Staff

Administration

Ryan Olson, Executive Director
Ryan Olson
Executive Director

Ryan took over as Executive Director in January 2012 after spending the last four years working in Charleston, SC as the Assistant Director of Land Protection for the SC Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  Ryan received his B.A. from The University of the South in Sewanee, TN and his J.D from the Charleston School of Law in Charleston, SC.  Throughout his educational and professional career, Ryan has worked in and on behalf of the environment and specifically focused his legal studies on environmental, property and land use law.  He credits his summer camp and Outward Bound experiences as the most transformational periods of his life and could not be more excited to now be focusing on providing the same experiential opportunities to other youth.  A believer that we all need more “Ah Ha” moments in our lives, Ryan sees Muddy Sneakers as a leader in the “nature deficit disorder/no child left inside” movement and feels the disconnect between the world’s youth and the natural world needs to be one of the primary focuses of the modern environmental movement.  An avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast, Ryan traveled extensively and spent time living in New Zealand and Colorado before returning to the southeast.  His other interests include music/film/literature, surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, camping and traveling with his family in their VW bus, Lolo.  Ryan and his wife Maria, along with their two daughters Anderson and Clara, live in Pisgah Forest, NC.

Ruby Compton, WNC Program Director
Ruby Compton
WNC Program Director, WNC Field Instructor

Ruby’s naturalist training started with many childhood hours sitting in a dogwood tree in her front yard. Her studies took her indoors long enough to earn a B.S. in Recording Industry Management from Middle Tennessee State University with Minors in Entrepreneurship and Electro-Acoustics. Ruby’s program management experience includes several years in summer camp administration at YMCA Camp Widjiwagan in Nashville, TN and Green River Preserve in Cedar Mountain, NC. Ruby credits her four years at Nature’s Classroom Atop Lookout Mountain with being where she discovered how environmental education could enhance traditional classroom experiences, benefit interpersonal relationships between her students, and offer a viable career opportunity for those who want to teach outdoors. Though Ruby teaches only occasionally in the field these days, she can be found presenting at camp and EE conferences and podcasting about staff training, classroom management, and community building. A mountain girl at heart, Ruby lives in Penrose, NC on the outskirts of Dupont State Forest and enjoys the outdoor pursuits offered in WNC including trail running, hiking, paddling, mountain biking, backpacking, and porch sitting. And if you find Ruby snooping around off-trail, she is probably geocaching.

Corinne Fretwell, Office Manager and Outreach Coordinator
Corinne Fretwell
Office Manager & Outreach Coordinator

Corinne grew up in Northern Illinois but now calls the Appalachian Mountains her home. She discovered her love for hands on learning, outdoor education, and ecosystem studies through first hand experience as a child and has since worked to share these passions with others. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Before coming to Muddy Sneakers, Corinne served an 11 month term with AmeriCorps Project Conserve in an education and outreach role at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Henderson and Transylvania Counties’ local land trust. Corinne enjoys exploring the natural world, learning to make and create the things she needs, having fun with her goofy pup, playing in mountain streams, and experiencing art, film, and food.

Lindsay Green, Expansion Coordinator
Lindsay Green
Expansion Coordinator

Lindsay grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, but thankfully discovered her love of the outdoors while attending college at the University of Georgia. While there, she worked as a raft guide in the summers and spent many weekends camping along the Chattooga River. Upon graduating, she moved to Brevard where she began teaching Environmental Education. Her 10-year career with the Wildlife Resources Commission set the foundation for her love of wildlife. When not leading a Muddy Sneaker’s group, she spends time volunteering or working in the field studying various wildlife species found in WNC. In addition, Lindsay has a gardening business, called ‘Sprout’, which fulfills her love of plants. When she’s not working or learning to be a new momma, she’s outside in her garden, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, or on the river… and hopes to satiate her never dying travel bug again one of these days.

