Meet the Staff

Shaver’s Creek Nature Names

What’s with the weird “nature” names below? At Shaver’s Creek, many of our staff members adopt a secondary “nature” name. These monikers are meant to be fun and are usually used during programs with kids, such as during Summer Camp and Outdoor School.

Penn State College Affiliation

Shaver’s Creek is part of Penn State Outreach, but we have teaching agreements with many colleges and departments across Penn State. Some staff members also serve as faculty for Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management in the College of Health and Human Development or the School of Forest Resources in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Faculty and Staff

Jason Beale

Program Director of Live Animal Care

Jason oversees the care and presentation of Shaver’s Creek live animal educators, a menagerie of amphibians, reptiles, and non-releasable raptors. He works with our animal educators as ambassadors of environmental awareness, connecting people to wildlife habitat conservation issues. He and a team of staff, interns, and volunteers provide the daily care, self-guided interpretation, and scheduling of the animals. Jason enjoys employing Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to examine how animals use niches within their habitats throughout their life cycle to inform conservation and education activities. He is a Penn State graduate and began his career at Shaver’s Creek, first as a volunteer and later as an intern in 2000. Prior to returning to Shaver’s Creek, Jason worked for Delaware Nature Society, Aullwood Audubon Center & Farm, Audubon Pennsylvania, and Wildwood Lake Park. A lifelong naturalist, he enjoys exploring the outdoors through the seasons with his wife, Magritte, children Sasha and Cooper, and their feline family members, Catkin and Samara.
Nature name: Peregrine
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Kate Berardi

Kate Berardi

School Programs and Summer Camp Program Director

Kate oversees the onsite school programs and summer camp, as well as training Penn State students, interns, and volunteers to teach these programs. Kate graduated from Penn State in 2008 with a B.S. in Agriculture, and in 2009 with an M.S. in Agricultural and Extension Education. Her research interests included non-formal education and the interaction between parents and their children in non-formal education settings. Kate started out as a volunteer in the raptor center at Shaver’s Creek in 2006, and then continued as an Outdoor School counselor, camp counselor for multiple summers, and instructor for school programs. Kate recently moved back to Pennsylvania from Texas, and is thrilled to be a part of everything that is so special about summer camp and helping kids be excited to learn. Her interests include hiking, observing nature, crocheting, reading, and watching movies. She also enjoys spending time with her family and pets (two dogs, a cat, two birds, and a lizard).
Nature name: Ladybird
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Rebecca Borders

Bookstore Assistant

Rebecca works in the Shaver’s Creek bookstore, where she’s deepening her own knowledge of Central Pennsylvania. She got her Bachelor of Philosophy from Penn State, focusing her program on Cultural Geography. She is interested in sustainability practices, and the question of how to provide people with the information and resources to make educated decisions for long-term personal and community health. She’s at Shaver’s Creek to learn tools for how to connect an organization with the community’s interests and needs, and to learn more about connecting people (culture) with place (nature).
Nature name: Briar Rose
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Eric Burkhart

Eric Burkhart

Instructor and Plant Science Program Director

Eric provides landscape and forest management leadership at Shaver’s Creek and teaches courses for the School of Forest Resources on tree and shrub identification (FOR 203 Field Dendrology), nonnative invasive plants (FOR 497F Invasive Forest Plants), and herbaceous forest plants (FOR 497B Forest Herbaceous Plant Identification and Ecology). He also assists colleagues at the center with credit courses (RPTM 297G Interpreting Maple Sugaring to Families) offered in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management. Working with partners such as the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Eric also conducts research on native plants of economic and conservation importance, such as American ginseng and goldenseal, and offers practical guidance in forest farming, through related workshops and publications. Eric holds degrees in economic botany (BA, Idaho State University), horticulture (MS, Penn State), and forest resources (PhD, Penn State). His expertise includes: (1) identification of Pennsylvania plants, shrubs, trees, and vines; (2) native plant horticulture and plant husbandry; (3) economic and folk uses of plants in Pennsylvania and the region; (4) plant conservation and management policy; (5) nonnative, invasive plant identification and management; (6) temperate agroforestry practices (riparian forest buffers, windbreaks, forest farming); (7) nontimber forest products (edible/medicinal fungi and plants).
Nature name: Panax
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Jen Bean

