Staff & Board

Mojave Desert Land Trust Headquarters

60124 29 Palms Hwy
PO Box 1544
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Phone: (760) 366-5440
Fax: (888) 869-4981

Map & Directions

MDLT Staff

Leadership Team

Kelly Herbinson
Joint Executive Director

Kelly has 20 years of experience working in conservation, biological research, and community outreach and education, mostly focused on protecting the Mojave Desert region of California. She is an expert in Mojave Desert tortoise biology and ecology, and the impacts of renewable energy development on desert ecosystems. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, and a Master of Science degree in Ecology and Systematics. She received a distinguished thesis award for her graduate work studying the impacts of climate on desert harvester ant behavior. Recognizing a need for more creative science communication and education, she went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Nonfiction Writing, where she developed her ability to use storytelling and narrative to better connect people with nature. Before joining MDLT, Kelly worked at the Turtle Conservancy, where she developed an innovative education program teaching high school science through active participation in local turtle conservation programs, empowering youth to be community conservation leaders. She served on the Mojave Desert Land Trust’s Board of Directors from 2013 to 2021.

Cody Hanford
Joint Executive Director

Cody has nearly 20 years of experience working in California desert conservation through a variety of roles. He began as a desert restoration intern and eventual crew leader with the Student Conservation Association’s Desert Restoration Corps working extensively in the field throughout the Mojave and Colorado-Sonoran Deserts. Following a one-year hiatus as a Traveling Trainer and Master Educator for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, he returned to the Mojave Desert as an Environmental Consultant for federal, state, and nonprofit entities pertaining to conservation land acquisition, habitat restoration, hazardous materials assessments, land management, and volunteer stewardship. Cody was previously the Executive Director of Transition Habitat Conservancy, where he oversaw their efforts in the West Mojave and associated mountain transition zones. He is especially proud of the comprehensive hydrologic survey of springs and seeps that he coordinated throughout the Bureau of Land Management’s California Desert District, and for helping further creative solutions and recovery insights for Mojave Desert tortoise during his tenure there. Prior to his appointment as joint Executive Director, Cody served as Deputy Executive Director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. This role included the formation of the organization’s new Natural Resources Management Division for the programs of land acquisition, restoration, science and research, and native plant propagation.

Madena Asbell
Director of Plant Conservation Programs

Madena moved to the Mojave Desert from Los Angeles in 2016 for her dream job; managing MDLT’s Native Plant Restoration Nursery, Mojave Desert Seed Bank, herbarium, and living collections. She has over fifteen years of experience working with California native plants and has always had a fondness for desert plants. Prior to joining MDLT, she was director of horticulture at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants, where she oversaw their nursery, seed program, bulb program, and living collections. As MDLT’s director of plant conservation programs, her focus is on restoring desert habitats, educating others about the importance of our diverse desert flora, and preserving this diversity for generations to come.

Jessica Dacey
Director of Communications

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, Jessica’s first job out of university was to manage an English newspaper in Mongolia. It was a deep-dive into the art of storytelling and kick-started a career that would include reporting and editing for the BBC, The Guardian and the Swiss public broadcaster. Along the way, she specialized in climate change and podcasts. She joined MDLT’s communications team in 2017 and is passionate about the role the organization plays in safeguarding the desert for future generations.

Michael Mora
Director of Outreach & Public Engagement

Michael Mora’s career in the not-for-profit industry spans 40 years with various organizations in performing and fine arts, kids and women’s health, and education. In theatre, he worked at the South Coast Repertory in Orange County where he worked on over 300 productions learning how artists, technicians, and business collaborated to create a unique experience where a spectator would engage, imagine, be inspired, and leave enlightened by the message of the play. Not too different from our own MDLT outreach mission to engage, educate, and inspire new generations of conservationists through our outreach work. Michael lives for experiencing the bucolic and learning about natural surroundings. That’s what brought him and his partner to the desert. He looks forward to solving unique challenges in new and creative ways, especially through interaction with the people involved. He greatly enjoys working closely with our volunteers and staff, finding that every association brings continued personal growth.

