The Western Cave Conservancy is governed by a board of up to twelve Directors, with day-to-day business conducted by the four officers and various committee chairs. The directors (along with the Advisory Board) bring scientific expertise in the disciplines of archaeology, biology, geology and hydrology, as well as professional cave resource management skills and cave rescue teaching credentials. All the directors and officers are longtime cavers, whose enjoyment of the underground has gone beyond recreational caving to become a major avocation and even a profession.

Steven Johnson, President

Although Steven grew up in Alabama, he somehow didn’t really discover caving until moving to Oakland, California in 1998. Since then, he’s served as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Diablo Grotto chapter of the National Speleological Society (NSS) multiple times, and enjoys introducing beginners to caving. He’s currently a Senior Engineer at Google.

Rafael Langer-Osuna, Vice-President/Legal Counsel

Rafael began their interest in caving by exploring caves near Pittsburgh, in West Virginia and Virginia, as well as the lava tubes in the Southwest. They began caving in earnest when they joined the San Francisco Bay Chapter (SFBC) of the NSS. Rafael has served as Secretary and Chair of the SFBC. Rafael is an attorney at Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP and proud to act as counsel for the WCC.

Marianne Russo, Secretary, Director of Stewardship, and Weller Preserve Manager

Marianne has been an active caver since 1982 when she joined the Mother Lode Grotto. Shortly after this she joined the NSS and is now a Life Member and Fellow of the Society. Now retired, she spent her profession career as an archeologist, managing the Sacramento office of the California Archeological and Historical Resources Inventory for 25 years. She participated in numerous field surveys and excavations, and has taught summer field schools. Marianne has also served as Chairman and Secretary of the Mother Lode Grotto and Vice-chair of the Western Region of the NSS. Over these many years, she has assisted in training many novice cavers and teaching vertical caving techniques as well as being a frequent trip leader. Marianne also was a National Cave Rescue Commission Instructor, who helped conduct numerous cave-rescue training seminars between 2004 and 2014. She has worked for the Western Cave Conservancy since its inception in 2003, serving as its president for the first 10 years.

Mike Spiess, Treasurer

Mike has been caving in California since the late 1960’s. He has a long-time interest in conservation, and has served as a founding Board member and treasurer of the Sierra Foothill Conservancy and as a Board member and treasurer of the Northern California Regional Land Trust. Mike is a member of the Cave Research Foundation and has worked for many years at Lilburn Cave in Kings Canyon National Park and Lava Beds National Monument, both in California. He is a Conservation Life member of the NSS and a member of the Shasta Area Grotto. He is an avid backpacker and fly fisherman. Mike is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Education & Ag Systems Technology at California State University, Chico.

Neil Marchington, Special Projects Director

Neil has been caving for over 20 years. He is the Chairman of the Oregon High Desert Grotto. Neil is a driven explorer, seeking out unusual cave geology and invertebrates. Neil also runs a volunteer program to remove cave graffiti. 
Neil’s interests also include canyoneering, mountaineering, and whitewater boating. Professionally, Neil is a Deputy Sheriff.

Mark Bowers, Director

Mark began his caving experience while at Georgia Tech through the Georgia Tech Outdoor Recreation organization. He caved for several years in the TAG caves gaining experience in vertical and horizontal caves. At that time he learned about landowner relations and the value of maintaining good relations with landowners. Mark moved to California after graduating and joined Diablo Grotto. In the early 1990’s Mark became interested in cave rescue and was the regional coordinator for the Western Region of the National Cave Rescue Commission from 1999 through 2007. Mark has been active with the caving community in conservation and training for most of his time in California.

Bruce Rogers, Science Director

Bruce Rogers began cave exploring in New England in the 1950’s. Since then he has explored the basements of North and Mesoamerica in addition to many of the island nations of the Pacific Basin. His wide-ranging spelean interests encompass mineralogy, geology and geography, paleontology, cartography, and history. He is the author of numerous publications on caves and related subjects, usually illustrated with his own photographs and drawings. Bruce is a Fellow of several scientific societies and foundations. A member of the NSS since 1962, Bruce has served as Chairman, Secretary, and Member at Large of several NSS groups as well as NSS Western Region Secretary. Since the early 1970’s, increasingly restricted access to caves prompted his interest in conservation. As a long-time supporter of conservation efforts, he brings a nationwide perspective to the Western Cave Conservancy board. His interest in caves led to a formal education in geology and a position as a field geologist, scientific illustrator, and web designer at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA, as well as cooperative earth science programs at the National Park Service and NASA. Now retired from Federal service, Bruce is currently Science Director for the WCC.

Mark Balcom, Director

Mark was first intrigued by caving on a walking tour of Lewis and Clark Cave when he was 12 years old. He didn’t visit any wild caves until he joined the San Joaquin Valley Grotto in his fifties.  He greatly enjoys recreational caving and the teamwork of everybody working together. He enjoys many other outdoor sports including cross country skiing, climbing, canyoneering , bicycling and backpacking.

He has served on non profit boards and a local school board.

CJ McKinley, Communications Director

CJ McKinley is from way up in Northern California and lives in Eureka. She has been caving for over 15 years and is obsessed. Her home grotto is Shasta Area Grotto where she has the privilege of caving in lava, limestone and marble. She also belongs to the Mother Lode Grotto and the Hawaii Grotto where she loves to spend time. Her passion is conservation and access for cavers, but she loves the biology and the geology as well. She is hoping to expand the WCC into additional areas where she can help local cavers protect their favorite caves.