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Instructors


Desert Institute

Fall 2019 Catalog

Palm trees at the Oasis of Mara at night

Palm trees at the Oasis of Mara at night | Photo by NPS/Hannah Schwalbe | Public Domain | Source

Instructors for Field Classes

Caroline Amberson

Caroline Amberson


Caroline Amberson is a GATE educator and Program Specialist with a passion for nature and wildlife, and she has taught in San Bernardino for seventeen years. She enjoys surfing, skiing, camping, hiking/backpacking, and trying all possible outdoor activities across six con- tinents. She is completing Naturalist and Environmental Studies programs through both UCR and UCLA.


Classes

11/16/2019 - 11/17/2019 - “Women’s “Get Away” Weekend

Robin Balch

Robin Balch


Robin Balch is a recently retired school counselor and prior co-owner of a skydiving school with her husband. She is a Desert Institute “lead” volunteer and loves being around people. She has hiked several portions of the Pacific Crest Trail and is a Forest Service Fire Lookout at Black Mt. Fire Tower in Idyllwild, CA. She loves the outdoors, hiking, and backpacking and has been mentored by the best learning the ins and outs of backpacking. She has had experience of being caught in unexpected hail, snow, and rain and learned how to pack light and smart.


Classes

10/11/2019 - 10/13/2019 - Backpacking for Women in Mission Creek Preserve

Fran Calvert

Fran Calvert


Fran Calvert has lived near Joshua Tree National Park for nine years. She enjoys sketching, riding horses, hiking, and backpacking year-round in the park. She is a retired technical writer with a B.A. in fine arts and art history from Columbia University. She has been a Desert Institute volunteer since 2014.


Classes

9/28/2019 - Field Sketching for Non Artists

Janis Commentz

Janis Commentz


Janis Commentz is a southern California native who grew up near the coast and began drawing and painting early in life. As the daughter of an artist, she was surrounded by art materials and enjoyed trips to galleries and museums, as well as seasonal trips to Laguna Beach and Carmel. Janis moved to the Mojave Desert in 1977 to teach high school art and English. At the University of Redlands, she earned a B.A. in art and English and studied with John Nava, well-known for his tapestries at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. She holds an M.A. in Education from California State University at San Bernardino and teaches youth art classes at the 29 Palms Art Gallery and has facilitated life drawing in Joshua Tree for eight years.


Classes

10/5/2019 - Capturing Joshua Tree Landscapes with Acrylics

Kelly Crawford

Kelly Crawford


Kelly Crawford is the founder/CEO of Joshua Tree Excursions. He served honorably in the U.S. Army National Guard and the United States Marine Corps for 23 years. The bulk of his time in the service was spent with the USMC as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. Kelly has travelled extensively around the world exploring and discovering the hidden wonders of our amazing environment. He lives by the motto that, “Life is a journey and not a destination.” He possess a wealth of leadership experience, is an avid outdoorsman and an expert in survival, navigation, and backcountry expeditions.


Classes

10/6/2019 - “How-To” Survive in the Desert

Paul De Ley

Paul De Ley


Paul De Ley obtained his Ph.D. in Invertebrate Zoology at Ghent University, Belgium in 1994 and moved to Riverside in 2000 to joined the Department of Nematology at UCR as a faculty member. His research focuses on ecology, diversity, and systematics of nematodes in arid ecosystems, using methods that combine light microscopy observations with DNA sequence analyses. His current teaching duties include annual upper division undergraduate courses at UCR on the subjects of Invertebrate Zoology and Biology of Nematodes, and his past teaching also included subjects such as Soil Ecology, Arthropod Diversity, and Theoretical Systematics. He is an avid nature photographer with particular interest in macro photography as a tool for exploring biodiversity of Southern Californian deserts and ranges.


Classes

12/7/201 - 12/8/2019 - Desert Invertebrates: Microscopy Primer

Craig Fucile

Craig Fucile


Craig Fucile, 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, and Sequoia. He received the Fall 2010 Instructor Excellence Award from UC Riverside Extension and the 2007 Distinguished Instructor Award from UC Irvine Extension. Craig was a Fall 2017 Artist in Residence for Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.


