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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

Spring Staff 2022

Maggie Benoit Headshot of Maggie Benoit

Environmental Education Intern/Assistant Naturalist

Maggie is an environmental education intern for the spring season. She has lived all over New England but calls Rhode Island home. Maggie graduated from Lesley University in 2021 with degrees in elementary education and American history. During her time as an undergrad, she taught grades 1–6 before student teaching in a 2nd grade classroom. For the past few years, Maggie has worked on farms, and prior to coming to Shaver’s Creek, Maggie had been farming on Martha’s Vineyard’s sandy soil. She is interested in environmental education as it combines her passion for the outdoors and working with children. She is especially interested in working with children in the garden, helping kids develop a connection with their food. She is thrilled to join Shaver’s Creek to gain experience in another area of outdoor education. Off the clock, Maggie can be found reading, hiking, trying out new recipes, and listening to the Ologies podcast.
Nature Name: Lupine

Tyler KauffmanHeadshot of Tyler Kauffman

Environmental Education Intern/Assistant Naturalist

Tyler is a former SEED Semester student, and last summer, he was a summer work-study participant for Shaver’s Creek’s Grounds and Facilities. He studies recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State and will finish his degree this summer. He obtained a prior degree in wildlife technology from Penn State Dubois in 2019. He grew up in Mahaffey, Pennsylvania, on his family’s farm and spends most of his time outside growing a better understanding of the world around him. Tyler is always down to go birding, take a trip to a place where he’s never been before, or return to the places that took his breath away the time before.
Nature Name: Walleye

Jack Lachendro Headshot of Jack

Environmental Education Intern/Assistant Naturalist

Jack is an environmental education intern for the spring. He graduated from Penn State in 2019 with a B.S. in biology and a minor in avian science. An undergraduate study abroad trip to Costa Rica reignited a passion for wild birds, leading him to take a job in the Sierra Nevada mountains studying California Spotted Owls during the summer of 2020, giving him his nature name of Strix, the genus of the endangered owl. After moving back to Pennsylvania, he took a seasonal job with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, studying the movement and controlling the spread of invasive Spotted Lanternflies. Realizing that outreach was his favorite part of the job, he started the online environmental education master’s program at Slippery Rock University to learn how to properly teach people about the natural world. Jack hopes to use this internship to apply what he has learned and to share his love of the outdoors with everyone. When he has the time, he will hike any mountain or trail, will gawk at any hawk, is always down for a round of disc golf, and can be found on the ice coaching the Penn State Curling team.
Nature Name: Strix

Gillian MartinWoman holding a hawk

Tussey Mountain Spring Hawk Watch Counter

Gillian is originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Coming from a family of bird and nature lovers, she earned her bachelor of science in wildlife biology from Ball State University in 2020. Her passion for raptors began as a rehabilitation intern at Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she nursed injured raptors back to health and cared for non-releasable hawks, owls, and eagles. She has also worked on research projects with a variety of species, including Northern Saw-Whet Owls and Cerulean Warblers. She enjoys volunteering with local nature groups, birding, and crafting in her free time. She is looking forward to meeting the local birding community and experiencing spring migration at Tussey Mountain this year!

Victoria “Tori” Siegle Headshot of Tori Siegle

Environmental Education Intern/Assistant Naturalist

Tori is an environmental education intern for the spring season. She is a native of the State College area and loves exploring the surrounding sights. She has previously interned with Shaver’s Creek in the summer of 2019 and is looking forward to interning during a new season. Tori graduated in 2020 with an A.S in forest technology from Penn State Mont Alto and will be graduating in May 2022 with a B.S in recreation, park, and tourism management. Upon graduation, she wants to continue to grow her love and appreciation for environmental and place-based education in her future career. She loves hiking, nature photography, birding, biking, fishing, and relaxing outside to the various sounds and smells of nature. 
Nature Name: Ginkgo

