Our Faculty

Faculty of Wildlands Studies programs come from around the world, and hold either a PhD or MS degree, with many years of experience in research and environmental sciences. Our hiring practice for instructors adheres to that of Western Washington University and meets the hiring requirements for faculty teaching upper-division coursework. Many of Wildlands Studies faculty are college professors who direct field study work, others are researchers who want to help broaden students' exposure to wildlife and environmental issues. All are concerned about the impact of development and growth on our natural environment. Our instructors are backcountry field guides as well as academicians, and are certified in first aid and CPR. Many of our project staff hold a Wilderness First Responder certification as well. All projects have a minimum of two Wildlands Studies staff members, and often three or four. There is always a lead Instructor, often a second instructor or a logistics coordinator, and/or a teaching assistant. Read on to learn more about the background, experience and passion of our lead instructors.

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Terry McCloskey

PhD in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, 2009
Terry is a coastal scientist and tropical paleoenvironmentalist, interested in the effect of climate change, especially as it affects the relationship between human society and the natural environment. His undergraduate thesis looked at the effects of hurricanes on ancient Maya agriculture, while his dissertation focused on changes in the frequency of hurricane landfall in the western Caribbean. Before returning to the United States for his education Terry spent 20 years pioneering a small farm in central Belize. He was a founding member of Five Blues Lake National Park, a community managed Park near his home in Belize, and served as Secretary of the Steering Committee for a large UN-funded project aimed at developing community co-management of protected areas throughout the country. Terry has conducted research throughout North and Central America and the Caribbean, from Quebec through Barbados, and will lead our Belize Program starting Summer 2019.

Terry's Program:


Jehren Boehm

MSc in Geography, University of Nevada, Reno, 2019
Jehren is a geographer in the realm of mountain science using tree rings and weather station arrays to answer spatial and temporal questions. His research interests lie between the biogeochemical cycling of mountain systems, the vagaries of seasonal snow cover, and the anthropogenic effects that complicate the two. His research interests span from weather stations in the Basin and Range of Nevada to endangered junipers in Bermuda to the steep slopes of the Indian Himalaya (where Wildlands Studies students directly contribute to active research).  After many years as a teaching assistant and logistical coordinator, Jehren will lead our Indian Himalaya program starting spring 2020.

Jehren's Program:

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M. Troy Burnett

PhD in Geography, UC Los Angeles, 2005
Troy is an assistant professor of geography at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. He has taught numerous courses on environmental geography. His research interests involve natural resource conflicts, conservation and the role of wildlife corridors in mitigating the impacts of climate change and human habitat alteration. Troy has lived and worked in the Canadian Rockies since 2005 and taught our Banff Program since 2013.

Troy's Program:

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Charles Chris Carpenter

PhD in Biological Ecology, UC Davis, 1991
Chris is a conservation scientist who has conducted field studies and led natural history expeditions in Asia for over twenty years. His main academic focus is the ecology and geodynamics of mountain environments. He is also interested in the marine world, environmental control of species richness and strategies for habitat conservation. He lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and teaches part of the year at Payap University. Chris has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 1990 and has taught in China, India and Southeast Asia. He currently leads our Thailand, Nepal and Indian Himalaya programs.

Chris' Programs:


Daniel Cloete

MSc in Conservation Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 2013
PhD Candidate in Conservation Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Daniel is a conservation biologist in South Africa where he has worked as the conservation manager of Kuzuko Game Park and later as the Program Director of the Nature’s Valley Trust, a community initiative dedicated to conservation and education on one of South Africa’s most sought after coastlines. A seasoned traveler and avian researcher, Daniel has investigated the decline of Martial eagles in South Africa and served as a resident naturalist in the Peruvian Amazon where he studied birds as environmental indicators.  Combining his passion for landscape conservation with his ornithological interests, he is now completing his PhD research on the impacts of fragmentation on the pollination efficiency of sunbirds and sugarbirds on ericas and proteas in the South African fynbos. Daniel will lead our South Africa program in Spring 2019.

