Todd Lopez, Executive Director

La Cienega, NM

Todd Lopez is the Executive Director of RGR and provides oversight of the organization including planning, administration, financial oversight, compliance and reporting, as well as assisting with project implementation. Todd has been practicing since 2003 as a natural resource, water rights and environmental attorney and working for more than 20 years in the non-profit arena, including serving on the Board of Directors of several non-profit organizations on issues involving youth, education, peacebuilding, and the environment. He formerly served as NM Director for the Arizona based nonprofit Chicanos por la Causa and oversaw administration of youth mentorship, food security, workforce development, small business investment, behavioral health and affordable housing programs. Todd is a USFWS certified operator of: Skid Steer, Backhoe/Loader, Excavator, Tractor and Crawler Dozer.

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Reid Whittlesey, Restoration Director

Rio En Medio, NM

Reid graduated from Humboldt State University with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Ecological Restoration.  He has successfully managed the implementation of over 40 federal, state, and private water quality, riparian ecosystem, wildlife habitat, and watershed improvement projects and has been working in the field of restoration since 2009. The partnerships on these projects have included:  United States Forest Service,  New Mexico State Land Office, City and County of  Santa Fe, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico Environment Department, Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources.  Before becoming the Restoration Director for Rio Grande Return, Reid served briefly as the Acting Restoration Director at WildEarth Guardians after having worked as their Program Field Coordinator for ten years from 2009-2019. He enjoys rock climbing, skiing, botanizing, and trying to reduce the erosion rates on his property north of Santa Fe.

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Cecil Rich, Ph.D., Director of Resilient Waters

Santa Fe, NM

Cecil completed a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Aquatic Science from Purdue University and an M.S. in Aquatic Ecology from Montana State University, and for the past 25 years has worked with State and Federal agencies to protect and restore streams and rivers. This included serving as a fish and aquatic ecologist on the Santa Fe National Forest where he worked collaboratively with staff and a range of stakeholders to implement process-based restoration methods aimed at improving the health of streams and riparian areas. Cecil is passionate about supporting Rio Grande Return and our partners in applying science-based natural methods to conserve New Mexico’s precious water and habitat resources and offset the impacts of a warming climate.  Cecil also works to help alleviate regulatory and public policy obstacles to scaling up riverscape restoration. He is a devoted father of his daughters, Sylvia and Ivy, and enjoys helping to nurture in them a love for wild places.

Harold Yazzie, Restoration Team Member

Torreon Chapter House, Navajo Nation, NM

Harold has been in the field of restoration since 2009, after working as a school bus driver, trucker, greasemonkey, and cattleman on his family’s ranch. Harold’s wealth of institutional knowledge, practicality, and mechanical skillset makes him a crucial part of the restoration team. From welding our decade old auger bits to maintain their function throughout the planting season, keeping our trailer in shape, and helping to plan upcoming projects, he is always making sure everything is running functionally and efficiently. He is an avid motorcyclist, and enjoys taking his Harleys (a ’98 Sportster and a ’02 Fatboy) or Kawasaki KLR 650 on rides.

Neariah Toledo, Restoration Team Member

Torreon Chapter House, Navajo Nation, NM

Neariah started working in restoration in 2012 as a YCC crew member, working three terms with the WildEarth Guardians YCC crew. Since then, he has been working as part of the restoration team and accompanied the rest of the crew to Rio Grande Return in 2020. He looks forward to studying restoration ecology in a couple of years, once his three year old son is a little bit older. He likes to ride horses, do ranch work, and rock climb. Neariah is an excellent machine operator, and another strong link in the Rio Grande Return restoration team.

Nicky Sandoval, Restoration Team Member

Torreon Chapter House, Navajo Nation, NM

Nicky came to restoration work in 2010 from a background in construction and ranching. He enjoys farming, growing plants, and livestock husbandry. Every year he cultivates a big garden using dry-land farming techniques. He enjoys fishing, and stays busy raising livestock, herding sheep, and fixing fences at home. He is an excellent fence builder, and a master at refining tasks to high levels of efficiency.

Seymour Nez, Restoration Team Member

Torreon Chapter House, Navajo Nation, NM

Seymour began working in restoration in 2011, coming from a background in construction and fence building. On the restoration team he is a superb generalist, with an amazing ability to foresee tasking needs. He is always looking several steps ahead, and is in exactly the right place when something needs to happen. Outside of work, Seymour is an avid fisherman, having transitioned to a fly fishing kit in the last couple years.

Whitesun Yazzie, Restoration Team Member

Torreon Chapter House, Navajo Nation, NM

Whitesun is the Restoration Team’s newest member, having joined in early 2022. He first came to restoration through working a couple of terms as a YCC crew member, where he helped on stream and habitat restoration projects, building fences, improving trails, and replanting native vegetation in the Jemez mountains and on the Ramah Navajo Reservation. He is an avid fly fisherman and outdoorsman, and is eager to help restore and preserve the natural resources he so enjoys. Through fishing, he has learned to acutely pay attention to the benthic macroinvertebrate communities, and is impressive in his observations of minute critters.

Peter Watson

Peter Watson, Seasonal Crew Field Coordinator

Prescott, AZ

Peter has been working for the restoration team since 2021.  He currently works with the team in the field and coordinates the seasonal field crew.  He holds a BS in Environmental Science from Prescott College, and is from Jemez Springs, NM. His past experience includes leading several YCC crews, ranch work, ecological consulting, wildland fire, and chainsaw work. He is a lifelong lover and steward of the outdoors and is passionate about restoring and protecting the mountains he calls home.

