Who We Are

Andy Hubbard
Andy Hubbard

Andy Hubbard, Program Manager


Primary Network Responsibilities: Overall manager of the Sonoran Desert Network program. Budget management, workplan establishment, contribution to scientific activities (protocol development, data analysis, interpretation, and writing).

Active Projects: Climate, Terrestrial Wildlife, Vegetation & Soils

Education and Areas of Expertise

PhD, Rangeland Ecology and Management, Texas A&M University
MS, Renewable Natural Resources, University of Arizona
BS, Watershed Management, University of Arizona

I joined the Sonoran Desert Network in 2001. Prior to that, I was the plant ecologist for the Cape Cod National Seashore prototype I&M program, a prescribed-burn manager for the State of Texas, and a biotech with the U.S. Geological Survey–Water Resource Division, an USDA Agricultural Research Station, and at Saguaro National Park. My research interests include plant–animal interactions, plant ecophysiology with an emphasis on roots, and disturbance ecology. I've been a Wakonse Teaching Fellow since 1999 and was named NPS I&M Program Manager of the Year for 2010.

Sarah Studd
Sarah Studd

Sarah Studd, Vegetation Ecologist


Primary Network Responsibilities: Protocol development, implementation, and project management for vegetation monitoring protocols. Project lead for network vegetation mapping and classification inventories.

Active Projects: Vegetation & Soils, Vegetation Mapping, Invasive Exotic Plants

Education and Areas of Expertise

MS, Natural Resource Management and Ecology, University of Arizona
GIS certificate, University of Arizona
BA, Liberal Arts, St. John's College, Santa Fe, NM

Prior to working for SODN, I was a senior research assistant with the Sonoran Institute for three years, conducting invasive plant mapping at NPS units and researching invasive plant ecology and treatment strategies. My interests include plant community ecology, restoration, fire ecology and plant succession, mapping and cartography, invasive species population dynamics, gardening, and watching live music.

Cheryl McIntyre

Cheryl McIntyre, Quantitative Ecologist


Primary Network Responsibilities: Data analysis and quantitative support across protocols for Sonoran Desert Network, Chihuahuan Desert Network, and Southern Plains Network.

Active Projects: Vegetation & Soils, Streams, Springs

Education and Areas of Expertise

PhD, Natural Resources, University of Arizona
MS, Chemistry, University of Oregon
BS, Chemistry, University of Portland

From 2004 to 2011, I was an ecologist with the Sonoran Institute in Tucson. While at the Sonoran Institute, I collaborated with numerous I&M networks and worked extensively with SODN. Prior to that, I was briefly a semiconductor process engineer. My areas of interest include biological soil crusts, erosion modeling, cooking, soccer, sailing, and bicycling.

Elise Dillingham
Elise Dillingham

Elise Dillingham, Wildlife Ecologist and Desert Research Learning Center Program Coordinator


Primary Network Responsibilities: Lead biologist for wildlife monitoring, program coordination for the Desert Research Learning Center.

Active Projects: Terrestrial Wildlife, public/volunteer programming and outreach

Education and Areas of Expertise

MS, Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University
Graduate Certificate, Wildlife Ecology and Management, Northern Arizona University
BS, Environmental Studies, Northern Arizona University

Prior to joining the Sonoran Desert Network, Elise worked as a backcountry field instructor and wildlife biology technician. As a field instructor, she helped design, implement, and facilitate backcountry experiential education programs. She participated in research that determined interactions of rabies host species (e.g., skunks, foxes, raccoons, and bats), investigated behavioral differences between urban and rural mammals, and designed wildlife camera traps for herpetofauna. Her interests include wildlife conservation, human impacts on wildlife, environmental education, hiking with her dogs, traveling, and gardening.

Blonde woman stands in red rock landscape
Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas, Data Manager


Primary Responsibilities: Overseeing the design, development, implementation, and maintenance of the network's data management applications and processes. Project management for the Southwest Network Collaboration data management team.

