Gary Adest, Ph.D

Gary Adest, Ph.D. - Founder and Board Member

Though born in the wilds of Brooklyn, New York, Gary spent every possible moment in upstate and outdoors. Nature Camp Counselor for the Boy Scouts was the opening to a career that has led through a Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D. in Biology to ownership of River Ridge Ranch, with stops teaching at Cal State Los Angeles and UCSD. Gary has done research on evolutionary genetics of reptiles, ecology of urban rats, as well as the life history and physiology of the rare and endangered Bolson Tortoise of Mexico. He now oversees the research program at River Ridge Ranch. His goal is to keep as much of the southern Sierra Nevada foothills in working ranch status as possible.


Vaughan Williams

Vaughan Williams - Board Member

Vaughan was born and raised in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the Mojave desert of southern California. Leaving the desert, he earned a degree in Ecology from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and worked as a biologist at the school. Vaughan Williams is now the Restoration Field Manager of the UC Santa Cruz Younger Lagoon Reserve. He then worked at River Ridge Ranch in an ecology internship and at various biological consulting firms. Vaughan is now a land steward at Transition Habitat Conservancy, a land trust focusing on the western Mojave Desert. He is an avid rock climber and ultralight backpacker and has spent extended periods searching out beautiful places in western North America. He has continued collaborating with River Ridge Ranch and is actively involved in an ongoing ecological study there that he helped design.

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Jonathan P. Wagy

Jonathan P. Wagy - Co-Founder and Strategic Manager

Jon grew up in Bakersfield, California and attended both UC Davis and Cal, receiving his B.S. in Forestry from Berkeley. He worked in a large variety of short-term forestry jobs and eventually started his own logging and lumber business in Kern County. In 1979, he moved his one-person sawmill to Springville and remains there to date, one of the last remaining small mills of its type in the state. Jon is a member of the Society of American Foresters and has served in various positions at SCICON, and the Tulare County Firesafe Council. He is firmly behind the Institute's goals of natural resource conservation, education and research. Jon is married to Board member Dorothy Guarisco.

Nancy Bruce, M.A

Nancy BruceM.A. - Board Member

Nancy Bruce is the Lead Teacher at Circle J -Norris Ranch, an outdoor education campus operated by Tulare County Office of Education. For over 30 years, Nancy has been active in both formal and informal education as a field science instructor in Yosemite National Park, an Outward Bound instructor in the Colorado Rockies and South Africa, a Naturalist for Open Space Parks in Colorado, and a teacher for SCICON.  She lives in Springville with her husband Mark Aspery- a blacksmith and author. Together they enjoy bicycling, canoeing, bird watching and the challenge of achieving a green household.  Nancy believes the foundation for well-being is healthy, resilient, intact ecosystems.  She'd like to foster projects that maintain and enhance ecosystems while meeting the needs of society. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dorothy A. Guarisco

Dorothy A. Guarisco - Board Member

I am pleased to be included on the board of directors for River Ridge Institute this term. I am a native of Tulare County and attended Visalia Schools, graduating from Mt. Whitney High School, home of the Pioneers! I attended College of the Sequoias during my senior year in high school and received an AA degree in Liberal Arts from Sierra Community College, in Rocklin California.  I completed my Bachelors Degree in Liberal Arts, teaching credentials, and Master of Arts in Special Education at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and taught Special Education for over 34 years.  During that time, I had many poignant experiences, the most memorable involving participating in the Science Fair, taking students to our local parks, the ocean, my husband’s sawmill, SCICON, and the Norris Ranch.  My students, with unbelievable limitations, opened up to science, research and nature.  The purpose of the River Ridge Institute is important. Students interested in research and advanced degrees need a place to develop and work.  I was given a variety of experiences in my field, the chance to participate in research, and develop expertise in areas of interest. I hope that River Ridge Institute will pay forward opportunities to students who will be the stewards of natural resources in the future.

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Foothills Festival

River Ridge Foothills Festival Poster 2019

Trout in the Classroom


River Ridge Institute - 501(c)(3)
P.O. Box 879
Springville, CA 93265
Phone: (559) 539-0207
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