Desert Institute Instructors
 misha askren MISHA ASKREN is an outings leader for the Sierra Club and is an instructor in the Wilderness Travel Course.  He leads trips that are “off-trail” in the wilderness in the Sierras, the San Gabriels and in Joshua Tree.
  CHRIS CLARKE is a natural history and environmental writer, an editor and photographer. It was in the mid-1990s that Chris’ fondness for the desert southwest, nascent since he first visited as an adult in the early 80s, blossomed into an obsession. He’s traveled extensively in the Mojave, Great Basin and Sonoran deserts, as well as in the steppes and slickrock country of the Colorado Plateau. Chris currently writes for KCET and the He is working on a book on Joshua trees, which will be based on over a decade of research.
 caryn CARYN DAVIDSON completed her yoga teacher training at the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, CA. The philosophy of White Lotus is to draw from the deep traditions of yoga while remaining non-dogmatic and open to the influences of the different contexts in which yoga is practiced. Caryn is also an NPS Ranger at Joshua Tree National Park.
russell difiori
RUSSELL DiFIORI is a Naturalist and professor of Biology at Pasadena City College who has taken his passion for being outside to developing cutting edge interdisciplinary field programs in the Baja Science Program, the Steinbeck Program and many other field courses as well as running Chautauqua’s for the National Science Foundation to train teachers from all levels to do curriculum development with field projects and inquiry based learning. Russ’ most recent projects include developing a hybrid field science program integrating the best of online learning and citizen science, like the iNaturalist project, with solid base in traditional field skills. Russ is also an instructor for the California Naturalist Certification in partnership with the University of California.
 craig CRAIG FUCILLE, B.A., Physical Geography, teaches photography for University of California, Riverside Extension. A long time instructor, Fucile has taught numerous photography workshops in western landscapes that he enjoys photographing including: Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Eastern Mojave, Owens Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Anza-Borrego, Kings Canyon, Sequoia. He received the Fall 2010 Instructor Excellence Award from UC Riverside Extension and the 2007 Distinguished Instructor Award from UC Irvine Extension.
  LAURIE GREEN is a certified interpretive guide through the National Association of Interpreters and a paramedic and NOLS wilderness EMT. She has been an instructor for seven years teaching life saving techniques to the public and professionals. Laurie. Also, she is a hike leader and works with the Desert Institute and National Forest Association.
 Bill Hayes WILLIAM HAYES, PhD, Zoology and Physiology, Professor of Biology, Loma Linda University. Hayes specializes in the ecology of venoms and venomous animals, behavioral ecology and conservation of lizards, and behavioral ecology, taxonomy, and conservation of birds. He has published numerous works, taught and organized conferences and workshops, and has given multiple television contributions. Hayes currently teaches classes in behavioral ecology, herpetology, ornithology, and conservation.
 headshot_TanyaJenkins TANYA JENKINS shares her passion for wild edible and medicinal plants through teaching classes offered by Earth Skills outdoor school. Tanya became captivated by plants when she heard during a radio interview that a common weed, the dandelion, was completely edible. To her, it was a revolutionary idea and she followed her curiosity to learn more. She loves leading people through a similar eye-opening journey by demonstrating ways to use common plants from the Southern California landscape for edible and medicinal purposes, including traditional skills for using native plants.
 anahita king ANAHITA KING, B.F.A., Visual Communications, has taught art for over twenty years, and teaches pottery and watercolor locally in her Joshua Tree studio. She loves to spark another person’s inner drive to create something they may not have known could come out of their hands and imagination.  As a graphic designer, she is the principal of King of Arts, and has worked for Disney and Baskin-Robbins. King exhibits her art nationally and abroad.
 cynthia king CYNTHIA KING graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of California, Los Angeles.  She holds a master’s degree in painting from California State University, Northridge.  She also holds a clear California teaching credential in art.  She has taught art in both college and high school settings.  Cynthia’s work can be found in both private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art in Wakayama, Japan; the Museum of History and Religion, Lviv, Ukraine; Union Bank, in the Yucca Valley; the W. M. Keck family collection, and the Heath family collection.
