Meet Michelle Daneri, our new Southern California Regional Stewardship Coordinator

By Hazel Platt,
Volunteer Engagement Associate

“When I first started hiking in college, I really took for granted that trails existed,” remarked Michelle Daneri, PCTA’s new Southern California Regional Stewardship Coordinator. “I didn’t realize how much work goes into providing a safe and sustainable experience.”

Michelle on the PCT in Southern California. Photo by Michelle Daneri.

In her new position, she works closely with volunteers, agency partners, and PCTA staff to help coordinate trail maintenance projects throughout Southern California. Some of her time is in the office, dealing with logistics, communicating with land managers, and ensuring that paperwork is handled correctly—critical behind-the-scenes work that often goes unrecognized. The rest of her time is in the field, working directly with volunteers and digging in the dirt.

“I am working to provide the best experience possible, for volunteers and trail-users alike, on the 500+ miles of trail in my region.”

Michelle’s conservation career began with a role as a Park Ranger in Austin, Texas, where she helped with a project to plant saplings at a cave entrance and learned about the complex ecology of caves – and how they are far from the closed-off systems that many tend to think they are. “I was hooked! I really enjoy working to protect and enhance wild places, whether that’s invasive plant control, restoring habitat, or maintaining trails.”

Since then, Michelle has worked throughout various conservation agencies and programs, eventually landing back in Southern California. “I grew up here and have a deep appreciation for the biodiversity, and the importance of natural places and [wilderness] experiences in such a dense urban region.” Since moving back to California, she’s been learning how to surf. “Watching cormorants fish, Great White shark sightings, stingray stings, getting pursued by a seal…the ocean is wild! Surfing has increased my respect for nature as a whole.” She also enjoys birdwatching, hiking, foraging, biking and skateboarding in her free time.

Michelle at Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by Michelle Daneri.

Michelle’s most memorable outdoor experience was a visit to Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico. “Watching iguanas sun themselves on Mayan ruins, macaws soaring overhead, hearing howling monkeys around the clock, getting to hike with an Indigenous guide that taught me about the medicinal uses for plants in the jungle—totally worth 24 hours on a bus!”

Michelle is passionate about creating spaces where people and nature can exist in harmony. “What draws me to trail work is that trails provide a way for people to experience nature without crushing sensitive vegetation or disturbing wildlife habitat.” She is honored to serve a trail and volunteer community that provides such a unique outdoor experience for people. “I want to provide a space where people can feel belonging while fulfilling connection to nature, community and stewardship.”

In the future, Michelle would love to see the volunteer community grow and expand the ways that people can volunteer and give back to the trail. “I hope to be part of a volunteer program where we are really matching people and their unique gifts and interests with work that needs to be done.”

Welcome, Michelle, and we can’t wait to see what you do!

Author: PCTA Staff

The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as a world-class experience for hikers and equestrians, and for all the values provided by wild and scenic lands.