Our Team

Jeff Herrick

Global Lead

Jeff is a soil scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Las Cruces, New Mexico and holds adjunct faculty appointments at New Mexico State University and Colorado University Boulder. His research focuses on the factors that control the resistance and resilience of dryland ecosystems, and he has developed a number of inventory, assessment, monitoring and knowledge management tools that are applied at plot to national scales. He serves as an advisor to US government agencies on increasing return on investments in rangeland monitoring and assessment, is a member of the International Resources Panel, and is the US Government’s science representative to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). His international work also includes collaboration with scientists, land managers, and development organizations in over 20 countries spanning humid tropical to dry temperate ecosystems.

Meghan Mize

Global Coordinator

Meghan Mize is the LandPKS Global Coordinator. Meghan has more than 8 years of experience in international agriculture and program management. She has a background in horticulture, agronomy, agriculture extension, value chain development, and communications. She lived and worked in in West Africa for more than three years leading agriculture extension and social enterprise development projects. She also has experience working with horticulture and participatory community development in South East Asia. She holds an MS in International Agricultural Development from UC Davis and a BA in Development Studies from UC Berkeley.

Maximilian Contreras

Program Specialist

Maximilian is a program specialist and local coordinator for LandPKS based in Las Cruces, NM. His main role is coordinating team communication and projects, database management, providing administrative support and managing app development. His background is in music, theater and media library management. He plans to pursue a Masters degree in Archival Records Administration.

Ciaran Kenny


Ciaran Kenny is the lead programmer for LandPKS. He has ten years experience architecting, developing and managing full life cycle of software and technology for a variety of web, mobile, e-commerce, middleware and database systems. Five years experience working with customers to define, scope and estimate projects, and providing training and consulting services to bring new clients up to speed. Proven background building and managing technical teams, and adaptable to a variety of technologies, industries, situations and audiences. He has a PhD in Numerical Modeling and BEng in Electrical Engineering. As the Director of Web Technology for Gaiam (2010-2016), he built an app development team that deployed two top ten Apps in the iTunes Health and Fitness category.

Jason Neff

Modelling lead

Jason is the modeling lead for LandPKS. He is an Associate Professor in the Environmental Studies program at CU Boulder where he also directs the undergraduate program in Environmental Studies. His research area is in biogeochemistry with a focus on a diverse array of subjects ranging from studies of the carbon cycle to atmospheric mineral aerosols. Through all these areas, Neff’s primary interest is in how human activities influence the movement of nutrients and material through the Earth System and the impacts of changing biogeochemical cycles on both natural ecosystems and human society. He has served in a wide variety of roles at the University of Colorado and nationally and has authored over 80 scientific publications and a forthcoming introductory environmental science digital text titled ‘A Changing Planet: the Science of Sustainability’. Neff speaks frequently to the media and public on the topic of land use change and dust storms in the deserts of the western US and has served on advisory panels for a wide variety of organizations including the US DOE, NASA, NSF, NCEAS, and other international science agencies. Professor Neff received his BA in Biology from The University of Colorado at Boulder (1993) and a Ph.D. in Biology from Stanford University (1999).

Wong Seok Jang

Postdoctoral Researcher

Won Seok Jang is the hydrologist / modeler for LandPKS based in University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.  He studied Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering in Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University for his Ph.D.  He is interested in developing and implementing system-based hydrological modeling which can take care of big data. His primary roles with the project include developing a modeling framework and assessing the effect of soil degradation on crop productivity and local / regional / global scale hydrological modeling for climate change impact assessment.  He currently uses EPIC (Environmental Policy Integrated Climate) model to estimate potential crop yield and soil erosion and is developing EPIC parallel computing framework for global modeling with big data.  He is also contributing to the development of an international environmental modeling program.  The goal of his research is to explore and measure the impact of climate change on food production worldwide, to develop multi-objective optimization of crop yield and minimization of soil erosion initially in Eastern Africa with a plan to expand to the United States and other global locations in the future.

Jonathan Maynard


Jonathan is a research ecologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Las Cruces, NM. He holds a Ph.D. is Soils and Biogeochemistry and a M.S. in Soil Science from the University of California, Davis. Jonathan’s current research is focused on the use of remote sensing and spatial modeling techniques to quantify and predict patterns and processes of human-affected ecosystem change. His research strives to generate management relevant information and novel technologies to assist national land resource monitoring programs. Jonathan is currently working to develop new techniques for the synthesis and delivery of ecological site information for LPKS.

