All posts by SEEC

Fall Came Early to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

On a morning that was warm for Ashland in the fall, a group of five graduate students with the Environmental Education program out of Southern Oregon University gathered in the valley to head up to Hobart Bluff. Our group had a unified purpose: to get a group of fifth graders from Jewett Elementary outside to experience nature and to learn about interdependence on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

I had not been up to the monument for a couple of weeks, so I was quite surprised when I got out of the car at the turn off for Soda Mountain Rd., and the brisk air cut through my sweater. I quickly put on another layer as we put together our plan before the students arrived. We were going to have to keep the children moving today, otherwise they might not have fun with the morning fog hiding the sun.

Snowy morning at the Hobart Bluff trailhead

We made our plans and climbed back into our vehicles to make the drive up to the trailhead. Rounding a corner, we came into a clearing and were greeted by a light dusting of snow. I do not know who was more excited, us or the students who arrived shortly thereafter. It was sure to be an interesting day. We got the students off the bus and readied them for the trail.

Our lesson for this day’s hike was “Nature’s Mysteries,” a lesson that put the experience of science investigation in the hands of the students. Scientists are like detectives, after all, using clues that they find to help explain mysteries that have not yet been understood. Each student was given a hand lens to investigate nature as we hiked along. They were also given clues to mysteries that we would be looking to solve. These clues include phrases like “What made the holes in these trees?”, “What is this green fur?”, and “What kind of cone is this?”

Nature_s Mystery_ Can we eat it_As we made our way onto trail, the students were searching for clues to solve their mysteries. Not even the cold, foggy weather could dampen their eagerness to learn. We came across some of the “green fur” hanging off a Douglas-fir and began investigating the clues. Was this actually fur? Was it a plant? Was it a fungus? Or, was it something from another world? As we looked more closely, we discovered there was much more going on than we first thought. This green fur, called a lichen, was two organisms living in an interdependent relationship. One organism, a fungus, provides roots and structure to the other organism, an algae, which provides food. Without one another, neither would survive. As we looked around more, we realized that there was more than one kind of lichen. Some investigating students found as many as five different varieties.

After solving our mysteries, we gathered on a nearby summit overlooking Ashland and the rest of the valley. Normally this view would be breathtaking, with blues, greens, and browns. On this day, however, the summit carried us up into a cloud of fog, which was an amazing experience that the students talked about the whole way back down to the bus.

Eating lunch in a cloud


Having come to the end of our fall adventure, we said our goodbyes and, with heavy hearts, waved as the students began their trip back to Central Point. We would be back again the next day to greet some of their fellow students from another fifth grade class, hopeful to embark on an equally exciting adventure solving nature’s mysteries.

Written by: John Ward

Pictures by: John Ward


Cohort 10, Hello!

As the weather begins to change from summer to fall in Ashland, a new cohort of graduate students has settled in to the program at SOU. Find out more about theam and what brought them to our program!

Laura Bergner Bio Pic

Laura Bergner grew up in North Carolina, spending a good part of her childhood catching salamanders in the Appalachian Mountains. After leaving her hometown, she discovered that her true passion is helping children explore the outdoors and live in a way that feels connected to nature. Laura spent her early twenties managing farms and developing sustainable living skills in Oregon, Colorado, and New Mexico, as well as spending several years as an early childhood educator.

Living in a variety of places left her with a great love and respect for the Pacific Northwest, and in 2014 she left the southwest for good to study Biology at Southern Oregon University. She was so impressed by the diversity of life found in this tiny part of the world that she decided to stay here after receiving her Bachelor’s in Science and attend the Environmental Education Master’s program.

Laura is excited to bring her passion for nature to a community that is so driven to protect the environment and give children access to the outdoors. When she is not learning or teaching, she prefers to spend time with her enormous dog in open fields.

India Bolding Bio Pic

India Bolding grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco exploring the tide pools and redwood forests. She’s always viewed nature as a unifying force; anyone can find something they’re excited about, something to geek out about when they explore nature. She wants to help kids find that enthusiasm that was inspired by her parents at a young age. She believes that if kids get to immerse themselves with nature and learn the science that explains what they’re seeing they’ll develop a life long love for the environment. This encourages them to think and care for more than just themselves, ultimately making caring and thoughtful people that want to help the world.

Paige Engelbrektsson Bio PicPaige Engelbrektsson is a Virginia native who grew up finding the wonder in the wild places around her suburban neighborhood and childhood barn. After graduating with a B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary, she was elbow-deep in assisting museum researchers when she discovered two things. One, teaching visitors about the new and intriguing natural history facts she uncovered offered its own kind of wonder. Two, there was an entire country full of awe-inspiring, truly wild spaces she could live and teach in. So began a cross-country trip that has lasted four years and counting. From guiding backcountry pack trips in Yellowstone National Park to teaching outdoor afterschool programs as an AmeriCorps member in North Carolina, Paige’s pursuit of sharing the wonder of the natural world has led her through a checklist of mountain ranges and ultimately to SOU. She looks forward to using the skills and knowledge she will gain through the program to lead educational programming for audiences of all ages in even more beautiful wild places.

