Founder, Co-Executive Director
Ciara Byrne is a documentary filmmaker and entrepreneur who set up and ran a film production company, Lion Television, with offices in LA and New York. During that time, she managed over 60 employees and produced hundreds of films a year for PBS, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, PBS, BBC, Fox, and E! A native of Dublin, Ireland, Ciara has traveled the world and decided it's her mission to leave a positive impact on the planet.
Founder, Co-Executive Director
Kim MacQuarrie is a writer and a four-time Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker. He has an undergraduate degree in biology, a master's in anthropology, and lived in Peru for five years. During part of that time he lived with a recently-contacted Amazonian tribe, the Yora. A native of Las Vegas who has lived, studied-abroad, and worked around the world, Kim's most recent book is "Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries."
Christine "Christy" Carlson graduated from Indiana University in 2016 with a degree in elementary education. After gaining teaching experience in the Clark County School District, she is now following her passion for horticulture, sustainability, and the great outdoors at Green Our Planet. As an outdoor enthusiast, she spends most of her weekends rock climbing at Red Rock Canyon and the surrounding areas. Christy is dedicated to fostering a love for gardening and plants in the students of Las Vegas.
Landscape Designer–Hydroponics Program Coordinator
Taylor Quiram graduated from UNLV in December 2013 with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. Originally from Central California, he grew up surrounded by agriculture, but it wasn't until studying landscape in the desert that the importance of food production became a priority to him. After graduating, he spent 4 months as an intern at an aquaponics farm in Honokaa, Hawaii (Friendly Aquaponics). There he learned as much as possible about how the systems operate and how to scale systems for personal or commercial food production. Working as the Hydroponics Program Coordinator is an exciting step in his personal mission of better connecting communities to nature and increasing food sovereignty.
Jeanne Marie Toscano
Nutritionist, Master Gardener–School Garden Coordinator
Jeanne Marie Toscano started her career with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from the University of Wyoming. She worked in the nutrition field enjoying a myriad of experiences including college feeding systems, senior living meal services, public school nutrition programs (breakfast, lunch, after-school), weight management, and consulting. Jeanne moved to Las Vegas in 1993 as a nutritionist and manager for the Nevada WIC (Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children) Program for Sunrise Hospital. After almost 20 years in the WIC program, she noticed that children did not know where their food came from (other than the grocery store), which led to establishing a Kids Club class introducing the farm to children. Following this interest, she became a Master Gardener (2007), Nevada Naturalist (2010), Master Food Preserver (2011), and certified as an Herbalist (2012). Jeanne continues to participate in the community, giving talks to groups such as the Garden Clubs, Master Gardeners, Nevada Naturalists, parent groups, scouts and churches. Jeanne joins Green Our Planet staff and is looking forward to working with local schools creating gardens and helping to foster healthy eating.
Nutritionist–School Garden Coordinator
Alyssabeth graduated from California State University Chico in May 2018 with a B.S. in Nutrition and Food Science. While attending Chico State, she interned at the Child Development Lab where she educated children on the importance of nutrition. Through the Student Philanthropy Council, she helped raise money and spread awareness about food insecurity on campus. She hopes that with Green Our Planet and her past experiences, she can inspire children in the Las Vegas Valley to lead healthier
lifestyles and care for the environment.
Outdoor Specialist–School Garden Coordinator
Shannon Miller grew up in the Las Vegas Valley and holds a B.A. in English Literature from Seattle University. As an undergrad, she volunteered and worked for the university’s outdoor recreation program as a trip leader, coordinator and program manager.
Leading educational excursions and assisting with program development helped her cultivate a love and skill set for experiential teaching and for environmental stewardship.
After college, she guided interpretive kayak tours in Seattle and Lake Mead National Park. Shannon wakes up every day eager to get outside and to help establish a healthy environment for future generations.
School Garden Coordinator
Samantha recently graduated from Dixie State University in St. George, Utah with a B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing and a minor in Art. While in St. George, she developed a love for the unique landscapes of the Mojave Desert.
She is passionate about sustainability and helping others cultivate a connection with nature. In her free time, Samantha enjoys road tripping, hiking, and exploring the natural beauty around the Las Vegas Valley.