 IMG_0210 LEW KINGMAN is a retired fire fighter and worked for the Palm Springs Desert Museum as a hike leader for 8 years. He volunteers with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue for 25 years and Joshua Tree National Park as an archaeological site steward and a “lead” field representative for the Desert Institute.
 kerry knudsen KERRY KNUDSEN is a mycologist and lichenologist. He is the curator of the Lichen Herbarium at the UCR Herbarium. He is a taxonomist, a world expert in Acarosporaceae, who has described over 50 species, a majority from California. He is a floristic specialist in the lichen biota of southern California and the Channel Islands. He has published over 170 papers on lichens and related fungi. He recently completed an extensive inventory of Joshua Tree National Park, comprising 239 sites and 1954 specimens, reporting over 145 taxa, including 6 new to science. From the biotic soil crusts of Joshua Tree he recently described with Jana Kocourkova and Bruce McCune a new species, Sarcogyne mitziae.
 Deborah Kolodji web DEBORAH P. KOLODJI, M.F.A., is primarily interested in short poetry forms. A member of the Haiku Society of America, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and the Southern California Haiku Study group, her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Eclectrica, Ginbender Poetry Review, and many other places. More of her writing can be seen at
 kurt KURT LEUSCHNER, M.S., Wildlife Ecology, is a Professor of Natural Resources at College of the Desert. Leuschner’s specialties include: ornithology, entomology, and desert ecology. He has led hundreds of field trips both locally and as far afield as Africa. He teaches natural history courses for the Bureau of Land Management, UCR Extension, the Desert Institute, the Living Desert, California State Parks, Riverside County Parks, and many other conservation organizations.
 rebecca lowry REBECCA LOWRY is an artist and educator based in Los Angeles.  She holds degrees in literature, art history and architecture from Boston University and Harvard.  She has both a studio and public art practice and taught at both Cal Poly, Pomona and USC.  Much of her work focuses on looking at the familiar from new points of view, often using text, maps and handcrafts.  Having explored the “great outdoors” since childhood, Bex loves to pursue new understandings of natural spaces:  she find there is no better studio or classroom.
  DENNIS MAMMANA, M.S., Astronomy, has delivered the wonder and mystery of the cosmos to audiences for over three decades. A nationally syndicated newspaper columnist with Creators Syndicate and author of six books on popular astronomy, Mammana is also an accomplished night sky photographer and invited member of TWAN—an international team of the most highly acclaimed sky photographers on the planet.  Mammana photographs the heavens from around the world, but mostly from his desert home in Borrego
 Dickson Andrew Dickson, has taught drawing and painting at California State University, Long Beach and Huntington University in Indiana.  Andrew currently works as an Associate Professor of Foundation Painting at California State University, Fullerton.  He has also served as a CSU Summer Arts Course Coordinator for five years and currently coordinates the Summer Art’s Drawing and Painting course in Florence, Italy.  In his teaching, Andrew is committed to providing a fundamental practice and understanding of the concepts, materials, and methods of painting with an emphasis on clear visual perception.
 Chris Metzger CHRIS METZGER, M.A., Chris is a retired educator with 32 years experience. Since moving to the Morrogo Basin 10 years ago, he has carried on a personal study of the characters that make up it’s past. Some can be called famous, some infamous. Either way they lend to a fascinating story. Chris has hiked extensively through JTNP and knows it well. Camping under our stars is his idea of “a night out.”
 Michael Moura MICHAEL MOURA has been an avid backpacker, hiker, and camp food enthusiast since he was young. Cooking food outdoors was always a passion of his and he went on to become the assistant head cook for a summer camp in the southern Sierra’s for three years, where he created meals from scratch and brought his love of cooking to campers of all ages. His enthusiasm for cooking didn’t stop there, as an avid backpacker and car-camper he strives to bring gourmet cooking to the great outdoors where he believes that with a little ingenuity, fresh gourmet food can be made without all of life’s modern kitchen conveniences
 Ruth Nolan  RUTH NOLAN is a professor of creative writing and a scholar of desert literature at College of the Desert. She is a widely-published poet, writer and editor of “No Place for a Puritan: the literature of California’s deserts”. Her haiku poetry has appeared in the Southern California Haiku Anthology each year from 2010-2013.
