OUR STAFF

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

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Development

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: Alice Cuthbert, Events Manager
Started at the COF: September 2017
Primary Responsibilities: Contract all events at the Conservatory of Flowers, bringing people together in a unique environment that creates lasting bonds. Ensuring expectations are exceeded for our private events.
Education/Certifications: Bachelors of Science, Tourism and Recreation Management, Niagara University
Favorite thing at the COF: Joining in on the educational tours to increase my knowledge of the plants. Mother Nature is incredible!
Email: acuthbert(at)sfcof.org

Name: Maryam Nabi, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Started at the COF: September 2017
Primary responsibilities: Lead the charge on marketing and communications; bring the voice of COF to life through social media, e-mail marketing, online content and more!
Education/certifications: B.A. from UC Berkeley in Comparative Literature
Favorite thing at the COF: I love to “visitor”-watch. Seeing all the diverse groups, families, couples, and individuals come through the main doors and stroll the galleries is amazing. Visiting the Conservatory is a passed down tradition and seeing all the families that come here to share it with their children is a magical moment!
Email: mnabi(at)sfcof.org

Name: William Shaw, Site Steward
Started at the COF: March 2017
Primary responsibilities: Supervising day and night operations while maintaining a more efficient work space. Collaborating with the Event Coordinator to insure a fun and safe environment. Facilitating communication throughout departments to assess and troubleshoot possible problems.
Education/certifications: BA in Psychology
Favorite thing at the COF: The potential! As we grow beyond the limitations of an attraction and blossom into a haven of culture, it is beautiful to be a part of the metamorphosis of the Conservatory.
Email: WShaw(at)sfcof.org

Name: Jessica Williams, Events Coordinator
Started at the COF: September 2017
Primary responsibilities: Work with clients and staff to ensure smooth execution of events at the Conservatory.
Education/certifications: BA in Animal Science.
Favorite thing at the COF: The Conservatory of Flowers has been the backdrop of people’s memories for 100+ years. It is an honor to steward its legacy through helping our guests plan their special event and inviting them to experience the Conservatory in a whole new light.
Email: jwilliams(at)sfcof.org

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ENGAGEMENT & VOLUNTEERS

Name: Eric Hupperts, Volunteer and Visitor Engagement Manager
Started at the COF: 2017
Primary responsibilities: Manage the visitor experience at the Conservatory; working with our amazing volunteers to deliver a unique experience for all of our visitors.
Education/certifications: B.S. in Conservation Biology from University of Minnesota
Favorite thing at the COF: Sharing that moment with our visitors where a new concept, new aesthetic, or new appreciation for the natural world is developed. And we get to do all of that in the wonderful world inside the Conservatory!
Email: ehupperts(at)sfcof.org

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EXHIBITS & EVENTS

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

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HORTICULTURE

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

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OPERATIONS

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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VISIT US

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