Carlisle Rankin, Camp Muddy Sneakers Director, WNC Field Instructor
Carlisle Rankin
Camp Muddy Sneakers Director, WNC Field Instructor

A native of NC, Carlisle was excited to return to the Blue Ridge Mountains after three great years teaching third grade in Nashville, Tennessee. After two years working in fundraising at Asheville School, she began working with Muddy Sneakers in the spring of 2014. Carlisle received her BA in Elementary Education from Centre College and is currently a graduate student in Environmental Education at Montreat College. Her thesis work focus is on developing an integrated science curriculum for community garden programs in public schools.

Carlisle spent summers as a camper and sailing counselor at Camp Seafarer in coastal NC. She was also a farmer and cabin counselor at Gywnn Valley Camp in Brevard. As a high school student at Asheville School, Carlisle further developed her love of the outdoors through their mountaineering program. She is thrilled to be able to meld her teaching and counselor skills into her work with Muddy Sneakers. Carlisle lives in Asheville and enjoys hiking with her dog Nali, gardening, rock climbing, canoeing, and live music.

Elise Tellez, Piedmont Program Director
Elise Tellez
Piedmont Program Director

Elise grew up in Dallas, TX but now calls the beautiful town of Salisbury, NC her home. At a very young age, Elise was drawn to science and was often found in a mud pile in the backyard or bringing all kinds of critters into the house. As an adult, she is still often found practicing this same behavior. She attended the University of Dallas and studied Biology and Environmental Sciences. During college, she spent much time volunteering with Parks and Rec and researching all kinds of things from birds in Costa Rica to nuisance algae in the Great Lakes. It was all of her time spent outdoors during her studies that solidified her desire to find a career that would allow her to continue just that. After college she began her career in environmental education at the wonderful Don Lee Center right along the Neuse River in North Carolina. It was there that Elise became hooked on environmental education and discovered that a connection to the natural world enhances education and empowers students of all ages. From there, she moved on to work at the Alabama 4-H Science School where she spent a number of years teaching outdoors, caring for reptiles and birds of prey and serving as their Education and Assistant Animal Care Specialist. Elise is beyond excited to be back in NC and working with a rad organization like Muddy Sneakers. In her free time, she can be found crafting, paddling, hiking, backpacking, listening to podcasts, or hanging in the hammock right along side her sweet dog Bella.

Field Instructors

Molly Gillespie, WNC Assistant Program Director and WNC Field Instructor
Molly Gillespie
WNC Assistant Program Director, WNC Field Instructor

Molly was born and raised in Spokane, WA and spent much of her youth exploring the amazing natural world of the Great Northwest. In 1998, Molly earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology from Santa Clara University in California. After graduating, Molly’s love for wild places led her to Alaska where her curiosity of the unique plants and animals of the Boreal Forest and Arctic Tundra began her humble training of becoming a naturalist.
Molly continues to go to Alaska every year, where she lives and works near Denali National Park as a Wilderness Guide, Educator,Naturalist, and Outdoor Retailer for half of the year. She is grateful to work with amazing people that care deeply for wild places and who are active and influential environmentalists.
Molly first visited WNC in 1999 and worked as a substitute teacher and a teacher’s aide throughout Henderson County for 7 years during the winters. She discovered Mountain Trail Outdoor School where she worked as Environmental Educator for 3 years. When Muddy Sneakers first began, Molly was excited to find a program which combined her love of the natural world with her love of teaching elementary students. She has been with Muddy Sneakers ever since, and appreciates the opportunity to get kids outdoors, expose them to nature, and teach science in an experiential ways.
When she’s not living in the Alaska Range, Molly lives in Northern Greenville County, SC, against the Blue Wall Escarpment. She loves the richness of the Appalachian Cove Forests, and discovers something new on every waterfall hike, wildflower hunt, or river trip she takes.
Molly lives with her husband, Jeff, and their furry dog, Pancho, who accompanies them everywhere! Molly loves canoeing, gardening, campfires, fresh air, wild places, and listening to the natural world.

