, and geospatial data to geomorphic analyses of anthropogenic river sedimentation and interactions with channel morphology and flood risks. These interests became focused in the mid-1980s with research for his Ph.D. dissertation on hydraulic mining sediment in the Bear River, California.

Greg Jones, Nevada Irrigation District
PANEL 3: Mercury-Contaminated Sediment in Reservoirs
1:45 – 3:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Greg Jones has over twenty years’ experience managing teams, projects and budgets for small businesses, start-ups and non-profit organizations. Mr. Jones has industry experience within public & private utilities, local governments, renewable energy manufacturing, economic development and energy conservation.  Mr. Jones began his position as Assistant General Manager with the Nevada Irrigation District in 2017.  Mr. Jones holds an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno and a BS from CSU Chico.

Alex Keeble-Toll, The Sierra Fund
PANEL 4: Mercury Exposure via Fish Consumption
3:00 – 4:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mercury in the Headwaters Tour

Alex Keeble-Toll, Program Manager at The Sierra Fund, utilizes dual expertise in social and environmental spheres to address impacts to ecosystem and community resiliency in the Sierra Nevada. She completed her undergraduate studies in 2002 (B.A., Sociology, magna cum laude, UCLA) and received her first graduate degree in 2006 (M.A., Sociology, CSU, Sacramento). In 2016 Alex completed a second graduate degree (M.Sc., Environmental Science, with distinction, CSU, Chico). She has been designing and executing multidisciplinary research projects on mining impacts in Nevada County for over a decade using approaches that include Environmental Inequality Formation (EIF) modeling to examine legacy mine impacts, Q-Methodology to explore subjective views in mine permit processes, participant observation and field surveys to understand angler catch and consumption patterns, and biological data collection and analysis to support public health advisories for mercury contaminated fish. Friday, October 18, 2019

Susan Klasing, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
PANEL 4: Mercury Exposure via Fish Consumption
3:00 – 4:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dr. Klasing is a Senior Toxicologist and Chief of the Fish, Ecotoxicology, and Water Section at OEHHA, California Environmental Protection Agency.  Dr. Klasing earned her Ph.D. in animal science/nutrition from the University of Illinois.  Dr. Klasing has worked on numerous environmental health issues in California and the western United States, including air toxics, pesticides, and agricultural drainage water contaminants.  In 2000, she began her work with OEHHA assessing the potential human health risks of eating chemically contaminated fish and issuing fish consumption advisories throughout the state.  Subsequently, Dr. Klasing has been responsible for assessing seafood safety following oil spills in California.  She has worked on several major oil spills, including the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the 2015 pipeline spill near Santa Barbara.  More recently, Dr. Klasing has evaluated the potential public health risks associated with consumption of seafood during marine harmful algal bloom events. 

Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, The Sierra Fund
Mercury in the Headwaters Tour
Friday, October 18, 2019

Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund, is an organizer and advocate with forty years of experience working in rural communities to promote economic and environmental justice. In the 1980s and 1990s Izzy worked with farm workers, farmers, and environmentalists to develop pioneering programs to promote organic agriculture and reduce community exposure to pesticides. While serving as Nevada County Supervisor Izzy in the early 2000s led the fight in the legislature to put the Yuba River into the state’s wild and scenic river system, spearheaded the effort to clean up an abandoned mine in her district, and began a successful five-year legislative campaign to establish the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. Izzy conceived of and directs The Sierra Fund’s Ecosystem & Community Resiliency and Capacity Building programs, aimed at restoring the region from the environmental, health and cultural devastation caused by the 19th century California gold rush. Her extraordinary accomplishments were recognized in 2016 when she received a James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award and a California Wellness Leader Sabbatical Award.

Stephen McCord, McCord Environmental
PANEL 3: Mercury-Contaminated Sediment in Reservoirs
1:45 – 3:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Stephen McCord is President of McCord Environmental. He holds a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Clemson University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of California Davis. He has over 25 years of consulting, research and teaching experience in the environmental engineering field throughout California, in several other US states, and internationally. As a registered Professional Engineer in the State of California and Certified Lake Professional with the North American Lake Management Society, Dr. McCord has conducted water quality studies and management projects in numerous rivers, lakes, wetlands, deltas and bays. He works effectively with many diverse communities of stakeholders, leading the development of water quality policies, regulations, and plans. A particular area of focus has been mercury contamination – monitoring to track pollution from sources to impacted areas, restoring abandoned mine site, strategic planning, and facilitating stakeholder groups. Dr. McCord also supports numerous non-profit professional and community-based organizations as a leader, board member, committee member, mentor, and supporter.

