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Meet the Staff

Shaver’s Creek Nature Names

What’s with the “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 the recreation, park, and tourism management program in the College of Health and Human Development or the School of Forest Resources in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Shaver’s Creek Seasonal Staff | Graduate Assistants | Penn State Faculty and Staff

Summer Staff 2022

Mara Anderson-SkellyMara Anderson-Skelly

Assistant Naturalist

Mara is an assistant naturalist for the 2022 summer camp season. She is currently enrolled at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and is pursuing a double major in environmental studies and identity studies. She also works for the college’s Center for Sustainable Communities and took part in a bird-banding internship last fall with the Raptor Resource Project. Originally from the State College area, Mara has fond memories of her own time at camp and is looking forward to working with campers and giving them the experience that steered her onto the path she has chosen. In her free time, Mara loves to get outside for a walk or bike ride and enjoys connecting with friends and getting into local waterways when the weather permits.
Nature Name: Minnow

Tynan ButlerTynan Butler

Assistant Naturalist

Tynan is a current voice performance student at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. He spent many of his summers as a camper at Shaver’s Creek growing up, and even completed his Eagle Scout service project by building a Chimney Swift nesting tower just behind the center. He’s excited to return and help others find or expand their love of nature, and he is looking forward to leading camp songs at the top of his lungs. In addition to singing, Tynan enjoys spending time with his friends, whether it be solving crosswords together or playing disc golf.
Nature Name: Solstice

Celia GraefCelia Graef


Celia grew up going to Shaver’s Creek summer camp as a camper and LIT and is now a naturalist for her third summer. She is a junior at Penn State, studying agricultural and environmental education and minoring in entomology, biology, and international agriculture. She likes to spend her free time backpacking, throwing a frisbee, and catching fireflies.
Nature Name: Chestnut

Stella GregorStella on the beach

Assistant Naturalist

Stella has just graduated from State College Area High School and plans to attend Dickinson College, where she will major in international relations and minor in computer science. She was a Shaver’s Creek camper for five years and an LIT for two years, and she is now thrilled to have “leveled up” to assistant naturalist. She is a passionate individual who loves reading, creative writing, studying history, playing with her dog, and spending time outside.
Nature Name: Snapdragon

Emma HenryEmma Henry


Emma is a naturalist for the summer season. She is originally from Wallingford, PA, but is currently a rising junior at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She is still working out her major, but is interested in environmental science and conservation. In her free time, Emma loves hiking, backpacking, writing poetry, practicing her lifelong sport of martial arts, and baking for her friends. She fell in love with Shaver’s Creek when she was eight years old, and has volunteered as both an LIT and assistant naturalist. Emma hopes to share her passion and love for nature through educating young people about the beauty of the outdoors. She is so excited to be able to work with such an amazing staff and some wonderful campers this summer!
Nature Name: Kestrel

Ellie HirschEllie Hirsch

Assistant Naturalist and Lifeguard

Ellie grew up in State College and has participated in Shaver’s Creek summer camp as a camper and LIT. She is excited to return to camp this summer in a new position and looks forward to building new connections from a different perspective. She graduated from the Delta Program High School this past spring and will be lifeguarding for her third season at Welch Pool this summer. Ellie is an incoming freshman at Dickinson College.
Nature Name: Raccoon

Eva HirschEva Hirsch


Eva graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in May 2022 with a bachelor of arts, double majoring in biology and music. She plans to attend graduate school in a couple of years to receive her Ph.D. in biology, and in the meantime, she hopes to work in environmental education. Eva is a State College native and grew up spending lots of time hiking and exploring nature. She attended a variety of Shaver’s Creek programs, volunteered as an LIT in high school, and is excited to spend yet another summer as a naturalist at summer camp. When she’s not at Shaver’s Creek, Eva loves to roller skate, discover new music, pet her cats, and care for her ever-growing house plant collection.
Nature Name: Rabbit

Shawn HopkinsShawn Hopkins

Assistant Naturalist

Shawn was a SEED student and is planning to graduate with a degree in recreation, park, and tourism management with a minor in human development and family studies. Shawn grew up in Collegeville, PA, and is a big fan of Philadelphia sports teams and the outdoors. In his free time, Shawn enjoys cooking, hiking, longboarding, and baseball. With three siblings and seven pets, Shawn is no stranger to a big family and is looking forward to joining the Shaver’s Creek community for the summer.
Nature Name: Poppy

