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:

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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:


Daniel Cloete

MSc in Conservation Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 2013
PhD Candidate in Conservation Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Daniel is a conservation biologist in South Africa where he has worked as the conservation manager of Kuzuko Game Park and later as the Program Director of the Nature’s Valley Trust, a community initiative dedicated to conservation and education on one of South Africa’s most sought after coastlines. A seasoned traveler and avian researcher, Daniel has investigated the decline of Martial eagles in South Africa and served as a resident naturalist in the Peruvian Amazon where he studied birds as environmental indicators.  Combining his passion for landscape conservation with his ornithological interests, he is now completing his PhD research on the impacts of fragmentation on the pollination efficiency of sunbirds and sugarbirds on ericas and proteas in the South African fynbos. Daniel will lead our South Africa program in Spring 2019.

Daniel's Program:

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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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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 whose scientific research interests lie in the ecology and evolution of butterflies. In particular, he is interested in the clearwing butterflies, a group whose biology is fascinating, and which serves as a model for diverse studies in ecology and evolution in the tropics. He is also active in applied conservation research, and is currently leading a project to explore the threat posed by road construction to biodiversity conservation in the Amazon rainforest of Peru. His research has taken him throughout Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Malawi, Zambia and Malaysia. Geoff has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 2012 and currently leads our Peru and Ecuador programs.

Geoff's Programs:

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Daniel J. Hagaman

MS in Environment and Resources, University of Wisconsin, 2006
Daniel is an anthropologist and naturalist with over fifteen years of experience working on conservation and environmental education projects in diverse international and U.S. locations. His research interests lie in ornithology and sustainable resource management of protected areas and wilderness. He has conducted research on the Polylepis forests of the Andes mountains and worked on conservation and education projects in Bolivia. Daniel has been teaching with Wildlands Studies since 2009 and has taught in Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, New Zealand and Alaska. He currently leads our Chile Program.


Sarra Hinshaw

PhD in Aquatic Biogeochemistry, Griffith University, Australia, 2008
Sarra is an aquatic biologist interested in surface and groundwater quality, nitrous oxide emissions and riparian zones. She has a wide range of research experiences including water quality research in California’s Central Valley, salt marsh health and resiliency in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and denitrification and greenhouse gases in agriculturally impacted zones in Queensland, Australia. Sarra currently teaches a range of university ecology, biology and climate change classes. She will assume leadership of our Australia program starting Summer 2019.

Sarra'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:

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Benita Carmen Laird-Hopkins

MSc in Ecology, Lancaster University, United Kingdom, 2016
PhD Candidate in Entomology, University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic
Benita is a community ecologist with research interests in plant community dynamics, species effects of climate change and conservation ecology. She is currently undertaking a PhD in entomology, investigating how changes in climate affect community composition and species distribution of tropical insects. She has worked in multiple locations, including Alaska, Thailand, Panama and Guam, and has spent considerable time in New Zealand, working as a ranger for the Department of Conservation. Benita has a great passion for the outdoors and in her spare time can be found hiking, climbing and biking through the mountains. She has taught field courses in Panama and the United Kingdom and led our Summer 2019 Alaska Program. Benita will lead the spring New Zealand Program.

Benita'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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Terry McCloskey

PhD in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, 2009
Terry is a coastal scientist and tropical paleoenvironmentalist, interested in the effect of climate change, especially as it affects the relationship between human society and the natural environment. His undergraduate thesis looked at the effects of hurricanes on ancient Maya agriculture, while his dissertation focused on changes in the frequency of hurricane landfall in the western Caribbean. Before returning to the United States for his education Terry spent 20 years pioneering a small farm in central Belize. He was a founding member of Five Blues Lake National Park, a community managed Park near his home in Belize, and served as Secretary of the Steering Committee for a large UN-funded project aimed at developing community co-management of protected areas throughout the country. Terry has conducted research throughout North and Central America and the Caribbean, from Quebec through Barbados, and will lead our Belize Program starting Summer 2019.

Terry'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 candidate in Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Alejandra is a veterinarian and marine mammal researcher from Costa Rica. She is currently completing 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 and currently teaches the New Zealand and South Africa Programs.


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 led programs for almost a decade for Wildlands Studies, establishing our programs in Australia, Tasmania, and South Africa.


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: