Maura Connolly: Volunteer Coordinator

Maura Connolly is the newest member of the Museum team. She started in September 2017 as our Volunteer Coordinator.

A native of Boston, Maura attended Wake Forest University in North Carolina before joining AmeriCorps. Her first assignment was in Tennessee, performing education and outreach about recycling for a county government.

AmeriCorps led her next to California, where she spent a year working as the volunteer coordinator for the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden, and later two nonprofit organizations.

Maura likes working with volunteers because of their commitment to the community.

“I like that they are willing to show up and contribute to the community, and that this is how they choose to spend their time,” Maura said. “I love getting to know them as individuals and learn from their experience and knowledge.”

Maura said she is especially glad to be working in Santa Cruz because of the natural beauty surrounding it.

“It’s the reason I came to California—I wanted to be close to nature” she said. “I love the beach and am blessed to be among the redwoods. Living and working here have totally inspired me to share my new knowledge with our visitors and volunteers.”

J.M. Brown: Community Relations Manager

As Community Relations Manager, J.M. Brown manages the Museum’s Business Partnership Program, media relations and facility rentals.

Working closely with the Development, Education and Visitors Services teams, J.M. also organizes special events, such as the annual Patrons Reception, exhibit openings, and community celebrations. J.M. joined the Museum in October 2016 after working many years in print journalism and public relations.

Although this is J.M.’s first time working for a museum, he is passionate about stewarding parks and open spaces and is particularly interested in the intersection of art and nature. He is a member of the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Commission and chairs the Arts Council Santa Cruz County Board of Directors.

“I’m so energized by the fondness and appreciation that our community shows for the Museum, and am inspired everyday by the creativity and expertise demonstrated by my colleagues,” J.M. said. “And it’s especially wonderful to see someone’s face light up when they visit the Museum for the first time and recognize all the amazing changes that have been made in the last couple of years.”

J.M. is a graduate of Indiana University’s School of Journalism in his hometown of Indianapolis. He lives in the Seabright neighborhood of Santa Cruz and is a marathon runner.

Donna Meyers: Board President

Donna Meyers joined the Museum’s Board of Directors in 2011 and has served as Board President since 2014. She brings a wealth of knowledge about natural resource management to her volunteer role on the Board.

Through her company Conservation Collaborative, Donna has worked as a watershed consultant on numerous projects to restore coastal habitats and regional waterways, including the Salinas and Carmel rivers. Previously, Donna served as the Director of Conservation for the Big Sur Land Trust and as the West Coast Regional Water Quality Coordinator for the National Marine Sanctuary Program.

A Sacramento area native, Donna first visited the Museum as a student at UC Santa Cruz, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology before going on to earn a master’s degree in environmental management and planning from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She later joined the Museum as a Member, and for more than 20 years had been enjoying its exhibits and programming when she was approached about joining the Board.

“I just always thought of it as an important community institution,” Donna said, explaining that she has seen the Museum’s relevance increase even more in recent years. “There is more interest in science and natural history in our society these days, and we are starting to fulfill that educational role more prominently. We are just becoming that place where people go to learn about natural history.”

As a woman trained in the sciences, Donna said her dedication to volunteering at the Museum is inspired by its founder, lighthouse keeper and naturalist Laura Hecox, who educated locals and visitors alike about the natural wonders of Santa Cruz more than 110 years ago.

“We are really promoting that legacy of women in science and learning that needs to be maintained and carried forward today,” Donna said. “There is a need to keep people educated in an affordable and accessible way about science and how we manage our resources.”

A 34-year resident of Santa Cruz, Donna also serves as chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and is an avid hiker and surfer.

Emily Harmon: Volunteer Intern

Meet Emily Harmon, a volunteer intern for the Museum’s Summer Camps, which wrap up August 4. Emily grew up in Santa Cruz and is pursuing her undergraduate degree in history from Mills College in Oakland.

Visiting the Museum’s Ohlone Room in the third grade made a lasting impression on Emily, and when she was seeking volunteer opportunities during her summer break, she thought of us. Since early July, she’s been our Summer Camp intern, learning informal science education techniques and leading activities about ocean tides, pollination among Monarch butterflies, and fossil excavation.

“I wanted to be involved with the community and learn more about the Museum,” Emily said. “It’s been a really positive and fulfilling experience!”