Education and Areas of Expertise
PhD, Information Technology, Georgia Tech
MS, Operations Research, University of Texas
BS, Decision & Information Sciences, University of Maryland

Before joining the Sonoran Desert Network, I spent more than a decade as data manager for the Northern Colorado Plateau Network. Prior to that, I worked as a consultant, designing, developing, and implementing enterprise information systems. I also previously taught graduate-level courses in database systems.

Woman wearing backpack smiles at camera
Alice Wondrak Biel

Alice Wondrak Biel, Writer-Editor


Primary Network Responsibilities: Providing science communications support (writing, editing, graphic design, web design, social media) for the Sonoran Desert Network and Northern Colorado Plateau Network.

Education and Areas of Expertise

PhD, Geography, University of Colorado
MA, American Studies, University of Wyoming
BPhil, Interdisciplinary Studies, Miami University of Ohio

I have been a writer-editor for the National Park Service for more than 15 years, first at the Yellowstone Center for Resources and now for the I&M division. Prior to that, I worked seasonally as a planning assistant for Yellowstone National Park. I have authored numerous articles for professional journals as well as a book, Do (Not) Feed the Bears: The Fitful History of Wildlife and Tourists in Yellowstone (Univ. Press of KS, 2006).

A woman wearing a backpack, hat, sunglasses, and hiking clothes stands on a verdant desert hillside.
Sage Ragland

Sage Ragland, Biological Science Technician


Primary Network Responsibilities: Field crew lead, Terrestrial Vegetation and Soils

Active Projects: Vegetation and Soils, Invasive Exotic Plants

Education and Areas of Expertise

I began working with the National Park Service as a volunteer with the Grand Canyon National Park Native Plant Nursery in 2015. Since then I’ve served two full terms with the Americorps Conservation Corps, working on exotic plant management, habitat restoration, vegetation monitoring, and vegetation mapping projects. I also have experience with botanical-garden plant nurseries. In my spare time I enjoy backpacking, climbing, biking, gardening, and otherwise appreciating the desert southwest.

Laura Palacios
Laura Palacios

Laura Palacios, Biological Science Technician


Primary Network Responsibilities: Field crew lead for aquatic and riparian resources of the Sonoran Desert Network and Southern Plains Network.

Active Projects: Streams, Springs, Climate

Education and Areas of Expertise

BS, Renewable Natural Resources, University of Arizona
BS, Animal Sciences, University of Arizona

I started out as a volunteer at SODN in 2011, and worked as a student employee in data management before finding my interest in physical science. Prior to this job, I also worked in wildlife rehabilitation and outdoor children's programs. I greatly appreciate the varied nature of my current position, which allows me to work in many parks with different environmental conditions. I'm particularly interested in the effects of humans and climate change on hydrologic resources. I look forward to continuing to make progress towards understanding these interactions and assisting with management of these resources.

A woman in a hat walks on a trail surrounded by wildflowers
Jessica McGarey

Jessica McGarey, Biological Science Technician


Primary Network Responsibilities: Support for Desert Research Learning Center operations and activities, wildlife monitoring crew member.

Active Projects: Terrestrial Wildlife, citizen science, science communication

Education and Areas of Expertise
BA, Environmental Studies, University of Arizona

While studying at the University of Arizona, I co-founded a club that helped develop the grounds at the Desert Research Learning Center, and was involved with its citizen science program. I also helped care for and create outdoor enclosures for the endangered masked bobwhite quail at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Shortly after graduation, I started work full-time with the Sonoran Desert Network. I have volunteered at pet shelters and animal hospitals for years, and in my spare time I hike, camp, work on my podcast, make candles, and paint.

Bearded man in sunglasses stands on a desert mountainside

Alex Buckisch, Biological Science Technician


Primary Network Responsibilities: Field work, photo identification, and data analysis

Active Projects: Terrestrial Wildlife

Education and Areas of Expertise
MS, Wildlife Conservation and Management, University of Arizona
BS, Biological Sciences, University of Frankfurt

I started out as an international intern in 2017, working on SODN's terrestrial wildlife crew. Since then, I've worked on SODN's other monitoring protocols but my main interest remains with terrestrial mammals. Currently, I am developing occupancy (distribution) models and trend analysis for our wildlife monitoring protocol.

Last updated: July 22, 2022