Sarah Mentock, M.S. Executive Director/Sheridan Campus Director
Sarah received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology in 1988, then a Master’s degree in 1994 in Cell and Molecular Biology, both from the University of Wyoming. Though born in Colorado, Sarah wishes that her mother, a Wyoming native, would at least have had the courtesy to drive to Cheyenne to deliver her, as she believes there is no better place on earth than the Cowboy State. Sarah enjoys a variety of outdoor pursuits, as well as jewelry-making, reading and talking things into the ground. She lives in Sheridan with her husband, son, and various animals.
Gina Morrison, Cody Campus Director
Gina’s love for Wyoming began when her family moved to Cody in 1964. She is a Cody High School graduate (class of 1980) and a University of Wyoming graduate with a bachelor degree in secondary science education. Gina taught life, earth, and physical science in Hailey, Idaho at Wood River Junior High. Later, she and her husband Scott relocated to Bozeman, Montana where she worked for Montana State University and coordinated both a statewide and a national water education program for teachers called Project WET. With Project WET, Gina traveled the nation educating, promoting and launching state programs in all 50 states. She was a founding board member of the Children’s Museum of Bozeman, has served on numerous boards and advisory committees, and has organized and led hundreds of educational events and courses throughout the country. Her love for science education is her primary focus and is reflected in her passion for directing Science Kids Cody. Her professional activities, accomplishments and experiences and her love for Wyoming are combined and brought to life through Science Kids as she provides young scientists opportunities to discover the wonder of nature and science in their own backyard! In her spare time Gina enjoys spending time with her family and friends. You might see her skiing, biking or fly-fishing. In addition to loving the outdoors, she enjoys reading a good book, knitting and hanging out at her family cabin located just a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park.
Gail VanderPoel, B.S.
Gail Ryan Vanderpoel is a Sheridan native who spent her last 22 years on the prairies of Illinois, learning about native plant restoration, local land conservation, and detail- oriented citizen science programs. Combining her 30+ years as a teacher with her love of the outdoors, Gail developed a passion for nature education.
Gail graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science from University of Oregon in 1976.She taught and counseled students of all ages and ability levels in public school and non-profit organizations. In 2001 Gail received a Master’s degree in Arts from St. Xavier University in Chicago. Gail taught nature classes and camps for young people with her local conservation group, Citizens for Conservation in Barrington, Illinois for over 10 years and worked with the local school district to include more nature education in public schools. Gail continues to enjoy hiking, bicycling, bird-watching, singing and spending time with family and friends, and is happy to have returned to the beautiful wide-open spaces of Wyoming.
Annie Bergman, M.S. Ph. D.
Annie has a B.S. in Forest Biology from Syracuse University, College of Environmental Science & Forestry, an M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Massachusetts and a Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming in environmental physiology on a little fish that lives in Kenya. She has taught environmental science for many years, and in past lives helped run a summer camp in the Berkshires for 8 summers, worked at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and in Maine on watershed chemistry and woodcock. Her day job is Education Coordinator &Training of INBRE, a biomedical grant at UW but her passion is getting kids to have fun with science, nature art, and tennis. She lives in Laramie with her husband, playing tennis, gardening and enjoying theatre vicariously through her daughter, Lea who has grown up in Science Kids from its inception and now assists in teaching Science Kids and after school youth tennis.
Jenny DeSarro, B.S.
Jenny is a Cody native who received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies emphasizing in Education and Interpretation from Utah State University. She began teaching at the Stokes Nature Center while in College. After graduating she proceeded to work the next eight years as a Naturalist and Educator for Colorado Mountain Club, Denver Botanic Gardens’ Chatfield Arboretum, Ken Caryl Ranger District, Butterfly Pavilion, and Bear Creek Lake Park all within the Denver metro area. Jenny went on to get her Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on Cross-Cultural, Cross-Discipline, Whole System Design and Thinking through Leslie University in Cambridge, MA. Jenny started the Cody Campus of Science Kids in 2013. Now, her primary work is for Greater Yellowstone Coalition as a conservation associate helping to protect public land, water, and wildlife. Jenny strives to cultivate experiential leaning opportunities, values an ecosystem approach, and enjoys exploring nature.
Dusty Downey, B.S.
Dusty Downey is a senior Community Naturalists for Audubon Wyoming. Dusty, who was born and raised on a ranch in Northeast Wyoming, graduated from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. After college, he worked a variety of jobs including ground fish observer in Alaska’s Bering Sea, biological technician for the U.S. Forest Service in the Greater Yellowstone, and marine biology instructor on Catalina Island where he met his wife Jacelyn. Before coming to Audubon, Dusty was involved with the direction and coordination of education programs as the Marine Education Associate for the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and served as the Education Coordinator of the Cache Creek Nature Preserve in Woodland, CA. He brings his teaching experience and love for children to the position as he strives to give Wyoming students high quality education programs.
