Our Staff

Meet the staff of the Conservancy, working out of our historic office in Shoshone, California

Tanya Hard at WorkTanya Henderson – Executive Director

Tanya Henderson, born in Arizona, feels most at home where the water is scarce and the heat is dry. She has been involved in environmental studies and land conservation projects since high school, when she worked as a student researcher on a project in Zzyzx, CA. Immediately out of college, she worked for eight months on an SCA field crew based mitigating off road vehicle damage to preserve and restore desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel habitat outside of Ridgecrest, CA; then ten more months in Massachusetts building trails and teaching children about the environment in their school classrooms. She taught English in a German high school as a Fulbright Teacher, using her knowledge of US National Parks and environmental issues as the basis for her lessons.

The desert called her back to Petrified Forest National Park, AZ for a stint as an Interpretive Ranger, where she worked to educate people about the geology, prehistory and ecology of that area’s high desert. She earned her MS in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Northern Arizona, completing a study of the badly eroded canyons around Chinle, AZ on the Navajo Reservation. The work included engaging the community in assessing the environmental and social impacts of canyon erosion and community opinions about reversing the degradation.

Over the years she has also taken time to lead multiple summer high school trail maintenance crews and to teach conservation work skills to other SCA crew leaders. Before joining the Amargosa Conservancy team she was working with teenagers in Hawaii, teaching organic farming in the rainforest. She was thrilled by the opportunity to return to the desert, to engage with the land and the community, and to get her hands dirty working on sustainable and meaningful projects that will protect and preserve the resources of the Amargosa Watershed.

10628872_10104104526403118_322404507264507468_oJulie Vargo – Director of Finance and Operations

With a background in ecology, habitat restoration, trail work, leadership, and bookkeeping, Julie brings a broad skill set to our organization. Julie earned her B.S. in Ecology from Purdue University, then set out to explore the country and gain experience in the field. Her varied work experiences include  the National Park Service, environmental non-profits, and private industry where she helped to open a brewery. Julie is very excited to be working in the desert again, with a great set of programs and learning opportunities.

When Julie isn’t keeping us in line at the Amargosa Conservancy, she is saving people with the Inyo County Search and Rescue Team, baking pies, and playing in the mountains, deserts, and ocean as time allows.

celiaprofilepic2Celia Demers – Field Manager

How does a Western Massachusetts native end up in the Mojave Desert? Simply stated, I fell in Love with the beauty and biodiversity of America’s public lands.  My conservation journey has been a long and winding road, that has taken me all over this country to remote and wild places.  I have worked for the Western Colorado Conservation Corps, Student Conservation Association, Appalachian Mountain Club, Conservation Legacy and the National Park Service with a mission to serve, protect, and advocate for the land that I love through building trails that connect humankind to the natural world. I believe strongly in the importance of passing on the conservation torch as an advocate for youth and young adult empowerment . However when I’m not building trails, I can be found blissing out in nature with Chilimoe, (best cat in the whole world).

Brian_BrownBrian Brown – Resource Advocate

Brian is a fourth generation Mojave desert resident and member of a pioneer family in the region. Raised as one of seven children in Baker, California, he attended Servite preparatory school, a Catholic boys high school in Anaheim, CA. He then attended Colorado State University, where he competed in both the swimming and water polo. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in general agriculture in 1975. He then moved to Hawaii in 1977 where he met his future wife, Bonnie Tang. In 1978 he moved back to the desert, working for nearly a year as an underground miner in Death Valley. Brian then became a science teacher for the Death Valley Unified School District, and earned his California Teaching Credential from the University of California at Irvine. The Browns eventually settled at China Ranch near Tecopa, Ca. where they raised two children, Travis and Bianca. In 1996 and the Browns created China Ranch date farm and opened the ranch to the public for tours and visits. This continues to be their primary occupation, though Brian also serves as Resource Advocate for the Amargosa Conservancy. Over the years Brian has been an active community member, serving as a board member and officer in several local community organizations, including the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce, The Shoshone Museum Association, and the local health clinic.