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 works seasonally for 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. 

Jora Fogg, Preservation Manager

Forever altered by the mountains, Jora Fogg joined Friends of the Inyo as the Preservation Coordinator in April 2014.  Jora guides Friends of the Inyo 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 daughter.  Jora enjoys time “naturalizing” (especially birding), skiing, hiking, and cycling.

Casey Penn, Stewardship Manager

Casey Penn

Casey grew up in the quiet suburb of Simi Valley, just outside the bustling metropolis of LA, and always spent time in the summer heading north to the great Sierra Nevada Range. After finishing college at California State University Channel Islands with a degree in Political Science and the many adventures that those years brought him, Casey decided he was ready for a change of pace. Casey moved up to Bishop to work as an intern for the Forest Service Trail crew in Bishop in 2011 and one thing led to another and in 2012 Casey found himself working on the Friends of the Inyo’s Stewardship Crew. Fast forward a couple of years and a number of different roles later, Casey is currently the Stewardship Programs Manager.

Amy Weurdig, Operations Manager

 Amy grew up in a strong military family. While moving from coast to coast, her family camped and played in the outdoors while visiting national parks and numerous state parks where her parents taught her the value of caring for the land for future generations. After spending decades working in the high tech world, Amy and her husband Mike decided to slow down and enjoy the Eastern Sierra. Amy’s background in volunteer work and operational management led to her joining Friends of the Inyo as Operations Manager. Her goal is to help inspire younger generations to enjoy, preserve, and maintain our great wilderness.  Amy enjoys hiking, quilting, scuba diving, photography, gardening, cooking and volunteering as a Master Food Preserver for UCCE.

Ben Wickham, Membership, Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator

Ben Wickham

Wanting to be in the mountains, Ben took the first job out of college that allowed him to do so, and that summer at Merced Lake in the Yosemite Wilderness convinced him that mountains are where he should be. He migrated between Yosemite, Idaho, Montana, and the Eastern Sierra, working in the tourism industry to afford himself the opportunity to explore high alpine terrain on skis, deep forests by foot, and rapid rivers by kayak. Over time Ben discovered that he wanted to more actively help people engage with the landscape around them, so he taught at the McCall Outdoor Science School while receiving a Master’s in Natural Resources with an emphasis in Environmental Education at the University of Idaho. Ben is excited to help Friends of the Inyo connect the public with their lands here in the Eastern Sierra.