Management Team

Protecting the natural and cultural resources of the Santa Monica Mountains

D. Ezekiel Schlais, Executive Director

D. Ezekiel Schlais joined the organization as Interim Executive Director, effective June 8, 2018 and became our permanent Executive Director as of August 6, 2018.  D. Ezekiel has extensive experience leading and innovating environmental projects and partnerships, including having guided a number of institutions through pivotal transitions. Through his private equity experience, D. Ezekiel has frequently worked with underperforming organizations to effect operational changes that increase revenues and impact. Schlais is also a published scientist in PLOS ONE for research on poison dart frogs in Costa Rica and has worked with various environmental organizations, including the Placer Land Trust and The Sierra Nevada Conservancy. He is excited and passionate about the future of MRT and its mission of a more sustainable future.

Vegetation Ecology

Tom Hayduk, Restoration Supervisor and Plant Nursery Manager

Tom is our resident horticulture expert and heads up the Vegetation crew in habitat restoration. Tom is in charge of seed collection and processing, plant propagation, transplanting, nursery maintenance, restoration planning and reporting, non-native plant control and installation of restoration plantings. He has been working with native plants for over three decades, as the plant propagator at Ranch Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Weber Nursery, in landscape design and construction, biological monitoring and Arborist services. He began working for MRT in August 2009, collecting native seed part time for a Cold Creek Valley Preserve mitigation project, joining full time in December 2009. Tom developed the nursery that is supplying native plants for restoration projects using site-collected seed and cuttings. The starter nursery is located at Headwaters Corner, and transplants are stored at a State Park-owned greenhouse and shade house. Native plants grown from Santa Monica Mountain sources will be available for native plant restoration sites.

Our Staff & Volunteers

This year we celebrate 35 years and continue our vision to protect and preserve the Santa Monica Mountains.

We hold volunteer events nearly every weekend, providing people with opportunities to take part in restoration.

We run a plant nursery where we sow and grow native plants used in restoration projects.

Our Cold Creek Docent program leads monthly nature walks, sharing opportunities for youth to experience nature first-hand.

With the ongoing support of donors and the community, our Staff and Volunteers will continue to broaden the scope of environmental protection.

Vegetation Habitat Restoration:

  • Tom Hayduk (Manager)
  • Manny Gomez
  • Betsey Sheets
  • Ken Niessen
  • Gabino Rezendis
  • Adin Shy-Sobol
  • German Chuiz
  • Mark Fiege
  • Rebecca Kosugi
  • Amy Yuelapwan

Wildlife Biologists:

  • Mark Mendelsohn

Aquatic Biology:

  • Joseph Curti (Manager)
  • Erik Sode

GIS and Land Forms Specialists:

  • Stephen Bednar
  • Kevin Gaston

Archaeological Resources Specialist:

  • Eva Larson

Development Coordinator:

  • Isha Shah

Cold Creek Docents:

  • Nancy Helsley (Head of Docents and Board Member)
  • Stephanie Bower
  • Hollie Dickinson
  • Mike Konier
  • Oscar Ortiz
  • Cathleen Sarte
  • Paul Waller


Board of Directors

Jo Powe, President, joined the Board in 2010. A long-time resident of the Santa Monica Mountains Jo comes to the Board with a great enthusiasm for helping continue to protect this unique resource. Jo has been a lawyer since 1983 and has devoted her legal career to environmental causes. For more than 10 years she was lead attorney for the Friends of Ballona Wetlands. She was a founding partner of Hedges, Powe & Caldwell, a Los Angeles law firm that represented numerous environmental organizations. Jo was very active in the legal opposition to the SOKA development at King Gillette Ranch and worked with many environmental groups in opposition to development of Ahmanson Ranch. Jo has served on the Board of Trustees of the Center for Law in the Public Interest and is currently serving as a consulant to the Los Angeles Parks Foundation.

Bob Wayne, Vice-President, joined the board in 2008. He is a professor at UCLA where he holds joint positions in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Institute of the Environment. He directs a research program with a strong focus on conservation and as a resident of the Cold Creek area, is familiar with local issues. He has been involved with research projects at Stunt Ranch and throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. At UCLA he teaches conservation biology and is editor of a leading journal in the field.

Marika Erdely, Treasurer, joined the board in 2009. She is a California native and lives at the base of the Santa Monica mountains. Marika is a LEED AP BD+C and her business focus is on sustainability through her consulting firm Marika is also Chief Financial Officer and Vice President at New Millennium Homes, and has had held financial positions at Xavient Technologies, Contractors Wardrobe, and Tandon Corporation. Marika brings her financial expertise to direct the development of statements and analyses that assist in directing the financial future of MRT. She brings her business experience and love of the natural environment to her position on the Board. Duties: Treasurer.

