T.R.E.E. Talks

2021 Lecture Series

The series will address a variety of environmental issues that impact our communities, including wildfires, clean water as a right, shade and urban heat, and the future of parks and open spaces. T.R.E.E. Talks aim to advance discussions to effect equitable solutions at the local, state, and global levels.

Previous T.R.E.E. Talks

On Fire: Fire Prevention, Response, & Recovery 6/24/2021

California and New South Wales, Australia, have recently faced extreme fire seasons, and future events could prove as destructive. This international panel will discuss challenges, shared experiences and collaborations between the two states as well as highlight emerging strategies and technologies to combat the ever-present threat.


Robert Baird

Regional Director of Fire and Aviation Management, Pacific Southwest Region, US Forest Service

Robert (Bob) Baird, is currently the Director for Fire and Aviation Management (FAM) Pacific Southwest Region (California and Pacific Islands) of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Director Baird retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2012 after serving more than 24 years as an infantry and plans officer, completing multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon retirement, he assumed the position of Deputy Director, Fire and Aviation Management, USFS National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., overseeing operations, aviation, and risk management staffs at the National Interagency Fire Center. In 2014, Director Baird detailed for four months to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) as a Deputy Director reporting to Director Pimlott, as part of a Senior Executive Candidate Development Program. Upon completion of that detail in April 2014, he was selected as Forest Supervisor, Los Padres National Forest, managing over 2 million acres of Central California. Since 2017, Director Baird has led the USFS Fire and Aviation organization in California through three unprecedented years; with seven of the largest California wildfires in history, 13 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in history as well as the 2020 wildfires during the COVID-19 pandemic. Director Baird lives in Fairfield, CA with his wife Linda, a native of New Zealand, and their seven children in the area.

Shane Fitzsimmons AFSM

Commissioner of Resilience NSW

Shane Fitzsimmons was appointed as the inaugural Commissioner for Resilience NSW and Deputy Secretary, Emergency Management with the Department of Premier and Cabinet from 1 May 2020.

He is currently the chair of the State Emergency Management Committee (SEMC), the State Recovery Committee (SRC), Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the National Emergency Medal Committee (NEMC).

This appointment followed a distinguished career with the NSW Rural Fire Service of over 35 years, serving as both a volunteer and salaried member. In 1998 he was appointed an Assistant Commissioner with the RFS and has held portfolio responsibilities for Operations, Strategic Development and Regional Management. In 2004, he was appointed the inaugural Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) Visiting Fellow to the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM) for a period of 12-months, developing and delivering programs in management and leadership.

During the period of September 2007 – April 2020 he was the Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service and was also the Chair of the NSW RFS Bushfire Coordinating Committee and the Rural Fire Service Advisory Council. He was also a member of the NSW State Emergency Management Committee and the NSW State Rescue Board (SRB) and was Chair of SRB from 2008 to November 2015. In July 2012, he was appointed a Board Member of the NSW Government Telecommunications Authority.

He was appointed a Director of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) in March 2008 and was the Chair of the NAFC Board from 2009 to 2013. He was a Director of the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre from 2009 to 2014.

He was a member of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council from 2007 and was a member of its Board from November 2016 to November 2019 and held the position of Deputy President upon retirement from the Board.

In January 2016 he was appointed as a Councillor of the Royal Humane Society of NSW Inc. Additionally, he is a patron of two charities – Kids Xpress and Coffee 4 Kids. Commissioner Fitzsimmons has been awarded the Rural Fire Service Long-Service Medal for more than 30 years, the National Medal in recognition of more than 35 years, and the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM).

He has also been acknowledged with a Paul Harris Fellow and a Paul Harris Fellow Sapphire through Rotary Clubs of Berowra and Sydney.

He has most recently been announced as the 2021 NSW Australian of the Year, and the Australian Father of the Year 2020 through The Shepherd Centre.

Dr. Kellie Leigh, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Science for Wildlife; Researcher, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Dr. Kellie Leigh is the Executive Director/CEO of Science for Wildlife and a conservation biologist with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Kellie has extensive experience in governance, strategic development and wildlife conservation program management in the not-for-profit sector. She spent a decade in Zambia where she founded an ongoing non-profit organization the Zambian Carnivore Programme, which utilises the African wild dog and other large carnivores as flagship species for collaborative landscape-scale conservation. Since returning to Australia she has developed conservation programs for a variety of organisations based on her successful model of combining research, on-ground conservation action and stakeholder and community engagement. She has most recently worked on koala conservation and research in NSW and Victoria for 10 years, including establishing the Blue Mountains Koala Project, partnered with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and with NSW government support under the NSW Koala Strategy.

