Personal tools
You are here: Home Volunteering and Internships Where Are They Now?

Where Are They Now?

As part of reflecting on the past 20 years, Nearby Nature staff recently reconnected with some of our former volunteers and staff. Below is a look at where these folks are now and how Nearby Nature impacted their lives. Note: If you have a story we haven’t included here, please email us at We would love to hear from you!

Hint: If you are looking for news about an old friend, these folks are arranged in alphabetical order by first name.


Annie Nelson (Volunteer 2002): Laurel Elementary Kindergarten teacher. “I use things I picked up while volunteering with Nearby Nature on a daily basis. I have also taken my own family and friends on walks through Alton Baker park and shared the knowledge I gained from the Nearby Nature trainings.”

Amy (Klauke) Minato and Joseph Minato (Founding Staff 1991-99): Currently parenting, teaching, writing, and exploring nature in Portland. Amy and Joseph helped develop many of Nearby Nature's core education and restoration programs. Joseph still serves on our Board as a non-voting member. Nearby Nature's greatest impact on their lives was probably the fact that they met at one of Nearby Nature's first organizational meetings!

Chris Roth (Founding Board and Volunteer 1992-94): Lives at Lost Valley Educational Center and works as the editor of Communities magazine (see In the past did large-scale organic garden coordination at both Aprovecho and Lost Valley. "Nearby Nature was part of a series of things that helped build my familiarity with the natural world. I also value the personal connections I developed through it, and enjoyed working with children. I've been involved mostly with helping young adults learn about either gardening or the natural world (or both) since then, but some of the same skills come in handy."

Corie Hinton (Volunteer and Board 1998-2007, Green Giving Partner 2012): Artist in Residence with Lane Arts Council. Recently returned from the Peace Corps in Madagascar. “Doing the Junior Naturalist and guide things really helped prepare me for the teaching I’m doing right now. It helped get me used to telling stories to and interacting with kids of all ages, and also with conflict resolution skills! I am 100% positive that all my experience with Nearby Nature was what got me accepted into the Peace Corps.”

Dan Chambers (Park Host 2006-07): Currently parenting and working a sixth-grade teacher in the Medford School District.

Emily Hollern (Intern and Volunteer 2011): Recently finished a Seattle Aquarium Internship -- will soon be leading educational tours at the Rainforest Cafe. Emily is not nervous about her next adventure “after learning the tricks of the trade with Nearby Nature.”

Erin Machell (Intern, Volunteer, Staff, Board 2002-03): Bicycle and pedestrian urban designer and planner at Alta Planning + Design in Portland. “Nearby Nature left me with a perspective that seeks to understand how education and wonder about the world around us can be made into daily parts of our lives.”

Sometimes on nature walk days I would wake up feeling tired, stressed and grumpy, and would not want to go lead a walk at all. But then I would get to the park, and it would be so beautiful and still, and the first sound I would always hear was the distinctive, delightful sound of the red-winged blackbird. I would stand there in the cold for a while and soak in the sense of peace and beauty. Then the kids would arrive, and suddenly every other thought would leave my head. I would be completely present with the kids and with the park, with telling stories, catching dragon-nymphs, and playing games around the trees. It was exhausting and engrossing and wonderful. By the time we were done I could never remember why I had been so stressed and grumpy, and I would face the rest of my day energized and happy, with the satisfaction of a job well done. To this day, every time I hear the call of a red-winged blackbird, I'm brought back to that sense of the calm before the storm, and the joy of those walks.

--Erin Machell

Garrett McCullough (Intern and Volunteer 2005-06): English teacher in Japan. “Leading groups of children on nature walks was great for building my confidence in teaching and managing groups. Knowing I helped children enjoy and appreciate nature more also gave me a greater sense of satisfaction with my college days.”

