Allison Collins | Director
Allison Collins grew up outside of Salinas, CA, the "salad bowl of the world". She is a graduate of UC Davis with a BA in Human Development and a minor in Education. She received her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Cal State TEACH and completed a Master’s in Educational Leadership with an Administrative Credential from San Jose State University. Her passions in regard to outdoor education include increasing access and equity for all students and staff in the field, and a focus on positive social and emotional learning experiences. Her journey in outdoor education started right here at Jones Gulch as a naturalist intern in the 2008-2009 school year, and since then she has spent time as a naturalist, a 6th grade teacher, an afterschool programs coordinator, and as principal of San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Outdoor Education program. She enjoys reading, cooking, running, looking under logs for critters and epic forest walks. She likes traveling by train and has been to all 50 states. She speaks Spanish, sings and plays the guitar. She has lived at Jones Gulch for 5 years with her husband Kieran and her son Liam who is in first grade at La Honda Elementary. She is returning to SMOE for a 2nd year. Allison’s nature name at outdoor education is Sorrel.
Jonathan Harris | Program Manager/Principal
Jonathan Harris grew up in Belmont, California, and he is a proud graduate of Fox Elementary, Ralston Middle and Carlmont High Schools. He received two bachelor’s degrees from UCLA in Germanic Languages and History, with an emphasis in West African & Diaspora History. After working in summer camps and pre-schools for many summers through high school and college, Jonathan found himself at the University of San Francisco for his multiple subject teaching credential. He taught first and fourth grades at Belle Haven Elementary in the Ravenswood City School District for 6 years before moving to Ocean Shore Elementary School in Pacifica to teach a 4/5th Grade class for twenty years. Throughout his time in the classroom, Jonathan, has loved nothing more than to teach in the great outdoors, organizing many overnight field trips and hikes. He loves to mentor new educators and has taught in the teacher credentialing program at San Francisco State and had many student teachers over the years. Nature journaling, music, gardening, cooking and birding are among Jonathan’s passions, and he loves to share them with his two children and many students. Jonathan speaks Spanish and German and has had the pleasure of visiting 38 countries. His nature name is Jay.
Amanda Lee | Outdoor Education Information and Registration
Amanda Lee grew up in San Francisco CA and is a graduate of the University of San Francisco with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Child and Youth Studies. She holds a site supervisor permit in early childhood education and has built her communication and leadership skills with over ten years of working with children and fostering relationships with families. As site coordinator at St. Francis Preschool, she oversaw all program activities and events, managed staff and schedules, and led staff and parent meetings. She has also worked as both a teacher and coordinator at Gateway Child Development Center and as a teacher at Balboa Preschool. She has worked as a camp counselor, a site supervisor of a YMCA preschool and as a swim teacher working with children ranging from infants to teens. She is highly skilled at managing an office, using technology and interfacing with the public. She grew up going on annual camping trips with her family and joining the Salesian Boys’ and Girls’ club on their sleep-away camps. She enjoys rock climbing, biking, baking, swimming, and traveling. She likes to explore new trails and hikes throughout the Bay Area. She likes Disney and is also a Golden State Warriors fan. She speaks and understands Cantonese. She has worked at the San Mateo County Office of Education for almost three years, and this will be her second year working with Outdoor Education. It’s been said she has the answer to any problem you may have.
Ania Golos | Senior Naturalist
Ania Golos grew up in Connecticut and is a graduate of the University of Lynchburg with a BA in Environmental Studies and a Master’s in Public Health. Through the University of Georgia, she studied in Monteverde, Costa Rica where, with the goal of creating citizen engagement and stewardship of local streams, she worked with local communities by studying community health, freshwater macroinvertebrates and water quality including wastewater/greywater issues. During this time, she conducted water quality workshops and lab demonstrations for students. Much of her work was in the Bellbird Biological Corridor where she saw and heard a variety of birds including the famous three-wattled bellbird. As a naturalist with the Nature Foundation at Wintergreen, she developed plans for environmental education programs for the Virginia public school system, presented environmental education programs to visitors ages 6-70 including interactive nature hikes. Through advanced courses and trainings, she deepened her knowledge of medicinal and edible plants, mycology, geology, limnology, ornithology as well as local flora and fauna. She enjoys hiking and being in nature, inspired by her childhood summers spent at her grandparent’s home in the mountains and countryside of southern Poland. She hiked 8 hours to the crater of Volcan Conception when she visited Nicaragua. She also likes reading, painting, biking, photography and yoga. She speaks Polish and Spanish and plays the guitar. She is returning to SMOE for a 2nd year. Ania’s nature name at outdoor education is Caldera.
