The Institute at the Golden Gate champions sustainable development and environmental stewardship. Our mission is to drive action and change on the critical issues of our time. Leveraging our expertise and networks—especially those in parks and protected areas—the Institute acts as a catalyst and leader, incubating and implementing new ideas, policies and practices where it can have a clear impact. The Institute is a program of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in partnership with the National Park Service.
Catherine Carlton, Program Manager at the Institute at the Golden Gate, comes to the Institute with interdisciplinary experience designing and implementing environmental programs for maximum social impact. She specializes in action-oriented strategic planning and partnership development. With the Institute, she is leading the development of our climate change, education, and urban work. Catherine holds a degree in History from Stanford University and a Master’s in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Donna Leong, Project Coordinator, has a background in health policy and governmental partnerships. She has worked in the Lt. Governor’s Office of Rhode Island to implement long term care policy using cross-sector engagement. She is working on the Healthy Parks, Healthy People: Bay Area collaborative to ensure continued success of the internationally renowned program. Donna holds degrees in Ethnic Studies, Political Science, and American Studies from Brown University.
Honoré Pedigo, Operations and Outreach Manager, ensures the smooth operation of the Institute offices and gives general support to its staff, as well as oversees our Emerging Leaders Fellowship program. Additionally, Honoré acts as a liaison between our partners Cavallo Point Lodge qualifying environmental groups and answering questions about the dynamic relationships at play at Fort Baker. Honoré, a Bay Area native, holds a degree in Anthropology from University of California, San Diego, and enjoys exploring in her free time.
Chris Spence, Director of the Institute at the Golden Gate, has 20 years’ experience working internationally and in the United States on sustainable development, conservation, climate change, and health policy. He has held leadership positions at non-profits in New York, New Zealand and California. He has also served as a political advisor and is an award-winning writer. Chris is the author or co-author of several books, including Global Warming: Personal Solutions for a Healthy Planet (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Chris has served on a number of boards and advisory groups over the years, and is currently on the Board of Directors of the George Wright Society and a member of IUCN’s World Protected Areas Commission.
Melissa Tsang, Program Manager at the Institute at the Golden Gate, specializes in strategic partnership development with nonprofit organizations, social enterprises, and corporations to design and deliver impact solutions. She has worked across a diverse set of challenges including environmental education, healthcare, sustainable food, and more. As part of the founding Institute team, Melissa has led the development of several key projects and initiatives. She currently oversees the Institute’s sustainable food program. Melissa holds degrees in Biology and Chinese Studies from UC San Diego, a management certificate from Stanford University, and is earning her MBA at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.
Kristin Wheeler, Program Manager at the Institute at the Golden Gate, has a strong background in environmental and social justice issues and training, as well as six years of experience in community organizing. Kristin led the development of the Park Prescriptions pilot in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco and serves as the lead facilitator for the Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area collaborative and the National Park Prescriptions Initiative. Kristin serves on the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco and is a member of IUCN’s World Protected Areas Commission and the Healthy Parks, Healthy People Global Task Force. Kristin holds degrees in Political Science, Geography, and Art History from Gustavus Adolphus College.
Fellowship for Emerging Leaders
Ruth Pimentel researches urban engagement in the national parks as a Fellow at the Institute at the Golden Gate. Passionate about public use of the outdoors, she has done urban gardening and habitat restoration for endangered plants throughout the Bay Area, including a year of ecological fieldwork in the Presidio of San Francisco. She has also worked in Bosnia, Israel, and Honduras, and earned a degree in archaeology with certification in Modern Standard Arabic from Harvard University.
Hector Zaragoza, Health and Wellness Fellow, has a background in research as well as environmental education. He will contribute to the development of both the Youth and Wellness Initiative in partnership with the Crissy Field Center in addition to the Healthy People Healthy Parks initiative at the Institute at the Golden Gate. He holds a degree in International Development Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and has experience studying and working abroad in both Germany and Mexico. When not in the office, he enjoys playing football and biking.
Nooshin Razani, MD, MPH is a practicing pediatrician at the Silva Clinic in Hayward and Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland. She was trained as a "Nature Champion" by the National Environmental Education Foundation in 2010. Since that time she has become a champion in the Bay Area of forging partnerships between health and parks, and getting individuals and communities outside for their physical and mental health. She is currently the lead medical Senior Fellow to the Institute at the Golden Gate, including overseeing a pilot in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco, sitting on the leadership team for Healthy Parks, Healthy People: Bay Area, and participating in the National Park Prescriptions Initiative data and measurement work group. She is currently working with Children's Hospital Oakland Primary Care department and East Bay Regional Park Department on a partnership.
Consultants + Interns
Namita M. Koppa currently serves as the Institute's Food for the Parks Consultant. With a background in public health, sustainable food systems, and geospatial analysis, she is passionate about finding holistic, creative, and cost-effective solutions to sustainability challenges. Raised by a mom and dad who love to travel, Namita has fond childhood memories of roadtripping to the nation's most beautiful sites via cargo van. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the world, being active, hearing peoples' stories, making craft beer ice creams, and cheering on the Duke University Blue Devils.
Graham Schnaars comes as a consultant to the Institute after years of experience working as a civil engineer and as a public policy advisor for numerous issues, including both environmental and conservation efforts. He enjoys working with a diverse team, finding common ground solutions that deliver efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective results. When he’s not poring over Venn Diagrams, Graham enjoys playing outdoors, getting his fair-skin sunburnt, finding himself lost in the woods, talking about training for triathlons, or spending a rainy afternoon whittling. He is currently assisting the Institute with their Interpretation and Education Business Plan as well as Fort Baker marketing.
Julia Townsend is an Environmental Policy Consultant specializing in strategic communications, community mobilization, and behavior change. She has been a Policy Analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Congressional campaign staffer, and teacher at different points in her career. She received her Master’s in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, has been a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas since 2012, and is currently based in the Monterey Bay Area where she is learning to surf.
Emilie Wolfson serves as a health intern for the Institute with a background in environmental policy, sustainability planning, and outdoor environmental education. Currently, she is a master’s student in City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley with a specific focus on environmental planning. Prior to attending Cal, she worked as an environmental educator as well as a recreational leader for San Francisco Recreation and Park leading Healthy Parks, Healthy People walks in both Golden Gate Park and McLaren Park. Born and raised in New York City and once described as transitioning from Prada to PrAna, Emilie likes to breakdown typical stereotypes of city slickers by hiking and camping both in the Bay Area and throughout the rest of the country. She also likes to explore hidden urban treasures, and play guitar in her graduate student band, Eminent Domain.
Mark Buell (Chair), Civic Leader, San Francisco
Suzanne Badenhoop, Civic Leader, San Francisco
Randi Fisher, Pisces Foundation, San Francisco
John Gamble, Managing Partner, Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis, LLP, San Francisco
Patsy Ishiyama, Civic Leader, San Francisco
Jay Ku, Vice President, Partnerships, TakePart.com / Participant Media
John McCosker, Chair of Aquatic Biology, California Academy of Sciences
Amy McCombs, Civic Leader, San Francisco
Whitney Mortimer, Partner, Global Marketing Director, IDEO
Julie Parish, Landscape Designer, Liaison to the William Kent Society, San Francisco