Conservancy staff tour the up-and-coming San Elijo Native Plant Nursery

Our dedicated staff carries out the mission of San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy to protect and enhance the reserve.

The Conservancy's staff expertise combines advanced degrees in natural sciences and environmental studies with outdoor education and nonprofit program management. The staff carries out the Conservancy's day-to-day operations and scientific functions.

Doug Gibson, Executive Director / Principal Scientist
x 707, doug [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Doug Gibson is a wetland ecologist. For 19 years, he has directed the science-based and community conservation programs for San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy. He completed the first experimental phase of the inlet opening at San Elijo Lagoon in the mid 1990s. At that time, the lagoon’s water quality was so poor that few fishes and invertebrates could survive. Proposed developments adjacent to the lagoon further threatened the vitality of one of San Diego’s largest coastal wetlands.

Securing funding for an endowment, and building member and donor support to carry on the mission of the Conservancy became key priorities. Gibson blends his extensive knowledge of Southern California coastal wetlands policy with scientific literacy, and fundraising outreach experience to his role as executive director and principal scientist. Continue...

Barry Lindgren, Associate Director
x 704, barry [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Barry Lindgren was introduced to San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy as a volunteer in 2003. Today, he serves as the Conservancy’s Associate Director and Water Quality Specialist, overseeing stream flow gauges in the watershed and conducting water quality measurements in the lagoon. He also manages financial operations for the nonprofit Conservancy.

Barry is familiar with all the North County watersheds having been the Conservancy’s liaison with the Carlsbad Watershed Network’s Invasive Species Program. He is also the past president of San Diego Stream Team. Barry is co-founder of a local scientific instrument company, and brings more than 25 years experience in marketing and management. He has a B.A. in Physics from UC San Diego and a certificate in California Water Management and Ecosystem Restoration from UC Berkeley.

Jennifer Bright, Development Director
x 705, jennifer [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Jennifer Bright joined the team in summer 2014 and works closely with the board of directors and staff on fundraising and stewardship campaigns. She coordinates major donor events, including the biennial Birds of a Feather gala that supports school and public programs.

She worked for several nonprofit agencies within San Diego County where she wrote grants, coordinated events, and developed an environmental education program for under-served populations. Prior to nonprofit, Jennifer led the corporate responsibility program at Neiman Marcus San Diego and brings 17 years of sales and management experience.

Jennifer grew up in Maine and fondly recalls her summers hiking, camping, and boating in the wilderness. After living in Boston for several years, she visited San Diego in the spring of 1999 and fell in love with the warm days and beautiful coastline, and moved a few months later. An avid hiker and backpacker, she recently completed a 30-day solo hike on the John Muir Trail. Her favorite getaway is to be somewhere on a trail in the High Sierra.

Tara Fuad, Education Director
x 701, tara [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Tara Fuad develops scientific curriculum-based environmental education programs that meet California Academic Content standards for schools. She is also responsible for public programs, and for recruiting and training docents

Tara began her career in the environmental field as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1980s, where she spent three years working on reforestation projects in Niger, West Africa. Upon returning to the states, Tara settled in Washington, D.C. where she was involved in environmental research and education while working for Ecological Society of America, National Park Service, and Audubon Naturalist Society. 

After moving to San Diego in 2003, Tara served as a docent for the Conservancy, and also worked for Solana Center for Environmental Innovation as Program Manager for school recycling. Tara has a B.S. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and an M.S. in Biology from George Mason University, with an emphasis on nutrient cycling in Virginia wetland soils.

Elayna Flanders, Education Coordinator
x 702, elayna [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Elayna Flanders joined conservancy staff in summer 2013 as part-time education coordinator. She assists the environmental education departmentby coordinating and leading school field trips and public walks, assisting in annual docent-naturalist training, and developing teaching materials for all K-12 and public programs.

Elayna previously interned with San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy for three years, assisting in the creation of interpretive panels and an educational wildlife guide. She lead nature hikes, participated in restoration activities and coordinated the children's camp.