Kellie completed her PhD through the University of Sydney where she later taught wildlife population management for a Masters degree course, and where she maintains an adjunct research position. Her research expertise is focused on the application of science to conservation challenges and includes conservation biology, genetics/genomics, behavioural ecology, and recent work training and evaluating wildlife detection dogs. She has secured and managed over $5 million in research and conservation grants and has held Board positions in several not-for-profit organisations.

During the Australian Black Summer fires in 2019/2020, Kellie lead the Science for Wildlife team in undertaking the first emergency evacuation of koalas before approaching fire, followed by 3 months of wildlife emergency response work. Her current research is focussed on assessing the impact of the bushfires on koalas and their habitats in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, including modelling climate and fire refugia to inform long term management. Based on this experience she has participated in multiple post-fire expert elicitation workshops and hearings including the NSW Inquiry into Koalas and Habitats, Federal Government Ministerial roundtables and meetings, NSW Government Koala Strategy meetings, and as a member of the local government Wildlife Recovery Mayoral Reference Committee.

Kim Zagaris

California State Fire and Rescue Chief, (1987-2019); Wildlife Policy & Technical Advisor, Western Fire Chiefs Association

Kim Zagaris or Chief Z as some call him is currently the Wildfire Policy and Technology Advisor for the Western Fire Chiefs Association. His newly created position was in response to the destructive wildfires that have unfolded across the Western United States.

Chief Zagaris retired as State Fire and Rescue Chief for the State of California, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) a position he held for 18 years. Chief Zagaris has extensive background in fire service, emergency management, and homeland security, which includes working with local, state, federal and international agencies over his 42 years fire service career. During his time he served under six Governor’s and has been actively involved in every major and catastrophic emergency in California as well several in the nation.

Chief Zagaris also served as the Executive Coordinator for Cal OES Fire and Rescue Services Advisory Committee/ FIRESCOPE Board of Directors provides a State level forum for addressing Statewide Mutual Aid, Incident Command System, Multi-Agency Coordination, Resource Typing, Training, Certification, Safety, Standardization and Fire Protection issues of statewide concern. Chief Zagaris was responsible for managing the FIRESCOPE Program, California Incident Command Certification System, the California Fire Assistance Agreement, and the State Assistance for Fire Equipment Program, as well as serving on numerous state and national committees, associations and programs.

During his time with Cal OES he was able to expand the fire apparatus fleet from 106 Fire Apparatus to over 300 Fire Apparatus today. Chief Zagaris was responsible for several major program elements including the day-to-day management of the California Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, which includes over 1,100 fire agencies, and some 55,000 professional and volunteer firefighters that operate approximately 6,000 fire engines Statewide.

Some of Chief Zagaris’ prior statewide emergency assignments have included major fires, technical rescues, floods, storms, mudslides, freezes, earthquakes, civil disorders, hazardous materials incidents, and related all-risk incident’s, as well as out of state responses including the 1988 Yellowstone Fires, the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the 1991 Cantara Loop Chemical Spill, 1992 Los Angeles Riots, the 1993 California Fire Siege, the 1992 Hurricane Iniki, the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, the 1996-1997 Northern California Floods, the 2000 Rocky Mountains and Great Basin Fires, the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, the 2002 Arizona Fires, the 2007 San Francisco Bay Area Cosco Busan Oil Spill Response, 2005 Hurricane Katrina, 2008 Hurricanes Ike & Gustav, and 2017 Hurricanes Harvey & Irma.

During the 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2015, 2017 and 2018 California Fire Sieges, he was responsible for coordinating the day-to-day mutual aid operations and served as the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services representative to the FIRESCOPE Statewide Multi-Agency Coordination Group. Governor Davis and Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Chief Zagaris to serve on the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Fire Commission to review the 2003 Southern California Fire Siege and then later Governor’s Schwarzenegger directed him to include a review of the 2007 Southern California Fire Siege as part of the Blue Ribbon Fire Task Force. In 2015, Governor Brown appointed Chief Zagaris to the Fire Service Task Force on Climate Impacts.

