Meet Your Rocky Mountain Conservancy Field Institute Instructors
They’ll guide you through field and stream, introduce you to the wildlife, and ensure catch the very best views. But most of all, our Field Institute instructors will share a contagious passion for Rocky Mountain National Park. We’d love for you to meet them.
Adams, Tom (PhD)
Tom has prowled RMNP since 1959. He explores backcountry lakes and streams in all seasons of the year. Formerly an elementary school teacher, he now spends his days astream and skiing. Tom guides fly fishers for Scot’s Sporting Goods in Estes Park (20 years), writes an outdoors column for The Greeley Tribune, and recently retired after 25 years of training teachers through the BUENO Center at Colorado University-Boulder.
Andrews, Thomas G.
Thomas is an associate professor of history at the University of Colorado-Boulder and specializes in the social and environmental history of the American West. His first book, Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War (2008), won six awards, including the Bancroft Prize. His book, Coyote Valley: Deep History in the High Rockies (2015), is an environmental history of the Colorado headwaters region of RMNP. He is working on a book on human-animal relationships in U.S. history.
Rachel is the Field Institute Director for the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. She was an interpretation ranger for many years in RMNP and also the lead education technician for the park’s environmental education department. After receiving an M.A. degree in education, she taught elementary school in Estes Park before returning to her true love of educating children and adults about the natural and cultural history of the Estes Valley and the Rocky Mountains.
Leanne is a former ranger-naturalist in Rocky Mountain National Park who has led wildflower and tundra ecology walks in the park for 25 years and has studied and photographed the park’s wildflowers for more than 30 years.
Marlene spends much of her time in Rocky Mountain National Park locating and photographing wildflowers in their native habitats. Her passion in Colorado flora began in 1974 and has only grown. She is the coauthor of Rocky Mountain Wildflowers. As a member of the Colorado Native Plant Society, in 2013 she won the photo award for Native Plant Landscapes. Marlene is seeking the Native Plant Master Colorado Flora Certificate.
Jeff retired after 25 years as a natural resources specialist in Rocky Mountain National Park where he was involved with bighorn sheep management. He also worked in Canyonlands National Park complex in Utah and was responsible for the reestablishment of desert bighorn sheep in Arches National Park. In 1982, he worked on a Mutual of Omaha TV show with famed Jim Fowler when they filmed the capture of desert bighorn sheep for a reintroduction of the sheep into Capitol Reef National Park.
Conway, W. Perry
Perry has been a full-time professional nature photographer for more than 30 years. His work, including many images of elk and aspen trees, has been published in every major wildlife and nature magazine produced in North America. He is a former biology teacher with an M.S. degree in curriculum development in outdoor education.
Cook, Kevin J.
Since 1974, Kevin has explored Colorado to experience its wild life firsthand. He studies all major life groups – bacteria, protists, plants, fungi, and animals – with a special enthusiasm devoted to their intricate and myriad connectedness. He takes his passion from the textbooks and journals into the field to find the creatures for real. He writes natural history columns for newspapers and magazines, edits technical articles for scientific publications, leads wildlife observation tours, teaches various wild life classes, and presents monthly lectures at several Colorado venues.
Geoff manages the Conservation Corps program for Rocky Mountain Conservancy. After graduating from University of Montana with a degree in philosophy focused in environmental ethics and philosophy, he joined Rocky Mountain Conservancy as the Olson Family Fellow leading children’s programs and bus tours.
Ellis, Margaret (Peggy)
Peggy spent 25 years with the U.S. Geological Survey. During past years, she assisted with and taught map-and-compass and GPS classes. After retirement, she started her own business teaching classes to the general public. She regularly teaches classes at the Bass Pro Shop in Denver and occasionally teaches classes in several parks around Denver. Peggy studied geology in college and enjoys hiking and viewing geologic features.
Engelman, Tena and Fred
Tena and Fred are volunteer field researchers. They recently concluded RMNP’s first survey of hummingbird species and habitat. Analysis of information collected during the ten-year survey is giving new insight into hummingbird survivorship, behavior, courtship and nesting area fidelity, migration routes and timing, and populations. Their work is intended to provide current and future reference for ornithologists, resource managers, and park interpretive personnel.
Suzie is art department head and professor of art at Colorado Mesa University. She also is a designer, oil painter and avid sketchbook artist. She has conducted workshops in many national parks and monuments in the west and has exhibited nationally and internationally.
Keith is a former high school teacher from Illinois who now volunteers on the west side of RMNP. He has B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in geology and has taught geology and other earth sciences for many years. He is involved in the study of the geology of RMNP and other parts of the Front Range. He leads a weekly tundra geology hike for RMNP visitors during the summer. He has conducted many geology field trips throughout the park and has coauthored several papers pertaining to park geology.
