Deering Estate Staff
Jennifer Tisthammer stepped in as the Deering Estate’s Director in 2014, serving as the Deputy Director since 2007 and Interim Executive Director of Deering Estate Foundation in 2006. Jennifer has more than 20 years of experience in senior and executive management, specializing in finance, operations, cultural and natural resource management, and nonprofit governance. During her tenure, she has worked alongside multiple state and federal agencies to steward the Deering Estate’s rich resources; has served as Project Manager for both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 archeological and geological surveys of the Estate; co-coordinated the working group for the 2013 State Management Plan; led the strategic vision and implementation plan for the Deering Estate transition to a cultural and ecological field station; and led the strategic vision and implementation plan for the restoration of the historic homes, museum enterprise, and collections management. Jennifer is a member of FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences, and Education Advisory Board and the Organization of Biological Field Stations. Jennifer received a Master of Science degree in Environmental Studies, was an American Association of Women scholarship recipient for Women in STEM, has Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation, Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance and Marketing, and is currently pursuing her PhD in Earth Systems Science and Policy. Jennifer can be reached at phone extension 232.
Born in Miami, Brenda grew up enjoying visits to the Deering Estate, which sat just a mile away from her home. In 2013, she moved to Tallahassee and gained many valuable experiences working at environmental nonprofits and exploring nature refuges. After graduating summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Science degree in environmental studies from Florida State University, Brenda moved back to Miami and joined the Deering Estate in July 2018 as the Assistant to the Director. She continues to learn even more about the estate’s rich history and multifaceted allure than what she had been exposed to as a young visitor. Brenda is passionate about solving environmental issues through policy and strategic management, and enjoys spending her downtime biking, eating Peruvian food, and playing piano. Brenda can be reached at phone extension 227.
Karen Solms has a Master’s Degree in Marine Biology from NOVA Southeastern University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology with a minor in Environmental Science from University of Florida. Karen began her career with Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department in 2000 as the lead naturalist for the Sea Turtle Awareness Program at Crandon Park. Karen became the Visitor Services Manager for the Deering Estate in 2013. Karen can be reached at phone extension 258.
Rosana joined the Deering Estate in 2008 as a Guest Services Representative and was promoted to the Assistant to the Business Manager in 2013. She assists with daily and monthly attendance reports, daily sales system data, accounts payable system processing, creating purchase orders, monitoring of the online sales system and more. Rosana can be reached at phone extension 225.
Bethany Gray moved to the Miami area in 2015 from Central Florida where she was the Curator of Collections for the Art & History Museums of Maitland. Bethany studied Art History and Archaeology at Rollins College in Winter Park where she held a museum fellowship and later became the Exhibits and Facilities coordinator at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the Rollins Campus. She did graduate work at Johns Hopkins University in the Museum Studies program. Bethany manages Historic Preservation work, capital projects, Grounds, Security and the Curatorial teams at the Deering Estate. She is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and enjoys photography, local history and genealogical research. Bethany can be reached at phone extension 226.
Melissa Diaz received her Master’s Degree in Art History from the University of South Florida where her area of concentration was the early works of Michelangelo Pistoletto and his involvement with Arte Povera. She has held positions in several museums and galleries throughout South Florida including the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, David Castillo Gallery, and Miami Art Museum (now Pérez Art Museum Miami). Additionally, she participated in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection internship program in Venice, Italy, where she was the first recipient of the Liesbeth Bollen Internship Fund. As an independent curator, Melissa has organized several contemporary art exhibitions in South Florida. She has taught courses in art history and museum studies for Miami Dade College, Florida International University and New World School of the Arts. Melissa can be reached at phone extension 238.
Chris Bumpus grew up in the Northeast where he attended college receiving his BS in General Biology from the University of New Hampshire, his MBA from the University of Rhode Island, and his Masters in Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. After completing his Master’s degree he moved to Miami to continue his career in the field of fisheries as well as teach college courses in oceanography and environmental science. He joined the Deering Estate in the fall of 2016 and the Learning Programs Manager, leading the efforts to integrate science into the Deering Estate’s curriculum, create a suite of STEM+Arts curriculum, and expand nature based learning experiences for all ages. Chris can be reached at phone extension 264.