Jennifer Emigh

Program Director

Jen administers the AURORA Outdoor Orientation Programs (ORION, URSA, and VEGA) for incoming first-year Penn State students: ORION (KINES 089) — a five/six-day wilderness program, URSA Urban Service Experience (RPTM 297C) — a five-day community service experience, and VEGA (KINES 089) — a five-day wilderness program in Olympic National Park, WA. She is also an instructor for Adventure-based Programming Leadership (RPTM 330), Adventure-based Programming and Administration (RPTM 440), and Backpacking Leadership (RPTM 498D). Jen was originally an intern at Shaver’s Creek in the summer of 2000 and an assistant program director for from 2003–2005. She returned to Shaver’s Creek in 2010 after living and working in New England for five years to what she sees as her dream job—helping develop leaders through wilderness education.

Jen earned her bachelor’s degree in recreation and park management from Penn State in 2001 and a master’s degree in environmental studies from Antioch University of New England in 2007. She enjoys spending time pursuing outdoor adventures with her family. She also likes to ski, rock-climb, and find new places to hike.
Nature name: Samara
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Nikki Houck

Nikki Houck

Office Manager
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Jon Kauffman

Assistant Raptor Center Director

Jon is responsible for the care and handling of raptors and herpetofauna within the Shaver’s Creek Raptor Center and assists with Traveling Naturalist Programs and coordinating the Tussey Mountain Hawk Watch. While majoring in Wildlife Fisheries Sciences at Penn State he became aware of the great volunteer opportunities Shaver’s Creek has to offer. Since then, he has been a work-study student, raptor center intern, and assisted with public programs at Shaver’s Creek. He has served as a hawkwatcher for nearby Tussey Mountain and has also traveled and worked with other organizations such as Cape May Bird Observatory and Intermountain Bird Observatory in Idaho. Jon has a passion for puzzles, canoeing, native plants, exploring new habitats and citizen science projects such as the Christmas Bird Count and the Pennsylvania Migration Count. He is a native of Belleville, Pennsylvania, which gives him a strong connection to the local community and landscape surrounding Shaver’s Creek.
Nature name: Timberdoodle
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Drew Lehnerd

AURORA Assistant Program Director

Drew assists with all the AURORA Outdoor Orientation Programs and has been a part of the team since 2012. He works to develop leaders through outdoor recreation, and help those leaders work with incoming Penn State freshmen to ease their transition to college life. He has also worked with the Outdoor School program at Shaver’s Creek and has assisted with field components of the Adventure-Based Programming Leadership classes (RPTM 330). He graduated from Penn State in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Geography. He has a passion for teaching and all things outdoors, and hopes to continue to use outdoor recreation as a means of educating people and developing leaders. He has also worked as a guide with Penn State Adventure Recreation and as an Instructor at Tussey Mountain. His interests include snowboarding, biking, skiing, paddling, backpacking, climbing, crocheting, sailing, cooking, skipping rocks, soccer, and spending time with friends and family.
Nature name: Larkspur
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Shaver's Creek Assistant Program Director Matt Marsden

Matt Marsden

Assistant Program Director

Matt has been helping to direct Outdoor School, Discovery Camp, Kids Corner, and Farm Show. He graduated in 2006 from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in environmental interpretation and is currently pursuing his M.S. in Park and Resource Management in the Slippery Rock University online program. He spends a lot of time in the outdoors in as many venues as possible, learning the natural world wherever he goes. He enjoys finding ways to produce and preserve food. Playing music locally is enjoyable when time permits. He grew up in State College and still gets to see most of his family that lives in the area.
Nature name: Cardinal
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Lucy McClain

Lucy (Richardson) McClain

Science and Education Program Director

Lucy received her PhD in the Learning and Performance Systems Department at Penn State and was a graduate assistant/researcher at Shaver’s Creek for nearly eight years. Lucy also holds a MEd in science education and a BS in archaeological science, both from Penn State. Her research interests include how youth best learn about their natural world in out-of-doors settings, how family members support each other to explore and learn in these settings, and how informal learning institutions, like Shaver’s Creek, can extend their relationship with local schools in order to engage young learners with their local environment.
National affiliations: Certified Interpretive Guide — National Association for Interpretation Student Member — National Association for Research in Science Teaching Student Member — Visitor Studies Association Student Member — American Educational Research Association Student Member — North American Association for Environmental Education Student Member — Association of Science-Technology Centers
Nature name:
Email Lucy

