Ser Anderson (they/them)
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 (she/her)
Marketing & Events Coordinator
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 husband, Dean. She loves reading, writing, birding, and, above all, gardening.
Alyssa Cornell-Chavez (she/her)
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 (she/her)
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 (he/him)
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.
Keri Geiser (she/her)
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.
Alyssa Giffin (she/her)
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 (she/her)
Museum Programs 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 (he/him)
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 (she/her)
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 (she/her)
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.
Stephanie Murphy (she/her)
Andrea Panagakis (she/her)
School Programs Manager
Andrea’s life has always revolved around science and nature. Raised in upstate New York on beautiful Oneida Lake, she received her B.S. in biology from Cornell University. Upon returning from a year abroad in France, she fell in love with teaching and completed a master’s degree in secondary science education at Teachers College, Columbia University. During her twenty-year tenure as a high school biology teacher in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, she chaperoned trips to Honduras and Mexico to conduct biodiversity surveys and study reef ecology. In addition to her tropical travels, she volunteered for Glacier National Park’s High Country Citizen Science Program, where she became captivated by the alpine environment and its species. This prompted her to embark upon graduate coursework at the University of Montana and a master’s degree in biology at Université Laval in Québec. Andrea’s research on the life history of mountain goats in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta deepened her understanding of scientific processes as well as her appreciation for the challenge and fulfillment of learning. It also happily led her back to the Treasure State, where she integrated western and traditional ecological ways of knowing the natural world as an instructor at the Salish Kootenai College STEM Academy. In her new role at MNHC, she is excited to share her commitment to connecting people with nature by cultivating new generations of environmental stewards through experiential, place-based education. When she’s not in the office/classroom, she’s a four-season explorer with a passion for all things outdoors: trail running, wildlife viewing, surfing, swimming, cross-country skiing, cycling, and hiking.
Jennifer Robinson (she/her)
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 (he/him)
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.
Claire Shady (she/her)
Claire grew up in Santa Cruz, where she was immersed in a culture rooted in community and a shared love for the ocean, mountains, and all things outdoors. Her love for nature stems from her summers exploring the meadows and mountains of Lassen National Park, fascinated by how different it was to home. In high school she participated in collaborative ecological restoration trips on the coast of Ecuador, fostering a passion for vulnerable environments and community engagement. This led her to pursue a B.S. in Ecological Restoration at the University of Montana, specializing in botany. Claire enjoys hiking, biking down forgotten roads, dinner parties, and reading in the park with her cat, Frankie.
Ashley Sinclair (she/her)
Museum Associate & Volunteer Coordinator
Ashley was born in Billings, but was raised for most of her life in Bozeman, Montana. She has gained a lot of her knowledge and experiences not only growing up in Montana’s beautiful habitats, but also through volunteering and work with organizations and businesses such as Big Boys Toys Outdoor Equipment Rental, the National Parks Conservation Association, Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, and more! Her passions for the outdoors, science, and education led her to pursue a BS in Wildlife Biology and certificate in Global Leadership at the University of Montana, which she received in the spring of 2021. While living in Missoula, she has been involved with Missoula’s youth and the community, educating them about wildlife conservation and natural history through MNHC, as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Missoula County. Her favorite ways to past the time include snowshoeing, backpacking, river floating, hiking, gardening, crafting, watching tv/movies, and cooking. She is so excited to help the Missoula community through MNHC and continue learning how to be a natural steward.
2022 SUMMER CAMP STAFF
Miriam Bayer (she/her)
Summer Camp Instructor
Owen Curry (he/him)
Summer Camp Instructor
Wren Filardi (she/her)
Summer Camp Instructor
Although Wren spent the last school year down in Salt Lake City, she’s always called Montana her home. She’s grown up in the Missoula area and loves to enjoy all that it has to offer. Some of Wren’s favorite activities are skiing and fishing. Natural history has always been a huge part of her life and she looks forward to sharing it with the next generation of naturalists!
Tom Hobday (he/him)
Summer Camp Instructor
Tom is from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He attends Saint John’s University, where he is a student naturalist in the Saint John’s Arboretum. He helps lead field trips for hundreds of students, and his favorite field trip is the science of maple syruping! In his free time Tom loves to play ultimate frisbee on the Minnesota state team. On campus, he is on a student documentary team focused on social justice, called Extending The Link. Tom is also a member of the Peer Resource Program, where he has led canoe trips to the Everglades and the Boundary Waters. He is looking forward to exploring Missoula this summer, and meeting all of you!
