Name: Matthew Stephens, Director
Started at the COF: March 2016
Primary responsibilities: Leader and driver of future success for the Conservatory. Staff/volunteer motivator and primary spokesperson. Director of financial management and fund development.
Education/certifications: B.S. from Illinois State University in Horticulture and M.S. from the University of Delaware in Public Horticulture in the Longwood Graduate Program. Museum Studies Certificate, certified as an Arborist, and certified as a professional facilitator.
Favorite thing at the COF: Our visitors! Our visitors come from down the block and from the other side of the planet. We are so honored to have each and every visitor, and the team at the Conservatory works tirelessly to ensure the Conservatory is open, the plants look great and our visitors have an amazing experience.
Email: mstephens(at)sfcof.org



Name: Samantha Smart Merritt, Chief Development Officer
Started at the COF: March 2017
Primary responsibilities: Manage fund development initiatives and membership program, collaborate with dedicated volunteers to plan fabulous events, coordinate foundation grant proposals, cultivate corporate sponsors and business partnerships and cultivate planned giving opportunities.
Education/certifications: Harvard University, B.A., Government; Mini Masters of Nonprofit Finance
Favorite thing at the COF: The water lilies in the Aquatics Gallery – they bring back a fabled trip to Dominica where I fell under the siren spell of the lilies in a wild, romantic botanical garden.
Email: ssmartmerritt(at)sfcof.org

Name: Nayana Ningappa, Special Events & Weddings Assistant Manager
Started at the COF: November 2016
Primary responsibilities: Supervise all private event rentals; coordinate with wedding clients and vendors to create special events and weddings.
Education/certifications: Masters in International Marketing from Hult International Business School
Favorite thing at the COF:  What excites me most about the Conservatory of Flowers is its ability to transform from a space open for public appreciation to a private events venue that eternalizes many fond memories created on special occasions like proposals, engagement shoot, weddings and ceremonies to name a few. The building holds on to its heritage with its breathtaking Victorian architecture, while embracing modernity which is my favorite feature about the conservatory.
Email: nningappa(at)sfcof.org



Name: Drew Risner-Davis, Exhibit Manager
Started at the COF: 2016
Education: Studying Environmental Horticulture at City College of San Francisco
Primary Responsibilities: Managing the special exhibit; Leading tours of the COF’s permanent collection
Favorite thing at the COF: Whether it’s the recipes shared from all corners of the globe or the tales of exotic expeditions in far off places… my favorite thing has to be the stories from our visitors. Through teaching others about the tropics and our plant collection I love learning new things about the world from our incredible guests!
Email: drisnerdavis(at)sfcof.org



Name: Kristen Natoli, Chief Nursery Specialist
Started at the COF: September 2016
Primary responsibilities: Steward of our exceptional tropical plant collection and beautiful Victorian conservatory structure.
Education/certifications: B.S. from Cornell University with a focus in Plant Ecology.
Favorite thing at the COF:  Each gallery of the Conservatory has a unique character and story to tell. The collections they hold are a captivating way to engage visitors with the diverse, fragile and wondrous tropical ecosystems they represent.
Email: knatoli(at)sfcof.org

Name: Eric Imperiale, Nursery Specialist
Started at the COF: 2007
Primary responsibilities: Highland Tropics Gallery, Pleurothallid orchid collection, cool-growing orchids, special exhibits
Education/certifications: B.A. from San Francisco State University
Favorite thing at the COF: One of my favorite things about the Conservatory of Flowers is the way in which its aesthetic beauty seamlessly interconnects education and conservation, people and plants, and the past and present.
Email: eimperiale(at)sfcof.org

Name: Janet Spellmann, Nursery Specialist
Started at the COF: 2011
Primary responsibilities: Potted Plants Gallery, special exhibits, cultivate, pot and maintain the beautiful begonias, orchids and thousands of other plants in the Potted Plants Gallery.
Favorite thing at the COF: Like the hundreds of people who flock to the Conservatory every time it blooms, I particularly love the Amophophallus konjac (shown at left). The stench of the A. konjac’s inflorescence, while repugnant to humans, is a seductive lure for the beetles and flies that pollinate this beautiful plant.
Email: jspellmann(at)sfcof.org

Name: Mario Vega, Nursery Specialist
Started at the COF: 2007
Primary responsibilities: Lowland Gallery, lobby, special exhibits
Education/Certifications: City College of San Francisco
Favorite plant at the COF: Impatiens niamniamensis, also called “Parrot Impatiens” and “Congo Cockatoo”, was one of the first to catch my eye here at the Conservatory. The flower’s colors are bright and striking, reminiscent of a candy treat or a flock of parrots.
Email: mvega(at)sfcof.org



Name: Vanessa Fajardo, Director of Operations & Administration
Started at the COF: October 2010
Primary responsibilities: Managing and supporting the Guest Services team, purchasing locally sourced gift shop items, design and management of the gift shop
Favorite thing at the COF: I love coming into the Conservatory in the mornings when the rain function is on. It creates the most soothing sounds and smells in the city. There is no place in all of San Francisco more appealing to all five senses than the Conservatory of Flowers.
Email: vfajardo(at)sfcof.org

Name: Esther Hong, Guest Services Manager
Started at the COF: March 2016
Primary responsibilities: Managing and supporting the Guest Services team, purchasing locally sourced gift shop items and management of the gift shop.
Education/Certifications:  Working towards a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies.
Favorite thing at the COF: I love how much the Conservatory changes every day! I try to walk through every morning I am on site, and I am always overwhelmed by how many new plants I come across. I don’t think I will ever learn all of their names, but it is my mission to try!
Email: ehong(at)sfcof.org

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Whether you’re a native San Franciscan, a visitor from another side of the world, or a classroom of budding botanists, the Conservatory of Flowers offers an intimate up-close experience with rare and endangered plants unlike any other. Come see what treasures await you!

Golden Gate Park | 100 John F. Kennedy Drive | San Francisco, CA 94118| 415-831-2090