Kate HornKate Horn


Hailing from State College, Kate has been involved with Shaver’s Creek as a camper and LIT and now is excited to be a naturalist for the second year! She has also been involved in other Shaver’s Creek programs such as Outdoor School and the Maple Harvest Festival. Kate is attending Penn State for art education and enjoys doing all kinds of art such as painting, soldering, and playing guitar. Kate is also an avid enjoyer of cats, bugs, pals, climbing, and chilling in the great outdoors!
Nature Name: Bog

Hannah LangelaanHannah Langelaan


Hannah grew up in State College, attending Shaver’s Creek as both a camper and then an LIT. She now attends the University of Toronto, where she is studying chemical engineering. Hannah will be a naturalist this summer, and she is excited to share her love of nature with the campers! Hannah is always down to go on a hike or play frisbee, and in her spare time, she loves exploring Toronto, finding new places to hammock with friends in the forests of Pennsylvania, and playing guitar.
Nature Name: Duck

Brendan LockeBrendan Locke

Assistant Naturalist and Lifeguard

Brendan has been involved with Shaver’s Creek summer camp for 12 years as a camper, LIT, and now lifeguard. He is stoked to be back at camp this summer in a new position! Brendan is from State College and graduated from State College Area High School this past spring. He is looking forward to attending the Penn State School of Music to study music education in the fall.
Nature Name: Eclipse

Lena LoganLena Logan

Assistant Naturalist

Lena is an assistant naturalist this summer for the Shaver’s Creek summer camp. She has lived in State College for as long as she can remember. She is a 2022 high school graduate of the Delta Program High School. This fall, she will be attending Penn State and majoring in wildlife and fisheries science. She has been involved in Shaver’s Creek summer camp, either as a camper or an LIT, since the age of 5. She has the Shaver’s Creek program to thank for her deep-rooted interest in wildlife and the outdoors. Some of her interests include playing the violin, horseback riding, hiking, and shaking almond bugs. Lena Logan is so excited to be joining the Shaver’s Creek staff this year to once again engage in the camp magic she holds so dear.
Nature Name: Sassafras

Sean McLaughlinSean McLaughlin wearing a bucket on his head


Sean is excited to return to Shaver’s Creek this summer as a naturalist! He graduated from Huntingdon Area High school in June 2019, and now attends Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, studying outdoor education. Sean has participated in numerous Shaver’s Creek programs, including summer camp as a camper and LIT, the Maple Harvest Festival, the Enchanted Halloween Trail, and Birding Cup. Sean has previously worked at Plowshare Produce, an organic farm in McAlevy’s Fort, PA, and Great Oak Farm in Mason, Wisconsin. He loves to spend time outdoors, with favorite activities including trail running, biking, rock climbing, primitive survival skills, birding, and hiking.
Nature Name: Fiddlehead

Sofia MicciSofia Micci


Sofia is a third-year landscape architecture student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, minoring in sustainability studies. Growing up in State College, Sofia developed her love for the outdoors by hiking around town and exploring Shaver’s Creek as a camper and then as an LIT, loving all aspects of camp. Sofia is excited to return for her second summer as a naturalist and to be back at Shaver’s Creek! While not at camp, you can find her reading, trying to teach her cat to walk on a leash, exploring the outdoors, and backpacking with friends!
Nature Name: Everest

Emily RombergerEmily Romberger

Assistant Naturalist

Emily is an assistant naturalist at Shaver’s Creek this summer. An avid student of nature, she was inspired by a trip to Yosemite National Park to study recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State and plans to graduate in the spring of 2023. She is excited to see where her passion for environmental education takes her. You can find Emily exploring hiking trails, farmer’s markets, and coffee shops or making art in the sunshine in her free time.
Nature Name: Violet

Michaela SaporitoMichaela Saporito


Michaela is excited to be returning to summer camp as a naturalist for the 2022 season. Currently, she studies linguistics and history at the University of Pittsburgh, with a focus in world ecologies. With previous experience as both an LIT and assistant naturalist at Shaver’s Creek, and a passion for working with children, she is eager to spend another summer learning and growing at camp. In her free time, Michaela enjoys exploring new places, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
Nature Name: Robin

Brieonna SewinskyBrieonna Sewinsky

Assistant Naturalist

Brieonna is a wildlife and fisheries science major at Penn State and is going into her final year as an undergrad. She has lived in PA her entire life and has always had a passion for the outdoors and all things living in it. This past spring, she volunteered as a counselor for Outdoor School and absolutely fell in love with the program and environmental education. She had always known that she enjoyed teaching others about the environment, but her experiences with Outdoor School cemented that. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, especially kayaking or curling up in her hammock with a good book. Her nature name, Wren, comes from her ability to make bird noises that always catch people a little off-guard. She is so excited to join the staff and learn from all the amazing people educating here at Shaver’s Creek.
Nature Name: Wren