Scientist–School Garden Coordinator
Nicole was born and raised in southern Nevada until she attended the University of Nevada, Reno where she earned a B.S. in Biology. After graduation, she conducted field work in North Idaho as an Aquatic Invasive Species and Noxious Weed technician focusing on prevention, control, and public education of potential threats to North Idaho waters. She is dedicated to conservation, sustainability and outdoor education, all of which she is excited to be a part of in the Las Vegas community with Green Our Planet. When Nicole is not at work, you’ll find her traveling with her dog and boyfriend to the next outdoor destination on their list where they will be exploring, camping, hiking, and canoeing!
School Garden Coordinator–Landscape Designer
Horticulturalist–Farmer, Master Gardener
Tom Bohannon is an avid horticulturalist, pursuing interests in the fields of permaculture and xericulture. Tom has been involved with the greater horticultural community in Las Vegas since 2014. Having grown up in the Las Vegas area, Tom has always felt at home surrounded by the beauty and serenity found within the desert. But a desire to explore other climates, community outreach, and a passion for work in a horticultural setting eventually drew him to Pittsburgh, PA in the mid 2000s, where he joined Landslide Community Farm, a not-for-profit focused on community empowerment through gardening, crop production, and food distribution. During and after his years with Landslide, Tom also explored and expanded his musical talents, growing his skills with ukulele, banjo, guitar, bass, and sometimes his voice until late 2013, when he felt the call of nature to use his green thumb once again, at which point he returned to Las Vegas and quickly found himself joining the Master Gardeners. He subsequently joined the team at Moon-Sun Cactus and Koi until summer 2017, inspiring him to get involved with the Cactus and Succulent Society of Southern Nevada (CSSSN). Tom has since been employing his mixture of xeric and herbaceous horticulture mixed with a permaculture mindset here in the Las Vegas Valley and is excited to use that knowledge to forward a greater cause with Green Our Planet by helping to expand and grow a love of plants within our community and bringing those skills to school gardens across the valley.
Brenda has been a resident of Las Vegas for 44 years and started in the architectural field before migrating to landscape design. She attended CSN's Horticulture Program for Landscape Design & Construction. Afterwards, she owned and operated a successful landscape management company for 18 years. Brenda has experience in landscape sales, design, installation and management. She also served as the Irrigation Specialist at the Springs Preserve for a number of years. With water being a finite, precious resource on our planet, Brenda says she "is excited to be a part of an organization that connects children and others to the Earth, teaches them to help manage our precious resources and uses water to benefit us nutritionally rather than ornamentally!"
Originally from South Florida, Rosalie grew up with a backyard citrus orchard which instilled in her a passion for growing food. She continued pursuing gardening as a hobby while working as a paralegal for almost fifteen years. Rosalie became interested in farming for self-sustainability after reading The Good Life, chronicling Helen and Scott Nearing's homestead. In late 2015, Rosalie and her husband unexpectedly relocated to Las Vegas. Their house hunt was centered around one primary need: a large backyard. She spent a year converting her yard into an urban farm and adjusting to the unique challenges of gardening in the desert. Rosalie is very excited to be a part of Green Our Planet and to share her enthusiasm for gardening with future generations.
Horticulturalist–Farmer, Master Gardener
Rick is a 17 year resident of Las Vegas and was born in southern California. A parent in the nursery trade and time on the family farm in Michigan grew his interest in gardening and sustainability, leading to a career in culinary arts. A Master Gardner since 2015, Rick in his spare time also runs the gardens at a local aquaponics farm using regenerative techniques to feed animals, plants and people.
Danielle is a California-raised outdoor educator, urban farmer and writer. After earning degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from California State University, Long Beach, she lived on a permaculture farm in coastal Ecuador where she fell in love with composting and grew her first crop— Kentucky Wonder Green Beans—from seed to harvest. Danielle has ever since been enamored with the empowering process of growing food because it inspires wellness, mindfulness and community. When she’s not having a blast with students in Green Our Planet gardens, Danielle can be found wild crafting, hiking, cooking, adventuring or looking for creative new ways to live more sustainably.
A native of Maine, Chelsea has always had a passion for conservation and education. Since a child, she has been an active member in her local Fish and Game Club as well as 4H. The love of the outdoors has been instilled in Chelsea since before she could walk, growing up hunting, fishing and gardening. This passion and love led her to attend Unity College in Maine where she graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Conservation Law Enforcement with a concentration in Aquaculture. After graduating, Chelsea followed her love of Aquaculture and food production to Walt Disney World where she was an intern at the Living With The Land Pavilion, which provides food to the resort through hydroponics and aquaponics systems. After her internship, Chelsea found herself loving Florida and followed her animal care passion working for Gatorland, providing animal encounters and enrichment. In the fall of 2018, Chelsea followed her partner to Las Vegas for work and was ecstatic to find Green Our Planet, which seemed to be a perfect fit for her love of education and sustainability. Chelsea is extremely excited to be part of the Green Our Planet team and to face the unique challenges and diversity of farming in the desert. At Green Our Planet, she is working as a Horticulturist–Farmer and Hydroponics Expert.
