Our instructors are some of the best in the field. Attorneys, professors, writers, teachers, research scientists, they all combine teaching experience and an intimate knowledge of course subject matter with the leadership and backcountry skills necessary to provide our students with safe, high-quality learning experiences in wilderness settings. They are also fun, dynamic, and passionate about education and the wilderness they use as classrooms. Our students tell us all the time that our instructors are as important to their WRFI experience as the landscape and the content.
Steve Alexander joined WRFI in the winter of 2008. He received his B.S. in Geology from St. Lawrence University and his M.S. in Science Education at Montana State University in Bozeman. As an interdisciplinary educator he has worked with students in a variety of bioregions including the Colorado Plateau, Adirondacks/Northern Forest, the Greater Yellowstone Geo-ecosystem, and the Canadian Rockies. Steve has taught and developed both curriculum and programs for several non-profits and educational institutions inlcuding the National Outdoor Leadership School, Teton Science Schools and St. Lawrence University. After spending three years helping to run the Adirondack Semester for St. Lawrence University, a program which engages students in the study of nature and human relationships with nature while based in a secluded yurt campus, he has returned to graduate school to pursue a PhD in geography where his research focuses on environmental change and governance. When it comes to his line of work, Steve say that it is the unparalleled experiences students have in the field that guides his pursuit to reacquaint them with their natural surroundings. Steve teaches Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures and the Wild Rockies Summer Semester.
Adam earned his Ph.D. from Colorado State University's Natural Resource Department in Human Resources of Natural Resources. He has an M.S. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, also from CSU, and a B.S. in Behavioral Science from Grand Valley State University. Although much of Adam's recent experience is in Kenya, his interest in human/nature relations has extended to campus sustainability efforts at CSU and in national parks, Peace Corps experience in Africa and on the CSU campus, park rangering in Golden Gate State Park, and being a backcountry trail maintenance leader at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. After a year of teaching in the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University, Adam recently accepted a job in South Sudan as the Wildlife Conservation Society's Community Conservation and Livlihoods Coordintor where he directs all of the socio-economic research and community-based conservation activities in the Boma-Jonglei landscape. Like several other WRFI instructors, Adam has a knack for languages and speaks English, Kiswahili, Hausa, and French. Adam's interest in and experience with human's interaction with the landscape makes him a perfect instructor on the Wild Rockies Summer Semester.
It's always a delight at WRFI when our alumni become instructors. Meagan was a student on WRFI's Baja Peninsula: Coastal Ecology and Culture before finishing her master's degree at the University of Tennessee in 2008. She joined Montana Afoot and Afloat: Human/Land Relations for the first time in 2008 and has now taught it twice. She is also an instructor on Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons and Cultures. Meagan brings a lot to a WRFI course including academic knowledge and experience in restoration, agriculture, and conservation biology. She is also a Wilderness EMT and has worked for various outdoor education groups. One of our favorite things about Meagan is that she conducted her master's thesis research at Dollywood, Tennessee, where she worked towards the restoration of the American Chestnut through plant breeding, molecular research, and tree planting.
Casey has been a great addition to the WRFI instructor pool, joining WRFI in the summer of 2009. She has a BA in environmental studies and conservation biology from Prescott College and has worked extensively in the field of environmental and outdoor education. Casey earned her master's degree in the spring of 2010 from Colorado State University in Wildlife Ecology. Her thesis work, conducted largely in Grand Teton National Park, made her a perfect candidate for kicking off WRFI's summer semester course in the Yellowstone to Yukon ecoregion. Casey will begin work on her PhD in biology in the fall of 2011 at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Her reserach will focus on resilience and adaptation of wildlife to anthropogenic disturbances such as roads and climate change. From serving as a mountaineering instructor with Outward Bound to working as an ecological consultant, Casey's wide array of experiences inspire students and add depth to her teaching. Casey teaches on our Wild Rockies Summer Semester.
Pat Burke began instructing for WRFI in the summer of 2007 and brings a unique combination of education and experience to each course he teaches. Pat began his education with a B.A. in Philosophy from UC-San Diego, and continued with a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Montana. He then attained an M.S. in Forest Ecology at the University of Montana and is currently working towards an M.A. in Philosophy, also at UM. He has worked as a restoration ecologist on projects around the west including superfund sites, mine reclamation sites, national park natural disaster sites, and highway revegetation projects. He is also the author and co-author of numerous publications. Pat’s ability to review science while maintaining an ethical awareness allows him to fulfill WRFI’s mission of teaching critical thinking about social and environmental issues. Pat teaches Restoration Ecology in Greater Yellowstone, Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons and Cultures, and Montana Afoot and Afloat: Human/Land Relations.
