As Executive Director of Citizens for a Better South Florida, Ms. Ziems cultivates community partnerships to develop effective collaborative programming and implements the organization’s mission to provide environmental education to the underserved community of South Florida. Prior to this position, she worked for the Earth Ethics Institute at Miami Dade College as an AmeriCorps VISTA Program Coordinator. She recruited and trained students for civic engagement and experiential learning opportunities related to environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and economic impact. She received her Master of Business Administration from Florida International University and her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Florida School of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as three minors in Mass Communication, Sustainability Studies, and Ethics. While attending the University of Florida, she also conducted research concerning tropical cyclones and received a certificate in Climatology and Meteorology.
Marina Barrientos is the Program Director and Web Specialist for CITIZENS’. Marina facilitates Community Science Workshops, which are after school programs designed to promote science and environmental awareness through experimentation and hands-on learning for students in grades K-12. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Sustainability and the Environment from Florida International University and an Associate in Arts degree in Environmental Science from Miami Dade College. She also has a background in Network Progamming and uses her computer skills to help create, design, and maintain CITIZENS’ website. Marina is also a former intern with Miami-Dade County’s Office of Resilience. She conducted research and collected data on current trends and developments related to sustainability for the community. Marina is a passionate environmentalist and has been actively volunteering with beach cleanups and park restoration events like Baynanza and International Coastal Cleanup Day, for over 22 years.
Ben Machado is the Program and Finance Coordinator at Citizens. He came from a corporate background in bookkeeping and office management, but joined Citizens in 2019 to pursue his passion for ecology education and environmental activism. Ben is a graduate of Catalyst Miami’s CLEAR program and volunteers as a field assistant with graduate students at the University of Miami. He is an occasional volunteer collaborator for programs at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Ben first got involved in ecology education and data collection while working at the University of Texas at Austin, where he assisted with the Waller Creek Working Group and became very interested in the online biological database tool, iNaturalist, which was very new at the time. Once in Miami, Ben teamed up with Mountain to Sea Education to spread awareness of this tool to researchers and citizen scientists in South Florida. When not at Citizens’ Ben is a freelance nature guide and animal handler.
Brian is the Program Assistant at CITIZENS. As a Miami native, he grew up learning about the intricate South Florida ecosystem, both through school lessons and field trips and by exploring nature on his own time. The passion he cultivated for the natural world followed him to college at Johns Hopkins University, where he received a B.A. in natural sciences in 2016. Upon returning to Miami following his college career, he has been engaged in applying the skills and knowledge he has acquired towards conservation, specifically the restoration of natural ecosystems. His specialty is South Florida native plant identification, ecology, restoration, and landscaping. In addition to his role at CITIZENS, he is also the Coordinator for the Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MUVE) program at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, the Vice President of the Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, and the Vice President of Tree Planting with TREEmendous Miami.
As the Garden Education Specialist for CITIZENS, Heidi Lellelid is training and educating MDCPS faculty and students, as well as volunteers and interns on the many aspects of growing and producing food in our 10B hardiness zone. Heidi is driven to help young kids understand that their food does not originate from the grocery store or McDonalds, but comes from the Earth. Heidi has worked over the last ten years with the Earth Ethics Institute managing and overseeing their MDC Campus gardens as well as multiple gardens at MDCPS schools throughout Dade county. While at EEI, she also managed the CROPS program which was a CSA type share of organic fruits and vegetables that students and faculty could purchase at a reduced rate. Heidi has also been working over the last three years with Little River Cooperative, a local farm and plant nursery, managing multiple gardens and assisting at the farm and nursery. She received her BA in Liberal Studies from Florida International University in 2013.
Juan Gualberto Fernandez is CITIZENS’ Go Native! Nursery Manager. He graduated from the Institute of Higher Education in Cuba with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Education. He is a Certified Arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture and a native plant expert. Mr. Fernandez serves as a consultant to CITIZENS on Urban Greening and Community Forestry projects. He is the biologist who pioneered the ecological restoration of Virginia Key. Mr. Fernandez is currently the Senior Park Naturalist for the City of Miami.
Board of Directors
President, Milian Swain & Associates
AVP, Store Manager, TD Bank
Vice President, Milian Swain & Associates
Alberto J. Herrera, Ph.D.
HBC Engineering Company
Gilbert C. Betz, P.A.
President, Bell Landscape Architecture, Inc