Judy Abercrombie, Finance Manager

Judy was integral in the finance management and function of MSI, and still helps MSI from time to time. She does the books or helps out with 6 other non-profits, including volunteer time working various fundraisers.

Judy spent 30 years in the corporate world, 6 at Budget Rent A Car in Hawaii, and 23 working for a software firm in the Washington DC area.  She was Assistant Controller when she retired in 1998 and moved to Durango.  Unable to stay idle, she took on assorted bookkeeping gigs, and found her niche in the non-profit world.  She does the books or helps out with 6 other non-profits, including volunteer time working various fundraisers.  

Judy travels frequently to Hawaii and the Washington DC area to visit family and friends.  Las Vegas is a favorite fall/winter/spring get-away.  She enjoys hiking, road trips, and hot springs. 

Lisa Branner, Director of Development and Engagement


Lisa Branner served as Director of Development and Engagement. She spearheaded fundraising efforts and worked to build community connections through outreach. Branner’s prior career includes a wealth of experience in marketing, public relations and fundraising in the non-profit and for-profit realms. She is a co-founder of the Silverton-based craft manufacturer Venture Snowboards, and has worked in a variety of science-based institutions like the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and Durango Nature Studies. A Silverton resident for a decade, Branner has a keen interest in community development, and has served as a board member for San Juan Development Association and Silverton Chamber of Commerce. Today, Lisa is working for the Town of Silverton as their Public Relations Specialist. 

Esmé Cadiente, M.S.

Previously: Water and Climate Project Manager, Mountain Studies Institute, Durango, CO

Currently: Program Coordinator, Forest Stewards Guild, Santa Fe, NM

Esmé holds an M.S. in Ecohydrological Science and Management from the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID, and a B.S. in Environmental Biology from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO.

Her past and on-going work has emphasized the mixed use of watershed landscapes and the coupling between human and natural systems to manage land and water resources at the landscape to regional scale. Esmé’s past research and education have led to projects that examine the interface between hydrologic and riparian systems for the purpose of maintaining stream health and water quality within watersheds.

Esmé’s areas of expertise include stream restoration, water quality monitoring, wetland delineation/restoration, fish population dynamics and management, climate adaptation strategy and resilience planning, alpine plant phenology and vegetation/riparian surveys.

During Esmé's time at MSI she lead MSI's Alpine Lakes Water and Air Quality Monitoring project, Mancos River Restoration and Resiliency Building, Animas River Water Quality Monitoring, and Vallecito Creek Water Quality Sampling efforts. She was integral in MSI's climate initiative, including the San Juan Basin Social-Ecological Climate Response, and the San Juan Climate Resiliency network, as well as writing MSI's Climate Adaptation and Wetlands Management booklets. Esmé additionally coordinated brand strategies for MSI, web design and upkeep, event planning and media marketing for MSI, as well as outreach events such as the annual San Juan Mining And Reclamation Conference.

Esmé is a frequent traveler and photographer, and now lives in Santa Fe, NM where she works for the Forest Stewards Guild as a Program Coordinator. Get in touch with Esmé: esme@forestguild.org

Lauren Marino, Field Technician


Lauren Marino was a forestry crew member for MSI throughout summer and fall of 2017. A perfect position for her considering her passion for trees! Especially the Ponderosa Pine, which is the focus of most research Lauren performs in the field. 

Lauren graduated from Colorado State University with  a Natural Resource Management Degree with emphasis in Ecological Restoration and Global Environmental Sustainability. She moved to Durango after hiking the Colorado Trail which starts in Denver and ends up in our lovely town here in Durango. She discovered Mountain Studies Institute after working for MSI's partner organization Colorado Forest Retoration Institute, which is based in Fort Collins, CO. 

If she isn't in the field gathering data or in the office crunching data, you'll find Lauren hiking peaks and identifying every possible plant along the way. 

Noah Chutz

M.A.  Volunteer, Membership & Citizen Science Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA member)

Noah earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource Management with an emphasis in Forestry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004.  He has a Dual Degree M.A in International Affairs and Natural Resources/Sustainable Development from American University and the United Nations-affiliated University for Peace in Costa Rica, respectively. 

His professional experience has focused on sustainable forest management and community development, with a concentration on international climate change policy and the developing REDD+ framework (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).  Noah’s work has taken him all over the globe, from California to Mexico to Guyana, where people, forests and culture intersect in unique and fascinating ways.  Partners have included the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), US Forest Service, International Programs, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Noah spends his personal time outdoors, enjoying the exceptional backpacking, fly-fishing and snowboarding opportunities of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  Someday he hopes to spend half his year growing his permaculture farm in Costa Rica. Email Noah.

Matt Cook, Forest Health & GIS Specialist


Matt joined MSI in March of 2018 as a research assistant and field crew leader assisting with MSI’s forest health programs. He also provided GIS and cartography support for MSI and their collaborating partners.

Matt graduated with a B.S. in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability from Colorado State University in December of 2016. He spent the last three years working with Colorado Forest Restoration Institute assisting with research and field data collection across different forest types throughout Colorado. He was heavily involved in field monitoring logistics as a field crew leader for the Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response (SBEADMR) project in the Gunnison National Forest.

Matt is currently in Portland, OR pursuing a masters degree at Portland State University. We wish him the best of luck in his new adventures!


Tim graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado with a double major in Environmental Studies and Geography, a certificate in Hydrology and Water Resources, and a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. His experience includes assisting in the design and implementation of wetland restoration projects in the San Juan Mountains.  Before joining MSI, he worked on reforestation events and urban greening in South Africa.  

Tim is passionate for travel, helping others, and almost any activity outdoors.  He spends his off time exploring the mountains around Silverton, venturing into nearby deserts, and planning his next adventure abroad. Email Tim.

