Director of Education
Jonathan joined the Youth Education program at its inception in 2005 and began serving as the Director of Education early in 2020. He holds a master’s degree in park, recreation and tourism management, a bachelor’s of arts in ecology and an associate of applied science in recreation and wildlife management. Previously, Jonathan worked for the National Park Service, North Carolina State Parks, Trout Unlimited and several Boy Scout summer camps. A certified Environmental Educator and Eagle Scout, Jonathan has been recognized by the North Carolina Science Teachers Association for his exceptional service to science education. He has also served on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina as President, and received the organization’s Outstanding Newcomer award for his service. Jonathan has been honored as the 2019 Blue Ridge Naturalist of the Year and also as the 2021 Environmental Educator of the Year from the NC Wildlife Federation.
One of my favorite summer moments is participants return year after year. We’re now working with high school volunteers who began coming to the Arboretum for programs as second graders and even have former campers work with us as staff. I’m very proud we’re able to offer experiences that families look forward to year after year.
Outreach Education Manager
With more than ten years of experience taking students outside to track box turtles, identify wild edibles, and get covered in mud for the ultimate outdoor hide-and-go-seek, Trudie is committed to cultivating meaningful experiences outdoors for youth and adults alike. Trudie recently completed their Masters in Leadership for Sustainability with a focus on equity in education from the University of Vermont. They also visit schools to lead teachers and students in doing science in their schoolyard as part of our Project EXPLORE program! Trudie believes that everyone has ideas to share, connections to make, and curiosity to grow. If she’s not at the Arboretum or a nearby school, you can find her with binoculars watching the birds and sipping on some sassafras tea. Trudie is looking forward to meeting you on the trail and learning more about you!
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child’s eyes light up with excitement after discovering a bug and that they actually like it!
On-site Youth Education Coordinator
Rich hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he grew up fly fishing, backpacking, and playing outside. Through college and beyond, he has worked conservation jobs, led backpacking trips, and taught environmental education across the US. Most recently, he graduated with a Master’s in Environmental Studies from Antioch University, focusing on place-based learning and environmental education. He worked at the Arboretum in 2014 and could not be more excited to be back!
Creative Education Coordinator
A western North Carolina native, Jenna has a deep appreciation for nature, which inspires her to share her enthusiasm and knowledge of the outdoors with others. Jenna taught environmental education as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador, urban ecology in New York City and academically in Upward Bound Math and Science at Western Carolina University, and environmental science at UNC Asheville. She received her undergraduate degree in environmental studies and her master’s of science degree in environmental education at Southern Oregon University. Previously, she was a middle school science teacher. She is currently working on her Digital Video Certification through AB Tech.
Having been a classroom teacher I really enjoy the opportunity to spend so much time teaching in an outdoor setting. It’s a great way to relay and reinforce concepts students learn in their standard course of study.
Community Engagement Specialist
Joshua is an advocate in educating others about the characteristics and benefits of the environment and how people should cherish the environment in which they live in. Joshua attained a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Education from Warren Wilson College located in Swannanoa, Asheville. Besides serving as a CTNC AmeriCorps member for the NC Arboretum, Joshua has also served in AmeriCorps as an assistant teacher and counselor engaging and ensuring well-being of youth members through core and artistic classes. He has also served in CitiSquare AmeriCorps: Food on the Move as a Community Server where he traveled around East Dallas and provided free nutritious meals along with engaging with youth of diverse cultures and backgrounds in summer activities. These activities focused in taking advantage of the outdoor environments while gaining an appreciation of the outdoor environments with which the children thrive in.
I am constantly seeking knowledge and skills that will enable me to become a more positive and influential environmental educator within the community. I believe individuals must gain an understanding the environment in which they live in. Doing so will allow one to develop a respect of an environment that deserves respect.
Community Engagement Specialist
Joanna is native to south Texas where she graduated with her Bachelors in Animal Biology and Chemistry from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Her passion for ecology and conservation grew alongside her involvement with the environmental education and outreach organizations during her undergrad. She began as a volunteer for vet clinics, the wildlife rehabilitation center at the Texas State Aquarium, and the Western North Carolina Nature Center under the Educational Herpetology department. She moved to Asheville in 2018 to work for American Conservation Experience (an Americorps partner) doing trail work and invasive species removal at numerous National Parks along the east coast. Joanna then worked as an instructor for Mountain Trail Outdoor School teaching a variety of ecology courses and outdoor programs.
I love teaching kids because of their innate sense of curiosity and spark. Creating positive outdoor experiences and ‘A-HA’ moments towards nature are the most rewarding for me.