Angie Gornik Bio Pic

Angie Gornik is a Minnesotan from her accent to her snow driving abilities. She spent endless hours as a child running around barefoot both in her backyard and at summer camp. Angie attended Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa and received degrees in Biology and Spanish. During her college years she called many places home from the tall grass prairie of Iowa, to the farm she worked on in Costa Rica, to the volcanoes of Ecuador, to the summer heat of Nicaragua, to the bayou of Louisiana. Angie blames her Costa Rican host mom, Doña Fatima, for igniting her love for environmental education and showing her what loving people and a place looks like.  Upon graduating in December of 2016 Angie packed up her car and moved to Southern California to teach at an outdoor education institute. Nature exploration, outdoor adventure, and the laughter of students became an integral part of her life and pursing her Masters in Environmental Education became a part of her journey. Angie never ceases to be amazed by ferns and can’t wait to achieve her goal of visiting every National Park within the next 10 years.

Anna Kennedy Bio PicAnna Kennedy grew up in a small town in Northern California, surrounded by redwoods, the Russian River, and a wild backyard full of endless possibilities. Whether hiking along the coast, camping in the redwoods, or building tree-forts, she found tranquility, inspiration, and a fascination for life in the great outdoors. This early love and curiosity led her Anna to pursue a degree from UC Davis in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology. Over the summers Anna worked as a Trips Guide at Skylake Yosemite Camp, leading kids on day and multiday backpacking adventures in the Sierras. Her longing to be outside and learn everything about the natural world evolved into a desire to help educate and engage children outdoors. After graduation, Anna continued to work with youth as a Montessori Assistant Teacher and as a summer Camp Director. This love for educating children and helping them build a relationship with nature is what guided Anna to the MS in Environmental Education program at SOU. Anna is loving exploring the incredible wilderness and biodiversity of Southern Oregon, and looks forward to continuing to combine her love for education and for being outdoors in a life-long career as an environmental educator.

Sarah Norton Bio PicSarah Norton was born and raised in upstate New York. Growing up, an interest and wonder about nature was instilled in her as she explored creeks and hiked with her family. Sarah graduated from Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondack mountains with a Bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Science. It was during her undergrad that she found a passion for raptor research and conservation. For the next eight years, she traveled around the country working various field jobs focused on avian research. From jumping in swamps for Snail Kite surveys in the Everglades National Park to trapping and banding Golden Eagles in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Sarah has pursued her passion while also meeting amazing people along the way. After working with such diverse communities, Sarah discovered a lack of understanding between the public and scientific community. She also realized her greatest joy was interacting with the public and sharing experiences of her work. Finding her calling, Sarah switched her career to focus on environmental education. While pursuing her degree at SOU and beyond, Sarah hopes to bridge the gap between the public and scientific community through education programs and citizen science projects.

Sujan Subedi Bio PicSujan Subedi is from Pokhara, Nepal. Growing up in the tourism capital of Nepal, he was always attracted to hiking and camping. His inborn proclivity towards nature and environment was complemented by a BSC degree from Institute of Forestry in Forestry where he participated in various plantation programs, cleanliness programs, conservation rallies and extension programs. Later after graduation, he followed up on his education by joining several seminars, trainings and workshops organized by green groups such as Federation of Community Forestry User group Nepal (FECOFUN), National Youth for Climate Action (NYCA), and Clean Energy Nepal (CEN). His area of interest is studying the relationship and interactions between natural and human systems to better understand the world around him. He hopes to use his previous knowledge and the knowledge he obtains from S.O.U. to teach the next generation about the importance of forest management and sustainability for the future.

Ellie Thompson Bio PicEllie Thompson developed her love for nature and the outdoors at a very young age. As soon as she could walk, she began exploring the family farm in Eugene, Oregon and the ponds behind her house—collecting flowers, insects, and minnows to observe and marvel at. Her family vacations consisted of camping and hiking all over Oregon, spending days kayaking the remote Owyhee River, and visiting many natural history museums; learning about the land and its native flora and fauna. Her inquisitive mind and passion for learning about the world around her drove her to pursue a degree in biology at Portland State University. While she loved her major, she wasn’t sure what career to pursue after college. It wasn’t until she stood on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, in Malaysian Borneo, that she realized what she wanted to do. Witnessing the devastation of one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world was a powerful experience that lit a fire of passion for conservation and education in her. She is excited to work to light that same fire in people of all ages after she graduates from Southern Oregon University’s Environmental Education program.