Emily is one of about 85 regular volunteers at the Museum. Volunteers contributed more than 3,600 hours of service at the Museum in the fiscal year that ended in June.

Learn more about volunteering.

Frank Perry: Laura Hecox Naturalist Award Winner

Frank Perry is an institution within our institution.

Frank’s professional relationship with the Museum dates back to his time as a student at Soquel High School, when a stint as volunteer led to a job during college. Several decades later, we are lucky to still have him today as a freelance exhibit creator and an irreplaceable resource of knowledge about our history and collections.

In June, the Museum presented Frank with the annual Laura Hecox Naturalist Award, which honors our founder’s love of nature. As a naturalist who is as comfortable leading a hike as he is examining fossils, Frank personifies the Museum’s mission of communicating the importance of the natural world.

Frank (center) was given the award by longtime Museum supporter Randy Widera (left) and Museum Executive Director Heather Moffat McCoy (right). In his introduction, Randy said: “Frank has a deep and relentless curiosity that has uncovered and brought to light so much of our natural, as well as cultural, history. To quote Frank, ‘You can’t separate human history and natural history.’ By combining both, Frank uses them as a lens to focus and share his insights and discoveries with all of us.”

After volunteering to catalog fossils at the Museum in his teens, Frank was hired to work the front desk on Sundays. He was employed at the then city-owned museum throughout his college career, first at Cabrillo College and later at UC Santa Cruz, where he earned a degree in Earth Sciences. One of Frank’s professors was Dr. Gary Griggs, the renowned marine sciences researcher who received the first-ever Laura Hecox Award in 2016.

For Frank, building a career around museum life was a natural fit. “As a kid, I loved museums and had my own nature museum at home,” he said.

Eventually, he became the Museum’s unofficial collections manager, learning a great deal from longtime Curator Charles Prentiss. Frank’s first wage was $1.95 per hour.

“I learned about the way things work in a museum, but I also just learned the kinds of things every young person does when they get a job and need to make it in the world,” Frank said. “I learned how to make change, talk to the public and get along with people.”

Frank went on to work for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco as a curatorial assistant before coming back to Santa Cruz and working most of his career as a freelance exhibit creator for the Museum of Natural History, as well as other museums and park visitor centers in Monterey, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.

As someone who knows the Museum’s collections better than nearly anyone, Frank also was hired in recent years to help the Museum deaccession items determined not to be central to its mission, an ongoing process that has resulted in transferring more than 100 items to the Museum of Art & History and other museums.

Frank became the Capitola Historical Museum’s curator in 2013 and also serves as a member of the Collections Committee of the Museum of Natural History. In September, the Museum will premier a new temporary exhibit by Frank called “Rocks and Waves.” 

Ami Davis: Development Manager

For Ami Davis, being part of a museum family is second nature. Working for nearly the past 20 years in art museums, Ami brings experience in education and community partnerships to her role as Development Manager for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.

“As a museum educator, I have always played a critical role in development: writing grants, meeting with funders, and developing membership incentive programs,” Ami said. “I hope I can work closely with the Museum’s stakeholders to develop exciting incentives that support the incredible work of this Museum.”

Ami manages the Museum’s membership program and pursues grants and other gifts. She joined the Museum staff in January and also serves as a trustee for the Santa Cruz Art League.

An alumna of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and most recently the Monterey Museum of Art, Ami also has served as an instructor for UC Extension courses in contemporary art and presents at national museum conferences.

Joining an institution that puts nature in the spotlight was a natural transition for Ami. Just as she has been “committed to making art relevant and accessible to all audiences” in her work, Ami is focused now on helping the Museum further its mission to make nature more accessible.

“My museum career began in Santa Cruz in the 1990s. I feel deeply connected to Santa Cruz’s natural splendor, rich history, and diverse culture. I am at home whether in the redwoods, at the beach, or in an art gallery. It’s an exciting time to be involved with the Santa Cruz cultural community.”

Dani Lucido: Volunteer

Joining the Museum’s volunteer ranks in February 2015, Dani Lucido is a docent for our Ohlone Program, which educates thousands of local elementary school students each year.

She graduated in 2014 from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in anthropology and started as a volunteer for Museum events. By Fall of 2015, she was a part-time intern with our Education team, later increasing to full-time to help revamp the Ohlone Program.