George Peacock


George has Master of Science in Range Science from Texas Tech University and a Bachelor of Science in Range Management from Sul Ross State University. He has worked as a rangeland management specialist for USDA-NRCS at the field, area, state, and national level. George has experience in natural resource databases, requirements analysis, design and testing of web services for several resource conservation projects. He is currently working on development of a land capability classification module for LandPKS.

Lilian Ndungu

GIS Coordinator

Lilian has a Masters of Science in Geographic Information Systems and a Bachelors of Science in Business Information Technology. Based in Kenya, her role is to liaise with local, national and regional organizations in Kenya and Namibia to obtain datasets that will help populate LandPKS global inputs.

Elifadhili Daniel

LandPKS Country Coordinator

Elifadhili Daniel is our LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Tanzania.  He is a crop scientist, with a Master of Science Degree in Crop Science from Wageningen University and Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Sokoine University of Agriculture. Daniel has more than 10 years’ experience working with farmers as an agricultural extensionist, three of which he worked as a researcher for AfricaRice where he was involved in developing cost effective, culturally and socially acceptable parasitic weed control strategies for resource-poor rice farmers in Tanzania. He has interacted and established a network with various agricultural stakeholders including input suppliers, researchers, Agricultural training institutes, local NGOs and District Agricultural Offices in Tanzania. His LandPKS work in Tanzania involves, among many things, training farmers, extension, development and researchers on the use of the LandPKS mobile app, identifying and communicating improvements to the LandPKS development team and developing additional training and outreach materials in Swahili.

Due to shortage of extension officers in many villages of Tanzania and high costs for conducting laboratory soil testing, Daniel is motivated ensure LandPKS is rolled out and used as a decision tool for soil management by multiple stakeholders and users.

Adane Buni

LandPKS Country Coordinator

Adane Buni is the LandPKS Country Coordination Officer for Ethiopia. Adane has graduated in Water Security and International Development at a Masters of Science Degree level from University of East Anglia, United Kingdom. Previously he has studied Soil Science(MSc) at Hawassa University, Ethiopia and Soil and Water Engineering and Management (BSc) at Haramaya University, Ethiopia. Adane has approximately nine years of work experience at various organizations in different parts of Ethiopia. He has lectured in the departments of small scale irrigation and rural water supply at Hawassa Polytechnic College for five years. He was also an Associate Researcher at Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research.

Our Student Team

Based in New Mexico State University

Thanh Nguyen


Thanh is a PhD candidate in the Computer Science Department at New Mexico State University. He graduated with his Masters of Computer Science at James Cook University in Australia. His thesis, entitled Data Mining in Internet Banking, is currently being used in a number of Asian banks. Thanh is developing the core back-end analytic system and web services for the LandPKS system. Additionally, his interests include data mining and knowledge discovery, classification, clustering, association rules, similarity, artificial Intelligence, knowledge representation and reasoning, planning, logic programming, answer set programming, robotics and big-data mining.

Luis Terrones

App Tester

Luis is a full time undergraduate at New Mexico State University. He anticipates graduating in December 2020 with a dual bachelor’s in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. Related to Aerospace, he is a member of a national rocketry organization, in which he and his team develop and manufacture structural components of the rockets. His roles as an App tester for LandPKS include the integration of test plans for manual test development and assuring quality control with the assessment of the LandPKS app on different platforms.

Technical Advisors

Jason Karl

Technical Advisor

Jason is a research ecologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Las Cruces, New Mexico with a PhD in Fisheries and Wildlife and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Michigan State University. His research focuses on the applications of geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing and ecological informatics to sustainable land management. Jason has 20 years of experience in conservation planning, spatial analysis and natural resource monitoring with the ARS, The Nature Conservancy, and other NGOs. He currently works extensively with the Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and other U.S. federal agencies on the development and implementation of techniques, tools and strategies for land health monitoring. Jason is the developer and principal investigator for the JournalMap and Landscape Toolbox projects.

David Kimiti

Research Technician

David has a PhD from New Mexico State University and his dissertation looks at the utility of LandPKS in rangeland restoration and management in Eastern Africa. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Range Ecology and a Bachelors of Science degree in Range Management from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. David is broadly experienced in natural resource management in Eastern African rangelands and spent three years working at Mpala Research Center and Wildlife Foundation in Laikipia, Kenya. His experiences include rangeland health assessment and monitoring, rangeland restoration, and elephant conservation. David’s area of focus was on use of land-potential knowledge for the restoration of degraded rangelands, with special consideration to developing and evaluating methods that reduce bare ground cover and promote conservation of resources in a cost effective manner.

