Eric Powers, President email@example.com 'Ranger Eric' Powers as students know him, is a biologist, teacher, photographer, outdoorsman, and overall nature-lover. He started leading nature hikes in 1987 as a Park Ranger in Colorado until he served two years in the US Peace Corps as an Environmental Education Officer. Since then, he has been running nature centers in Colorado, Alabama and New York. In 2005 he started his own company, “YOUR CONNECTION TO NATURE” (YC2N), dedicated to meaningful environmental education programs and eco-tourism, these programs connect classrooms to field studies, and give people a better understanding of their local environment. His on-going wildlife projects include “Save Our Box Turtles,” “Quail vs. Ticks,” “Frog Pond Monitoring” and “Owl Nesting Projects.” For more information please visit his website at www.YC2N.com, or LIKE us on Facebook- “Your Connection To Nature.”
Rebecca Houser, President Elect firstname.lastname@example.org Rebecca Houser has been the Education and Outreach specialist with the NYS Department Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program since 2002, working with schools and communities to enhance understanding of the Hudson River. A graduate of SUNY ESF, and STEM certified through Teachers College, Columbia University, she takes pride in her work to connect students to the Hudson through place-based learning. Rebecca joined NYSOEA in 2002, and fell in love with the people and organization who inspires life-long learning about the outdoors. She has served on the board as Eastern Region Rep and VP of Programs, co-chaired the 2009, 2011, and 2015 conference and received the Outdoor Educator Award in 2013. Rebecca enjoys her free time outdoors exploring and hiking with her kids, kayaking, swimming and gardening.
Kate Phipps is the Education and Community Engagement Coordinator at Scenic Hudson where she has been working since 2013. She received a B.S. in Environmental Science from Binghamton University and has a Masters in the Art of Teaching in 7-12 Integrated Science from Lewis and Clark College. After teaching Biology and IB Environmental Science in Oregon, Kate moved back to New York and began her career at Scenic Hudson. She started as the NYSOEA Eastern Region Rep in 2014 and has been the Vice President of Human Resources since 2016. Since Kate joined NYSOEA, she has been planning annual Winter Weekends, co-chaired the 2015 conference and received the Service Award in 2016. Kate loves living and working in the beautiful Hudson Valley with her husband Aaron, son Barrett and dog Jozy. She spends any free time she can find exploring her interests in jewelry making, crafts, birds, moss and slimy things (eels, salamanders, frogs).
Conrad was born and raised on Grand Island, NY. He grew up overnight camping, fishing, trapping, insect collecting and writing in Western New York. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Geneseo in 2014. That same year, he became co-owner and News Director for the GeneseeSun.com, the first online-only news company in Livingston County. Years later, he interviewed outdoor educators as part of natural history stories and recognized that outdoor education presented an opportunity to use all of his passions in one career field. In March 2018, he left the GeneseeSun.com and volunteered to lead outdoor programs for Chip Holt Nature Center and Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park. In January 2019, he became an Intern Environmental Educator at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve in Depew, NY and joined NYSOEA not long after. He currently serves as NYSOEA’s Vice President of Communications and Technology. He works as a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator, outdoor recreation contributing writer for Letchworth Gateway Villages and freelance outdoor educator in Western New York, especially the Genesee Valley.
Megan Hoffman, VP of Programs email@example.com Megan Hoffman, originally from the Adirondacks region, began her passion for all things “outdoors” at a young age hiking mountains and swimming in lakes with her family. She found her way to the Mid-Hudson Valley in 2012 when she began her career in the Outdoor Education field. After attending her first NYSOEA conference in 2012, she fell in love with the organization and the field of Environmental/Outdoor Education. She has worked teaching the public about native wildlife for the past 6 years and now teaches Garden Education for students in the Beacon City School District. After acting as a member of the Development Committee for 4 years, she was sworn in as VP or Programs for the Board of Directors in 2017. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from SUNY Oswego, with a minor in Biocultural Anthropology. Her commitment to creating stewards of the environment shows in her everyday interactions with children and adults alike! During her free time, she enjoys making soap, gardening, and traveling whenever possible.
Taylor Morton has been working with WE ACT for Environmental Justice in Harlem for the past four years, formerly as an Environmental Education consultant, and currently as the Environmental Health and Education Manager. Her work includes co-facilitating and creating curricula for the organization’s educational programs, managing projects centering New York City Public Housing (NYCHA), and managing projects with academic partners. She recognizes the importance of exposing minority, urban, and low-income youth to natural elements, and actively supports this mission in her work and life. Taylor holds a M.S. in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management from The New School, and a M.S.Ed from the University of Pennsylvania.
