Tom Dudley, Executive Officer
Principal Investigator, Riparian Invasion Research Laboratory at UCSB
A Ventura native, Tom Dudley has extensive ties in the agricultural, ecological, and cultural sectors of the Santa Clara River. As the Principal Investigator at the Riparian Invasion Research Laboratory (RIVRLab) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Tom oversees a variety of projects ranging from restoration, biological control of invasive species, and habitat monitoring.
The Riparian Invasion Research Laboratory’s (RIVRLab) research addresses the effects of non-native species in riparian and stream ecosystems, particularly in western North America. With a focus to understand the process of species invasions and how they alter biodiversity and ecosystem functions, the RIVRLab also develops methods to better manage pest species and to restore native communities.
Sanger Hedrick, Treasurer
Hedrick Properties Inc.
Sanger Hedrick – a Ventura County native, Stanford graduate, USC MBA graduate, and a third generation citrus grower – began his professional career in 1966 as an analyst with Economics Research Associates of Los Angeles. He co-founded Development Economics Inc. of Redondo Beach but later returned to Ventura and established a career in Real Estate Consulting, Brokerage, Investments and Property Management. For twenty years and counting, Sanger has been the President and part owner of Hedrick Properties, Inc., a property management and citrus farming firm. In 1999, Sanger completed negotiations with the California Coastal Conservancy for sale of a major portion of his family’s ranch for conservation protection and ultimately part of the Santa Clara River Parkway. This portion of the parkway is now under the stewardship of Friends of the Santa Clara River.
Since then, he has been involved in numerous activities in the areas of conservation and restoration on the Santa Clara River. He is currently on the Board of The Ventura Audubon Society (VAS) and The Friends of The Santa Clara River (FSCR).
Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, Board Member
Tribal Leader, Barbareño Band of Mission Indians
Julie is an Ojai resident of Chumash descent and can trace her family history back to the early 18th century. She is keeping Chumash culture alive in the present, educating children and adults on Chumash traditions and history in schools, at workshops and other events. She provides advice to museums on the area’s pre-Hispanic past, and she advocates for the protection of Native American archeological sites, particularly in the Ojai Valley.
Ken Blaich, CIC, Board Member
Senior Vice President/Principal, Leavitt Group
Ken is a native Southern Californian. He moved to Ventura County in 1991, and has served Ventura County agriculture and construction clients for 30 years. Ken’s passion for the outdoors began as a young boy hiking and biking in the hills near his home in Woodland Hills, spending summers in Laguna Beach in the surf, and camping and fishing in the High Sierra with his Dad. Ken began fly fishing the Sespe in 1992 and has formed a special kinship with that stream and the Southern CA Steelhead and native rainbow trout that inhabit it. This kinship has led him into a stewardship role to protect this beautiful watershed including the Santa Clara which the Sespe flows into. Ken is married to his wife, Jenny, and has two boys, Reid and Ryan who have made protecting the environment their collegiate and professional focus. Ken studied English Literature at CSUN. He has been an active member and supporter of CalTrout since 2003.
Shawn Kelly, Board Member
Program Manager, Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project
After graduating with a B.S. in Ocean Engineering from Texas A&M University, Shawn moved to Ventura County and began a career as an Ocean Engineer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center’s Ocean Engineering Department. After 10 years working as an engineer, he returned to graduate school and obtained a Masters in Environmental Science and Management from the Bren School at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with an emphasis in marine resources. He currently works for the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project (WRP).
The WRP is a partnership of 19 Federal and State public agencies working cooperatively to acquire, restore, and enhance coastal wetlands and watersheds between Point Conception and the border with Mexico. As well as working on the regional strategy for wetland recovery and the policy of wetland restoration project selection and prioritization, Shawn is the Program Manager for the WRP Community Wetland Restoration Grant Program. Shawn’s professional interests include coastal land use policy, coastal streams, rivers, and wetlands, physical oceanography, marine fisheries, ocean engineering, and climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise. Shawn is a passionate environmentalist and outdoor enthusiast, being a former competitive surfer as well as avid mountain biker and snowboarder. He is the father of two boys.
Nancy Settle Vaniotis, Board Member
Retired Ventura County Planning Manager
Nancy is a Southern California native and long time Ventura county resident. One of her first jobs after graduating from UCSB with a degree in Biological Sciences/Environmental Emphasis was a Hydrographer with the United Water Conservation District. This provided an “in depth” experience of the Santa Clara River and its’ tributaries and a great appreciation for the people, land, and water resources of the Santa Clara river valley. She retired as a Ventura County Land Use Planning Manager with 30 years experience in land use planning and grant programs including the Coastal Resource Grant Program to protect wildlife corridors, landscape linkages and establish conservation easements and subdivisions. She oversaw agricultural protection programs, Countywide water management plans and participated in the Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP) and Tri-County Fish Team. She enjoys hiking, biking, and sailing with her husband Bill and daughter, Cassi, a recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz.
Ron Merkord, Board Member
Ron started his interest in wildlife and conservation while growing up in south Texas. After coming to California to earn his BS in Applied Physics from Caltech, he first worked as research scientist for ARCO Solar, developing new types of solar cells. For the past 30 years, Ron has been a general partner of Laser Innovations, repairing high-tech lasers for clients all over the world. He now lives, with his wife and son, on a ranch in the Bardsdale area of Ventura County, where for years he also ran an educational facility with exotic animals, teaching schoolkids about animal conservation. His interests include nature photography, electric vehicles, and renewable energy.
Ron also serves on the Ventura County Clean Air Fund Advisory Committee, as well as on the Ventura County Parks Advisory Commission.
Cover photo taken by Nathan Wickstrum