Jacob SholtisJacob Sholtis


Jacob started at Penn State in the fall 2019 semester, planning to major in environmental resource management. He is a past Shaver’s Creek camper and LIT who is excited to now be a naturalist! Through his time at Shaver’s Creek, he found a love for nature and the outdoors. Jacob spent his junior year of high school studying abroad in Germany through AFS. He was lucky enough to not only experience a new culture, but also meet some amazing people from all over the globe. During his free time, Jacob enjoys playing soccer, rock climbing, and hiking.
Nature Name: Ironweed

Emily StollerEmily Stoller

Assistant Naturalist

Emily is an assistant naturalist for the summer season. She is a recent graduate of State College Area High School and plans to attend Penn State Schreyer Honors College in the fall, majoring in earth science policy. She has lived in State College her whole life and has been attending camp since she was six years old. In her free time, Emily enjoys singing, playing the piano, listening to music, skiing, and improving her drip drip drench game. After participating in summer camp as an LIT for four summers, she is excited to continue her journey as an assistant naturalist!
Nature Name: Ladybug

Samantha SzulgitSamantha Szulgit

Assistant Naturalist

Sam is studying recreation, park, and tourism management with a minor in sustainability leadership at Penn State. Sam is from Rochester, NY, and spent her childhood summers as a camper and LIT at Shaver’s Creek. She cannot wait to share her love for camp magic and help people connect with themselves and others through nature. Alongside her love for nature, Sam is passionate about music, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.
Nature Name: Evergreen

Caroline VancuraCaroline Vancura

Assistant Naturalist

Caroline grew up in and around State College and has been a longtime participant in Shaver’s Creek summer camp. She is currently studying wildlife biology at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks of New York. She was a Girl Scout for about a decade, joined Venturing, BSA (a co-ed program for youth ages 14–21) when she was old enough, and was a participant in Scouts, BSA once it opened to girls. Through those programs, she managed to become an Eagle Scout, go to all four official BSA high adventure bases (some more than once!), and spend a lot of time outdoors. She has always loved animals and nature and hopes to foster a love for the outdoors at this year’s camp. Some of her other interests are reading, thought puzzles, card games, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.
Nature Name: Raptor

Graduate Assistants

Madison BotchMadison Botch

Graduate Assistant

Past SEED student, intern, and seasonal educator, Madison is no stranger to Shaver’s Creek! Having meandered her way through many different roles for the past few years, she landed in her current graduate assistant position in August 2019. Madison is a Ph.D. candidate in the curriculum and instruction program, with a focus in science education. She graduated from Penn State in 2018 with her bachelor’s degree in recreation, park, and tourism management under the environmental interpretation option. Outside of Shaver’s Creek, Madison has previously worked with some of Central Pennsylvania’s other environmental education entities, such as Millbrook Marsh Nature Center and The Arboretum at Penn State. Madison loves to continually learn and grow as an educator and is excited to begin this new graduate-school journey with a place that is near and dear to her heart. In whatever free time she is able to find, Madison enjoys drinking coffee, birding with great friends, and fostering her 4-year-old daughter’s love of the natural world.
Nature Name: Kestrel

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Amy Eldredge Image of Amy Eldredge

Graduate Assistant

As a kid, Amy grew to love the great outdoors through exploring the woods of Pennsylvania. A native of Lewistown, Pennsylvania, she participated as a camper in Shaver’s Creek Outdoor School, which helped guide her on a career path in environmental stewardship and education. After graduating from Franklin & Marshall College in 2014 with majors in animal behavior and studio art, she interned at Bald Head Island Conservancy in North Carolina where she became the director of education. In 2018 she moved to Maui to work for the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary as the volunteer coordinator to promote ocean conservation and awareness of the impacts of how we interact with our environment. These experiences have confirmed her desire to pursue higher education to connect people more effectively to nature. Amy is excited to be back in her home state to pursue both a master’s and Ph.D. in recreation, park, and tourism management under the guidance of Dr. Danielle Lawson, exploring the indirect impacts of environmental programs, including intergenerational learning and the influence of a program over multiple years. She will also be a member of the Shaver’s Creek team, working with Ellen Will and Jennifer Emigh, where her primary focus will be assisting with the Shaver’s Creek Outdoor School. In her free time, Amy enjoys taking nature walks with a camera and binoculars in hand, reading on rainy days, and painting landscapes from her travels.

