Our Team


Melanie Winter

Founder & Director

Melanie has been involved in water and land use policy for nearly 25 years, bringing significant funding for and national attention to the Los Angeles River. She organized the Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard, led stakeholders through the development of the Tujunga/Pacoima Watershed Plan, and established the innovative urban acupuncture program, Water LA.

Email: winter@theriverproject.org


Johnathan Perisho

Design & Policy Director

Johnathan focuses on nature-based solutions that promote the regeneration of healthy environments and systems. His work concerns regional planning, research, strategy development, and landscape management practices. He has a Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture from Ball State University, and a Master’s of Landscape Architecture from Cal Poly Pomona.

Email: jp@theriverproject.org


Claire Acosta

Nature-Based Solutions Manager

Claire comes from the Coachella Valley and has worked up and down The Californias (Alta and Baja) as a steward of the land on various agroecological farming projects. She is dedicated to using regenerative strategies to create resilient ecosystems that support our living world. She earned her B.S. in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution from UC San Diego and is a certified Ecological Horticulturist through the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Farming Systems. She likes cats, eggplant, and California native plants.

Email: claire@theriverproject.org


Levy Hernandez

Environmental Designer

Levy is a native Angeleno who recently earned their Bachelor of Science from UC Davis, where they worked closely with the University's Arboretum & Public Garden honing their understanding of horticulture and CA native landscapes. They are deeply passionate about sustainable environmental design, creating climate-change resiliency, and healthy ecologies. They are eager to apply and expand their knowledge with The River Project to help develop livable, sustainable communities. 

Email: levy@theriverproject.org


April Cerrato

Community Engagement Coordinator

April was born and raised in Los Angeles. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Geography from California State University of Long Beach as well as a minor in Communication. She is determined to pursue a career where she can connect people to resources and advocate for environmental sustainability. She is excited to further advance her knowledge and passion for the environment with The River Project and inspire others to do the same.

Email: april@theriverproject.org


ARIELLE Lopez-Ibarra 

Community Engagement

Arielle was born in Guatemala City and moved to LA when she was seven. A graduate of Humboldt State University with a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Ecological Restoration, she is passionate about urban restoration in LA. With her father, she has started a permaculture demonstration farm in Guatemala as an educational platform for sustainable agriculture and practices. Arielle aspires to protect the environment through bi-lingual education that helps people minimize their carbon footprint and practice sustainability in their everyday lives.

Email: arielle@theriverproject.org



Watershed Steward

Ivan was inspired by his father to earn his Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona. He aspires to advance environmental and social justice issues by designing and implementing strategies that realize regenerative, native landscapes. Empowering communities to engage directly in planning and design has always been a central priority, and he’s excited to work with The River Project to apply his passions to his practice.

Email: ivan@theriverproject.org

Saul P.JPG

Saul Perez

Watershed Steward

Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Saul has been studying indigenous, regenerative, ecological practices and installing California native and edible community gardens for 10 years.  Previous experience includes wildland firefighting and building backcountry trails with the US Forest Service, and work with sustainable landscaping companies. He seeks to create healthy, accessible spaces to benefit communities that have largely been underserved.

Email: saul@theriverproject.org


Brisa Aviles

Community Engagement

Brisa is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where she majored in International Development Studies and minored in both Urban Planning and Environmental Systems. She is passionate about community development and environmental justice. As an aspiring urban planner, Brisa aims to prioritize community voice and agency to build equitable and sustainable cities.

Email: brisa@theriverproject.org


Kacey Eis

Operations Manager

Kacey grew up in Kansas City and moved to Los Angeles in 2017. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education from the University of Kansas, which included a summer studying community development in Cape Town, South Africa. She plans to one day be a Chief Sustainability Officer helping organizations reduce their carbon footprint while engaging with the communities they impact, specifically on environmental justice issues. She knows a thriving community starts with a healthy planet, and is excited to help the team work towards a more sustainable Los Angeles.

Email: kacey@theriverproject.org


Martin White


Martin was born and raised in Philadelphia. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Economics and a MBA from Carnegie-Mellon. He began his career as an auditor with Price Waterhouse, and worked at several Fortune 500 businesses and not-for-profit organizations. Martin is excited to use his skills and abilities to perform services for the greater good of the environment.

Email: martin@theriverproject.org



Chief Happiness Officer

Maisie found The River Project in 2013 after spending a few scary months on the streets alone. Her mission is to spark happiness, build bridges, and foster collaboration among her human friends. She takes pride in her therapy dog status, and wants you to know that apples are her most favorite food.