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Kelly Sorenson - Executive Director
Kelly SorensonKelly Sorenson first started as a wildlife biologist focusing on saving endangered species in the wild, including work with peregrine falcons, bald eagles and California condors. As Executive Director for Ventana Wildlife Society since 2003, Kelly led the effort to establish the endangered California condor to central California. He has six, peer-reviewed scientific publications and numerous technical reports in the field of wildlife conservation. Kelly served on the California Condor Recovery Team, an advisory body to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, from 2001 to 2010. Kelly currently leads the fundraising, marketing and management efforts of Ventana Wildlife Society which now conducts research, wildlife recovery and outdoor youth education throughout central California and collaborates or contracts with dozens of government and nongovernmental agencies. He also serves on the board of directors for the International School of Monterey and this schools' foundation board. Kelly has a Bachelor of Science degree from West Virginia University and a Masters in Public Administration from Golden Gate University.

Mailing Address:
VWS Administrative Office
19045 Portola Drive, Suite F1
Salinas, California 93908
Phone: (831) 455-9514
Email Kelly

In July 2005 Monterey County Weekly recognized Kelly Sorenson as one of 12 local heroes who make Monterey County a better place. Read the article.

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Joe Burnett - Senior Wildlife Biologist
Joe BurnettJoe first began working with VWS in May 1993 as a Field Assistant for Ventana's Bald Eagle Restoration Program in Big Sur, CA. In 1996, Joe became Field Supervisor for Ventana's Condor Restoration Program and coordinated the first seven releases of condors in central California, six in Big Sur and one at Pinnacles National Monument. Joe left Ventana in 2003 to start up Oregon Zoo's Captive Breeding Program for condors. His experiences with captive condors vastly broadened his knowledge base of the species. In 2005, Joe returned to Ventana to coordinate the release effort once again. Joe received a bachelor's degree in Wildlife and Fisheries, focusing on birds, from West Virginia University in 1994. He began his field studies of birds as an undergraduate in 1992 and now has over 14 years experience working with a variety of bird species.

Mailing Address:
VWS Administrative Office
19045 Portola Drive, Suite F1
Salinas, California 93908
Phone: (831) 455-9514
Joe Burnett

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Cathy Hamilton - Office Manager
Cathy Hamilton Cathy began working with Ventana in January 2004. Cathy attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on a soccer scholarship with an interest in marketing. She has a rich background in administration and personnel development and has over 18 years experience in Retail/Management. Cathy volunteered with the Phoenix Symphony from 1990 to 1992 and was a docent at Point Lobos State Reserve from 1997 - 2003. She is the proud mother of two beautiful young boys named Dylan and Lincoln.
Cathy Hamilton

Mailing Address:
VWS Administrative Office
19045 Portola Drive, Suite F1
Salinas, California 93908
Phone: (831) 455-9514
Cathy Hamilton

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Jennifer Updyke - Education and Outreach
Cathy HamiltonJennifer Updyke began her career as a National Park ranger leading guests of all ages to experience the thrill of wild places. She focused on teaching youths in 2009 and has since taken off in the world of environmental education leading students to understand, appreciate, and value outdoor experiences. Before coming to Ventana Wildlife Society, Jenn taught in Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand, and various places in the lower 48 states. She worked with Ventana Wildlife Society in 2011 as a summer Naturalist, and is currently working in education and outreach. Jenn bring much to the outreach program, not least of which are her personal experiences and interests; rock climbing, hiking, travelling, dancing, and camping. Jenn earned a B.S. in Conservation Biology/Applied Vertebrate Ecology from Humboldt State University. She also holds a California Teaching Credential, Wilderness First Responder, Adult/Child/Infant CPR, and a Commercial Driver's License.

Mailing Address:
VWS Administrative Office
19045 Portola Drive, Suite F1
Salinas, California 93908
Phone: (831) 455-9514

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David Moen - Wildlife Biologist
David MoenDavid has worked in avian monitoring and environmental education since 1998. Among other projects, David has assisted with Sage Grouse monitoring in Oregon and Aplomado Falcon recovery in Texas. David has been actively engaged in California Condor research and management since 2002, when he joined Ventana Wildlife Society as an intern. His interest in Condors developed into a graduate degree program at Portland State University focusing on condor restoration. He conducted the first California Condor habitat assessments in the Pacific Northwest and designed research methods to search for former nesting sites in Oregon.  During that time, David partnered with the Oregon Zoo, providing tours of the condor breeding facility and outreach presentations to over 2,500 people. David rejoined Ventana Wildlife Society's Species Recovery Program in 2011 after an internship with Santa Barbara Zoo, during which he further developed condor field experience by assisting with nest entries, field observations, and condor trap-ups.

Mailing Address:
VWS Administrative Office
19045 Portola Drive, Suite F1
Salinas, California 93908
Phone: (831) 455-9514

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Alena Porte - Education Coordinator
Alena Porte Alena is a dedicated educator who is focused on providing meaningful outdoor experiences to underserved youth. Alena first began working with VWS in 2004 as an instructor for the Natural Science Discovery Camp, and then as Education Coordinator, coming to the program with seven years of experience in outdoor science education. A native of the East Coast, Alena received a bachelor's degree in Recreation and Outdoor Education, with a focus on natural interpretation, from SUNY (State University of New York) Cortland. She has teaching experience working with all ages from infant to adult, including individuals with special needs and behavioral challenges. With over 15 years experience in program development and management, Alena also has an extensive background in natural sciences, is trained in basic first aid, wilderness first aid and CPR, and holds a class B commercial driver's license.

Mailing Address:
VWS Administrative Office
19045 Portola Drive, Suite F1
Salinas, California 93908
Phone: (831) 455-9514
Alena Porte

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Mike Stake - Senior Wildlife Biologist
Mike Stake Mike is a San Francisco Bay Area native, returning home to the west coast in 2009 to work with Ventana Wildlife Society. Mike left California in 1988 to attend the University of Nebraska, opting for a stunning change of scenery, Husker football tickets, and a few eastern birds for the life list. After graduation, he spent several years with The Nature Conservancy at Fort Hood, Texas monitoring endangered Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers. He later assisted with research projects in the Bahamas, Australia, Peru and Ecuador, and also taught English classes in Russia. After completing his Master’s Degree at the University of Missouri in 2003, Mike spent five years coordinating avian research projects with Hawks Aloft, a non-profit organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work there included Gray Vireo monitoring, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher surveys, and working with power companies and agencies to help resolve avian issues associated with power lines.

Mailing Address:
VWS Administrative Office
19045 Portola Drive, Suite F1
Salinas, California 93908
Phone: (831) 455-9514
Email Mike Stake

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Mike Tyner - In Memoriam
Mike Tyner
Mike served as Field Supervisor for our California Condor Recovery Program from 2006 through 2011 but was tragically killed by a fallen tree during a windstorm on November 30, 2011. Mike first began working with Ventana Wildlife Society biologists in 2002 studying songbirds along the Carmel River. From there Mike went on to volunteer with our California Condor Recovery Program and also completed an internship with the bird banding lab. He then worked as a biologist with our Conservation Ecology and Species Recovery Programs working on numerous projects in Central California.

Aside from working with VWS, Mike worked with the Bureau of Land Management studying rare and endangered plants in the Algodones Dunes of Southeast California, worked as a Condor Nest Technician for the Santa Barbara Zoo, and interned and volunteered with the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout Project where he first got his start with condors. Mike was a graduate of California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Systematic Biology. Mike was a field biologist by trade and an avid birder and naturalist. He is greatly missed and will always be remembered.

More photos and more about Mike Tyner