Our Team

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Melanie Gisler

Southwest Program Director for the Institute for Applied Ecology

Melanie is the Southwest Program Director for the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) at their Santa Fe office. IAE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving native species and habitats through restoration, research, and education. Melanie has been with IAE since 2001 and has been expanding the scope of the native plant materials programs, building collaborative projects with conservation partners, farmers, and tribes, and implementing large scale habitat restoration and recovery projects for rare plants and butterflies. In 2002 she helped launch the Native Seed Network website that links buyers and sellers of native seed throughout the United States. Currently Melanie is focused on developing collaborative conservation programs for the southwest and is dedicated to growing the Southwest Seed Partnership to improve the supply of native seed for restoration and rehabilitation efforts in NM and AZ. She received her Master of Science degree in Botany from the University of British Columbia (1997) and Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of New Mexico (1992). 


Maggie Parrish

Southwest Seed Partnership Coordinator

Maggie is the Southwest Seed Partnership Coordinator at IAE’s New Mexico office. Maggie works with stakeholders to assess needs for native plant materials, manages seed collection crews and creates target species lists, supports native plant growers, and helps with IAE Southwest’s restoration and education programs. Maggie received her M.Sc. in Conservation Biology (2017) from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and her B.A. in Biology from Colby College (2015). As an undergraduate, Maggie worked as a research assistant on botanical projects in the deciduous forests of Maine, cloud forests of Costa Rica, and South African savannas. In 2015, Maggie was a Seeds of Success (SOS) intern for the Bureau of Land Management in Taos, New Mexico, where she developed her interest in native seed collection for restoration. Maggie then pursued graduate work in South Africa; exploring the impact of fire and grazing management on grassland forb communities, and furthering her passion for plant conservation and rangeland management. In her spare time, Maggie enjoys hiking and skiing around New Mexico, running on forest trails, taming her backyard garden, and experimenting in her kitchen.


Ella Samuel

Bureau of Land Management Plant Conservation Program Specialist

Ella became involved with the Southwest Seed Partnership when she was a Seeds of Success intern in summer 2016. Currently Ella is the field operations manager for the Southwest Seed Partnership, leads the New Mexico Sustainability in Prisons Project, and assists with the Plant Conservation Program for the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management.

Ella received her B.A. in Human Ecology, with an emphasis on botany and conservation biology, from College of the Atlantic (2016). Prior to working in the Southwest, Ella contributed to research projects pertaining to plant ecology and climate change in Maine, California, and Greenland, and she was a restoration intern for the Elwha River Restoration Project (Olympic National Park, WA). Aside from her botany and conservation work, Ella is also passionate about science illustration, you can see a sample of her illustrations here


Victoria Atencio

Field Crew Lead / Ecological Educator, SW Program

Victoria been with IAE since 2016 as an intern and has had a number of roles since then
including Ecological Educator, Seed Crew Intern, Seed Crew Lead, and working with local tribal communities. She is currently one of the Ecological Educators in the Forest Bound Program and Field Crew Lead for native seed collection for IAE’s Southwest Program.
Victoria is originally from Santo Domingo Pueblo (Kewa) and San Juan Pueblo (Ohkay Owingeh), both located in New Mexico. She received her B.S in Wildlife Science with minors in Biology and Rangeland Science from New Mexico State University; and her M.S in Natural Resource Stewardship from Colorado State University. Without a doubt, she is an outdoorsy wildlife and plant enthusiast, enjoying her time outdoors exploring via hiking, fishing, and botanizing.


Mike Beitner

Southern NM Seed Crew Lead

Mike is the seed crew leader for the Southwest Seed Partnership headquartered in Las Cruces. He recently graduated from Colorado College with a bachelor’s degree in ecology, and his field trips and extracurricular forays into the desert made him passionate about desert ecosystems and conservation in arid climates. Mike has previously worked in trailwork and wildlands restoration with Rocky Mountain Field Institute, and hopes to pursue restoration and stewardship on the lands he cares about in his career.


Sam Larkin

Bureau of Land Management Seeds of Success Crew Lead

Sam joined the Southwest Seed Partnership in 2017 as a Seeds of Success intern with the BLM New Mexico State Office. In 2018, Sam led the BLM seed crew and worked with the Southwest Seed Partnership to prioritize, plan, and carry out native seed collections across the public lands of New Mexico. Sam studied organismal biology at Montana State University, focusing on botany and ecology. There he found his love for the plants and the habitats of the Rocky Mountains, particularly when working with the Forest Service on botany and ecology monitoring projects.

When he is not collecting seed or botanizing, Sam enjoys exploring the mountains on ski, foot, or rope, cooking colorful meals, and growing anything that will fit in his compact space. Sam is currently passionate about the healing capabilities of herbalism and sharing the knowledge of plants and the environments in which they grow. He hopes to be involved with more restoration and conservation efforts in the future.


Laura Shriver

National Park Service Seed Crew Lead

Laura is the seed crew intern for the Southwest Seed Partnership in Santa Fe. She grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and studied Environmental Studies and Biology at Oberlin College. Since graduating in 2016, Laura has worked as a seed collector on Long Island for the Conservation Land Management Internship Program, a rare plants fellow for the New England Wildflower Society, and as a data collector for the Great Basin Institute in Wyoming. Laura is passionate about conservation and restoration and she is excited to learn about the unique flora and ecology of the Southwest.





Sophie goss, 2018 crew member

Sophie goss, 2018 crew member

2016 Seed Collection Crew  ( Left to right): Cameron Weber, Eddie Humetewa, Victoria Atencio, Rebecca Schaub, David Naranjo, Ella Samuel, & Laura Holloway

2016 Seed Collection Crew (Left to right): Cameron Weber, Eddie Humetewa, Victoria Atencio, Rebecca Schaub, David Naranjo, Ella Samuel, & Laura Holloway