Dani will work at the Museum through the end of June, after which she will begin pursuing a degree in Native American law.

“Being at the Museum definitely opened me up to natural history in a way that I was not exposed to as an anthropology major who was just focused on culture,” Dani said. “This has broadened my education as far as science is concerned and I’ve learned to work with children.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the Museum, contact volunteer@santacruzmuseum.org.

Nancy Lenz: Volunteer

Nancy Lenz, champion of Pilkington Creek, is a veteran volunteer with the Museum.

After retiring to Santa Cruz from Berkeley in 1990, Nancy became connected with the Museum, which is near her home in Seabright. For several years, she did Museum publicity as a volunteer before spending countless hours in the gardens encircling the Museum.

Nancy has learned the names and Ohlone uses of plants such as beach strawberry, pink flowering currant and Indian soaproot that surround our historic building. Volunteers under her watch have recorded 1,200 hours since 2010 working on Pilkington Creek, which flanks the east side of Tyrrell Park, to remove non-native plants.

While the creek and gardens around the building are much improved, there is much more planting Nancy would like to do. “Live each day like it was your last, and garden like you’re going to live forever,” she said, quoting William Kent.

During the last several years, Nancy also has been a docent for the Ohlone Program, which teaches students about native peoples. “I like to see the kids light up and I like that moment when you realize you’re getting to the child sitting quietly in the back of the room,” she said. “That is really worthwhile.”

Anyone interested in supporting the efforts to restore Pilkington Creek, to work in the garden around the Museum or to co-lead our Ohlone Programs, please contact the Museum at volunteer@santacruzmuseum.org.

Felicia Van Stolk: Education Manager

Spending countless hours in parks, on trails and in tide pools was the perfect training for Education Manager Felicia Van Stolk. The Santa Cruz County native joined the Museum in January 2016 after other endeavors in environmental education and youth literacy.

Felicia oversees all aspects of the Museum’s educational programming, including both the school and public programs. She leads the Museum’s education team in developing and leading school field trip programs at the Museum and at Neary Lagoon and Pogonip.

Felicia also plans the Museum’s public programming designed to connect members and guests with the natural world, including guided walks and workshops. She plans the monthly Naturalist Night series and a biannual special speaker series.

Her love of nature and activism was nurtured at Aptos High School where she took her first marine biology class and founded the Peace Club, which gave her a platform to plan concerts that led student artists to raise money for peace initiatives.

“I realized how important it was to be engaged in things I care about and to teach people about the things I care about,” Felicia said.

She studied marine biology at UCLA, where her minor was conservation biology. The daughter and granddaughter of teachers, Felicia also directed her keen interest in education and equity toward Project Literacy, where she worked throughout her college career.

In addition to performing fieldwork in Costa Rica and Bodega Bay, she later gained experience at the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City, first as an instructor and later as the organization’s camp manager. A desire to live closer to home brought her back to Santa Cruz County, where she can be found SCUBA diving or walking Manresa State Beach with her dog, Taz.

Liz Broughton: Visitors Services Manager

Liz Broughton, Visitor Services Manager, is the Museum’s longest-serving current full-time employee, having joined the team in October 2010 after graduating from the University of Washington’s master’s degree program in museology, museum studies.

She has served many roles at the Museum, starting as an admissions attendant and working her way up to a portfolio that includes managing exhibits, admissions, and the store. Liz is often found welcoming guests and school tours at the reception desk just inside the Museum’s entrance.

A native of the San Lorenzo Valley north of Santa Cruz who likes to hike in Henry Cowell State Park, Liz developed a love of museums early in life and was inspired in college to make a career of it.

“I was raised to be a museum nerd and always enjoyed them,” she said. “For birthdays, my specific request would often be to visit the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose or the Cal Academy of Sciences. I have always been interested in a wide variety of subjects.”

Liz decided to pursue a career in museum work after earning her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in anthropology and Celtic studies. She served internships at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology and performed research on Museum of Vertebrate Zoology specimens before attending graduate school in Seattle. There, she interned with the Experience Music Project, Woodland Park Zoo and Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

“One of the things I learned in school is if you go to museums as a kid, you are more likely to visit museums and support them as adults,” Liz said. “That’s why I like to talk to folks when they come in the door — hopefully inspiring them to come back and visit and to learn more on their own.”