Daniel's Program:

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Nicole L. Crane

MS in Marine Science, SF State University, Moss Landing, 1991;
MA in Science Education, UC Santa Cruz, 2003

Nicole is a senior conservation scientist with the Oceanic Society and a faculty member in the biology department at Cabrillo College. Her research interests lie in coral reef ecology, marine conservation and science education. Nicole also works with local communities in the Pacific and Caribbean to develop collaborative reef management plans, including marine protected areas. She teaches university courses in plant biology, marine biology, ecology and environmental science. She has taught our Big Sur Program since 1997.

Nicole's Program:

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Adam Dillon

MS in Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech, 2005;
PhD Candidate in Ecology, Colorado State University

Adam is a wildlife ecologist and conservation scientist whose research interests lie in carnivore conservation, island ecology, population dynamics and invasive species. His MS research focused on the population trends and density of ocelots in the rainforests of Belize, and his PhD research focuses on the population ecology of island foxes and island spotted skunks on the California Channel Islands. Adam has been teaching for Wildlands Studies since 2003 and has taught in Belize, New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest, and on Santa Cruz Island. He currently leads our California Channel Islands Program.

Adam's Program:

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Geoffrey R. Gallice

PhD in Entomology, University of Florida, 2015
Geoff is a tropical biologist whose scientific research interests lie in the ecology and evolution of butterflies. In particular, he is interested in the clearwing butterflies, a group whose biology is fascinating, and which serves as a model for diverse studies in ecology and evolution in the tropics. He is also active in applied conservation research, and is currently leading a project to explore the threat posed by road construction to biodiversity conservation in the Amazon rainforest of Peru. His research has taken him throughout Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Malawi, Zambia and Malaysia. Geoff has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 2012 and currently leads our Peru and Ecuador programs.

Geoff's Programs:

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Daniel J. Hagaman

MS in Environment and Resources, University of Wisconsin, 2006
Daniel is an anthropologist and naturalist with over fifteen years of experience working on conservation and environmental education projects in diverse international and U.S. locations. His research interests lie in ornithology and sustainable resource management of protected areas and wilderness. He has conducted research on the Polylepis forests of the Andes mountains and worked on conservation and education projects in Bolivia. Daniel has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 2009 and has taught in Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, New Zealand and Alaska. He currently leads our Chile Program.

Daniel's Program:


Sarra Hinshaw

PhD in Aquatic Biogeochemistry, Griffith University, Australia, 2008
Sarra is an aquatic biologist interested in surface and groundwater quality, nitrous oxide emissions and riparian zones. She has a wide range of research experiences including water quality research in California’s Central Valley, salt marsh health and resiliency in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and denitrification and greenhouse gases in agriculturally impacted zones in Queensland, Australia. Sarra currently teaches a range of university ecology, biology and climate change classes. She will assume leadership of our Australia program starting Summer 2019.

Sarra's Program:

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Thanit Kunkhajornphan

MS in Environmental Management, Mahidol University, 1996
Thanit is a cultural ecologist whose research interests include conservation and sustainability. She consults for Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and has worked throughout Southeast Asia with research organizations to develop effective survey methods and indigenous communities to design culturally appropriate teaching materials. Thanit has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 1998 and has taught in Thailand, China, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Thanit currently teaches our Thailand Program.

Thanit's Program:

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Benita Carmen Laird-Hopkins

MSc in Ecology, Lancaster University, United Kingdom, 2016 
Benita is an ecologist whose research focused on how changes in tree diversity affects litter decomposition, soil respiration and insect community composition. Her interests also include marine ecosystems, and conservation and restoration ecology. Benita has worked in multiple tropical locations, from Thailand to Panama to Guam. She has spent considerable time in Cuba, living on a farm and traveling throughout the country learning about the native wildlife and culture. Benita has taught field courses in Panama and the United Kingdom and will be leading the Alaska, Cuba and Pacific Islands programs starting in 2019.