Emily Nestlerode is an independent interpretive planner serving conservation and nature organizations. With twelve years of experience as a front-line environmental educator, she brings her expertise of visitor experience, interactive teaching methods, and place-based learning to her work as the owner of Wolf Tree Design, which provides planning, graphic design, and exhibit consulting services. She serves an administrative role at the Director level for Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, where her main focus is overseeing the care of 25 animal ambassadors that assist with education programs. Originally from Pennsylvania, she became a permanent resident of New York in 2013 and attended her first NYSOEA conference in 2014.
Sunny Corrao, Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org Sunny Corrao joined as a member in 2010, after learning about it through her graduate degree program at NYU. She saw a call to volunteer at an outreach event and was quickly recruited to join committees and serve on the board. Originally from Nevada, she grew up loving the heat and vast mountains of the western deserts. She moved East in search of adventure and a change of scenery – celebrating 10 years working in EE in the NYC area last fall. As long as she can remember, her personal goals and daily life have been centered around recycling, wildlife, and energy conservation. After moving to the NYC area she began work in the theater and movie industry as a costume technician and designer. Sunny quickly realized how much she missed working outside, immersed in the sciences. She accepted a summer job with the Urban Park Rangers Fellowship Program during the summer of 2006. At the end of the summer, she was accepted to the Parks Academy and has been working full time in NYC Parks ever since. Currently she is the Public Engagement Associate for the NYC Parks’ Wildlife Unit. What does that mean? It means she gets the opportunity to engage New Yorkers and engage them in conversations about coexisting with wildlife.
Elizabeth Van Acker, Treasurer email@example.com Elizabeth Van Acker currently serves as treasurer. She started working for The Olga Fleisher Ornithological Foundation over 15 years ago as the office manager. In 1999 she got the opportunity to participate in the building of Huckleberry Swamp which opened in the fall of 2001. Since then she has continued her position in the office along with running a few programs at Huckleberry Swamp. She also currently serves on the foundation board as secretary/treasurer. Lizza enjoys spending her spare time with her three daughters and husband. They enjoy kayaking, whitewater rafting, and a monthly movie night.
Anna Harrod, Eastern Region Director firstname.lastname@example.org Eastern Region Counties: Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Orange, Otsego, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster, Washington Anna Harrod is the education coordinator for Public and Youth Programs at the Mohonk Preserve. She was inspired at a young age to pursue the environmental sciences when she attended the DEC camps as a camper and then a volunteer. Earning her BS in Environmental Studies and Geology from St. Lawrence University (with a minor in theater!) she began her outdoor education career as an intern at the San Mateo Outdoor School in La Honda, CA. She returned to New York and worked season at several outdoor schools including the Ashokan Center and the Taconic Outdoor Education Center before moving into her role at the Mohonk Preserve. She now runs the Preserve’s summer camps, public programs, and the adventurous teen Junior Ranger program. When not teaching people how to use a compass or identify aquatic invertebrates, Anna can be found running, hiking, and biking throughout the Hudson Valley and Catskills.
Mary Ronan and Shannon Lyaski, Western Region Co-directors email@example.com Western Region Counties: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming Mary Ronan, Western Region co-director, is an Environmental Educator for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation at Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center in Depew, NY. After a blissful, barefoot childhood in the woods of Allegany County, she pursued a BA in Environmental Communication, Culture, and Writing from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She graduated with a passion for environmental education fueled by summers spent as a camp counselor for the NYSDEC summer camps program. She was mentored and encouraged to remain in the field during her two years as an educator at the Taconic Outdoor Education Center in the Hudson Valley. After a brief detour to Pennsylvania to works as a park naturalist, Mary returned to her roots in Western New York in 2016. That fall, she attended her first NYSOEA conference and was amazed at the energy and passion within the organization. Mary has a soft spot for aquatic insects and brook trout and feels most at home when she is knee-deep in the waters of Western New York.
Shannon Lyaski earned her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 1998. After graduation she worked as a GIS intern for the Monroe County Planning department, and as a drafter for BBL, an environmental consulting firm. She started her work as an environmental educator with a DEC Naturalist internship at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar, NY during the winter of 2004. From 2004-2005 she volunteered as a tidepool monitor and steward for Crystal Cove State Park; as an educator, hostess and habitat restoration assistant for Bolsa Chica Conservancy; and an education docent and aquarist for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. From 2005-2012 she worked as the full-time Staff Naturalist for Helmer Nature Center in West Irondequoit, where she developed and taught curriculum-based school field trip programs, outreach programs, Girl Scout programs and educational events. She attended her first NYSOEA conference in the fall of 2005, and her horizons were expanded. She attended the conference every year until 2012.
