In order to protect our resident birds from the ongoing avian influenza outbreak, ALL visitors are required to use the disinfecting mats located at the main entrance of the Klingsberg Aviary. Thank you for doing your part to help our Avian Ambassadors stay safe and healthy! Learn more

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.

Spring Staff 2023

Kyle BettwyKyle holding a pumpkin

Environmental Education Intern

Kyle is so excited to be returning for another semester as an intern! This season, Kyle is working on social science research under Dr. Lucy McClain. Kyle graduated from Penn State in 2020 with a degree in microbiology. He is looking forward to finding a graduate program in ecology for the next academic year. 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

Doug PetersonDoug Peterson

Environmental Education Intern

Doug graduated from Penn State in December 2022 with a degree in communication arts and sciences. His love for the natural world inspires him to expose others to the outdoors. Doug found Shaver’s Creek through his experience as a teaching assistant for BISC 3. In his free time, Doug plays guitar, writes, and hikes the surrounding area.
Nature Name: Hawthorn

Zach RaitenZach Raiten holding a butterfly

Environmental Education Intern

Zach is excited to return for another season at Shaver’s Creek. As an environmental education intern, Zach has worked with multiple areas around the center, including school programming, Outdoor School, and Kid’s Corner. Zach is working on his degree in global and international studies with a focus in health and the environment and a minor in biology. Zach is interested in learning how to bridge the gap between the natural and creative worlds. In his free time, Zach loves to explore outside and paint on any surface he can. 
Nature Name: Gorge

Natalia ReedNatalia Reed with a mountain view behind her

Environmental Education Intern

Natalia graduated from Penn State in May 2022 with a degree in psychology and a degree in rehabilitation and human services. During her time there, she spent three years working for the AURORA program, which facilitates backpacking trips for incoming students. She also was involved in several clubs, including the Women’s Club Soccer team which she coached to a national championship in 2021. She is currently taking this year to gain more experience in hopes of attending graduate school next fall and is certain that Shaver’s Creek is the perfect place to be to harness her skills. In her free time, Natalia enjoys a nice cup of coffee, exploring, and spending time with family and friends.
Nature Name: Moose

Elana SlaveterElana Slaveter

Environmental Education Intern

Elana graduated from Penn State in 2022 with a degree in biology and is so excited to be back at Shaver’s Creek as an intern this season! Her love for teaching outdoors has brought her back to the place where she first felt that spark. Elana worked with the summer camps in 2021 as an assistant naturalist/intern and has involved herself in everything Shaver’s Creek and environmental education since then. She was a SEED student this past spring, and her learning did not stop there! She was also a student learning group leader for Outdoor School and can’t wait to return as an intern. Elana is excited to keep growing and learning new ways to connect people of all ages to the natural world, and each other. She has a passion for being outdoors with others, finding mushrooms, baking and eating sweets, relaxing in a hammock, and learning how to sustainably live with nature.
Nature Name: Lavender

Nick SmithNick Smith

Environmental Education Intern

As Nick finishes up his degree in recreation, park, and tourism management from Penn State, he is very excited to be finishing at Shaver’s Creek! Over the past few years, he has spent time at Stone Valley, both at Shaver’s Creek as a SEED student and as an employee of Stone Valley Recreation Area. With Penn State being such a large university, it has surprised Nick how much he has been drawn to one particular area. As Nick goes about his tenure as an environmental education intern this season, he hopes to learn more about people’s connections to place and how they form. Nick has a passion for anything sustainable and recently has been delving deeper into foraging and locally grown foods.

Nature Name: Bombus

Annalisa ViscoAnnalisa Visco

Environmental Education Intern

Annalisa is finishing up her degree in recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State. After working and educating as an interpretive park ranger at Isle Royale National Park, her love for teaching in the outdoors began. Since then, she has been a learning group leader for Outdoor School, given programs at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and spent last spring at Shaver’s Creek as a SEED student. You can find Annalisa napping her hammock, looking for salamanders, or hiking with her friends!
Nature Name: Acorn

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

Email Madison

Amy EldredgeImage 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.

Email Amy

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.

Email Jenny

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.