Ben Nelson, WNC Field Instructor
Ben Nelson
WNC Assistant Program Director, WNC Field Instructor

Ben is a native of the Southwest Virginia but has spent significant time in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains beginning at a young age. Many childhood summers spent at Green River Preserve (GRP) summer camp in Cedar Mountain, NC profoundly shaped his environmental awareness and firmly grounded his sense of place. After graduating from Davidson College, he spent a year travelling through Ireland and west Africa on a Watson Fellowship studying the connections between Appalachian fiddle/banjo music and the traditional music of Ireland and Senegambia. Back in the states, Ben returned to the southern Appalachians to work for Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy in Hendersonville, NC. Land conservation eventually led him back to Green River Preserve, where he discovered environmental education, what he considers his true vocation. At GRP, Ben worked as a mentor and expedition leader and through that work, became connected with Muddy Sneakers where he humbly and joyfully has continued his passion for introducing children to environmental/experiential education. Exploring and teaching about the Appalachian landscape has led him to also care deeply for the people and cultures that inhabit it, and to express that respect Ben immerses himself in playing the fiddle and the banjo; calling square dances; and collecting the stories of Appalachian elders.

Cynthia Peedin, Piedmont Assistant Program Director
Cynthia Peedin
Piedmont Assistant Program Director, Piedmont Field Instructor

As a native of North Carolina, Cynthia spent most of her childhood outside playing in the woods, fields, and beaches not far from her home, igniting her love for the outdoors. Cynthia received her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. After graduating, she joined AmeriCorps as an environmental educator in the Maine Conservation Corps where she honed her naturalist and educating skills. Cynthia continued to work as an environmental educator in Maine for the next four years. At the same time, she pursued her Masters of Science degree in Ecological Teaching and Learning at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Upon graduation, Cynthia moved to Thompson Island, located in the Boston Harbor, to work as an Outward Bound field instructor. There she worked with Boston Public School students and helped them discover the wonder and freedom of exploring the natural world. Now, Cynthia is excited to be back in her home state and be a part of the Muddy Sneakers team, working to expand into the Piedmont region. Cynthia is eager to join the Salisbury community and explore the beautiful NC Piedmont region with her small furry sidekick, Jackson.

Eric Bowen, Piedmont Field Instructor
Eric Bowen
Piedmont Field Instructor

Eric grew up in Mooresville and Hickory, North Carolina. In Hickory he collected salamanders and crawdads behind his house for years before he joined the Boy Scouts and started going on monthly backpacking trips in Appalachia. He finished high school at the statewide public magnet boarding school, North Carolina School of Science of Math, in Durham, NC, where he took his first course in Ecology. Then he majored in Natural Resources at NC State University with minors in Agroecology and German. He apprenticed at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and co-taught their “DiscoverAg!” program to 3rd graders helping them meet NC science objectives. He then taught for a season at High Trails Outdoor Education Center in Florissant, CO before going on to get his M.Sc. in Ecology at Colorado State University. At CSU Eric wrote a thesis investigating how grazing affects soil carbon over time. Eric loves to cook, fix things, and cruise around downtown Salisbury with his 3 year old daughter in their Bakfiets-style cargo bike. They are based in Salisbury, NC.

Carlton Burke, WNC Field Instructor
Carlton Burke
WNC Field Instructor

Naturalist and educator Carlton Burke lives in Mills River, NC where he operates an educational service called “Carolina Mountain Naturalists” which specializes in presenting live animal and nature programs and displays for area schools, summer camps, and many other organizations. Carlton was also on staff for over 25 years as the Curator of Exhibits at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, NC. He is also a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator and can be heard each Saturday morning co-hosting NATURE NEWS, a local, hour-long radio program, featuring news from the natural world around the western NC region.