Benita's Programs:

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Joe Sapp

PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz, 2017
Joe is a behavioral ecologist with research interests in sociality, cooperation, conflict, and animal societies. He has directed the bulk of his training and scientific curiosity on insects, especially ants, but has promiscuous taxonomic interests, having conducted field research on creatures as diverse as birds, mammals, fish, and snails. His graduate work examined the intercolonial intraspecific interactions of socially parasitic ants (Polyergus mexicanus) that rely on kidnapped worker ants from their host species to keep their colonies running. He is awed by both the biodiversity and behavioral diversity of insects and their societies, and does everything he can to transmit entomology fever to any student that he meets. Joe has participated in many field-based research courses that have taken him to California, Arizona, Panama, Costa Rica, and Tanzania. Joe first taught for Wildlands Studies in the 2014 Argentina course. He will teach in the 2019 Spring Australia course and lead the 2020 Chile course.

Joe's Programs:

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Chris Smith

MSc in Wildlife Biology, Humboldt State University, 2015
Chris is a wildlife biologist and educator. His master's research in Kenya focused on how shade and sun coffee can be used to promote bird diversity and ecosystem services. Over the last ten years, Chris has had the opportunity to work around the world with everything from baboons in Namibia and saker falcons in Mongolia to wolves in Idaho and tropical birds in the Peruvian Amazon. Chris has taught for environmental field courses for several years, and enjoys opening students' eyes to the wildlife around them and teaching how to study and interact with these amazing organisms. Chris leads our Australia Program.


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Alejandra Vargas

DVM, National University, Costa Rica, 2003;
PhD candidate in Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Alejandra is a veterinarian and marine mammal researcher from Costa Rica. She is currently completing her doctoral research in South Africa on the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin as an indicator species for marine protected area effectiveness. Alejandra established our Australia and South Africa programs in 2012 and currently teaches the New Zealand and South Africa Programs.

Alejandra's Program:


Veronica Yovovich

PhD in Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz, 2016
Veronica is a carnivore biologist whose research interests lie in mountain lion ecology. She has worked on a number of field projects, from the Australian outback to cloud forests of Costa Rica, and from studying marmots at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab to tracking wolves in Yellowstone and Arizona. Her PhD research focused on examining mountain lions and the structure of their communities of the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Veronica has led the Yellowstone Program since 2012.

Veronica's Program:

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Matthew Zylstra

PhD in Conservation Ecology/Transdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Sustainability, Stellenbosch University, 2014
Matt is a conservation ecologist with experience in facilitating action research approaches for collaborative landscape restoration and stewardship in South Africa and Australia. His research interests lie in coastal-marine ecosystems, naturalist mentoring and community-focused outreach. Matt’s PhD research drew on integral ecology, psychology and education to explore how meaningful nature experience supports transformative learning for sustainability. Matt has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 2009 and has taught in Australia, South Africa, Tasmania and New Zealand. Matt currently leads our South Africa and New Zealand programs.

Matt's Programs:


Leslie Arutunian

is the director of Wildlands Studies. An alumnus of both the Hawaii Project in 1988 and the Baja Mexico Project in 1990, Leslie remained active and engaged with Wildlands Studies until she took over leadership in 2008. Leslie has focused on increasing the project offerings of Wildlands Studies, formalizing our safety and risk management practices, enhancing the academic course offering, and improving our external communication (our website continues to expand with new information and we are very active on Facebook!). Prior to taking over Wildlands Studies, Leslie spent thirteen years working in various senior administrative positions in higher education, helping start three new universities, including California State University Monterey Bay, and Zayad University in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Leslie’s interests lie in experiential and environmental education with a keen focus on the outdoors as a medium for personal empowerment. After living abroad and traveling to more than forty countries, Leslie believes that travel, time spent in new cultures, and exposure to fascinating ecosystems can’t help but teach new perspective, increase awareness and improve confidence—all skills needed for environmental stewards of the twenty-first century. Leslie is now joined by her daughter Violet, who although still very young, has the makings of a wonderful outdoorswoman.


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Sylvia Zito

is our office coordinator and manages many of our day-to-day interactions with students, parents and advisors. Prior to joining Wildlands Studies in 2012, Sylvia worked for twenty-five years at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she managed the Language Department and the Language Quarter Abroad. She has traveled extensively, and is an avid hiker and mushroom hunter. Sylvia loves to discuss the diverse locations of our projects with students, and help them prepare for a life-changing, academically dynamic, invigorating field based learning experience.

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Laura Pomeroy

is our campus visit coordinator. She began her life as an army brat and lived in Europe and many parts of the U.S. before settling in Monterey, California. Laura spent more than twenty years working in a wide variety of office situations, mostly public service, and supplemented her love of the outdoors by serving as a docent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where she expanded her knowledge of marine biology. You can ask Laura just about anything about marine life in the Monterey Bay! Laura came to Wildlands Studies in 2010 to help us grow our campus relationships and now serves as the primary point of contact for faculty and campus advisors when planning our campus visits. Laura values the unique outdoor opportunities offered by Wildlands Studies and believes that our enthusiastic students are the future leaders who will help solve the myriad of environmental problems that threaten the health of our planet.

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Allison Dolan

is our Field Studies Advisor and was part of our New Zealand program in 2013. Allison holds a BS from Northern Arizona University in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Climate Change and Globalization. Having worked as an air quality consultant, Allison has a serious interest in the need to improve visible emissions monitoring techniques. More recently, Allison has shifted her focus to teaching environmental stewardship and inspiring people to protect the flora and fauna they love. Allison credits her career motivation and success to the meaningful experience she encountered on the New Zealand program. Allison believes the programs offered by Wildlands Studies can expand ones’ understanding of the natural world, as well as unlock new opportunities to working in and improving the environment.

Program Alumni:

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Tristen Thron

is our Field Studies Advisor and participated in the Australia program in 2015 as a freshman.  He grew up in rural Humboldt County and has been backpacking since he was five years old. A graduate of UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Environmental Studies, Tristen chaired the environmental group Coastal Fund which allocated over $330,000 a year towards projects that preserve, protect and enhance the Santa Barbara coastal environment.  He plans on attending graduate school in the future to pursue a career in water resource management. Tristen believes that Wildlands Studies was the defining moment of his university experience and set him on the path to a successful college career. His desire to get involved with Wildlands was fueled by the wish to share his experience with other students.

Program Alumni:

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Kerry Athey

University of Oregon, Nepal Program Spring 2017

Kerry Athey is our Campus Ambassador at the University of Oregon and participated in the Nepal Program in 2017. Kerry spends half the year studying Environmental Science and Political Philosophy at UO and the other half working as a wilderness guide on Idaho’s Salmon and Snake Rivers. Having spent his whole life in the outdoors, Kerry recognizes the impact immersive wilderness experiences can have on individuals, especially when paired with education. He hopes to provide more students with the opportunity to get out and learn through Wildlands Studies.

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Mikaela Balkind

University of Washington, Nepal Program Fall 2017

Mikaela is our Campus Ambassador at the University of Washington. She is currently studying Environmental Science and Resource Management, while simultaneously obtaining a minor in Climate Science. Mikaela participated in the Fall 2017 Nepal Program, and will tell you that her Wildlands Studies program exponentially enhanced her overall college experience by allowing her to experience a new culture and expand her understanding of climate change on Himalayan ecology. Upon her return to UW she began working in a Climate Science lab that studies how climate change impacts the nutritional quality of rice. She is currently the captain of the Alpine Ski team at UW, and loves to spend time outdoors hiking, mountain biking, climbing and skiing.


Ruby Baruth

University of California Davis, Thailand/Indonesia Program Winter 2018

Ruby Baruth, our University of California Davis Campus Ambassador, is a 4th year Environmental Science and Management major and participated on our Winter 2018 program to Thailand and Indonesia. For Ruby, growing up three blocks from the ocean meant surfing, swimming and learning a lot about the marine animals from a very early age. After beginning school at UC Davis, she was thrilled to learn that she could incorporate her passion for marine animals and habitat conservation through her studies with Wildlands. Upon returning from her Wildlands Studies program and learning all about coral reef ecology in the Indo-Pacific, Ruby became even more involved with ocean conservation and started working at Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) laboratory in Santa Barbara.

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Jenna Edwards

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Banff Program Summer 2017

Jenna Edwards is our Campus Ambassador for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and participated on the Banff Wildlife Corridors program in Summer 2017. She studies Biological Sciences and strongly believes that her experience with Wildlands Studies has been the highlight of her college career. Jenna says she is thankful to the program leaders and lifelong friends she made on the program who ignited her passion for conservation and helped her discover ways to limit human impact on wildland areas. Her adventurous spirit and confidence in the outdoors was also strengthened while conducting transect analyses throughout the Bow Valley and backpacking the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park. When Jenna is not studying or working as a quadriplegic caregiver, she continues to spend the majority of her free time hiking, running, swimming and backpacking. It is her hope to see more Cal Poly students participating in Wildlands Studies’ field based programs because she truly knows the value of this immersive and holistic experience as a complement to the typical campus experience.


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Chiara Phillips

University of California, Los Angeles, Chile Program Winter 2018

Chiara Phillips is our Campus Ambassador at UCLA. She became involved with Wildlands Studies in her junior year participating in the Winter 2018 Chile Patagonia Ecosystems program. Chiara is currently finishing her undergraduate degree in Geography and Environmental Studies with minors in Geographic Information Systems & Technology and Food Studies. Chiara was born in Malaysia but grew up in central Wisconsin. She loves hiking, cross-country skiing, geocaching, and watching the seasons change. Chiara believes that Wildlands Studies gives students the unique opportunity to connect with people from different backgrounds and learn experientially while also inspiring a love for the natural world, which is essential to its’ preservation for future generations.

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Hailey Quackenbush

Evergreen State College, South Africa Program Spring 2018

Hailey Quakenbush is our Campus Ambassador at Evergreen State College where he studies English and Ecology. Both a writer and a nature-lover at heart, one of Hailey's latest interests is the integration of language arts and natural science because, he believes, "science needs more storytellers", one of the many pearls of wisdom and clarity he gleaned while participating in the Wildlands Studies South Africa program in Spring 2018. Going to South Africa with Wildlands has been one of the best decisions Hailey has made so far during his college career, and he is excited to be promoting and sharing this wonderful organization with others!

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Chloe Spring

University of Denver, Thailand Program Winter 2018

Chloe Spring is our Campus Ambassador at the University of Denver. She participated on our Winter 2018 program to Thailand and Indonesia and is a fourth-year student finishing a major in Ecology and Biodiversity with a minor in Sustainability. Chloe uses her scuba certification, as well as the knowledge she has gained to explore her love for the ocean and the marine life within it. Chloe believes that Wildlands Studies helped her pinpoint her passion and become more certain about her career direction. She would love to help others find their path and future through Wildlands just as she did.

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Trinity Walsh

Evergreen State College, Iceland Program Summer 2018

Trinity Sage Walsh is our Campus Ambassador at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington where she is pursuing a combined degree in environmental conservation, international relations, and global health. Originally from Austin, Texas, she has gained a deep appreciation for land management and sustainability after living and working on organic farms in Hawai'i and Alaska. As lead coordinator for the Women in Science club, she is passionate about creating space and reducing discrimination in the STEM fields. Trinity participated on the Iceland 2018 program and can’t wait to excite other students to get outside and immerse themselves in the natural world.