Email Ezra

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.

Email Kirk

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

Email Emily

Will RobertsonWill Robertson

Graduate Assistant

Growing up, Will spent every ounce of his free time in the local woodlots, catching frogs, snakes, turtles, and salamanders. Over the years, his passion for wildlife has grown and his explorations have become more ambitious. Will graduated from Middlebury College in May of 2021 with a degree in conservation biology and is excited to be pursuing a master’s in wildlife and fisheries science here at Penn State. At Middlebury, he was an athlete on the track team, specializing in the 400m dash. In the fall of 2019, Will spent a semester abroad in South Africa, where he got to see elephants, black mambas, lions, and more! For many years, he spent his summers working as the nature director at Buck Hill Falls Camp Club, teaching kids ages 3–12 about the local flora and fauna. In his free time, Will pursues, photographs, and films wildlife and enjoys making educational videos. Will is passionate about the role of media in conservation and hopes to inspire an audience through his videography.

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

Email Jennifer

Lexi ArnoldLexi Arnold smiling among green tree leaves

Summer Camp Program Assistant 

Lexi is the program assistant for summer camp. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania and completed her bachelor’s degree in recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State in 2019. As a student, Lexi was very involved at the Center. From Outdoor School to festivals, to summer camp, to SEED semester, to summer camp; she took any opportunity she could to be at Shaver’s Creek. After college, she lived in Colorado and California for a few years working in outdoor education and the service industry. She is stoked to be back at Shaver’s Creek and is passionate about creating a safe, inclusive community for all people to learn, grow, and connect with each other and the outdoors. In her free time, she loves all things outdoor recreation, cooking, watching live music, and spending time with loved ones.

Nature Name: Pine

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

Email Eric

More about Eric and his work 

Tommy Butler Head shot of Tommy Butler

AmeriCorps Outdoor School Program Assistant

Tommy graduated from Penn State in May 2019 with a degree in broadcast journalism and has been at Shaver’s Creek ever since. He is currently an AmeriCorps Member, acting as the Outdoor School Program Assistant. Tommy grew up going to Shaver’s Creek Summer Camps as a camper and then as a Leader-in-Training, where his love of the outdoors was born. Thanks to his many incredible experiences volunteering at Outdoor School throughout college, he decided to apply to work at Shaver’s Creek upon graduating. Tommy worked as a Naturalist during the 2019 and 2020 Summer Camp seasons, with time as an Environmental Education Intern at the Center in between. He moved into the role of Summer Camp Program Assistant for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. 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

Email Ellie

Shannan DavidowShannan Davidow

Lead Animal Ambassador

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

Email Shannan

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

Email Chris

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

Email Jennifer

Patti GrayPatti Gray standing at the front door of the Shaver's Creek visitor center

Visitor Services Program Coordinator

Patti can be found welcoming visitors, both first timers and frequent guests, to the Shaver’s Creek Visitor Center. She is also the manager of the Weidemann Bookstore. Patti enjoys chatting with visitors and sharing her growing knowledge of the resident animals, particularly the snakes.

Patti and her husband Brian have lived in the State College area for over thirty years. They have three children, Hannah, Lucas, and Nicholas, with whom they enjoy spending time outdoors and kayaking. Patti enjoys bird watching in the backyard, riding her bike, traveling, and spending time walking her dogs, Firkin and Finley.
Nature Name: Heron

Nikki HouckNikki Houck

Office Manager

Email Nikki

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

Email Jon

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

Email Drew

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

Email Matt

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

Email Lucy

More about Lucy and her work

Laurie McLaughlinLaurie McLaughlin

Program Director; Instructor

Laurie works to support the people and community at Shaver’s Creek through connection and growth opportunities. Her role as a program director is to coordinate the SEED Semester, oversee and direct the Maple Harvest Festival, and teach Penn State courses that support these efforts. Laurie’s classes include RPTM 230: Teambuilding Facilitation, AEE 297: Interpreting Maple Sugaring for Families, and PSU 14: First Year Seminar. Laurie has a passion for teaching experientially, working with interns and students and helping them to learn about how they can make a positive impact on our planet.

