BLM Arizona celebrates women in science

Michelle Ailport, Public Affairs Specialist

From left to right: Tiffany Shepherd, Cristina Francois and Celina Martinez work in the field.
From left to right: Tiffany Shepherd, Cristina Francois, Celina Martinez.

Throughout the month, Bureau of Land Management Arizona is celebrating just a few of the many employees who are central to our mission to conserve and protect public lands for present and future generations.  

In particular, we are celebrating the accomplishments of women in science on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. 

From advancing environmentally sound renewable energy projects to restoring native plant communities to managing diverse populations of wildlife and their habitats, these employees’ passion shines through in the work they do across public lands in the state. 

Meet some of these outstanding women in science, in their own words. 

Cristina Francois, State Plant Programs Lead, Arizona State Office 

Cristina Francois peers through a doorway.
Photo courtesy of Cristina Francois.

I’m Cristina Francois, and I have been the state plant programs lead in the Arizona State Office for a little over a year now. 

I have a Ph.D. in entomology/insect science from the University of Arizona and a Master of Science in biology/ecology from California State University, Fullerton. In my career, I have worked in academia and education, federal and state/cooperative extension agencies as well as the nonprofit and private sectors in field, research, leadership, and management positions.

I am so proud to be a woman in science and I’ve had the amazing privilege to guide other women and girls in their science education and career. It means so much to me that women in science are recognized and celebrated for their achievements and contributions to the field.

My advice to those interested in a biological career is to be open and flexible. Be as well-rounded and broad as possible. Take and make opportunities and learn all the things.

Celina Martinez, Project Manager, Arizona State Office

Celina Martinez poses in front of a green landscape.
Photo courtesy of Celina Martinez.

My name is Celina Martinez, and I'm currently a project manager in the Arizona State Office. I primarily work on electricity transmission and renewable energy projects.

I started my career with the Bureau of Land Management in 2003 as a civil engineering Student Career Experience Program, or SCEP, student in the Albuquerque District. I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of New Mexico in 2006. I've worked on a variety of projects ranging from design and reconstruction of a Civil War-era bastion at Fort Craig in southern New Mexico, construction oversight of a high-voltage electrical transmission line between Arizona and California, to restoration efforts of a historic lighthouse located at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area on the Oregon coast. Working with the BLM has allowed me the opportunity to learn about and explore some of the most beautiful landscapes from all over the Southwest to the Pacific Northwest.   

International Day of Women and Girls in Science and the upcoming Women's History Month is a great opportunity to learn about the strength, courage, and dedication of women who refused to play small or give up on their dreams. As women, we are capable of not only giving birth to new life, but also designing and building an environment for that life to grow and thrive. I believe as women, we possess the ability to act from a deep yearning to nurture life while at the same time implementing knowledge gained through education. 

I would advise young women who are interested in math and science to challenge themselves to keep learning and aim big, never believing that anything is out of their reach. I did not grow up wanting to be an engineer or project manager, that came about in early adulthood.  I remember being told by my 6th grade math teacher that I was good at math, that seed later grew into the belief that I could be an engineer.  Young girls need to be reminded of the limitlessness of their capabilities. As my mom used to say, if you can believe it, you can achieve it. Girls must never stop believing in their potential. 

Tiffany Shepherd, Wildlife Program Lead, Arizona State Office

Tiffany Shepherd sits on a couch in front of a Bureau of Land Management logo wall placard.
Photo courtesy of Tiffany Shepherd.

I am the wildlife program lead for the Arizona State Office. I am an Arizona native, and I received a Bachelor of Science in conservation biology from Arizona State University and a Master of Science in evolutionary ecology from San Diego State University. I spent the first 18 years of my career working for the Department of Defense in San Diego and southwest Arizona and transferred to the BLM in 2022. 

I have always loved learning and exploring the natural world and was blessed to have family, teachers, and mentors who encouraged and challenged me. This has led to a wonderful career in which I have the privilege to support the immense biodiversity of Arizona public lands.  

Through International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I hope to see more young women being encouraged to pursue their scientific interests and abilities. My advice for those interested in science is to dive into learning what you’re passionate about, to pursue wisdom and knowledge from the teachers and mentors who inspire you, and to maintain a humble and kind demeanor. Also, spend time in the natural world each day to replenish your mind and spirit! 

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