Ben Sehl | Naturalist/Village Leader
Ben Sehl grew up in Redwood City, CA and is a graduate of Purdue University with a B.S. in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and a minor in Environmental Policy. He has done a variety of field research concerning trees, bees and birds in places like Western Montana, Costa Rica and Indiana. He has worked as a naturalist at Dunes Learning Center in Indiana and as a naturalist at Sequoia National Park doing geology tours in Crystal Cave and leading astronomy programs. Ben also worked as a Naturalist in the Marin Headlands leading children’s outdoor education programs. Ben is an avid mushroom forager and enthusiast. He also enjoys birding and learning about new plants. He likes surfing, hiking, biking and playing the guitar. He is returning to SMOE for a third year. It’s been said that he can catch more waves than Solar Steve. Ben’s nature name at outdoor education is Chanterelle.
Neil Richardson | Garden Coordinator/Naturalist
Neil Richardson 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. He has also worked at camp Galileo as an instructor and program director. He enjoys gardening, cycling and exploring remote places. He has a talent for building and fixing things from cars to computers. He loves riding motorcycles and bicycles and has ridden from Baja California to the Arctic Ocean. He is returning to San Mateo Outdoor Education for his ninth year. Through his work as the SMOE garden coordinator he has transformed the space into a rich educational environment. Neil’s nature name at outdoor education is nEel.
Ziggy Bates | Naturalist/Village Leader
Ziggy Bates has worked as a Naturalist for three years before working as a Village Leader at San Mateo Outdoor Education. He has previously worked for Hidden Villa in Los Gatos and Exploring New Horizons in Loma Mar before returning to SMOE and he is excited to be teaching in the coastal rainforest and sharing his knowledge and passion with the students at this program. Ziggy believes that the best way to learn is through experience and play; he teaches natural history through stories, songs and exploration of the senses. He loves to introduce Next Generation Science Standards as well as social emotional skills to help the students under his care realize that they are a part of nature, not apart from nature, and that by working together can make this world a better place. When Ziggy is not exploring trails, he likes to travel, make artwork with various mediums, listen to podcasts and play music with his educational and inspirational band Dafunkus. Ziggy’s nature name at outdoor education is Jackalope.
Miguel Salazar | Health Care Specialist
Miguel Salazar grew up in Pacifica CA and is a graduate of Palo Alto University with a BS in Psychology and Social Action. He has worked as a service shop manager, repairing marine electronics on private yachts and commercial vessels. He also has experience working on solar/wind power systems and de-salinization plants for drinking water. He served in the Navy from 2000-2005 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and was deployed to the Persian Gulf. After volunteering to work with veterans in the Portland area, he was inspired to change his career. He volunteered for the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, as a tutor at the College of San Mateo, and as a naturalist at Hidden Villa. He has traveled to Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China, Singapore and Hong Kong. He likes long distance cycling and has ridden from Portland to Duluth. He also enjoys photography, sailing, reading, backpacking and music. As a Vallemar student, he attended San Mateo Outdoor Education in elementary school. He is returning to SMOE for his 4th year. It’s been said that he can give you two for one by fixing your body and your machine. Miguel’s nature name at outdoor education is Synergy.