Lee Choubane, WNC Field Instructor
Lee Choubane
WNC Field Instructor

Lee acquired a love for science and the outdoors at a young age! Originally from north Florida, her family vacations to Western North Carolina inspired her to attend high school in Franconia, New Hampshire where her love for the mountains were enhanced by her new found love for snow! She attended the White Mountain School whose curriculum widely involved environmental education and lots of time playing in the outdoors. In between the school year she worked her first job on an organic farm where her love for natural systems and growing vegetables soared! After high school she moved to North Carolina to attend Brevard College. Following her first year, she decided to fill her passion for learning and farming in a more untraditional way. Through the WWOOF program she found a small organic farm in the Andes of Argentina where she learned about different dynamic farming and building methods. She also learned about the history and culture while hitchhiking over the Andes into Chile and down into Patagonia. On her return to the states, she moved to Crested Butte, Colorado where she searched for the best powder stashes and worked as a jewelry maker and a dog handler. She returned to Brevard, North Carolina in 2012 and has worked as a fishing guide for a local outfitter and trek manager for Cherokee Creek Boys School. She is delighted to take her love of science, the outdoors, and children and bring them together while serving as a Muddy Sneakers Instructor. In her spare time, she cares for her sweet new baby boy Sawyer, hikes, gardens, canoes, fly fishes, and if she’s lucky snowboards!

Deborah Davis
WNC Field Instructor

Deborah has a BA in elementary education as well as a Masters in guidance counseling from Clemson University. She grew up exploring the mountains and creeks of western NC on her grandparent’s farm in Madison County, so it was a natural fit for her to make the move from classroom teacher to Muddy Sneakers field instructor. After teaching science for 21 years in the Greenville SC area, Deborah would tell you that she has found her dream job because Muddy Sneakers allows her to combine her passion for the outdoors with her expertise in teaching science. As a science teacher, she led school trips on the barrier islands of SC, the Everglades in Florida, and in the mountains of WNC. In her final years of teaching, she implemented the Trout in the Classroom program which led her to putting more emphasis on teaching environmental education in her 6th grade classes. Eventually, Deborah developed a program called Taking It Outside which provided the opportunity to take all 90 of her students on science expeditions to a local nature park. As Deborah watched her students interact with nature and the impact of using experiential education to teach science, she realized it was time to make a change. Therefore, she moved to Brevard, NC and pursued a position with Muddy Sneakers. When not teaching with Muddy Sneakers, she can be found, hiking with her golden retriever, paddling, or taking art classes.

Nancy Gamble, WNC Field Instructor
Nancy Gamble
WNC Field Instructor

Nancy holds a BS in Chemistry from Rutgers University and a Masters in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Education from Antioch University New England. With a deep commitment to environmental protection and sustainability, she served as a program manager in the energy efficiency arena in New England for 7 years. However, happy memories of a childhood spent discovering the forests and fields of western New Jersey prompted her to seek opportunities where she could foster the same experiences in children. After working with several environmental education organizations in Vermont, Nancy moved to the Charlotte area, where she taught environmental science in private schools before settling in the Asheville area and signing on with Muddy Sneakers. She is thrilled to be impacting children’s lives by helping them build a stronger connection with nature. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, and taking long walks with her dog. When she can’t be outside, she enjoys silk painting, sewing, and baking.

Davis Hayden, Piedmont Field Instructor
Davis Hayden
Piedmont Field Instructor

Davis grew up in Central Alabama, looking for lizards, frogs, beetles, and anything else that lived under fallen trees. An early interest in animals introduced him to reading field guides, hiking through forests, digging holes in the backyard, and a number of other activities that got him yelled at for ruining good shoes and new pants! Undeterred, he tromped around in
swamps and forests for a few years while studying biology at a small college in Alabama before switching focus to English and Philosophy. Since graduating he has worked as an English teacher South Korea, a camp and special needs counselor, and an environmental educator in two other states. Davis is particularly interested in learning more about the ecology of North Carolina, herpetology, and environmental ethics. He’s excited to be teaching with Muddy Sneakers and getting to meet so many new people.

