Who We Are
Photo: Brenda Cruz-Wolf
Community Science Manager
Mashal Awais joined Bayou City Waterkeeper in February 2021. Mashal utilizes her skills as an environmental scientist to partner with communities in the pursuit of healthy waters and communities throughout the Lower Galveston Bay Watershed.
Having received her Masters in Environmental Analysis from Rice University, she has worked alongside environmental justice communities advocating for communities’ right to clean air and water. Prior to joining Bayou City Waterkeeper, Mashal’s work focused on risk management in disaster recovery and mitigating health impacts from environmental pollution for fence line and underinvested communities. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from UT-Austin.
Mashal supports local environmental education efforts and youth-based climate resilience initiatives throughout the region. She has been living in the Houston area since 2008. As an immigrant from Lahore, Pakistan, she enjoys the richness and diversity of Houston, meeting new people, finding new music and art.
You can reach her at email@example.com
Education and Resource Hub Coordinator
Danielle Garcia is a Latinx/Tejanitx planner, geographer, and environmental advocate based in Houston, Texas. Raised in a military family, she developed a deep connection to nature and diverse communities across the United States but specifically in Texas. In 2022, Danielle earned her Master’s in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy from Texas Southern University, specializing in environmental and sustainable land use planning, with research covering topics such as environmental justice, community resilience, and social equity.
Before moving to Houston, Danielle completed her Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Environmental Sustainability at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Her studies focused on GIS analysis and Latin American Studies, examining social, environmental, and political issues within Latinx communities. She also explored international environmental and social concerns in Mexico, studying with La Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) in partnership with UTSA in Puebla de Zaragoza.
Danielle started at Bayou City Waterkeeper in 2022 as the Water Justice Specialist and now works as the Education and Resource Hub Coordinator. In her current role, she leverages her planning and geography background to focus on water justice and resource development. Danielle aspires to maintain her collaboration with communities to create and identify resources while empowering and educating them about pressing water-related concerns in Houston’s diverse landscape.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud
Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud brings over twenty-five years of experience working in nonprofit creative, cultural, and environmental organizations. In her leadership at Bayou City Waterkeeper since 2021, she has led the creation and adoption of a 3-year strategic plan; expanded the organization’s budget through values-driven fundraising; launched a new communications plan, brand, website, and the organization’s first artist-in-residence program; and is currently doubling staff size with the hire of new positions in organizing, policy, communications, law, and water justice.
She has developed programs framing the environment, arts, and culture. Highlights include launching inaugural environmental education programs at Houston Botanic Garden, founding a cross-disciplinary two-year creative studio at Project Row Houses, and developing community-based programs throughout the U.S. and international cultural exchanges throughout the Caribbean and in Mexico. She has also led strategic growth through capacity building and fundraising at organizations including University of Houston, the Museum of Fine Arthe ts Houston, Diaspora Cultural Arts Incubator, and additional organizations in Houston, Miami, and New York.
Currently, she serves on the steering committee of the Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus at PolicyLink and is on the Board of the Houston Climate Justice Museum.
You can reach her at email@example.com.
Usman Mahmood joined Bayou City Waterkeeper as a Policy Analyst in August 2023. He brings experience in research, policy, and community advocacy.
Previously, Usman has worked with the Coastal Prairie Conservancy researching and advocating for healthy watersheds. As a field worker with the Houston Food Bank’s Community Assistance Program, he put advocacy into action by facilitating state services for thousands across southeast Texas. This work generated access to millions of meals and healthcare services by collaborating with over 20 regional partners to promote equitable access to resources.
His experience in policy as a legislative intern at the Texas State Senate and as a junior summer institute fellow at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy cultivated a passion for reforming broken systems through improved policy and implementation.
Raised in Houston, Usman is a licensed Community Health Worker and is pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the UH Hobby School of Public Affairs.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minh Nguyen joined Bayou City Waterkeeper in August 2023, driven by his love for nature, equity, and sustainability. He brings over twenty years of leadership experience as an entrepreneur, business owner, and more recently in nonprofit administration.
He co-founded Texas’ first year-round dragon boat club, paddling in the bayou, however due to water quality concerns including high bacteria levels from water tests, he quit paddling. Minh brings a unique entrepreneurial background. He opened Cafe TH, a Vietnamese restaurant, open for over thirteen years, and later worked as a partner of Celadon Coffee, and co-founder of CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen. Additionally, he brings experience working in nonprofit social service organizations in the fields of food systems, farming, and sexual assault.
With a degree in psychology from the University of Houston, he also brings experience and interest in managing people and teams. He has developed resources, systems, and tools to support teams. In his work at Bayou City Waterkeeper, he looks forward to leveraging his variety of experiences to develop sound internal systems, strategic alignment, and staff support so that our team can advocate for water justice in our community.
You can reach him at email@example.com.
