Who We Are

Who We Are

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.

Carlo Arreglo, Project Coordinator, functions as the communication/outreach contact and liaises with the program managers and director to achieve the Institute’s goals. In this role, Carlo draws from a wide-ranging background as a former National Park Service interpretive ranger and University of California-Berkeley instructor in the English and Environmental Science, Policy, and Management departments. An avid birder, Carlo volunteers for the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and leads walks for the Golden Gate Audubon Society. He holds a degree in English from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master's in English from University of Hawai`i at Manoa.

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 program. Catherine holds a degree in History from Stanford University and a Master’s in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Honoré Pedigo, Administrative and Operations Coordinator, ensures the day to day running of the Institute offices and giving general assistance to the Institute staff. 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 degrees in Anthropology from University of California, San Diego and enjoys traveling and exploring cultural sites in her free time.

Chris Spence is the Director of the Institute at the Golden Gate. Chris 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.

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. She has been leading the development of the Park Prescriptions pilot in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco and is also serving as the lead facilitator for the Healthy Parks, Healthy People: Bay Area collaborative. Kristin holds degrees in Political Science, Geography, and Art History from Gustavus Adolphus College and has spent significant time abroad studying, researching, and training activists.

Senior Fellow

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.


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 serving as the Interpretation and Education Business Plan Consultant.

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 Association, 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.       

Advisory Council

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