Allyson Lavender
Director of Lands

Allyson Lavender has worked in land conservation for over twenty years. Her career in conservation began in 1998 at The Wildlands Conservancy where she helped process the Catellus acquisition, containing over 587,000 acres. Allyson began working on land acquisition with MDLT in 2006 as part of Shelton Douthit Consulting. In 2014 she joined the MDLT team as an employee. Her favorite part of the job is working with the dedicated, inspiring people that make up the staff of MDLT.

Ernesto Frias
Director of Administration

As the Administrative Director, Ernesto coordinates with all departments to help maintain the organization’s financial health and support its growth. Ernesto has had the opportunity to work with MDLT for over four years. After spending nearly seven years working with non-profit accounting and grants management, Ernesto knows that what truly drives the success of an organization is the ability to connect with organizational leaders to plan for the future. After living in the desert for over a decade, Ernesto has a special connection with the desert. He understands the importance of protecting it for today’s and future generations as well as the importance of conservation in protecting the desert ecosystem.

Lani Brown
Director of Human Resources

Lani has had a varied career working in human resources for over 20 years. She began her career working with two different insurance companies in Fort Worth, Texas. Then worked in a consulting capacity assisting small businesses with their human resource management needs. Prior to joining MDLT, Lani served as the human resource manager for a local water district. Her background in human resources includes; employment policy development and administration, benefits administration, staff training and development, recruiting, payroll management, and other employment law and employee relations issues. Lani is highly effective at incorporating creative leadership skills to achieve business objectives. She holds the highly regarded professional designation of Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).

Amy Langston
Natural Resources Program Director

Amy grew up in the Inland Empire and is excited to be back in Southern California after many years away. Amy is an ecologist with 18 years of professional and academic experience. Prior to joining MDLT, she was a postdoc at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science where she researched responses of coastal ecosystems to sea level rise. However, her first love is the desert and she is keen to apply her scientific background to desert conservation. She also has worked in environmental consulting, held seasonal positions with the USFS and NPS, and taught biology as an adjunct instructor. She has published numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals and enjoys doing ecological work that combines field observations and experimentation with modeling. Amy has a PhD in Environmental Engineering from University of Florida, an MS in Biology from San Francisco State University, and a BS in Ecology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Colleen McGrath
Director of Development

Colleen served as Executive Director of Friends of Ballard Park in Newport, RI from 2001 through 2018. Through the creation of signature events and educational programs, Colleen transformed the nature preserve into a vibrant community resource with more than 8,000 people attending the hikes, concerts, evenings of star gazing, outdoor movie screenings and art exhibitions she produced annually and 1,000 children visiting Ballard Park on educational field trips. She moved to Palm Springs in 2019 and started as Mojave Desert Land Trust’s development manager in 2020.

Acquisition Team

Chatel McKettrick
Acquisitions Manager

Chatel McKettrick is the Acquisitions Coordinator Lead at MDLT where she is responsible for processing the majority of the escrow and title documents for MDLT’s land transactions. She has lived in Joshua Tree for over twenty-one years; she moved to Joshua Tree as an adolescent from Los Angeles County, but now considers herself a high-spirited desert-loving local. Chatel holds several business degrees from Copper Mountain College. She joined MDLT as a fulltime employee after her graduation in 2015. Chatel plans to continue her education at the University of Redlands – School of Business. She loves the outdoors; she loves to hike with her energetic dogs and kindergartner; she plays local community sports and coaches her son’s athletic teams.

Dustin Scott
Acquisitions Coordinator

Dustin Scott is the Acquisitions Coordinator, responsible for facilitating land transactions for MDLT. After spending time throughout all of Southern California, he and his family settled in the Morongo Basin five years ago. Dustin began to volunteer with MDLT in September 2018 and after over 250 hours, he was brought on as a full-time member of the Acquisitions team. Dustin was inspired by the MDLT Team and their passion for preserving the natural environment and beautiful views surrounding the area they live.