Organizing & Cultural Strategies Manager
Yudith Nieto joined Bayou City Waterkeeper in June 2023. She is a queer Mexican-American organizer, language justice worker, and interdisciplinary artist originally based in Houston, Texas where she put her efforts into advocating for environmental justice in fenceline communities since 2012.
She has worked with frontline communities across the country and the Gulf South to create, develop and amplify community-led media around just transition stories, including artbuilds in solidarity with intersectional movements for a decolonized multilingual approach. Yudith work weaves networks of solidarity and mutual aid to respond to the ever-frequent natural disasters due to climate change.
Yudith serves on national and local boards to support initiatives that focus on creating youth leadership, story-based strategies, and “artivism” to engage people in environmental issues that affect their communities through arts, media, language justice, and cultural organizing. Yudith has served on the NEJAC’s Youth Perspectives on Climate Change Work Group in 2016 to identify best practices of youth engagement and addressing health impacts. In 2018, Yudith was named one of Grist.org 50 Fixers. Her work has been published in various platforms, books, and documentaries since 2013.
Her framework is informed by the teachings of Nature’s cycles and the immigrant stories of survival that shaped her life. You can find her deep in a forest or wherever music thrives.
Water Justice Organizer
Kourtney Revels joined Bayou City Waterkeeper in August 2023. She is a community organizer and education justice advocate who works tirelessly for equity in underserved communities.
She is based in Northeast Houston, where she advocates for infrastructural improvements to drainage systems, equitable distribution of resources, and disaster preparedness, with the North East Action Collective. Kourtney, a mother, champions for improvements to the public education system, while also educating people on the intersectionality between environmental and education justice. She lives and works on the fenceline, and seeks to bring awareness and solutions to vulnerable communities.
Currently, she serves on the board of directors of West Street Recovery and as an Advocate for Public Education with Community Voices for Public Ed.
A native Houstonian, Kourtney looks forward to engaging, educating, and supporting the diverse communities of Houston fairly and equitably through her water justice advocacy.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legal Director & Waterkeeper
Kristen Schlemmer is a lawyer who works every day to secure water justice in her hometown of Houston. As Bayou City Waterkeeper’s Legal Director since 2018, her work uses the law to confront water injustice, from water pollution and infrastructure failures, to wetlands destruction and flooding, to inequities in climate mitigation and disaster prevention.
In 2021, Kristen helped secure a $2 billion consent decree that will transform Houston’s wastewater infrastructure over the next generation. Before joining Bayou City Waterkeeper, Kristen’s legal work included developing a precedent-setting legal theory for families flooded during Harvey, defending the city of Houston’s equal rights ordinance, and representing marine mammal scientists in seeking better living conditions for a captive orca. She previously worked at Susman Godfrey LLP and Irvine & Conner PLLC and clerked for two federal judges.
Her perspective is shaped by her childhood in Houston and South America, previous translation work with Brazilian human rights organizations, earlier advocacy focused on wildlife and farmed animals, legal education at Tulane in post-Katrina New Orleans, experience tending wild gardens, and motherhood. She is a Texas Gulf Coast Master Naturalist and previously served on the local board of New Leaders Council, the regional group of the Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter, and the Houston advisory group for the Texas Civil Rights Project.
You can reach her at email@example.com.
Communications & Narrative Change Manager
Marleen Villanueva joined Bayou City Waterkeeper as the Communications and Narrative Change Manager in Summer 2023. She is an Indigenous Mother from Pame-Chichimeca lands in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, raised in Texas.
Marleen is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Social Justice Education Department at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, and a former Elementary school teacher. By bringing together Indigenous studies, environmental education, and social justice education, her dissertation aims to add to discussions around water protection with a specific focus on the waters of Central Texas, Yana Wana. Marleen’s work is guided by and comes from the premise that water is life, water is deserving of protection, and water is important for how we live and imagine the world. She is a community organizer who has been a part of various frontline movements as a water protector and land defender. She has also worked in various roles at cultural and social justice organizations including the Center for Story-Based Strategy and the Indigenous Cultures Institute.
Marleen is informed by Indigenous water teachings and responsibilities that have been passed down through generations. She incorporates these teachings and ways of being into her communications and narrative change work at BCWK as well as in her work as a community educator and birthkeeper in her community.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred Schmidt-Arenales is an artist and filmmaker. His projects attempt to bring awareness to unconscious processes on the individual and group level. He has presented films, installations, and performances internationally at venues including SculptureCenter and Abrons Arts Center, (New York), Links Hall (Chicago), The Darling Foundry (Montreal), LightBox and The Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), Artspace (New Haven), The Museum of Fine Arts and FotoFest (Houston), Künstlerhaus Halle für Kunst und Medien (Graz), and Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna). His recent film Committee of Six was awarded a jury prize for best film at the 2023 Onion City Experimental Film Festival.
Fellows & Interns
Watershed Research Fellow
Mahnoor spent her childhood living in Houston and grew up in Lahore, Pakistan. She received her undergraduate degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in Pre-Law and Psychology with minors in Environmental Studies and Film. After graduating in 2020, she spent a year working on Nisani Farm in Southern Virginia, learning and applying regenerative agriculture techniques. In pursuit of gaining more knowledge and global perspectives, she went to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to get a Masters of Science in Environment and Resource Management and conducted her final research project on the socio-environmental impacts of large dams on the Indus river basin in Pakistan. Mahnoor is now an AmeriCorps member of the Texas Conservation Corps in Austin and is excited to see how her work as a watershed research fellow will intersect with her experiences in the field.
Hamza was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and moved to Houston, Texas at the start of his teenage years. He lived in the area till it was time to leave for his studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where he got his Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Planning and Design with a concentration in Community and Regional Planning. Through his time in Albuquerque, he gained experience in community outreach and community-led disaster preparedness while working with various organizations, such as Keep Albuquerque Beautiful to UNM4NEPAL. From the start, his passion for mapping, disaster preparedness, and environmental consciousness has geared his career path to focus on the betterment of living in a sustainable community. After returning back to the Houston area he has been a part of Northeast Action Collective to help with our area’s disaster preparedness. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, hiking, and enjoying Houston’s multifaceted experiences. Hamza hopes to utilize his skills here at Bayou City Waterkeeper as a GIS Fellow to promote clean water and environmental consciousness through the creation of maps.
Elizabeth was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from Texas A&M University. Her studies of global relations combined with her concern for global climate change led her to pursue a career in environmental justice. Her service year in AmeriCorps confirmed not only her passion for service, but her commitment to improving underserved communities in Texas and beyond. Her education and background led her to Houston where she is currently a 2L at South Texas College of Law. She is excited about the opportunity to work with Bayou City Waterkeeper and to help advance their goals of giving communities power and justice for issues stemming from environmental pollution.
Watershed Design Fellow
Skyler is a landscape designer and researcher interested in how landscape can be used as a medium to design and build capacity for the Just Transition. After graduating from Utah State University with a bachelors degree in Landscape architecture and environmental planning, they moved to Houston to work as a landscape designer for an international design and planning firm and contributed to projects of multiple scales – from streetscapes to eco-tourism centers – all with a concentration on plant material and user experience. While working, they also volunteered with Plant It Forward as a veggie educator and farm steward and served as the Hub Coordinator for Sunrise Movement Houston. Skyler recently graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Design with a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture. Alongside their studies, Skyler has collaborated with The Houston Climate Justice Museum since its beginnings in 2021. Skyler joins BCWK with a keen interest in building community power and capacity to guide the energy transition towards just ends. They hope to use design and planning to unearth opportunities that can uplift the vital infrastructural role watersheds and wetlands play in the Houston region.
David, an avid sailor and fisherman, serves as Board Chair. He started his own business, a residential remodeling and home building company, in Houston in 1983, retiring in 2019. He and his wife live on Galveston Bay in Seabrook, where he serves as a member of the City of Seabrook’s Open Spaces and Parks Committee, Galveston Bay Cruising Association, Galveston Bay Foundation, and Audubon Society. David joined the board in 2018.
Rachel is BCWK’s Board Treasurer. A long-time Houstonian, and passionate advocate for clean water and the environment, she was recently the Executive Director of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, working to foster dialogue and collaboration on environmental issues. Previously she held positions at the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Harris County Flood Control District. Rachel joined the board in 2019.
Hugo is a Houston-based Landscape Designer and Community Planner interested in the interaction between urban environments, people, and water. As a Senior Landscape Designer at Asakura Robinson, Hugo manages multiple park, infrastructure, and planning projects that seek to address issues of ecosystem diversity, resilience, and mobility in the Houston area. Hugo joined the board in 2022.
Currently a Senior Associate with Hogan Lovells, Lindsay has worked on an array of environmental issues in Texas and Colorado. Prior to joining Hogan Lovells, she clerked for the Honorable Melinda Harmon in Texas and was a legal fellow for Defenders of Wildlife. Lindsay joined the board in 2021, and is a member of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Clear Sky First Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Having joined the board in 2021, Libby is passionate about understanding how the narratives of place differ based on whose voice is prioritized. As a Neighborhood Development Project Manager for Project Row Houses, she is working to build initiatives around affordable housing and supportive services that can contribute to a culture of health. Libby currently serves as board secretary.
Jolea is the Director of Development Operations for KIPP Texas Public Schools where she leads the team responsible for maintaining data and communications systems that support successful fundraising across the state. Her career in the nonprofit sector began as an intern for West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, a community-based, environmental justice organization in Southwest Atlanta. Jolea joined the board in 2022.
Ken is retired, after 39 years studying in and working professionally in coastal and wetland ecosystems of the Northwest Gulf of Mexico. He worked as a Hydrologist at what was then the Texas Water Commission for 2 years, followed by 28 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6, in Dallas, in the coastal and wetlands programs. Ken continues to very actively review and comment on USACE public notices, NEPA documents for proposed coastal projects, and to TCEQ on various coastal water quality matters.