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Instructors


Desert Institute

Spring 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

Misha Askren

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 Gabriel Mountains, and in Joshua Tree.


Classes

3/9/2019 - 3/10/2019 - “How-To” Navigate with Map and Compass

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

3/30/2019 - 3/31/2019 - Women’s “Get Away” Weekend

Kristin Berry

Kristin H. Berry


Kristin H. Berry, Ph.D., is Supervisory Research Wildlife Biologist at the Western Ecological Research Center of the United States Geological Survey, and current board member of the Desert Tortoise Council. Dr. Berry has published over fifty scientific journal articles about desert tortoises, as well as numerous technical reports, magazine articles, and books. She has organized and instructed a great variety of scientific symposia and workshops, and made research presentations to many different professional groups such as the Desert Tortoise Council.


Classes

3/23/2019 - Desert Tortoise Conservation Biology

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Linda Braatz Brown


Linda Braatz Brown is recently retired from her role as Science & Environmental Education


Classes

6/7/2019 - 6/9/2019 - STEAM Creativity Inspired by Joshua Tree National Park

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

5/4/2019 - Field Sketching for Non-Artists

David Chappell

David Chappell


David Chappell, Ph.D., Astronomy, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy, University of La Verne, has taught astronomy and physics since 2000. Chappell’s research interests include star formation, galaxy evolution, and computational astrophysics. His interest in archaeo-astronomy has led him to study in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, the Shetland Islands, and the Kingdom of Tonga.


Classes

4/27/2019 - Desert Night Sky: Planets to Galaxies

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

3/2/2019 - Capturing Joshua Tree Landscapes with Acrylics - Beginning to Intermediate Skill

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

2/17/2019 - “How-To” Survive in the Desert

Paul Delaney

Paul M. Delaney


Paul M. Delaney, Ph.D., is a tenured professor of biology at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree. He is the USFWS-authorized tortoise biologist for the CMC translocation area, and has been monitoring the tortoise population at the 85 acre preserve on campus since 2007. A field biologist since 1977, Delaney has conducted zoological research in California, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and published over two dozen scientific papers.


Classes

3/23/2019 - Desert Tortoise Conservation Biology

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

3/30/201 - 3/31/2019 - Desert Invertebrates: A Macro Photography and 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

2/16/2019 - Winter Light: Photographing Desert Preserves 3/2/2019 - Joshua Tree Through the Lens

Monica Gorman

Monica Gorman


Monica Gorman holds a Ph.D. in Biology and a J.D. She has spent most of the last 20 years teaching a wide range of biology courses at colleges in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, although she took time off from teaching to earn her J.D., work as a biotechnology patent lawyer, and travel. She moved to Joshua Tree in 2011 and currently teaches at Los Angeles City College and the Twentynine Palms Marine Base. She is an avid desert enthusiast and spends most of her free time exploring and hiking in Joshua Tree National Park.


Classes

5/4/2019 - 5/5/2019 - Citizen Science: Phenological Monitoring in Joshua Tree National Park

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

3/16/2019 - Geology of Amboy Crater 3/30/2019 - Geology of the Marble Mountains

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Scott Hoffman


Classes

3/23/2019 - Desert Tortoise Conservation Biology

De Karlen

De Karlen


De Karlen is a Certified Interpretative Guide, who works as a naturalist hiking and desert guide with Desert Adventures in both the Colorado and Mojave deserts. Previously, Ms. Karlen worked as an Interpretative Park Ranger in Yosemite National Park, so she truly enjoys sharing knowledge about the wonders and processes of our natural world.


Classes

3/24/2019 - Discover Pine City 4/7/2019 - Hike Murray Canyon in Palm Springs

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

3/30/2019 - 3/31/2019 - Women’s “Get Away” Weekend

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

2/23/2019 - HDR Photography in Joshua Tree National Park 5/4/2019 - Keys Ranch Sunset and Nightscape Photography Workshop

Edward LaRue

Edward L. LaRue Jr.


Edward L. LaRue Jr., M.S., specializes in California desert biota as field investigator and scientist for Circle Mountain Biological Consultants, Inc. In 2005 he authored the Copper Mountain College Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), and in 2008, he implemented the federal and state permits for the HCP. In 2007 he organized and coordinated a multi-agency effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Department of Fish and Game, National Park Service (JTNP), BLM, and San Bernardino County to establish a tortoise conservation area in the Morongo Basin. LaRue has received numerous awards for his conservation work with desert tortoises.


Classes

3/23/2019 - Desert Tortoise Conservation Biology

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

3/8/2019 - 3/10/2019 - Flora of Joshua Tree National Park 4/26/2019 - 4/28/2019 - Birds of Joshua Tree National Park

Jim Lowery

Jim Lowery


Jim Lowery is a nationally known tracker and author of The Tracker’s Field Guide. He has taught tracking to thousands of students, including many special trainings for field biologists, universities, naturalists, and park rangers. Some of his specialized field workshops have focused on tracking individual species including bighorn sheep, badgers, mountain lions, elk, and black bears.


Classes

4/13/2019 - 4/14/2019 - Mammal Tracking in Joshua Tree National Park

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

3/9/2019 - 3/10/2019 - Night Sky Photography

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Jennifer May


Jennifer May, is a fourth grade teacher at Arroyo Elementary: An International Baccalaureate World School. Within her district, she is a spotlight teacher who serves as a model for other educators who want to learn strategies that promote learner curiosity, inquiry, and agency. She is passionate about National Parks, so she brings them into her classroom in a variety of ways.