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Jennifer HilemanImage of Jenny Hileman

Graduate Assistant

Jenny is Ph.D. student in recreation, park, and tourism management. Her research interests include environmental education curriculum development and facilitation of programming. Prior to attending Penn State, Jenny earned her bachelor’s degree in middle level mathematics and science education from Edinboro University and spent two years teaching in Pennsylvania public schools. Later, she attended Ohio University where she completed dual master’s degrees in recreation studies and environmental studies. In lieu of a traditional master’s thesis, she culminated these degrees through a partnership with the National Parks Service in which she developed a new experiential education–based curriculum for Sitka National Historical Park in Alaska. In her spare time, she enjoys climbing and biking with her husband and spending time with their two dogs.

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Ezra Houston

Graduate Assistant

Ezra grew up in State College and received his bachelor’s degree in forest resource management from Penn State. During his time as an undergraduate student, Ezra took courses such as agroforestry, which spurred his interest in non-timber forest products. He also had the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research on Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis), which is a native plant and non-timber forest product. After graduating in 2020, he worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) as part of the inventory and monitoring section, where he gained field experience identifying native plants and collecting data.

Now, he is excited to start his master’s degree studying non-timber forest products under the guidance of Eric Burkhart. While he is especially interested in plants, Ezra’s other interests include camping, hiking, gardening, cooking, and weightlifting.

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Jaedyn LalondeJaedyn. holding a turtle in the woods.

Graduate Assistant 

Jaedyn is a master’s student in the ecology program at Penn State. In 2019, they graduated from Binghamton University with a B.S. in biology and environmental science. After graduation, they joined the Student Conservation Association (SCA) as an environmental education assistant at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. In the summer of 2020, Jaedyn sailed along the Hudson River aboard the Sloop Clearwater as an education deckhand. As a first-year graduate student, Jaedyn is currently studying environmental DNA and wood turtles. In their free time, they love rock climbing, nature photography, tarot card reading, and flow arts.

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Kirk Lawson headshot of kirk lawson

Graduate Assistant 

Kirk earned his B.S. in biology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a focus on pre-med studies. Then, he earned his M.S. in biology with a focus on physiology and psychopharmacology. He conducted clinical research for his master’s thesis examining the effects of ADHD pharmaceuticals on bone density. After this, he took the MCAT and interviewed for medical school, but decided he was more interested in traditional plant medicine. Kirk then earned a graduate certificate in pharmaceutical chemistry, with a focus on natural product research/drug discovery, from the University of Florida. Now, he is very excited to start his Ph.D. at Penn State in the College of Agricultural Sciences with advisers Dr. Eric Burkhart (Forest Resources) and Dr. Josh Lambert (Food Science). Kirk is part of the newly formed SNIPS cohort — Soils, Plants, and Consumers Network (SPCN) — involved with studying the intersection of medicinal and food crops with human consumers. He will initially be studying ramps and ginseng and other Appalachian/New England medicinal/food plants. He hopes to carry out his dissertation research on the medicinal plants of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, which he has been studying independently for the past 3 years.

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Megan Martin

Graduate Assistant

Megan is an M.Ed. student studying curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on science education at Penn State. Originally from Michigan, Megan grew up collecting rocks on the shore of Lake Huron. Naturally, she completed her bachelor’s degree in geological sciences from Michigan State University in 2015. She worked as an environmental geologist in Colorado and as a technician in a certified groundwater testing laboratory. After finishing her first year of graduate study at Penn State with the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, she is excited to transition into education to learn how to share her enthusiasm for science and nature with others. In her free time, Megan enjoys running, reading science fiction novels, going to the local farmers market, and traveling. She has even taken a one-year trip around the US in a travel trailer with her husband and two cats.
Nature Name: Copper

Emily Olsenheadshot of emily olsen

Graduate Assistant

Emily is a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State, studying curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in science education. Her research interests are at the intersection of climate anxiety and environmental education. Emily is an adventurous, friendly, outgoing person who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, spending her childhood around Puget Sound in Washington and her young adulthood in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.S. in biology from Portland State University and an M.S. in environmental education and an M.A. in teaching, both from Southern Oregon University. She loves to share her passions with others and to help foster connections between the people and the world around them. She has held environmental education positions with Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District, Crater Lake National Park, and the Multnomah Education Service Districts Outdoor School Program among others in Oregon. Most recently, she has held an environmental education position with The Arboretum at Penn State in addition to her work as a Ph.D. candidate. Hiking and anything involving the water are her favorite outdoor activities, as well as reading and watching movies when indoors.
Nature Name: Sequoia

