Meet Our Team
Ryan Mello, Executive Director
Ryan has served as the Executive Director of the Pierce Conservation District since 2012. Ryan’s real job is “Chief Relationship Officer” for the Conservation District - ensuring we have the best staff to perform this important work and they have the resources necessary to be successful, our many stakeholders understand our role in the system and our partners are supported in a meaningful way with our assistance. When Ryan isn’t engaged in conservation work at the District, he is serving as a member of the Tacoma City Council or gardening, walking his dogs, hiking, biking or kayaking Puget Sound.
Harvest Pierce County
Kristen McIvor, Urban Agriculture and Local Access Program Director
Kristen is the director of Harvest Pierce County, the urban agriculture program of the Pierce Conservation District – supporting over 70 active community gardens and orchards. She has been working to develop sustainable food systems in Tacoma, WA since 2006 and received her PhD in Forest Resources from the University of Washington in 2011. In addition to her work with community gardens, her career has focused improving urban soil for agriculture through recycling of organic residuals, and the social conditions that influence how people learn in community gardens.
Renee Meschi, Program Coordinator
Renee Meschi joined the PCD as a Harvest Pierce County Program Specialist in August 2015. A graduate of the University of Puget Sound, her research centered on the human stories behind the different plants and mushrooms that make up the landscape in our watershed. Renee is passionate about finding the intersection between ecological and social justice, and sees capturing waste while providing fresh, healthy food for our local community as a living example of this intersection.
Madeleine Spencer, Program Coordinator
Madeleine joined the Harvest Pierce County team in March 2017 as a Program Specialist where she primarily supports the Veggie Co-op and Gleaning projects. A graduate of The Evergreen State College, her studies focused on the connections between social justice and the environment. Having grown up in Pierce County she is passionate about serving the community by expanding access to fresh and healthy food.
Chris Madden, Program Coordinator
Chris joined us as an AmeriCorps service member in 2018 and now as a Program Specialist will be heading up the Gleaning Project, our Annual Native Plant Sale, as well as helping us reach our goals around urban agriculture and equitable food access. Growing up in the beautiful PNW Chris enjoys the outdoors and loves exploring this amazingly biodiverse area of the world. He has a passion for fruit trees, and was recently the orchard manager of an organic orchard that produced: apples, pears, cherries, mulberries, Asian pears, kiwi, chestnuts, walnuts, blueberries, and much more. Chris is excited to help Pierce County residents enjoy a more beautiful and delicious place to live!
Kalicia Bean, Program Coordinator
Kay joined PCD and the Harvest Pierce County team back in 2018 as an intern. In addition to community gardens, and event coordination, her work assignment will focus on capacity building, community engagement, and strategic planning in making the urban agriculture program more accessible and helpful to low-income and low-English proficiency populations. Kalicia is a recent Oregon State University graduate with a B.S. in Agricultural Science. Kalicia is passionate about bridging the connection between people, food, and their environment and hopes to work toward a food system that is healthy, just, and sustainable for all of Pierce County. At home Kay loves being active, including running, yoga and practicing random hobbies such as archery, playing the harmonica, and DIY crafts!
Saiyare Refaei, Program Coordinator
Saiyare joined the Harvest Pierce County team in September of 2019 for capacity building and further community engagement and outreach. A graduate of Pacific Lutheran University in Environmental Studies and intersections with Anthropology, Hispanic studies and Studio Arts. Saiyare is passionate about working towards more resilient and regenerative food systems with and for the community most impacted by systemic injustices.
Mike Malpasuto, AmeriCorps Member
Harvest Pierce County is excited to welcome their new AmeriCorps place, Mike Malpasuto, who will be supporting the gleaning program. Mike received his BA in Classics from the University of Rochester. He then moved to Seattle to receive his Master’s in Teaching from SPU while teaching Latin at Roosevelt High School. Mike developed a passion for food justice while in college learning about low accessibility to healthy produce as he was beginning gardening. Mike worked on a 1 acre no-till farm in Everett, WA where he learned how to farm, which in turn led him to want to use his teaching degree for sustainable agriculture and food justice. Mike is also an avid rock climber and spent some time working at Vertical World in Seattle.
Water Quality Improvement
Melissa Buckingham, Water Quality Program Director
Melissa Buckingham joined Pierce Conservation District over 10 years ago and has experience in restoration ecology, environmental science, and project and program management. As the Water Quality Improvement and Monitoring Program Director you can find her in a stream, installing a rain garden, ripping up pavement, or planting a streamside. Her favorite part of her job is connecting community to the natural world around them through action projects.
Isabel Ragland, Water Quality Monitoring Program Manager
Isabel joined Pierce Conservation District in 1999 and coordinates the water quality monitoring programs. Her work focuses on providing education and opportunities for residents to get involved with protecting water quality in our streams and lakes. Her favorite part of the job is helping folks connect with the natural environment. When not in the stream, she enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors.
