Administrative and Operations Staff
Executive Director | Karla VanderZanden | firstname.lastname@example.org
Karla grew up on a small farm in western Oregon as an only child of older parents. The nearby woods that fringed the fields her family leased for their wheat became her haven. She began outdoor education as a high school assistant in Washington and Multnomah Counties Outdoor Schools for 6th graders (Portland area). Later, she fell in love with river-rafting in college at U of Oregon where she earned a B.S. in Recreation/Outdoor Education and an Elementary Education teaching certificate. She learned she could use the river as a classroom for nature studies and to promote active civic engagement. At 27 years old she was a member of a nine-person team that completed one of the first river running descents of Karnali River in western Nepal on a 55-day expedition, aka "American Himalayan Whitewater Expedition of 1981.” They had no film crew, no radios and of course no cell phones. Karla also worked as a naturalist at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies for 3 years where she created elementary level curriculum and teacher training program, taught adult courses, community education in Winter Ecology, and led snowshoe walks for the public. In 1986, she earned a master degree in Natural Resources from Utah State University. She had moved to Moab in 1980 to work for BLM as River Ranger on the Green River, and later, three years on Westwater. She started CFI in 1984 with co-founder Robin Wilson, who died of cancer 1991.
Education Director | Kori Richards | email@example.com
Kori brings 15 years of experience in environmental education, curriculum design, and wilderness expeditions to CFI. She has developed, coordinated, and taught field based courses from Patagonia to the Yukon and Yangshuo, China to New Zealand. While earning her M.S. in Natural Resources and Society at the University of Idaho, Kori designed and lead a Professional Development workshop for High School Teachers to engage students in place-based learning about climate change. After Grad School, she worked as the Director of Expeditions and Risk Management for the Alzar School, an independent semester school in Idaho, where she developed a summer leadership program and mentored staff leading exceptional teens through Idaho and South America. Now she is happy living in the red rock desert of Moab, helping educators to inspire a deep connection to this place. When not at CFI, Kori is busy running, biking, climbing, boating, and skiing with Eric, her best adventure buddy and partner.
Operations Manager | Dave Montgomery | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave grew up "in the woods" of New England, with a strong attachment to the outdoors – hiking & skiing mountains, canoeing rivers & lakes, and climbing cliffs & peaks. He also had a predilection for environmental causes and activism. After college, he moved out west to climb & ski the “big” mountains. Soon after, he began a career in environmental activism, working with Greenpeace across the US and Canada. This eventually led to a few years of marine/ocean based work in such places as Antarctica, New Zealand, South America, and the Persian Gulf. Upon returning back to the US he transitioned into field biology, living and working in the Grand Canyon and northern Arizona. Then it was back to sea, working aboard an eco-tour ship sailing from Newfoundland, down the eastern seaboard, through the Panama Canal, along the west coast of South America, and ultimately back to Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica. He eventually found his way to Moab in the early 90's - drawn by the canyons and desert - and set down some roots. He's lived here ever since, with occasional sojourns in the form of self-support long-distance bike touring in New Zealand, Baja, and along the Great Divide. He’s worked in the bicycle industry, with tour companies, in music & stage management, and graphic design. He's also been self-employed as a luthier and woodworker. His background and experience in logistics and operations management brought him to CFI in 2013, where he looks forward to helping people learn about, and connect with, the beauty and wild nature of the Colorado Plateau.
Marketing and Communications Director | Resford Rouzer | email@example.com
Resford is a Moab native who has recently returned to work for CFI. A lifelong resident of Utah he spent his time away from Moab attending the University of Utah. During his undergraduate career, he completed bachelor degrees in environmental studies and anthropology. He continued his academic career – focusing on the intersections between the natural world and society – by completing a master’s degree in environmental humanities. His thesis ‘Moab and the Monument: An Oral History Project on Local Perspectives of a Greater Canyonlands’ set out to better understand the beliefs within the community of Moab regarding the Greater Canyonlands Monument Proposal.
Recruitment Coordinator / AmeriCorps VISTA | Sam Wolf | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam is from Haymarket, Virginia, seated right on the edge that divides Washington, D.C. suburbs and the Piedmont’s rolling hills. She grew up exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains and the marshy coast of the Chesapeake Bay and Eastern Shore, both of which she considers home. Her interests have always alternated between public policy and a love of wildlife, so she focused her time at James Madison University in Virginia studying international affairs and environmental studies. During college, Sam spent semesters in D.C. and in South Africa, and developed a passion for service. Her plans to serve in AmeriCorps brought her by chance to Moab, and she is so excited to be immersed in this colorful landscape and community.
