Save Our Bosque Task Force Board

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Jerry Wheeler, Chair

Jerry Wheeler began serving as a board member in January 2019, representing Socorro County who has been a strong partner to SOBTF for years.

Jeff Havlena, Vice Chair

Jeff recently returned to Socorro after retiring from the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His association with the UW Medical School included more than a decade as the surveillance epidemiologist for the State of Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, and nearly as long as the primary data analyst and researcher for the Wisconsin Surgical Outcomes Research team.  Prior to his time at the UW,  he served as an environmental and hydrogeologic consultant with several consulting groups in Socorro and Albuquerque and as an independent hydrogeologic consultant providing support for mixed and high-level nuclear waste landfill licensure.  Much of his consulting work involved field determination of the physical and chemical characteristics of geologic materials for use as input parameters in analytical and numerical computer models for water supply and groundwater recharge programs.  This work drew heavily upon his studies while a Master’s student in the Hydrology program at New Mexico Tech during the 1980s, which included field data collection and analysis of groundwater recharge mechanisms and the interplay between climate change, precipitation, streamflow, geology and land use with respect to groundwater quality and quantity, and the overall health of the Rio Grande Bosque in Central New Mexico.

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Christie Smith, Secretary

Christie Smith ended up in Socorro with her significant other for the whole Covid-19 era and retired there in May, 2022. She's active in the Democratic Party, Save Our Bosque Task Force, Socorro Community Players, and the local Episcopal choir. She also enjoys biking, hiking, camping, traveling, and dinner parties. Christie taught Composition, Literature, and Humanities at various colleges in Colorado or 22 years. The focus of her academic study is western American Literature, with a Master’s thesis on Nebraska writer Willa Cather, and her Ph.D. dissertation and subsequent book on turn-of-the-20th-century western writer and illustrator Mary Hallock Foote. She recently has turned her attention to American journalist and writer Sanora Babb, 1907-2005, co-editing the first book of scholarly essays on her and writing a chapter for that text. It’s from the University of Oklahoma Press, 2021.

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Gina Dello Russo, Treasurer

As a riparian ecologist, Gina has been building  regional interest in and capacity for addressing river ecosystem restoration opportunities and its long term health for the last twenty years.  She is from a farming family of the Socorro valley, New Mexico.  She worked with the federal government for 27 years, retiring from Bosque del Apache NWR, and now runs a consulting business. She is on the board of the Save Our Bosque Task Force that partners with many entities including the federal, state, and local government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners to protect and restore riparian lands.

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Matt Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell is a native New Mexican who holds a bachelors of science in biology. He has a lifetime passion for training, hunting, and captive breeding of raptors. With his wife Stephanie he has run a successful southwestern jewelry manufacturing business since 1975. Matthew has volunteered with the Save Our Bosque Task Force since 2003 and has served on the board of directors for fifteen years.

Ron Thomas

Bio coming soon!

Save Our Bosque Task Force Staff

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Danielle Hensley, Program Director

Danielle joined the Save Our Bosque Task Force in November of 2021. She has lived in Minnesota, Colorado, and Iowa. After careers in theater and sustainable farm management, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Conservation & Resource Management from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Before joining the Save Our Bosque Task Force, she worked as a natural resource specialist, park manager, and horticulturalist with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, supervised a Scientific and Natural Area for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and managed the Urban Forestry Outreach & Research Nursery & Laboratory at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Her work interests involve trees and plants, ecological restoration, climate change adaptation, and ways to connect people to the natural world around them. Outside of work, she enjoy hiking, geology, archaeology, travelling, cooking, and sewing. She is very excited to have the opportunity to live in beautiful New Mexico and contribute to conserving the Bosque in Socorro County.

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Jennifer Bencomo, Seasonal Riparian Monitoring Technician

Coming from local Las Cruces, Jennifer Bencomo is a recent graduate of New Mexico State University with her Bachelor’s in Biology and minors in Conservation Ecology and Human-Animal Interaction. Her hope is to someday combine these two fields of interest in companion animal studies and their assistance within conservation research. Her favorite things to do in her down time include yoga, reading, and taking walks with her family and her dogs. She’s excited for this opportunity to learn about all that the native environments of her state have to offer!

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Caroline Black, Seasonal Riparian Monitoring Technician

Hailing from the multi-year Snow Globe award winning city of Syracuse, NY, Caroline is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College. In her free time she can be found hiking, watercolor painting, birding, playing beach volleyball, and spending time with friends and family. After studying international relations and completing a term with AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps, she realized her true passion lies in environmental science and in helping others. She is excited to be spending the summer in the New Mexican high desert and is thrilled to learn more about the complex relationships of the riparian ecosystems along the Rio Grande.