Jacelyn Downey, B.S.
Jacelyn Downey lives on a ranch near Keyhole Lake with her husband and serves as a senior Community Naturalist for Wyoming. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Science degree in aquatic biology. She has a very diverse employment history that includes teaching marine biology at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, managing a lodge in Alaska, working as an Aquarist in the husbandry department for the New Orleans Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, and working as a veterinary technician near Davis, CA. Jacelyn’s passion and enthusiasm for nature is matched only by the depth of her experiences. As one of the Community Naturalists, Jacelyn hopes to connect the community with the amazing flora and fauna of the region. Her mission is to protect our way of life while preserving the integrity of our natural system.
Emily Emond, M.S.
Emily grew up in Crystal, MN just outside Minneapolis. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Hamline University in 2000 and immediately began working on her Master’s in Education. In the spring of 2010, Emily completed her thesis on outdoor exploration and it’s impact on science learning in the classroom. Emily and her husband, Jason, moved West in 2003 for a job opportunity. They love living in the Cowboy state and taking advantage of all of the amazing outdoor activities Wyoming has to offer. Emily has been teaching 5-8 grade science at Holy Name School for seven years and ice skating lessons during the winter months.
Kris Korfanta, M.S.
Kris Korfanta has been fascinated with the natural world since she was old enough to explore dirt. She has shared her joy of learning with students of all ages both through formal and informal education. She earned her BA at the University of Montana in education with an emphasis on environmental education, and her Master’s at the University of Wyoming in Science Teaching with and emphasis on ecology. She is a graduate of National Outdoor Leadership School out of Lander. She received National Board Teaching Certification in Early Adolescent science in 2009. After 32 years of teaching in the public schools, she is enjoying retirement and playing in the mud once again, and thoroughly enjoys teaching courses for Science Kids where kids are allowed to follow their curiosity and learn naturally. She is active in local and statewide efforts to promote environmental education and outdoor education and is a board member of the of Wyoming Environmental Education Association (WAEE). She enjoys kayaking, gardening and backpacking with her family.
Justin Modroo, M.S., P. Geo.
Justin Modroo grew up skiing and playing soccer in Billings, Montana. After graduating from Billings West High School in 1996, he moved to Golden Colorado to attend the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) to study geophysics. After two years of study, he took a year off to pursue a career in Big Mountain skiing. In 2001 Justin returned to the Colorado School of Mines to pursue a geophysics degree and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geophysical Engineering. In 2004 he received a Masters degree in Geophysics. He then launched his career into the mineral exploration business. Over the last 12 years, Justin has worked for various companies exploring minerals all over the western United States by performing geophysical surveys, soil/rock sampling, and claim staking. In 2011, Justin earned status of Professional Geologist according to the state of Idaho. Today, Justin continues to explore for minerals with precious metal projects in Idaho and Montana. In addition to working as a Professional Geologist, Justin’s year away from college proved to be precipitous for his skiing career which lasted competitively for 10 years with multiple finishes in the top 10 on the World Big Mountain Freeskiing Tour. Justin continues to this day as a skiing model, head coach of the Silver Run Ski Education Foundation’s Freeride Team, and Vice-President/owner of Beartooth Basin summer ski area.
Larry Oliveria, M.S.
Larry received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry (pre-med) at the University of Santa Clara. His Masters work was earned at San Jose State in geology and paleontology. He later received his teaching credential at the University of Santa Clara. Larry taught college prep High School sciences for over 25 years. He has worked in paleontology in the USA and on Roman archaeology in the UK. He has a Certificate of Paleontology from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. You might see Larry out and about conducting geology and paleontology tours around the Big Horn Basin for Spring Into Yellowstone, Science Kids Cody, and the Cody 59ers Rock Club. Larry is currently a substitute teacher in the Cody schools for the past 2 years, and is affectionately known as “Mr. O.”
Catharine Reinitz, M.S., PhD.