Belinda Paterno, Water Quality Coordinator
Belinda grew up in Western Washington and spent weeks during the summer months traveling to different national parks with her parents. Experiencing firsthand the beauty of nature and wanting to learn more about the environment led Belinda to study environmental science at the University of Montana and Washington State University. Belinda has a background in both field research and environmental education. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, camping, and running in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Caleb Mott, Water Quality Technician
Caleb has worked as a Water Quality Assistant at the District since 2015. He graduated from the University of Washington Tacoma with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Studies. Caleb helps coordinate the Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program and various water quality improvement projects as well. Raised in Washington State, Caleb is very passionate about the health of its natural resources and looks forward everyday to improving the environment around him.
Allie Campbell, AmeriCorps Service Member
I am really excited to be returning this year for another term as the Water Quality Outreach Specialist with AmeriCorps. Prior to starting at PCD, I had no idea how much I did not know about the environmental world. While serving my first term, I learned so much fascinating information about our ecosystem and gained a long list of crucial skills that I can take with me wherever I go. I also got to plan and coordinate events, lead restoration and volunteer crews, teach children about storm water, and interact with many diverse groups of people throughout Pierce County.
Amy Pearl, AmeriCorps Service Member
Hello everyone, my name is Amy Pearl. Before finding my love within the environmental world, my first passion was being a competitive dancer. I transitioned that love of being a dancer over to being a dance instructor and I am currently still involved within that world and love every second of teaching the youth of today. I graduated from the University of Washington Bothell. Go Dawgs, with my bachelor’s in environmental studies with a focus in sustainability and water quality. After graduating, I was lucky to get to work two seasons as an Invasive Plant Technician for Snohomish County last year and within Pierce Conservation District this year. I am beyond excited to get to serve and collaborate within my new community!
Habitat Improvement & Environmental Education
Jayme Gordon, Habitat Improvement and Environmental Education Program Director
With PCD since 1998, Jayme was the District’s Stream Team Coordinator for 10 years before taking on the Habitat Improvement and Environmental Education programs. A graduate of Western Washington University (Huxley College of the Environment), Jayme enjoys working with Pierce County citizens to engage them in dynamic ways to teach and instill a sense of stewardship for the plants and animals that share our green spaces and natural landscapes. When not leading a streamside planting event, workshop, or field trip, Jayme and her family try to get out on the water or into the woods as much as possible
Chris Towe, Environmental Education Program Manager
Chris Towe joined the District in 2010 after graduating from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. Chris primarily works with volunteers on restoration plantings and providing environmental education to students throughout Pierce County. He actively participates in local networks that focus on environmental education and outreach. One of his favorite parts about his job is seeing how excited kids get when they explore their environment and see new, interesting things.
Mary Krauszer, Shorelines Program Manager
Mary joined Pierce Conservation District as the Shorelines Program Manager in 2019 to work with landowners on managing Puget Sound shorelines in a way that benefits both homeowners and habitats. Mary grew up in Alaska and spent several years doing environmental education and public engagement in the Tacoma area after attending the University of Puget Sound. She is an inter-tidal biology buff.
Ryan Bird, Habitat Improvement Cooridinator
Ryan assists in the planning, coordination and implementation of riparian restoration projects that are aimed at improving salmon and wildlife habitat. Ryan grew up in the PNW and has always had a strong affinity for nature, which primed him for a career in natural resources. He holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology and conservation sciences, and a master’s degree in ecology and environmental biology. In addition to his passion for the outdoors, Ryan is an avid reader and a multi-instrumentalist who is unlikely to ever turn down a jam sesh.
Maddie Houde, AmeriCorps Service Member
My name is Madelyn Houde and I am serving as the Habitat Improvement Specialist for Pierce Conservation District. I graduated from the University of Florida in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in marine sciences. Since then, I have been working seasonally in natural resources throughout eastern Oregon and Washington. As a fan of too many outdoor activities, you can find me exploring some of the amazing Puget Sound scuba dive sites or trying to adapt to the west side mountain bike trails (roots?! mud?!). I hope to contribute in many ways and am greatly looking forward to my time with PCD!
Leika Hansen, AmeriCorps Service Member
Leika, pronounced “lake-uh”, is the new AmeriCorps member in Environmental Education. Originally from Michigan, she graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah with a bachelors degree in environmental science before moving to western Washington. She loves being outside and talking about the beautiful world we live in. In her down time, she enjoys swimming, biking, hiking, taking photos, and sewing. While we will be working differently through the pandemic, she is excited to help in any way possible!