Alyssa Wiens Bio PicAlyssa Wiens grew up just outside of the Birthplace of Rock ’n Roll, Memphis, TN. Growing up, most of her free time was spent playing underneath the giant oaks in her backyard. Her love of nature and working with kids led her to pursue a degree in Environmental Conservation at Mississippi State University. She soon realized that measuring how many 2×4’s you can get out of a tree was not her calling and decided to switch majors. Careful deliberation led her to obtaining a degree in Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture where she got to learn all the plants and animals, but didn’t have to measure any of them. During her undergrad, an internship with the U.S. Forest Service at Land Between the Lakes NRA in Kentucky solidified her path to becoming an environmental educator. She headed north after graduation to Wisconsin to work as an instructor for Nature’s Classroom Institute, a residential environmental education program for schools. Desiring a degree in what she intends to do with her life, Alyssa made the trek to SOU and is finally fulfilling her dream of living in the Pacific NW. She looks forward to a lifetime of inspiring children to love this planet we call home.

Heather Wilson Bio PicHeather Wilson grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. Nature was very tame in the suburbs, but she got her wilderness fix through her family’s frequent travels. (She still suffers from the travel bug to this day.) Visiting parks and experiencing nature all over the country showed her the power and importance of wilderness. Enthralled with the natural world, Heather studied Biology at Iowa State University. During her undergraduate career, she discovered a joy for teaching others through tutoring and teaching assistantships. After graduating, Heather decided to take on a new kind of educational role as a park guide intern at Mammoth Cave National Park. Guiding thousands of visitors through the world’s longest cave was an incredible learning experience, and gave Heather all kinds of exciting skills and confidence. She took these skills back home to St. Louis where she worked as an interpretation assistant at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Heather knew she had found something great, and decided she wanted to learn more. She applied to the Environmental Education program at Southern Oregon University and the rest is history!

Flying Home

The erratic weather patterns of late winter seem to be the signal for birds to return to the Klamath Basin.  Some will stay in southern Oregon for the warmer months while others just lay over here as they journey along the Pacific Flyway.  With over 350 bird species migrating through the area and a significant concentration of bald eagles, the Klamath Basin is a winter haven for birds and birders alike.

I have been doing my own bit of migrating lately.  As a nontraditional student with a family and a career, I commute from my home in Keno, OR driving 110 miles a day to attend graduate school at SOU.  Imagine then, my delight, when our program director decided to lead a birding trip to the Klamath Basin to view Ferruginous Hawks and other migratory birds.  I would finally have the opportunity to share my home with these people who have become my second flock.     

Early on that crisp March morning, seven members of the Environmental Education cohort piled into Subaru Outbacks (stereotypical, right?) to make the journey from Ashland to Keno.  They came in their own kind of winter plumage dressed in cold weather gear, and equipped with binoculars, spotting scopes, and bird guides.

Owls_Klamath Basin_By JohnWe started the day along Townsend Rd., a.k.a. “raptor road” due to the plethora of birds of prey which can be found there.  We saw Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Rough-Legged Hawks hunting the open fields.  The highlight of raptor road was two Great Horned Owls perched above an irrigation ditch. John, the photographer of our group, cautiously made his way around the canal to capture this amazing photograph just before the owls took flight down the canal.  

Flock_Klamath Basin_By JohnNext, we moved on to the Klamath Wildlife Refuge along Stateline Rd.  This vast marsh area is home to abundant water fowl and shore birds.  It was salt and pepper skies as thousands of Ross’s Geese flew in.  Our professor had fun challenging us to a game of ‘name that waterfowl’ as we fumbled through our bird books trying to identify the many species on the water.  I can definitively say that we all got the Northern Pintail right.  

Sandhills_Klamath Basin_By JohnJust outside of the refuge, we spotted Sandhill Cranes mixed in with livestock drinking from a pond.   Joyful expletives were shouted as we rushed out of the cars to get a better view of the birds which for some in the group was their first crane encounter.  This moment depicted all that I love about living in the Klamath Basin: spectacular natural resources, wildlife, and people, existing in juxtaposition.   

Fruggy_Klamath Basin_By JohnThe final leg of our trip took us across the California border near Dorris to find Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and Ferruginous Hawks.  At one point, we found all three perched on a single irrigation line.  As I watched these large birds of prey take off and soar above us, I couldn’t help but be envious of their ability to fly (it sure would make my commute easier).  

As we pulled into my driveway at the end of the day, we noticed a Merlin resting on a utility post across the street.  One last bird to close out this epic birding adventure.    

To learn more about birding in the Klamath Basin, visit .

 Below is the full list of birds we saw on this trip.  

