Younger Lagoon Reserve Staff

  • Beth at Big Creek

    Elizabeth Howard, M.A. - Director

    Beth is both the Director of Younger Lagoon Reserve and a graduate student in UCSC's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

    Beth’s passion for the outdoors grew from a childhood spent catching frogs and turtles in the woods, springs, and cypress swamps of Florida.  

    Beth received her bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz in 2001 and her master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from UC Santa Cruz in 2022. After graduating from UCSC, she worked on sustainable agriculture projects in California and Vermont, and later on plant ecology research projects, primarily in California. Prior to her appointment as the Director of Younger Lagoon Reserve, Beth worked as the Steward of UCSC’s Campus Natural Reserve, and as a researcher on UCSC’s Forest Ecology Research Plot, where she conducted long term monitoring of a coastal forest.

    At Younger Lagoon Reserve she is responsible for facilitating research, teaching and public education at the reserve. Additionally, she coordinates biological and environmental monitoring, is responsible for compliance and annual reporting, and administers the reserve’s native habitat restoration program.

    For her graduate work, Beth is studying the long-term success of native habitat restoration projects on the Central Coast.

  • Vaughan in Utah

    Vaughan Williams - Restoration Field Manager

    Vaughan works as the Restoration Field Manager of Younger Lagoon Reserve, a position that supports research, education, and stewardship in this unique outdoor classroom.

    Vaughan was born and raised in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the Mojave Desert of southern California. At a young age, he assisted in a desert tortoise “head-starting” program, working with biologists who mentored him and sparked an insatiable curiosity for the natural world.

    Leaving the desert, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolution from the University of California, Santa Cruz. After graduating, he worked for River Ridge Ranch and its associated non-profit (land management focusing on sustainable ecological practices), various biological consulting firms, and Transition Habitat Conservancy (a land trust focusing on the western Mojave Desert).

    As a student at UCSC, Vaughan took advantage of the UC Natural Reserve System by enrolling in internships and field courses, conducting undergraduate thesis research, and monitoring mammal populations as a field biologist. Now as a Field Manager for a Natural Reserve, he is able to provide support and mentorship to Reserve users in a manner that he valued as a student.

    He is an avid rock climber, ultralight backpacker, and cyclist and he has spent extended periods searching out beautiful places in North America.

  • Eric headshot

    Eric Medina - Research, Education, Outreach, and Restoration Steward

    Eric Medina works as the Research, Education, Outreach, and Restoration Steward for Younger Lagoon Reserve. He supports restoration work while overseeing programming that brings students and the public to the reserve such as visiting classes, summer camps, and UCSC internships. 

    Eric developed an appreciation for the natural world through his family that had recently immigrated from Yucatan, Mexico. His parents and siblings raised him telling stories of how local plants and animals provided abundance in their lives which has guided his interests throughout life.

    Eric graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BS in ecology and evolutionary biology and a BA in Latin American Latino Studies in 2019. While an undergraduate Eric spent his time in field courses, working for campus gardens, and leading trips through the Recreation Department. The Natural Reserve System was a fundamental part of Eric’s time as an undergraduate. In these spaces he felt the freedom to explore his curiosity and develop a strong sense of place in California ecosystems. In his role as a steward Eric hopes to encourage visitors at Younger Lagoon Reserve to feel welcomed and supported in exploring their curiosities.  

  • Cristobal headshot

    Cristobal Castaneda - Research, Education, Outreach, and Restoration Steward

    Cristobal Castaneda will be working as the Research, Education, Outreach, and Restoration Steward at Younger Lagoon Reserve over the 2023 summer season. Cristobal’s passion for engaging with nature stems from seeing vast natural lands after immigrating with his family from Guanajuato, Mexico, to California. As a kid, Cristobal would spend a lot of his free time biking down to parks around his new home to observe the plants and animals found in local ecosystems.

    While in high school, he joined a program that combined volunteer service with outdoor classroom education, which taught him about pursuing careers in environmental sciences. These programs led him to intern with the National Park Service at various sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he primarily focused on community-based stewardship projects.

    Having attended UC Davis, Cristobal earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and management with a minor in Geographic Information Systems in 2022. During his time as a student, Cristobal supplemented his academics with restoration and field-based practicum courses held at different UC reserves. Additionally, Cristobal was part of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at UC Santa Cruz in 2020, where he interned with the Raimondi-Carr lab to help with kelp ecomorph research and black abalone conservation efforts. After graduating, Cristobal worked as a bird banding apprentice with Point Blue Conservation Science at their Palomarin Field Station, where he helped with on-going monitoring and data management of songbird population dynamics throughout Point Reyes National Seashore.

    As a steward, Cristobal hopes to continue to support restoration and wildlife conservation efforts while ensuring that these opportunities to engage with environmental sciences can be accessible to traditionally underrepresented communities.