Meet Our Instructors

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! 

Debbie Bangs Debbie has spent a lifetime observing birds in Rocky Mountain National Park. Her primary mentor in her early study of birds was Dr. Richard Beidleman, with whom she spent many hours out in the field in the mid 1970’s and 1980’s. From 1982 to 1992, Debbie worked in conjunction with Dr. Ron Ryder from Colorado State University on a scientific bird census study after the Lawn Lake Flood, monitoring the damaged site from the Alluvial Fan to Horseshoe Park for Rocky Mountain National Park. In the last eight years, Debbie has participated in owl research in Rocky Mountain National Park with Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute, of which she is the secretary.

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., The Best Front Range Wildflower Hikes, and Rocky Mountain Alpine Flowers.

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.

Denise Culver – Denise has been an ecologist/botanist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program since 1995 and has worked in the ecology/botany field since 1987. Since 2008, she has designed and conducted numerous plant identification workshops for US EPA, USDI BLM, USDA Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Colorado Native Plant Society. Prior to working for CNHP she worked for the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database and the Montana Natural Heritage Program. She worked for the National Park Service in several parks and monuments as a resource management ranger for five years. She has a B.S. degree in Botany from University of Wyoming and a M.S. degree in Biological Sciences from Montana State University. She has been the project leader for over 27 Colorado county surveys for critical biological resources and is lead author for the Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants: Identification, Ecology and Conservation, Common Wetland Plants of Colorado’s Eastern Plains, Common Wetland Plants of Colorado’s Southern Rocky Mountains, and Common Wetland Plants of Colorado’s Western Slope, as well as the Colorado Wetland Mobile App.

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 S- pring 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.

Sarah Feeney – Sarah is a former teacher and outdoor educator who has always enjoyed spending time outside and found a love for fishing at a young age. She began fly fishing a few years ago and has found it helps her to relax and be a part of her natural surroundings. She enjoys sharing this passion with others and educating them on how to be respectful of the natural world.

Stan Honda – Stan has more than 30 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. 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.

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.

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!

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.

Betty Trummel Betty Trummel has been a naturalist and outdoor educator for over 30 years. She fell in love with Rocky Mountain National Park at a family nature conference in 1983 and has been exploring Rocky ever since, hiking and backpacking in all areas of the park. Betty loves spending hours observing wildlife in its natural habitat, as well as sharing this special place with learners of all ages by “rambling:” taking time to explore and look at things up close, really helping people get to know every corner of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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.

Are you an expert in your field and eager to work with Rocky Mountain Conservancy Field Institute as an instructor? Click here to learn more about working with the Field Institute: Become an Instructor

Contact the Field Institute Coordinator for more information by phone: 970-586-3262 or email:

Past Instructors:

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.

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 taught classes at Bass Pro Shop in Denver for 8 years and she occasionally teaches classes in several parks around the west side of 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cynthia Langguth – Cynthia is a Park Ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park and manages the Alpine Visitor Center. The alpine tundra is her happy place and she has spent the last ten years learning about all of the amazing nuance that makes up this extreme community of life.

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.

Marjorie Leggitt – Marjorie started her career at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History dissecting and illustrating Australian land snails. Running her own freelance studio since 1985, she illustrates text and trade books, professional journals, museum exhibits, murals and interpretive signage. A sought-after instructor, Marjorie has taught core and elective botanical art courses at Denver Botanic Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration since 1990. Her passion for teaching and plein air sketching encouraged Marjorie to develop and teach her own outdoor drawing and painting workshops.

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 Artists 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.

Doreen Martinez PhD – Doreen is of Mescalero, Apache and Pennsylvania Dutch lineage. She was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised in Pennsylvania, where her family was the “only Martinez in the phone book.” She is the fourth of five children and was the first in her family to wander, break ground, gain access, and pursue US formal education. Today, she is a professor in Native American Studies at CSU and works with/in several community projects. Her work focuses on how cultural knowledge is lived and practiced in every day and everyday contemporary locations and situations. Her work with community projects ranges from organizational restructuring for meaningful and impactful ‘inclusion and diversity’ to community engagement with buffalo restoration on the Wind River reservation. She uses a combination of collective principles, natural reason, and decolonial praxis to inform her work. Using her formal background in sociology, personal experience, and cultural values rooted in Indigeneity, Dr. Martinez has taught Indigenous knowledge systems; Development in Indian Country, research methods, Native American History, Indigenous Consciousness and Gender, and many other courses for undergraduate and graduate students. Doreen is an avid advocate of alliance building and promoting justice. She is committed to promoting better and more informed knowledge of Indigenous cultures that honor our traditions and all our futures.

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

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 was a professor at Colorado State University and has written a number of butterfly books including the eastern and western Peterson Butterfly Field Guides. He was 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 observed and photographed butterflies in North America, Mexico, Costa Rica, South America, Europe and China.

Field Peterson – Field spends the majority of his time outside, with a camera by his side. Through photography, he finds both a sense of peace and adventure. Since he started photography 6 years ago, Field has explored some of the most picturesque locations in the United States. For the past several years, he has worked with Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources to photograph the world through values of conservation and stewardship.

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.

Chris Ray – 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.

Isabel Schroeter – Isabel grew up in Agoura Hills, California. She received her bachelor of science degree in Conservation and Resource Studies from the University of California Berkeley. She then worked as a research technician working on several projects aimed at assessing oak physiological responses to drought and modeling carbon sequestration in the context of land conservation. She continued to the University of Colorado Boulder, where she is now pursuing her PhD in Ecology. Her research on riparian plant communities in Rocky Mountain National Park was funded by the Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s Bailey Fellowship in the summer of 2019.

Stephen Weaver – Stephen is an award-winning nature photographer with over 40 years of experience making images of the natural world. Formally educated as a geologist, Stephen combines his scientific knowledge with his photographic abilities to produce stunning images that illustrate the beauty and diversity of the life and landscape of the earth and its natural systems. Stephen grew up in Pennsylvania and from an early age developed a passion for nature and the outdoors. As an undergraduate geology student, he first visited the Rocky Mountains where he fell in love with the mountain environment and the wide-open grand landscapes of the West. Steve currently photographs throughout North America with a major emphasis on mountain, prairie and desert environments photographing both the landscape on both grand and intimate scales and the wildlife that are part of those ecosystems.

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.

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