Southern Sierra Research Station

...conserving biological diversity through research


Mary Whitfield, Research Director

Mary J. Whitfield is the research director at the Southern Sierra Research Station. She holds a B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from U.C. Davis, and a M.S. degree in Biology from California State University, Chico. She has also taken post graduate classes at UCSB. She has over 25 years of fieldwork experience in the U.S. and has also worked in numerous Latin American countries. Mary has worked on a long-term breeding ecology study of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher since 1989. Over the past several years, she expanded her Willow Flycatcher work to their wintering areas in Mexico, Central America and South America. She has been the research director of the Southern Sierra Research station since the station opened in 2000.

Mary Whitfield

Michelle Johnson, Office Manager

Michelle has been our office manager since 2008 and comes to us with a diverse and unique background. She is a practicing nurse with expertise in acute care, skilled nursing, home health and Hospice care. She has also worked with developmentally disabled children and adults teaching them daily living skills. Michelle also loves animals; she has several dogs and cats, but her background suggests that she has a particular fondness for birds. In addition to her guineas, she has hand-raised parrots for twenty-six years! It started as a hobby and turned into a successful business. However, raising parrots requires daily care and the desire for a little free time compelled her to reduce her parrot flock to a Yellow-naped Amazon, a Double yellow-headed Amazon and one silly and chatty Goffin's Cockatoo.

Michelle Johnson

John Stanek, Project Manager and Avian Ecologist

John earned a B.S. in Natural Resource Management from Colorado State University in 1998, a B.S. in Biology from Western State College of Colorado in 2004, and an M.S. in Zoology from the University of Wyoming in 2008. For his master's degree, John combined his love of birds and mountains to study Brown-capped Rosy-Finch habitat selection in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. In addition to rosy-finch research, he has worked on Black Swifts, Flammulated Owls, Gunnison Sage-grouse, Painted Buntings, Red Crossbills, and desert riparian birds research projects. As a SSRS Wildlife Biologist, John primarily conducts research and data analysis for our Kern Valley and Lower Colorado River Yellow-billed Cuckoo projects. He also contributes to the station's other research projects and website and database development. Prior to his career in wildlife biology, John worked for eight years as an outdoor educator teaching outdoor recreation and leadership skills to high school and college students across the Southwest.

John Stanek

Kristie Stein, Research Associate

Kristie earned a B.S. in Natural Resource Ecology and Management from Louisiana State University in 2013 and a M.S. in Environment and Natural Resources from The Ohio State University in 2018. She became enamored with birds at a young age from following her father around the swamps of Louisiana, but it wasn't until she took an Ornithology course at LSU that she realized her real passion was avian research. Kristie has experience conducting fieldwork across the eastern United States as well as Peru and Puerto Rico including both game and non-game species. Her graduate research used multiple tracking technologies to fill gaps in the full annual life cycle of Black-crowned Night-Herons, a species of conservation concern across the Great Lakes region. More generally, her research interests include post-fledging ecology, seasonal interactions and carry-over effects, and movement ecology. Kristie will be assisting with many ongoing research projects at SSRS as well as leading a movement study of Tricolored Blackbirds, a state endangered species, using automated telemetry towers that are part of the Motus wildlife tracking system.

Shannon McNeil

Diane Tracy, LCR Cuckoo Project Leader

Diane's field biology experience includes fieldwork in the US, Australia, Ecuador, Mexico, Thailand and Nepal. She has worked as a bush regenerator/consultant in Australia and as an arid desert restoration ecologist in S. California, as well as owning her own business. Originally from Austin, Texas she moved to Tonasket, Washington buying 300 remote acres living off the grid in a small cabin where she raised her son, two daughters and numerous happy animals. Living intimately on the land for over 20 years she began to observe first hand the patterns of nature and decided to return to college, attending Evergreen State College in Olympia, where she studied Ornithology under Professor Steve Herman. She went on to obtain a Masters degree in Tropical Environmental Management studying cavity-nesting fauna in Northern Australia. Before becoming enthralled with birding she was an avid caver, rafter, backpacker, and traveler. She is an activist for the environment, animal rights, and has been a vegetarian for over 43 years. She has worked with the SSRS and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo since 2002.

Diane Tracy

Research Affiliates

Bruce Garlinger, Research Affiliate

Bruce is a co-owner of EREMICO Consulting and works with SSRS on various research projects. Bruce is a desert biologist with a particular interest in and experience with desert bighorn sheep. Mr. Garlinger has over 27 years of experience as a biological consultant, conducting wildlife and plant surveys in the desert regions of California and Nevada. His work includes wildlife and plant inventories, threatened and endangered species surveys, population monitoring, habitat evaluations, and environmental compliance monitoring. He has extensive experience surveying for desert bighorn sheep. Bruce conducts U.S. Fish and Wildlife protocol-level surveys for the federal and California listed desert tortoise, Least Bell's Vireo, Inyo California Towhee, and Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and California protocol level surveys for Mohave ground squirrel, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, and flat-tailed horned lizards. For more information about Bruce's wildlife work please visit this linked pdf.

Bruce Garlinger

Denise LaBerteaux, Research Affiliate

Denise is a co-owner of EREMICO Consulting and works with SSRS on various research projects. Denise is the leading expert on the federally threatened and California endangered Inyo California Towhee and often conducts population studies within its range in the Argus Mountains for the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Navy. Denise LaBerteaux began her professional career in 1980 as a biologist for the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, CA. For the next 7 years she conducted wildlife and plant surveys and prepared environmental reports for the Navy. Since 1987, Ms. LaBerteaux has been a biological consultant, conducting natural resource surveys and preparing environmental reports. She specializes in wildlife and plant studies in the desert regions of California and Nevada. Her work includes wildlife and plant inventories, threatened and endangered species surveys, baseline botanical studies, population monitoring, habitat evaluations, impact assessments, mitigation planning, and environmental compliance monitoring. For more information about Denise's wildlife work please visit this pdf.

Denise LaBerteaux

Jeff Manning, Statistical Advisor

Jeff is a wildlife scientist specializing in quantitative population ecology. He received his doctorate in wildlife biology from the University of Idaho, a M.S. in wildlife science from Oregon State University, and his B.S. in ecology and systematic biology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Dr. Manning has over 30 years of experience working for various federal agencies, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service in California, as well as the sole proprietor of a research business. His experience includes the development and implementation of survey methods for colonial nesting seabirds, western burrowing owls, and mammals. Jeff also has extensive field experience in California, and is one of the biologists who released the first group of California condors back into the Sespe Condor Sanctuary. More recently, Dr. Manning's research and peer-reviewed publications have focused on habitat selection, species interactions, and population dynamics in a variety of taxa, including elk, deer, grey wolf, feral horse, owls, and wolverine. Jeff specializes in experimental design, sampling, and novel statistical approaches to contribute to sensitive species conservation and management.

Jeff Manning