Jared owns and operates Yellow Wood Guiding in Estes Park, specializing in nature tours and photo safaris in RMNP. With a degree in environmental interpretation, he has worked as a naturalist from Colorado to New York and Michigan to Texas including a season with the National Park Service on the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Jared has spent many years exploring and researching the flora/fauna of the Rocky Mountains.
Doug is the founder/director of the Gone Feral School of Primitive and Traditional Skills, which uses experiential workshops in the “old ways” to connect people with the natural world. He is a former high school industrial arts teacher, turned environmental educator, naturalist, writer, and primitive living skills practitioner. He is an adjunct instructor with Red Rocks Community College’s Outdoor Studies program, a consulting member of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, and a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Stan has 34 years of photojournalism experience in New York City and southern California. He has been a National Park Service artist-in-residence in five national parks, including Rocky Mountain and has presented talks and workshops at Rocky’s Night Sky Festival. Stan’s night sky landscapes have appeared on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, CBS Morning News, Sky and Telescope magazine and Yahoo News.
Hunter, Don Ph.D.
Don helped to establish and is the science director for the Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy, a nonprofit, nongovernment organization dedicated to wild cat conservation, research, and community stewardship. He also directed a study on RMNP mountain lion ecology that complimented his research on snow leopards in central Asia.
Russell has been teaching avalanche education since 1996. His experiences have ranged from leading two-week winter expeditions for NOLS to guiding hikers on Denali, the highest mountain in North America. He recently became the owner of Colorado Mountain School, the country's largest provider of the AIARE avalanche education curriculum.
Jason is a professor and chair of the department of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He has a Ph.D. degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he researched permafrost distribution in the Front Range of Colorado. He is currently researching many glacial and periglacial topics in RMNP and has written several papers for scientific journals.
Kurtis is a well-known performer, actor and storyteller in Estes Park. He has portrayed Abner Sprague and has led living history reenactments of local figures like F.O. Stanley and Lord Dunraven. He has led hundreds of people on ghost story tours of the Stanley Hotel. He has appeared on National Public Radio and performed in many theatrical productions.
Kittel, Timothy Ph.D.
Tim (Ph.D. ecology) is a research ecologist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado-Boulder, investigating climatic and ecological change across western North America. He teaches winter field ecology for CU’s Mountain Research Station and summer overseas field ecology courses for non-science majors for Columbia University. Tim is faculty director for CU Study Abroad Program's Conservation Practice in Brazil Global Seminar.
A native Coloradan, avid outdoorsman, and amateur naturalist, Lee Kline has spent his entire life at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. His articles and images have appeared for years in magazines, books, calendars, natural history interpretive displays, advertising and other media. His award-winning photography is recognized internationally for its excellence in capturing the natural moments of wildlife in their habitats. He authored Colorado Wildlife Portfolio and a DVD, Through My Lens – A North American Wildlife Picture Show.
Kondratieff, Boris Ph.D.
Boris is a professor of entomology and director of the C. P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity at Colorado State University. He received his Ph.D. degree at Virginia Tech. Current interests include insect biodiversity surveys of wild lands and other landscapes, aquatic insect ecology, taxonomic revisions and descriptions of new or poorly known species of flies, forensic entomology, and management and curatorial work in the Museum. He has published more than 196 peer-reviewed scientific papers and is coauthor of four books. He currently teaches at Colorado State University.
Caroline helped to establish and run the Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy, a nonprofit, nongovernment organization dedicated to wild cat conservation, research, and community stewardship. She is currently the director of RMCC and recently completed a Master’s degree on the mountain lion, looking at whether or not it exhibits a “prey preference” for chronic wasting disease-infected mule deer.
Lindsey, David Ph.D.
With a Ph.D. degree in geology, David served as research geologist/administrator at the U.S. Geological Survey for more than 30 years. He is scientist emeritus at the U.S.G.S. in Lakewood, Colorado, where he volunteers his time on research projects. In addition to many research papers and geologic maps, he has written three geology pamphlets published by the U.S.G.S.
Certified Interpretive Guide and Certified Tour Guide, Dave shines light on hidden narratives of history on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. He appears in the PBS documentary “The Living Dream, 100 Years of Rocky Mountain National Park”. Dave is past-president of Grand Lake Area Historical Society and past-president of Historic Fraser. As a volunteer, he has presented the Sisters of Courage interpretive program for Rocky Mountain National Park for many years. He is related to a family who homesteaded in the Kawuneeche Valley in 1896.