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Faculty and Staff

Jennifer AndersonJennifer Anderson

Program Director

Jen coordinates the public workshops and OLLI programs at Shaver’s Creek. In addition, she teaches BiSci003, an environmental science class at Penn State. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental science from Westminster College in 1996 and a master’s degree in environment and community from Antioch University Seattle in 2001. She is originally from Port Allegany, in north-central Pennsylvania. She and her sons (Isaac, Henry, and Luke) and dogs (Tioga and Penny) now make their home in Pine Grove Mills. Her interests include exploring, reading, bike riding, kayaking, making jewelry, and spending time with friends and family.
Nature Name: Prism

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Kyle BettwyKyle holding a pumpkin

Program Assistant

After a hiatus in summer 2021, Kyle is so excited to be back for another year of summer camp! Kyle has worked in the summer camp world since 2018 and has previously worked as both a naturalist and environmental education intern. This year, he will be working as a program assistant and assistant director for Shaver’s Creek Summer Camps. Kyle graduated from Penn State in 2020 with a degree in microbiology. In addition to everything outdoorsy, Kyle enjoys running, reading, and science education (particularly citizen science engagement). He hopes to one day create the perfect s’more.
Nature Name: Bee

Eric Burkhart, Ph.D.Eric Burkhart

Associate Teaching Professor
Appalachian Botany and Ethnobotany
Program Director

Dr. Eric Burkhart is a botanist who specializes in ethnobotany, non-timber forest products, and plant conservation in his teaching, research, and educational outreach endeavors. He holds degrees in ethnobotany (B.A., Idaho State University), horticulture (M.S., Penn State), and forest resources (Ph.D., Penn State) and is currently Appalachian Botany and Ethnobotany program director for Shaver’s Creek and faculty instructor for the Penn State Ecosystem Science and Management Department. His research program in Pennsylvania is focused on developing sustainable wild stewardship and agroforestry production systems for specialty forest products, including American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and ramps (Allium tricoccum).
Nature Name: Panax

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More about Eric and his work 

Tommy Butler Head shot of Tommy Butler

Program Assistant

Tommy graduated from Penn State in May 2019 with a degree in broadcast journalism and has been working at Shaver’s Creek ever since. He acts as a program assistant and an assistant director for Shaver’s Creek Summer Camp. Tommy grew up going to these same summer camps first as a camper and then as a Leader-in-Training, and his love of the outdoors was born! He worked as a naturalist during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, with time as an environmental education intern in between, before moving into his current role for the 2021 season. In addition to his love for all things Shaver’s Creek, Tommy enjoys podcasting, playing disc golf, music, hiking, solving crosswords with friends, and almost always has a Frisbee on him.
Nature Name: Equinox

Ellie Chapman

Administrative Assistant

Ellie has worked at Penn State for 19 years. Her first five years were with Cooperative Extension, where she worked in grant and contract accounting. She then moved to the Paul Robeson Cultural Center in the role of office manager. Before working at Penn State, she worked for Easter Seals of Central Pennsylvania. Ellie has four children, three of whom are Penn State graduates! In her free time, she enjoys gardening and all crafts and loves to re-upholster furniture.
Nature Name: Sunflower

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Shannan DavidowShannan Davidow

Animal Care Shift Leader

Shannan is a shift supervisor for the animal care team, working with staff, volunteers, and interns to care for our animal ambassadors. She is from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservation at Juniata College. Shannan developed her animal training skills as a volunteer at Shaver’s Creek and was hired as a seasonal employee in May 2018. She rejoined the staff in March 2019 after participating in a 3-month primate husbandry internship, where she cared for 50 lemurs on a reserve in Florida. 

In the future, Shannan plans to continue pursing a career in animal care and training, with a focus on birds. Throughout her time at Shaver’s Creek, Shannan has become extremely passionate about vultures! She loves to work with the vultures at Shaver’s Creek and is passionate about spreading conservation awareness for these fascinating birds. 

Outside of animal care, Shannan enjoys herping, hiking, and running. In her down time, she also enjoys playing board games with friends and family with a good cup of coffee!
Nature Name: Firefly

Chris DiehlChris Diehl

Grounds and Facilities Technician

Chris came to Shaver’s Creek in 2018 after working for Penn State for over ten years. He assists with all things grounds and facilities related. When he’s not working, you might find Chris riding motorcycles and enjoying the outdoors!
Nature Name: Mephitus

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Jennifer EmighJen Emigh

Associate Director; Program Director

Jen is the director of the AURORA Outdoor Orientation Programs at Penn State, which aids students with their transition to college through backpacking expeditions before the semester starts. She is also an assistant teaching professor and teaches courses in Outdoor Leadership for the RPTM & Kinesiology department and is the associate director of leadership development at Shaver’s Creek.