A native of Encinitas, Elayna is passionate about her local environment. Her love of hiking and running in San Elijo Lagoon deepens an appreciation that conservation and education are key to restoring natural reserves. Elayna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Ecology at California State University San Marcos. In her graduate work, she focused on knowledge gaps of conservation information in the Birds of North America reference series. She also instructed a biology lab and enjoyed teaching young children during her internship with San Diego Zoo's education department.

David Varner, Resource Management Director
x 710, david [at] sanelijo [dot] org

David Varner has been actively engaged and committed to conserving natural areas for more than 20 years. David joined the conservancy in 2010. He directs the Habitat Management Program, a strategic program devoted to the protection and conservation of natural resources in and around the reserve. Committed to conserving California’s natural resources, David is a current board director with the California Native Plant Society and a member of the California Society for Ecological Restoration. He is also certified by the California Invasive Plant Council as a trained wildland manager.

His passion for building sustainable relationships between community and nature began in Montana and moved west through the Great Basin to California. David’s hands-on approach to improving water quality and wildlife habitat has also led him to stream restoration projects in South Asia and Mexico. David earned a BS in anthropology from Montana State University and continued his studies at Humboldt State University in Coastal Stream Restoration.  

Shirley Innecken, Lead Ecologist
x 708, shirley [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Shirley Innecken joined the Habitat Management team in 2015 to oversee the Invasive Plant Species Program. She is a biologist with more than 15 years experience in conducting sensitive plant and wildlife surveys, and wetland delineations. She has monitored habitat restoration projects; their budgets, and coordinated field efforts. Shirley has worked as a biologist in Hawaii, Northern California and San Diego County, work that has led to the gathering and organization of baseline data for environmental projects. Shirley is also proficient in providing technical and project development and management support to cooperative projects involving private, government, and nonprofit entities. She holds a B.S. in Ethnobotanical Ecology from CSU, Chico.

Shirley grew up in south San Diego County and fondly remembers driving “up north” to see the lagoons with her parents. These very same coastal wetlands are what inspired her to continue her career in Southern California.

Bradley Nussbaum, Associate Biologist
bradley [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Bradley Nussbaum joined the Habitat Management Program first as Community Habitat Restoration Volunteer Intern and then Water Quality Volunteer Intern. Now on staff (2013) Bradley assists staff in the coordination of Lagoon Platoon habitat restoration workshops and events. His primary duties include collecting water quality data in the reserve, photo monitoring inlet sedimentation, and managing the hydrologic monitoring database.

Bradley’s Bachelors of Science degree is in optical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He is currently working on his Masters of Divinity at Claremont School of Theology. When he is not at the conservancy or studying for school, you may find Bradley practicing yoga, hiking, backpacking or gardening.

Angelique Herman, Restoration Ecologist
x703, angelique [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Angelique Herman manages restoration work of the Invasive Vegetation Control Program in the reserve and the Carlsbad Hydrologic Unit. After obtaining a B.S. degree in Environmental Science from Virginia Tech, Angelique re-located to California in 2010, and has contributed botanical expertise to research and consulting projects throughout Southern California. She is a botanist and International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist. Her background is in habitat restoration, rare plant surveys, and environmental compliance consultation. She is an active member of California Native Plant Society, San Diego Audubon Society, Society of Wetland Scientists, and California Society for Ecological Restoration. 

In addition to her botanical background, Angelique is interested in wildlife science. She has experience assisting ornithologists with avian point count and nesting bird surveys, as well as banding passerines and assessing small mammals including Stephens’ kangaroo rat and Mohave ground squirrel. She assisted with monitoring the biodiversity of herpetofauna through the use of pit-fall traps and can identify most common San Diego and Riverside county lizard species. In her spare time, Angelique enjoys filling her garden with heirloom varieties of tasty vegetables, traveling to foreign lands, and spending time at the ocean and in the mountains.

Joe DeWolf, Community Restoration Specialist
x 709, joe [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Joe DeWolf joined the staff in 2015 to oversee Lagoon Platoon community habitat restoration, and to develop a native plant propagation program at the San Elijo Native Plant Nursery. Before pursuing a career in habitat restoration and ecology, Joe was a park ranger for various agencies, including City of San Diego and Yellowstone National Park.  He gained extensive experience working with native plants at San Diego Botanic Garden, where he conducted experiments and research, including native plant seeds’ response to fire, smoke, charred wood, and other treatments.

