People looking at the flower

About Our NHFS Instructors

Paula Becker

Paula Becker is an Ecologist with the MD Department of Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Program. She manages restoration efforts of the rare community of Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, oversees volunteers, outreach and education, conducts rare species surveys, and other projects for the State’s nongame and endangered species program. Prior to join MD DNR, she served as a naturalist for New Jersey State Parks and Forests, provided Integrated Pest Management at a native plants nursery, and trained as a wildlife rehabilitator in Seattle, Washington. She holds a double B.S. in Forest Biology and Resource Management, from the State University of New York – College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. Go, Mighty Oaks!

Rick Borchelt

Rick Borchelt is the Director for Communications at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. He has led many field trips in bird and butterfly identification and conservation and participates in national butterfly counts. B.A., Biology, Southeast Missouri State University. Graduate hours in entomology and science writing.

Jai Cole

Jai Cole leads the Aquatic Ecology Unit for the Montgomery County MD Department of Parks. She manages the stewardship of streams, lakes, ponds and stormwater management facilities and devices in the park system. She plans, coordinates and supervises biological monitoring studies for resource management, stream restoration, and park development projects. B.A., Biology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Mark England

Mark England is Senior Project Manager/Estimator at Can-Am Contractors. He leads birding trips and forays for Nature Forward and for the Montgomery Bird Club, and participates in breeding bird atlases and surveys.

Carrie Fitzgerald

Carrie Fitzgerald is a professor at Montgomery College in the Engineering, Physical, and Computer Sciences department where she teaches astronomy and physics. She also serves as the director of The Montgomery College Astronomical Observatory located on the Rockville campus. Carrie earned her B.S. from Stetson University where she majored in Physics. She completed her M.S. and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Rachel Gauza

Rachel Gauza is a Principal Natural Resources Specialist with the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission where she coordinates the biological monitoring program for Montgomery Parks. Ms. Gauza specializes in herpetology and aquatic ecology and has worked as a biologist and environmental educator throughout the DC Metropolitan area for more than 15 years. A champion for community science, she coordinated the FrogWatch USA monitoring program nationally and locally, and was a co-coordinator, steering committee member, and review panel expert for the five-year Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas. B.A., Biology, Music; Hood College.

Serenella Linares

Serenella Linares is the Principal Park Naturalist at Mount Rainier Nature Center in Prince George’s County and the former Director of Adult Education and Co-Chair of Naturally Latinos Conference at Nature Forward. In addition to her graduate training in Mycology from the University of Maryland, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Universidad Metropolitana de Puerto Rico, and a Master’s degree in Atmospheric Science from Howard University. When Ms. Linares is not teaching, she explores natural areas, photographs nature around her, and participates in community science projects.

Jean Mansavage

Jean Mansavage is a senior historian in the U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office. She performs primary historical research, conducts oral histories, and writes responses to inquiries from Congress, the military, and the public. She is the author of several works about conservation on military lands, military land acquisition, and conscientious objectors to war. Ph.D., History, Texas A&M University.

Joe Marx

Joe Marx teaches physical and historical geology at Northern Virginia Community College, and leads geological field trips for Nature Forward. M.S., Geochemistry, California Institute of Technology. B.S., Chemistry, Georgetown University.

Stephanie Mason

Stephanie Mason is the Senior Naturalist for the Nature Forward. She teaches classes and leads field trips for Nature Forward both in the mid-Atlantic and much farther afield. B.A., Goshen College.

Liam McGranaghan

Liam McGranaghan teaches biology at Northern Virginia Community College and Loudon Valley High School. He bands raptors, and has authored several articles and one book on raptors. Winner of Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. M.S., Biology, George Mason University.

Teresa McTigue

Teresa McTigue is an ecologist with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, located in Silver Spring, MD. Her science portfolio is diverse, ranging from coastal ecology and restoration to the restoration of mesophotic and deep-sea coral communities to work in the forecasting of harmful algal blooms. Ph.D., Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University.

Alison Pearce

Alison has been involved in conservation research, education and practice for over twenty years, beginning with an experience as an Agroforestry volunteer with the Peace Corps in El Salvador. She completed a Ph.D. in Ecological Anthropology at Stanford University, where her research included studies of ranchland conversion in Montana, as well as indigenous forest management in Panama. She is currently Nature Forward’s Deputy Director for Programs, overseeing the organization’s many educational efforts for people of all ages, as well as the restoration and management of Woodend Nature Sanctuary.