Jen earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation and park management from Penn State in 2001 and a master’s degree in environmental studies from Antioch University New England in 2007. She honed her skills as director of corporate leadership trainings at University of New Hampshire’s Browne Center prior to returning to Penn State in 2010 for what she calls her “dream job.”

Jen’s passion in life has become helping people live an authentic life by learning more about themselves and how to lead in all walks of life. While she focuses her time mainly with student leaders, she is passionate about supporting anyone as they find their inner leader. She also enjoys spending time pursuing outdoor adventures with her son, road tripping in their camper van, and waiting for snow to fly so they can hit the slopes.
Nature Name: Samara

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Nikki HouckNikki Houck

Office Manager

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Joe Johnsonheadshot of Joe Johnson

AmeriCorps Outdoor Educator

Joe graduated from Penn State in December 2020 with a degree in early childhood education. He is currently in the role of AmeriCorps Outdoor Educator for Shaver’s Creek. Joe’s first job was working as a ski instructor and adventure camp counselor where he fell in love with the outdoors. He enjoys rock climbing, kayaking, fishing, basketball, and teaching others about his passions. Joe particularly enjoys learning and teaching about pine trees.  
Nature Name: Hemlock 

Jon KauffmanJon Kauffman

Assistant Program Director

Jon promotes conservation through citizen science projects such as Project Nestwatch, Monarch Watch, Winter Raptor Surveys, and seasonal hawk watches. In the spring, Jon partners with the State College Bird Club to help coordinate the Tussey Mountain Hawk Watch, a major flyway for Golden Eagles. While majoring in wildlife and fisheries science 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 and raptor center intern, and has assisted with public programs at Shaver’s Creek. He has served as a hawk-watcher 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 canoeing the Juniata River, native plants, exploring new habitats, and connecting people to the avian world.
Nature Name: Timberdoodle

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Drew LehnerdDrew Lehnerd

AURORA Assistant Program Director

Drew works to ensure that AURORA’s operations and staff development run smoothly. He believes strongly in the power of outdoor recreation as a community-building and leadership-development tool and makes that belief a reality each day with AURORA. Drew also instructs wilderness medicine and CPR courses in the Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management Department. He earned a B.S. in Human Geography from Penn State in 2012. Drew is a Leave No Trace Master Educator, SOLO Wilderness First Responder, and an AASI certified snowboard instructor. He also enjoys riding bicycles, reading, and learning new things.
Nature Name: Larkspur

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Matt MarsdenMatt Marsden

Outdoor School and Discovery Camp Assistant Director

Matt has been helping to direct Outdoor SchoolDiscovery Camp, and Kids Corner. He graduated in 2006 from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in environmental interpretation and in 2016 from Slippery Rock University with an M.S. in park and resource management. He likes all things outdoors and enjoys living in Alexandria, PA.
Nature Name: Cardinal

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Megan McCarthyHeadshot of Megan McCarthy

Outdoor School Program Assistant

Megan is a Pennsylvania native who spent her childhood exploring creeks and forest around her home. Her exploration turned into a love and appreciation for the natural world. Staying local, she graduated from Penn State with a degree in recreation, park, and tourism management with a focus on environmental interpretation and outdoor recreation. Megan has had multiple roles at Shaver’s Creek, such as a SEED student, volunteer, naturalist, intern, gardener, and now program assistant of Outdoor School.

Megan also teaches pottery at a local maker space. She has a passion for connecting art and nature through natural imprinting, sketching, and watercolor. In her free time, she loves to create art, backpack, read, catch up on TV, and garden.  
Nature Name: Catalpa

Lucy R. McClain, Ph.D.Lucy R. McClain

Assistant Teaching Professor

At Shaver’s Creek, Lucy oversees the graduate assistant program. She is an instructor for RPTM 430 (Environmental Education Methods & Materials), SCIED 118 (Field Natural History for Teachers), and SUST 200 (Foundations of Sustainability & Leadership). Lucy is also involved with several grant-funded research projects with Penn State’s College of Education; her research interests include family science learning processes in the outdoors and mobile-based learning designs for outdoor spaces.