Travis Nauman

Soil Scientist

Travis is a soil scientist with the US Geological survey in Moab, Utah with a PhD in Plant and Soil Science from West Virginia University and M.S. from University of Arizona in Soil and Water Science. His work generally encompasses the role of soils in ecosystem responses to different drivers of change. He has pioneered new methods to improve soil surveys using remote sensing and spatial modeling to meet needs of land management decision support systems. He has also worked in development and interpretation of natural resources inventory and monitoring programs with a wide variety of public, private, non-profit, and academic entities to help integrate data-driven research into land management frameworks emphasizing soil processes, site potential frameworks, and erosion mitigation. Travis has worked across the southwestern United States, Appalachian Mountains, and in parts of China to integrate field assessments of soil and vegetation into agricultural, rangeland, and forest management plans.

Kevin Urama

Research Technician

Dr. Urama is the Inaugural President of the African Society for Ecological Economics (ASEE), in the African chapter of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE). He is also Professor in the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, South Africa; and an Adjunct Professor at the Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs, University of Murdoch, Western Australia. Additionally, he serves on the High-Level Panel on Global Assessment of Resources for Implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He is also a member the OECD Green Growth and Poverty Reduction Task Team, and the UNESCO Governing Board of the International Research and Training Centre for Science and Technology Strategy (CISTRAT), Beijing. Kevin is current Chair of the Open Society Foundation’s Africa Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (ACCAI), member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the Bio-Resources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development, and a Consultant for the Climate Change Strategy of the African Union Commission.


Amy Quandt

Global Coordinator

Amy Quandt was the former Global Coordinator for LandPKS. She is also a College Assistant Professor at the Jornada Experimental Range at New Mexico State University. Amy is an environmental social scientist by training, with years of experience leading research projects in East Africa. Her dissertation work in Isiolo County, Kenya focused on how smallholder farmers are using agroforestry to build livelihood resilience to a variety of shocks including drought, flood, violent conflict, and wildlife crop raiding. She finished her Ph.D. in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2017. She also holds an MS in Resource Conservation and a BS in Biology. Her primary role on project was to coordinate between project staff and LandPKS users, as well as work with partners on the ground to promote LandPKS. She is based in Boulder, Colorado in the Sustainable Innovations Laboratory at Colorado (SILC) as a SILC Fellow.

Caitlin Holmes

Local Program Coordinator

Caitlin was the local program coordinator for LandPKS based in Las Cruces, NM. Caitlin’s primary roles with the project included improving data visualization of the application outputs, creating the LandPKS education program, prototyping and developing the mobile application suite, and organizing communication between partners and Team members. Her background is in Conservation Biology & Ecology, sustainability, and soil science. She is continuing her education and career in nutrition and health sciences.

Kate Baker

Graphic Design

Kate provided graphic design support for LandPKS applications and other design collateral out of Las Cruces, NM. Her background is in graphic arts, illustration, and marketing.

Brent Barnett

API Data Manager

Brent worked on automated testing implementation and deployment of LandPKS assets. He is pursuing both a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Computer science.

Adam Beh

Global Coordinator

Adam served as the LandPKS Global Coordinator. He has over 15 years of experience working on conservation and development projects in sub-Saharan Africa and the western United States. He holds a PhD in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University. Adam has coordinated community conservation and livelihoods programs with Wildlife Conservation Society in South Sudan, and developed mechanisms for collaborative wildlife conservation and sustainable tourism practice in Samburu County, Kenya. Due to the overwhelming grace and hospitality extended to Adam over the years by the Samburu community, he and his PhD advisor founded a grassroots non-profit (Samburu Youth Education Fund), managed by Samburu community leaders and supporting secondary school education for deserving youth in Waso Ward of Samburu County. Adam employs participatory action research and incorporates traditional ecological knowledge in land use decision making. Adam is currently the Director for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies.

Josh Beniston

Soil Scientist

Josh is a faculty member in Sustainable Agriculture at Santa Roca Junior College (California, USA). His research interests include soil quality evaluation, regenerative management of soils, and biogeochemistry He received his PhD in Ecosystem Science from The Ohio State University. At Ohio State, Josh was a research associate at the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center and received research fellowships from the Land Institute and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. He has a long-term commitment to ecological land management and has worked on numerous ecological restoration, small-scale agriculture, and landscape design projects. His international experience includes managing an agroforestry and education center in the rainforest of southern Belize and conducting soil research in Iceland. Josh has taught classes on ecological design and soil science for universities, cooperative extension programs, and community organizations.

