ABOUT US

STAFF

Ser Anderson

Ser Anderson

Teaching Naturalist

Ser grew up exploring the natural areas in and around Missoula—from Bancroft Pond and Lewis & Clark Elementary School’s Outdoor Classroom to Mt. Sentinel, Pattee Canyon, and the Rattlesnake—and spending time at their family’s cabin on Flathead Lake. Always fond of native plants and birds, they honed their naturalist skills while earning a B.A. in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. They have continued to develop and share their naturalist skills in a variety of seasonal positions with MNHC, Montana Conservation Corps, Flathead Lake State Park, and Ecology Project International’s Yellowstone Program. They are passionate about citizen science and have participated in monitoring projects with Montana Audubon, Glacier National Park, and Wolverine Watchers. They enjoy bird watching, identifying plants, ultimate frisbee, writing, reading, hiking, cross-country skiing, photography, swimming and rowing at Flathead Lake, berry picking, and cooking.

Kellen Beck

Kellen Beck

Front Desk Associate

Kellen grew up in the Northwoods of Bemidji, Minnesota, where she cultivated her love of the outdoors, fishing, camping, and hiking among the beautiful paper birch trees and melodic love songs of the Common Loon. She moved to Missoula thirteen years ago and completed her B.A. in Print Journalism at the University of Montana. Over her years in Missoula, Kellen has worked in the service industry, wearing many hats, most recently working at Conflux Brewing Company as a manager and the event coordinator. Always passionate about conservation work, Kellen began as a field volunteer with the Owl Research Institute three years ago. Her volunteering involved catching and banding countless owls throughout western Montana. After years of persistence and dedication, she was hired on as ORI’s social media coordinator. In Kellen’s spare time she can be found hiking through the mountains with her two dogs, Sage and Theo, and her fiancé, Dean. She loves reading, writing, birding, and, above all, gardening.

Alyssa Cornell-Chavez

Alyssa Cornell-Chavez

Collections Registrar & Teaching Naturalist

Alyssa grew up in Livingston, Montana, which afforded her the opportunity to explore local hiking trails and the Yellowstone River, as well as frequently boat, fish, and enjoy time with her friends and family at Hebgan Lake. When not outdoors, she could be found reading, enjoying athletics, or playing with her family’s dogs, Raider and Tyson. Thanks to her father, reading, and an internship at the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, history became her passion. She received her B.A. in History at Arizona State University and M.A. in Public History from Arizona State University. Internships at the Arizona Historical Society Museum as well as the Scholar-Baller Initiative helped deepen her love for history, giving back to the community, the outdoors, and education. She is excited to be a part of an organization that connects people to nature through education and looks forward to learning as much as possible through the MNHC.

Allison De Jong

Allison De Jong

Communications Coordinator & Editor, Montana Naturalist and Field Notes

Allison spent her childhood in Iowa, where she climbed trees, splashed in streams and puddles, and explored the wildish green spaces scattered throughout her hometown. In between outdoor explorations, she spent most of her time reading and writing, which eventually led to a B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from Dordt College. Allison has always been passionate about volunteering and doing work that gives back, spending several summers in high school and college volunteering for service projects in both the U.S. and abroad. After college, she spent a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Chicago, then canvassed for environmental issues with North Carolina PIRG, which inspired her to pursue an M.S. in Environmental Writing at the University of Montana. Living in Missoula has given her an even deeper appreciation for the natural world, and she and her husband, Greg, and son, Rowan, get out into Montana’s beautiful wild places as often as they can. Allison has been with MNHC since 2009, thrilled to work at an organization whose mission is to connect people of all ages with their place, and to get to combine her love of nature with her love of writing.

Thurston Elfstrom

Thurston Elfstrom

Executive Director

Thurston spent 20 years developing digital experiences for the Montana Office of Tourism prior to joining the team at the Montana Natural History Center in 2015. Thurston grew up in western Montana and spent his early years exploring area streams, ponds, and trails, as well as collecting geological specimens. He earned a degree in Anthropology from Montana State University in 1993. After college, Thurston taught archaeological field school at First Peoples Buffalo Jump and worked in cultural resource management archaeology before coming to work at the State of Montana. Returning to Missoula in 2008 he coincidentally uncovered his passion for the community, philanthropy, and fundraising. In their free time, Thurston and his wife, Suzanne, like to take in live music and travel the state to experience its varied and rich cultural heritage and natural history.

