Introducing…Cohort 12!

Discover the new faces of the M.S. of Environmental Education Program:

WhitneyWhitney Anderson is a native Oregonian. Her upbringing was rooted in the exploration of endless wilderness opportunities. Through outdoor adventure, she developed a curiosity for her local aquatic life and habitats. However, study abroad experience in high school took her to faraway places. The travel bug had bitten her, leading her to earn her Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of Oregon. But, her care for the environment never waned. Upon graduating, she began working for the Bureau of Land Management as a River Ranger on Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Rivers. Various other experiences, including teaching salmon education programs and helping with threatened fish species research, made her realize that her true aspiration was to help others cultivate an innate fascination with the environment as well.


Marina Bohn grew up in a small town in the East Bay of California, exploring the oak woodlands, creeks and open space of Mt Diablo State Park. She always loved water and was on the swim team since she was 5 years old. Her love for water led her to the University of California Santa Barbara to get her Bachelors of Science in Hydrology with an emphasis on Ecology and Biology. She developed a deep love for the ocean with surfing, freediving, kayaking and traveling as her favorite activities. The ocean is one of her greatest teachers and led her to be a sea cave kayak guide and naturalist for 6 years in Channel Islands National Park. Being a guide developed her passion to teach people about science and their environment and she later landed with a Santa Barbara nonprofit, Wilderness Youth Project. This nonprofit focuses on nature connection and instilling appreciation of and confidence in nature for children. The relationships she developed inspired her to continue her education at Southern Oregon University in the Master of Science in Environmental Education as well as a Masters of Arts in Teaching for Single Subject Biology. She hopes to inspire people to love science as much as she does and to one day start a school.


Courtney Buel originally hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. While living in California, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. There she learned how to scuba-dive in the kelp forests of Monterey and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of being surrounded by nature. This passion ultimately led her to spend a summer on Catalina Island, teaching children how to scuba dive and identify marine species. After that summer, she became a marine science educator in San Francisco, teaching students about the ocean and connecting them with an environment that she loves dearly. She is also pursuing a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and hopes to one day be a Director of a marine science conservation nonprofit. In her free time, she likes to explore and enjoy nature with friends (and of course, splash in the ocean!).

AndyAndy Dwyer is an upstate New York native where he remembers fun times with family and friends in the Adirondack Mountains. While pursuing his undergraduate degree in Horticulture from Oregon State University, he moved to Bend, OR with his wife. There he completed an internship in restoration horticulture. For five years, they lived in Bend, finished their degrees together, and started a native plant nursery and restoration business. An enjoyable part of his work was running volunteer groups, educating the public on land use, and working in environmental education with local schools on Central Oregon watersheds. The fun stuff of his business led him to SOU’s MS in Environmental Education program. The cohort model, hands-on approach of the program, and the development for Fall in the Field is inspiring. In his free time, he enjoys road-tripping, camping with his family, strolling around town with his 2-year-old son, Grahm, and board gaming with the cohort.

KarinaKarina Hassell comes from the “bridge of the world, heart of the universe,” also known as Panama. From a young age, this city girl was encouraged to explore her surroundings through science. Following her love for science and due to Panama’s strategic location, she studied Maritime Transportation Engineering at the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá. She later obtained a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Arkansas. However, it was through varied professional opportunities that she found a way to combine all her passions: science, education, and development. Witnessing firsthand the tremendous impact a good educator can have in a child’s life, she decided to pursue a Master in Environmental Education. She is thrilled to be part of Cohort 12 and ready to absorb as much knowledge from the program and region. Her goal is to provide learning opportunities for those who are curious and especially for those who are socially disadvantaged.

SunyaSunya Ince-Johannsen received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies: Ecology and Conservation from Southern Oregon University. She is now pursuing a double Masters in Environmental Education and Teaching. In her free time, she loves snowboarding, hiking with her dogs, botanizing, and kitesurfing! 


Michael Kaufman is from Menlo Park, CA. Michael completed his undergraduate studies at Texas Christian University, where he received a BS in Environmental Science and a minor in Human-Animal Relations. He is pursuing the Masters Teaching program for Single Subject Integrated Sciences in addition to the Masters in Environmental Education. He is a self-proclaimed semi-professional napper, an avid lover of all things Disney, and a volleyball player since he was 10. Lastly, he has a passion for animal studies, namely mammals and reptiles, and one day would like to teach high school animal sciences.