Anders Hastings

Anders Hastings, Restoration Team Member (Summer Seasonal)

Fort Collins, CO

Anders is a rising junior working on his bachelor’s degree in Restoration Ecology at Colorado State University. Anders loves learning about plant identification and is pursuing a career in restoration because it is important and fulfilling work that helps the environment.

Tyler Holmen

Tyler Holmen, Restoration Team Member (Summer Seasonal Intern)

Winona, MN

Tyler graduated in spring 2023 from Winona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Geoscience/Environmental Science. Tyler is interning with Rio Grande Return this summer through a collaboration with Saint Mary’s University GeoSpatial Services. He will continue to work for Saint Mary’s University in the fall as a wetland mapper. Tyler enjoys understanding scientific concepts and being able to explain them to others.

Cameron Weber

Cameron Weber, Habitat Conservation Director

Corrales, NM

Cameron serves as Habitat Conservation Program Director for Rio Grande Return. Her projects are primarily focused on rewilding agricultural landscapes and ecological systems dependent on human participation. She has a BA in social and political philosophy and German and holds a master’s from UNM in Community and Regional Planning, where she focused her thesis research on the use of long-term ecological monitoring data for Middle Rio Grande habitat restoration planning and evaluation. Cameron has over 15 years of cumulative experience in ecological farming, native plant materials, conservation planning, and habitat restoration project management. She serves on the boards of the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation and the Southwest Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration, and lives among a hundred different heritage apple trees with her family in Corrales.

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Abe Aufdermauer, BS, EIT, Habitat Conservation Team Member

Albuquerque, NM

With experience in public land management, landscaping, farming, environmental engineering and monitoring, Abe assists the Habitat Conservation Program. Before returning to his hometown of Albuquerque’s North Valley, he worked for three years in the field of water resources engineering in California’s Central Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains designing and implementing landscape-scale riparian restoration projects to support endangered species habitat and the water infrastructure of Central California. He graduated from Humboldt State University with a B.S. in Environmental Resources Engineering with a focus on water quality and applied hydraulics. He enjoys spending time metalworking, farming, backpacking, skiing, and at his ranch in Northern New Mexico.

Jacob White, Habitat Field Technician / Community Resilience and Justice Specialist

Corrales, NM

Jacob is a Habitat Field Technician with the Habitat Conservation Program. Jacob is an outdoors enthusiast and believes collective action through environmental restoration and climate resilience initiatives is imperative in order to protect and steward our shared environment. Through work, he hopes to help individuals and communities strengthen their connection to nature and foster a greater sense of community. Jacob enjoys running and is currently working towards finding his stride running 5k’s and 10k’s after several years of inactivity on the race scene.

Kaniya Sandoval, Habitat Conservation Team Member

Albuquerque, NM

Kaniya graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife & Fishery Science and a minor in Criminal Justice. She conducted two research studies on multiple tick species during her undergraduate years. One research focused on the distribution of the species between prairie dog burrows in Eastern NM and the second on the survival rates of the tick species while being submerged in water. Before joining Rio Grande Return, Kaniya worked with Rocky Mountain Youth Corp where she helped with restoration projects, fencing, trail building, and invasive species removal. During her freetime, Kaniya enjoys being outdoors. Fishing and hiking are her main go-to activities. From time to time, she also enjoys doing at home crafts such as beading and sewing, along with spending time with her cat, Smelly, and all her horses. 

Simon Doane, Habitat Conservation Team Member

Albuquerque, NM

Simon’s work with the Habitat Conservation Program focuses on restoring degraded agricultural lands to habitat for the Rio Grande’s diverse living community. He is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in American Studies at the University of New Mexico. Simon is passionate about environmental justice and ecological design solutions. His belief in well-being for human and nonhuman communities has led him to work with multiple community gardens on outdoor education and food justice issues. He also enjoys studying history, rock climbing, hiking, gardening, and appreciating landscapes and wildlife.

Karen Menetrey, Director of Ecological Opportunities

Santa Fe, NM

Karen worked for the New Mexico Environment Department for 30 years in various programs that protect and restore surface water and groundwater. In the Surface Water Quality Bureau, she oversaw the River Stewardship Program that restored rivers, streams and riparian areas throughout the state, and worked in the Wetlands Program on wetland mapping, planning, protection and restoration. In the Ground Water Quality Bureau, she worked on pollution prevention, revitalization of Brownfields properties, and cleanup of groundwater and soil contamination. Karen graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a BA in Geological Sciences and took graduate coursework in Hydrogeology at the University of Wyoming. Some of her personal interests are directly compatible with healthy river systems: birdwatching, fly fishing, paddleboarding, and trail running.

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Eleni Ho-On, Director of Communications

Chicago, IL

Eleni graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in psychology, and her interest in environmental work deepened while working for Patagonia. She moved to Santa Fe in 2019 to pursue a path in conservation, gaining comprehensive experience as the assistant to the executive director of WildEarth Guardians. During this time, Eleni joined Rio Grande Return’s current restoration director and a team of volunteers to a site visit along San Antonio Creek in the Jemez Mountains to install BDAs. She observed process-based-restoration and how successful it can be for the vital habitats she is passionate about. In August of 2022 Eleni joined the Rio Grande Return team to spearhead the overhaul of their communications and has been thrilled to spread the word about Rio Grande Return’s tremendous impact on restoring the precious waterways and landscapes that make up New Mexico.

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