-Common Raven

-Lewis’s Woodpecker

-Stellar’s Jay

-American Robin

-Black-billed Magpie

– Great Blue Heron

– Canada Geese

-Rough-legged Hawk


-Red-winged Blackbird


-Red-tailed Hawk (Dark morphs and regular plumage)

-House Finch

-Great Horned Owl

-Common Merganser

-Common Goldeneye

-Lesser Scaup

-Tundra Swan

-Northern Pintail

-Greater White-fronted Goose

-American Wigeon


-Northern Shoveler

-Ruddy Duck (Winter plumage)

-American Coot

-Bald Eagle

-Ross’s Goose (One dark morph was spotted)

-Eared Grebe

-Sandhill Crane

-Ferruginous Hawk

-Say’s Phoebe

-Golden Eagle

-Northern Harrier

-American Kestrel

-Downy Woodpecker




+ 1 coyote

Written by:  Christy Vanrooyen

Pictures by:  John Ward

The Eco-talk & One of the Seven Wonders of Oregon

Southern Oregon University is home to a diversity of majors. With only 16 students, our Environmental Education Masters program is one of the smaller programs at SOU.  This year, we have students involved with the SOU Farm, KS Wild, Bee Girl, Rogue Valley Audubon Society, Sanctuary One, and countless other projects my Cohort will shame me for not mentioning. Working to better connect our program to campus resources and the student body, we have begun developing connections with other campus groups.

Two such groups, are the Ecology and Sustainability Resource Center (ECOS) and the Outdoor Adventure Leadership program (OAL). One common goal among our programs is to promote environmental stewardship. If we can’t respect the areas in which we like to recreate, the magic of those places is lost. Having forged relationships with ECOS and OAL through the involvement of our graduate students in campus activities, our program had a unique opportunity to educate students from a variety of majors on a Crater Lake snowshoeing trek. Unable to book a Park Ranger, ECOS and OAL reached out to our Environmental Education Master’s program to offer an ecological talk. Having learned about the history of the Pacific Northwest, Fish and Fisheries, and Invertebrate Biology from Fall courses, we were already well on our way to becoming suitable interpretive specialists ourselves. Delaying my studies an additional day, I took on the challenge of leading an ecological talk. On the ground, the 40 participants would soon learn the history of Crater Lake, the ecology of this unique geological feature and the organisms that inhabit this region.

Matt TalkI was thankful to get some insider information from our very own (former) Park Ranger, Ashley Waymouth. Apparently, February is among the best times to visit Crater Lake National Park. With some 20ft of white snowpack overlaying the giant rim of our hidden gem, it’s another world. A colosseum of jagged edge surrounds the deep blue waters of Crater Lake. To me, it appears prehistoric. To many Oregonians it’s one of the seven wonders of Oregon.

After winding through a beautiful maze of snow in sub-alpine forest, we reached the rim (some 7,000-8,000ft in elevation). Unable to see the lake from our position, participants were quick to strap our snowshoes on, learning a few tricks from the Outdoor Program (run by OAL students). Eager to get eyes on the site for my ecological talk, I set off with the first group of snowshoers. It wasn’t long before we encountered stories along the path.

Immediately, the first group encountered tracks in the snow! With perfectly placed tracks atop one another, at a slight angle, the tracks in view appeared to have 5 toes. Upon further inspection, following the spore up a steep embankment, 4 separate tracks emerged! Four small tracks with rounded toe pads, made their way towards an outcrop of trees. Clawless and less than 1.5”, it could only be one animal… the elusive bobcat! Active in winter, these carnivores hunt small mammals traveling through the snowpack. Few bear witness to their beauty, and we were fortunate to see sign of one.

Further ahead, rippling calls revealed a few robin-sized birds in the distance. This would be a perfect opportunity for our scheduled ecological talk! Only a mile or so in from Rim Village, participants were already sweating. I was, at least. It was a bright sunny day, and many were comfortable snowshoeing in a light sweatshirt or jacket. The snowshoes students had checked out from the SOU Outdoor Program were holding well. If only I had remembered my sunglasses! As we neared a clearing ahead, those robin-sized birds welcomed us to Discovery Point. They were Clarke’s Nutcrackers, a special species in this region. These birds are symbiants with the white bark pine that surround the rim of Crater Lake. White bark twisting, with scraggly branches, white bark pines may as well be the wizards of tree folk. These twisted trees support the Clarke’s Nutcracker with seeds from their cones. Few creatures are able to harvest seeds from their fortress cones. Clarke’s Nutcrackers are able to retrieve the seeds from within the cones and help distribute them. Foolishly forgetting some of their stashed seeds, these forgotten seeds will develop into saplings and form the next generation of white bark pine.

Students were also excited to learn about the history of Crater Lake National Park. Did you know that Crater Lake is North America’s deepest lake at 1,943ft! It’s also arguably the bluest (you’ll agree with me when you see it). With no inflow or outflow from the steep rocky rim that surrounds the lake, it certainly has the appearance of a crater. But this geological feature was once one of the towering peaks in Oregon. Mt. Mazama as it was known, was a large volcano built up by gaseous mounds upon mounds. When it blew some 7,700 years ago, spreading ash and pumice 10 square cubic miles, this massive giant collapsed forming a caldera. Over time, rain and snowmelt filled the caldera forming what we know today as Crater Lake. I could go on and on, and Ashley could tell you countless stories from her time as a Park Ranger… but we’re in graduate school. We don’t have time for that.