Membership Coordinator | Sonja Arrasi | email@example.com
Sonja Arrasi grew up playing in the beautiful Wasatch and Uintah mountains of northern Utah. As a child she began exploring nearby areas along the Colorado Plateau, instilling the importance of connecting to, and preservation of, our precious natural lands. A unique academic program led Sonja to the shores of the Puget Sound, where she completed a Bachelors of Arts degree in sustainability and consciousness studies from The Evergreen State College. With over 15 years of experience in customer service, marketing and public relations, she is excited to grow community interest as CFI's Membership Coordinator. When not working, Sonja can be found gardening, rock climbing, and adventuring with her husband, Jake, and their three dogs.
Reservations Manager | Marianne (Arnie) Becnel | firstname.lastname@example.org
Marianne Becnel (Arnie) is from Utah and holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah and a Master of Health Science in Molecular Medicine from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. She began working as a guide and wilderness EMT in Moab in 2006. When she is not managing our reservations and permits, you can find her whitewater rafting in the summer and skiing or playing pond hockey during the winter. She is passionate about teaching people of all ages about the outdoors. She is involved in a number of volunteer organizations.
Lead River Guide | Alex de Moor
A native of South Africa, Alex has traveled extensively before finding himself on the Colorado Plateau. He holds a Master’s degree in Geology and Geophysics and has worked as a professional geologist throughout Alaska and Canada. While trying to combine his passions of boating and geology, Alex found CFI and the desert Southwest. He can now be seen animatedly talking about rocks on the river, on his bike, or with a fly rod in his hand to any and all that will listen.
Kevin grew up exploring the hills, forests, and river bottoms of Southern Indiana along the banks of the Ohio River, in a town called Evansville. Growing up he always had a fascination for wildlife, exploring the great outdoors, and a passion for getting others excited about Nature. Kevin spent many years involved with scouting, volunteering at his local zoo, theater, public speaking, and working in various educational settings with children. During his time in Indiana, Kevin attended the University of Southern Indiana where he studied a variety of topics ranging from Geology, Biology, Paleontology, and Natural History, but always found himself returning to the idea of Nature-based learning which drove him to move out to the Northwest. While Kevin has worked in a variety of settings and lived in various places, it was actually CFI who gave him his first real opportunity into this field of outdoor education. Kevin started with CFI in the Spring of 2016 as a Program Intern; but after excelling in the position and discovering a love for canyon country, he was hired back for the remainder of the season where he was able to hone his skills for interpretation. Eventually, he worked his way through the Apprenticeship and quickly became a reliable guide and savvy naturalist in the field. While he knows there is still plenty yet to be learned and experienced; Kevin is very grateful for the opportunities CFI has given him, and is excited to be returning for a 3rd season as CFI’s Senior Naturalist Guide. Kevin has proven himself time and time again to be a knowledgeable guide and strong public speaker, and he hopes that he can bring his passion, expertise, and skills to this leadership role; in order to help people better create a strong and lasting connection this wondrous place.
Sara grew up camping, hiking, and exploring in North Jersey. Her love for art brought her to Scranton, Pennsylvania where she received a bachelor's degree in art therapy from Marywood University. After spending a semester abroad living in Florence, Italy and finishing her undergrad she realized that traveling and experiencing life is something that she wanted to do! She spent two years serving in AmeriCorps in South Florida and Oregon getting a feel for the different cultures and landscapes our country has to offer. After volunteering for two years, she made her way to East Africa for a 75-day backpacking trip, where she summited Mount Kilimanjaro! Realizing she loves the outdoors and wants to guide like-minded people like her through the wilderness has led her here with us!
Evan grew up in a small town in Connecticut’s rural suburbia, catching frogs, riding bikes, and hiking surrounding state’s highpoints with his family. He went to the University of Connecticut, worked with the outdoors program as a trip leader, and graduated with an Environmental Science degree. After school, he and his buddies biked across America, coast to coast. Since then he’s worked on a trail crew in Colorado, as a bike mechanic in Connecticut, in a conservation corps in Idaho, and on a small farm in California. Having worked on and with the land, Evan is excited to start working with people to foster a deep appreciation for this wonderful area.
Apprentice Naturalist Guides
Bringing over 40 state and national park junior ranger badges worth of experience to C.F.I., Amir is proud to share the splendors of the Colorado Plateau with students of all ages and species. Born with learning disabilities, Amir brings a wealth of knowledge that was largely self-taught and has carved a life of advocacy for inclusive and safe learning environments as well as for giving minorities an equitable opportunity to discover themselves in every educational environment. Other passions include composing music using natural soundscapes, sustainable agriculture, ergonomics, and attempting to be a producer, consumer, and decomposer simultaneously.
Brennen Patrick Gillis
Brennan Patrick Gillis has always felt drawn toward the outdoors. After studying creative writing and geosciences at Franklin and Marshal College in Lancaster, PA, he followed the call to Maine's 100 mile wilderness. He worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club as the assistant manager of Gorman Chairback Wilderness Lodge in central Maine. Afterward, he moved to Cape Cod to teach for the YMCA, then trekked cross country to teach for Slide Ranch, an educational farm north of San Francisco. He moved to Moab in March 2018 to start as an apprentice for CFI.
