Our Faculty

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


Jehren Boehm

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

Jehren's Program:


Nans Bujan

PhD in Coastal Oceanography, Montpellier University, France, 2009
Nans is a physical oceanographer interested in the management and dynamics of coastal systems. His focus is on waves and currents near the beach, using a mix of field investigation and numerical modeling. He settled in Asia, and later Taiwan where he currently resides, after a canoeing journey along the Mekong River and he is presently working on internal waves, morphodynamics and the impact of extreme typhoon-generated waves on the shores of Taiwan. Nans will lead our Taiwan Program starting Spring 2021.

Nans’ Program:

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M. Troy Burnett

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

Troy's Program:

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Charles Chris Carpenter

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

Chris' Programs:

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Nicole L. Crane

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

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

Nicole's Program:

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Aimee Crittendon

MSc in Water Resources Management, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016
Aimee is a fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where her work focuses on threatened and endangered species recovery. Before beginning her career with the Service, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana and participated in research related to trout habitat improvement, urban phosphorus runoff, aquatic invasive species impacts, hawk rehabilitation, and carnivore distribution. Her interests lie in human-wildlife conflict, aquatic ecosystem health, and wildlife conservation in the face of anthropogenic threats. As an educator, she believes that experiential learning increases awareness and inspires action. In her spare time, Aimee can be found on mountains, rivers, and trails backpacking, canyoneering, trail running, snowboarding, and kayaking. Aimee will lead our Botswana program in Fall 2020.

Aimee’s Program:

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Adam Dillon

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

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

Adam's Program:

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Mark Dixon

MSc in Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University, South Africa, 2002
Mark is a South African researcher with extensive experience in both marine biology and ornithology. Mark spent many years researching the impacts of fishing on species well-being in the Antarctic, assisted on a Jaguar research project in Brazil, and conducted avifaunal studies on wind farms in South Africa. Currently, he conducts field research on two projects, the first is an avifaunal study to research Karoo bird populations as possible indicators of vegetation transformation. The second is a baseline marine study to research the incidents of ghost fishing, reef damage and entanglements caused by lost and discarded recreational line fishing. An enthusiastic hiker, he has hiked numerous trails throughout South Africa and around the world. Mark will lead the South African program starting in Spring 2020.

MARK's Program:

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Geoffrey R. Gallice

PhD in Entomology, University of Florida, 2015
Geoff is a tropical biologist and conservationist based in Peru's Madre de Dios region. His research interests are primarily in tropical butterflies, and he has several ongoing projects to study butterfly diversity, ecology, and evolution in southeastern Peru. He also leads the Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon, a non-profit organization working in Madre de Dios that aims to conserve Amazonian biodiversity and other natural resources through basic biological research, reforestation and agroforestry, and environmental education and outreach. Geoff has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 2012 and currently leads our Peru and Ecuador programs.

Geoff's Programs:


Sharon Horng

MSc in Marine Biology and Fisheries Division, National Taiwan University, Taiwan, 2006
Sharon is a conservation scientist whose interests lie in coral reef ecology, marine conservation and educational outreach. She specializes in coral taxonomy and is a certified dive master and freediver. Sharon is also passionate about reducing stray cats and dogs in Taiwan. She is dedicated to solving the problem of stray overpopulation and has set up mobile spay/neuter clinics in remote islands in Taiwan over the last six years, training multiple volunteers. Sharon will co-lead our Taiwan Program in Spring 2021.

Sharon’s Program:

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Thanit Kunkhajornphan

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

Thanit's Program:


Mason London

MSc in Biology, Humboldt State University, 2017
Mason is a stream ecologist interested in the physical and chemical composition of aquatic ecosystems. Additionally, he has researched plant and insect interactions in the Andes of Venezuela and the recovery of the endangered Island Grey Fox on California’s Channel Islands. Mason’s passion for teaching and the outdoors intersect the most greatly when he is able to engage students in observing ecosystem processes that generally go unnoticed. As a two-time alumni of the 2009 Chile Patagonia and Pacific Northwest programs, Mason understands the importance of hands-on research experience. He has assisted with our Channel Islands Program since 2017 and will lead our New Zealand Program starting in Fall 2019.

Mason’s Program:

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Joe Sapp

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

Joe's Program:

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Chris Smith

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

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Jenna Spackeen

PhD in Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 2017
Jenna is an oceanographer who is interested in nutrient cycles and the impacts of global change. Her research has taken her all over the world. She has spent a considerable amount of time aboard research vessels in the Arctic and at field stations in Antarctica, investigating how climate change affects phytoplankton communities and the cycling of nutrients in the ocean. Her research has also taken her to Mexico, where she studied food web interactions in estuary systems. Jenna is passionate about science outreach and experiential education. She believes that personal awareness, environmental appreciation, and a desire to make the world a better place can be fostered when one is immersed in nature. Jenna will lead our Iceland Program starting in Summer 2020.

Jenna’s Program:

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Alejandra Vargas

DVM, National University, Costa Rica, 2003
PhD in Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, 2019

Alejandra is a veterinarian and marine mammal researcher from Costa Rica. She has recently completed her doctoral research in South Africa on the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin as an indicator species for marine protected area effectiveness. Alejandra established our Australia and South Africa programs in 2012, taught our New Zealand Program in 2018 and will co-lead the Belize Program in Summer 2020.

Alejandra’s program:


Veronica Yovovich

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

Veronica's Program:

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Matthew Zylstra

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

Matt’s Program:


Leslie Arutunian

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


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Jasmine Roohani

is our Office Manager and oversees many of our day to day interactions with students, parents, and advisors. Jasmine is an active outdoorswoman, and prior to joining Wildlands Studies, Jasmine spent two years after her undergraduate degree with AmeriCorps (NCCC) building trails and leading environmental education and community outreach in the western US. She followed that with seventeen years in the organic farm industry, first as an organic farmer herself, later as the office manager for a local farm and now as a Master Recycler. Jasmine loves to discuss the diverse locations of our programs with students, and help prepare them for a life changing, academically dynamic, invigorating field based learning experience.  

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Laura Pomeroy

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

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Allison Dolan

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

Program Alumni:

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Tristen Thron

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

Program Alumni: