TreePeople Fellows Strive to Save Urban Forests

TreePeople is blessed with an array of amazing minds that come through Yurt Village, and this past summer, we had two bright young minds join our Policy & Research Department.

Erik Ndayishimiye and Matthew Stieg were brought on at the beginning of the summer through our fellowship program to work on issues surrounding LA’s urban forest. Both put their talent to work to help support our team offering their unique skills and backgrounds.

Erik hails from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with a newly completed Master’s Degree in Environmental Management while Matthew is about to finish his senior year at the University of Michigan where he studies Mathematics and Statistics. The two together were the perfect fusion of science and technology to help find solutions to LA’s urban forest’s climate crisis. However, they both approached the issues facing our urban forest differently.

Growing up just down the hill from TreePeople, Matthew has been involved with TreePeople since elementary school. “Climate change is really the issue of our time and it has sparked my interest in environmental issues since they affect everyone and should be focused on more. Urban forests are a way to boost the environment and people’s lives,” he said.


Erik grew up thousands of miles away in Rwanda but developed a similar sense of stewardship. He started his journey by getting his undergraduate degree in Conservation Ecology and worked in a Rwandan national park where he grew his passion. From there, he continued on in conservation once he realized large-scale efforts need to be inclusive of urban areas while interning with the Urban Resources Initiative in New Haven, Connecticut.

While they were with us this summer, they conducted a survey of different municipalities’ urban forestry management activities along with those of other public interest organizations in LA County. Their research also investigated the status of street tree inventories and urban forest management plans under the leadership of TreePeople’s Director of Research, Edith de Guzman.

[blockquote source=””]”TreePeople was exceedingly lucky to be able to bring Erik and Matthew on for this project. They each brought unique talents and great technical skills, and they made a strong and well-rounded team. Erik and Matthew hit the ground running and quickly became a part of the TreePeople family. We miss them already!”[/blockquote]

The hope of this project is to promote robust urban forest management practices throughout LA, with a special focus on transparency to boost public access and involvement.

The future is very bright for these two. Erik is going to continue his work on the East Coast where he recently moved to New York City to start a position as a Conservation Fellow for the Open Space Institute. Matthew is going back to finish his last year at the University of Michigan– from there, the sky’s the limit for him, but he hopes to stay in line with his environmental roots.

Join us in wishing them good luck. We can’t wait to see what they do!

Do you want to help save LA’s urban forest? Apply to be an intern with us!

By Caitlin Dunham

After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Forestry and Natural Resource Management, Caitlin discovered a passion for working in social media and marketing and eventually found her way to TreePeople. With her unique forestry and marketing background, Caitlin is now growing and thriving within TreePeople’s Yurt Village. She loves that she can bridge the gap between science and marketing and is at the frontlines of educating Angelenos on trees and how they can save LA.