Alison Irwin | Senior Naturalist
Alison grew up in Pleasanton, California and is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a focus in Education and Natural History. During her time at UCSC she was involved in an intensive field course studying California natural history at four UC Reserve sites. She also attended the Sierra Institute Wilderness Program; a 10 week backpacking course that included seminars in Eco-psychology and Wilderness Skills. Alison has studied sustainable agriculture, interned at the Alan Chadwick Garden and initiated the Gardener's Alliance; a cooperative coalition among campus gardeners. At the age of 7 she became a passionate nature lover when her family went on a three-month camping trip to visit National Parks throughout the Western U.S. She has worked as a summer camp art instructor with 4-12 year-olds and as an environmental educator at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum teaching and creating curriculum for K-5 students in wetland ecology. She enjoys gardening, biking, dancing, playing games, kayaking, drawing, camping, knitting, and journaling. She is a music lover, enthusiastic whistler, and is currently learning to play the ukulele. She is returning to San Mateo Outdoor Education for her fourth year. Alison's nature name at outdoor education is Shade.
Maxwell Lewis | Naturalist/Village Leader
Maxwell Lewis grew up in Ann Arbor Mich. and is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Psychology and Environmental Studies with an emphasis is Environmental Education. He was part of a research team that presented findings to prestigious scientists on the effects of ecological disturbances on forest ecosystems. Max also served as a research assistant in an educational psychology lab where he studied various methods of enhancing student comprehension. He was a member of the largest environmental group on campus where he organized events and gave presentations. At an after school tutoring program, Max worked one-on-one with 9-17 year old students and he held the recruitment/training chair position for a non-profit summer camp for children with cancer families. Max was lead counselor at the Ann Arbor Shakespeare Camp and he worked for the student conservation association where he created curriculum for high school students to teach environmental values. He has been working as a pre-school teacher with 3-5 year olds providing hands on activities and curriculum at a child development center. Max enjoys being outdoors, backpacking, canoeing, being wacky or singing crazy songs. He plays the clarinet and speaks conversational Spanish. He is returning to San Mateo Outdoor Education for his second year. Max’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Drizzle.
Neil Richardson | Garden Coordinator/Naturalist
Neil grew up in Santa Clara, California and is a graduate of Humboldt State University with a B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection/Environmental Education and Interpretation. He received training in project WET and Project Learning Tree and served as a Project Learning Tree coordinator at local schools. As an Environmental Education Program Designer he created curriculum for 5th grade students and taught in a variety of habitats. As a Program Coordinator with Wetlands on Wheels he worked in the field and classroom to provide hands- on activities about wetland ecosystems for 5th grade students. With Friends of The Dunes he led field trips to teach 2nd-6th graders about dune ecology, birds, plants and macro invertebrates. He enjoys running, cycling and working out. He has a talent for building and fixing things from cars to computers and is fascinated in classic cars and automotive history. He loves riding motorcycles and in the last two years has ridden over 20,000 miles covering the entire length of the west coast along highway 1 and 101. He likes writing music and has played the bass in two bands. He is returning to San Mateo Outdoor Education for his fourth year. Neil's nature name at outdoor education is Cygnus.
Clare Rankhorn | Naturalist/Village Leader
Clare grew up in Lake Villa, Illinois and is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a B.S. in Integrative Biology. As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, she conducted and presented original research on topics such as animal mating behavior, predator-prey interactions, and climate change. One of her research articles about behavioral isolation in fishes is published in The American Naturalist. She has also worked as a lab assistant, a middle school leadership tutor, a park district naturalist, and a graduate assistant at an environmental education center. Over the years, she has gained experience leading environmental education field trips, camps, and other programs for ages K-12. While spending a summer as a wildlife rehabilitator, she had the chance to care for and handle all types of vertebrates, including snakes and raptors. She enjoys long hikes, road trips, identifying plants, baking sweet treats, and Chicago style deep-dish pizza. She loves all styles of music and is a dancer and choreographer in jazz, hip-hop, and Chicago style stepping. She is an avid birder and one of her favorite birds on her life list is the hooded warbler. She has traveled to over 25 states and hopes to visit them all. She is also teaching herself to play guitar. She is returning to San Mateo Outdoor Education for her third year. Clare's nature name at Outdoor Education is Frost.
Kaitlin Greenfield | Health Care Specialist
Kaitlin Greenfield grew up in Santa Cruz CA and is certified as a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT). She is a graduate of Prescott College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Cultural and Regional Studies. Kaitlin has extensive field experience that includes collecting data for mangrove community vegetation maps and cetacean research in Sonora, Mexico, analyzing small mammal tracks along an ecotone in Teton National Park, analyzing data on density and abundance of species of marine snails in the intertidal zone and collecting and analyzing data on dolphins for Pacific Marine Foundation in Maui. She studied abroad in Kenya where she lived with the Maasai people and presented a talk on activism in the U.S to over a hundred Kenyan university students. Kaitlin has worked as a tutor for geometry and algebra students, product shipping manager for The Banana Slug String Band, counselor at a Girl Scout camp and a soccer coach. Kaitlin is a trained white water rafting guide, and zumba instructor. She enjoys hiking, river rafting and music. She is returning to SMOE for her 3rd year. Kaitlin's nature name at outdoor education is Mint.
Benjamin Nelson | Naturalist/Village Leader
Benjamin grew up in El Cerrito, CA. and is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a B.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He participated in the Ecology and Conservation Field Quarter and spent a semester abroad at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. He is a member of the UCSC Mycology Team, participated in the California Naturalist Program at the UCSC Arboretum and was a presenter for the UCSC plant society. As an environmental educator in North Carolina he worked with 1st through 9th grade students and with Naturalists at Large he taught natural history, kayaking, high ropes and led 4-day canoe trips on the Colorado River. He also worked as a garden assistant at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School and as Restoration Ecologist at Younger Lagoon Natural Reserve. He enjoys playing basketball, watching professional sports, cooking, fishing and sailing. He likes foraging in the woods for herbs, medicinal plants, mushrooms and basketry materials. He likes trying new things and has traveled to Quebec, Israel, Spain, and Australia and throughout California. He is returning to San Mateo Outdoor Education for his fourth year. Benjamin's nature name at outdoor education is Herbie.
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