Ashley joins WRFI with a range of experience working in the outdoors. She has a BS in Environmental Studies from Prescott College and is finishing an MS from the University of Montana focusing on water conservation issues and watershed health in the intermountain region. Her love for the western landscapes has brought her to work and play in many beautiful areas. Some of her experience includes working as a field instructor for Outward Bound, managing a watershed non-profit in central Oregon, and working as a scientist and field technician and educator. Ashley spends her time fishing and playing on the river, running, skiing, and climbing. Ashley teaches the Wild Rockies Summer Semester.
Brian grew up hiking and biking the green hills of Pennsylvania, but his interest in all things outdoors deepened from a fun activity to a life passion while living in the foothills of the Dolomites in northeastern Italy. Here he first began climbing, mountaineering, extended backpacking, biking competitively, and learning the ways of wilderness. Since then, he has explored wild areas around the world through work, travel, and adventure ranging from the Central Amazon to Sub-Saharan Africa. Between forays into the wild, Brian to earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and a Master’s of Science in Plant Physiological Ecology from the University of Arizona. Brian previously worked as an outdoor adventures guide and has taught ecology both in the classroom as well as in the field. In addition to academics, Brian is passionate about teaching Leave No Trace principles, encouraging awareness surrounding one’s individual role (and impact) in the world, and inspiring active and ferocious engagement in life. WRFI provides an excellent venue for melding Brian’s interests in education, wilderness travel, and social responsibility into one.
Natalie hails from Detroit, Michigan but fell in love with Alaska and has been living, working, and exploring in its mountains, forests, fjords, and seashores for the last decade. She lives in Anchorage Alaska where she teaches classes at Alaska Pacific University, works as a biologist on various wildlife projects throughout the state, coaches a cross country ski team to pass the long winter months, and escapes to the desert every year for the chance to spend some time drying off in canyon country. She earned her Bachelor's degree in biology and environmental science from Central Michigan University, taught at Idaho State University, and earned her PhD in biology from the University of New Mexico where she studied weasels on the islands of the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. She loves every opportunity to teach outside, and is very excited to have the opportunity to be an instructor for WRFI. Natalie teaches Alaskan Rainforest:Ecology and Policy of the Tongass and Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons and Cultures for WRFI.
Chelsea grew up at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. While in college at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, she took a backpacking trip to Utah's Canyonlands with the school's Outing Club, and so began her fascination with the American West. Upon graduation with a B.S. in Geology, she moved to the Pacific Northwest for four years where she worked as a trail crew leader on the Pacific Northwest Trail, a Project Geologist for the state of Oregon, an AmeriCorps Volunteer, and an instructor for Komo Kulshan Outdoor School in the North Cascades, Washington. She earned her M.S. in Geology at the University of Montana where she taught introductory geology labs and assisted in UM's Geology Summer Field Camp. After graduation she served as a Geologist-in-the-Park volunteer at Yellowstone. She currently works for Mountain Press Publishing Company as a cartographer and geology editor for the "Roadside Geology" guide book series. Passionate about our dynamic earth and sharing "why things are the way they are", Chelsea has explored the geologic wonders of New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Alaska, and much of the American West. Chelsea joins WRFI as an instructor on Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures and Restoration Ecology in Greater Yellowstone. Chelsea lives in Missoula with her husband Dennis, a fellow geologist and educator.
Liz has always had an affinity for living on or near water. Although she calls Juneau home now, she has been a gardened on Nantucket, studied anthropology and environmental studies on the isles of Greece, and bought coho salmon from Alaskan trollers on a fish processing barge in Pelican, AK. Liz first came to Alaska ten years ago to combine her love of the outdoors with her passion for education. She has spent her time in Juneau as a kayak ranger for the Forest Service in the glacially carved fjords of the Tracy Arm Ford's Terror wilderness area and as a glacier and sea kayak guide in Glacier Bay National Park. Five years ago Liz received her Masters of Arts in Teaching in Juneau and now spends her winters in the classroom teaching middle school language arts and social studies as well as telemark skiing her favorite ski hill in Juneau. Liz also loves running, yoga, cooking delicious meals with locally harvested, hunted or caught foods, outdoor photography, and traveling to new countries. Liz teaches Alaskan Rainforest: Ecology and Policy of the Tongass.
As a doctoral student at the University of Colorado- Boulder, Adam focuses on environmental philosophy and is particularly interested in what makes a wild animal wild. His other academic interests include novel ecosystems, re-wilding, resilience, the ethics of conservation and restoration, urban ecology, wild food, and the human environment. Adam is also a filmmaker. His films span six continents and, so far, have screened in eleven festivals across eight countries. In Spring of 2012, his work was featured in the "1000 Days at the Space for Life" biodiversity exhibition in Montreal. When not filming or studying, Adam enjoys foraging, exploring, and canoeing through ice flows, just as the ice gets soft. WRFI is thrilled for Adam to contribute his varied experience and expertise to our courses. Adam teaches Environmental Ethics: Global Climate Change and Visions for a Sustainable Future.
Jeff first came to WRFI in 2006 as WRFI's Recruitment and Development Coordinator. Providing much-needed guidance and creative flair, Jeff, amongst other things, recreated the WRFI website into the one you see today. Now an instructor, Jeff brings intimate knowledge of transboundary issues on our Wild Rockies Summer Semester.Jeff is the founder of Bristlecone Communications, a full-service communications consultancy. A widely published writer, Jeff has been honored with several awards, including Story of the Year from the Associated Collgiate Press, numerous nominations for magazine feature writing at the western Canadian and national levels, and grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for his book about the mythical Great Plains grizzly bear.
Brandt has instructed WRFI courses since 2004, including: Alaskan Rainforest: Ecology & Policy of the Tongass, Boundary Waters: Wilderness Land & Lakes, Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures, Montana Afoot & Afloat: Human/Land Relations, and Wild Rockies Summer Semester. He assisted on Baja Peninsula: Coastal Ecology & Culture and served on WRFI’s Safety Committee. Raised in Minnesota and Colorado’s high country, Brandt devoted many years to alpine skiing before pursuing his interests in law and environmental ethics. He holds a BA in philosophy, a Juris Doctorate, and taught philosophy at Colorado Mountain College from 1999 to 2008. Brandt travels extensively and enjoys wildness study and recreation. He is currently taking time off from field education while pursuing a career transition and plans to continue instructing for WRFI.
Neil has taught Alaskan Rain Forest: Ecology and Policy of the Tongass, Montana Afoot and Afloat: Human/Land Relations and Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Culture. Starting out as a student on the WRFI Alaska course a decade ago Neil fell in love with the magic of both Southeast Alaska and backcountry academics. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Environmental Studies and Natural Resources at the University of New Hampshire, with a focus on environmental philosophy and experiential environmental education. Aside from his work with WRFI, he enjoys leading field-based courses and experiences in his beloved Northeast, blacksmithing and making knives, and getting out hiking with his wife Mariya and young son, Maxwell. Topics he teaches include ecology, environmental policy, conservation issues and environmental ethics.
Malena loves Alaska and ranks instructing Ecology and Policy of the Tongass for WRFI as one of her all time favorite activities. She has lived in Haines, Skagway, and Yakutat, Alaska, working on watershed and fishing issues, and in conservation planning. Malena and her dog Keeja are based in the state of Jefferson (northern California and southern Oregon) where they enjoy barefoot runs on the beach. After studying sustainable building and design in Vermont, Malena is beginning a small business specializing in greywater system installation and consulting for sustainability. She is a fool for round buildings, timber framing, and the process of making things by hand. She also practices Thai Massage and is working toward becoming a Registered Thai Therapist. Her educational background is in environmental history (BA, Reed College) and aquatic ecology and environmental education (MS, Southern Oregon University).
As an instructor for WRFI’s Montana Afoot and Afloat course, Brooke is thrilled to be working at the intersection of ecology, education, and wilderness. Brooke recently earned a Ph.D. from the College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana and continues to work there as a post-doctoral research associate, in collaboration with scientists at the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute. Brooke’s dissertation research focused on the Ecological Literacy Initiative, an effort to conceptually define and set educational standards for ecological literacy. Prior to her Ph.D., Brooke conducted research in aquatic and soil microbial ecology, earning a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin and an M.S. in Biology from Western Washington University. Brooke also completed a year-long professional residency in environmental education at Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, WY.