Gemma Radko

Gemma Radko is the Communications/Media Manager for the American Bird Conservancy. She completed MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) training through the Institute for Bird Populations in1998. A licensed bird bander, she operated the MAPS station at Adventure in Potomac, MD. B.A., Allegheny College.

Sujata Roy

Sujata Roy is a Volunteer Naturalist with Montgomery Parks, leading programs for all ages at Black Hill Regional Park and Little Bennett Regional Park. She is an avid wildflower enthusiast, an active birder, and all-around nature lover. B.A., University of Chicago.

Lynn Rust

Lynn Rust is a Scientific Review Officer for the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Previously a research professor at the Center of Excellence for Vaccine Research, University of Connecticut. She is a volunteer team lead for the NF Water Quality Monitoring Program. Ph.D., Microbiology and Immunology, University of Rochester.

Kit Sheffield

Kit Sheffield is a Virginia Master Naturalist (Fairfax Chapter) and has led field trips for Nature Forward, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Virginia Master Naturalists and The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club about ferns, trees, and wildflowers of the DC area.

Bradley Simpson

Bradley Simpson is the Restoration Manager for the Nature Forward, working to improve habitat quality at Woodend Nature Sanctuary. He has led the effort to survey the trees of Woodend’s forest, tagging over 4,000 trees. B.S., Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Wildlife Ecology and Habitat Management, University of Maryland.

Cathy Stragar

Cathy Stragar manages the Plant Protection and Weed Management’s bio control program for the Maryland Department of Agriculture. She has a Masters in Entomology from the University of Delaware and is a lifelong naturalist and educator, regularly leading programs with the Nature Forward.

Carl Taylor

Carl Taylor is a retired Research Associate from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He currently lectures on ferns of the mid-Atlantic, leads field trips in northern Virginia for the Beltway Naturalists group, and regularly teaches classes in plant taxonomy and identification for the Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners groups. Ph.D. in Botany, Southern Illinois University.

Sally Valdes

Sally Valdes has a PhD in aquatic ecology with a minor in natural resources policy from Cornell University. For most of her career she worked as a biologist for the Federal government at various agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Her responsibilities included endangered species conservation, habitat restoration and environmental assessments. Since retiring she has taught part-time, including courses in Environmental Health, Wildlife Ecology, Human Ecology and the Impact of Predators on Marine Ecosystems.

Clare Walker

Clare Walker is an environmental educator at Irvine Nature Center where she manages the woodland gardens. She previously worked as an education specialist at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources developing programs and guides about pollinators and other wildlife concerns. She is currently assisting the USGS Bee Lab in creating pollinator gardens for specialist bees. Ms. Walker did her Ph.D. work studying Peatlands, at Huddersfield University.

Paula Wang

Paula Wang retired from teaching biology at Sidwell Friends School and Holton Arms School. Adjunct Faculty, School of Education, American University. As a Maryland Master Naturalist, she leads environmental and natural history programs. M.S. in Microbiology, Medical College of Virginia. M.S.S.E. in Science Education, Montana State University.

Cathy Wiss

Cathy Wiss is a team leader in the NF Water Quality Monitoring Program at two monitoring sites on Ten Mile Creek in Montgomery County, MD. From March 2008 through August 2020, she served as the NF Water Quality Monitoring Program Coordinator. In addition, Cathy has worked to preserve streams, trees, and a wetland in her neighborhood and to encourage developers to incorporate Low Impact Development techniques into their projects. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Catholic University Law School, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College, and a certificate in Natural History Field Studies.

Kerry Wixted

Kerry Wixted is a Maryland naturalist with over 15 years’ experience studying flora and fauna of Maryland. Kerry works for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies as the Amphibian, Reptile, and Invasive Species Program Manager while also serving as the State Agencies coordinator for the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC). She has previously worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and has taught classes for Nature Forward’s Natural History Field Studies Program. Kerry holds a B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management from Frostburg State University, and a M.S. degree in Biology from West Virginia University.