Catharine earned a B.A Biology degree from Colorado College, a M.S. Biological Sciences from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As a professional scientist she is a world expert in nematode neuropeptide discovery and signal transduction. Catharine has over 25 years of research and college level teaching experience in Biology, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Neurophysiology, Reproductive Physiology, Biochemistry, Environmental Science, and Ecology. Catharine has mentored thousands of undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin and has trained more than 25 graduate teaching assistants in Biology science education. Since 2014, she has served as an Adjunct Professor of Biology for NWC and has taught Principles of Biology, General Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, First Aid and CPR. Catharine is a substitute teacher in the Park County School District and has taught courses in Ecology for Science Kids Cody in summers 2013 and 2014. She is a lifelong-hands-on-learner and is happy to bring her Biology know-how and experience to invigorate Biology science education, and stimulate curiosity and understanding about ecosystems in the Yellowstone region.
Julie Rieder, M.S., Ph.D.
Julie grew up in the Midwest, but once she crossed the Mississippi she stayed, and now she and her family call Sheridan home. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry (Northland College, Ashland, WI), a master’s degree studying the mating system of the endangered leatherback sea turtle (Ohio State University, Columbus, OH), and a doctoral degree studying what makes a weedy invasive plant so good at being a weed (Utah State University, Logan, UT). She has researched plants, birds, bugs, reptiles, rodents, contaminated groundwater, and dirt. Julie’s love is learning and teaching about the sciences and getting young people excited about nature from mucky mud to high-flying birds. The earth is marvelous!
Susie Smith, M.A.
Susie Smith is an experienced National Board Certified elementary teacher of 34 years with a Master’s Degree in Education from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. Her Bachelor’s Degree in regular and special education from Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri, gives her the ability and experience to reach students with various learning styles. Teaching in Dubois and Cody Wyoming since 1987 gave Susie the opportunity to follow her passion teaching children science-based activities using the environment as the classroom and Yellowstone National Park for frequent field trips. Susie brings her enthusiasm and love for nature to Science Kids encouraging children to develop a curiosity for the world that surrounds them.
Zach Hutchinson is a Community Naturalist for Audubon Rockies. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Northwest Missouri State University. He served as a Kayaking Naturalist, combining science and art, to promote estuarine conservation on Galveston Island in Texas. He was a Conservation Educator rescuing alligators and providing public education on safety and conservation in Beaumont, Texas. Zach holds a Master Permit for bird banding, and operates multiple banding stations. Zach has earned his Certified Interpretive Guide certification from NAI, and is a trained facilitator for Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, and Flying Wild. You can see Zach on KTWO News where he hosts his own segment called GOIN WYLD.
Charlie Yates, P.E.
Charles Yates grew up in Wyoming, attended a college preparatory high school attached to the University of Wyoming, earned a Bachelor of Science with honors in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wyoming, worked in the mining and chemical processing industry in Wyoming and Colorado, and is now retired in Jackson, Wyoming. The author completed extensive graduate coursework in education before starting his second career as a teacher, and now his third career as a writer. He is a Professional Engineer in both Wyoming and Colorado.
Charlie Yates is an accomplished private white water river guide, an average mountain biker, with only two major wrecks to date, an avid tourist of the world, without having yet stepped on Antarctica, a reader of at least a book a week, and a cross country skier. He has studied the Anasazi Culture extensively and spends time in the four corners area. He is married and has three daughters and five grandchildren.
Arin Waddell, M.A., M.F.A.
Arin Waddell is a professional fine artist and mother who moved back to Sheridan, Wyoming a year ago. Waddell was raised on a Black Angus cattle ranch in south central Montana by an artist and a psychology professor. She has 3 degrees in art: a B.A. from Hamilton College in New York; an M.A. from California State University Chico; and an M.F.A. from the University of Texas San Antonio. Arin has taught art at the college and university level in Montana, Wyoming and at a public charter K-9 school in Arizona. Her art work has been exhibited in over 120 art shows throughout the west since 1990. The Buffalo Bill Museum of Art in Cody has 2 of her paintings in their permanent collection. Waddell is married to John M. Heyneman, Jr. and they have 3 children. They all enjoy their 14 chickens, a weedy and wild garden, 1 huge, fluffy dog and a bouquet of beautiful friends.
Rachel Woita, M.S.
Rachel Woita grew up in Illinois, but after visiting Yellowstone National Park in 2006, she moved out west and hasn’t looked back. She earned a M.S. in Conservation Social Sciences from the University of Idaho and loves working with people of all ages. She spent three years working in Yosemite National Park, where she studied and monitored visitor use. She is currently the Outdoor Recreation Planner at the Bureau of Land Management in Buffalo and loves everything about her job. She is passionate about recreating outside and sharing this with others. Her curiosity for the outdoors is never-ending; learning and exploring are some of her favorite things. If you spend time in the Bighorns, you’ll probably see her out there trail running.