Classes

11/23/2019 - Photographing the Hi-Desert 12/7/2019 - Winter Light: Photographing Desert Preserves

Alessandro Grippo

Alessandro Grippo


Alessandro Grippo, Ph.D., Geological Sciences, University of Southern California, has done research and taught geology, oceanography, stratigraphy, environmental geology, and field classes at Santa Monica College and several California State University campuses. Alessandro has a keen interest for the geology of the American southwest and loves being out there exploring, learning, and sharing his passion for Earth and its history.


Classes

10/18/2019 - 10/20/2019 - Geology and Geomorphology of Death Valley

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William Hayes, Ph.D.


William Hayes, Ph.D., 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 interviews. Hayes currently teaches classes in behavioral ecology, herpetology, ornithology, and conservation.


Classes

9/29/2019 - Desert Snakes: Mystery and Intrigue

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Mark C. Jorgensen


Mark C. Jorgensen has been intrigued by desert bighorn sheep since he was 11 years old and has spent five decades studying and pursuing them throughout their range. He became a State Park Ranger for California State Parks after four summers studying desert bighorn for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California. He went on to become the last Park Naturalist for California State Parks at Anza-Borrego, as well as a Resource Ecologist, and he finished his 36-year park career as the Superintendent of Anza-Borrego. He is the author of the book Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon.


Classes

9/21/2019 - Bighorn Sheep in Joshua Tree National Park

Pam Kersey

Pam Kersey, Ed.D., MSN, RN


Pam Kersey, Ed.D., MSN, RN, is the Dean of Science, Math, and Engineering and a Health Education Professor at Cuyamaca College in San Diego. She volunteers as an archaeological site steward, for the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree and has also volunteered as a camp nurse. She has camped, backpacked, and hiked for many years including summits over 14,000 feet 5 times. She has taught outdoor classes for women, and enjoys helping others learn how to safely appreciate camping and hiking.


Classes

10/11/2019 - 10/13/2019 - Backpacking for Women in Mission Creek Preserve

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Lew Kingman


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 class leader for the Desert Institute.


Classes

11/2/2019 - Hike to Samuelson’s Rocks

Scott Klinger

Scott Klinger


Scott Klinger received his first camera at the age of 7, a Kodak Instamatic, which he used to serially photograph naval warships in the San Diego Bay during the late 80’s. Since then he has been exhibiting his work at galleries and film festivals for over ten years. His work is in the permanent collection of the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Art and his most recent film The Lover Who Doesn’t Forget was screened at the 66th Festival de Cannes and his film Memento Mori won Best Experimental Film at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. Scott holds degrees from UCLA and UC Irvine.


Classes

8/31/2019 - Keys Ranch Nightscape Photography Workshop

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Tor Lacy


Tor Lacy, M.S., Geology, is a tenured instructor at Cerritos College teaching Physical Geology, Introduction to Earth Science, Geology of the Western National Parks and Monuments, Natural History of Southern California and Field Methods of the Earth Sciences.


Classes

11/2/2019 - 11/3/2019 - Geology: Creation of Joshua Tree Landscape

Kurt Leuschner

Kurt Leuschner


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.


Classes

9/27/2019 - 9/29/2019 - Insects and Arthropods of the Morongo Basin 10/4/2019 - 10/6/2019 - Birds of the Mojave Desert

Monica L. Mahoney

Monica L. Mahoney


Monica Lynn Mahoney, BFA, studio art, MLA Landscape Architecture, is a multidisciplinary artist, educator and native plant enthusiast living and working in Joshua Tree, CA. Mahoney’s diverse artistic practice includes drawing, painting, sculpture, landscape design, ecological restoration, and award-winning public engagement and civic art programs that integrate art and the environment. She believes that no matter the skill level, painting and drawing is a portal into the natural world, which helps us see it in a new light.


Classes

10/19/2019 - Drawing the Natural World With Charcoal and Pastel 11/9/2019 - Watercolor Painting: Exploring a Sense of Place

Dennis Mammana

Dennis Mammana


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.


Classes

10/19/2019 - 10/20/2019 - Night Sky Photography

Daniel McCarthy

Daniel McCarthy


Daniel McCarthy, M.S., Anthropology, has worked at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and throughout southern California compiling photographic inventories of the rock art of this region. His research interests include desert archaeology, aboriginal trail systems, and rock art. McCarthy also conducts southern California Native American cultural awareness classes providing info.