Donna is a practicing watercolor painter with degrees in painting and art education. A retired elementary art and kindergarten teacher, she now teaches painting workshops throughout the West, including “Wildflower and Watercolor Workshop” at Trail River Ranch in the Kawuneeche Valley. Donna is the author of the book My Kawuneeche - An Artist’s Journal in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Jan, a native Coloradan, has a degree in wildlife biology. His passion for American history led him to begin researching and providing living history presentations to audiences across the western United States. Among his patrons are Fort Collins Museum, Denver Art Museum, Museum of Western Art, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University, National Wildlife Federation and Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.
Jeff worked as a naturalist for the National Park Service for 32 years with a special interest in birds. With his degree in outdoor education and natural science, Jeff has worked at Mammoth Cave National Park, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Edison National Historic Site, Gateway National Park, Redwood National Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. He came to RMNP in 1990.
Bella has a B.S. degree in environmental science from the University of New Hampshire. She began a Ph.D. degree at Colorado State University in the fall of 2014. She is currently studying the interactive role of climate change and nitrogen deposition on alpine lakes, particularly with respect to algae.
Opler, Paul and Evi Buckner-Opler
Paul and Evi have been teaching butterfly natural history classes since 1992 for RMC, Teton Science School in Wyoming and San Francisco State University. Paul is a professor at Colorado State University and has written a number of butterfly books including the eastern and western Peterson Butterfly Field Guides. He is an internationally recognized expert on butterfly conservation and butterfly ecology and classification. Evi Buckner-Opler is a retired school teacher, nature photographer, and artist. She and Paul have observed and photographed butterflies in North America, Mexico, Costa Rica, South America, Europe and China.
Pickering, James Ph.D.
Jim is historian laureate of the Town of Estes Park and recent retiree as professor of English at the University of Houston where he has also served as dean, provost, and president. He has written or edited 30 books on the RMNP-Estes Park region, Colorado, and the West. He holds degrees from Williams College and Northwestern University. His most recent books are Joe Mills of Estes Park: A Colorado Life (2013) and his Rocky Mountain National Park Reader (2015).
Deborah is an environmental educator who serves as education liaison for Boulder County Parks and Open Space. For 12 years, she has taught people of all ages about basic astronomy and helped them gain a better understanding of our solar system and the universe. Deborah has a Bachelor of Science degree from Colorado State University, with a major in natural resource recreation and tourism.
Paul is an avid amateur astronomer who loves to help people discover the universe with the aid of telescopes. By day, he is a database administrator for the United States Department of Agriculture, and by night he looks up to the skies. He is also an award-winning woodcarver and teaches woodcarving classes.
Peter has 45 years of experience in the resource industries and education and has used GPS since the launch of the system. He has taught GPS as part of a GIS curriculum for 15 years and is currently GIS faculty at Front Range Community College-Boulder County campus. He continues to consult as a geologist and certified GIS professional. He loves working in the field locally to internationally, but RMNP is a favorite place.
A graduate of Colorado Institute of Art in Denver, she has studied under talented artists including Charles Reid, Burton Silverman, Frank Webb and Eric Weingardt. In 2001, Karen was featured in the Big Sky Journal as an Artist of the West. Favorite locations for plein-air painting include RMNP, Grand Teton National Park and her own backyard!
Chris is a research associate with the University of Colorado’s Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, and has been the outreach coordinator for the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research program. She has studied the American pika throughout the western US, and has co-authored many publications on this species. Her background is in theoretical/mathematical ecology, and she enjoys teaching, advising students and engaging with audiences of all ages.
Abby has a Masters degree and has been an environmental educator, a national park ranger, a Native Plant Master Trainer for Colorado State University and a Clinical Herbalist. She attended the Southwest School for Botanical Medicine and then opened a holistic health care practice. Ethnobotany and ecopsychology are her passions. She is affiliate faculty at Metro State University in Denver.
Eli Vega is an award-winning, extensively published photo artist, with more than 20 years of experience in the field of photography. He is a sought-after presenter and art competition judge among Colorado’s Front Range advanced photographic societies. He is known for his mantras: “The best photography is found where technical know-how and creative aesthetics meet,” and, “I don’t see with my eyes; I see with my imagination.” In addition to freelance work, he is the author of the new book, Right Brain Photography (Be an artist first). He also teaches photography courses and workshops for the City of Longmont, the Louisville Art Association, Arapahoe Community College, and at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Ellen is a professor of geology at Colorado State University, holding a Ph.D. degree at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on river form and function, particularly in mountain streams. She has conducted field research on every continent except Antarctica and published nearly 200 scientific papers, two textbooks, and eight nontechnical books about rivers. She has been conducting research in Rocky Mountain National Park for more than ten years.
Young, Mary Taylor
A degree in zoology and a life devoted to nature, wildlife and the environment led Mary to become an award-winning nature writer. She is the author of 13 books, including The Guide to Colorado Reptiles and Amphibians and The Guide to Colorado Mammals. She has published hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. Her “Words on Birds” column ran in Rocky Mountain News for 16 years.