Who WE Are

Welcome to Wild Earth! Get to know our Staff, Instructors and Board of Directors. Want to know more about our values, etc? Visit our About page.

Wild Earth Staff

David BrownsteinDavid Brownstein, Executive Directordavid@wildearth.org, (845) 256-9830 x 4 – In 2004, David co-founded and, today, is the Executive Director of Wild Earth, where he seeks to help regenerate healthy community culture and create opportunities for people to connect with themselves, each other and the Earth. Prior to founding Wild Earth, David worked as a wealth advisor on Wall Street for twelve years before realizing a life dream – fully sharing in the care and parenting of his three children, and creating a small family farm. Today, the Brownsteins raise dairy cows, goats, chickens, bees and vegetables in season. David also maintains an active counseling practice called Root Connections, where he focuses on helping individuals, couples, groups and business leaders identify and manifest their unique vision.  Learn more about David at rootconnections.org. Have you seen David’s Wild Earth blog posts?
Simon Abramson Simon Abramson, Deputy Directorsimon@wildearth.org, (845) 256-9830 x 3 – Over the past twelve years, Simon has led and supported nature connection and coming-of-age programming for thousands of youth and adults. He joined the Wild Earth team in 2006 and has since held myriad roles in the field and in the office. Simon has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont where he focused on exploring the relationship between a healthy psyche and a vibrant natural world. He has staffed and studied with various wilderness schools throughout the Northeast including the Institute for Natural Learning, White Pine Programs and the Vermont Wilderness School. Have you seen Simon’s Wild Earth posts?
Alisha Mai FrankAlisha Mai McNamara, Program Directormai@wildearth.org, (845) 256-9830 x 6 – Mai grew up in southwestern CT, where she spent her days clamoring across barnacled boulders lining Long Island Sound, and capturing crickets to feed to her leopard frogs. She studied acting at Emerson College and graduated from Hampshire College with a self-designed B.A. in ecosystem mimicry agriculture and community circus theater. Alisha Mai has run nature-immersion programming since 2008, with Vermont Wilderness School, the Institute for Natural Learning, Wolftree Programs, White Pine Programs, and most recently, Wild Earth. Mai enjoys working with girls and teens, and incorporating physical play into her programs. She draws upon her background in theater and circus to create zany and magical experiences in nature. Alisha Mai is certified in Wildlife Track and Sign (Level II) through CyberTracker, and is a Wilderness First Responder. She teaches vinyasa yoga and aerial silks, and studies at Circus Warehouse in Queens.
Esperanza Gonzalez Esperanza Gonzalez, Program Directoresperanza@wildearth.org, (845) 256-9830 – Esperanza is, and has always been, a teacher at heart. From the early age of 8 she would hold play groups in her church and tend to the young children who would often disrupt the sermons. This passion to teach carried on through the years, bringing her to SUNY New Paltz where she received her Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education and History. While living in New Paltz, she merged her love for the outdoors, her passion for teaching and her organizational and entrepreneurial skills into many different educational programs. She has taught in various local schools, led theater groups, kids yoga, art programs and of course worked with Wild Earth in a number of programs. Her commitment to community connection has guided her community service work in jails, juvenile centers, Americorps, inner-city art programs, soup kitchens and many more volunteer based initiatives. She sees every child’s potential and knows there is no better way to hold their blossoming than through the arts and the exploration of the natural world.
Sarah Nason Sarah Nason, Administrative Directorsarah@wildearth.org, (845) 256-9830 – Sarah grew up in Michigan, where her first introduction to the “wild” was through YMCA summer camps. She looked forward to exploring and getting dirty, and would jump into any body of water that she could find. Her passion for the outdoors led her to the Pacific Northwest, where she spent nearly 20 years on the shores and slopes of Washington State. Sarah has a Master’s Degree in Natural Resource Management and has worked in the fields of environmental conservation, food justice, corporate accountability and civic engagement. A desire to build community and share her love of the outdoors with young people led Sarah to spend nearly a decade volunteering as a mentor and snowboard instructor for Seattle youth. Sarah moved to the Hudson Valley in early 2017 to be closer to family and is proud to call Wild Earth her home. She still loves to get dirty and will still jump into any body of water she can find.