Nancy Helsley, as President of the Cold Creek Docents who operate MRT’s education program at the UCLA Stunt Ranch Reserve, joined the board in 1993. As a charter member of the Cold Creek Docents in 1978, Nancy worked to develop the docent program that received the Take Pride in California award and the Governor`s Historic Preservation Award in 1992. Nancy has been an activist in the Santa Monica Mountains since the 1960`s and a life-long teacher of ecology, archeology, the environment and the cultural history of the Chumash. She is a director of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, past board member and president of the Cold Creek Community Council. Nancy taught in the L.A. Unified School District, managed a YMCA summer camp and participated in numerous outdoor education programs. She was the co-chair of the Trust`s Celebrity Auction which netted over $85,000.

Jim Hughes is a practicing land use and real estate attorney with nearly 30 years of experience in project development and related matters. As a large national law firm partner for most of his career, Jim has handled all manner of development, redevelopment, land use, CEQA, entitlement, and related matters on behalf of a variety of clients including owners, operators, lenders, and third parties in support and opposition. An ex-New Yorker, Jim spent many a youthful afternoon dreaming of experiencing California and the open spaces of the West. In 1978 he finally realized that goal. He is active in a wide variety of real estate organizations. His personal interest is in the crafting of win-win outcomes resulting in the successful co-existence, where feasible, of urbanization and our diminishing wild places. Jim joined the MRT Board in 2010.

Suze Randall Knipe was born and raised in England where she was trained as a nurse and midwife. She and her husband-to-be Humphrey Knipe were lucky enough to move to Los Angeles in 1975 where she became an established photographer. They discovered the Monte Nido area in the Santa Monica Mountains in 1992 when they were looking for a good school district for their 3 children. As Suze has been a keen horsewoman since childhood, the area was a dream come true. Now retired, Suze spends time running Dark Canyon Ranch and discovering the beauty of our native habitat with the help of MRT. Suze became a board member in 2015.

Dr. Lee Kats received his B.A. from Calvin College in Michigan and the Ph.D. in biology from the University of Kentucky. From 2001 until 2011 he served as Associate Dean for Research at Pepperdine University and since 2011 he has served as Vice Provost for Research and Strategic Initiatives. He began teaching at Pepperdine in 1990. In 2000, Dr. Kats was named as the Frank R. Seaver Chair in Natural Science at Pepperdine University. He conducts research in the areas of animal ecology, tropical ecology and conservation biology. For over 25 years he and his students have studied the conservation biology of local amphibians. He also conducts research and teaches in Costa Rica and Argentina. As Vice Provost, Dr. Kats works closely with Pepperdine’s information technology department, office of institutional effectiveness and assessment, and research and sponsored programs. Dr. Kats is also involved in the university’s strategic planning process and implementation.

Ann Ehringer is a returning veteran of the MRT Board of Directors. Ann has served as an independent outside director on the boards of over forty companies across a wide range of private and public companies and non-profit organizations. Her current active directorships include Truck-Rail Handling Inc./Quality Transport Inc.; Industrial Metal Supply Company; Riedon, Inc.; Univ. of Southern California, Roski School of Art and Design; and Pepperdine University, Crest Associates. Her previous directorships include public companies in telecommunications and video software, publishing, real estate, venture capital; and non-profit organizations in land use. Ann is a former Visiting Professor at the School of Business Studies, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland; and former full-time associate professor of entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. She also was Director of USC’s Family Business Program.

Annalise Di Santo is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and she’s very excited to begin her journey with MRT. She received her B.S. in Ecology in June of 2017 and is looking forward to utilizing her education by participating in the preservation and restoration of the Santa Monica Mountains. She is currently an Energy Project Assistant for a Green EconoME, a sustainability company focused on saving energy through construction and consulting. During her time at UCSB, she served on the Coastal Fund Board, an organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing the terrestrial and marine environments associated with the shoreline of Santa Barbara. This experience fueled her passion to preserve undeveloped land in urban areas. Having recently moved to Los Angeles, Annalise is excited to learn more about the native flora and fauna in the Santa Monica area.

Meg Haywood Sullivan is a photographer & environmentalist who splits her time between shooting campaigns and pushing for environmental stories through editorial features & social platforms. In addition to shooting for environmentally-minded companies like KEEN, Patagonia, prAna, and Clif Bar, she also participates in leading climate change panel discussions. Meg’s career has taken her from contributing to a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece with the New York Times, to photographing with the world’s leading snowboard brands, to documenting a feature with National Geographic Adventure following John Muir’s footsteps on the fastest retreating glacier in Yosemite. Meg is currently a leading ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our oceans through a powerful activist network, as well as an ambassador for Protect Our Winters, the premiere climate advocacy group for the winter sports community.

Join us now to make your impact

Not sure how you can help? Don’t worry about it.

There are many ways to help. We can help you find a way to help that’s fun for you, and good for the mountains!

Join us today