Communications Team

Susy Boyd
Public Policy Coordinator

Susy started her career with an MA in Rhetoric and Communications from UC Davis where she also taught undergraduate courses in Communications Theory and Public Speaking.  But her love for the outdoors shifted her path towards work as a Forestry Technician in the Pacific Northwest where she collected field data for the USFS and BLM.  When she returned to the Bay Area, she was working towards a degree in Park Management when she was hired on as a Park Ranger and worked for parks throughout the Bay Area for most of her career.  Seeking the opportunity to direct her work towards conservation and science, she earned her Master of Natural Resources degree from Oregon State University with research focusing on climate change impacts in Mexico’s Yucatan community forests.  Last summer was spent with the Forest Stewards Guild in Santa Fe, NM engaging in community forest projects and report writing.  She is passionate about climate change research and ecosystem adaptation and has become enamored with the desert’s wonders after moving to the Mojave this year.  Her new work opportunity encompasses what she has always loved to do: analysis, research and writing to protect our precious natural resources. 

Jessica Graybill
Social Media Manager

After visiting the desert a number times on weekend getaways from her hometown in Santa Barbara, Jessica made the Mojave her full-time home in Summer 2019. Before joining MDLT, Jessica worked with an Italian pottery importing and retail company for over ten years as a sales associate, office manager and website/social media coordinator. She is responsible for all MDLT social media channels, handling everything from content creation to data analysis. Jessica holds a B.A in Studio Art from California State University, Channel Islands and is a ceramicist in her spare time. She is thrilled to work in service of desert land conservation, as the sweeping views and fascinating wildlife have long inspired and invigorated her creative spirit.

Development Team

Kellie Flint
Development Coordinator

Kellie grew up in Southern California and holds an M.F.A in Visual Art from the University of California, Riverside, a B.F.A. in Painting from San Francisco Art Institute, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Santa Clara University. She describes her art as abstract paintings that relate to land and land use and is an Adjunct Professor teaching painting and drawing at College of the Desert. Most recently, she served as the Program Manager for Land Arts of the American West at Texas Tech University developing a fundraising infrastructure and strategic plan. Kellie is grateful to be living and working in the dynamic ecosystem of the Mojave Desert and is excited to contribute to the conservation efforts of MDLT.

Administrative Team

Dayanna Watts
Accounting Technician I

Dayanna joined the team in 2018 and provides support as the accounts payable clerk for all the organization while also supporting the design and execution of the company’s overall mission. Prior to coming to MDLT, she worked in non-profit accounting and grants management for over five years. She thoroughly enjoys contributing to the ongoing success of the organization. As a veteran of the United States Navy during a time of war, Dayanna continues to bring the same commitment, loyalty, and leadership to the organization as she had once provided during her active time of duty.

Raechel Pietraszak
Operations Coordinator

Raechel possesses a wealth of experience in the areas of administration, customer service and human resource management. She studied Fine Arts Photography at Columbia College in Chicago and plans to complete her bachelor’s degree at Harvard Extension School. Most recently, she worked with Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana for eight years, starting as a server and working her way up to Human Resource Manager during her tenure there. Raechel and her partner have vacationed in Joshua Tree three times and on their last visit, they decided to take the leap and relocate to the hi-desert. She enjoys painting, hiking, reading and playing the piano and guitar. When they decided to move to the hi-desert, Raechel had a goal of starting her next chapter working in a job that fed her passion for conservation and sustainability. She says her greatest joy is to help people.

Land Stewardship Team

Emmalyn Snead
Natural Resources Program Coordinator

Emmalyn grew up on an agriculture farm in Virginia where her love of the natural world and conservation took root and has continued to thrive since. She graduated from Randolph College with a Bachelor of Science in biology before moving out West. She worked as a horseback trail guide in Medicine Bow National Forest and as an Invasive Plant Technician in Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest before joining MDLT in January 2018 as a Land Steward. Emmalyn is happy to hone her passion for conservation by assisting MDLT in mitigating environmental degradation and preserving pristine desert habitat. 

Alex Boice
Natural Resources Technician I

Alex grew up in Twentynine Palms and returns in hopes to help preserve the area with MDLT. He possesses a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from California State University San Bernardino. He has experience in outdoor education of 4th-12th grades with STEM curriculum. Before that he was an Assistant Lead Field Botany Technician with Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden within the Angeles National Forest. Alex also served as an Ecological Restoration Intern with the U.S. Forest Service and a California Spotted Owl Technician in the Eldorado National Forest. Alex looks to share the passion of the California Deserts and outdoors to convey its importance.

Tena Petrovic
Natural Resources Technician I

Tena recently moved to Yucca Valley from Cleveland, Ohio.  She is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts in Environmental Studies program at Cleveland State University, where her study of focus included environmental planning and Geographic Information Systems.  She holds a Certification in GIS and a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a focus in Urban Development. During her tenure as a grad student, Tena completed an Independent Study project where her responsibility was to assist the Clark-Fulton Community Development Center in updating maps of the neighborhood by utilizing GIS mapping data. She spent the last year volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary in Barberton, Ohio called Stahl’s No Harm Farm, which was her favorite volunteer experience to date! In her spare time, Tena enjoys going on hikes with her dogs, cooking/baking new vegan recipes, and spending time with loved ones. 

Joelle Hazher
Natural Resources Technician I

Joelle was born and raised Joshua Tree, California where her deep connection and appreciation for the Mojave Desert has flourished. She attended California State University, San Bernardino, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems. Joelle has experience in outdoor education and has spent two summers working with Youth Conservation Corps crew members in Joshua Tree National Park teaching local youth about native flora and fauna, as well as performing various trail construction and land rehabilitation techniques. She also works as a part time assistant rock-climbing guide in Joshua Tree National Park. She claims to hold her dream position as a Natural Resources Technician and is proud to be a part of an organization that is committed protecting fragile desert ecosystems throughout the Mojave.

Nursery & Seed Bank Team

Corina Godoy
Production Assistant II

Corina holds a B.S. from Humboldt State University in Environmental Science Management with an emphasis in ecological restoration and a minor in Botany. Corina possesses a wide range of professional experience, most recently serving as a Seasonal Naturalist at the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area. Prior to that she served as a Research Assistant or a Biological Science Aid with the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, the Chicago Botanic Garden, USDA Agricultural Research Service, and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. 

Lenna Pettersson
Production Assistant I

Lenna grew up in Joshua Tree then went off to college in Sweden where she graduated from Malmö University with a bachelor’s degree in Interactive Design. She also possesses a Horticulture Certificate from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Lenna’s experience includes working as a Plant buyer for a retail nursery, a Nature Garden Program Assistant with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and as a Front Office Assistant with the Theodore Payne Foundation. In addition, Lenna has served as a volunteer with the Huntington Botanical Gardens and as an intern with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Lenna and her family recently moved back to her hometown, right here in Joshua Tree.

Outreach & Volunteer Team

Mary Cook-Rhyne
Education Coordinator II

Mary is a native to the Mojave Desert (Lancaster, CA). In 2005, she graduated from CSU, Chico with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology having a focus on Archaeology. Following graduation, she married and moved to Reno, Nevada. She became an archeologist, working mostly in California and Nevada. In 2011, she graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Master’s in Education. She became an elementary and middle school teacher, working in that capacity until her move to Yucca Valley. Mary enjoys being back in the desert, exploring the area with her husband, children, and animals.


Please see below for our open positions or internship opportunities:

Career Page


Board of Directors

John Simpson
Founding member of MDLT, real estate executive

Peter Brooks
Former marine, water industry executive, and defense writer

Gwen Barker
Rimrock Ranch Owner and marketing extraordinaire

Terrysa Guerra
National Political Director at United for Respect

Robyn Helmlinger
Partner with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe

Ron Radziner
Architect and Design Partner at Marmol Radziner

Abdel Reid
Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Jacobs and Reid

Brad Wilson
President and Co-Partner of Ace Hotel Group and the brand’s in-house creative agency Atelier Ace