Laurie McLaughlin

Laurie McLaughlin


Laurie teaches Team-Building Facilitation (RPTM 230), Interpreting Maple Sugaring to Families (RPTM 297G), and First Year Seminar (RPTM 397S) for ORION and USE students. She directs the Maple Harvest Festival and coordinates the SEED Semester of classes taught each spring at Shaver’s Creek. Laurie has been affiliated with Shaver’s Creek since 1993, and served as a past director of the team building program. She received a bachelor’s degree in recreation and park management — environmental interpretation from Penn State in 1988 and a master’s degree in experiential education from the University of Colorado in 1992. Her interests include bird watching, traveling, canoeing, cooking, reading, and, most of all, spending time with her husband, Mark, and their two sons, Brian and Sean.
Nature name: Loon
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Mark McLaughlin

Mark McLaughlin


Mark teaches First Aid and Safety courses and the Discovery Trip class and is a member of multiple Penn State Outreach committees. He is responsible for cultivating the resources necessary to make Shaver’s Creek successful. Mark received a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology, with a minor in forestry, from the University of Vermont in 1985 and a master’s degree in environmental education from Montclair State University in 1988. Mark likes birding, baseball, fishing, reading, and spending lots of time with his family — Laurie, Brian, and Sean.
Nature name: Goshawk
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Jessie Nendza

Program Assistant

Jessie has been part of the Shaver’s Creek community in some way, shape, or form since the summer of 2012 when she started as an adventure intern and an ORION leader. She has since been a graduate student, assisted with the AURORA programs as the VEGA program manager, and has taught various classes at Penn State — from backpacking leadership to a first year seminar for AURORA students. Jessie loves most things that pair the outdoors and being active, but also loves to spend time in the kitchen baking on wet chilly days.

Nature name: Buttercup
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Chris Ortiz

Program Director, Team Development Center

Chris is the program director for the Team Development Center at Shaver’s Creek and teaches Team-building Facilitation (RPTM 230). He started his career in the early 90s at Shaver’s Creek as a Penn State undergraduate student earning a degree in Recreation and Park Management. After almost 20 years exploring the Northeast, Chris is excited to be back where it all started.

For the last 10 years, while working for High 5 Adventure in Brattleboro, Vermont, Chris has delivered challenge course trainings and team development programs for schools, university groups, corporations, and professional sports teams that strengthen relationships, motivate growth, and develop leaders. Chris co-authored the Second Edition of the High 5 Guide: Challenge Course Operating Procedures for the Thinking Practitioners as well as the Ubuntu Activity Guide. He holds leadership roles in both the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT).

Chris and his wife, Kristin, have two wonderful daughters, Julia and Indy, and a dog, Pelé. When Chris isn’t enjoying time at home with his family, you will likely find him exploring the local mountain bike trails, playing disc golf, or knocking a puck around the hockey rink. Oh, and he loves chocolate.

Nature name: Mongoose
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Ruth Parson

Administrative Assistant

Ruth joined the Shaver’s Creek administrative staff in January 2016, where she provides academic and director support. She has worked at Penn State for over nine years. Ruth lives in Mifflin County with her husband Dan and their two dogs. They have three grown children, Jason, Kayley and Samantha. Ruth enjoys gardening for birds and butterflies in her backyard, and hopes to learn more about gardening using native plants.
Nature name: Hummingbird
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Joshua Potter