Classes

10/26/2019 - 10/27/2019 - Archaeology of Joshua Tree National Park

Gabriela Moreno

Gabriela Moreno


Gabriela Moreno is a conscious creative nomad with a passion for ethical business practices and consumerism, as well as for preserving mother earth. Her business is centered on web design and business consulting for conscious entrepreneurs. - guiding them through the complexities of starting/running a business while also encouraging them to be socially engaged in their business practice. Her life mission is to inspire people to engage with the great outdoors responsibly. Find her on instagram @gabaccia.


Classes

11/16/2019 - 11/17/2019 - Women’s “Get Away” Weekend

Ralph Nordstrom

Ralph Nordstrom


Ralph Nordstrom has had several careers in education, along the way teaching the full gamut from pre-school to adult, and handicapped to gifted. Branching into photographic workshops was a very natural path for him. His 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. Explore his gallery at ralphnordstromphotography.com.


Classes

11/1/2019 - 11/3/2019 - Mastering Landscape Photography

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Nicole Pietrasiak


Nicole Pietrasiak received her Ph.D. in the Soil and Water Program at UC Riverside. She is an Assistant Professor for Environmental Soil Microbiology, Plant & Environmental Sciences Department, New Mexico State University. Her research interests include soil science, botany, algal biodiversity, and desert ecology. Nicole has conducted extensive research on cryptobiotic crusts across western U.S. and has made major contributions to the study of abundance, distribution, and diversity of cryptobiotic crusts at Joshua Tree National Park.


Classes

11/23/2019 - 11/24/2019 - Biological Soil Crusts of Joshua Tree National Park

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Tanya Petrovna


Tanya Petrovna is the Chef and founder of the all plant-based, Chef Tanya’s Kitchen in Palm Springs, CA , a fresh deli and take-out concept. She was the visionary founder of Native Foods Café (1994-2012). Chef Tanya currently resides in Palm Springs, California where she teaches cooking classes and Iyengar Yoga. She is an avid naturalist and is currently moderating the Facebook page “Keep Open Space Open” in hopes that current and future generations will be left space to breath and enjoy nature.


Classes

10/26/2019 - 10/27/2019 - Campfire Cuisine with Chef Tanya Petrovna

Kevin Powell

Kevin Powell


Kevin Powell was intrigued at an early age by the quiet complexity of this desert playground. Local author and photographer, Kevin Powell has spent forty four years hiking, rock climbing, photographing, and exploring within Joshua Tree National Park. His book, Classic Day Hikes of Joshua Tree Park, is available at the Visitor Centers.


Classes

11/9/2019 - Explore Crown Prince Lookout 11/16/2019 - Discover the Wonderland of Rocks 12/7/2019 - Summit Monument Peak 12/14/2019 - Explore Queen Mountain West

Ted Reeves

Ted Reeves


Ted Reeves, B.A., Biology taught science at Chaffey High School in Ontario, CA for thirty-seven 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.


Classes

11/2/2019 - Geology of the San Andreas Fault 12/7/2019 - Geology & Cultural History of Cottonwood Spring

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Candice Weber


Candice Weber, M.A., is an adjunct professor of natural resources at College of the Desert, teaching courses in Conservation and G.I.S. and leading students abroad to the cloud forests of Costa Rica. She majored in environmental studies and has extensive experience working with animals of all kinds (wild and domestic), including many years as a zookeeper and animal trainer at the Living Desert, the Long Beach Aquarium, and other marine parks.


Classes

9/15/2019 - “How-To” Identify Animal Burrows

Lecturers for Community Lecture Series

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Thurman Carson


Classes

11/8/2019 - The History of the Carson Family in 29 Palms

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Dawn Davis


Classes

10/11/2019 - Desert Ladies Diaries

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Chris Frasher


Classes

6/12/2020 - Grandfather Burton Frasher, Photographer, 1907 Through the Decades

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Guadalupe Lomeli


Classes

4/10/2020 - The History of the Lomeli Family in Amboy

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Laura Misajet


Classes

9/13/2019 - East Mojave Cultural History Museum

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Kyle Sullivan


Classes

1/10/2020 - Adventures in the Mojave Trails National Monument

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Mike Wells


Classes

5/8/2020 - Natural History of Anza Borrego

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Marina West


Classes

6/14/2019 - History of Water in the Morongo Basin - Perspectives on an Underappreciated Resource 3/13/2020 - History of Water in the Morongo Basin - Perspectives on an Underappreciated Resource

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Cane Williams


Classes

12/13/2019 - Joshua Tree: A Place in the American West