After our ecological talk at Discovery Point, Crater Lake. I passed around some pelts and other materials from our Educational Kits that our program checks out to schools across Southern Oregon. Learning comes easy when you’re able to use a variety of your senses, even for college students. This is a technique we have been practicing often in our program. In the end, I received several comments that the ecological talk was among the favorite experiences on the trip. That, and the Newman O cookies that were distributed at lunch.

Matt Talk 2


Written by: Matthew Solberg

Featured Photo by: Ashley Waymouth

Additional Photos by: Sydney Lund

In Search of Invertebrates.

On November 10th, several of our cohort members went on a field trip to the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology  (OIMB) with Dr. Carol Ferguson’s Invertebrate Zoology class.  The purpose of the field trip was to meet with biologists working on marine invertebrate research, observe marine invertebrates in their natural habitats, and have a fun experience in an exciting location.

OIMB is located on the Oregon Coast, in Charleston, OR, and acts as the marine station for the University of Oregon.  Upon arrival, the visiting students from Cohort 9, along with several other SOU students, quickly made themselves at home in the dorms and, then, went out for a night exploration of the Charleston Boat Docks.  Using flashlights and headlamps, students explored the nearby marina for anemones, sea stars, crabs and more, all of which utilize 15094288_10154325375494690_1494818490654910913_nthe docks for habitat.  The highlight of the evening was the discovery and observation of a marine polychaete swimming near the docks and responding to our flashlights.

The following morning, the visiting students were welcomed for a complete tour of the facility and were able to talk with several of the students that are currently studying at OIMB.  The institute houses undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate students as they take courses and pursue research projects in the field of marine biology.  The research happens on site in various labs with multiple saltwater tanks, scanning electron microscopes, a confocal microscope, and DNA analysis machines that utilize PCR to amplify DNA sequences.  Current research projects include how caffeine induces tetraploidy in certain inverts, how certain fatty acids are transferred through trophic levels and how parasites affect that transfer, and the reproductive cycle of cold-seep mussels in deep ocean ecosystems.  These are all very special opportunities for students, who get to explore topics, design their own projects, and carry them out.  This sometimes 20161111_100437includes the use of research vessels, including manned and unmanned submersibles.

Aside from touring OIMB, SOU students were also allowed to visit the Charleston Marine Life Center.  Here, they were able to touch and observe several unique species of marine invertebrates in touch tanks and aquariums.  Some of the more interesting ones included nudibranchs, armored sea slugs, and an octopus.  They were 20161111_113905also able to converse with some experts in marine biology and explore amazing exhibits about the local marine ecosystem.

After lunch, the class went tide-pooling at Cape Arago.  Armed with rain jackets, rubber boots, and laminated field guides, the students struck out searching for tidal invertebrates.  Thirty-four different marine species 15094264_10154325363749690_563838647025621390_nwere found including gumboot chiton, sea anemones, and multiple species of sea stars.  However, the most exciting might have been the clown nudibranch that was found by Melissa Donner and Morgyn Ellis.  

On the final morning at OIMB, the visiting students packed up, ate breakfast, and headed out to visit the Interpretive Center at the State of Oregon South Slough Estuarine Reserve, which was the first national marine reserve in the United States.  Here, students explored several exhibits about the importance of the South Slough Reserve and were able to buy some fun momentos at the gift shop.  They then returned to OIMB for a presentation from Scott Groth, the Pink Shrimp and South Coast Shellfish Project leader with the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.  Scott shared his expertise with the invertebrate zoology class, discussing the multiple invertebrate fisheries in Oregon and how they are managed.

This all created a wonderful experience for everyone that was involved.  Hearing about ongoing research projects and getting to see and touch wild invertebrates sparked interest and fostered creativity in nearly every student on the trip, all of which was enhanced by the passion for the subject and expertise of Dr. Carol Ferguson.  And now for the question that we are all surely wondering… When can we go back?