Educational Operations Manager

Joshua works to keep Shaver’s Creek a vibrant educational facility that directly supports the Center’s wide range of credit, non-credit, outreach, and research programming. Joshua is responsible for managing strategic communications to support Shaver’s Creek programs and for developing interpretive materials throughout the facility to support the Center’s educational mission. He also manages our bookstore and membership program. Joshua received a bachelor’s degree in integrative arts from Penn State, focusing on multimedia and environmental education. After seven years working as a naturalist and outreach coordinator for Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Conway, New Hampshire, Joshua returned to his native Pennsylvania to join Shaver’s Creek in 2010. He grew up just over the mountain in Pine Grove Mills and has a long association with Shaver’s Creek — as a summer camper from ages 5 to 18, as a volunteer in high school, as a student and teaching assistant while at Penn State, and now as staff! Joshua also enjoys birding, hiking, and spending time outdoors with his wife, Sarah, son Ellory, and daughter Lucy.
Nature name: Otus (Megascops)
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Justin Raymond

Assistant Marketing Coordinator

Justin came to Shaver’s Creek in 2010 as a SEED Semester student, returned as an Environmental Education intern the following summer, and hasn’t left since. His degree is in Recreation, Parks & Tourism Management. He is interested in how technology can help connect people to the outdoors (and each other). Justin works on a variety of interpretive and marketing materials for Shaver’s Creek, including videos, newsletters, digital graphics, signage, podcasts, photography, and Shaver’s Creek’s presence on the web and social media, like the Photo-a-Day feature. He gets to make stuff every day that encourages people to explore their own backyards! Justin enjoys hiking, Geocaching, homebrewing, tossing pizzas, video games, and board games.
Nature name: Rutabaga
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Brian Sedgwick

Facility Services Coordinator

Brian is responsible for maintaining the facilities and grounds at Shaver’s Creek and coordinating volunteer groups and work-study students. Brian also assists with a wide variety of programming — from school and youth programs to team building and bird of prey shows. Brian graduated from Penn State in December 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and park management. For twenty-five years he has been involved in Scouting — becoming a Tiger Cub at age 5, working on staff at Camp Mountain Run, sitting on the Bucktail Council Camping Committee, and being an adviser of Venture Crew 509. His twelve years of summer camp experience includes archery range instructor, director of camp program, and director of the first-year-camper program, before being appointed camp director in 2005. Brian has an uncanny knack for pop culture and historical trivia and enjoys model rocketry, paintball, and hockey. Brian, his wife, Johanna, and son, Logan, enjoy cooking, camping, and hiking whenever possible.
Nature name: Draco
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Jennifer Steigerwalt

Jennifer (Brackbill) Steigerwalt

Program Director

Jennifer helps to manage animal care, traveling naturalist programs, interns, volunteers, work-study students, and the Honorary Animal Caretaker Program. She is an instructor for Environmental Education Methods and Materials (RPTM 430). In 1996 she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental science from Westminster College and a master’s degree in environment and community from Antioch University Seattle in 2001. Jennifer is originally from Port Allegany, in north central Pennsylvania. She and her sons, Isaac and Henry, husband, Doug, and their dogs, Tioga, Penny, and Winston, now make their home in Pine Grove Mills. Her interests include exploring, crocheting, making jewelry, and spending time with friends and family.
Nature name: Prism
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Marie Taylor

Marie Taylor

Staff Assistant and Assistant Bookstore Manager

Marie supports the management of the Shaver’s Creek bookstore/gift shop operation, our membership program, and the promotion of our many events and programs throughout the year. A State College native, Marie recently returned to the area after living in Pittsburgh, and is delightfully reconnecting with nature in the Shaver’s Creek woods. She enjoys hiking, swimming, and spending time with her family.
Nature name: Citrine
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George Vahoviak

George Vahoviak

Program Director and Affiliate Assistant Professor in RPTM

George is responsible for preservice and in-service teacher education, undergraduate and graduate teaching, interdisciplinary research, and graduate student committees, and assists with festival coordination. He instructs Cultural History Interpretation (RPTM 327), Independent Studies (RPTM 496/596), National Curricula Workshops (RPTM 497F), Natural History for Teachers (RPTM 498E), and Worldview, Sustainability, and Environmental Education (RPTM 597D). As an affiliate assistant professor of recreation, tourism, and park management, he serves as graduate faculty and sits on three thesis committees. He has previously worked with a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Environmental Education grant designed to address youth, schools, and the environment in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. He is also former project director of a DEP Growing Greener Grant and a Watershed Education project, and is assisting with other external funding grant writing with faculty from the Penn State College of Education. George received a bachelor’s degree in forest science in 1978 and agricultural education in 1980, a master’s degree in agricultural education in 1987, and a doctoral degree in agricultural education/science, technology, and society in 1993, all from Penn State. George also serves as an EMT, EMT instructor, firefighter, and ambulance lieutenant, and enjoys kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, and woodworking.
Nature name: Hemlock
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Doug Wentzel