Heather Markehe (Intern and Volunteer 1998): Currently parenting and teaching elementary school in Eugene. "Nearby Nature has played a part in my teaching any group of students that I have worked with. While in Costa Rica, shortly after volunteer experience with Nearby Nature, I led students on nature walks and explored gardens, Nearby Nature style, letting the kids do the kids take the lead and while I asked questions to get them to think more deeply. As a river guide I would entertain the kids on the trips with different games and storytelling I learned at Nearby Nature. Now, I get to take my first graders to Alton Baker Park and watch the wonderful people of Nearby Nature work their magic in the patient and kind way they are trained to do.

"Nearby Nature taught me that having the answers was not as important as allowing the kids to enjoy and experience the natural world and I am excited every time I get to introduce more children to them." -- Heather Markehe

Jen Metz (Volunteer 1992-95): NOAA Outreach and Education Specialist for Protected Species in Hawaii. Also did science education work everywhere from the San Juan Islands to Alaska’s Mendanhall Glacier. “This chain of events (her work life) was inspired a lot by my experience at Nearby Nature, where I learned how much I loved to teach people about the natural world. I can’t imagine where I would be today if I didn't have that experience!” Jen spent a year trying to live trash-free. Check out her blog at

Jenny Laxton (Volunteer and Staff, 2002-04): Currently Education Coordinator at the School Garden Project in Eugene. "No matter where I ended up working or where I went after college (Zion National Park, eastern Oregon, Madagascar with the Peace Corps) I always found myself thinking of how much I loved my time with Nearby Nature and finding some way to work in teaching kids outside. When I got back from the Peace Corps I gave in and started doing outdoor ed with OMSI, which later led me back to Eugene to the School Garden Project."

Julie Fischer (Volunteer and Board early 1990s): Currently working in city and transportation planning. "What I learned at Nearby Nature: people make all the difference - a great staff makes a great organization!"

Julie Hohenemser (Volunteer 1992-94): Currently parenting and teaching science at Cal Young Middle School. Julie tells us that volunteering at Nearby Nature "was a time that I realized I enjoy teaching science to children which then became my career path." She fondly remembers sharing with her son the story of the little mouse who escaped the hawk by crawling inside the Douglas fir cone! 

Kurt Engle (Board 2000-02): Systems Analyst at PeaceHealth. “Nearby Nature taught me to give freely of my time to benefit others. The ‘thank yous’ and appreciation from those that benefit from other’s volunteerism is very rewarding.”

Katie Weidman (Volunteer 2007-08): Recently took GIS classes at LCC and moving back to the Umqua National Forest to work on the USFS Diamond Lake Botany Crew. Uses Nearby Nature skills whenever trying to teach new co-workers something about plants.

Kristen DeHaven (Volunteer and Board 2006-10) Lives and works in Eugene and is pursuing an early elementary teaching degree. Also works at Chuck-E-Cheese's. "From working with Nearby Nature I am really interested in fundraising and that is exactly what I help people do at CEC. I also got to spend a lot of time around children and I know I will forever want to do that."

Lisa Seales (Volunteer 1998-2000, Staff 2002-05): Working on her dissertation about water management in Oregon and teaching at two colleges. “I have used SO MUCH of what I learned at Nearby Nature in my personal and professional life. My Nearby Nature training prepared for me my career in environmental education. It also drove me to pursue graduate school.”

Maggie Jones (2004-05). Teaches elementary school in Eugene. "I have fond memories of walking in Alton Baker Park with groups of students, searching for crayfish. I also loved dressing up for Kinder Critters and surprising young children with that life-sized outfit. I enjoyed those dark nights waiting for groups to come around for the Haunted Hike. I loved seeing children I knew from school in the circle of dimly lit faces, surrounded by the darkness."

Michelle Perino (2001-2004): Lives in Veneta on a farm and homeschools her children. Also working part time as a bookkeeper for two non-profits. "My friend and I created a magical way of celebrating Halloween, without going door-to-door for candy. Like your Haunted Hike, we trail ourselves through woods and farmland telling stories at different 'stations.' ALSO, I often remind folks with younger kids of the cool stuff Nearby Nature does, and the need to keep kids active in outside activities as well as adults keeping active by volunteering. I loved my stint as 'June Beaver' and can still spout off beaver facts for kids."