Shannon McKinney, Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials
PANEL 4: Mercury Exposure via Fish Consumption
3:00 – 4:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Shannon McKinney currently serves as senior consultant to the California State Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, where, for the last 12 years, she has focused on environmental and public health issues including toxics in consumer products, safe drinking water, environmental justice, and pesticides.  As a Committee Consultant, her responsibilities include drafting, analyzing, and negotiating legislation; exercising oversight of state agencies and programs; and providing strategic counsel to Assembly members on related legislation and policies.  She has drafted and staffed dozens of bills that became law, including legislation on safer aquaculture, farmworker protection, pesticide use reduction, ship discharge prohibitions; and drinking water quality.  Last year, she staffed Assembly Bill 762 (Quirk), which, should it be signed into law, will require local health officers to post fish consumption advisories developed by OEHHA.  Prior to her current position, she served as a legislative consultant to both Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Sally Lieber and Senator Joe Simitian. 

Before working for the state legislature, Shannon’s career was in the environmental advocacy and campaign realm; she was the Outreach Director for the California League of Conservation Voters; Canvass Director for CalPIRG; and, managed public relations and outreach campaigns for non-profit and private sector clients.  She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse University and a BA from UC Davis.  

Matt Meyers, California Department of Water Resources
PANEL 3: Mercury-Contaminated Sediment in Reservoirs
1:45 – 3:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Matt Meyers is an Engineering Geologist specializing in fluvial geomorphic processes that affect riverine fish habitat. Matt received his PhD and Master’s degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara with theses titled “Fluvial Processes Affecting the Texture of a Gravel Bed with an Emphasis on Salmonid Spawning Habitat” and “Steelhead Passage Restoration Options for Canada de Santa Anita, Santa Barbara County, California”, respectively, and a Bachelor of Science in Earth Science with an emphasis on surface processes from UC Santa Cruz. He has worked with California’s Department of Water Resources since 2007 and involved with field- and model-based research approaches to support Chinook salmon restoration projects. He currently works with their Riverine Stewardship Branch’s Engineering Support Section with developing projects on Big Chico Creek and the Stanislaus, Calaveras, Merced, San Joaquin Rivers.

Carrie Monohan, The Sierra Fund
PANEL 1: Hydraulic Mines and Mine Features
10:00-11:15 am – Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mercury in the Headwaters Tour
Friday, October 18, 2019

Carrie Monohan earned her Ph.D. in Forest Engineering and Hydrology in 2004 from the University of Washington, Seattle. Her dissertation work addressed the relationship between water quality in agricultural streams and diminishing salmon habitat. Throughout her graduate program, she was a research assistant to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Other notable recent positions include Senior River Scientist for the Natural Heritage Institute and project manager and lead scientist for the EPA Brownfields Community Wide Assessment in Nevada City.  Carrie has worked as a consultant to The Sierra Fund since 2007, and was hired as staff in 2010.  Since 2011 she has served as adjunct professor at CSU, Chico.

Jason Muir, NV5
PANEL 3: Mercury-Contaminated Sediment in Reservoirs
1:45 – 3:00 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mr. Muir is a California registered Civil Engineer and Geotechnical
Engineer and holds a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering
from the University of California at Berkeley. He has been in the industry
for 24 years. He oversees sediment characterization and disposal; solid
waste facility permitting and reclamation planning; water quality
permitting, waste discharge permitting and development of water quality
protection standards.

Willie Whittlesey, Yuba Water Agency
PANEL 1: Hydraulic Mines and Mine Features
10:00 am – 11:15 pm- Thursday, October 17, 2019

As General Manager, Willie Whittleseyassists with many aspects of Yuba Water Agency’s (YWA) operations including hydro generation operations, FERC relicensing, flood risk reduction, strategic agreements, water rights and water supply to their member units. YWA has 400MW of hydro generation and provides agricultural water to eight irrigation districts in Yuba County, California.