Joshua Stacy | Naturalist/Village Leader
Joshua Stacy grew up in Baltimore MD and spent his summers in the Appalachian Mountains of Maryland and Virginia. He is a graduate of Earlham College with a BA in music. While growing up, he spent much of his free time exploring any green space and riparian sliver he could find within the urban landscape. He was mentored in wilderness awareness and tracking by his cousin and through his summer camp experiences. His work as a naturalist started with an internship with San Joaquin Outdoor School which turned into a 15-year career of being both naturalist and program director with Exploring New Horizons. He is an exceptional naturalist and through his many years in the field has mentored and inspired others in the understanding and love of the natural world. As an avid birder and photographer, he has observed more than 700 species of birds and is able to identify birds by their calls. He participates in Sequoia Audubon Society events as well as other citizen science opportunities through eBird and iNaturalist. He is a through-hiker completing over 20,000 miles on three continents including, the Pacific Crest Trail, The Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. He has also traversed Iceland and the Cordillera Blanca Range in the Andes of Peru. He has biked over 4,000 miles across the US from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. He has played the cello since the age of 4; touring and performing across the US as well as Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic. He’s particularly interested in adapting the cello to all genres of music. He is returning to SMOE for a 2nd year. It's been said that he channels Yo Yo Ma. Joshua’s nature name at outdoor education is Bobcat.
Derek McGovern | Naturalist/Village Leader
Derek McGovern grew up in Walnut Creek, CA and is a graduate of UC Davis where he studied education. He holds a multiple subject teaching credential, a single subject life sciences teaching credential, an environmental education endorsement degree, as well as a Master in Education. He has a passion for teaching and has experience working with kids in various settings. He worked at Camp Galileo Innovation Camps for kids for six summers, leading outdoor team-building activities as well as teaching project-based science lessons. Derek has also coached soccer for over 10 years, coaching players aged four to fourteen. After receiving his teaching credential from UC Davis, he taught in a 6th grade Montessori classroom for three years, specializing in project-based learning units with real-world applications. He gained an appreciation for outdoor education and hands-on learning by volunteering as a high school cabin leader with Exploring New Horizons Outdoor School for multiple years. This past summer, he worked as the Camp Manager for Coastal Camp at NatureBridge’s Golden Gate location in the Marin Headlands. He enjoys long distance trail running, playing and watching soccer, road and gravel biking, and playing the ukulele. He likes surfing and loves swimming in cool lakes and rivers, with his favorite spot being Hoyt Crossing on the Yuba River, right near Nevada City. He is returning to SMOE for a 2nd year. It’s been said that he is vice president of the hot sauce club. Derek’s nature name at outdoor education is Tide.
Ally Edwards | Naturalist
Ally Edwards grew up in Chicago but went to high school in Western Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Haverford College with a BA in Environmental Studies and a Minor in Growth and Structure of Cities. Her focus area was Environmental Justice and has taken classes in Fisheries Science, Oceanography and Geology. She wrote her capstone paper on different styles of closed-loop composting systems. While working on an urban farm, she instructed middle school students in a farming curriculum that taught planting, harvesting and composting. She gained outdoor leadership skills at the High Mountain Institute where she led high school students on expeditions to teach backcountry living, leadership and communication skills. As the co-head for her college’s environmental committee, she oversaw numerous working groups, facilitated environmental events and implemented a composting system for college apartments. She also served as leader of Haverford’s outdoor club where she organized gear, planned nature outings and led student hiking and skiing trips. She has backpacked across Europe, Patagonia, and the American Rocky Mountains. She enjoys hiking, camping, backcountry skiing, cooking, and listening to podcasts. She also plays ultimate frisbee and is always up for a hacky sack session with friends. Ally’s nature name at outdoor education is Aven.
Lisa Niehuser | Naturalist
Lisa Niehuser grew up in South San Francisco and holds an AA degree in Science and Society from the College of San Mateo and has attended Skyline College. As a child they realized that their favorite place to be was outdoors, so, when they attended SMOE in 5th grade that interest only grew. They set their goals at the time to come back as a cabin leader and as a naturalist and now it has come full circle. They volunteered as a cabin leader from 2014-2020 both in high school and while attending college. Last spring they were able to return to SMOE as cabin support naturalist. They improved their natural history knowledge of native plants and animals when they volunteered with San Bruno Mountain watch. Here they went on weekly hikes to remove invasive species and replant the area with native seedlings. They helped to maintain a nursery where they would gather native seeds to propagate. They enjoy hiking and exploring and has gotten into birding. They also like to water color, swim, garden and cook. They know lots of outdoor ed songs and plays the ukulele and guitar. They have done some videography but their most important art expression is photography. It’s been said that when they first learned to walk they did something that they have spent their whole life making up for. Lisa’s nature name at outdoor education is Lupine.
