Friends of the Inyo Staff

Laura Beardsley, Executive Director

Laura took over as executive director in October, 2012. Mountain living has long been a love of hers, as she was born and raised in a rural part of New Hampshire, attended high school in western Massachusetts, and spent many weekends exploring the nearby White Mountains. She has a degree in Communications Studies from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She worked at Outward Bound in Philadelphia before moving to Yosemite for a job as Membership Coordinator for the Yosemite Conservancy. She learned about Friends of the Inyo while volunteering at Lake George during the Summer of Stewardship in 2011. After six and a half years in Yosemite, she found she was spending more and more time on the Eastside and decided to make the move over. She is passionate about cooking, skiing and community.

Paul McFarland, Special Projects Manager

Paul McFarlandThe prickly pear hills surviving on the outskirts of Southern California suburbia can be blamed Paul McFarland's lasting addiction to wandering open spaces. After working across California to enhance public stewardship of public lands, Paul now lives in Lee Vining with his wife, Yvette, and two sons, Henry and Solomon and daughter Lydia. He currently manages Friends of the Inyo's field programs fostering preservation, exploration and stewardship of the lands from Mt. Whiteny to Death Valley to Potato Peak.  Paul has been lucky enough to work with Friends of the Inyo since the waning days of the Clinton Administration. 

Autumn Bahlman, Director of Operations

 Autumn BahlmanAutumn grew up in North Lake Tahoe, where she spent most of her time playing in the woods, catching lizards, and climbing around on granite boulders. Her love for the outdoors eventually led her to the Eastern Sierra, where she traded a giant blue lake for vast wilderness and rocky peaks. Her pastime of catching lizards, and playing in the woods eventually led to a Master's degree in biology at the University of Nevada, Reno. After spending the last several years working a variety of jobs from counting toads in the backcountry to managing a solar installation business, she is happy to have found a great fit with FOI, a place where she can combine her biology background and her peculiar enjoyment of working with numbers and paperwork. She currently lives outside Bishop with her two inseparable boys Sam and Owen, Cookie a large-poodle (don't laugh, she's a mountain poodle), and Percy, a cat who thinks she's a dog and loves to go hiking.

Andrew Schurr, Stewardship Coordinator

Andrew SchurrAndrew is an experienced outdoor leader who organized FOI’s first ever wilderness campsite site inventory in 2009, in addition to leading and assisting numerous wilderness and front country stewardship projects, and managing the Fish Slough Volunteer Patrol. Andrew was an AmeriCorps member with Friends of the Inyo for two years before hiring on as Stewardship Coordinator in 2011.


Ursula Esser, Community Outreach Manager

Ursula fell in love with the Eastern Sierra more than 20 years ago. She most recently lived in Big Sur and along the Central Coast and is thrilled to have joined our Friends of the Inyo team on the Eastside and call Independence her new home. She loves hiking and canoeing, exploring new trails and back roads, making new friends, throwing dinner parties, gardening and making art. Ursula has an extensive background in the sciences and in the arts, with many years of experience in grant writing. She is also member of one of the oldest artist cooperatives in Davis, California.

Jora Fogg, Preservation Coordinator

Jora Fogg

Forever altered by the mountains, Jora Fogg joined FOI as the Preservation Coordinator in April 2014.  Jora will be guiding FOI through the Inyo’s forest planning revision process, commenting on public lands projects and leading exploration outings to special places in the Eastern Sierra.  Jora grew up and went to college in Washington State, moving to California in 2004. Previously she spent 4 years in Colorado with Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory as a biologist managing state and park service bird monitoring programs.  She lives in June Lake with her husband and 2 year-old daughter.  Jora enjoys time “naturalizing” (especially birding), skiing, hiking and cycling.