  RALPH NORDSTROM’s  philosophy on photographic workshops is simple: they are successful when the attendees return home with a few great photographs and feeling that they have expanded what he likes to call their “Creative Vocabulary“; that is, their ability to express themselves through their photography.
 Dave Pylman photo DAVID PYLMAN has been teaching Map and Compass Navigation, GPS Navigation, and Desert Survival for the Joshua Tree Search and Rescue and Southeastern California Search and Rescue Council since 2000. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, skier, and rock climber.
 IMG_0286 TED REEVES, B.A., Biology, Ted Reeves taught science at Chaffey High School in Ontario, CA for 37 years. He has led field trips in Southern California, Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Tetons, Grand Canyon and Hawaii. He is presently teaching for University of the Pacific and believes that a relevant Natural History class requires an outdoor experience.
 don scriven DONALD SCRIVEN currently is an interpretive guide and desert naturalist working towards a degree in Natural Resources. Born and raised in the Coachella Valley, he enjoys the great outdoors of this beautiful yet harsh environment, year round. He also appreciates how unforgiving it can be to anyone lost, stuck, or just broken down along the side of the road.
 jim smart JIM SMART developed an interest in photography some fifty years ago when he took a high school course and made a pinhole camera, shot with a Speed Graflex, and took surfing photographs in Hermosa Beach with a 35mm Pentax. Jim teaches university courses in Communication Studies and English, including basic and college-level English courses, journalism, journalistic photography and online journalism.  
 brandi spaethe BRANDI M. SPAETHE received her M.F.A. in poetry from Fresno State where she worked for The Normal School and The Philip Levine Prize in Poetry. She is currently the program assistant at Poets & Writers’ Readings and Workshops (West) program and teaches at California State University, Los Angeles. Her poems have appeared in CRATE, Off the Rocks: An Anthology of GLBT Writing, American Athenaeum, and Slipstream, to name a few. Her chapbook, To You Who Wants In, was released in December 2012. Her passions lie in writing about the queer community and wandering the deserts of Southern California. Brandi received the 2012 C.G. Hanzlicek Poetry Writing Fellowship and was a poetry fellow in the 2013 Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging Writer’s Retreat.
 dee trent web D. D. TRENT, Ph.D., Geology, Professor Emeritus, Citrus College. Dr. Trent has been an oil company geologist and involved in other geological projects since 1955. He has carried out extensive field research in Alaska, Utah, Arizona, and California, taught geology at Citrus College for 28 years, and served as adjunct faculty at the University of Southern California. He appears in the PBS telecourse series, The Earth Revealed and has been active in the National Association of Geoscience Teachers for 30 years, serving as chair for the Far Western Section and an officer at the national level. He is a recipient of the National Association of Geoscience Teacher’s Robert Wallace Webb Award and is author of numerous professional articles and co-author of the JTNPA publication, Joshua Tree National Park Geology.
 Tee Walsh THERESA WALSH has a B.A. in Recreation Administration with an emphasis in Outdoor Education and has been teaching desert and mountain environmental programs since 1991 to youth. She has worked with the National Outdoor Leadership School and Pacific Crest Outward Bound as an instructor and course director teaching youth and adult wilderness travel skills. Theresa has extensive experience leading groups through remote areas on 7 to 31 day trips focusing on backpacking, mountaineering, rock climbing and natural history
  MARK WHEELER has an M.S. in Education and a journeyman’s degree in natural history, having spent most of thirty years hiking and studying the mountain and desert landscapes of the west coast. Wheeler has worked extensively with wilderness-adventure programming groups such as Outward Bound, training both students and instructors in wilderness travel skills and group dynamics. A working writer, he has focused on subjects about the natural world.
 valohna wynn VALOHNA WYNN is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles.  Her artistic and creative expression has always been at the core of who she is.  Valohna has been drawn in to inventive ways to empower people, whether it be facilitating women’s groups, heading up community-based art projects or doing the unexpected.  Her goal has been to invite people to think differently about themselves and their creative abilities.  She currently resides in the Southern California desert and facilitates workshops at “Soul Space” in Palm Desert, CA.