In the fall of 2012 she moved to Fairfax County VA, where she worked as a Roving Naturalist for several county parks and implemented new standards-based school programs and Girl Scout programming. She also worked as an educator for Cub Run RECenter, Frying Pan Farm Park, and Hidden Pond Nature Center. On the farm she witnessed the birth of a calf and got to name it (Larissa), milked cows, bottle-fed tiny Nubian goat kids, and taught preschool programs about peachicks (baby peacocks) and third grade science programs about simple machines. With Hidden Pond Nature Center she taught summer and winter camps, school programs, and public programs on pond and wetland life and nature. Shannon also served as Assistant Coach for the Hidden Pond Envirothon Team, who took 15th place at the North American competition in 2013 and 9th place in 2015. Her work with the Fairfax County Park Authority was recognized with a Director’s Leadership Award, Outstanding Interpretive Project and Program awards, and the “Rookie of the Year” Interpretive Excellence Award. She earned her CIG with NAI in 2015. Shannon started her work as the Conservation Education Program Coordinator for the Genesee County Parks in January of 2015. She is very excited to be back home in New York State, and to be an active member of NYSOEA once again.
Josh Teeter, Central Region Director firstname.lastname@example.org Central Region Counties: Broome, Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Seneca, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins, Yates Josh Teeter currently works for New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as the environmental educator for the Finger Lakes Region. He received his undergraduate degree from Binghamton University 1999 and earned his masters degree in recreation management at SUNY Cortland in 2009. The ten years between those degrees were spent inadvertently preparing him for his current position. In 2003, during a year long primitive and survival skills course at Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall Washington, he realized that he want to share things that might help connect people to their surrounding and feel comfortable being outside (while being outside himself). After returning to the east he completed an environmental education internship with the DEC at the Roger’s Environmental Center in Sherburne, then worked as the program director at the Waterman Conservation and Education Center in Apalachin for a couple of years, followed by a few years teaching classes for the Outdoor Pursuits Department at Binghamton University. During these years he worked at many different jobs (at least 12) to make ends meet in order to be able to find one the he has now. He also continues to attend conferences, trainings, lectures, webinars and has to fight the urge to constantly look things up. Very few days pass in his daily life without lots of laughter and hike or trail run.
Linda Besio, Northern Region Co-Director email@example.com Northern Region Counties: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Warren
Linda Besio was born and raised in the North Country and is part of a large family of 9 brothers and sisters. She graduated from SUNY Potsdam with a degree in Biology and began working for NYS Parks in 1998 as part of the Robert Moses State Park Nature Center. A fire in 2010 destroyed the building housing the original nature center, and in 2011 the Friends of the Robert Moses State Park Nature Center Inc took over the daily operation of the nature center. 2017 saw the opening of a brand new building and in 2019 marked 21 years Linda has been part of this transformation. Linda loves working with the school children and the animals of the nature center, her favorite being Leonard the Wood Turtle. She hopes to continue on as part of this wonderful place for as long as possible.
Shinara Sunderlal and Kristina Tobitsch, Metro Region Co-Directors
Shinara Sunderlal is a Conservation Educator at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, NY. She is extremely passionate about connecting younger generations with nature to foster environmental sensitivity. Shinara started teaching in New Delhi, India, where she grew up and then moved to Los Angeles, CA where she pursued a BA in Environmental Policy and Biology. She co-founded an environmental outreach program for underserved youth in the area and then moved to New York to follow her heart rooted in education. She completed her MA in Environmental Conservation Education from NYU in 2018 and worked with Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy along with a public school during the masters program. When she is not facilitating workshops for schools and families or leading summer camps in the summers at the Aquarium, you can find her outdoors with her binoculars looking for inspiration to keep singing her Indian classical art or probably doing yoga at her favorite studio in Brooklyn.
Christina Tobitsch is the Lead Educator and Curriculum Development Specialist at Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s in Environmental Conservation Education from NYU. Christina grew up in the Hudson Valley, and has held several great educator positions up and down the Hudson River that helped her discover and hone her passions for estuary education, early childhood programming, and exhibit/curriculum design. Christina has many creative side hobbies, including dance and playing the clarinet. She loves incorporating music and the arts into EE programming!