She enjoys spending time in the outdoors with her two sons, Conary and Eamon, her husband, Casey, and their dog, Scout. Lucy is also an avid sports fan and jumps at the chance to knock around a soccer ball.
Nature Name: Malachite

National affiliations:
Certified Interpretive Guide — National Association for Interpretation
Member — North American Association for Environmental Education
Member — National Association for Research in Science Teaching
Member — Visitor Studies Association

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More about Lucy and her work

Laurie McLaughlinLaurie McLaughlin

Program Director; Instructor

At Shaver’s Creek, Laurie is an instructor in the RPTM department, teaching Teambuilding Facilitation (RPTM 230), Interpreting Maple Sugaring to Families (RPTM 297), and the First Year Seminar (RPTM 297) for AURORA students.

In addition to teaching, Laurie coordinates the SEED Semester (a 17-credit block of outdoor and environmental education courses taught at Shaver’s Creek each spring) and directs our Maple Harvest Festival.

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.

Laurie and her husband, Mark, have two boys, Brian and Sean, with whom they love spending time in the outdoors. Her interests include hiking, birdwatching, paddling her canoe on local lakes, reading, baking pies, and traveling to cool places. Laurie is also an avid sports fan, with much of her energy going toward supporting the Chicago Cubs.
Nature Name: Loon

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Mark McLaughlinMark 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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Tesha OmeisTesha Omeis

Summer Camp Program Director

Tesha is the program director for all things summer camp related. She also coordinates the Fall Harvest Festival, featuring the Children’s Halloween Trail.

Tesha earned her bachelor’s degree in recreation, park, and tourism management from Penn State in 2005. She was a part of the Shaver’s Creek community from 2001–2005 in a variety of ways, including work study student, intern, Outdoor School counselor then learning group leader, Birding Cup participant, and summer camp counselor. After leaving Shaver’s Creek upon graduation, Tesha taught seasonally in 7 different states, from the coastal barrier islands in Georgia to the canyons of Alabama and up into the forests of Connecticut. She then served two years as a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America in the Philadelphia area.

When Tesha is not preparing for Shaver’s Creek Summer Camp or the Maple Harvest Festival, she enjoys sewing by hand, learning more about all aspects of medicinal plants, and exploring new places with her trail buddy, TacoCat. She is excited to be back at Shaver’s Creek and is looking forward to once again being immersed in the world of outdoor education!
Nature Name: Skye

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Chris OrtizChris Ortiz

Associate Director; Program Director, Team Development Center

Chris is the associate director for the Conservation Interpretation team at Shaver’s Creek. He is also the program director for Team Development at Shaver’s Creek and is an instructor for the Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management department at Penn State.  Chris facilitates and teaches team development, leadership, and group dynamics experiences with schools and university groups, corporations, and sports teams that strengthen relationships, motivate growth, and develop leaders. He regularly presents internationally at conferences where he shares innovative programming and activity ideas. Chris co-authored the second edition of the High 5 Guide: Challenge Course Operating Procedures for the Thinking Practitioner as well as the Ubuntu Activity Guide. He has held leadership roles in both the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT).

You can usually find Chris at the local climbing gym or exploring trails by bike or boot. Oh… and he loves chocolate.
Nature Name: Mongoose

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Joshua PotterJoshua Potter

Associate Director, Operations and Communications

Joshua works to keep Shaver’s Creek a vibrant educational facility to support the Center’s wide range of credit, noncredit, outreach, and research programming. Joshua is responsible for managing strategic communications to support Shaver’s Creek programs, for developing interpretive materials throughout the facility to support the Center’s educational mission, and for overseeing management of facility and grounds. 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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Alexa Sarussi

School Programs Director

Alexa directs the programs that enhance and engage school children’s learning at Shaver’s Creek. She grew up in Arizona and earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at Pomona College in Southern California, before moving east and discovering the forest. She has returned to Shaver’s Creek several times since 2014, working as an intern and with summer camp programming. Between her stints at Shaver’s Creek, Alexa led adventure trips for youth in New Hampshire, worked for a study abroad organization in Panama, and taught environmental science at Conserve School in Wisconsin. Alexa loves exploring Central Pennsylvania and beyond, birding, watercoloring, being active outdoors, and learning new skills, like playing the guitar!
Nature Name: Vireo

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Brian SedgwickBrian Sedgwick

Grounds and Facilities 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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Alex SuleskiAlex pointing to something

Conservation Interpreter

As a conservation interpreter, Alex helps visitors connect with Shaver’s Creek and the animals that call it home. He leads free public programs on the weekends to introduce visitors to everything Shaver’s Creek has to offer and to strengthen their connection to the natural world.

Alex earned a bachelor’s degree in political studies with an environmental studies minor from Temple University and a master’s degree in environmental studies from Point Park University in 2019. He previously worked at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for three years. He joined the Shaver’s Creek team in 2021 after moving to Centre County.