Alyssa Giffin

Alyssa Giffin

Teaching Naturalist

Alyssa grew up in Stevensville, Montana, where she enjoyed camping, hiking, and rafting with her family, and found a love for nature. She began her academic career in the Environmental Studies program at the University of Montana. Throughout college she continued to explore Montana, as well as the West Coast and various countries abroad, where she constantly sought out wild and untouched spaces. Alyssa is very excited to be back at MNHC where she has enjoyed teaching our youth about nature and rediscovering her love for nature because of them.

Drew Lefebvre

Drew Lefebvre

Museum Programs Coordinator & Volunteer Coordinator

Drew grew up in the hemlock forests of southern Maine and attended college in Boston, where she studied Linguistics and Philosophy. In 2009 she moved to Montana for a season of trailwork and has been here ever since, building her skills as an educator and naturalist. She holds an M.S. in Environmental Education from the University of Montana and has led a variety of adult education programs, including citizen science, trailwork crews, and natural history courses. She enjoys guiding students toward a deeper understanding of the outdoor areas and ecosystems that are right on our doorstep. In her free time, you can find her exploring the natural world through hiking, backpacking, gardening, reading, and birding.

Pat Little

Pat Little

Development & Operations Coordinator

Pat grew up in England and came to the U.S.A. in 1980 pursuing a career in aeronautical engineering. One day he got tired of working for large companies, quit his job, and started volunteering at The Nature Conservancy. Eighteen months later they hired him as their first IT Manager, and he worked for them, in Seattle, for eleven years. In 1994 he took a hawk ID class, which opened his eyes to the world of birds and changed his life. Pat has spent many falls since then sitting in cold drafty blinds on mountain ridges trying to trap and band hawks. Pat and his wife moved to Missoula in 2009. They took the Montana Natural History Center’s Master Naturalist class together a few years ago. Pat has learned a lot from attending various nature classes over the years, and he is thrilled to be able to work for an organization that provides nature education. Pat also serves on the board of the Five Valleys Audubon Society, and he is hoping to get some flickers to use the nest box in his back yard if he can keep the squirrels out.

Jenah Mead

Jenah Mead

Teaching Naturalist

Jenah is an educator with over a decade of teaching experience. After finding her calling while guiding tours at a wildlife sanctuary, Jenah moved to Missoula to study at the University of Montana. Jenah has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies with a focus on Environmental Education. Jenah has been involved with MNHC since 2014 when she joined us as a volunteer and later as an intern. When she’s not teaching, Jenah is often found making art or chasing her son, Sam, through creeks and trails with her husband, Billy. She is also passionate about volunteering, birding, and losing herself in a great book. 

Christine Morris

Christine Morris

Community Programs Coordinator

Christine has a B.A. from Stanford University in Anthropology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, where she focused on Environmental Education. Her previous experience includes work as an Interpretive Park Ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, middle school science curriculum writer for Rice University’s digital textbook, STEMscopes, and as the Environmental Education Director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Seattle and King County, Washington. Christine is constantly fascinated by the organisms and elements of the natural world and loves wandering around in the woods.

Jennifer Robinson

Jennifer Robinson

Director of Education and Programs

Jennifer grew up in the Sacramento Valley of California and spent her summers hiking, camping, and exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her love for the outdoors led her to work with youth in outdoor settings, and Jennifer spent many years volunteering and working as a naturalist at outdoor science schools, summer camps, and as an Interpretive Ranger at national parks in Alaska and California. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Education and Interpretation from Humboldt State University and continued on to earn multiple teaching licenses to blend her passion for education in and out of classroom. After college Jennifer spent six years working as an educator and Program Director for Sierra Nevada in Reno Journeys in Reno. Jennifer is now taking her passion of blending formal and informal education into nonprofit leadership and is obtaining her Masters of Educational Leadership at the University of Montana in Missoula. In her free time, Jennifer enjoys cooking meals with friends, going on hikes or walks with her dog Indy, and getting to know the community. 

Mark Schleicher

Mark Schleicher

Development Director

Mark grew up in Minnesota where he discovered and explored his love for nature during frequent family trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness along with annual cross-country camping trips. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison he started his development career at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, which now includes stops at the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the University of Montana Foundation. Mark and his wife, Holly, moved to Montana in 2004 and now have two sons, Cedar and Leo, who are great exploration partners in the the mountains, rivers, and lakes of Montana.

Glenna Tawney

Glenna Tawney

Marketing & Events Coordinator

Glenna grew up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where she spent summers exploring the lakes and mountains around her home. She traded lakes for rivers when she moved to Missoula to attend the University of Montana. She holds a bachelor’s of science in business management and a master’s of education from UM, where she also played for the Griz soccer team. She was first introduced to MNHC while teaching 4th and 5th grade at Lolo School. She was so impressed with the Visiting Naturalist in the Schools Program, she later joined the MNHC Board of Directors and volunteered on VNS field trips. After leaving the classroom, Glenna spent 6 years at Biomimicry 3.8, a consulting and professional training company focused on sustainable design based on nature. Glenna coordinated workshops for Biomimicry 3.8 in Costa Rica, South Africa, Australia, and various locations in the U.S. You can find her camping, hiking, and floating Montana’s rivers with her husband Land and two children.  

Kelli Van Noppen

Kelli Van Noppen

ID Nature Coordinator

Kelli grew up all over the Pacific Northwest. From splashing in the Puget Sound and hanging out with shore crabs to skiing the Cascades of central Oregon and relishing the smell of sagebrush after a lightning storm, she couldn’t help but develop a love of the natural world. Kelli earned her B.A. in General Social Science from the University of Oregon in 2007. Rather than attending graduation, she and her husband loaded up a moving truck and moved to Missoula and never looked back. She received her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction in 2010, then worked for seven years as a classroom teacher in Missoula, where she fell in love with science education. Deciding to concentrate her efforts and sprinkle the wonder even further, Kelli jumped at the chance to partner with MNHC. She aims to deliver engaging science to a wider audience and work to empower classroom teachers to rediscover the joy in science education.

Bailey Zook

Bailey Zook

School Programs Coordinator

Bailey was born and raised in north-central Florida where she spent most of her time exploring the lakes and conservation property in her backyard. This spurred her to study Environmental Science at Florida State University and continue on to receive her Masters in Geography. Through her work as a Fire Ecology Intern, Youth Leader, Instructor of Undergraduate Environmental Studies, and Teacher’s Aid, her love and appreciation for environmental education continued to deepen. In 2013, she and her husband traveled around the country in search of mountains, trees, and water, and have called Missoula home ever since. She enjoys wandering on foot and by boat to learn the biogeography of the surrounding landscapes as well as watching her chickens flap around their yard. Bailey loves to share her naturalist enthusiasm and knowledge and is grateful to be doing so at MNHC.

2021 Summer Camp Instructors

Jenny Rosa Alvauaje

Jenny Rosa Alvauaje

Jenny grew up in the relentlessly beautiful city of Los Ángeles, California, in a Peruvian and Korean household. She loves sharing the food, languages, and traditions of her cultures with others and is proud of her diverse upbringing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and is passionate about math education. Jenny is currently pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Montana with this specific focus. Jenny has spent time in both the United States and Australia as a white water raft guide, and has worked as a backpacking guide, climbing instructor, and data scientist. A city kid at heart, Jenny enjoys Missoula’s offerings of bike lanes, bus routes, and apartment buildings. She loves finding aspects of wilderness in the middle of a city. You can find her singing Spanish songs while she rides her bike around town.
Keri Geiser

Keri Geiser

Keri grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania, where she spent much of her childhood outdoors, from searching for salamanders and crayfish during the summer months to following animal tracks in the snow during winter months. She continued to immerse herself in the outdoors as she pursued a B.S. in Geoscience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. With a deep love of the mountains and all things winter she found herself moving out to Montana once she’d completed her degree. As she gained a deeper respect for and understanding of mountains blanketed in snow, she took a leap and headed to Glacier National Park for the summer to work with the Glacier Institute. Now, after spending four years watching the seasonal changes in GNP, she is excited to join the MNHC team to continue sharing her passion and curiosity for the outdoors with others.
Kevin Isely

Kevin Isely

Kevin was born and raised in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He spent his formative years birding, camping, watching pokemon, and disgruntled that his parents made him appreciate nature instead of reading his latest novel. As he grew up, he was thankful for his parents’ persistence to encourage his love of the outdoors, as it led him to Black Hills State University. While attending college, he grew to love rock climbing, fossil hunting, cross country skiing, and even more extensive birding. He worked at Vore Buffalo Jump as a tour guide, Outdoor Campus West as a naturalist intern, Custer State Park as a seasonal naturalist, and BHSU as an herbarium intern. He graduated from BHSU in May 2020 with a degree in 0utdoor education. Kevin is passionate about experiential learning and believes that to truly teach kids, you have to also be a kid at heart.
Kale Kreitinger

Kale Kreitinger

After three years living in three different countries, Kale found their passion for environmental justice and climate action. They returned to Missoula to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies and Climate Change. Kale is excited to be graduating this May and is looking forward to exploring nature with the next generation of environmental stewards at the Montana Natural History Center here in Missoula.
Zane Roush

Zane Roush

Zane was raised in Helena, MT, where his parents fostered in him a love for the outdoors before he could even walk. Ever since, he has enjoyed spending time outside backpacking, climbing, skiing, and just about any other means of exploring the world around him. Growing up in a place like Montana has offered Zane tremendous opportunities to participate in these hobbies, and he considers himself lucky because of this. Beyond his active pursuits, Zane is passionate about conservation, education, and sharing the outdoors with others. He is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Montana studying Ecosystem Science and Restoration, and hopes to have a career that gets him outside and learning something new every day.
Ashley Sinclair

Ashley Sinclair

Ashley grew up in Bozeman, MT, which allowed her opportunities to explore the wilderness and natural settings around her, whether that was Yellowstone National Park, Hyalite Reservoir, or local hiking trails and wilderness. She has always had a passion for wildlife and the environment, which fueled her to get a B.A. in Wildlife Biology and a certificate in Global Leadership through the GLI Program at the University of Montana. Ashley has experience working with youth through both volunteering with MNHC and her work at the Boys and Girls Club of Missoula. She has also worked with Tom Martin’s Bird Lab and the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit at UM as an assistant lab supervisor. When Ashley is not working, she is most likely bird watching, floating down the river, huckleberry picking, snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking, camping, cooking, playing ultimate frisbee, and gardening. Ashley is thrilled to work with an amazing, local organization that not only gives back to the community but also the outdoors, and cannot wait for the fun and exciting adventures with young camp members this summer!

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Peggy Christian

Peggy Christian

Secretary

Peggy is a naturalist, writer and photographer. Nurturing a life-long sense of wonder, she seeks, through her art and writing, to deepen our relationship with the natural world and explore how that relationship guides the way we live our lives and the choices we make every day. She is the author of several children’s books, including If You Find a Rock, and has taught writing and book arts for more than twenty years. She is a Master Naturalist and has volunteered for a number of environmental and literacy non-profits. Hiking, growing and preserving food, and skiing, both cross country and downhill, are her passions. She lives in Missoula, and shares her wanderings and wonderings on the blog BackwoodsandBeyond.com (An Exploration of the Wild Inside and Out).

Ian Foster

Ian Foster

Ian was raised in Boise, ID, and studied Biology at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. He has earned graduate degrees in Education and Recreation Management. He taught elementary and middle school sciences in San Francisco, Boston, and here in Missoula. Ian was also an environmental/outdoor educator for San Mateo Outdoor Education, Massachusetts Audubon, and Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures. Ian and his wife April moved to Missoula for many great reasons in 2008 and love the access to wild places. Ian currently has the pleasure of spending his days with his young son and can be found enjoying Missoula’s parks and trails on a daily basis. Ian also volunteers with Missoula Children and Nature and Friends of Missoula Parks.

Hank Fischer

Hank Fischer

Hank is a conservationist, author, journalist, and guide, and has been extensively involved in endangered species restoration in the northern Rockies. Hank studied wildlife biology and journalism and has an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. From 1977-2002, Hank was the Defenders of Wildlife Northern Rockies’ representative and his 1995 book, Wolf Wars, chronicles the effort to restore wolves to Yellowstone. Hank created the Defenders of Wildlife Compensation Funds for reimbursing farmers for wolf and grizzly bear livestock losses. Hank has been honored with many awards including the Don Aldrich Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Award, the Edward Lowe Enviro-Capitalist Award and a Special Achievement Award from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

Erim Gomez, Ph.D.