Dustin LambertaDustin Lamberta, Program Managerdustin@wildearth.org, (845) 256-9830 – Dustin began his wilderness journey playing with his sister and other neighborhood kids in the “woods” (an acre of marshy land deemed too wet for development) near his suburban Long Island childhood home. After focusing his studies on political science, and philosophy at SUNY New Paltz, he began to take in interest in local food and ecology while working at local farms and wineries. In Fall, 2011 he was introduced to Wild Earth by his friend Thomas Meli, and began attending the Dawn Song Village Program. He has since worked at Kestrel Camp. Dustin has also staffed programs for White Pine Programs in Maine and Coyote Club Wildlife Education Programs in New Hampshire. He has a passion for bird language, harvesting edible plants, and sharing stories of deep nature connection. He received a permaculture design certification through Green Phoenix Permaculture and has been to two New England Bird Language Intensives with White Pine Programs, as an attendant and staff facilitator.
Michaela HimelfarbMichaela Himelfarb, Program Managermichaela@wildearth.org, (845) 256-9830 – Michaela Himelfarb grew up on the beautiful and rocky north shore of Long Island. There, she spent much of her time working at her family’s second generation landscaping and gardening business, where her love for the natural world emerged. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Ed, Michaela was driven instead to put her education to use in nature’s classroom, working many years as an outdoor educator and gardening instructor. Then she heard a call she could not refuse: she attended the Wilderness Awareness School’s two year nature connection mentoring program in Duvall, Washington, and left with teachings and stories she will carry in her heart forever. While in WA she also had the privilege of guiding trips with youth and teens at Rite of Passage Journeys. After returning east in 2013, Michaela has recently moved from Long Island to West Shokan with her husband Eric, where they help care take the beautiful property they call home. During her free time you may find her practicing her grandfather’s fiddle, visiting her sit spot, or diving into whatever craft seems irresistible in that moment.
Ana JimenezAna Jimenez, Program Administratorana@wildearth.org, (845) 256-9830 – Ana grew up in Harlem, spending most summers in her native Dominican Republic, where she made hens her pets and took in and fed any stray dog that approached her. Her love and affection for all living things led her to the Hudson Valley after spending four years in the west in pursuit of her B.A. in English from Brigham Young University. Since moving to the Valley, she has enjoyed her immersion in nature, through hikes, swims in local streams and ponds, and most importantly the impact agriculture has had on her health. Ana is passionate about providing guidance and education to younger generations, and she is determined to continue her affinity for community with Wild Earth.

Wild Earth Instructors

Zach FisherZach Fisher, Instructor – Zach Fisher grew up amongst the redwood forests and beaches of the Northern California coast. The pursuit of art and music brought him to NYC and eventually to Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School which he considers to be the beginning of the education he was always looking for. He began teaching primitive skills and nature connection in 2011 and has since worked for several earth skills programs including the Wild Earth Foundation, the Children of the Earth Foundation, Two Coyotes Wilderness School, Urban Kid Adventurers, Mount Victory Camp in the US Virgin Islands, as well as his own company, Earth Living Skills based in NYC and the Hudson Valley. His fascination with wild edibles and medicinal plants lead him to study herbalism at the Twin Star school of energetic and herbal studies in Connecticut and his studying of indigenous shamanism lead him to begin attending sweat lodges and vision quests with the Hawk’s Nest Quest community in the Hudson Valley. His goal as a teacher and a student is to foster a deeper connection between people and the natural world in the spirit of conservation as well as rediscovering the vastness of our human potential.