Bridget grew up in Kansas City and then moved out west to study parks and recreation management at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. After graduating in 2013, she moved to Moab to start a career in environmental education at Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Since then, she has worked in California, Colorado, and Utah helping both children and adults connect to the natural world through outdoor education and experience. Her favorite experiences in the outdoors have been completing a semester-long NOLS course in Alaska and solo-trekking the Arizona Trail. In Moab, she loves canyoneering, backpacking, and exploring archaeological sites in the Four Corners area. With CFI, Bridget hopes to inspire others with her knowledge and love of the Colorado Plateau.
Guest Naturalist Guides
Originally from the granite-clad foothills of Northern California, Ryann was raised on summer days at the river and family camping trips in the Sierra Nevada. She earned a B.A. in Environmental Humanities from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington where she wrote her senior thesis on the Green River Watershed and her family history held within its silty flow. With a minor in anthropology, Ryann is passionate about people and place, stories and legacies. She first came to Southeastern Utah in 2012 via canoe and returned in 2013 as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Epicenter, a non-profit in Green River. She believes preservation of land is inextricably tied to the preservation of its stories and is thrilled for the opportunity to live, work, teach, and learn on the Colorado Plateau with Canyonlands Field Institute.
Nicky was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah where she lived until she moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to attend Northern Arizona University. After graduating with a degree in Parks and Recreation Management with an emphasis in Outdoor Leadership she moved to Moab, Utah. Following her passion for running rivers and sharing her love for the outdoors with others, she found a good match in Canyonlands Field Institute. Between trips and various other jobs around the country and around the world she often made her way back to the red rock deserts of her native Utah and eventually put down roots here. In addition to running rivers she enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, yoga, and spending time with her partner, hound dog, chickens, ducks, and bees.
Eric and Charlene Atene
Eric and Charlene, both Navajo, have been guest guiding on CFI trips for years. Eric has always been attracted to the outdoors, ever since he was a teenager. And he has been working for CFI for much of that time, doing river trips and wilderness trips with pack stock provided by Rainbow Bridge Outfitters, the company he and Charlene own. Charlene grew up in Mexican Hat, Utah and when she is not out in the wilderness is a librarian at Monument Valley High School.
Rebecca came from Vermont to the Southwest in the spring of 1988 guiding a combination adventure/cultural programs involving Grand Canyon hiking, Rocky Mountain backpacking, a San Juan River trip and Navajo Mountain service/cultural exchange. Along with backcountry guiding and running a construction company together with her husband, Rebecca loves tending her garden, orchards, and flock of free range laying hens. Her passions include changing lives through experiential learning/community service, wild lands and spectacular landscapes, focusing on cultural diversity, archaeology, Native American shared experiences, photography and the power of silence. Rebecca has a Master’s degree in Intercultural Administration, specializing in Cross-Cultural Training and Advising, and an undergraduate degree in Perceptual Psychology and Cultural Anthropology.
Joel Tuhy has been a full-time resident of Utah since 1980, and of Moab since 1992. He and his wife Cathy, married in 1982, have two grown sons. Joel earned an M.S. degree in 1981 from the University of Idaho. He is a self-described amateur naturalist, and his greatest interest and specialty (to the extent that he has one) is plants. This interest extends to relationships between plants and their habitats, which leads to companion interests in the geology, soils, weather, and even (for crying out loud) animals of the Colorado Plateau. Joel enjoys photography and prefers to use film with manual camera bodies and lenses. His favorite subjects are wildflowers, rising or setting full moons, and repeat views through-the-seasons of Moab-area scenes.
A native of Zimbabwe, Tamsin has lived in the Four Corners states of the US since 1977. She holds Bachelor, Master and PhD degrees in geology, and has been teaching college courses in geology on the Colorado Plateau since 1993. She has served as a naturalist guide on river and land-based trips since 1994 and joined Plateau Restoration as a Board Member in 1996. Tamsin is currently Adjunct Faculty at Utah State University in the Department of Environment and Society and Department of Forest, Range and Wildlife Sciences.
Shawn has lived a full and varied life. For twenty years of his adult life, he worked in the construction industry in varying capacities from day laborer to vice president of design and construction, overseeing the construction of hotels throughout North America and the Caribbean. Upon the birth of his only child, Alta, Shawn took what was once an avocational activity, hardshell kayaking, and turned it into the vocation of boatman. Shawn now has twenty-five years or so on the river, in locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, Interior West, and the Southeastern United States. Shawn’s academic pursuits include undergraduate studies in Philosophy and graduate studies in Social Innovation and Sustainability. When not reviewing the philosophical works of Martin Heidegger or Zen philosopher Dogen, Shawn is either making plans for, or enjoying, his next river trip with his daughter.