Doug Wentzel

Naturalist and Program Director

Doug coordinates the environmental education internship and birding programs and serves as instructor of Principles of Environmental Interpretation (RPTM 325), Interpreting Halloween to Children (a cleverly disguised biodiversity festival, RPTM 297B) and Natural History Interpretation (RPTM 326).

Doug received his bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology from Penn State in 1989 and has served four years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He is sanctioned by The National Association for Interpretation as a trainer of Certified Interpretive Guides, and since 2005, Doug has co-led Audubon’s Coastal Maine Bird Studies for Teens week on Hog Island, Maine. He is married to Susan, and they have two sons, Dylan and Duncan. His ongoing interest is fostering the awareness of the diversity of life in our own backyards.
Nature name: Merlin
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Ellen Will

Program Director

Ellen manages the residential Outdoor School program, teaches its companion courses and assists with the internship program. She believes that camp can change lives and enjoys seeing the interrelationships between the Penn State student leaders and the elementary-aged participants at Outdoor School. Ellen earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies — environmental education from Appalachian State University in 1995, and her master’s degree in environmental education at Slippery Rock University. Her thesis topic was a study of the long-term impact of the Shaver’s Creek internship program (which, by the way, 97% of former interns report was a positive experience and would recommend to a friend). Ellen is a member of the American Camp Association and serves on the PSU Youth Programs Council. Ellen lives in State College with her husband, Thad, and their two sons, Jacob and Nate.
Nature name: Xylem
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Will Wise

Will Wise

Program Director and Instructor

Will co-directs the Shaver’s Creek Team Development Center and Rock n’ River Adventure Camps. Will is also the Director of Facilitator Development for World in Conversation at Penn State’s University Park Campus, where he teaches people how to talk about taboo subjects such as race, gender, and long-term conflicts. With more than two decades of experience facilitating team development and group dynamics, Will has earned a reputation as a first-rate instructor. Working with groups ranging from corporate entities to adjudicated youth, school students to senior programs, Will has helped thousands of people to foster positive communication and self-actualization. He especially loves empowering participants with social skills that can be applied both to within the group training and to everyday life. He is certified by the American Canoe Association to teach canoeing and kayaking, and he loves using the outdoors to encourage people to know themselves. He has a degree in forest management from Michigan Technological University, a master’s degree in Workforce Education from Penn State, and spent five years as the director of Nature’s Classroom, a nontraditional school in New England.
Nature name: Whip-poor-will
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Graduate Assistants


Alexandra Dutt

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Forrest Schwartz

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Jerod Skebo

Jerod graduated in fall 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences and an associate’s degree in Wildlife Technology. He came to Shaver’s Creek in spring of 2011 as a work study student doing reptile and amphibian inventories in Stone Valley. Currently working on mapping and inventorying all of the amphibian breeding habitats within Stone Valley with Dr. Jim Julian from Penn State Altoona, he also works with both captive and wild herp populations at the Center and in the forest.
Nature name: Crotalus
Email Jerod

2016 Summer Staff


(L to R):

Caitlin Teti (
Environmental Education Intern
Nature Name: Tiger Lily

Gabe Imler (
Environmental Education Intern
Nature Name: Barred Owl

Bailey Grebbin (
Environmental Education Intern
Nature Name: Sequoia

Kristen Mehl (
Environmental Education Intern
Nature Name: Fawn

Abby Hileman (
Environmental Education Intern
Name Name: Chickadee

Torri Withrow (
Raptor Center Intern
Nature Name: Caddisfly

Ben Steines (
Environmental Education Intern
Nature Name: Swampfox

Staff Not Pictured:

Carli Dinsmore
Raptor Center Educator

Kaila Thorn
Raptor Center Workstudy

Josh Sanko
Raptor Center Workstudy

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