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
[email protected]

Map & Directions

MDLT Staff

Leadership Team

Kelly Herbinson
Joint Executive Director
[email protected]

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
[email protected]

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
[email protected]

Madena has 20 years of experience working with California native plants and is passionate about growing plants and preserving the Mojave Desert’s native flora. 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 operating MDLT’s native plant restoration nursery, conservation seed bank, and Mojave Desert Discovery Garden.

Jessica Dacey
Director of Communications
[email protected]

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.

Allyson Lavender
Director of Lands
[email protected]

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
[email protected]

As the Administrative Director, Ernesto coordinates with all departments to help maintain the organization’s financial health and support its growth. 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
[email protected]

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).

Acquisition Team

Dustin Scott
Acquisitions Manager
[email protected]

Dustin is responsible for facilitating land transactions for MDLT. After spending time throughout all of Southern California, he and his family settled in the Morongo Basin. 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
[email protected]

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. She spent a summer with the Forest Stewards Guild in Santa Fe, NM engaging in community forest projects and report writing. Susy is passionate about climate change research and ecosystem adaptation and has become enamored with the desert’s wonders after moving to the Mojave. Her work encompasses what she has always loved to do: analysis, research and writing to protect our precious natural resources. 

Jessica Graybill
Content Manager
[email protected]

After visiting the desert a number of times on weekend getaways from her hometown in Santa Barbara, Jessica made the Mojave her full-time home in Summer 2019. She is responsible for all MDLT social media channels, handling everything from content creation to data analysis, and is the creative lead on MDLT’s print publications, videos, and website. 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
Donor Relations Manager
[email protected]

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 practice as an investigation of land and land use by way of abstraction. Prior to her position at MDLT, Kellie was an Adjunct Professor of Art and served as the Program Manager for Land Arts of the American West at Texas Tech University. 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

Raechel Pietraszak
Operations Coordinator
[email protected]

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.

Natural Resources Team

Alex Boice
Natural Resources Program Coordinator
[email protected]

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.

Joelle Hazher
Natural Resources Program Coordinator
[email protected]

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.

Yanina Aldao Galvan
Natural Resources Project Coordinator
[email protected]

Yanina has been an outdoor educator since 2008 and a land steward since childhood. Originally from Argentina where she studied agricultural sciences, Yani is now a naturalized American. She has worked for Joshua Tree National Park, UCR Botanic Gardens, and serves as a council member for the Joshua Tree National Park Association. She is currently in her senior year of evolutionary ecology at the University of California Riverside, where she is conducting research on the post-fire recovery of biological soil crust. Her favorite topics are plant chemistry, restoration of arid lands, and conservation of biodiversity. Her purpose in life is to heal the Earth and help others deepen their relationship with the ecosystem they live in. When she is not working, studying, or volunteering, you can catch her walking her dogs on the many dog-friendly trails in and around the Morongo Basin.

Nicole Hernandez
Natural Resources Technician I
[email protected]

Nicole holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from California State University, San Bernardino. Most recently she served as a Forestry Technician in the Recreation (OHV) division with the U.S. Forest Service in Big Bear. She has worked with the Bureau of Land Management in various capacities as an intern over a period of five consecutive internships. As someone who grew up in the Coachella Valley, she is passionate about desert conservation and is happy to be working for an organization that allows her to be a part of protecting the California desert. 

Ross Beazell
Natural Resource Technician I
[email protected]

Ross is originally from Windsor, CA and grew up in Charlottesville, VA. His passion for outdoor conservation started with his time as a crew member and leader for the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa. After completing his work in the Conservation Corps, Ross moved west to work as a product designer, seamster, and gear tester for boutique ultralight backpacking companies Nunatak Equipment (Moab, UT) and Katabatic Gear (Salida, CO). He has thru hiked the Appalachian Trail (2015), 800 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (2017), and plans to return to Colorado to hike the Colorado Trail in the future. He and his wife moved to 29 Palms in 2021 to be closer to the amazing climbing and natural wonders of the area. 

Nursery & Seed Bank Team

Corina Godoy
Production Assistant II
[email protected]

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
[email protected]

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 Program Manager
[email protected]

Mary is originally from Lancaster, CA. In 2005, she graduated from CSU, Chico with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and 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 worked as a teacher until her move to Yucca Valley. Mary loves hiking and camping with her kids, husband, and three dogs. She enjoys sharing her love of the desert (history and rocks too!) with others.

Mackenzie Nelson
Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator
[email protected]

Mackenzie was born in Arizona but spent most of her childhood on the Big Island of Hawai’i. She moved to southern California to attend the University of Redlands, where she graduated in 2021 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Spatial Studies. Mackenzie brings heartfelt passion and conservation experience to MDLT. Her work experience includes working in nonprofit organizations, specifically in community outreach and environmental education. She has worked with people of all ages in outdoor excursions and environmental education, from elementary school students to lifelong learners! Since coming to the Morongo Basin, Mackenzie has worked at the Desert Institute assisting with various outreach programs including volunteer coordination, outreach, and education programs. In her free time, Mackenzie is an avid birder who also loves to hike, read, crochet, and occasionally kayak. She currently lives in Twentynine Palms with her partner of four years and their two dogs, Remy and Kai.

Please see below for our open positions or internship opportunities:

Career Page


Board of Directors

John Simpson
Founding member of MDLT, real estate executive

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

Geary Hund
Former California Desert and Monuments Program Director for the Wilderness Society, retired senior wildlife biologist for US Fish and Wildlife, and former MDLT Executive Director

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

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

Steve Hely 


Television writer, author, and co-host of The Great Debates podcast.