Trevor O'Brien (they/them)
Summer Camp Instructor
Trevor grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has had a passion for wildlife and paleontology for as long as they can remember. They attended college at the University of Montana, majoring in Wildlife Biology and Geosciences. Early on in their college career they discovered their true passion was in wildlife and paleontology education, and set off to gain as much of that experience as possible. They worked and volunteered with a variety of educational groups and programs during and after their college education, including Animal Wonders Montana, the UM Paleontology Collection, the Montana FWP Be Bear Aware Program, the International Wildlife Film Festival Artists and Scientists in the Classroom, and the New Mexico Natural History Museum. They also recently started an educational YouTube channel dedicated to wildlife and paleontology. They are an avid fan of a variety of outdoor activities including camping, hiking, birding, herping, spelunking, fossil hunting, canoeing, kayaking, and scuba diving. Outside of the natural world, they enjoy reading, making and editing videos, playing board and tabletop games, sword fighting, and listening to and playing music.
Anka Rashed (she/her)
Summer Camp Instructor
Having grown up in the dense urban landscape of Hong Kong, Anka spent the first few years of her life satisfying her yearning towards nature and wildlife mostly through books and David Attenborough documentaries. After moving to Illinois for university in 2015, she was finally able to get out and start exploring the outdoors, leading her to discover how much she feels at home there. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in robotics, she decided to pursue her love for the natural world instead, which brought her to Montana. Outside of naturey things, Anka enjoys climbing, travelling, tinkering with robots, and working on her musical project, The Dawn Patrol.
Zane Roush (he/him)
Summer Camp Coordinator Assistant
Zane was raised in Helena, Montana, where his parents fostered in him a love for the outdoors before he could even walk. Living in Montana has offered him tremendous opportunities for backpacking, climbing, skiing, and just about any other means of exploring the world around him. This time spent outside has led Zane to be immensely passionate about conservation, education, and sharing the outdoors with others. After spending a summer working at MNHC as a summer camp instructor, he is excited to be returning as the Camp Coordinator Assistant. He is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Montana studying Ecology and Wilderness Studies, and he hopes to have a career where he is outside and learning something new every day.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Cheryl Carrington (she/her)
Cheryl discovered Montana’s natural beauty in 2020 while visiting family and was captivated by the splendor and peace. She decided to make Missoula her home and is dedicated to becoming part of and contributing to the local community. Growing up in a Chicago urban environment, Cheryl has had a lifelong passion for exploring the outdoors and holds an insatiable curiosity for nature in various environmental settings. She loves to explore Montana with her two adult children, who also relocated to Missoula. Cheryl brings manifold expertise to help navigate and support organizations that share her passion for the natural world. Over the last 25 years, Cheryl personally deployed over $80 million in healthcare products and services throughout five countries. As a strategic executive consultant for various businesses and start-ups, she has specialized in investment acquisition, consultation, and business development for the last seven years. Cheryl holds a Bachelor of Science from Northern Illinois University and 23 hours towards a Masters of Science in Education from the University of Nevada Reno. She is currently enrolled in the Masters of Public Administration program at the University of Montana, graduating in the spring of 2023.
Peggy Christian (she/her)
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).
JoAnn (JoJo) Ducharme (she/her)
Jo Ann was born in St. Ignatius, MT, and is a proud member of the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Nations. She attended the University of Montana until her senior year, when she transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her original dream was to obtain her teaching credentials and return to the reservation to teach, but then “life happened” and she spent the next 40 years in Alaska. During those 40 years she lived in rural Alaska, working with Alaska Native people and traveling extensively. She was an administrator and faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Anchorage. Jo Ann returned to her reservation in 2013, serving in various capacities with the Salish Kootenai Tribal College, where she is currently a faculty member in the Tribal Governance Department. Her son Benjamin was born and raised in in Alaska and moved to Missoula in 2019. Life has come full circle for Jo Ann. Her home in Ronan has a beautiful view of the Mission Mountains and she is reminded on a regular basis of the beauty of Montana.
Hank Fischer (he/him)
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 Gómez, Ph.D. (he/him)
Erim is a professor in the Wildlife Biology Program housed in the Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Science at the University of Montana. He is a naturalist at heart and thus has eclectic research interests, including the conservation of endangered species, the ecology and sustainability of freshwater ecosystems, and amphibians and freshwater fish. Erim is a first-generation college graduate and proud of his parents’ farm working and immigrant roots. He is devoted to encouraging students from under-represented groups to pursue higher education, particularly in the sciences. He hopes to create applied ecological research while helping diversify the conservation and environmental field. In Erim’s spare time, he loves to hike in beautiful western Montana, take photos of wildlife, float rivers, and Latin dance.
Katie Guffin (she/her)
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.
Caroline Kurtz (she/her)
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 (she/her)
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 (he/him)
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.
Photo & bio coming soon!