Who we are

Rachel Laura

Rachel has B.S. from Arizona State University in wildlife and restoration ecology and an M.S. in natural resources and environmental sciences from the University of Illinois. She is currently pursing her PhD at the University of Arizona where she is studying western butterflies. She is passionate about pollinator conservation, in particular monarch butterflies. While working in Eastern California, she learned of the Saline Valley overwintering sites and began an effort to continue the little-known surveys that had been conducted by naturalist Derham Giuliani from 1976 until 2008. Rachel currently lives in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband Jay, and their three kids. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, camping, crocheting, traveling, and all things outside.

Joanna Gilkeson

Joanna has a B.S. from the University of Minnesota in Environmental Science, Policy and Management with a minor in Forestry. Her passion for monarchs began early on, watching monarchs visit the milkweed plants at her childhood home in Minnesota. In 2012, Joanna landed a job in wildlife and conservation communications where she worked on monarchs in Minnesota, California, and Nevada. Joanna attended the first Saline Valley Monarch Count in 2017, fell in love with the experience, and counted monarchs in subsequent years. Joanna moved back to Minnesota in 2021, but because she can't stay away from the West (or Saline Valley), she is moving back to California. Joanna lives with her partner John, their two dogs, Gus and Kira, and Ed the cat.