Noam Scott (Intern 2005-06): Lives in San Francisco and works as a Special Education and PE Teacher at a school for emotionally disturbed students. "I still take students into nearby parks and use some of the stories I used in Alton Baker Park, such as Everything is Connected (the king and frogs), The sun and the rain (mother nature separating them). One of my favorite NN memories was when a group of students came in and complained that they were tired, bored, and didn't want to do 'nature stuff.' As soon as we crossed the footbridge and played Pooh Sticks the group was immediately glued to every word I had to say."

Patrick McIlrath  (Volunteer 1996): Willagillespie Elementary 5th grade teacher. "Leading Nearby Nature hikes was my first experience teaching groups of children. It was a great way to start my career as a teacher. I was in my element, talking with kids about nature and playing games with them. How could I not fall in love with teaching?"

Rachelle Perkins (Volunteer 1994-2010). Currently working in Portland on the issues of poverty, immigration, and health care. "Nearby Nature deepened my appreciation for city parks, which Portland is teeming with. It gave me an arsenal of great stories to read all my little friends. It was the incubator for my obsession with birds...I remember seeing my first blue heron and osprey in the park. Now I am a full fledged Bird Nerd. It also deepened my connection to my community because, lets face it...everyone adores grandmother spider!!!"

Tim Whitley (Board, 1997-99): 4J School District’s energy and water education specialist. Past teacher at Churchill High School’s Rachel Carson Program. “I have definitely benefited professionally from my involvement with Nearby Nature. Working as a team member, understanding budgeting, and establishing community connections were all reinforced by my participation on the board.”

Rachel Tochen (Volunteer 2009): Intern at Tsinghua Urban Planning and Design Institute in Beijing China.

Sarah Laport  (Intern and Volunteer 2002-05): Student at the Oregon Institute of Technology. Worked as Wildland Firefighter and a BLM Park Ranger/Naturalist. “I actually reflect on my experience with you often. You taught me to stand in front of people with confidence. I learned how to break things down and teach them to anyone!"

"I was part of the community with Nearby Nature, instead of just being a student on UO campus. I still make an effort to find ways to be part of my community anywhere I am.” -- Sarah Laport

Sierra Predovich (Intern and Volunteer 2009-12): Naturalist Intern at San Mateo Outdoor Education in California.

Sharon (Teague) Blick (Founding Staff, 1991-1994): Sharon and her family run the Living Earth organic farm, which she started in West Eugene in 2007. After leaving Nearby Nature in 1995, Sharon served on the board of Discovery Southeast in Juneau, Alaska. After returning to Eugene in 2000, she taught a bit for Nearby Nature and also taught through her businesses: The Bug Lady and Mother Nature's Clubhouse. Sharon also worked as the Director of the School Garden Project.

"I was teaching a daycamp in Amazon Park where we were wading in the creek, catching bugs. We saw a great blue heron wading downstream and the kids wanted to see how close they could get, so we all waded very slowly and quietly towards the heron, who continued wading slowly downstream. The heron was as tall as the kids following her. We were all in a magical slow-motion parade which continued for ten minutes or more until the heron unfolded her wings and majestically lifted herself out of the water and flew away." -- Sharon (Teague) Blick

Souvanny Miller (Intern and Volunteer 2011-12): NOAA Hollings Scholarship recipient.

Tami Dickinson-Chambers (Staff 2005-07): Nurse at La Clinica Health Center in Ashland. “Nearby Nature taught me to appreciate nature moments where ever I am, especially where I would least expect them. I can’t always get out in the wilderness but can always find a bit of the wild even on a busy street in town."

"The kids of Nearby Nature taught me to stop and look - no matter how small or seemingly insignificant something seems - it's bound to hold some little miracle.” -- Tami Dickinson-Chambers

Document Actions