Jonathan GonzalezJonathan Gonzalez, Instructor – Jonathan was first introduced to the woods on camping trips with family and friends as a young boy growing up in Southern California. At home, the influences of gangs, drugs and violence were often times literally right outside the front door. But with the fierce love and support of his parents his family made the brave move to New York. Jonathan attended Plattsburgh State University where he earned his Bachelors in Social Work. In 2008, Jonathan met friend, teacher and mentor, Michael Ridolfo. Michael introduced him to wilderness awareness, tracking and greater awareness of one’s self. This brought Jonathan to Tom Brown Jr. and to the world renowned Tracker School. Jonathan continues to pursue his inner tracking and awareness through Vision Quest with Malcolm Ringwalt where he has trained as a Vision Quest Protector. Jonathan’s passion is in sharing his love of the natural world through wilderness skills with kids and adults that are underserved or haven’t otherwise had the chance to experience themselves in nature.
Ellie GrossEllie Gross, Instructor – Ellie grew up in New York City, where she always felt a curiosity for the natural world. Upon arrival in New Paltz for college, she dove into any opportunity she could to explore the outdoors. As Elle also developed an interest in yoga, she observed harmony within the self also meant union with the natural world. Ellie has worked with children in local daycare centers and in private homes throughout her life, so it was an easeful transition for her into Wild Earth, where all of her passions could weave together into one experience.
Katie GroveKatie Grove, Instructor – Going out into the forests and fields, harvesting materials from nature, and sitting down in the sun to weave a basket is Katie Grove’s idea of a perfect day. She is an artist and educator whose passion is to guide adults and children alike in connecting to their creative self through the combination of art and nature. Through nature-based arts such as basketry, plant dyes, weaving, sculpture, and journaling she creates an environment where individuals can explore self-expression while learning how to identify, use, and appreciate locally available natural materials. She has worked with Wild Earth since 2012 and in 2014 co-pioneered the first summer of Wild Earth Art Camp as a lead instructor and program designer. She has a BFA in Printmaking from SUNY New Paltz and continues to teach and exhibit art throughout the region.
Stephanie HertelStephanie Hertel, Instructor – Stephanie grew up in the woods of northern New York State. Her early days were filled with playing outdoors and wild harvesting food. Now, as a certified herbalist and seasoned grower for 6 years, Stephanie’s roots are shown in her work as a therapeutic and medicinal garden consultant. She is currently creating and implementing a horticulture therapy program for the Anderson center for autism. Through her love of teaching herbalism, homesteading skills, and other ancient healing techniques, she strives to give others the tools necessary to lead a happy and healthy life. Her passion for making herbal products, natural crafts, and wild harvesting medicinal and edible plants are highlighted in her offerings as a wilderness educator.
Zach JonesZach Jones, Instructor – Zach “Maui” Jones has been with Wild Earth since the very beginning. As a child, Zach participated in multiple wilderness programs throughout the east coast. Growing up in the Hudson Valley, he enjoyed time outside in the woods and playing basketball, soccer, motocross, and BMX. Zach has spent countless summers working as a wilderness summer camp instructor while pursuing his education and traveling the world. In 2017 Zach joined the Wild Earth team in a more permanent role. Zach now coordinates the Wild Earth Kingston Project for both Bailey & Miller Middle Schools, as well as our summer camps for 7-10-year olds.
Jason LordJason Lord, Instructor – Born in the island nation Trinidad, Jason spend his first 4 formative years surrounded by the island’s nature-loving culture. After moving to America, the public parks and botanical gardens of New York City became temples and cathedrals where he would play and explore, observing and learning from the local flora and fauna. After studying Sociology and Africana Studies at SUNY Stony Brook, the years afterwards found him moving to the Hudson Valley. Jason’s passion for cuisine and wellness led him to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and he is now a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, and Transitional Coach. He’s also a Reiki Practitioner, as well as the founder/Executive Director of ShowUp4Life, where he shares his services with those seeking wellness and balance. His previous experience in Child Development and Youth Mentoring with such organizations as Family Partnership, Catherine Street Community Center, and Nubian Directions ll have prepared him for his work as a Wild Earth Instructor. His avid love of nature, experience through time spent camping, bushcrafting, hiking, and generally frolicking in the woods, his love of art and handcrafting with natural materials, and his zest for life and happy humans all comprise the substance he feels blessed to share with the Wild Earth community. He loves to share. His life’s purpose is to inspire. Oh yeah… he’s also a Ninja.