Ben Crooke | Naturalist
Ben Crooke grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland and attended Sandy Spring Friends School from 6th to 12th grade. During his junior year of high school, he briefly volunteered at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences where he helped with restoration projects in the Atlantic Ocean on the island of St. George. This inspired several research paper publications, including work he has done with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Ocean Ecology Lab. In college, he studied abroad in South Africa with the Organization for Tropical Studies where he collected and studied arthropods, benthic macroinvertebrates to assess water quality, and analyzed soil nutrient levels in the savanna. He also has considerable research experience including the study of avian malarial parasites infecting Common Yellowthroats. After graduating from Skidmore College with a BA in Biology, he worked at the Research and Development Bowery Farm that use indoor hydroponic systems to conduct agricultural science experiments for several months in Jersey City. Ben then moved to south Jersey as an AmeriCorps NJ watershed ambassador, where he promoted watershed stewardship, participated in stream monitoring practices, and taught 5th and 6th grade students. As a summer camp counselor he planned and led activities for 20-30 kids daily. He has played soccer all his life and has been involved in theater and acting since middle school. He enjoys hiking, rock climbing, yoga and listening to all genres of music. He speaks French and plays some guitar. It's been said that he can tell you about a chicken, a rocket and some dung. Ben’s nature name at outdoor education is Blue.
Burgundy Edwards | Naturalist
Burgundy Edwards grew up McMinnville, Oregon and is a graduate of the University of Oregon with a BA in Global Studies- a focus on environmental issues and alternatives in Latin America, and a double-minor in Spanish and sustainable business. During the pandemic she did a remote study abroad with students and workers from Bolivia where they worked on projects to assist indigenous peoples and to learn about the threats that their communities currently face. She also worked the World Athletic Championships where she collaborated with people with backgrounds and cultures from around the world. As a camp counselor at Camp Attitude she facilitated activities and meaningful experiences for individuals with disabilities. She likes to stay informed about the ecology of an ecosystem by using iNaturalist to observe, identify and classify various organism. She enjoys being immersed in nature, hiking, doing yoga, meditating with sound frequencies, painting, and making jewelry and candles. She also likes going to concerts, dancing, swimming and playing soccer. She speaks Spanish, can lead camp songs, and is learning the electric bass. It’s been said that she can make you the perfect Latte. Burgundy’s nature name at outdoor education is Moss.
Lizzy Lyons | Naturalist
Lizzy Lyons grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia and is a two-time graduate from James Madison University. She obtained a BS in Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies with concentrations in Science, Math, and Middle Education, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching. She holds a professional license for both middle grades Science and Math. Lizzy has specific training in culturally responsive teaching, trauma-informed practices and differentiated instruction. Her coursework has included Earth and planetary sciences for teachers as well as natural history teaching methods, including environmental science, life science and meteorology. She has had 8 different classroom placements as part of her student teaching experience. As a student teacher at Plaza Middle School, she designed and implemented hands-on science lessons to teach advanced 7th grade life science. In addition, she taught 7th grade math and 8th grade physical science in other student teaching assignments as well as literacy remediation, college readiness prep and after-school tutoring. As a life-long gymnast, she worked as a coach at Head over Heels Gymnastics with athletes ranging from 5-17 years old. She enjoys yoga, reading, hiking, cooking and horticulture. Being that she grew up at the beach she loves going to the beach and surfing. Lizzy’s nature name at outdoor education is Lotus.
Lilly Lakritz | Naturalist
Lilly Lakritz grew up in San Francisco and is pursuing studies in Environmental Sciences or Growth and Structure of Cities at Haverford College. While volunteering as a Teen Advocate For Science Communication (TASC) at the Academy of Natural Sciences, her interest was sparked for the importance of science and hands-on interactive education. Through games and demonstrations she taught concepts about camouflage and adaptation to students visiting the museum. Through her work at the Exploratorium she developed skill in teaching inquiry and critical thinking by drawing out the observations and questions of learners while doing a cow’s eye dissection. The power of using the outdoors as a classroom first came to her at 14 years old when she was selected to participate in a year-long Outward Bound backpacking and leadership development program. She not only gained confidence in learning outdoor technical skills but inspiration from being immersed in nature. She’s worked with youth in a variety of settings including; teaching swimming, teaching stand-up paddle boarding and leading backpacking trips. As part of the Camp Winnarainbow Teen Staff Leadership Program she worked as a lifeguard, taught juggling and circus acts. She can tell you how she honed her pillow fighting skills. She enjoys swimming, particularly, open water swimming in San Francisco Bay. She has played classical piano for 12 years, she is proficient in Mandarin and Cantonese and is studying Arabic. Besides the fact that she has dressed up as a mussel, swam from Alcatraz and performed 15 Bach inventions, it’s been said that she has had an interesting relationship with a skyscraper. Lilly’s nature name at outdoor education is Stellar.
Miriam Urrutia | Naturalist
Miriam Urrutia was born in Watsonville, CA and grew up in Moreno Valley, CA. She is a graduate of the University of Santa Cruz with a BA in Environmental Studies/Earth Science along with a BA in History of Art and Visual Culture. As a teacher assistant for CalTeach she assisted students in their STEM classes, created lesson plans for middle school chemistry classes and provided one-on-one tutoring. She has completed a “safe talk” training around mental health awareness as part of her work with Love4Life, a social emotional education program which deals with bullying and suicide prevention, where she educated the local community about bullying and suicide, orchestrated “teach-ins” at local schools and presented team building activities. She has taken a course on environmental interpretation which she applied to her work as a docent at the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center. Here she gave presentations to visitors regarding the well-being and care of marine life, interpreted various exhibits and ran several educational stations. She enjoys playing soccer, she has a passion for photography and loves listening to music. She also likes thrifting and trying new crafts such as making recycled paper and embroidery. She has a passion for learning about the natural world particularly the ocean and earth science. She likes collecting rocks and loves learning about insects. Miriam’s nature name at outdoor education is Mantle.
Sonya | Naturalist
Sonya grew up appreciating the dense red pine forests of Wisconsin but recently has enjoyed getting to know the plants and cacti of the desert ecosystem. She has worked as a backpacking leader in Colorado leading 7-11 year old’s on wilderness trips in the San Juan Mountains. She has worked with 4th graders in junior achievement classes and has led activities in a preschool classroom. As a childcare worker she planned and led events and activities including basketball clinics, day-camps, pottery and painting classes. As a crew member with the ACE Conservation Corp in Flagstaff, she built and maintained trails, removed invasive species and installed check dams and retaining walls for erosion control. As a swimmer for over 12 years she feels more comfortable in water than on land. She has worked as a swim instructor and swim coach teaching preschool to intermediate level swimmers. She enjoys rock climbing and bouldering, backpacking, tree climbing and yoga. She likes birding and getting to know wildflowers. She likes to see live music shows particularly indie rock and bluegrass, and she believes in chatting with her plants over tea. She is fluent in Russian and speaks some Spanish. This is her first year at SMOE. Sonya’s nature name at outdoor education is Sunny.
