Administrative and Operations Staff

 Executive Director | Karla VanderZanden |

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.

Associate Director | Kate Neiderehe |

Kate grew up around the DC Metro Area in Maryland. Her passion for the outdoors started early with building tipis in the backyard, “creek stomping” during cross country practice, and her first job in a backyard birding nature store. Her migration west began at the University of Wisconsin – Madison where she earned a B.S. in Rehabilitation Psychology. She believes connections with nature are important for mind, body and spirit, and is dedicated to providing opportunities for people of all demographics to grow through adventures in wild places. Since 2009 Kate has worked in high/low ropes courses, wilderness therapy, and experiential outdoor education. Kate started at CFI as a Program Intern in 2010, was a naturalist guide for several years, and now is embracing the desk life as Development Director. Outside of work, you can find her on the trail soaking up the sunshine of the high desert, or at her homestead growing food with her pups and partner, Mike.

Operations Manager | Dave Montgomery |

DMo web pic ADave 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 |

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.

Reservations Coordinator | Michele Johnson |

A West-side Detroit Street that ended with a cul de sac and a 30 acre park provided endless exploration for Michele while growing up, and led to abundant questions, thoughts, and theories about flora and fauna. Spending her summers in Battle Creek Michigan with a gardening and fishing grandmother, taking Sunday family drives across the border to Windsor Canada to adventure in the outdoors, and camping trips just below the Upper Peninsula all led to Michele’s passion in scientific discovery and public health advocacy. From Detroit to Ann Arbor to Honolulu to Salt Lake City to the ultimate journey to Moab, Michele has experienced a diverse landscape of people, flora, fauna, and Joy. Prior to settling here in Moab, she was Director and Biosafety Specialist at the University of Utah in occupational and environmental health and safety as well as emergency management. Her professional career began as a specialist at the University of Hawaii in laboratory and agricultural health and safety. Michele received her BS in Botany from the University of Michigan and Masters in Public Health from the University of Hawaii. Always an advocate for making a difference in lives of our planet’s youth, she has followed the philosophy of “Each one reach one” and spent many years mentoring the young people in her life. Joy, inspiration, motivation, and solace come from: two savvy and witty sons, hiking in wild places, serving in the community, playing in clay to give rise to functional pottery, and nurturing her yard, mini-reef aquarium, and sassy succulents.

River Program Coordinator | Alexander 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.

Land Program Coordinator | Brennan 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.

Naturalist Guides

Emma Tucek

Fueled by dirty chais and words of affirmation, once a suburban youth, now a wild desert dweller and more youthful than ever. Artist of the clay, fiber, rocks, wood and science. Lover of pronghorns, obsidian and parallel parking on the first try. Teaching because nothing comes natural except learning.

Anna Eick

Anna grew up along the Colorado Front Range. While studying Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University, she worked with kids as an environmental educator. During her summers in college, Anna worked as an AmeriCorps Vista Park Guide, as a YMCA trail leader, and – importantly – an ice cream server. Anna describes herself as an introvert but believes that this secret power gives her the ability to connect with kids who are more shy or less inclined to jump into the programs’ activities. She hopes to show participants that science and nature are accessible to anyone and not restricted to certain personalities. In her free time, Anna enjoys photography, reading, woodburning, and swing dancing.

Kevin Niehaus

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 4th 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.

Apprentice Naturalist Guides

2020 Apprentice Guides Coming Soon!

Guest Naturalist Guides

Evan Smiley

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.

Nicky Haroldsen

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

e and cEric 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.