Alex kindled his interest in nature early on when he lived in Arizona, learning to scuba dive at age 12 and spending his summers diving in California. When he moved to Pennsylvania, his interests became more terrestrially focused, and he has been enjoying everything the PA outdoors has to offer. Alex enjoys spending time exploring new places and continuing to learn about the spaces around us.
Nature Name: Prickly Pear

Paige SutherlandPaige with elephant at zoo

Lead Animal Ambassador

Paige cares for the resident wildlife who call Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center home. She enjoys preparing the ambassador animals for engaging with and educating the Shaver’s Creek community, as well as preparing emerging professionals for impactful careers in wildlife conservation and environmental education. She is passionate about conserving wild beings and places while learning about their unique traits and functions.

Paige started her career in wildlife conservation and care at Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute as an Animal Keeper for the Elephant Trails department. In addition to providing daily husbandry, training, and educational public programming with the resident Asian Elephants, Paige conducted research on the fatal elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV) at the National Herpes Virus Lab. Leaning on the relationships built at her alma mater, George Mason University, she developed and co-advised an undergraduate course called Elephants, Enrichment, and Engineers that supported the engineering students with their capstone projects while exercising their newly developed skills to impact the daily lives of wildlife under human care.

Paige moved to Pennsylvania in conjunction with her matrescence journey and to support her husband’s Ph.D. candidacy at Penn State. She now enjoys raising her daughter between the meadows and mountains of Happy Valley.
Nature Name: Talon

Marie TaylorMarie Taylor

Membership and Program Registration Coordinator

Marie supports the management of the Shaver’s Creek bookstore/gift shop operation, our membership program, and the registration of our many events and programs throughout the year. A State College native, Marie 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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Brady ThomasBrady Thomas standing at a cave entrance

Conservation Interpeter

Brady is one of two conservation interpreters at Shaver’s Creek. From a young age, Brady developed an interest in and a love for the natural world by going on camping trips with his family and through scouting. His scouting experience led him to work at a summer camp for many years, nurturing his love of teaching — especially in the outdoors. He graduated from Penn State in 2020 with a degree in secondary education social studies. His love of teaching and his desire to share the outdoors with others led him to Shaver’s Creek, where he gets to share all that we have to offer with the public. In his free time, Brady enjoys going on adventures, reading, and taking pictures.
Nature Name: Harrier

Doug WentzelDoug 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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Joe WhiteheadJoe Whitehead

Amphibian and Reptile (Herp) Program Coordinator

A Penn State graduate and former Shaver’s Creek animal care volunteer, Joe spent 11 months as an educator with Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium before returning to Shaver’s Creek as the amphibian and reptile coordinator. While Joe’s primary focus is on caring for and educating about the center’s resident amphibians and reptiles, he is also the primary or assistant trainer for many of the Center’s resident raptors. Most recently, Joe has begun training our resident turtles and snakes to help enrich their lives while showing another side of these animals to our visitors.
Nature Name: Goshawk

Ellen WillEllen Will

Associate Director; 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 WiseWill Wise

Program Director and Instructor

Will’s profile is left as a memorial to our beloved friend and colleague of 15 years. Watch a video meditation and read a tribute in celebration of Will’s memory in a special post.

Will co-directed the Shaver’s Creek Team Development Center. Will was also the director of facilitator development for World in Conversation at Penn State’s University Park campus, where he taught 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 earned a reputation as a first-rate instructor. Working with groups ranging from corporate entities to adjudicated youth, school students to senior programs, Will helped thousands of people to foster positive communication and self-actualization. He especially loved empowering participants with social skills that can be applied both to within-the-group training and to everyday life. He was certified by the American Canoe Association to teach canoeing and kayaking, and he loved using the outdoors to encourage people to know themselves. He had 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

Faculty and Staff Affiliates

Ian MarshallIan Marshall

Faculty Affiliate

A Penn State Altoona professor emeritus of English and environmental studies, Ian is the founder of the Shaver’s Creek Long-term Ecological Reflections Project and editor of Reading Shaver’s Creek: Ecological Reflections from an Appalachian Forest (Penn State University Press, 2018), a collection of essays from the first ten years of the project. Ian co-founded the environmental studies program at Penn State Altoona and is a past president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. He is the author of four books of literary ecocriticism, among them Story Line: Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian Trail (University Press of Virginia, 1998) and Walden by Haiku (University of Georgia Press, 2009), as well as a collection of poems called Circumambulations (Foot Hills Press, 2018). Since retiring from teaching in 2020, Ian keeps busy hiking, biking, paddling, reading, playing tennis, and writing songs.
Nature Name: Hemlock Stones