Vanessa Trujillo grew up in North Florida and attended college receiving her BS in Biology from the University of Florida and her PhD in Biology from Florida International University with a specialty in nonnative freshwater fish. Her research interests are in developing programs that bring together stakeholders, scientists, and the public with a common goal of conserving the natural and historic legacy of the Estate and South Florida. She joined the Deering Estate in the summer of 2017 leading the effort to expand the cultural and ecological field station operations. During her tenure, Vanessa has revamped the onsite permit review process, implemented the operating plan for the Weeks Nature Institute, developed a compendium of research for the site spanning more than 30 years, has integrated research into an overarching research framework, and has help to train and mentor the next generation of scientists in this community. Vanessa can be reached at phone extension 241.
Born and raised in Miami, Rangel is an avid birdwatcher and all around naturalist. He enjoys spending his time outdoors documenting rare species of wildlife and keeping tabs of biodiversity on the property. He started his career with Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces in 2006 and has had the privilege of assisting with the management of an educational reptile collection, monitoring sea turtle nesting, maintaining shorebird wintering sites, restoring natural areas and educating the public. He has been with Deering Estate since November 2014.
Elias Horna started at Deering Estate in 2008 as a Summer Camp Counselor and continued as part of our Education and Interpretive Staff team. In 2014 he was promoted to Group Sales Specialist. Elias can be reached at phone extension 262.
Cathy graduated from Florida International University with a Master in Public Administration (MPA) Degree and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature. She also studied abroad at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Cathy began her employment with Miami-Dade County in 2003 with the Department of Cultural Affairs. In 2006, she moved to the Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) and served as the Department’s Public Information Officer. In late 2006, Cathy joined the Deering Estate as the Marketing Manager. Cathy can be reached at phone extension 244.
Jenna has a degree in Recreation and Leisure Services Administration. She started at Deering in 2009 as a summer camp counselor and continued as part of our Education Team. In 2011 she transferred to the Special Events department as the Special Events Manager. Jenna can be reached at phone extension 236.
Andres currently serves as the Manager of Grounds and Maintenance. He has been with Deering Estate for over 20 years. In the past he has been recognized by Professional Grounds Management Society and Landscape Superintendent Magazine for his excellence in grounds skills, dedication and management. Andres can be reached at phone extension 237.
Joseph is a U.S. Marine veteran, born and raised in Miami, Florida. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management, a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), and is a Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor with various other instructor level certifications in the field of security and law enforcement. As the Safety & Security Manager at the Deering Estate, Joseph leads a team of security professionals, ensuring the safety of our staff and visitors and the protection of the park’s rich cultural and natural resources. Joseph can be reached at phone extension 260.
Deering Estate Foundation Staff
Nina Zanella joined the Deering Estate Foundation team in August 2019. A native Rhode Islander, she attended the University of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island School of Design. Nina comes to the foundation with over 25 years of experience in the non-profit sector as a Director of Development and Marketing. Her accomplishments include successful capital campaigns, grant awards, special events, major donor stewardship and endowment funding. Nina is also a passionate advocate for environmental protection efforts, animal shelter and adoption programs and ensuring that the arts are available for all. She believes that the path to positive and impactful change and growth is illuminated through philanthropy and a commitment to community. Nina can be reached at phone extension 272.
Michelle Streit originally from Kansas has been with the Foundation for over 8 years now. She is the driving force behind the Deering Estate Foundation’s signature events including Wine on Harvest Moon and Deering Seafood Festival. Michelle can be reached at phone extension 253.
Dee Diaz is originally from Michigan and is now a Floridian for life. She has over 8 years of experience in Fundraising and Events in South Florida. She currently assists in all areas with the Deering Estate Foundation.
Dee can be reached at phone extension 272.
Bob Ryan, CPA, joined the foundation in May 2017. As part-time bookkeeper, he handles all of the accounting needs of the Deering Estate Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Bob has served many community organizations in different capacities, including as CFO of the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida and Controller of the Deering Bay Yacht and Country Club.