Keaton StartoniHeadshot of Keaton Startoni

Environmental Education Intern/Assistant Naturalist

Keaton is an environmental education intern this spring season. He is from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, and will be working on finishing his recreation, park, and tourism management degree. He is an alumnus of the Penn State Outing Club and loves to spend time outside hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, or just camping. When he’s inside, he enjoys reading books and really likes working on spreadsheets. In the future, he wants to help encourage people’s love of the outside by working in National Parks or National Forests.
Nature Name: Ponderosa

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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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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Emily Olsenheadshot of emily olsen

Graduate Assistant

Emily is a Ph.D. student with the PSU Nature Connections Lab, studying curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in science education. Emily is an adventurous, friendly, outgoing person who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, spending her childhood around the Puget Sound in Washington and her young adulthood in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. She graduated from Portland State University with a B.S. in general biology and from Southern Oregon University with an M.S. in environmental education and an M.A. in teaching with an endorsement in secondary biology. During her senior year as an undergraduate, she was a part of an outdoor education class and it sparked a love for sharing the natural world with children and adults; she has been pursuing a career in the field ever since. Emily has worked for various organizations connecting youth and adults to the natural world around them for the last six years, most recently with the Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School, based in the Portland area. Her passions are learning new facts and ideas, connecting to the natural world, and culturally responsive/responsible science education. She is especially interested in the intersection of mental health, science education, and being out in nature, as well as supporting classroom teachers by helping them provide their students opportunities to learn outside. She loves to share her passions with others and to help foster connections between the people and their communities. 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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Cat PughCat Pugh

Graduate Assistant

Cat is a Pennsylvania native with a background in biology from Kutztown University. After graduation, she spent 6.5 months thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail where she was given her trail name (and now nature name), Sunshine. Before starting graduate school, Cat spent a year working at Shaver’s Creek as a native-plant landscaper, research assistant, and maple harvest production coordinator. Her master’s research focuses on the economic and cultural importance of the native wild onion commonly known as ramps or wild leek (Allium tricoccum) in Pennsylvania under the guidance of Eric Burkhart in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. Cat is a self-proclaimed “Jill-of-all-trades,” often creating more projects than she or her partner, Mike, have time for. Besides talking about plants, Cat enjoys keeping a garden, trying new recipes, crafting, reading in her hammock, and of course, hiking.
Nature Name: Sunshine

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Cassie StarkCassie Stark at Crater Lake

Graduate Assistant

Cassie is from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. She previously attended James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and graduated in 2018 with her B.S. in biology. At JMU, Cassie studied the American chestnut tree; specifically her research pertained to finding their modern ecological niche in the Southern Appalachian Cove. Following graduation, she participated in multiple internship programs to fine-tune her interests before applying to graduate school. Throughout these internships, she got to travel and live in different in parts of the country, like Michigan, Oregon, and yes, even Pennsylvania. Through this process, she discovered her love for plants and confirmed her passion for ecology and decided her future career goal is to become a botanist.

Cassie is currently a graduate assistant working to get her master’s degree in ecosystems science and management. She works with Dr. Eric Burkhart on habitat modeling of ramps (allium tricoccum). Apart from this, in her free time she enjoys hiking, playing tennis, rock climbing, and hanging out with her nephew.

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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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Jack MeyerA photo of Jack Meyer

Communications Program Assistant

Jack recently graduated from Penn State with a degree in film production and a business certificate. He began his time at Shaver’s Creek as a volunteer filmmaker in summer 2020 before becoming the communications program assistant. Alongside his love of filming and editing any projects that come his way, Jack is also working to create a series of personalized videos for the Long-Term Ecological Reflection Program (LTERP), where he documents the beautiful sights and sounds that Shaver’s Creek has to offer. Jack loves spending time up-close (camera in-hand) with all of Shaver’s Creek’s animals, enjoys working on personal documentary projects and animations, and is an avid runner, hiker, reader, skier, and road-trip connoisseur. His first project with Shaver’s Creek was about wild ramps and leeks of Pennsylvania.
Nature Name: Wild Ramps & Leeks of Pennsylvania

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