Sara was raised on a modest horse property in Helena, Montana. Her upbringing involved long hours spent outside observing the natural world. This background, combined with a high school science seminar class where she watched wolves with biologists in Yellowstone National Park solidified her interest in pursuing science as a career. Sara earned her B.S. in wildlife biology from The University of Montana and her Master of Natural Resources degree from the University of Idaho where she researched the role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in wildlife management and taught a University course entitled Society and Natural Resources. She has participated in several seasons of field work throughout the Western U.S. with wildlife species such as grizzly bears, snowshoe hares, pygmy rabbits, black-backed woodpeckers, and various small mammals. She has additionally spent many days in the backcountry of Montana, Wyoming, and Utah backpacking, rafting, canoeing, birding, and cross-country skiing. Sara teaches Montana Afoot and Afloat.
Dave graduated from Evergreen State College with a degree in Environmental Studies, then earned his M.S. in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. Dave has instructed and guided for many outdoor education programs since 1990. He has traveled and taught in South and Central America, Nepal, Africa, Alaska, New Zealand, and Canada. Dave loves teaching at the college level and offers WRFI students a wealth of knowledge about resource issues, environmental education, and ecology. He is currently seeking a PhD in Forestry and Conservation at the Univerity of Montana. When not otherwise occupied Dave is often found skiing, mountain biking, taking photos, or reading High Country News. Dave began teaching for WRFI in 2001. He has taught Alaskan Rainforest, Baja Peninsula, Continental Divide, Colorado Plateau, and Montana Afoot and Afloat. He has initiated and instructed two more courses: Conservation & Community in the Yellowstone to Yukon Region and Cycle the Rockies. Dave has served on the WRFI Board since 2004.
Ted Morrison joined WRFI in the fall of 2008. With many years of field work under his belt, Ted has returned to the University of Montana where he is pursuing a Master's of Science in environmental studies. Ted attended the University of Montana for his undergraduate studies, earning a degree in Environmental Studies, focusing on environmental politics and global trade policy. As he now studies EVST in more depth, Ted will be focusing on the study of behavioral changes of students of environmental and outdoor education programs. When asked, "Why WRFI?", Ted responded that he has been interested in combining college-level academics with outdoor education, and can't think of a better way to learn and teach about environmental and social issues than to be immersed in the landscape and with the people involved. When not studying or working in the field, Ted can be found travelling, trail running, fly fishing, backcountry skiing, and rock climbing. Ted also teaches for AERIE Backcountry Medicine and Outward Bound, and teaches Montana Afoot and Afloat for WRFI.
Shawn Olson hails from the Pacific Northwest, where she received a BA in Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College. Since then, she’s roved the West, spending several seasons as an environmental educator in Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains and as a wilderness therapy guide in the deserts of south-central Utah. She is currently enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Colorado, where she studies the politics and ideological polarizations that lead to conflicts over public lands in the American West, specifically relating to renewable energy development. Shawn is the co-author of two books: Defending Wild Washington: A Citizen’s Action Guide (Mountaineers Books, 2004) and Community and Copper in a Wild Land (Wrangell Mountains Center & National Park Service, 2005). Shawn teaches the Wild Rockies Summer Semester.
Noah Pollock hails from Delmar, NY, and graduated from Cornell University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources. He earned his M.S. degree from the Rubenstein School for the Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, where he studied sustainable community development and ecological economics. Noah works as a consultant for Spring Hill Solutions, a Burlington, VT energy, carbon management, and business sustainability firm, the Gund Institute of Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. A passionate outdoor enthusiast and educator, he has cycled through New Zealand, the Canadian maritimes, and the Northern Rockies, and has taught college courses ranging from sustainable development to wilderness survival. Noah teaches Cycle the Rockies: Energy and Climate Change in Montana.
Nicky has long been dedicated to WRFI. She was the organization's first director and has taught a range of field courses for WRFI as well as Prescott College and the Colorado Outward Bound School. She is currently active in climate change education. In the fall of 2007 she cycled 1000 miles with the Ride for Climate giving public presentations about global warming and the need for action. She serves on the city of Missoula’s Mayor’s Climate Change Advisory Board and is helping the University of Montana develop an innovative minor in climate change. She received her Master of Science in environmental studies at the University of Montana. Nicky is one of the founding instructors of Cycle the Rockies:Energy and Climate Change in Montana.
