Ken Owen is the co-founder and Executive Director of Channel Islands Restoration. He directs the organization and guides the operation. Mr. Owen participates in rare plant surveys, is involved in the formulation of habitat restoration strategies and manages the day-to-day operations.
Mr. Owen has more than seventeen years of experience managing large-scale ecological restoration projects in sensitive natural areas on the California coast. He has more than two decades of experience with non-profit management and is a co-founder and Executive Director of Channel Islands Restoration. He has been a restoration specialist for the University of California Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Audubon Society.
Mr. Owen has more than 30 years of experience educating the general public on a variety of topics including ecology, plant identification and habitat restoration techniques. As an instructor for CIR, Ken has organized and led most of the organization’s educational trips. He has been an instructor for the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Ventura County Adult Education, the California Invasive Plant Council, Exploritas and the American Red Cross. He has more than 25 years of experience recruiting, training and managing staff and volunteers on a professional basis for many organizations. He possesses a Qualified Applicator’s License through the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (license number: 39503).
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Since 1989, Rabbi Elihu Gevirtz has worked as an ecologist and land use planner. He has conducted numerous botanical and wildlife surveys in southern and central California, written habitat restoration plans and directed their implementation, written management plans for ecological reserves, mapped vegetation over thousands of acres, collected plant and animal specimens for scientific collections, co-authored County land use policy documents and written numerous CEQA and NEPA documents for local, state and federal government agencies. Prior to coming to CIR, he worked 10 years in Santa Barbara County government as a biologist and planner, 13 years as a private consultant (Condor Environmental Planning Services) and 3 years for environmental consulting firms.
Project & Operations Manager
Kevin Thompson has been working with Channel Islands Restoration since 2005 as Field Supervisor and Project Manager. Mr. Thompson has extensive training and experience in identification of native species, invasive plant eradication techniques within populations of rare and endangered species (e.g.: Cryptantha traskiae on San Nicolas Island), restoration planting, and vegetative bank stabilization. He specializes in a wide array of restoration techniques including the use of hand tools, power tools, machinery and herbicide application. He has 13 years of experience designing and leading habitat restoration projects on San Nicolas Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island and on the mainland. He trains and supervises CIR's restoration staff and volunteers. Mr. Thompson is experienced in rope access and repelling techniques. Mr. Thompson has training in tidewater goby surveys, marine biology, wildlife conservation, and environmental science. He holds a Qualified Applicator’s Certificate through the Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Kelle Green has been working with Channel Islands Restoration since 2015 as the Nursery Manager. She oversees CIR nursery operations through managing and coordinating staff and volunteers, budgets, biosecurity, nursery facility maintenance, seed collection, plant propagation, and plant care. On San Nicolas Island Ms. Green has coordinated the collection and propagation of over 30,000 plants and has assisted with their installation. CIR used these plants in restoration projects to create habitat for the recently delisted island night lizard, improve water quality through watershed restoration, restore beach dune habitat, and control erosion. Ms. Green oversaw the construction of two native seed farms to support plant propagation. She propagated plants for the largest single restoration project on the Channel Islands, planting a three-mile roadside strip for erosion control and safety of island fox. Ms. Green has also coordinated the collection and propagation of 14,000 plants for sensitive wetland habitat restoration at the Point Mugu Naval Base. On Anacapa Island, she coordinated the collection and propagation of 5,000 plants, many of which were rare island endemics, for the National Park Service. She also consistently balances workloads for numerous other projects, such as those to restore habitat in the Conejo Open Space, Hammond’s Meadow, Burton Mesa, San Marcos Foothills, and more.
Outreach Coordinator, GIS Specialist, Graphic Design, Web Development
Tanner graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2014 with a BS in Environmental Studies and an emphasis on conservation biology. After time spent working and volunteering for multiple other environmental nonprofits in Santa Barbara, he settled into working as the Outreach and Marketing Coordinator at Channel Islands Restoration. Here at CIR Tanner is in charge of / assists with graphic design, web development, writing columns for the newsletter, social media, IT support, making coffee, comedic relief, fundraising, video editing, events coordination, grant writing & reporting, writing in the third person, GIS, and more depending on the day of the week. He also occasionally gets let out of the office to assist with field work.
When not working he enjoys rock climbing, kayaking, backpacking, and road tripping and has a goal to see all 59 National Parks.
Nancy is CIR’s full-time Volunteer Coordinator. She promotes and maintains a wide range of volunteer opportunities within the organization through written communications, including email, social media and press announcements. She recruits volunteers for one-day and multiday volunteer opportunities on the mainland and Channel Islands. She manages and ensures quality control of volunteer paperwork (including waivers) for CIR and partner organizations. She communicates regularly with volunteers to answer questions, and provide instructions. She tracks volunteer commitments and hours in the organization database and report hours to CIR and partner organizations. She acts as a single point of contact for communications with volunteers and interested corporate/service groups and schools. She works in close cooperation with partner organizations on schedules and volunteer needs. She co-facilitates and supports training of certain volunteers for CIR and partner organizations.
Sarah Spellenberg has been the Nursery Technician for Channel Islands Restoration since 2016. She is the left-hand woman to the nursery manager, assisting in field collections, plant propagation, and volunteer training. She has experience in native plant identification, botanical surveys, invasive plant eradication, and irrigation installation and maintenance. She also helps the field crew outside of the nursery.
Sarah was instrumental in the plant propagation for the single largest restoration project on the Channel Islands – the San Nicolas Island Pipeline Project – helping to grow over 12,000 plants, including rare island endemics. She was also instrumental to the still ongoing seabird habitat restoration on Anacapa Island from 2016 – ’17 through nursery management, weed abatement, and volunteer coordination. Sarah has played an active role in the ongoing conservation of the Carpinteria Salt Marsh. From conducting botanic surveys and soil sampling to removing noxious weeds and installing native species, these combined efforts have contributed to the preservation of the marsh and the rare and endangered Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak (Chloropyron maritima ssp. maritima).
Sarah holds a BS in Environmental Science with a focus in applied ecology. Outside of CIR she can be found selling organic produce at the local farmers markets, playing frisbee with her boyfriend, backpacking and exploring new places, or whippin’ up mean meals in the kitchen.
Special Project Administrator
Lizzy moved here from Illinois in 2013. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a BA in Global Affairs and Anthropology, with an emphasis on sustainable development. She spent years working as a Divemaster on Catalina Island where she had the honor of working briefly with Jean-Michel Cousteau. Lizzy has also spent some time working with other environmental groups in California. She joined CIR in 2019 as the Special Projects Administrator. She helps the CIR team implement habitat restoration projects through a variety of administrative tasks. In her free time she enjoys going to the beach, cooking, and scuba diving the Channel Islands.