Lacey Danna, Nonprofit Management Intern


Lacey served as the nonprofit management intern for MSI. She worked with the MSI staff to promote events, develop volunteers and supporters of MSI, communicate with members and the public, and assist with nonprofit management. Lacey is passionate about botany, geology, and plant-human interactions. Lacey has worked as a botanist’s assistant for graduate students at the University of Montana and in the Pisgah National Forest in Asheville, North Carolina which has led to her love for botanical research and plant ID. At the University of Montana, Lacey was involved in the University of Montana’s environmental group, Climate Action Now, where she was fortunate enough to attend the Powershift Conference in Washington DC back in 2011.

Matt Edrich, Community Forestry Intern


As the Collaborative Forestry intern for MSI, Matt balanced his time between collecting forestry data in the field and coordinating data and communications for the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership. Although he's back at school now, Matt still helps MSI and the San Juan Headwaters remotely. 

Matt is currently finishing work on his B.S. of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability at Colorado State University, where he also studies Peace & Reconciliation. Initially starting out in medicine, he has also studied visual arts and philosophy and spent a couple years wandering across Australia and Asia before discovering his true calling as an ecologist. He hopes to steer his career towards landscape and ecosystem restoration, transcending international boundaries.

In addition to MSI, he has worked in geospatial analysis & mapping, sound ecology, and a range of odd jobs spanning volunteer disaster relief via pirate ship to things Mike Rowe wouldn’t be caught doing. His middle name is Powell, a la John Wesley Powell, and he's really trying to live up to his namesake. Matt is a hikin’, bikin’, scuba divin’, rock climbin’, poetry writin’, piano playin’, pen doodlin’, river runnin’, joke crackin’, philosophizin’ human intent on saying yes to the opportunities that make for great campfire stories.

Jack Hewitt, Hydrology Intern

Jack is a Durango native, but currently lives in California, where he is attending the University of Redlands for Environmental Science. Before his internship, he worked at a bike shop for five summers. He enjoyed it, but wanted to try something that would push him and advance his knowledge. In the summer of 2017 he joined MSI for the FC-FCLIP hydrology internship with the US Forest Service. His main academic interests are in the geosciences, research, data collection, GIS and earth systems and his hope is to focus on wetland environments. Outside or work you will most likely find Jack mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, road biking, and paddling. He loves it all. 

Emily Olson, Education Coordinator

emily olson

Emily Olson was MSI’s Education Coordinator from 2011 to January, 2015. She oversaw several programmatic areas including citizen science initiatives, Four Corners Federal Lands Internship, the annual San Juan Mining Conference, Science Fair, “Science Into Action” Service Learning, K-12 school outreach, and teacher training.

Fostering a passion for restoration borne through some of her work with MSI, she went on to serve as the Stewardship Coordinator with the Chama Peak Land Alliance in Durango, CO. Both of these opportunities culminated in Emily combining her interest in restoration, health, and the miracle of life to pursue a nurse practitioner degree in midwifery in her home state of Oregon.

Koren Nydick, Ph.D, Executive Director 2006-2010

Koren Nydick (2).jpg

Koren Nydick was MSI’s Executive Director from 2006-2010 and Director of Research & Education from 2004-2006. She is a 2002 graduate of Colorado State University and earned a PhD in ecology. While at MSI, Koren developed many programs, such as wetland assessment and restoration, air and water quality studies, and the San Juan Climate Initiative. She also began several educational efforts, including the intern program, PikaNET citizen science, My Water Comes from the San Juan Mountains school program, and various seminar series, workshops, and conferences. Koren is ecstatic that MSI is thriving and that these programs have continued and grown in scope, with many new ones developed as well. Koren left MSI to become the Science Coordinator at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, She is now the Chief of Resource Stewardship at Rocky Mountain National Park. Her work benefits from all that she learned while at MSI, and she has many special memories of the San Juan Mountains. 

Jaime Rogers, Mountain Discovery Center Intern


Jaime helped to craft the Mountain Discovery Center and it's programs in Silverton during her FC-FLIP internship in the summer of 2017.  

Jaime is one of those sea level sissies everyone talks about. Originally from Maine, Jaime attended Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, receiving her B.A. in Environmental Studies. Since graduating, she has worked in Maine and Phoenix, Arizona. Jaime loves exploring and spent last summer traveling the United States; she is five states short of visiting them all. She is proud to have put so much into the Mountain Discovery Center in Silverton. This fall, she is headed back to Maine for her graduate studies. 

Laurel Sebastian, Forest Health Education Coordinator


Laurel left Durango in November, 2018 to return to her home state of California after 7 incredible years in Colorado, and 1.5 with MSI.

Laurel joined MSI as the FC-FLIP Natural Resources Intern in May of 2017. Throughout the summer, she assisted with environmental education and botanical field projects across the San Juans. As the FC-FLIP program came to a close in August, she stayed on as a field technician to help with forestry research in Pagosa Springs and Bonita Peaks Mining District water sampling in Silverton. In December 2017, Laurel officially joined MSI's staff as the Forest Health Education Coordinator to continue her diverse role in helping organize collaborative partnerships (San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnerships and The 2-3-2 Cohesive Strategy Partnership), educational programs, and botanical research projects. 

Laurel graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from Colorado College in 2016, with minors in Southwest Studies and Feminist and Gender Studies. She has spent the last five summers outdoors, between conducting botanical research projects, assessing conservation easements, and building trails. Her past research explored the effects of drought and competition for pollinators on subalpine wildflowers. She loves backpacking, mountain biking, baking, and making stained glass pieces. Since moving to Durango last year, Laurel has also volunteered with La Plata Open Space Conservancy and the Women’s Resource Center of Durango.