Meet Your Rocky Mountain Conservancy Field Institute Instructors

They’ll guide you through field and stream, introduce you to the wildlife, and ensure 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.



Dr. Tom Adams

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 CU-Boulder.

Rachel Balduzzi

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 Benton

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 Borneman

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. 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. She is the author of Rocky Mountain Wildflowers 2Ed. and The Best Front Range Wildflower Hikes.

Walter Borneman

Walt is the author of award-winning American history books and the coauthor of A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners and 100 Years Up High: Colorado Mountains and Mountaineers.

Curt Buchholtz

Curt is the former executive director of the Rocky Mountain Nature Association (Rocky Mountain Conservancy) and author of Rocky Mountain National Park: A History. In addition to writing histories of Rocky Mountain, Glacier, and several other national parks, Curt has also been a college history teacher and park ranger. He has served as an associate editor of the National Parkways magazine and authored numerous articles about national parks, history, and the West.

Jeff Connor

Jeff is a retired natural resources specialist who worked for 35 years in the federal government. Jeff worked for 25 years in Rocky Mountain National Park where he was involved with wildlife and vegetation management. In 2012, Jeff and other park staff started a Citizen Science Program that has an ecological relationship with the Estes Park and St. Vrain school systems, and a school in Monteverde, Costa Rica, which is part of the Agua y Paz Biosphere Reserve.

Perry Conway

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.

Bob Dean

Bob holds degrees in electrical engineering from San Jose State College (B.S. 1968) and Stanford University (M.S. 1975). While working in the fast-paced High-Tech world, he found relaxation in nature and wildlife photography. Over the years he honed his skills and in the early 2000’s took the step to become a part time professional. Since his retirement from the corporate world he and his wife Nadine have “focused” on nature, wildlife and travel photography, mostly teaching in the classroom and holding workshops in the field. Bob has been teaching and lecturing at many Colorado venues including the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Highlands Ranch Community Association, Arapahoe Library District, Douglas County Library District, High Plains Library District, Gardens at Spring Creek in Fort Collins and numerous local camera clubs. He has written four eBooks: Macro Photography – Bringing the Small World to Life, Travel Photography for Fun and Profit(?), Depth of field: A Photographers Guide to Understanding Focus and Digital Nature Photography – Nature and Wildlife for the Outdoor Photographer. Published images and articles have appeared in magazines and newsletters including Falcon, Outdoor World, and several photo newsletters. He was an assistant editor and featured writer/photographer for First Light Monthly Newsletter for Nature Photographers.

Geoff Elliot

Geoff Elliot is Director of Conservation for Rocky Mountain Conservancy. He manages the Conservancy’s Corps programs and on-the-ground stewardship efforts with volunteers. Geoff completed his M.S. in Conservation Leadership from Colorado State University and his B.A. from the University of Montana. His graduate research focused on understanding how to promote conservation-based behaviors in youth. He is passionate about sharing public lands with anyone who will lend an ear and believes the best way to learn about the outdoors is to lend a hand towards stewarding it. Join Geoff for a custom hike, fly-fishing adventure, or Rocky Mountain National Park experience.

Margaret (Peggy) Ellis

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.

Tena and Fred Engelman

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.

Dr. Scott Franklin

Scott studies disturbance and vegetation dynamics, having received his PhD in 1996 from Southern Illinois University. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed manuscripts, several book chapters, and co-authored one book on forest dendrology. He serves as Chair of ESA’s Vegetation Classification Panel and as an Associate Editor of Vegetation Ecology for The American Midland Naturalist journal. His research currently examines long-term changes in Front Range forests, classification of the Pawnee National Grassland vegetation communities, response of aspen to disturbance, and plant competitive interactions.

Jennifer Frazer

Jennifer is an award-winning science writer, blogger for Scientific American, and is a trained mycologist. She is a member of the Colorado Mycological Society, has been a guest on Radiolab, and has participated as a group leader in two scientific surveys of the fungi of Rocky Mountain National Park. She is passionate about biology and natural history and making them fun and entertaining for others.

Suzie Garner

Suzie teaches graphic design and drawing at Colorado Mesa University where she is the head of the art department. In addition to her teaching focus, she balances her time as a designer, an oil painter and avid sketchbook artist. She has presented field sketching workshops/talks for the Colorado National Monument, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park in Utah, and for Yellowstone Forever in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Her personal artwork has been exhibited in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming, all over Colorado, and in the United Kingdom.

Keith Graham

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 Gricoskie

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.

Stan Honda

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.

Dr. Don Hunter

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 Hunter

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.

Kurtis Kelly

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.

Lee Kline

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.