In September of 2007 was recognized by the California Fire Chiefs Association as the Fire Chief of the Year.
On January 2010 James Lee Witt, the former Director of the FEMA and the Co-Chaired of Protecting America.org the nation’s largest coalition of first responders, emergency management experts, businesses and insurers awarded the American Hero Award to Kim in recognition of his significant contributions made to better prepare and protect American families from the devastation of massive natural catastrophes.

In August of 2010 he was awarded the IAFC President’s Recognition Award by IAFC President Jeff Johnson “in recognition and honor of his willingness to apply his knowledge and experience to the improvement of the fire and emergency service’s understanding and capabilities in large-scale incident response. His straightforward leadership style, combined with vast field experience and his willingness to share what works with others, makes him a national leader on incident operations and command. He’s a tremendous resource and the voice of reason for many chiefs seeking solutions to both the natural and manmade threats facing our communities today.”

In October of 2016 he was recognized by the California State Fire Association, CSFA Presidents Hall of Fame Aware honoring him for “For Exceptional Contribution.”

Cindy Montañez, Moderator

CEO, TreePeople
In 2016, Cindy became the CEO of TreePeople, making her the first Latina CEO of an environmental organization in U.S. history.

At the age of 25, Cindy was elected as the youngest mayor and councilmember of her hometown of San Fernando, CA. At 28 years old, she made history by becoming the youngest woman elected to the California State Legislature, where she became a champion for the environment, sustainable urban planning and social justice.

Cindy then moved on to serve as Assistant General Manager at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where she was a core part of the team transitioning the nation’s largest publicly-owned utility to cleaner energy and a more sustainable local water supply.

Cindy is currently a Board Member for the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and a Legislator In-Residence at the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis (RET.)

Lieutenant Governor of California

Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis was sworn in as the 50th Lieutenant Governor of California by Governor Gavin Newsom on January 7th, 2019. She is the first woman elected Lt. Governor of California. A native Californian, she visited each of the state’s 58 counties during her historic campaign. In addition to her duties as Lt. Governor, Kounalakis is California’s Representative for International Affairs and Trade, appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom by executive order.
From 2010 to 2013, Kounalakis served as President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary. Kounalakis was the first Greek-American woman – and at age 43 one of America’s youngest – to serve as U.S. Ambassador. Her highly acclaimed memoir, “Madam Ambassador, Three Years of Diplomacy, Dinner Parties and Democracy in Budapest” (The New Press, 2015), chronicles the onset of Hungary’s democratic backsliding.

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Kounalakis to chair the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment in 2014. Kounalakis was a Virtual Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) between 2014 and 2017, specializing in international trade and immigration. She is currently a director of the Association of American Ambassadors and a National Democratic Institute (NDI) “Ambassadors Circle” advisor.

Prior to her public service, Kounalakis was president of one of California’s most respected housing development firms, AKT Development, where she worked for 18 years. She built master-planned communities and delivered quality housing to the Sacramento region’s working families – recognizing her as one of the capital region’s most prominent businesswomen. Passionate about early childhood development, Kounalakis served as a member of California’s First 5 Commission and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.

Eleni Kounalakis graduated from Dartmouth College in 1989 and earned her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 1992. She holds an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the American College of Greece. She is married to Dr. Markos Kounalakis and the couple has two teenage sons, Neo and Eon.

Heating Up: How non-profits, the private sector, and governments are uniting to combat urban heat 4/29/21

Extreme heat in cities is already the leading weather-related killer in many countries, including the United States. Join us for a robust discussion on urban heat and how governments, the private sector, and the tech industry are all responding to its deadly effects. The panel will address how communities here in Los Angeles and around the world are committed to finding solutions to this growing public health crisis.


Marta Segura M.P.H.

Director, Climate Emergency Mobilization Office at the City of Los Angeles

Segura is a strategic, resourceful environmental and health justice advocate with a focus on social equity, appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti as the first-ever Climate Emergency Mobilization Director (CEMD). She is also a leading expert in community health and engagement and has worked directly with public, philanthropic, private, institutional and non-profit sectors to design, implement, and drive community & policy-driven programs that promote healthier and more engaged communities. She has an extensive track record in public health, environmental justice, and urban parks. Segura thrives in advocacy, strategic planning, building partnerships and coalitions.

Ms. Segura holds a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) from UCLA. She previously served as Program Officer for the California Endowment, and as the first Latina Program Director for UCLA-LOSH and Labor Center. She was the first Statewide Organizing Director in Los Angeles, for Communities for a Better Environment during its nascent years in Southern California, and was quickly promoted to the role of Statewide Associate Director. She also worked in creating parks and open space in the early years of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. She served on the L.A. City Planning Commission, and as the Chair of the Equity and Inclusion Board Committee at the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, as well as on the Board of the Southern California Leadership Network.