Photo & bio coming soon!

Katie Guffin

Katie Guffin

Treasurer

Katie is a Missoula native who studied Biology at Colorado College and earned her JD and MS at the University of Montana. She taught outdoor environmental education at Exploring New Horizons Outdoor School and San Joaquin Outdoor School in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, and then taught science at Campbell Hall School in Los Angeles. She also enjoyed working as a summer field instructor at the Montana Outdoor Science School and the Gore Range Natural Science School, and spending a legislative season with Montana Trout Unlimited. She works as a civil defense attorney at Bohyer, Erickson, Beaudette & Tranel, P.C. and loves Montana’s wild, open, and accessible places.

Ellen Knight

Ellen Knight

Ellen grew up in the countryside of western Arkansas, where her parents treated her with benign neglect, leaving her free to roam afield to her heart’s content. That time yielded a lifelong love of the natural world…and here she is today, still loving it! But in the interim she earned a degree in zoology from Colorado College and an MA in Environmental Ed from U. Michigan. She and her husband Bob moved to Missoula in the dark ages, 1971. They were instrumental in the beginnings of Five Valleys Land Trust and Ellen helped found MNHC. Ellen’s two primary work/volunteer interests were environmental policy and natural history education. Throughout, there were friends and mountains, hiking seriously or ambling and poking about. Now she encourages her grandchildren to be curious and to value the whole earth. She is happy to serve again on MNHC’s board.

Caroline Kurtz

Caroline Kurtz

Caroline was born and raised in Springfield, Ohio, and has degrees from Vassar College (B.A., English) and Boston University (M.S., Science Communication).  She and her husband, Willis, have lived in Missoula since 1997, and have a daughter, Ella. MNHC became a wonderful home for Caroline soon after arriving in Missoula; she began coordinating MNHC’s Field Notes program around 1998, and created Field Notes Quarterly in 1999, which transitioned into Montana Naturalist magazine in 2004. She managed Field Notes and Montana Naturalist through 2011, and has continued to support MNHC in various ways since then. Natural history centers and museums had been a staple of Caroline’s upbringing in Ohio and the east. She was lucky to find a way to connect with MNHC and its people during the formative years, and loved feeling part of the beginning of what is now such a powerful force and resource for naturalist education and nature appreciation in Missoula and beyond.  

Stephanie Lambert

Stephanie Lambert

Vice President

Stephanie grew up on a farm in western North Dakota and graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in Communications and Graphic Design. She and her husband, Anthony, moved to Missoula in 2006 and opened Lambert Family Chiropractic. Stephanie recently started Vintage 44, which specializes in antique and unique event rentals. Stephanie and Anthony have three children, Lillie, Ella, and Lakin. They love exploring the rivers, mountains, and forests of Montana. She is excited to be a part of the MNHC board and support its mission.

Rick Oncken

Rick Oncken

Rick works at Lambros Real Estate, specializing in ranch and recreational land. He is a member of most of the hunter-conservation groups working in Montana and is currently on the board of directors of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Rick’s interest in nature goes back to his youth, growing up in Iowa. Pets such as crawdads and turtles (mom said no to snakes), fishing with a cane pole, and helping relatives on their farms helped foster a lifelong interest in the world around us.

Kelley Willett

Kelley Willett

President

Kelley is a native Montanan and a fundraiser. She spent 5 years at the University of Montana Foundation, and now is Director of Development for Montana Trout Unlimited. Previously she served on the board of the WestSlope Chapter of Trout Unlimited. She has a BA in political science from Wellesley College, served in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, and tries to fish about 75 days a year.

Allison Young

Allison Young

Allison is a pediatrician with Missoula Valley Pediatrics at Community Medical Center/Community Children’s. After finishing her pediatric residency training at Seattle Children’s Hospital in 2010, she and her husband were easily lured to Montana by its unique access to remote mountain wilderness and rivers. Originally from the east coast, she earned her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from Harvard. She taught high school biology in the Boston area and spent a couple of years working for non-profit organizations focused on improving adolescent health before returning to Harvard for medical school. In 2018 she was selected for the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program based on a proposed work using technology to reduce barriers to healthcare access for children in rural communities. With her hydrologist husband and eager daughter, she and her family spend free time on trails and rivers, fretting about their backyard chicken flock and maintaining an overgrown herb garden.