Special Event

Rio Theatre Speaker Series: Tales from the Brink
May 17. 7 – 9 pm.
$15 General Admission | $10 Museum Members | Online ticket sales are now closed. Tickets will be available for purchase at the Rio box office.
$30 Gold Circle | Online ticket sales are now closed. Tickets will be available for purchase at the Rio box office.

John Laird, CA Secretary for Natural Resources

Charlotte Ambrose, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region
Lilian Carswell, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Kelly Sorenson, Ventana Wildlife Society

Looking out at the Monterey Bay you are likely to see the floating tops of kelp and the furry face of a sea otter (or a few). Now, as their population size reaches record highs, it may be hard to believe that 100 years ago there were only a few dozen individuals. The Endangered Species Act was established in 1973 to protect species at risk of extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.” Every endangered species faces a unique set of threats and challenges: hunting, poisoning, habitat loss, and even competing with humans for resources. For each dwindling population, the road to recovery involves the hard work of policy-makers, scientists, conservation groups and individuals working together to better understand, restore, and protect endangered species.

This panel will tell three different tales of recovering species from the brink of extinction. Southern Sea Otters, California Condors, and Salmon are each at a different point in their journeys toward recovery, and each face a unique set of challenges and solutions. Through this panel we will discover how their survival is in all of our hands.

About the panelists:

John Laird was appointed California Secretary for Natural Resources by Governor Jerry Brown in January 2011. He has spent nearly 40 years in public service, including 23 years as an elected official. A UC Santa Cruz graduate, Laird was elected to the Santa Cruz City Council in 1981 and served nine years, including two as mayor. Laird was executive director of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project from 1991 to 1994 and an elected member of the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2002.

In 2002, Laird was elected to represent the 27th Assembly District in the California Assembly, which includes portions of Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara Counties. He was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2006, and joined the Assembly leadership team as chair of the Budget Committee. While serving the maximum three terms in the Assembly, Laird authored bills that established the landmark Sierra Nevada Conservancy, restored community college health services, expanded and clarified state civil rights protections, reformed the state mandates system, and significantly expanded water conservation.

As California’s Secretary of Natural Resources, Laird has made climate change adaptation, water conservation and supply reliability, enhanced relationships with tribal governments, State Parks access, farmland conservation, and oceans sustainability among other issues top priorities. As Secretary, he provides administrative oversight to 30 departments, commissions, councils, museum, boards and conservancies – and is a sitting member of 16 conservancies, councils, boards and commissions within the purview of the agency.

Charlotte Ambrose has worked for NOAA Fisheries over 18 years and is currently the California Programs Coordinator stationed in Sacramento. She acts as a statewide liaison for NOAA Fisheries on salmon and steelhead programs and initiatives of statewide or regional significance such as the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program, state monitoring programs, hatchery policies and others.  Charlotte recently served in the capacity of Recovery Coordinator responsible for developing and implementing federal recovery plans for California Central Coast coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Georgia and experience in both the public and private sectors (where she worked for six years as a wildlife and forestry consultant).  Charlotte is most recognized for her leadership working with the California Board of Forestry to improve forest practice regulations for the benefit of salmonids and their habitats.

Lilian Carswell is the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Marine Conservation Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where she has worked on sea otter and marine policy issues since 2002. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a double major in environmental science and English, she earned a PhD in literature at Columbia University and subsequently completed a Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology under the direction of Dr. James Estes at UC Santa Cruz. Lilian collaborates with scientists, resource managers, project proponents, and the public to minimize the negative effects of human activities on southern sea otters and to facilitate the return of these keystone predators to the nearshore marine and estuarine ecosystems in which they evolved.

Kelly Sorenson is the Executive Director for the Ventana Wildlife Society, a local wildlife conservation and outdoor youth education organization. He completed his Bachelors of Science degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management from West Virginia University in 1995 and has been working for Ventana Wildlife Society ever since. He completed a Masters degree in Public Administration from Golden Gate University in 2001. Kelly is currently on the Board of the International School of Monterey and Ward 1 Representative for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District.  He has focused on wildlife conservation and outdoor youth education his entire career. A wildlife biologist at his core, Kelly has spent many years working on the recovery of birds including Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, and California Condors.


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