Caroline Krumm

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.

DeAnna Laurel

DeAnna is a professor of environmental science with Aims Community College. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Denver in 2008. She spent several years working for the U.S. Geological Survey on paleoclimate research before attending graduate school at Colorado State University, where she completed her Master’s degree in 2014. She received her Ph.D. in 2018. Her graduate research focused on geomorphic controls on stream temperature and the effect beavers have on fluxes of water, sediment, and organic carbon in Colorado mountain stream meadows. She has been conducting research in Rocky Mountain National Park for more than 5 years.

Dr. David Lindsey

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.

Donna Lyons

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 Manning

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 Maugans

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 Recreation Area, Redwood National Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. He came to RMNP in 1990.

Gary C. Miller

Gary retired from Rocky Mountain National Park in 2013 after working as both a naturalist/interpreter and as a biologist during the early years of the Elk-Vegetation Management implementation. Prior to that, he held positions with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) including wildlife researcher, research leader and statewide ecologist. During that time, he conducted or oversaw research and management of both game and nongame species, including their ecology, population dynamics, diseases, and restoration of native species.

Paul Opler 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.

Nathan Pieplow

Nathan has spent over 100 days hiking, camping, and birding inside Rocky Mountain National Park. Nathan is the author of the Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds, the proprietor of the bird sound blog, and the former editor of the journal Colorado Birds. He teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Deborah Price

Deborah is an environmental educator who serves as education liaison for Boulder County Parks and Open Space. For 15 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 Price

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.

Karen Ramsay

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!

Janet Robertson

Jan’s grandparents and father started visiting the Estes Park area in 1910. Robertson started coming to Rocky Mountain National Park when she was a toddler and has since hiked, cross-country skied, backpacked and climbed extensively in the area. In the mid-1980s, she was an Artist-in-Residence in the William Allen White cabin and served for many years on a board that has since become part of the Rocky Mountain Nature Association (Rocky Mountain Conservancy). Her book, MAGNIFICENT MOUNTAIN WOMEN: ADVENTURES IN THE COLORADO ROCKIES, was published in 1990. She has collaborated with other writers on ROCKY MOUNTAIN RUSTIC: HISTORIC BUILDINGS OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK AREA (2005) and on A CENTURY UP HIGH: COLORADO MOUNTAINS AND MOUNTAINEERS (2011).

Abby Schreiber

Abby has a Master’s 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.

Laura Scott

Laura grew up in Midwest City, Oklahoma. She received her Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Oklahoma State University. She then worked as a senior research technician in the Imaging Core Facility of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, designing and executing transmission electron microscopy analyses. Laura then continued to Tulane University, where she received a Master of Science in Epidemiology. Laura is now pursuing her PhD in Environmental Health from Tulane University. Laura’s research on antibiotic resistant bacteria in Rocky Mountain National Park was funded by the Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s Bailey Fellowship in the summer of 2018.

Jeremy Siemers

Jeremy has worked with bats for nearly 20 years and is the lead zoologist for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, a research program at Colorado State University. He has conducted surveys and monitoring of bats throughout Colorado in habitats ranging from caves and mines to stock ponds and cattle troughs. He is also involved in the North American Bat Monitoring Program, a continent-wide effort to monitor bats.

Jon Sommer

John received a Bachelor’s degree in Botany from Humboldt state university and Master’s degrees in Botany and Plant Pathology from the University of California, Davis. He has studied mushroom identification with notable mycologists including Drs David Largent, Orson Miller, Harry D Thiers, and Daniel Stuntz. He has led mushroom forays and nature walks, and taught classes on mushroom identification across the US for more than 40 years. As a resident of Colorado for 25+ years Jon has in-depth knowledge of Colorado fungi as well as our diverse flora and the interactions of fungi in the environment. He has been a member of the Colorado Mycological society since 1993, and currently serves at its Membership Chair and Secretary.

Eli Vega

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 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.

Dawn Wilson

Dawn is a professional, award-winning nature photographer who specializes in photographing the wildlife of high latitudes and high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains and Alaska. Recognized as one of the top-ten female nature photographers to watch by Wild Planet Photo Magazine, Ms. Wilson’s work has been published in numerous regional and national publications, including Wyoming Wildlife, Outdoor Photographer and Nature’s Best Photography. She frequently presents about photography to camera clubs and outdoor organizations around Colorado and is a master naturalist with the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas. She published her first book in 2011—Colorado: Flora, Fauna and Landscapes From the Perspective of Women—and recently published an ebook titled Preparing for the Next Shoot: Ten Tips to Get You to the Right Place at the Right Time.

Mary Taylor Young

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.