Heather Akers

Web Developer

Heather graduated with her Masters of Library and Information Science degree from San Jose State University in May 2016. Her focus was in web design and information architecture. She served as our web developer and was responsible for designing and maintaining web pages of Land Potential and Portal websites.

Tegenu Engda

Postdoctoral Researcher

Tegenu Engda was a postdoctoral researcher at CU Boulder, Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC). He received his PhD in Hydrology from the University of Wyoming in 2016. His research interests include measurement and modeling of hydrological and erosion processes at different scale, modeling of water, heat, and carbon fluxes in the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, solute transport in porous media and drought analysis. His primary role was integrating hydrologic, erosion and climatic models to study land productivity potential and future sustainability production at different ecosystems.

Zhaosheng Fan

Postdoctoral Researcher

Zhaosheng Fan (“Fan”) was a Research Soil Scientist with the Jornada Experimental Range, USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). His primary role with LandPKS was to develop algorithms to identify important soil properties and characteristics (that drive the crop and hydrological models) using mobile devices, through the collaborations with the scientists from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Geological Survey, New Mexico State University, and University of Colorado at Boulder. Prior to joining USAD-ARS, he was a staff scientist (Assistant Biogeochemical Modeler) at the Argonne National Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. in Soil Science (Soil Physics) from North Dakota State University. His research interests include environmental sustainability, terrestrial biogeochemical modeling, soil-water-plant-microbial interactions and their responses to climate and land-use changes, and mass and energy transport in subsurface environments.

Hermine Mitter

Postdoctoral Researcher

Hermine Mitter was a landscape planner and agricultural economist with the New Mexico State University (NMSU). Her research interests include integrated land use analysis and modeling, regional and global impact, adaptation and vulnerability assessments, and integrating stakeholder knowledge into these assessments. Hermine received her doctoral degree from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, Austria where she was selected to be part of the Doctoral School of Sustainable Development (dokNE). At BOKU, Hermine’s research focused on spatially explicit integrated assessments of climate change impacts on agricultural productivity and the environment in temperate agricultural systems. Furthermore, she worked on agricultural experts’ and farmers’ perceptions on climate change and adaptation measures in Austria and Ethiopia. Both, for her diploma and her doctoral thesis, she received several research awards.

Samira Pakravan

Soil Color Developer

Samira Pakravan has a PhD in Computer Science at New Mexico State University. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Computer Science from NMSU working on Runtime Monitoring and Software Engineering area. Her PhD research focused on Human Computer Interaction and User Interface development. Samira’s primary role in the project was developing the Soil Color Application.


Ujjwal Panthi


Ujjwal has a Masters in Computer Science Department at New Mexico State University. He completed his B.S degree at Tribhuvan University in Nepal. He has previously worked as a Software Developer at Unifun(https://unifun.com). He worked on the data portal and API development at LandPKS. His additional interests include High Performance Computing, Database Programming, Information Retrieval and Data Mining.

Rick Saltzman

Application Manager

Rick worked as the manager of application development and deployment. In addition to his work with LandPKS, he manages private funds that provide first trust deed lending, consults CS/EE when projects look interesting, and explores quantum physics with an eye towards quantum computing and cosmology. His background includes launching start-ups in remote telemetry and satellite communications, network equipment and services, as well as both voice and image recognition. The teams he has built were responsible for software development, quality assurance and dev-ops. His interest in engineering began early on when he built his first AM radio receiver (foxhole radio) using headphones, a safety pin, a pencil lead, a double edge razor blade and some copper wire.

Huong Tran

Quality Assurance Coordinator

Huong Tran was the manual tester for LandPKS based in Las Cruces, NM. Huong ‘s primary roles with the project included working with software developers to ensure quality standards, creating a test plan and test scenario, and performing manual tests for various products of LandPKS. Huong graduated completed her MBA with a specialization in Information Systems in May 2017.

Shawn Salley

Soil Scientist

Shawn Salley is a soil scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Las Cruces, New Mexico with a PhD in Soil Geomorphology from Colorado State University. His interests focus on how climate change and humans impact soil ecosystems across spatial and temporal scales. Shawn’s past research has supported the development of a hierarchical landscape classification for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to advance programs and practices related to improving Ecological Sites concepts in the United States. Shawn is interested in creating tools and technology to deliver reliable soils information to aid land managers, farmers, and developers to make sustainable land management decisions.

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