Farmer, Master Gardener–Hydroponics Expert
Joseph Zitello has lived in Las Vegas since he was 3 years old. He began building raised bed gardens for himself and others in the community in 2008. After graduating from UNLV in 2011, Joseph decided to further his horticultural education and became a Master Gardener in 2014. He has worked extensively with hydroponics over the last 3 years and most recently worked as a farmer at a specialty herb indoor vertical farm. Joseph has home-schooled his own child and feels it is important to teach children where food comes from and to help them stay connected to their environment. At Green Our Planet, he is working as a Horticulturist–Farmer and Hydroponics Expert.
John is a lifelong outdoor enthusiast committed to using his keen eye for detail to deliver uncompromising high standards on any project that he is involved with. Originally from Maryland, John has over 20 years of experience in a wide variety of roles within the green industry including wholesale nursery production, landscape construction, and project management. He is a Certified Professional Horticulturist, SNWA Smart Water Contractor, and has a passion for witnessing the connection with nature that can be created with functional outdoor spaces. Upon relocating to Nevada in 2014, John has been the operations manager for a prominent Las Vegas residential landscape design/build company. He looks forward to the opportunity to use his field experience to help realize the vision of Green Our Planet. John believes that with dedication, integrity, and hard work, any goal is achievable.
Teacher Trainer Manager
Sue moved to Las Vegas in 1994, after living in Beaumont, Texas where she began her teaching career at Lamar University’s Lab School. After a 29-year teaching career, 23 of which were spent at Lummis Elementary, where she taught kindergarten, first, and second grade; she retired from CCSD in May 2018.
She has been involved with Green Our Planet since 2015, when she helped write the STEAM curriculum for second grade and has participated in Green Our Planet teacher trainings over the past 4 years.
Sue has always used the garden as a teaching tool to teach young children about nature, science, and the miracle of growing your own food. Along with just being outdoors, Sue enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, and time spent with her husband and two sons. She is thrilled to be a member of the Green Our Planet family in the role of helping more teachers realize the value of teaching children in the garden.
Office Administrator and Sponsorship Assistant
Hannali is passionate about non-profits, especially those focusing on animal welfare and environmental conservation. She is so passionate that shortly after moving to Las Vegas in 2017 she received her Non-Profit Management Certificate from UNLV. Hannali arrived in Las Vegas with her husband after completing her Bachelors in History and Anthropology from the University of Colorado Boulder. She calls Colorado home although she was raised in 5 countries and 3 states. Hannali hopes to start her own non-profit animal sanctuary one day.
Accounts, Garden Build & Office Coordinator
Jessica was born and raised in Las Vegas but her family originates from El Salvador. Before coming to Green our Planet, Jessica worked in the accounting department for a nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip as well as a Program Assistant for another local non profit that focused on providing books to children. In recent years, she has developed a passion for sustainability which during the 2016-2017 school year brought her to volunteer at Green our Planet. Now as a full member of the team, Jessica hopes to help bring awareness to younger generations so that they can both gain a passion for the environment and also learn that growing your own food is not only exciting but can help preserve our Earth. Jessica loves exploring the world, hiking and anything to do with the ocean.
Born and raised in Germany, Kathrin moved to Las Vegas in 2018. Before joining Green Our Planet, Kathrin provided respite care for physically disabled people as Marketing Executive for a nonprofit organization based in London, UK and worked as inventory manager for a high-tech corporation in Cologne, Germany. Throughout her life, Kathrin has been passionate about the environment, sustainability and nutrition. As a certified Pilates trainer and mother, Kathrin is mindful about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet consistent with an educated understanding of the impact on our future generations. Kathrin is convinced that there is no better place to start making a change than by educating our children about food and nutrition at home, in school and within the community.