Written By: John Ward

Photos By: Dr. Carol Ferguson, John Ward, Alessandro Broido, and Malia Sutphin

Recent Happenings on the Farm at SOU

The Farm at SOU is a place of so much opportunity and potential. Being a student-run organic farm, it is a place of trial and error, triumphs and mistakes, and a place where 20160928_093129more than just delicious produce is harvested! The farm supplies CSA shares each week during the summer to SOU students and staff, as well as sells a bulk of the produce to the dining services at SOU. The farm at SOU is one of the sites for Rogue Valley Farm to School harvest meal programs and the farm is piloting their Sustainability Farm School (SFS) this year! The SFS happens to be headed by two of our very own Environmental Education (EE) graduate students! Melissa Donner and Alessandro img_2586Broido have developed curriculum for school groups to come out for a “farm experience” day program. The lessons are all place-based and feature citizen science, nature empathy, service learning, or nutrition education components. This summer in our Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment class, our cohort was able to work together to write some amazing lessons to be used for the farm’s programs! Melissa just kicked off the farm’s afterschool program, Alessandro is working each week with a high school class on their farm project, and I recently planned a big fall sustainability event that was held at the farm called Octoberfeast. Other members of the cohort have had the chance to teach at the farm with the farm to school programs or the SFS’s teaching team. It has been a great place to gain experience doing EE in a very non-traditional setting. We are so lucky to have such a great learning laboratory right on campus! 

-Written by: Bekah Campbell

Cohort 9, Hello!

Over the past few months each member of Cohort 9 has found a new home here in Southern Oregon.  Read below for some brief biographies, and please stay posted as we begin to share our experiences in this beautiful area with you.

alessandro_broidoAlessandro Broido first discovered his love for nature and working with young people while volunteering in a rural Honduran community as a teenager. After building a life changing relationship with his host family, he continued to work with the youth-leadership organization Amigos de las Americas for three additional seasons in Mexico, Ecuador and most recently in Costa Rica directing cross-cultural volunteer trail projects in Carara National Park. After graduating from the University of San Francisco Alessandro moved to the remote northwest corner of California where he deepened his love for the natural world. He spent two years in Del Norte County discovering new avenues for working with youth as a school-based mentor in the garden, woodshop, and ropes course. He also directed a summer trail crew of high school students removing invasive weeds in the Six Rivers National Recreation Area and led a Redwood Canopy Tour Zip Line. The following two years he spent working for the Smith River Alliance coordinating volunteer projects and counting salmon during the spawning season. Today, Alessandro enjoys surfing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, catching amphibians, playing music and brainstorming creative farm-based lesson plans.



Ashley Waymouth hails from the rolling hills and spring-fed rivers of the Central Texas Hill Country. After receiving a history degree from Texas State University, she unexpectedly fell in love with the crystal clear San Marcos River. This connection was so strong, it ultimately altered the course of her life and led her down the path of environmental activism and education. Sharing and exploring nature has been the source of Ashley’s passion for the last six years, leading her to work as an educator, a community organizer, and most recently as a park ranger at Crater Lake National Park. Ashley loves to deeply listen to the natural world and strives to be a voice for the voiceless. She sees storytelling as a bridge between connecting everyday people with science and is excited to create alluring E.E. curriculum. Ashley’s desire to have an even greater impact on her community has led her to SOU’s Environmental Education program and she is delighted to be working with such an amazing cohort.


becky_yaegerBecky Yaeger grew up in Baltimore County, Maryland and spent lots of time recreating with her family by hiking, camping, kayaking and traveling. She attended Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY and earned a BA in Psychology while exploring the beautiful Finger Lakes, gorges, and forests of central New York. During and after college, she instructed with a youth program called Primitive Pursuits in Ithaca, and she became passionate about getting youth outdoors and connected to nature while learning wilderness survival skills and nature awareness. After college, Becky and her husband, Matt, road tripped across country twice and decided to relocate to Bend, Oregon where they explored mountains, lakes, high desert, and downhill skiing in Central Oregon. Becky worked for Cascade WILDS (Wilderness Immersion Learning Discovering Surviving), a 4-H youth program that Matt founded and instructed. She also studied to become an Oregon Master Naturalist, and then interned at the Environmental Center as an Outdoor School Intern and with Discover Your Forest as a Winter Conservation Education intern. After earning her MS in Environmental Education at SOU, Becky will continue tackling Nature Deficit Disorder by providing nature immersion programming in preschool, after school, and summer camp settings.



Bekah Campbell grew up in South Carolina, where she always had a passion for being a
teacher and being outdoors. It only made since to pursue a degree in Outdoor Education at Montreat College near Asheville, NC. After guiding people in outdoor adventures for a while, she realized she wanted to know more about everything in the natural world and connect people to their importance. It became more and more important to her to protect wild spaces that she loves to backpack, hike, bike, climb, and ski in. After marrying her amazing husband, she worked for 4 years in upstate New York for an academic and outdoor leadership program. The wild west began to call and the Campbells moved to Mammoth California to be ski instructors, and there decided she wanted to pursue a masters in her true passion.

christy_vanrooyenChristy VanRooyen
is a southern Oregon native, who developed a love for nature while exploring the forests near her childhood home.  Her insatiable scientific curiosity led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in Applied Environmental Sciences from Oregon Institute of Technology (OT). She gained extensive research experience as an air quality inspector and a geographic information system (GIS) analyst prior to beginning a career in academia.  She is currently an instructor at OT, where she teaches introductory chemistry, nutrition, and the occasional environmental course.  She spends her down time hiking and backpacking with her husband and three children.   Christy hopes to utilize her education and experiences to promote natural resource conservation and motivate people to pursue their own outdoor adventures.