Marta has broken many glass ceilings for her community, and served as a mentor to many, while consistently committing to building and connecting the voices that lead to healthier thriving communities. Marta is the daughter of cannery workers and knows all too well what it is like to grow up with childhood asthma, excessive air pollution living next to freeways, and segregated substandard schools, not unlike many frontline communities she collaborates with today. Segura also experienced housing displacement as a result of a project that demolished her entire neighborhood in San Jose. Segura believes that adversity she faced early in life, strengthened her vision and resolve, while it shaped her collaborative approach.

Kurt Shickman

Executive Director, Global Cool Cities Alliance

Kurt is the Executive Director of the Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA). Launched in 2011, GCCA is a non-profit that works with over 50 cities worldwide to implement passive cooling measures to build heat resilience. He is the lead author of the World Bank’s Cool Cities Primer: Reducing Excessive Heat and many other publications and papers on integrating passive cooling into urban and rural communities. He manages the Million Cool Roofs Challenge, an initiative to grow markets for passive cooling in 10 countries where lack of cooling access is most dire. He is a partner in the Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative which studied the effects of cool and green infrastructure on the health of Los Angeles communities. Prior to launching GCCA, Kurt was the Director of Research for the Energy and Climate Team at the United Nations Foundation.

Katie Swenson

Senior Principal, MASS Design Group

Swenson is a nationally recognized design leader, researcher, writer, and educator. She is a Senior Principal of MASS Design Group, an international non-profit architecture firm whose mission is to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity. Before joining MASS in early 2020, Swenson was vice president of Design & Sustainability at Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit organization that invests more than $8 billion annually in community development. Swenson’s work explores how critical design practice can and should promote economic and social equity, environmental sustainability, and healthy communities.

A member of the second class of the Enterprise Rose Fellowship, Swenson was tapped to grow and lead the program in 2007, after completing her fellowship with the Piedmont Housing Alliance in Charlottesville, Va. Under her leadership, Swenson recruited and mentored 85 fellows who are the next generation of leaders in architecture and community development. The Rose Fellowship has been showcased at the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the New York Center for Architecture, and the National Building Museum and been recognized by the American Institute of Architects for its groundbreaking work, receiving AIA Awards in 2017 and 2018 for Collaborative Achievement. Swenson founded the Charlottesville Community Design Center and has received numerous design and social innovation awards. Swenson has 20 years of experience in the theoretical and practical application of design thinking and is a talented global public speaker and thought leader.

A prolific writer, she is releasing two books in the fall of 2020: Design with Love: At Home in America, and In Bohemia: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Kindness, both by Schiffer Publishing. In 2008, she co-authored Growing Urban Habitats: Seeking a Housing Development Model. She is a contributing author to Activist Architecture: Philosophy and Practice of Community Design and Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Architecture from The University of Virginia. Swenson was a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is fluent in French and is the single mother of three spirited daughters.

Design with Love: At Home in America is an essay and photo book featuring the work of Rose Fellows from 2000 to the present by Katie Swenson. With photography by Harry Connolly, the book is a photojournalist dream and coffee table book documenting partnerships and innovations in design across the U.S. led by some of the most talented social entrepreneurs, architects, and community planners in the country. The book captures the lessons of 20 years of community-based development to create beautiful, well-designed affordable housing for some of America’s most vulnerable communities, from the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles to disinvested blocks of West Baltimore. These hopeful stories and photographs show how designers, social activists, and community members have worked together to improve justice and equity — even in the direst of circumstances of inequality, racism, and neglect.

For more information on Swenson’s new book, click here.

Antonia Burchard-Levine

Account Manager - Tree Planting Team, Ecosia

Antonia Burchard-Levine is the Account Manager of Ecosia’s tree planting team, and working on bridging the gap between technical reforestation insights and the Ecosia community.

Ecosia is a search engine that dedicates 100% of its profits to climate action, with more than 80% financing tree-planting projects around the world. For 10+ years, Ecosia has grown from a grassroots movement into a world-leading tree-planting organization – while showing that there is a better way to do business. In 2018 Ecosia became a steward-owned company meaning that its founder and CEO Christian Kroll gave away his rights to ever sell or receive profits from Ecosia. Thanks to our user’s searches, we have planted more than 120 million trees in over 30 countries. Ecosia is also 200% renewable, not just producing enough solar energy to power data centres for all our searches with renewables, but twice as much.