Classes

4/12/2019 - 4/14/2019 - Demystifying the Park: Student Agency & the Joshua Tree National Park

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

2/17/2019 - Rock Art of Southern California: From Palms to Pines 3/9/2019 - Intaglios Along the Colorado River 3/16/2019 - Citizen Science: Rock Art Recording Workshops 3/23/2019 - 3/24/2019 - Citizen Science: Rock Art Recording Workshops 3/30/2019 - 3/31/2019 - Citizen Science: Rock Art Recording Workshops 4/20/2019 - 4/21/2019 - Citizen Science: Rock Art Recording Workshops 5/4/2019 - 5/5/2019 - Citizen Science: Rock Art Recording Workshops

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

3/22/2019 - 3/24/2019 - Fine Art Photography in Joshua Tree National Park

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

2/16/2019 - Summit Monument Peak 3/2/2019 - Explore Ruby Lee Mill 3/16/2019 - Explore the Pinto Basin Sand Dunes

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

4/6/2019 - 4/7/2019 - Geology of the Mojave National Preserve

Allan Schoenherr

Allan Schoenherr


Allan Schoenherr, Ph.D., Professor of Ecology Emeritus, Fullerton College, is an expert on California flora and fauna, as exemplified by two major books he has authored, A Natural History of California and A Natural History of the Islands of California. Schoenherr has been doing research, traveling, and photographing the southwestern desert for many years. In addition to teaching ecology at several universities, he has led many field courses throughout the deserts of California.


Classes

3/23/2019 - Ecology of Joshua Tree National Park

Darrell Shade

Darrell Shade


Darrell Shade is a retired high school teacher and recognized botanist/desert naturalist for Joshua Tree National Park. Shade has a deep love for the desert and its enormous variety of plant and animal life as well as being a master teacher. He has worked closely with Joshua Tree National Park botanists over the last 20 years and keeps up on all the new floral discoveries being made in the park.


Classes

3/9/2019 - Wildflower Wanderings

Dee Trent

Dee Trent


D.D. “DEE” Trent received his undergraduate degree in geology from the University of Southern California and his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Now semi-retired, he taught geology, physical oceanography, and physics for twenty-eight years at Citrus College, Glendora, CA, part of which time he was also an Adjunct Professor at USC teaching Field Geology. He is author of Mines and Geology of the Randsburg Area: An Historical Gem of the Mojave Desert, a co-author of a widely used college textbook, Geology and the Environment, now in its 7th edition and co-author of Joshua Tree National Park Geology.


Classes

3/1/2019 - Rocks and Minerals of Joshua Tree National Park

Michael Vamstad

Michael Vamstad


Michael Vamstad, M.S., Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology began working at Joshua Tree National Park as a restoration ecologist in 2004, and transitioned to wildlife ecologist in 2007. He received his undergraduate degree in field biology and for eight years worked on many bird research projects in California, Arizona, Rhode Island, Guam, and Baja California, Mexico. While working for JTNP, he attended graduate school at the University of California, Riverside. In 2009, Michael received his M.S. in Ecology with a thesis on small mammal and vegetation responses from wildfire.


Classes

3/23/2019 - Desert Tortoise Conservation Biology

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Mary Borobia Walls


Mary Borobia Walls, M.A., is the Director & Founder of Action Driven Inquiry and volunteer Project Manager for the EEC (Environmental Education Collaborative). Recently, she was CREEC (California Regional Environmental Education Community) Coordinator for CA Region 10 as well as a Teacher Ambassador for EEI (Education & the Environment Initiative) curriculum.


Classes

4/12/2019 - 4/14/2019 - Demystifying the Park: Student Agency & the Joshua Tree National Park 6/7/2019 - 6/9/2019 - STEAM Creativity Inspired by Joshua Tree National Park

Sandi Wheaton

Sandi Wheaton


Sandi Wheaton is a freelance tour director and photography instructor based in Canada. After being downsized from General Motors in 2009, she took a life-changing drive across America on historic Route 66, creating three photography projects and an award-winning travel blog. One of Sandi’s greatest passions and long-term photography projects is the ecologically troubled Salton Sea in southern California. She has been visiting and photographing the Salton Sea since 2004, sharing the work through several solo exhibitions over the years. A true globetrotter, Sandi leads week-long photography tours in Iceland and California, has taught Forensic Photography at the University of Windsor, and teaches “Moviemaking Made Fun” on a cruise ship.


Classes

2/2/2019 - Salton Sea Photography Workshop 2/9/2019 - Route 66 Photography Workshop

Lecturers for Community Lecture Series

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Bob Dunn


Classes

1/11/2019 - The Dunn Family History in 29 Palms

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Jeff Dunn


Classes

1/11/2019 - The Dunn Family History in 29 Palms

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Kenneth Gentry


Classes

2/6/2019 - Pioneertown, USA: Where the Old West Lives Again

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Dr. Chris McDonald


Classes

4/12/2019 - Desert Plant Ecology or Why Does The Desert Poke Me?

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Sean Milanovich


Classes

3/8/2019 - The Treaty of Temecula and the American Invasion in Southern California

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Kim Stringfellow


Classes

1/9/2019 - Kokoweef: Still Searching for the Lost River of Gold

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Kyle Sullivan


Classes

2/8/2019 - Adventures in the Mojave Trails National Monument 4/3/2019 - Adventures in the Mojave Trails National Monument

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Marina West


Classes

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

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Amanda Wixon


Classes

4/10/2019 - Civilization Through Citrus: Sherman Institute, 1901-1950

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Hollis Woodard


Classes

3/6/2019 - The Secret Lives of Desert-Dwelling Bees