Laurie has been affiliated with Shaver’s Creek since 1993. She earned her bachelor’s degree in outdoor and environmental education from Penn State in 1988, and her master’s degree in experiential education from the University of Colorado in 1992. Before returning to Shaver’s Creek, Laurie spent time in Vermont, Maine, Ohio and Colorado working for outdoor education programs, facilitating teambuilding and ropes course adventures, and helping people to learn about themselves and others.

Laurie lives in the woods of central Pennsylvania and loves to spend time exploring, hiking, birding, biking, and canoeing with her family and friends. Baking pies and cookies is high on the interest list as well ,and Laurie will never turn down a game night with friends. Laurie is also passionate about travel, which includes adventures with her husband Mark to see their grown boys, Brian and Sean, in cool places around the country!
Nature Name: Loon

Email Laurie

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

Email Mark

Tesha OmeisTesha Omeis

Summer Camp Program Director

Tesha is the program director for all things summer camp related.

Tesha earned her bachelor’s degree in recreation, park, and tourism management from Penn State in 2005 while being a part of the Shaver’s Creek community in a variety of ways. After graduating she lived and worked in seven different states. From the coastal barrier islands in Georgia to the canyons of Alabama and up into the forests of Connecticut, she enjoyed being immersed in the communities of so many different places while educating youth. She then served two years as a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America in the Philadelphia area.

During her off time, Tesha enjoys spending time with plants, exploring new places, and journaling. She values a balance of work that contributes to a healthy planet with invested caretakers and time to explore opportunities to grow as an individual. If she had a bumper sticker physically attached to her that conveyed a message about who she is and what she stands for, it would read “reach your potential and help others to do the same.”
Nature Name: Skye

Email Tesha

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

Email Chris

Skylar PetersSkylar sitting under a rock arch

Academic Advisor

Skylar is the Academic Advisor serving Penn State students interested in the Sustainability Leadership Minor, the Outdoor Recreation Management option within the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management, and all the many classes that Shaver’s Creek delivers for the University. Skylar is a 2014 graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Extension and Education. During her time as an undergraduate she participated in various Shaver’s Creek classes, including as a Learning Group Leader for Outdoor School. In 2016 Skylar graduated from the University of Illinois with a Master of Science Degree in Parks and Recreation Management. She spent 8 years working with Penn State Extension as a 4-H/Youth Development Educator before transitioning into her advising role with RPTM/Shaver’s Creek.

Skylar enjoys everything the natural world has to offer, from hiking, hunting, and fishing to exploring with her family. Anytime she can be traveling to new and diverse outdoor spaces, she will!
Nature Name: Doe

Email Skylar

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)

Email Joshua

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

Email Alexa

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

Email Brian

Rachel StuberRachel Stuber standing in a stream wearing chest waders

AmeriCorps School Programs Assistant

Rachel is serving as a 2022–2023 school programs AmeriCorps member. She is a Pennsylvania native and is excited to return to the area after graduating from Jacksonville University (FL) in 2022 with a B.S. in marine science. Currently, she is also enrolled at Slippery Rock University where she is completing an M.S. in park and natural resource management as well as an M.Ed. in environmental education. When she is not taking classes or pursuing her love of environmental education, Rachel enjoys working on various art projects, kayaking with her family, and being outside.
Nature Name: Stonefly

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

Email Alex

Paige SutherlandPaige holding Lenny the American Crow

Wildlife Education and Engagement Program Director

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

Email Paige

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

Email Marie

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

Email Brady

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) 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

Email Doug

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

Email Joe

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

Email Ellen

Nolan WilsonNolan Wilson

Part-time Lead Animal Ambassador

Nolan was born in Minneapolis, MN, and eventually moved to State College where they visited Shaver’s Creek often on field trips, finding a deep appreciation for wildlife. Attending Penn State to pursue biology, focusing on ecology, Nolan fully intends to continue their career in environmental education after graduation. When Nolan is not training animals, they’re often found teaching animal care volunteers or giving impromptu snake programs to visitors. If you ever find Nolan during one of your Shaver’s Creek visits, you’re encouraged to ask them any questions you might have about the animals!
Nature Name: Moth

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