Joshua joined WRFI in the fall of 2008. Joshua received a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in Wilderness Studies from the Evergreen State College, and earned an M.S. in Ecological Teaching and Learning through the Audubon Expedition Institute at Lesley University. Joshua’s work has alternated between field biology, service based conservation education, wilderness leadership, and guiding, with most of that work located in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. He recently developed and directed a land stewardship program in Vermont and is involved in community-based folk education projects that explore human relationships to place and story. Joshua teaches Montana Afoot & Afloat and the Wild Rockies Summer Semester.
Kirsten Rudestam spent her adolescence running up the creek-beds and climbing the sage-brush trails within California's Los Padres mountains. She has since worked and traveled in India, Guatemala, Canada and the American West as an environmental educator, naturalist
Dan teaches in the Environmental Studies program at the University of Montana where he focuses on issues of globalization, Latin America, community participation in ecological restoration, and environmental ethics and theology. Dan’s undergraduate degree is in geology from Carleton College, which also included three summers teaching geology field camp in the Tobacco Root Mountains of southwest Montana, and three summers working and climbing in Glacier Park. He has graduate degrees in theology and ethics from Union Theological Seminary in New York, and spent 10 years teaching in a Religion and Philosophy Program at Drake University in Iowa before moving to Montana just in time for the fires of 2000. Dan grew up on the West Coast and in Colorado, and spent most of his adult life trying to find a way to get back to the West from Minnesota, New York and Iowa. He’s been teaching at the University of Montana since 2002, and now that he’s back in Montana, he hopes to never move again. He lives with his partner, Pat Burke, and Pat’s two kids, in Missoula.
Craig currently works as an adjunct professor for the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Montana. His current teaching responsibilities include freshwater ecology, lake ecology, and Montana wildlife. Craig's research focuses on freshwater biology, particularly the movement of mercury through aquatic food webs. He earned his B.S. in biology at the University of Michigan. After completing his M.S. in zoology at the University of Maine, Craig received his Ph.D. in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Montana. Craig teaches Restoration Ecology and Montana Afoot & Afloat.
Bethany is WRFI's Outreach Manager as well as an instructor. Charged with letting the world know about WRFI, Bethany can be found on college campuses across the country meeting with students, professors, and advisors. When not travelling for WRFI, she is in Missoula at WRFI Central, designing marketing plans, organizing fundraisers, and trying to figure out ways to get back into the field. After years of instructing for WRFI, she is excited to continue with the organization from a new standpoint. Bethany graduated from Colorado College in 2000 with a degree in environmental history, and completed her Master's degree from the University of Montana's environmental studies program in May 2005. She currently is an adjunct professor at the University of Montana in both the environmental studies department and the Davidson Honors College. She's thrilled to have instructed Alaskan Rainforest: Ecology and Policy of the Tongass, Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures, Restoration Ecology and Montana Afoot & Afloat.
John grew up in Tennessee hiking, biking and backpacking in the Southern Appalachians. He earned his BA in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Ecology from the University of Montana in 2003. His Masters research- also at the University of Montana- included the successful defense of qualitative, content analysis approach that identified conceptual elements influencing social acceptance of biomass energy in Montana. John loves rivers. He is a river guide in Montana and an avid paddler of waterways fast and slow from week-long trips in the Everglades to month-long expeditions in the Canadian Arctic. When he’s not on the water somewhere, John also enjoys international travel, gardening, skiing along the Continental Divide, and spreading southern hospitality throughout the Inland Northwest while teaching his daughter to appropriately use the word “y’all”. John teaches Cycle the Rockies.
Liz Veazey is a North Carolina native who is very close to finishing up a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon, and she goes almost everywhere by bicycle. While she was an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina she learned about climate change, motivating her to create one of the first student-funded renewable energy initiatives in the Southeast. This renewable energy fund has invested over $1 million in solar thermal, solar PV, geothermal, and other sustainable energy projects on campus. To support broader student action on renewable energy and climate change, she co-founded the Energy Action Coalition (EAC) in 2004. In 2006, she attended the UN Climate Negotiations in Montreal with EAC, where she helped start the youth climate blog: itsgettinghotinhere.org. She directed the Southern Energy Network, a founding member of the EAC, from 2006-09. In 2012, she worked on the Solarize Eugene program, which has helped 90 Eugene households go solar. Liz teaches Cycle the Rockies.