Carmen Johnson, Piedmont Field Instructor
Carmen Johnson
Piedmont Field Instructor

A native of the piedmont, Carmen spent her childhood exploring the woods and creeks surrounding her family’s house with her dogs and horse. Frequent trips to the NC coast instilled in her a love of the aquatic world, and lead her to study marine biology as an undergraduate at UNC Wilmington. After completing a masters in environmental studies (also at UNCW) she jumped to the terrestrial world and worked with her professor and former classmates to create a handbook on sustainable cacao-based agroforestry techniques for Belizean farmers. In her spare time she kayaks, pursues photography, tends her organic garden, and eats lots of chocolate!

Barb Knight, Piedmont Field Instructor
Barb Knight
Piedmont Field Instructor

Barb started her interest and “training” in the environment as a child growing up in New England. Her dad in particular was always digging in the dirt and growing an annual harvest of fresh veggies and she was his side kick. Her family vacations included many memorable camping trips throughout the East Coast, from the coast of Cape Hatteras, the Smokey Mountains, the Adirondacks, the White Mountains, and up to Prince Edward Island, Canada. As an adolescent she rode bicycles throughout New England on several long distance journeys. Barb started her college studies at Plattsburgh State University, NY in Environmental Sciences and ultimately completed her BA at Boise State University. Post graduation she spent a year in Spain teaching English. Once back to the US, she settled in New Hampshire and began a career working in Human Resources training and development. Her down time was always spent outside: she completed the Master Gardener program, summited many of the 4,000+ White Mountain peaks, and explored the many mountain bike trails as well as ski areas in New England. She moved to Charlotte, NC in 2004 and continued in the same profession along with her passion for the outdoors. Barb has completed programs offered by HAWK (Habitat and Wildlife Keepers) and the Master Naturalist program, and she is currently working at completing her NC Environmental Educator Certification. Barb is also employed by the NC Wildlife Federation’s Great Outdoor University (GOU) Program and volunteers with Trips for Kids Charlotte (TFKC).

Ryan Lubbers, WNC Field Instructor
Ryan Lubbers
WNC Field Instructor

Ryan was born and raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin where he grew to appreciate the natural world. He studied both Biology and Spanish at Xavier University and moved to Costa Rica immediately after graduating. There he has spent years exploring the rainforest and teaching in local schools. He has since lived and worked in a variety of Ecosystems around the U.S. and settled in Western North Carolina in 2002. Ryan has his Masters in Environmental Studies and previously taught Biology and Middle School Science at the Lake Lure Classical Academy. He is currently crafting the next edition to his hiking guidebook for the Hickory Nut Gorge as well as working as a seasonal naturalist for Chimney Rock Park. He enjoys kayaking, river snorkeling and spending time in nature with his fantastic wife and new baby!

Taylor Maxson
WNC Field Instructor

Taylor is a Kentucky native who has lived all over the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Albuquerque. Years spent on wilderness trips all over Canada as a child and teenager developed his strong affinity for the natural world and its plant and animal inhabitants. He chose wilderness as a setting for his work as an adventure-based instructor and therapist for several organizations (Outward Bound among them). More recently, he has been developing a land-based education and model permaculture farm for youth in West Asheville. Taylor is particularly interested in ecological design and encouraging adolescents to be change agents who will shape the future of productive environments (homes, schools, communities, etc.) that work within nature’s limits.

Matthew McClure
WNC Field Instructor

Matt grew up in Buncombe county, playing in the woods and exploring the mountains of WNC. Beginning at age 19, he worked at ArtSpace Charter school for 5 years, where he discovered a natural joy and talent for teaching. Matt has since worked in a variety of alternative education settings, including NorthWest Youth Corps where he spent 5 weeks at a time leading teens in America’s biggest wilderness areas. After his years in the western US, he spent two semesters leading international service learning trips for gap year students in Latin America and India. In 2012, Matt returned home to the Appalachian Mountains. Currently he leads wilderness trips for various organizations and truly loves being a teacher for Muddy Sneakers.