Brenda Miller spent her undergrad days at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. There she got her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a double major in Music. Brenda is also pursuing a Certificate of Nonprofit Management in addition to her Master’s degree. She loves to bird and cuddle with her ball python Cosmo. In addition to these hobbies, she also performs as a concert pianist.

NoraNora Seymour grew up in Massachusetts exploring the woods behind her house. She discovered her passion for environmental education while leading field trips in the permaculture garden at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she received her BS in Sustainable Food and Farming. Since then she has continued to grow food, curiosity, and a love for nature with kids of all ages. Nora is excited to be a part of the thriving environmental education community in Southern Oregon. She is also adding on the Certificate in Nonprofit Management. In her spare time, you can find Nora adventuring outside with her partner and dog or at a bluegrass concert! 


Maya Shoemaker was born and raised in Santa Barbara and was blessed to spend her childhood exploring around her family home in the mountains, traveling around Central America and Mexico, homeschooling by a creek, and enjoying time in nature every day. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, with an emphasis on Environmental Education and Evolutionary Biology. After graduating, she spent a year traveling and volunteering in Europe and Asia. Her time included working on farms in Turkey, bringing underserved Nepali children outside for sit spots, trekking through the Himalayas, and working with Vietnamese children with disabilities. She has worked for over ten years with a nature-based mentoring non-profit called Wilderness Youth Project. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Environmental Education and a Masters of Arts in Teaching at SOU, as well as serving as the Farm Education Coordinator at the SOU Farm. In her free time, she loves to practice acro yoga, make things with her hands, sing, dance, and explore nature with friends.


Monique Streit grew up in Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Park and spent her free time exploring the woods and trails within the park. This has sparked a love of nature and all national park sites. A goal of hers is to visit all national parks someday. She spent many years working for the National Park Service as an interpretive ranger and in the maintenance division, creating signs for roads and trails in the national park. Monique has always had a passion for teaching and received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. From there, she taught 4th grade for five years, but specifically math and science for the last two years. While teaching, Monique organized an outdoor and environmental club for third through fifth graders. Students developed a deeper understanding of the environments surrounding the school, learned about native plants and animals in Northern Arizona, and helped maintain an outdoor classroom and wildlife and nature trail on the school campus. Her love of nature and education has led her to pursue an M.S. in Environmental Education from SOU. She hopes to inspire a love of learning and an appreciation for our environment in people of all ages through environmental education!


Sami Wolniakowski feels that educating and caring for children is second nature to her. As a teenager, she became a certified ski instructor and taught children and adults of all ages how to downhill ski. In these years, she discovered her zeal for educating, and this enthusiasm ultimately led her to pursue a B.A. in Education from St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. Entering the world as a new graduate, she started work at the Multnomah County Outdoor School in Oregon. After this position, she worked as a naturalist/science teacher at Teton Science School in Jackson, Wyoming, for two years. During her time spent at Teton Science School, she was able to discover the importance of utilizing the outdoor environment as her classroom. She is excited to pursue her Master’s of Environmental Education at SOU and looks forward to continuing her development and growth as an educator.


Jessica Zuzack grew up in rural Pennsylvania, exploring the fields, forests, and creeks in her backyard.  Her love of connecting to nature and optimism for finding solutions to environmental issues led her to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sustainability at Philadelphia University.  She gained valuable experience in sustainable food systems, conservation, and community partnership from AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer work, an internship abroad, and work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. She is very excited to be a part of the Masters of Environmental Education program and looks forward to a future of engaging kids of all ages in outdoor learning. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, yoga, dance, cooking, and knitting.

Weekend Adventures to the Coast – Pacific Wren

by Emily Lind

Imagine being four inches tall and living beneath 300 foot Redwood trees. That’s life for the Pacific Wren living on the California coast. These itty-bitty wrens lurk around in the understory, rarely perching in one place long enough for us to get a decent look. When you do finally get a good look, they never disappoint. With a good pair of binoculars and the right lighting, this seemingly drab brown bird displays fine barring of chestnut, brown, and beige; a cocked, stout tail, and a beautiful song that goes on and on. They are simply delightful.Emily 2

Ashland is only two hours from the coast and Jedidiah Smith Redwood State Park. Weekend adventuring oftentimes takes us graduate students to Crescent City to surf, walk the beaches, and hike beneath the giant redwoods. Pacific wrens litter the dense understory of the dark forest floor. Towering above are Redwood trees so tall it’s as if their crowns reach the heavens. Standing next to these thousand-year-old giants, one feels incredibly tiny. I wonder how the Pacific Wren feels.Emily 1

