By Published On: June 12, 2024

Meet the Newest Faces of Water 4

Meet the new people working to apply the Water 4 Toolbox in key locations around the Intermountain West.

Water 4 uses science, communications, and capacity to support the modernization of flood irrigation infrastructure, management of wetlands, conservation easements, and restoring and sustaining hydrological function. Our unique model of applying capacity to these conservation demands allows our partners to identify and fill local needs that support Water 4 goals. This may look like the co-creation of a new position with a partner entity or directing funds to an existing position so that it may continue. These positions are hosted by partner entities and are often funded by multiple entities that have a stake in work on the ground. Capacity positions are strategically located in landscapes where collaborative wetland conservation can have the greatest impact.

Meet the newest additions to this group below!

Sean Chambers

Lakeview, Oregon

Conservation and Agriculture Specialist

Sean joined the SONEC team in May of 2024. He is a livestock producer based in Lakeview, Oregon. Since he was young he has been passionate about ranching and wildlife. Having worked from the Blue Mountains to the Great Basin he brings an intimate knowledge of working lands from across the region. His experience in the livestock industry ranges from large-scale cow/calf operations to confined feeding operations. When he does get a little time to get away, his passions lie in the outdoors, where he enjoys hunting and fishing with his family.

Elizabeth Friedl

Davis, California

ACEP-ALE Coordinator

Elizabeth has worked in natural resources research, outreach, and education for almost 20 years.  Her work has supported land management and prescribed fire training programs, fire-adapted communities, post-Deepwater Horizon fisheries and reef monitoring, invasive and endangered species management, landscape-scale resource conservation, and habitat and migratory pathway restoration.  She is excited to join the NRCS team and partner with the IWJV to increase capacity and awareness for the NRCS Agricultural Land Easement program.   Based in Davis, California, Elizabeth enjoys paddleboarding and swimming, volunteering with local animal welfare organizations, participating in citizen science projects, and loves learning new skills such as languages and musical instruments.

Sarah Leal

Susanville, California

Rangeland Conservationist

In April I began my position as a Rangeland Conservationist in partnership with Intermountain West Joint Venture, Wildlife Management Institute, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. This work allows me to further the mission of each agency by promoting conservation practices on private lands. I am based out of Susanville, California, and will be conducting work in Lassen and Modoc counties. Prior to this role, I graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Forest and Rangeland Stewardship and worked as a Private Lands Conservationist on the eastern plains of Colorado. When I am not out in the field for work, I love going hiking and paddleboarding with my dog whenever I get the chance.

Breanna O'Connor

Hines, Oregon

SONEC Conservation and Agriculture Specialist

Breanna O’Connor began in April 2023 as the Harney County, Southern Oregon-Northeastern California (SONEC) Partner Biologist. Breanna’s work helps work cooperatively with landowners to improve their flood-irrigation infrastructure, maintain sustainable ranching operations, and implement voluntary conservation practices. Breanna grew up in Lakeview, Oregon, and went to college at Oregon State University. At Oregon State, she received a Bachelor in Natural Resources and a Master of Science in Range and Forestry in 2008. Breanna moved to Burns in 2013 to work for the Bureau of Land Management as a Riparian Specialist. In December 2021, Breanna took a job with the Harney County Soil and Water Conservation District as a Rangeland Biologist – Ag Water Specialist. Outside of work, she enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking, and all other outdoor activities.

Ziani Paiz

Bishop, California

Rangeland Conservationist

Hi all! I’m Ziani and I’ve recently started as a partner rangeland conservationist with the NRCS and Eastern Sierra Land Trust in Bishop, California. I grew up in southern California and first moved to the Eastern Sierra to attend Deep Springs College in 2019. After graduating from Deep Springs, I transferred to Oregon State University to study rangeland science with a concentration in sustainable livestock ranching. I have worked across the West as a ranch hand, an outdoor educator, and most recently for the Forest Service in northern California. Returning to the Eastern Sierra has been wonderful; I consider this region a second home and am passionate about conserving the working landscapes that shape it. In my free time, I enjoy reading, riding horses, and exploring the outdoors with my dog.

Kelsey Vershum

Dillon, Montana

Land Protection Specialist

Kelsey is a Land Protection Specialist with The Nature Conservancy in Dillon, Montana. She is from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and graduated from the University of Idaho in 2023 with a degree in Natural Resources Conservation. With The Nature Conservancy, Kelsey is helping protect land in Montana through conservation easement acquisition. This work is important in the sagebrush grasslands of southwest Montana by helping protect the habitat of sage grouse and other sagebrush obligate species. In her free time, Kelsey likes trying a new recipe or exploring her new home.

Read more about our Water 4 capacity positions in the storymap below.