Jennifer Peedin, Piedmont Field Instructor
Jennifer Peedin
Piedmont Field Instructor

Growing up in rural North Carolina, Jennifer spent most of her time outdoors.The woods and fields were her source of play, imagination, and joy. She graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a Bachelors of Arts in English and a minor in Environmental Studies. Deciding she wanted to go into the classroom, she earned her NC Secondary English Education licensure from Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC, and she has just recently earned her Masters of Arts in English from Northwestern Louisiana University. She has taught in NC, South Korea, and Texas. In all of her travels, she has sought comfort in the natural world. The mountains and fjords of New Zealand, volcanoes of Indonesia, azure waters of the Philippines, the green tea fields of Japan and Korea, and the blue haze of the Appalachians cultivated wonder, awe, and respect for the great outdoors. Jennifer is excited to show students the magic of the natural world in the hopes they may carry a life long passion for nature and getting their sneakers muddy!

Chelsea Rath, WNC Field Instructor
Chelsea Rath
WNC Field Instructor

Born and raised in North Carolina, Chelsea grew up in the Piedmont where her love for the outdoors began simply as exploring the woods behind her house. Her appreciation of and interest in the natural world was truly cultivated in her time spent at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC where Chelsea earned her BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with a minor in Geography. Along with many field courses taken at ASU, a year-long position as a wildlife technician with the Blue Ridge Parkway allowed Chelsea to begin honing her naturalist skills. There she spent time exploring bogs and wetlands along the entire stretch from Virginia to NC and was surrounded by the diverse flora and fauna of WNC. After graduation, various other adventures eventually led Chelsea to Asheville, NC and into the AmeriCorps Project Conserve program, where she served 2 terms at the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy as the Hickory Nut Gorge Associate. During her time there, Chelsea pursued her NC Environmental Education certification and first learned about Muddy Sneakers. She is looking forward to exploring the area now through the eyes of a child and getting to learn from her fellow educators. Chelsea enjoys yoga, hiking, biking, and paddling.

Nadia Razavi, WNC Field Instructor
Nadia Razavi
WNC Field Instructor

Growing up in Iowa City, Iowa, Nadia discovered an interest in science and wildlife early on. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University where she spend many days in the forests, prairies, and wetlands of Iowa learning about and exploring the natural world. She has worked teaching kayaking in North Carolina and as an instructor and administrator at an outdoor education program in Texas, all the time enjoying helping youth discover and experience their surroundings. Visiting western North Carolina at many points throughout her life, she is so excited to now be living in the mountains teaching science with Muddy Sneakers. Some of her favorite things are forests, thunderstorms, frogs, and sunshine and she spends as much time as she can outside continuing to learn, play, and grow.

Kat Scala, WNC Field Instructor
Kat Scala
WNC Field Instructor

Having an avid outdoorsman as a father exposed Kat to the wonders of nature at a young age. Growing up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, her father often took her and her brother out of the urban jungle in search of wild places. Her sense of adventure directed her to University of South Carolina where she received a BS in Criminal Justice. She combined her love of nature and her newly awarded degree to pursue a career as a Park Ranger for the State of Colorado. While in Colorado Kat was awarded a second BS in Land Use with an emphasis in the Environment and Natural Resources. Kat and her husband, Josh, moved from Colorado to North Carolina where she worked as a Park Ranger for the State of NC. She was a ranger at both South Mountains State Park and Chimney Rock State Park. Kat left state parks in 2008 to stay home with her two sons. She continued to work part-time as an environmental educator for Chimney Rock, LLC and Art in the Afternoon. In 2015, Kat received her Masters Degree in Environmental Education from Montreat College. In her free time, she enjoys chasing her three wild children through the mountains of Western NC and beyond.