Liz MalmstedtLiz Malmstedt, Instructor – Liz first discovered her love of the outdoors in college, where she learned to rock climb, camp and play in the woods. After 5 years in Seattle teaching outdoors and in-schools, Liz spent five years in Japan exploring, learning, teaching and (much to her Tokyo co-workers amazement) most every weekend in the mountains or ocean. Since moving to New York in June of 2016 she has not stopped smiling and being part of the Wild Earth family has played a huge part of that.
Mary Jane NusbaumMary Jane Nusbaum, Instructor – As a child Mary Jane spent every season outdoors in Central NY skiing, swimming, hiking, canoeing, and every summer went back-woods camping in the Adirondacks with her ambitious parents and four siblings. Her two boys have grown up attending Wild Earth programs which has had a profound affect on who they are today. She piloted an art program for Wild Earth in 2013 which has blossomed into a full blown summer camp. Mary Jane is a visual artist and art teacher who has traveled extensively and has a love of world cultures, people and the natural world in which we live.
Bosch PurvisBosch Purvis, Instructor – Bosch’s passions are nature connection and creative expression. Practically born in the woods, Bosch has been attending nature immersion programs since the age of 7, starting with Tom Brown Jr.’s youth summer camp. Many of the skills he learned during those formative years he still uses to this day. He attended programs at Coyote Tracks in New Jersey, The Wilderness Awareness School in Vermont, and was present for the birth of Wild Earth. Throughout the last 10 years he has taught nature connection at Wild Earth and music production at The Riekes Center in California. Still an active instructor and mentor for Wild Earth, he now runs Bars Beyond Bars, a music recording program for incarcerated youth. Bars Beyond Bars is a program that provides incarcerated youth the opportunity to make music and creatively express themselves while serving time. Twice a week Bosch brings a basic music studio setup into a maximum-security youth detention center and creates music with the youth there. Through Wild Earth and Bars Beyond Bars he has found a way to share both his true passions, and continues to empower others to do the same.
Ashley Sapir LathropAshley Sapir Lathrop, Instructor – Peace and play in nature have been fundamental to Ashley since she was a small child exploring the woods at the edges of her family’s Putnam county yard in search of interesting flowers and plants. In college she studied Cultural and Medical Anthropology bringing her to Central America where she explored the native plants and studied with a local Midwife. Along with her passion for plants, Ashley is a teacher at heart with a M.S. in Education and years of teaching experience in the Beacon schools. She has studied with both traditional Native healers as well as gifted teachers in the Herbal Community such as Susun Weed, Sevensong, Matthew Wood, Dina Falconi and Aviva Romm. Ashley loves sharing her passion about plants and has done so through farming and crafting herbal remedies with Wild Wind Herbal CSA and through her own herbal practice Dreamkeeper Botanicals. Ashley in inspired by generations of traditional healers and feels it is our birthright to tap into the powerful relationship between plants and people.
Antonia Estela PérezAntonia Estela Pérez, Instructor – Antonia was born and raised in New York City, but would spend her weekends running around in the woods. This experience inspired a deep curiosity to understand the history of the land and the separation/connection between urban and rural. Antonia received her B.A at Bard College where she studied Environmental and Urban Studies as well as anthropology and studio arts. She is currently studying herbalism at Arborvitae School of Traditional Herbal Medicine. She integrates her love of plants, being outdoors and youth education at her full time job with The Brotherhood Sister Sol. Antonia has a passion for learning about plants and different earth based skills alongside youth.