Growing up in Encinitas, Joe spent countless hours exploring San Elijo Lagoon, and continues to be passionate about enhancing the health and beauty of this ecological reserve. Joe holds a B.A. in Anthropology from SDSU and is completing a Horticulture Certification at MiraCosta College. He keeps busy with his 1-year old son, and when there’s free time, he enjoys surfing, playing basketball, and hiking throughout San Diego County.

Debby Strauss, Program Associate
x 706, debby [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Debby joined the conservancy in 2007, inspired by an ecology class at Mira Costa College taught by former conservancy board president Denise Stillinger. Debby supports the various conservancy programs part-time in the areas of development, education, outreach, and general administration. Her primary responsibilities include maintaining the membership database, acknowledging contributions, grant writing for education and outreach programs, and editing the Lagoon Tidings member newsletter.

Prior to joining SELC, Debby had a lengthy career in human resources, working for both corporations and nonprofits. For many years, she has volunteered with numerous North County nonprofit organizations. Debby has a B.A. in English from UC Santa Barbara. She and her husband, Barry, have lived in Encinitas for the past 25 years and have two sons.

Debra Hager, Administrative Assistant
x 712 debra [at] sanelijo [dot] org

Debra Hager joined the conservancy in 2014 as office administrative assistant. Debra supports various administrative functions by implementing established systems, procedures, and policies. She also supports the associate director in financial document management, creation, and filing. She brings more than 20 years experience in the investment advisory industry, with much of that time at Brandes Investment Partners, LP. in various capacities, including trading analytics, mutual funds, and corporate actions management. Debra is a longtime conservancy member. She became more involved as a volunteer with the Lagoon Platoon habitat restoration program. Her appreciation for natural ecosystems is enhanced by the field experiences she’s had. Debra holds a B.A. degree in Business Economics from UC Santa Barbara. She enjoys hiking, wine tasting, cooking, drawing, reading, and traveling in her spare time.

Bryanna Paulson, Community Habitat Restoration & Water Quality Intern

Bryanna Paulson assists with weekly and monthly Lagoon Platoon events and other habitat management projects. Bryanna is a recent graduate from Saint Mary’s College of California with a B.S. in Biology. After a gap year, she hopes to attend graduate school in the fall of 2016 to pursue a Masters in Ecology. During her gap year, she plans to travel and continue to work in conservation. She has previously participated in research studying green sea turtle populations, Mohave ground squirrel populations, and the skeletal morphology of chimpanzees and bonobos. Bryanna is looking forward to learning more about habitat restoration techniques and becoming more familiar with the native and invasive plant species of California. In her spare time, Bryanna enjoys hiking, biking, piano, guitar, and going to the beach.

Liberty Isbell, Environmental Education Intern

Liberty Isbell joined the conservancy in May 2014 as an environmental education intern. She assists the education director and coordinator in the administration of school and public programs. Liberty graduated from CSU San Marcos with a B.S. in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Ecology. While at school she worked in a lab conducting research for Professor Brown, head of the Biology Department. In her spare time Liberty enjoys reading, hiking, camping, and spending time with her family and her dog Goose. She has long admired the work that the conservancy and other organizations do to conserve local wetlands. She desires to be in a career that is focused on the conservation and restoration of biodiversity.  


Main Line: (760) 436-3944
Emailinfo [at] sanelijo [dot] org
Fax: (760) 944-9606

Mailing Address

San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
PO 230634
Encinitas, CA 92023-0634

777 So. Highway 101, Suite 112
Solana Beach, CA 92075

*Please note that staff offices are not located at the nature center.

Check for updates on postings for internships in conservation education or habitat management and biological monitoring.

Become a docent-naturalist for school and public programs. Dig in with Lagoon Platoon habitat restoration, and more.

Request a conservancy expert to speak to your group, or for participation in an eco-community event.