Elizabeth Schyling very much wanted to be a zookeeper when she grew up.  Then, she went to Yale and studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and thought, perhaps, she would like to be a population ecologist when she grew up.  After the folks at Yale said, “Nice, well done, move along now,” she moved to Washington to live on a volcano and somehow tricked people into paying her to hike and play with small mammals.  One day, while yammering at some high schoolers about neotenic salamanders at Mount St. Helens, she had a bit of an existential crisis and thought, perhaps, she would like to teach when she grew up.  So she came to SOU, where she now thinks she might not grow up after all but has made a very good choice anyway.


erinn_holmesErinn Holmes originally hails from the rolling hills of northern Illinois, where she spent some period of every day on the back of a horse or with her toes buried in the mud. She fled to rural Wisconsin for her BS in biology at University of Wisconsin – Platteville, she was so inspired by the many facets of the natural world that she changed her career path a whole six times. During her time there, she got to spend two summers under the star-lit sky studying the impacts of White Nose Syndrome on local bat populations, which sparked her interest in research. But, after every ecology class she took, she found herself enthusiastically rushing home to her English-major roommate to share the knowledge she’d gained about the world around them. After considering many career options (seriously), it became clear that she wanted to invoke the joy in others that the natural world brings out in her. She found SOU and made the 36-hour trek across the US to join this cohort of environmental educators and has never looked back. She looks forward to a career in environmental education that allows her to minimize the gap between the scientific community and the general public. In her free time, Erinn loves to explore Oregon by foot, kayak, and ski with her cohort and trusty sidekick, a pup named Nova.



Eva Roberts grew up in the mountains of Montana, and has long called the rugged wilderness her home away from home. Eva spent her final semester at Montana State University student teaching in New Zealand, which sparked an immense passion for travel. After obtaining her B.S. in Elementary Education, Eva sought out a volunteer teaching experience in Austria, which allowed her to explore the mountains and cultural experiences of Europe extensively. Soon after, Eva fell in love with SCUBA diving, and traveled to faraway places to submerge herself in foreign oceans. Throughout all of this, Eva still aspired to connect people and educate communities about what truly matters to her – the great outdoors. That is what brought her to the Master’s of Science in Environmental Education program at Southern Oregon University. It is her dream to help others recognize and appreciate the natural world as much as she does. Eva hopes to incorporate her sense of adventure and love for the wild in a life-long career based around environmental education.


hope-braithwaiteHope Braithwaite spent much of her childhood romping through the forests and deserts in her backyard in southern Utah. Her passion for the outdoors grew from those experiences exploring, hiking, and searching for her favorite rock, agate. Hope attended Utah State University (USU) and earned a B.S. in Wildlife Science. During the summers she helped on research projects, from conducting plant surveys in the Colorado Plateau to trapping geese in the Yukon Delta, Alaska. With the help of fantastic advisors and a co-researcher, Hope conducted a research project to identify diet supplements for elk management. Although Hope found great joy in being outdoors collecting data that could help answer important ecological questions, she felt that something was missing. When Hope worked for Water Quality Extension at USU she found her missing piece, environmental education. Hope loved learning, sharing her newfound knowledge with others, and then watching those students explore and make their own discoveries. Ultimately, Hope would like to have a career in environmental education with public outreach and research components. She is thrilled to be in the environmental education graduate program at Southern Oregon University, and wants to thank her family and friends for their continued support and encouragement.

John Ward grew up on a small farm in southwestern Missouri.john_ward  There, his curiosity for nature was nourished spending time in the woods on the farm, fishing at local lakes and streams, and hunting with his father.  John attended Missouri State University, where he received a B.S. in Biology with and emphasis in Wildlife.  While attending college, John worked part time for the Wonders of Wildlife Museum, developing and implementing environmental education curriculum for a wide variety of groups.  One of his favorite experiences was helping to train teen volunteers to handle educational animals and present them at public events.  These experiences helped develop John’s passion for education and led him to a position, teaching outdoor science education at Hancock Field Station through the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).  While employed with OMSI, John developed his skills as an educator and, after two seasons, decided he wanted to take his skills to the classroom.  He moved to Corvallis, OR and started working at a Boys & Girls Club afterschool program and teaching at an alternative school for rehabilitating youth.  John hopes to leave the Environmental Education program with the skills to bring project based learning to the public school setting as a high school biology teacher.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALianne Bailey is an Oregonian who calls Gresham and the Portland area home. Growing up, she loved going on family hikes and camping trips on Mt. Hood and down the Columbia Gorge. As an undergraduate at Pacific University of Oregon, she continued to explore the state’s natural wonders while earning a degree in Environmental Studies. After graduating, Lianne found enjoyment working at summer camps in the Cascades and at after school programs with the YMCA. She then stayed in the Portland area, working as an educator for the Columbia Slough Watershed Council during the school year and as a nature day camp instructor during the summers. In the fall of 2015, Lianne got the chance to be a Field Instructor for the Portland metro area’s Outdoor School. She loved the combination of outdoor science education and the innate community building that happens when people live and learn together. She came down to southern Oregon to join the Environmental Education and Masters of Teaching programs at SOU. She is looking forward to working with some amazing educators and exploring more of this beautiful area.