Michael RidolfoMichael Ridolfo, Instructor – Since childhood Michael has been a student and teacher of the natural world and continues to be a life-long learner. Concurrent with his commitment as the full-time Naturalist at the world-renowned Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY he has taught at myriad institutions, both public and private, has worked with a broad spectrum of students from Jr. Naturalist programs to creating and running transformative programs for youth-at-risk, facilitated rites-of-passage experiences for adults and children, taught authentic survival and tracking skills to corporate groups, both domestic and worldwide, has maintained an ongoing native philosophy program for twenty-three years and much more. His passions include music, rock climbing, martial arts, cycling and teaching. He lives in Accord, NY with his wife, teacher and best friend Sophia.
Connor StedmanConnor Stedman, Instructor – Connor Stedman is a field ecologist and wilderness educator based in the Hudson River Valley. He holds an M.S. from the Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning program at the University of Vermont and is an expert in landscape tracking and forest forensics. Connor has shared the mysteries of the natural world with students of all ages for over a decade across North America.
Zoya TeirsteinZoya Teirstein, Instructor – Zoya was a camper at one of Wild Earth’s first summer camps when she was nine years old. At age 13, she embarked on a year of experiential homeschooling, traveling through the United States in a pop-up camper with her family, and stopping to hike, play, and learn along the way. Since then, Zoya has traveled to Mexico, England, Israel, Italy, and, most recently, Australia to study writing, education, and the natural world. She is currently a student at NYU, majoring in journalism and sustainability. Zoya splits her time between the Hudson Valley and New York City, and her favorite thing in the world is singing in the woods.

Paul TobinPaul Tobin, Instructor – A treasured elder and inspiring teacher, Paul’s approach to life embodies much of what Wild Earth seeks to create. (Paul Tobin would not a write a bio for our website.)

Email Paul or call him via (845) 657-6818


Wild Earth Board of Directors

Micah BlumenthalMicah Blumenthal, Board Member – In all aspects of his life, Micah is grounded in community – as co-owner of CIXdesigns, a yoga teacher, a board member of the Center for Creative Education, a helping hand at the Uptown Farmers Market (come say “Hi!” on Saturdays), Community Animator at The Lace Mill, and rocket scientist for the O+ Festival – he is dedicated to creating positive change in his community. Most of all, he is a happy father of two. It is through both CCE and his daughter’s involvement with Wild Earth that he came to love and appreciate the work Wild Earth does. He has seen through his daughter the growth that a child can experience through these kinds of programs.
Mischa CohnMischa Cohn, Board Member – Mischa hails from Colorado where he acquired an appreciation of natural environments during summer hiking trips in the Rocky Mountains. After studying Marketing in college, Mischa lived in San Francisco and then spent a year traveling the planet – including living and teaching English in a small town in S. Korea. That adventure culminated in NYC where Mischa launched a career in digital media strategic partnerships, met his wife and started a family in Brooklyn before moving to New Paltz in 2011. Wild Earth has been an enriching influence for his family and friends, and he looks forward to helping the organization impact diverse communities.
Matt ElkinMatt Elkin, Board Member – Known by many families in the New Paltz community as “Mr. Elkin,” Matt is a teacher at Duzine Elementary School. In more than ten years in the district he has worked with first/second grade students, including Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners. Also known at Duzine as “The Garden Guy”, Matt co-founded and currently chairs the committee for the first school garden in the New Paltz district called, The Green Classroom. So passionate about helping to shape the world of education, Matt collaborated with two other local teachers to create Inspired Learning Connections (ILC), an education consulting firm. Since childhood, the forest is where Matt feels most at home. Hiking, biking, camping and backpacking have always been favorite pastimes bringing him closer to the natural world. Matt Elkin has lived in Gardiner, NY for 12 years. In that time, he and his wife have had two children each of whom have adored Wild Earth programs since they were old enough to participate.