Rachel Shopper, WNC Field Instructor
Rachel Shopper
WNC Field Instructor

Rachel grew up in coastal Massachusetts and spent her childhood exploring the local beaches and nature preserves with her dog, Rosie. After graduating from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in English Literature, she moved to Costa Rica and taught yoga at a retreat center. From there, she went on to complete her permaculture design certification at Finca Bona Fide in Nicaragua. Upon returning to the states in 2012, Rachel moved to Asheville, NC to pursue her permaculture education with a year-long apprenticeship with local designers. It was during this time she began to realize her passion was connecting people with the natural world and all its wonders, and through the outdoors, connecting people with themselves on a deeper level. She attended the Anake Outdoor School at the Wilderness Awareness School in WA in 2014, where she studied naturalist skills, mentorship, primitive skills, and community building. In addition to her work at Muddy Sneakers, she is a field instructor with Forest Floor Wilderness Programs, a local organization that teaches outdoor education using the 8 shields model of nature connection. When she isn’t working with children in nature, Rachel spends her time crafting, contra dancing, wild harvesting, and serving as the associate poetry editor for Orison Press.

Allie Showalter, WNC Field Instructor
Allie Showalter
WNC Field Instructor

Allie is thrilled that she spends many of her days in the forest mentoring 5th graders as they uncover the magic inherent in the topics they study in science and engage with the innumerable mysteries of the natural world. There is nothing that makes her heart sing more than connecting with people doing the good work of creating a culture that is mindful and place-based. She studied naturalism, permaculture and education at The Evergreen State College, University of Vermont and finally earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Education at Warren Wilson College right here in Western North Carolina. These days, she focuses her studies on gaining a deeper understanding about the astounding diversity of life in our region; helping other people with their land projects; tracking the patterns of weather and the stars; and ultimately pursuing a lifeway close to the cycles and resources in nature. Allie is a child at heart who loves to practice ancient crafts, grow food, tell stories, sing and roam with curiosity in her beloved Southern Appalachian home.

Bryan Suson, WNC Field Instructor
Bryan Suson
WNC Field Instructor

Growing up in Northern Illinois, Bryan has had an incurable passion about the natural world since childhood. While attaining his B.A. from Lake Forest College in Environmental Studies and Biology, he taught naturalist courses to grade school students and was the head keeper for a diverse reptile collection at a local Wildlife Center. Shortly after graduating in 2005, he moved to Ecuador to assist on various biological projects to gain experience in Tropical biology. Falling in love with the tropics, he started working as a naturalist guide for various lodges throughout the Amazon, worked as a instructor for the Andean Study Program, and started his own guiding business, Biophoria Tours. Bryan also works in the environmental consulting field, with most of his past projects looking at the impacts of wind turbines on the nesting success of birds, most notably, the federally endangered Black-Capped Vireo. He enjoys photography, being active and is looking forward to sharing his passion for the natural world with the students of Muddy Sneakers.

Amanda Wheelock

Amanda was born and raised in north Georgia, just over the state line from Chattanooga, Tennessee. She grew up exploring the rivers and mountains around Chattanooga with her parents and continued to learn and play outside when she moved to New Hampshire to attend Dartmouth College. After graduating with a degree in Geography modified with Environmental Studies, she headed west to work as an Environmental Educator at San Joaquin Outdoor School in La Honda, California, where she had the privilege of introducing 5th and 6th grade students to the magical ecosystem of the coastal redwoods. Since then, she has worked as a wilderness leader, residential mentor for high school students, ropes course facilitator, and most recently, administrator for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. This work has taken her across the country and back, but the common thread has always been sharing the magnificence and beauty of the outdoors with others. She is excited to be back in the outdoor classroom as an instructor for Muddy Sneakers.

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