Meet our Environmental Leaders Our Environmental Leadership Training Program engages college students in leadership at our volunteer ecological restoration events. Leaders are trained in program management, environmental education, and ecological restoration methods. At this time, we recruit students from Chapman University, Saddleback College, and UC Irvine's Center for Environmental Biology.
Jennifer Ascencio Hola! My name is Jennifer Ascencio and I am a junior studying Environmental Science & Policy at Chapman University because I really like helping others, and I believe helping the environment is important to be able to help everything that exists in this world. I am particularly interested in environmental justice and advocacy and wish to be able to go into a field where I can share my knowledge and learn from others, educate others, and do hands on work to preserve and restore the environment. My favorite parts of nature are probably the ocean and trees. I feel connected, at peace, love, and a part of something beyond incredible when it comes to nature, which is why I am immensely happy about its existence and why I want it to be beautiful forever.
Laith Atiyeh I am currently completing my final semester at Saddleback College. I will be graduating this December with an Associate's degree in Environmental Studies, an Ecological Restoration Certificate, and an Occupational Skills Award in Horticulture. I will be continuing on to California State University at Humboldt in the spring and will work towards a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science, with the focus on Ecological Restoration. I love to be outdoors and in nature, and I hope to make the world a better place one day. One of my goals is to find a balance between ecological restoration and sustainable landscape design in order to bridge a disconnect that most people today have with nature, including designing cities around nature, and redesigning already built cities to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible. In the long run I am determined to pursue new, stronger environmental laws and policies.
Roxana Ayala My name is Roxana Ayala, I am currently a third year at the University of California, Irvine. I am majoring in Urban Studies and have a double minor in Earth and Atmospheric Science and Global Sustainability. I have a strong interest in ecology, conservation, and sustainability. I am currently a member of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, an intern for the Center of Environmental Biology, and a commissioner for the The Green Initiative Fund organization on campus. In the past I have worked with Santa Catalina Island, La Jolla Indian Reservation, and conducted field research in various UC reserves in an effort to better understand California's ecology and conservation efforts.
Nicolette Burtis I am currently a senior studying Environmental Science and Policy at Chapman University with an emphasis in Ecology. In addition, I am president of Mission Environment, a Senator representing the School of Science and Technology within the Student Government Association, and an Orange County Watershed Education Ambassador. In my free time I enjoy hiking, swimming, cooking, and reading. Looking forward I'm interested in pursuing environmental education through organizations like the Food Corps or the National Parks.
Kyvan Elep My name is Kyvan Elep and I am a senior environmental science & policy major with minors in education and business at Chapman University. In the future I aspire to work for the Department of the Interior as either an educator, park ranger, or research specialist. I am currently conducting research on greenhouse gas fluxes of a sediment augmentation project observe the possibilities of using it as a mitigation technique to fight sea level rise. I currently work at Disney California Adventure and on campus as a lead supervisor for the Department of Civic Engagement. In my free time I like to hike, camp, eat good food, and nap.
Gage Johnston My innate and passionate interest for the environmental sciences stems from my formative years, growing up near Yosemite National Park. As a student in the physical sciences (Saddleback College), I wanted to study more about planet Earth with regards to the natural life and development in hopes to further my understanding with regards to my path toward fields such as astrobiology. I believe having an appreciation and knowledge of universal laws on one planet can be crucially beneficial to understanding the laws of other planets, and the possible biology that exists. My personal connection to nature and my passion for accruing a good foundation of relatable knowledge has led me to this program and my commitment to learning as much as I can.
Waylan Khuu Hi! My name is Waylan Khuu and I am currently a fourth year Biological Science major at the University of California, Irvine. The world has so many beautiful places to offer, from the vibrant coral reefs to the majestic cloud covered mountain tops, and I want to be able to explore and share these places with others. I try to inspire others to go out and explore through photography. I want to do all that I can to protect and conserve these places for future generations to see. That in mind, I'm aiming to go into the conservation/environmental field because I believe it will give me the best platform to achieve my goals. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, I hope to find a career that incorporates both conservation and photography.
William (Billy) Mercado Hi! My name is William Mercado but I usually go by Billy. I am a Third Year Earth System Science major at UC Irvine who recently discovered how amazing it is to work toward restoring our planet to its natural beauty. I love to be outdoors discovering new ecosystems and learning new things about the plants and animals I come across. I enjoy working with other people as dedicated as me, because when I am serious about something, I tend to put in all my effort toward achieving that goal. I also try to help the people around me as best as I can to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Marisol Morales Hi, my name is Marisol! I am a 3rd year Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major at UC Irvine. I've been a high school tutor for 6 years and I previously interned for Global Environmental Brigades at UCI. These experiences have made me very passionate about education and the environment. I'm very excited to be working with UCI's Center for Environmental Biology and the Back Bay Science Center this year. I aspire to be as good of a science educator as Bill Nye the Science Guy. I hope that my passion and enthusiasm can inspire others to love science!
Michelle Peruzzi I am in the process of getting my AA in Environmental Studies and a certificate for Ecological Restoration at Saddleback College. I enjoy all aspects of nature and respecting it is very important to me. I would like to have a career one day where I can work outside in nature and help restore ecosystems. My goal is to restore ecosystems to be able to help endangered species get off of the endangered species list.
Stephanie Stragier My name is Stephanie Stragier and I am a 4th year Earth System Science major with a double minor in Biological Sciences and Global Sustainability at UC Irvine. I am really interested in wetland ecosystems so being here at Back Bay Science Center is a great opportunity. I plan to go into the workforce after graduation to hone in on what I would like to eventually study when I continue my education in Graduate School. I can’t wait to see what this year will bring!
Priscilla Ta I am Priscilla Ta, a 4th year Biological Sciences major currently attending the University of California, Irvine. My interest in restoration ecology originated from my experience participating in community-based restoration events. Through volunteer work, I realized I can create a positive impact on the environment by restoring native lands. As a current intern for the UCI Center for Environmental Biology, I work on a variety of projects, such as the Seeds vs. Seedlings study located at the Back Bay Science Center. Overall, my experiences with CEB and at BBSC solidified my passion for restoration and preservation of the environment and inspired me to pursue a career within the field of ecology.
Dean Thiart My name is Dean Thiart and I live in Misson Viejo California and attend Saddleback College. I enjoy open spaces that are natural, native, and work the way it is meant to. This is my first experience doing any kind of work in the field. It makes me excited for a future in the field of Environmental Studies, in which Ecology is my main interest. I hope to obtain my degree in Ecology from the University of Alaska Southeast Juneau in a few years.
Leah Thomas I am a senior Environmental Science & Policy student at Chapman University. Originally from the Midwest, I ventured out to the West Coast to study the very real environmental impacts of the drought. In the future I hope to go into Environmental Consulting and work abroad to get a glimpse of how cultural norms impact views on environmentalism.
Andrew Wills I am Andrew! I am currently majoring in Molecular Environmental Biology at Saddleback College and hoping to transfer in the next couple of years to UC Berkeley. I got into this major because I want to help change the way our world is headed environmentally. I love anything to do with the outdoors including surfing, hiking, climbing, and camping! I have had a passion for flying my whole life and I part-time flight instruct at a local airport. I wish to further my education with environmental studies and biology to one day become a college professor.