Dale Baer | Lead Field Instructor

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Dale Baer grew up in a small farm community in Southern Illinois, hunting morel mushrooms in the spring and hickory nuts and pecans in the fall in the bottomland woodlands with his family. He spent all too short summer vacations with his family camping in National Parks and Forest of the west. That inspired him to study forestry at Southern Illinois University. He got his first forestry job on the Olympic Peninsula in the summer of 1965, working for the PNW Research Station. Upon graduation he accepted a job as inventory forester with the PNW where he spent 32 years as Inventory data collection supervisor working in the forests of Oregon, Washington and California with occasional work in Alaska and Hawaii and the Pacific Islands of Guam and Palau.

The research, which began primarily inventorying trees, expanded to include understory vegetation, standing dead tree, down logs, lichens and forest health.

While at the PNW Station he also worked part time with the FS Region 6 management development team, assisting various team building management trainings. He was also part of the PNW Station’s outreach forest resource education team, where he began volunteering as a mentor with Wolftree, a watershed ecology education company, in their spring and fall field studies with local school classes and helped them develop their summer wilderness expeditions. This enabled him to combine his love and knowledge of the outdoors with the wonder and excitement of experiencing the world thru fresh, young eyes.

Upon retiring from the PNW Research Station in 2001, Dale began working as a mentor and program manager for Wolftree. He expanded his experience and learning to include stream-flow and aquatic macro-invertebrates, fungi, and wildlife.

Dale is a gardener, bicycle rider, back packer and mushroom and wild food gatherer. In the summer of  2013, inspired by the book Wild, he backpacked 270 miles of the PCT. Dale is a teller of Native American stories, has studied with shamans and has been a water pourer in sweat lodges. 

“Spending time outdoors with students is educational and above all fun!”

 Riley Hawkins | Lead Field Instructor

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Riley is a recent transplant to the Pacific North West.  Riley grew up just south of St. Louis in Imperial, MO where she spent time swimming in lakes, splashing in creeks, and in constant amazement of fireflies and other insects.  Riley has a Bachelor of Science in Sociology with minors in Theology and Studio Art from Creighton University in Omaha, NE. She has worked as an educator in many capacities with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Botanical Gardens working with school groups and the public to discuss natural and cultural history.  Most recently, Riley spent time teaching high school Sociology and Psychology in Muskogee, OK. Riley’s is excited to continue working to make outdoor education accessible to children of diverse backgrounds and striving toward educational equity for all.

Kate Matthews | Lead Field Instructor

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Kate is a recent graduate from Willamette University who majored in Environmental Science and Spanish. Kate grew up on Bainbridge Island, WA where exploring the woods in her backyard and avid reading of National Geographic instilled in her a passion and curiosity for the outdoors. Through her work with Girl Scouts and as a trip leader and office staff for Willamette University Outdoor Program, Kate became passionate about outdoor education and the transformative power of sharing the outdoors with others. Kate also serves as the Program Coordinator for Straub Outdoors.

Aislinn Adams | Field Instructor

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Aislinn is an Irish illustrator, designer and horticulturist who has lived in Salem, Oregon since 2000. Nowadays her work is mainly focused on botanical art- in particular the native plants of the Pacific Northwest. She is also an experienced outdoor educator and currently works as an instructor in the 5th Grade Environmental education program at the Oregon Gardens, in addition to her work at Straub.

Kiersten (Obsidian) Garber | Field Instructor

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Kiersten (aka Obsidian) is a naturalist, music educator, comedienne, writer, and instrumentalist. She loves collecting and identifying rocks and finds a powerful story in every stone...each one being a piece of our planet’s natural history.
An Alexander Technique practitioner, she also studies movement and awareness in the human body. She advocates that being in nature makes our bodies feel powerful, graceful, joyful and peaceful all at once, and is concerned that when we are disconnected from nature, we lose the sense of our deepest self. Her mission is to help people find this connection through nature and the body’s awareness.

Luis Acosta | Instructional Assistant

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Luis grew up in the rural town of St. Paul Oregon. He spent much of his childhood searching for bugs and insects, looking at birds with binoculars, and exploring the hazelnut trees and hop fields that he grew up around.

Luis is currently attending Western Oregon University, where he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Sociology. He has participated in grassroots political campaigns around the Salem area, and has a strong passion and desire to help disenfranchised communities. As a person who advocates for strong, and positive change; working with environmental issues/environmental justice is something that Luis hopes to pursue.

Luis will graduate from Western in 2021. Afterwards, he plans to do social work around the Salem and surrounding areas to support communities he feels passionate about. After Luis receives his degree, he hopes to pursue a Masters Degree to become a high school teacher for the state that he grew up in.

Claudia Gallegos | Instructional Assistant

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Claudia grew up in Southern California, running around in local parks, jumping over waves at the beach, and climbing trees with her cousins. She moved to Oregon during high school and discovered a new set of hobbies for the outdoors--climbing, paddling, and backpacking. Ever since she was child, she's always found a way to spend time in the outdoors.

She graduated from Western Oregon University with a degree in Psychology and Spanish. She began her career in social services with Jackson Street Youth Services. In her role, Claudia coordinates programs that support youth that are experiencing homelessness. One of these programs is an outdoor recreation program for youth that are living in emergency shelters.

Claudia is passionate about connecting people to their local parks, forests, rivers, and everything that is the outdoors.

Shmuel Pearl | Instructional Assistant

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An Oregonian through and through, you will likely find Shmuel hiking amidst old growth forests in hopes of experiencing the depth and beauty of the pacific northwest. He enjoys leading conversation about the natural environment, specifically Oregon’s unique geologic history.

Through his experience working with Multnomah Outdoor School, Shmuel became passionate about teaching. He sees outdoor education as a powerful way to connect children to the natural world and as a means for self discovery and development of environmental stewardship. When not working as an educator, Shmuel is a baker, cyclist, runner, hiker and backpacker. He is currently seeking a future in outdoor education and hopes of being a lifetime learner and outdoor enthusiast.

Carrissia Keeling | Instructional Assistant

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Carrissia grew up in Redding, CA spending most of her days in the dance studio and on the water either fishing, swimming, or rowing in the rivers and lakes of Northern California.  While many of her most enduring explorations began with a road trip, backpacking the Wallowa Mountains in the height of wildflower season spurred an interest in learning more about native bees and plant life. In her natural climate, Carrissia can be found out on the local trails with her dog or out in the garden.

Carrissia has spent the last decade working with people of all abilities and ages in direct care, program coordination, and behavior support. She specializes in supporting people with autism, communication via alternative means, and sensory integration. She believes that whole body wellness and social connectedness are strengthened in our natural spaces, and creating opportunities for this connection is integral to her philosophy of care. Regardless of ability, our natural world is for all. Carrissia will graduate in 2019 from Western Oregon University with an Interdisciplinary Studies degree in Psychology and Natural Sciences.

Bessie Joyce | On-Call Instructor

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Bessie grew up in rural Oregon exploring logging roads on horse back in the coast range. She has a background in watershed education, outreach and community engagement and has worked with watershed councils on the coast and in the Willamette Valley.  She also works with OSU’s Environmental Leadership for Youth program.  Her passion is connecting people to the land in meaningful ways and she has a special passion for working with youth. She believes that an active relationship with nature is an essential ingredient for quality of life for every human being and she works to foster that relationship for all.  Bessie has an Environmental Studies degree from the University of Oregon and currently lives in Eugene.  She enjoys making stained glass and mosaic art, gardening, is always eager to learn more about plants, and loves to go hiking with her son.