Kelly Herman, Development Director
Yessica Flores, Lead Environmental Educator
Yessica is the Lead Environmental Educator at The Children’s Nature Institute. In this role, Yessica coordinates with teachers, facilitates our programs and looks after the well-being of CNI’s live animal collection. Yessica’s love for nature (especially animals) started at a young age: in 2012 she graduated from North Hollywood’s High School Zoo Magnet. After graduating she concentrated on her career and has now worked for 13 years for a diverse range of organizations, including The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens and Kidspace Children’s Museum. Yessica’s varied background in animals, nature, and teaching provides the perfect foundation for facilitating environmental science programming to children and their families. Yessica still finds time to volunteer with animal organizations and continues to increase her knowledge of nature.
Joyce Ireland, Controller
Controller Joyce Ireland volunteered with CNI for years before being hired to keep its books in the mid 2000s. Hooked from the very first Nursery Nature Walk she and her older daughter took in Sullivan Canyon back in December 1990, she trained as a docent and lead family and outreach walks for more than a decade. She joined the board of directors in 1991 and has served on the board continuously since then. When CNI needed help with payroll and financial recordkeeping, Joyce called on her knowledge from a community college bookkeeping course and experience as the payables treasurer at her daughters’ preschool to transition from the trail to an office desk. After joining the staff, to better serve CNI, she enrolled in an accounting certificate program at West LA College in 2008 and earned her certificate in June 2010. In addition to working part-time at CNI, Joyce is also bookkeeper for B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles. Over the past couple of decades, she’s spent countless hours volunteering at her daughters’ schools and currently serves as treasurer of Gondolier Booster Club, supporting Venice High School.
Jessie Nault, Volunteer Engagement & Marketing Coordinator
Jessie Nault is a recent transplant to Los Angeles, originally hailing from the Midwest. Though she loves the constant sunshine, she still misses the freshwater of the Great Lakes! She received her Bachelors of Science from Michigan State University in Environmental Studies and Agriscience with a minor in Environmental Policy. She was the recipient of Jon F. Bartholic Award for Excellence in Creativity in the Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences in 2011, as well as a volunteer for the city’s Project Pride recycling program and the Red Cedar River Clean-Up. Though Jessie has always been passionate about the environment and her community, a summer study abroad trip to Kenya pushed her to pursue her passions full time. While there, she worked in partnership with Kenyan Orphaned Rural Development Program (KORDP), providing education and agricultural aid across Western Rural Kenya with vulnerable and orphaned children to HIV/AIDS in early childhood care centers. Since then, Jessie has sought to work with children and the natural world, so is thrilled to be part of the CNI team. She believes teaching children to understand and care about the environment from an early age will make the world a better place!
Betty Villata, Environmental Educator
Betty Villalta is a believer of hands-on and inquiry based learning. She received a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal from CSU Channel Islands and is currently working as an Educator at The Children’s Nature Institute and The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Garden. She has 6 years of experience working in formal and informal educational settings. Prior to joining The Children’s Nature Institute, Betty was a Camp Counselor at The Santa Barbara Zoo and a Teacher’s Assistant for the Conejo Valley Unified School District. Betty hopes to inspire future generations to have an appreciation for the natural world and all of its inhabitants. Her work as an Environmental Educator provides her with this wonderful opportunity.
Blanca Hernandez, Office Manager
Blanca grew up in Los Angeles, in the Pico-Union area. She attended California State University, Northridge and obtained her Bachelors in Science degree with an emphasis in Business Administration. She worked for the GEAR UP program over six years. GEAR UP was a federally funded program whose goal was to increase graduation rate and decrease dropout rate among high school students in the San Fernando Valley. She has volunteered with different non-profit organizations since graduating from high school. She is passionate about helping and providing resources to the community. She also tutors middle school students in math. During her free time, she loves to walk in the park, beach and exercise. Her ultimate goal is to have her own non-profit.
Kat Halsey, Animal Care Specialist
Kat is a both a current animal keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo and is also a handler of invertebrates for the film industry (which is super fun!). Previous work includes animal care for BioQuip Bugs and the Natural History Museum Butterfly Pavilion. Kat studied scientific illustration at CSULB and entomology at UCR. She is a member of the Lorquin Entomology Society and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and in her free time she loves nature, backpacking, and looking for insects. Some of her favorite critters are leeches, flies, and spiders.