A native to New York City, Charles first developed a passion for nature through walks in Central Park and visits to the American Museum of Natural History. After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Environmental Science from Grinnell College in Iowa, Charles spent 10 years supporting botanical research, directing citizen science projects, and managing public outreach at the New York Botanical Garden. Before moving to North Carolina, Charles has led teen backpacking trips and conducted botanical fieldwork in the Southern Appalachians. In his spare time, Charles enjoys hiking, submitting photos to iNaturalist, and creating realistic sculptures of flowers and plants out of paper.
Project EXPLORE Specialist
Originally from New Jersey, Kristin has always loved spending time outside looking at all of the plants, animals, rocks, and fungi she could find. She moved to Asheville in 2013 and has fallen ever more deeply in love with the mountains and all of the organisms that call them home. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Studies from University of North Carolina at Asheville while volunteering with WNC Nature Center and Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. While serving as the first Student Board Member of Blue Ridge Audubon (formerly known as the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society), she helped establish and was the founding President of UNCA Audubon, one of the first student-run campus chapters affiliated with the National Audubon Society. Kristin has also been an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member serving as a Citizen Science Educator at the N.C. Arboretum.
Project EXPLORE Coordinator
After growing up in the San Francisco Bay area of California, Shannon was drawn to the Blue Ridge Mountains by the incredible plants and animals that call this region home. Shannon attended the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where they obtained a B.S. in biology with a second major in studio art. During their time at UNCA, they served as a herpetology research assistant, as co-director of UNCA’s Student Environmental Center, and as the first UNCA McCullough Fellow to carry out a visual arts based sustainability education project. This is Shannon also served a second year in AmeriCorps at The N.C. Arboretum in 2020-2021, after spending the 2019-2020 year serving as an environmental educator at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, TN.
“I believe that we all have a connection to nature, we just need to find it. Sometimes we can do that through art, sometimes through science, and a lot of the time through play!”
Karen D. Chapman
Environmental Education Specialist
Karen has served on the youth education team for over ten years. During the academic year she works as an assistant teacher at W.D. Williams Elementary School and is working on her dance certification with 5Rythms Global Organization. Karen holds a masters degree in art therapy and a North Carolina teaching license. Her work has included experiences in Outward Bound and several public school systems. Apart from sharing the outdoors with young people, she enjoys hiking, listening to music and exploring the beauty of the mountains.
Everyday is different. Every group is different. The one thing they all have in common is that a kid gets to experience nature in a way they probably never have before. And I just love seeing the switch that happens when students go from feeling like nature’s not for them to wanting to tell everyone they know what they just learned about it!
Environmental Education Specialist
Born and raised outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ben is a member of The Arboretum’s AmeriCorps Project Conserve program. He graduated from NC State University in spring 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences and a focus in wildlife conservation. While studying in Raleigh, Ben had the opportunity to work at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, where his introduction to environmental education would leave a lasting impact on his career trajectory. Always eager to learn more about animals, plants, rocks, and the rest of the natural world, Ben has a passion for conservation issues, especially species extinctions and the loss of biodiversity around the globe. In his free time, you may catch Ben hiking, photographing wildlife, writing, or blending science and art to raise money for conservation efforts through his small business.
As a kid I had my nose buried in countless animal encyclopedias, amazed at all the diversity I could find there. When I realized that many of these species were in trouble, it became my personal mission to inspire a love for nature in anyone who will listen.
Molly grew up on the northeast coast of Florida, where she spent most of her time in the ocean. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and worked as a general assignment reporter at a local newspaper. In 2013 she switched gears and moved to the rural south side of Hawai‘i Island to teach sixth grade at an elementary school. During her time as a classroom teacher, she earned a master’s degree in education from Johns Hopkins University. After witnessing the power of nature to inspire student learning and wonder, she took a position as a park ranger in western Colorado at Curecanti National Recreation Area and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. In 2016 she moved to Anchorage, Alaska, to work at the BLM Campbell Creek Science Center, where she provided opportunities for youth and adults to connect to natural and cultural resources and supported education initiatives across the state. In 2022, she relocated back to the Southeast to be closer to family and joined The Arboretum’s wonderful ecoEXPLORE team. In her free time, Molly enjoys surfing, biking, cross-country skiing, and hiking with her husband and dogs.
Environmental Education and Systems Specialist
Katie Gorman is an Asheville native who grew up at the Arboretum. From the age of 5, Katie attended camps, and has since volunteered and become a staff member, working with both youth and adult education. Currently, Katie works in onsite youth education as well as registration. She graduated from NC State University in 2020 with a degree in Zoology, and then in 2021 with a masters in Biology and a focus on ornithology. Having a background learning and growing here, Katie strives to build connections between people and the natural world!