Joan Ewing and Wilton DuckworthJoan Ewing and Wilton Duckworth, Board Members – Joan Ewing and Wilton Duckworth are founders of Lost Cat Farm and co-founders of Green Phoenix Permaculture. Prior to moving to Lost Cat Farm, Wilton and Joan, lived for 8 years at Epworth Camp and Retreat Center developing a super-effcient timber-frame passive solar farm house, supporting annual gardens and perennial orchards/food forests, and running educational programming for children and adults. They are certified permaculture teachers and offer all that they can in a spirit of service and reverence for life.
Doree LipsonDoree Lipson, Board Member – Doree is a clinical social worker in New Paltz with a focus on embodied self-growth and spiritual integration with all aged people from late adolescence to elderly adults. Doree grew up in central New York but found her first nature home in the Thousand Islands region as a camper on a beautiful lake surrounded by trees and cliffs. Her nature connection has been a steady guide in her spiritual study within the Soto Zen lineage of Buddhism and her birth religion, Judaism. Doree has served on a number of boards prior to joining the Wild Earth Board of Directors including Great Lakes PeaceJam, People’s Food Co-op of Kalamzoo and Phillies Bridge Farm Project. She can be found hiking on the Shawangunk ridge, gardening or playing with her two young children and husband.
Ana LinnemanAna Linneman, Board Member – Ana grew up in southern Germany, where adventuring in the foothills of the Bavarian and Austrian Alps was a big part of her life. After coming to the US, starting a family and settling in the Hudson Valley, Ana was excited to find out about Red Fox Friends, the precursor to Wild Earth. Her three children became enthusiastic participants in, and later, counselors for many Wild Earth programs. As a devoted supporter, Ana learned much from their adventures and participated in some herself. Connecting with and preserving the natural world is one of her primary interests.
Rovika RajkishunRovika Rajkishun, Board Member – Rovika Rajkishun is a fundraising consultant specializing in helping nonprofits identify opportunities and challenges and developing and executing strategies with results that consistently meet, and more often exceed, measurable goals and expectations. Utilizing almost 15 years of experience in fundraising, Rovika’s expertise includes strategies for increasing revenues and diversifying funding streams, individual donor and board stewardship, and maintaining and establishing relationships with foundation and corporate grantors. Rovika has a B.A. in Comparative Religion from Barnard College. She has lived in Sunset Park, Brooklyn for the last 15 years with her husband. They now have two sons (Noah, 6 and Leo, 3), both Wild Earth participants. Rovika is also on the board of directors of Girls for Gender Equity and volunteers with Atlas: DIY.
Jason SternJason Stern, Board Member – Jason Stern is Founder and Publisher at Luminary Media. He launched the flagship magazine Chronogram in 1993, with the aim of nourishing and stimulating the creative and economic well-being of the Hudson Valley. Since then Jason has led the launch of several magazines, web-sites, and participated in the development of a full-service marketing agency, Luminary Media. Jason attended SUNY New Paltz prior to founding Luminary Publishing. In addition, Jason serves on several not-for-profit boards of directors including Wild Earth, Re>Think Local, Institute for Creative Studies, and the Gurdjieff Heritage Society. He is a firm believer in local living economy principles and the power of a small group of dedicated people to make a meaningful difference in the world. Jason is the author of Learning to Be Human (Codhill Press, 2010) and writes regularly for Chronogram magazine and other publications. He teaches meditation and inner work internationally. Jason lives in New Paltz where he was raised, with his wife and business partner/cofounder Amara Projansky, and their two boys (who have been Wild Earth campers for ten years).
Michelle WilliamsMichelle Williams, Board Member – Michelle is a mother, actress and nature lover. As a Wild Earth parent, she has seen first hand the impact on her daughter’s life and she wants to see every child afforded the same opportunity.