Prior to joining Ecosia, Antonia consulted on international projects as an urban development specialist with a focus on transportation and mobility, urban land use, infrastructure financing, flood management infrastructure and topics around access to the city. She was a researcher at the New Normal Program at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow, and a contributor to the Latin American Bureau (LAB)’s project Voices of Latin American. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Development from McGill University and a masters in Urban Management from the Technical University of Berlin.

Cindy Montañez

CEO of TreePeople 

In 2016, Cindy became the CEO of TreePeople, making her the first Latina CEO of an environmental organization in U.S. history.

At the age of 25, Cindy was elected as the youngest mayor and councilmember of her hometown of San Fernando, CA. At 28 years old, she made history by becoming the youngest woman elected to the California State Legislature, where she became a champion for the environment, sustainable urban planning and social justice. 

Cindy then moved on to serve as Assistant General Manager at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where she was a core part of the team transitioning the nation's largest publicly-owned utility to cleaner energy and a more sustainable local water supply. 

Cindy is currently a Board Member for the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and a Legislator In-Residence at the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. 

Climate Change from the Streets 2/4/21

With the book Climate Change from the Streets as anchor to the conversation, environmental justice leaders address the local and galvanizing influence low-income people of color bring to advancing their advocacy work on climate change at the state and federal levels. Proving that climate change is an environmental justice issue, participants will discuss how environmental protection and improving public health are inextricably linked. The discussion will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.


Angelo Logan

Campaign Director for the Moving Forward Network and co-founder of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

Angelo is the Campaign Director for the Moving Forward Network and co-founder of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.For 20 years, Angelo has been advocating for his community and communities across the country impacted by industrial pollution and the goods movement system. Logan serves on multiple boards and advisory committees where he provides his perspective through an environmental justice and equity lens.

Logan is the 2017 and 2002 South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) Environmental Justice and Clean Air Award Winner.

Mariana Del Valle Prieto Cervantes

Clean Water and Ocean Advocate at GreenLatinos

Mariana the Clean Water and Ocean Advocate at GreenLatinos a non-profit organization that convenes a broad coalition of Latino leaders committed to addressing national, regional and local environmental, natural resources and conservation issues that significantly affect the health and welfare of the Latino community in the United States.

Mariana was awarded the Jefferson’s Award in 2017 for her efforts of bringing together the community and its stakeholders to reduce single-use plastics at the local level. Through her work in coalition building, environmental justice policy advocacy, public education, and community engagement, Mariana has a strong passion and commitment to serve GreenLatinos. @delvalle_almar

Dr. Michael Mendez

Assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine

Dr. Michael Mendez is an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine. He previously was the inaugural James and Mary Pinchot Faculty Fellow in Sustainability Studies at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Michael has more than a decade of senior-level experience in the public and private sectors, where he consulted and actively engaged in the policymaking process. This included working for the California State Legislature as a senior consultant, lobbyist, gubernatorial appointee, and as vice chair of the Sacramento City Planning Commission.

Rev. Mac Shorty

Founder, Community Repower Movement

Mac Shorty grew up in the Watts housing project Jordan Downs Housing. Born the oldest of four children, he learned at an early age about the civil rights movement from his grandparents, who came to Los Angeles by way of the Mississippi civil rights movement. After spending time helping his grandmother organize the first IHSS union recognized by the state of California, Mac then began to lace up his shoes and beat the pavement for several local political campaign, then he got the sprites of his ancestors of the civil rights movement and so was born a true civil rights advocate. He continued to champion for justice for those who felt like their voices were not being heard at city hall or the state level, later he formed a community repower movement to address environmental concerns in the Watts community.

Cindy Montañez

CEO of TreePeople 

In 2016, Cindy became the CEO of TreePeople, making her the first Latina CEO of an environmental organization in U.S. history.

At the age of 25, Cindy was elected as the youngest mayor and councilmember of her hometown of San Fernando, CA. At 28 years old, she made history by becoming the youngest woman elected to the California State Legislature, where she became a champion for the environment, sustainable urban planning and social justice. 

Cindy then moved on to serve as Assistant General Manager at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where she was a core part of the team transitioning the nation's largest publicly-owned utility to cleaner energy and a more sustainable local water supply. 

Cindy is currently a Board Member for the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and a Legislator In-Residence at the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.