Emily Gehrdes relocated from Boston, MA in the summer of 2018. She has worked in event planning and management in a variety of industries from nonprofit to health and fitness. Most recently, Emily was the Creative Specialist in the Career Center at Merrimack College, planning events focused on helping students gain workplace skills and making connections with future employers. She received a B.A. in Sociology and Studio Art from Stonehill College in 2013 and completed an M.Ed. in Community Engagement focusing on K-12 from Merrimack College in 2018. Emily wrote her Master's thesis on the development and growth of Nature Schools across the United States; while completing this work, it became apparent that connecting youth with nature was the direction she wanted to take her career. With a passion for helping those around her and a strong connection to the outdoors, she is excited to have the opportunity to combine her event planning skills and community engagement degree to make an impact in Las Vegas through Green Our Planet. Emily loves to explore and travel and is happy to have a chance to find out all that the west coast has to offer!
Chef Program Coordinator
Lisa Cheplak is Green Our Planet's Chef Program Coordinator and Certified Health and Nutrition Coach. She is excited to be a part of this organization as it is a strong passion of hers to educate children on healthier eating habits. Lisa received her certification at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has had a long-time passion for health and wellness. She loves working with kids and parents to help them make lifestyle changes and health-promoting ways that produce real and lasting results improving energy, balance, health and happiness. As a mother of a 9-year old son, she has learned that there is no better way to teach healthy eating habits than hands on learning in the garden and kitchen and has seen first-hand the positive influence it has had on him. Lisa is a member of the PTO at Ethel W. Staton Elementary where she helped build a garden and implement a parent farmer garden program. Originally from Ohio, Lisa has been a resident of Las Vegas for 25 years. Over the past several years she has taught nutrition and corporate wellness workshops and many cooking classes to kids and adults. Lisa loves teaching simple ways for kids to prepare and love fruits and vegetables that they helped grow in their school garden.
Mariana Bengochea Johnson
Community Engagement Manager
Mariana joined the Green Our Planet’s team a year ago as the Community Engagement Manager. In this role, her primary focus has been on further developing the school garden financial literacy program and building relationships with local financial institutions to support the Green Our Planet Garden Financial Literacy Program.
Mariana is also a Senior Vice President at Bank of George. Prior to joining Bank of George, she was a banking executive at Sun West Bank of Nevada and City National Bank. Mariana has over 40 years of local business banking experience.
Throughout her career, she has always been drawn to community relations work and was often the key liaison between the bank and local nonprofit charities. This included coordinating in-house employee volunteer and non-profit donation programs focused on benefiting children, with special emphasis on supporting STEAM education and financial literacy. She has also served on nonprofit boards of the Latin Chamber of Commerce and Helping Hands of Vegas Valley.
She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).
Mariana was born in Miami, Florida and has been a resident of Southern Nevada for more than 50 years. She and her husband, Bob, have been married over thirty years. They take great pride in their two adult children, Lindsey and Bobby, who also work and reside in Southern Nevada. In their spare time, the family enjoys cabin life in Southern Utah.
Born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania, James is a long time landscaper and health care enthusiast. After studying at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and receiving a degree in Health Management Systems, James became fascinated with the relationship between plants and health. His understanding of plants from his experience in landscaping and his education in health care led to an interest in permaculture systems for growing food and medicinal plants in a sustainable, self sufficient way. Through his work with Green Our Planet, James hopes to spread the message of the abundance in nature, the healing power of plants and a holistic approach to health.
Gary Barker is from Las Vegas. He worked for the Nightcrew for thirty-nine years. He is very happily married with four grown kids, three boys and a girl, two dogs and a cat. His hobbies include building RC planes, riding his Harley and going for walks with his wife and dogs. Gary loves Green Our Planet's mission and working with the Green Our Planet team.
Teacher Trainer–Master Gardener
A two-time graduate from The Ohio State University, Julia came to Las Vegas in 1990 to teach in the Clark County School District. She has taught 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades, but spent the majority of her 24 years there as an art specialist. After retiring in 2014, she pursued various interests, including art, drumming, and completing the Master Gardening training course through UNCE/UNR. Julia shares her “urban homestead” with her husband, two cats, two dogs, three chickens, a goldfish, and a white dove that magically appeared in the front yard on Valentines Day and decided to stay.
Marcus Villagran is an independent multimedia journalist from Las Vegas. His care for education in his community drew him to Green Our Planet as a volunteer. He has interned for several award-winning publications such as Newsday in New York and Citylife Chiang Mai in Thailand. He has a B.A. in sociology and international affairs from the University of Nevada, Reno. With a camera in hand, he hopes to capture the organization's most meaningful moments in a creative way. Marcus is always on the hunt for a good story and frequently works on independent journalism projects in his spare time. When he's not shooting or editing, you can find him along side his beloved dog, Roger.