Farm Planning & Agricultural Assistance
René Skaggs, Farm Planning and Agricultural Assistance Program Director
Rene’ has been a farm resource specialist with the Pierce Conservation District since 1997 educating livestock farm owners on management practices that both improve their farm productivity and protect natural resources. She and her family live on a 10 acre, 7 horse farm in rural Pierce County where she practices what she teaches.
Paul Borne, Key Peninsula, Gig Harbor, and Islands Watershed Farm Resource Specialist
Paul, a long-time resident of Pierce County, joined Pierce Conservation District in March 2018 after working for many years at the King Conservation District. As the KGI Farm Resource Specialist, Paul will work with livestock owners in the Key Peninsula-Gig Harbor-Islands Watershed to help them address natural resource concerns on their farms and improve local water quality. He believes that we all have a part in protecting our environment and is excited to now be working in his neighborhood – Pierce County. When he is not promoting conservation at work, Paul enjoys enhancing the wildlife habitat in his backyard and observing nature around him.
Alison Nichols, Crop Farm Specialist
Ali is available to assist crop farm operators in planning and applying natural resource conservation practices and facilitate workshops and technical support around topics relevant to farmers in Pierce County. She will also be working collaboratively with government agencies and non-profit partners to support the needs of farmers contributing to a vibrant local food system. She is excited to connect farmers with each other and with the ideas and practices that will help them succeed in their farms while conserving their natural resources for the generations to come.
Nicole Warren, Puyallup-White River Farm Program Specialist
Nicole Warren is the new Puyallup- White River Farm Program Specialist, and will offer technical assistance, farm planning, and educational workshops to assist livestock farm owners in implementing conservation practices that support their farm operations. Nicole graduated from The Evergreen State College with a Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences and spent several years working on pasture-based livestock farms and farmstead creameries in New England and in the Pacific Northwest. Prior to joining PCD, Nicole worked as a farm planner at Thurston Conservation District for 4 years. In her down time, Nicole enjoys backpacking, hiking, hunting, and any adventure she can bring her dog Sorel along.
Finance & Administration
Selena Corwin, Senior Finance and Administrative Director
Selena is the Director of Finance and Administration for the District and coordinates grant administration as well. She enjoys supporting local farms by purchasing local produce and shopping at Farmer’s Markets. She has worked for the District since 1997.
Cynthia Ross, Finance Coordinator
Cynthia joined Pierce Conservation District in January, 2017 as the Finance Coordinator. Cynthia is responsible for assisting the Finance & Administration team with the day to day financials of the District as well as related activities and future planning. Cynthia enjoys gardening, reading, and volunteering in and around the community. Cynthia believes in continuously doing her part to help reduce the dependency of natural resources by limiting her use of water, gas, and electricity and by recycling.
Kristine Swanner, Grant & Contract Coordinator
Kristine joined Pierce Conservation District in April 2017. Kristine coordinates grant and contract administration for the District. Kristine enjoys spending time with her family, paper crafts, and reading.
Carly Canter, Administrative Assistant
Carly Canter joined Pierce Conservation District in July 2014. Carly is responsible for answering phones, directing calls, and providing additional administrative support for the team. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and enjoys a variety of outdoor and hands-on activities. In her spare time, she coaches Special Olympics Track and Field, and Golf.
Mehgan Nishiyama, Administrative Assistant
Mehgan joined Pierce Conservation District as an Administrative Assistant in August of 2019, after serving nine years in the Air Force Reserves. She will be responsible for providing general administrative support to our staff. She was born and raised in WA and enjoys volunteering at The Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County.
Allan Warren, Communications & Development Director
Allan helps expand the impact of the District through communications and grant management. Allan helps each of the District’s departments tell the story of how important their work is in improving Pierce County’s natural resources. He edits the Tahoma View newsletter, the Annual Report, and manages the website and social media. In addition, Allan manages the Green Partnership Fund and the District’s grant writing and admin. Growing up in Alaska, Allan developed a deep love for the natural environment and cherishes the opportunity to conserve it through his work at the District.
Camila Matamala-Ost, Volunteer Coordinator & Outreach Specialist
Camila is excited to get more people involved with the District’s volunteer opportunities and to help make our programs more accessible to the diverse population of Pierce County. Camila cultivated her interest in the environment by studying environmental science at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Her favorite aspects of the job at PCD are interacting with volunteers personally and getting them plugged into great opportunities, and the creative process of capturing photos and designing outreach pieces that will get people excited about stewardship work.
Nicholas Cusick, Climate Resiliency Program Manager
A true measure of a community’s resilience is its collaborative spirit and the “togetherness" of its local people. Nick believes this to be especially true for our agricultural and rural economies, which, with sustainable and healthy practices, are critical pieces in developing a robust, local solution to climate change. Nick brings several years of experience in project management, GIS analysis, and stakeholder engagement to the District, as well as a deep-rooted belief in forging meaningful, reciprocal relationships with Pierce County’s local communities.