Miguel Maciel | Naturalist
Miguel Maciel grew up in Concord, CA and has attended Diablo Valley College. He has studied biology and oceanography and in the future plans to attend San Jose State University to pursue a degree in Spanish. His love for learning about the natural world was sparked when he attended outdoor ed at Exploring New Horizons as a 5th grader. Through his experiences of living and working near Rocky Mountain National Park, seeing elk and summiting Twin Sisters Mountain, as well as his time spent hiking in Samuel P Taylor Park, he has made it his goal to continually improve his ability to identify birds and plants. He has had a variety of experiences working with kids both outdoors and in the classroom. He was a cabin leader at ENH, a counselor for OVY summer camp and he worked as a cabin counselor at a YMCA camp in Salt Lake City. As an Outdoor Program Instructor with Sierra Nevada Journeys, he developed and taught NGSS lessons, led hikes, facilitated archery, kayaking and a challenge course. His fluency in Spanish has allowed him to assist bilingual students in the classroom as well. As a bilingual instructional assistant with the Mt Diablo School District, he taught reading, writing and math, and, while serving as a Bilingual Aide/EL Liaison with the Newark Unified School District, he helped prepare students for the ELPAC. He enjoys cooking, painting, drawing and doing digital art. He also likes to read, especially while in a hammock tied between two redwood trees. He likes riding his bike, listening to music and rock climbing. He writes poetry in both Spanish and English and is learning to play the guitar. As a birder and a story teller, it's been said that he can tell you a story that involves a hummingbird and the stars. Miguel’s nature name at outdoor education is Kite.
Nikko Aromin | Naturalist
Nikko Aromin grew up in Daly City, CA and is a graduate of the The Community Environmental Education Program at Jefferson Wilderness School. He has had a long-time interest in outdoor recreation with over 500 hours volunteering as a student leader and 6 years leading specific indoor and outdoor lessons and activities. His experience at the Jefferson Wilderness School not only trained him in group management and ropes course facilitation but got him involved with San Mateo Outdoor Ed where he served 8 times as a cabin leader. His early experience led him to work in Childcare and Recreation. He taught a weekly rock-climbing class, ages 6-11 with the City of San Francisco Park and Recreation. Sometimes working with k-5 students in after school care, Nikko’s main focus was being the seasonal rock climbing/ropes course specialist for summer camps. He led team building and taught climbing fundamentals, safety and etiquette as well as belay techniques to youth and adults. He also worked for Portland Parks and Rec as a Teen Force leader providing a safe space for underprivileged teens aging between 12-20. More recently Nikko has worked as a Field Instructor for the Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor Education program based out in Portland, OR. Nikko developed and taught a curriculum revolving around Water Field Studies, while closely working with high school students coaching them on how to teach 6th graders. Currently Nikko holds a seat as a Staff Advisory Board member for the MESD Outdoor Ed Program. Outside of work he enjoys basketball, skateboarding, hiking, tidepooling and loves the ocean. He is a visual and conceptual artist with projects in painting, poetry, creative writing, photography and film. He loves finding new music. It’s been said that his 8 years of being a DJ will keep you dancing. Nikko’s nature name at outdoor education is Kelp.
Owen Mylod Yee | Naturalist
Owen Mylod Yee grew up in Redwood City CA and is a graduate of the University of Santa Cruz with a double major in Environmental Studies and Education. His experience of attending SMOE in 5th grade inspired him to become an environmental steward while learning to trust himself and to care for others. While attending UCSC he volunteered at Natural Bridges State Park and taught school groups about Monarch butterfly life cycles and led them into the Monarch groves. As head counselor at OVY summer camp he led summer camp activities with an emphasis on physical and emotional well-being. He returned to OVY camp as Program Director to design and lead staff training and oversee the day-to-day operations both during the pandemic and afterwards. At Exploring New Horizons Outdoor School he designed and taught a 5th grade day camp curriculum during the pandemic. In 2020 he was able to come in mid-year as part of the SMOE naturalist staff and lead students on trail lessons until the pandemic required us to close. He was instrumental in helping to create a 3-week outdoor ed streaming program for the schools that were canceled. He enjoys rock climbing and has taught classes in belaying, climbing technique and has coached a competitive climbing team. He also likes slacklining, running and yoga. He is fascinated by insects and arachnids, particularly ants and termites. It’s been said that his nature name in 5th grade was stick. Owen’s nature name at outdoor education is Twig.
Director, Outdoor Environmental Education
Phone: (650) 747-9581
Manager, Outdoor Education
Phone: (650) 747-0414
Administrative Assistant II, Outdoor Education Information and Registration
Phone: (650) 802-5360