One particular wren I watched for several minutes was in the middle of preparing lunch. I am not personifying; this Pacific Wren was trying to kill an insect that was as big as she was. This long-legged shield bug had antennae that were as long as the four inch bird. Over and over she pecked the bug with her small, needle-like beak. Peck, flitter, peck, flitter, hop, peck, peck, flitter. Over and over she ruthlessly went after her meal. The resemblance to me trying to tackle an overstuffed burrito at the local Taqueria was uncanny. Thankfully my burrito lunch doesn’t fight me back. The bug resisted, trying to crawl away on its long, hinged legs. It even tried grabbing onto the wren’s face as pecks were reigning down on it. From my point of view, the wren had the upper hand, but not by much. Eventually the wren and her lunch disappeared from view. I can only imagine she finally got a chance to relax and enjoy a hard-earned meal.


By Elva Manquera

elva1Photos by Crystal Nichols

Vesper Meadow is a nature preserve near Ashland, OR. It has many beautiful and mesmerizing features, but one of its most noticeable is the three Aspen stands. These stands line the field with amazing colors throughout the seasons and hundreds of people a year get to enjoy their beauty from the road. I first came to be engulfed by the aspen when I started my beaver research at Vesper Meadow. Aspen are a very important food staple for beaver and the bulk of the beaver activity at Vesper can be found at the Aspen stands.

One of the reasons Aspen are so noticeable is becs making them a single organism. ause of their ecological uniqueness from the surrounding pine. Aspen have thin round green leaves that shimmer in the wind and turn a vibrant yellow in the fall. Their bark is a greenish color that turns white with age. The green color in the bark is from chlorophyll, the chlorophyll photosynthesizes all throughout the year providing the Aspen with sugars. This feeds the Aspen during the winter months when they lose their leaves. These sugars also provide food for local wildlife including black bears, deer, elk, beavers, porcupine and rodents. This means that livestock are attracted to these tasty trees. Without limited access livestock will eat the saplings of the Aspen potentially wiping out a local population due to the lack of replacement.elva2

Another key feature of the Aspen is their reproduction. Aspen have two ways of reproducing by seed and by root sprouts. Root sprouting is the most common way for Aspen to reproduce. This makes the trees in an Aspen stand genetically identical, because all the trees in a single stand are connected by roots making them a single organism.

Unfortunately, these beautiful trees are in peril. Aspen require moist soil for survival, but with human caused climate change aspen are being impacted by raising climates, drought, emerging insect outbreaks and conifer encroachment. One of things people can do to help protect these trees from disappearing is through controlled burns. Controlled burns can help keep back the encroaching conifers, giving the aspen a fighting chance. enjoyed by organisms big or small.

Aspen are a beautiful tree that can be enjoyed by organisms big or small. Go take the time to sit under a stand of aspen and find out why they are so magnificent.


By Nicole Ferer

Sometimes walking through the valley, longing for the mountains, I imagine:
And there, in the wooded world of my imagination,
it’s raining a little and there are clouds
resting on the tips of the trees, rivers sleeping by the path.
Everything’s moving, not too much but just enough.
God, the way nature moves (me).
I slip in a dark forest green trance
like how the raindrops slide down my clasped hands,
and I try to brand the pictures in my head
so I can open them all up later
when I forget how real moss growing on a tree feels,
or how the river never stops flowing
no matter what you try to throw in its way.

Photo Credit: Crystal Nichols

Art as an Educational Medium

By Lauren Perkinson

I have always enjoyed the creative process. I find drawing and painting to be incredibly soothing, and take comfort in the therapeutic nature of creating art. The process of creating has always been emotionally significant to me, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how I can use my artwork as a tool in environmental education.

lauren fish
Adult Coho Salmon – Oncorhynchus kisutch

Art is one of many mediums that can inspire an audience to take action or learn more about a subject. In effective environmental education, students are also inspired to move from awareness into action. To me, it seems appropriate to merge the two and examine how we can inspire our students to explore the natural sciences through art.

luaren moose
Bull Shiras Moose – Alces alces shirasi

Recently I’ve focused on drawing portraits of animals. The goal with these portraits is to focus the viewer in on a single subject, drawing their attention to the details of the animal rather than elements of the background. Ideally, this type of work inspires questions about the animal. Through encouraging viewers to form their own questions about each species, these portraits can act as an educational medium. In the future, I hope to continue exploring how I can best channel my creative energy into projects that inspire people to learn more about the natural world.


luaren eagle
The beginning stages of a portrait. Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus euocephalus


Discovering natural wonders with the M.S. in Environmental Education Program