Wild Earth Instructors
Tiffany Barringer, Instructor
– Born and raised in the magical Catskill mountains, Tiffany’s idea of a perfect day would be spent barefoot off the beaten path exploring the true wild woods, climbing high into the pines, bird-watching (especially at her favorite place, the Great Blue Heron rookery she visits as often as possible which had 5 nests and many babies last year!), tracking the local wildlife, snacking on the plants and berries along the way, and floating life away swimming in the streams. Graduating from Suny Ulster with an Associates degree in Science and spending nearly ten years in retail, she decided it was time she followed her passions and answering her own call to adventure, Tiffany began volunteering for Wild Earth, took the apprenticeship and is now proudly working as an instructor for the Wild Earth Kingston Project. She is also deep into her second year of the Ancient Art of Awareness classes taught by Michael Ridolfo and, just as she feels about her job with Wild Earth, she is enjoying every moment of it.
Zach 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.
Katie 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.
Mary 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.
Michael 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.
Will Soter, Instructor
– Will Soter is a NYS Licensed Guide, and the Co-founder of Upstate Adventure Guides, LLC. He enjoys sharing his love and knowledge of the outdoors. Will holds certifications in CPR & Wilderness First Aid, he has completed the Master Educator training for Leave No Trace, and teaches Water Safety for Guides. Will worked as the Director of the Catskill Conservation Corps, and as a NYS DEC Licensed Guide. Will works to open opportunities for others to enjoy safe and memorable adventures in the outdoors. Will has founded the Catskill Adventure Tourism Summit, and The NY Outdoor Expo, to raise awareness to the bounty of outdoor recreational opportunities that await us, here in New York State. Will serves on the Board of Directors for the Catskill Mountain Club, as well as the New York Outdoor Guide Association (NYSOGA). He was employed by the NY/NJ Trail Conference, managing the Catskill Conservation Corp, which provides recruitment, and training services for various volunteer stewardship organizations in the Catskill region. Through all of his work, Will strives to help others find a deep and meaningful connection to the world outdoors.
Connor 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.
Paul 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
Gowri Varanashi, Instructor
– Growing up in an alternative school, on a wild campus in India that had bears, snakes, leopards passing through and more, Gowri discovered her love for nature and animals from a very young age. She started teaching kids while still in school in India and went on to guide trips in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru, for adults and college students, while finishing her B.A in environmental studies in the US. She is a naturalist and teacher at heart who loves rock climbing, playing in nature and teaching kids.
Wild Earth Board of Directors
Micah 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 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.
Laura deNey, Board Member
– Laura deNey is a devoted Wild Earth parent and an Emmy award winning filmmaker who is passionate about telling hidden stories from around the world, often focusing on gender, race and the environment. She has produced and edited dozens of hours of documentary programming and is currently executive producing a documentary television series called Hidden Heroes
, which profiles the incredible Wild Earth along with dozens of other deserving heroes. She looks forward to continue helping Wild Earth with their video storytelling and now serving on the board.
Tina Dierna, Board Member
– Tina Dierna was born and raised in the Hudson Valley. She relocated to the Kingston area after obtaining her bachelor’s degree from Mount Saint Mary’s College in Newburgh, New York. She worked as a caseworker for eight years with the Ulster County Social Services Department. While working for the County she started a family and went back to obtain her Master of Social Work degree from Adelphi University. In 2015, Tina became a high school social worker for Kingston City School District. After a summer of volunteering to build a tiny home with five of her students, Tina became an Internship & Career Coordinator, a position that allows her to combine her passions for volunteer work and empowering and helping students succeed. Shortly after, she gained the added position of Transitional Counselor for Kingston High School, assisting students with planning their lives after high school, working with community organizations and creating partnerships throughout the Kingston Community. Tina has always been an active member of the community, whether it’s creating the first Pajama Program Chapter in Ulster, launching a healthy eating program for Cornell Cooperative or a parenting group for Family Services. Most recently she completed the Chamber of Commerce Ulster Leadership Development Institute where she co-chaired the group to launch a youth leadership program. This ultimately led her to run for the Wild Earth board of Directors and launch her own health and wellness lifestyle coaching business called Mom Overboard, a name that embodies her commitment to her community endeavors.
Matt 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.
Stevenson Estimé, Board Member
– Stevenson is a first generation Haitian American and was born and raised in New York City. He is a visual artist whose work deals with the representation of race, class and gender in media and popular culture. He received his MFA from Hunter College and teaches art and digital photography at a private school in Manhattan. Stevenson is passionate about spending time outdoors and enjoys landscaping and gardening. His daughters have attended Wild Earth programs for many years.
Joan 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 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 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.
Joel Oppenheimer, Board Member
– Joel Oppenheimer is a Licensed Clinical currently working at the Psychological Counseling Center at SUNY, New Paltz. Before coming to SUNY, Joel was Assistant Director at Daytop Village in Rhinebeck, New York, a long term, all male, residential drug treatment program. At Daytop, Joel applied his social justice lens working for racial and gender equity in drug treatment and criminal justice institutions. As a mental health professional Joel has been a new voice in helping individuals and groups find connections and recover from addiction, traumas, and loss. He has extensive experience working with men and is currently working on programs focused on male culture and its impacts on male behavior and mental health. Joel is a lifelong artist and performer who uses his creative abilities to implement innovative programs. Joel believes that connecting to community is one of the most powerful ways of healing and he is always seeking new ways to help people improve their mental health by telling their stories and engaging their community and natural environment.
Rovika 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 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 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.