Morgyn Ellis has spent the better part of her life living at the intersection of salt marshes, preserved forest, and the Atlantic Ocean in her home state of New Jersey. Having grown to love these environments she earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and found out the best way to protect what you love is to get others to love and care about it too, prompting her to switch gears and pursue a career in outdoor education. Since then, she has been an educator in New Jersey, South Carolina, California, and finally Oregon. She is passionate about sensitive ecosystems and sharing the fascinating facts of nature with those young and old! While not working towards her Master’s she can be found outdoors exploring all the wonders that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.


malia_sutphinMalia Sutphin grew up in Seward which is a small coastal town in south-central Alaska. Growing up she enjoyed spending time in nature and around all kinds of animals. As a child she grew up on a goat farm and learned about proper animal care and husbandry. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Anchorage, Alaska at the University of Alaska Anchorage in Environment and Society. Throughout her college career she worked seasonally for Kenai Fjords National Park as an interpretive ranger. After completing college she shifted federal gears and spent the summer as an interpretive ranger for Fish and Wildlife at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. It was here Malia’s love for environmental education fully blossomed. Malia then spent the next two years traveling internationally with her sister, road tripping through Alaska, and working for the Department of Natural Resources-Public Information Center. In her free time Malia loves spending time with her guinea pigs Mr. Lahey and Baloo, working on crafts, and biking. She loves Southern Oregon and the Environmental Education program and hopes to stick around once she completes her degree.


Matthew Solberg grew up in Eugene, Oregon, but left the matthew_solberg2Ducks to pursue his passion in wildlife studies at Oregon State University. While working towards his BSc in Fisheries and Wildlife, he sought out experience abroad in Africa. Fostering close connections with local communities, Matthew found a niche in human-wildlife conflict. His interest in human dimensions of wildlife conservation grew as he spent time with the San Bushman of Namibia, working to trap and relocate large African carnivores in close proximity to livestock.  For a time, Matthew found himself in the dark studying clans of spotted hyena (Malawi). Research alone did not fulfill him. It wasn’t until his Peace Corps service in Sierra Leone, West Africa, that Matthew discovered another love… teaching. There in the village, his students pulled his heartstrings and shaped Dauda (Matthew) in ways he could never imagine. Now he strives to combine his passion in wildlife studies with teaching. He is excited to work with a cohort who hail from all walks of life to implement the best environmental education the world has ever seen! In his spare time, you can find Matthew surfing, catching lizards, and fueling his healthy addiction to coffee (damn good coffee).


melissa_donnerMelissa Donner is originally from Santa Clarita, CA, but truly found her home in the Pacific Northwest. She studied at Humboldt State University in Northern California earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Management and Protection focusing on Environmental Education. It was there that she discovered her passion for Environmental Education especially with early childhood education. She has spent time serving in the Peace Corps Paraguay in South America teaching Environmental Education in Spanish and Guarani. After returning to the U.S., she entered into the Environmental Education Master’s program at SOU. She is also doing a dual Master’s program for a Masters of Arts in Teaching plus an Oregon State Teaching License for Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. She has a wide range of interests and skills including early childhood education, graphic design, hiking and international travel! Her dream is to one day find a career in which she can utilize her skills and passions in Garden and Farm Education, Early Childhood Education and Graphic Design, whether that be at a museum, botanical garden or in the classroom!



Suphasiri Muttamara (a.k.a. Jam) is from Bangkok, Thailand. Despite being a city girl, she didn’t like the city. Her favorite childhood memories are of when her family went birding and camping in the forest. It has always been her dream to work in nature. She attended Mahidol University in Thailand receiving a degree in Conservation Biology. While discussing conservation topics with her classmates, she realized that how connecting with nature from an early age inspired peoples’ attitudes, and how important this connection is for environmental conservation. After graduating, she worked with the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) as a project junior consultant. The work took her to the top of mountains of the Northern region in Thailand. There, she worked with local schools, and students to develop ecotourism practice, and a curriculum that included the forest ecosystem that influences the community. Realizing education is the best way to conserve nature, she flew over 100,000 miles to acquire knowledge and tools so she can bring them back to help develop her country.