Administrative and Operations Staff
Executive Director | Karla VanderZanden | email@example.com
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 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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 | email@example.com
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 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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 | email@example.com
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 Manager | Alexander de Moor | firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Manager | Brennan Patrick Gillis | email@example.com
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.
Anna grew up along the Colorado Front Range. While studying Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University, she found her passion working with kids as an environmental educator. She has had adventures as a horse crew member, ice cream server, trail guide, llama hike leader, walking stick master, parks department education technician, and - of course - as a CFI naturalist guide. Anna describes herself as an introvert but believes that this secret power gives her the ability to connect with kids who are 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 or backgrounds. In her free time, Anna enjoys photography, reading, woodburning, and swing dancing.
Originally from Arizona, Elizabeth found her appreciation for the outdoors through exploring Sonoran desert washes and marveling at summer monsoons. After studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, she has used her degree throughout the years to gain experience in Wilderness Therapy, Environmental Education, and Ecological Restoration. First working as a guide for CFI in 2016, she is excited to return to canyon country to continue sharing her love of wild places and connection with others.
Kevin spent his youth exploring the wooded hills and muddy river bottoms of Southern Indiana. Always fascinated by natural history and aspiring to work in Nature Education he eventually moved out west in search of opportunity. In 2016 Kevin started working at CFI as the spring Program Intern, but quickly proved himself to be quite capable and skilled at educational field work. After undergoing the Apprenticeship and working as a field educator, Kevin was hired as the Senior Naturalist Guide for the 2018 season. Now after a brief hiatus working as a Wildlife Educator in Jackson Hole, Kevin has returned to CFI to work a final season in the wonderous desert ecosystem that showed him what it means to be a Naturalist and Educator.
Apprentice Naturalist Guides
Growing up in Washington inspired Alison's love for the outdoors and she is excited to get to know as much of this planet as she can. Alison is passionate about environmental stewardship, art, geology, and outdoor education.
Hayley grew up in Gunnison CO camping and hiking with her family. She continued her adventure to Ashland OR attending Southern Oregon University receiving a BS in Environmental Science and Policy and a Minor in Art. Hayley is an artist and explorer always looking for inspiration in the natural world. In college she was an active member of the Outdoor Program learning and sharing outdoor skills with her peers. During her junior year she studied abroad to learn about climate change in the Arctic. She can’t wait to share her love of wild places with others and hopes it will inspire them as much as it inspires her.
Heidi grew up hiking in the rainy forests of western Washington State, but fell in love with the desert when she visited the Grand Canyon one fateful spring break. Eventually, she moved to Flagstaff and lived her dream exploring the Southwest while studying environmental sustainability at Northern Arizona University, finding her passion for environmental education while working at a nature center in Colorado. When she’s not talking about regenerative agriculture to anyone who will listen, Heidi enjoys hiking and backpacking, slacklining, writing and creating art, baking, doing amateur astronomy, and playing the guitar badly. She may also be seen telling insects how cute they are, and trying to identify every single plant she walks by.
Kami grew up in the farmlands of Minnesota exploring an endless space of woods, rivers and lakes. Knowing she wanted to continue her exploration to the mountains, she moved to Colorado to study Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. From there she developed a love for everything under the sun that let her explore the outdoors in a more challenging way. She’s explored much of the West through rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, backpacking, backcountry skiing and fly fishing. It has led her to positions with Rocky Mountain National Park as a Bouldering Ranger, an Outdoor Instructor with CSU’s Outdoor Program, a Sea Kayak Guide at Channel Islands National Park, advocating for climate change policy with Protect Our Winters, and now to Kami’s second home in Moab with CFI. When she’s not exploring the outdoors with others, you can find her eating breakfast burritos, reading a good book, or taking naps in hammocks.
Martha grew up among the junipers, ponderosa pines, and manzanita bushes of Bend, Oregon, and spent her childhood frolicking around the High Desert and Cascade Mountains of Central Oregon in search of deer shed, tadpoles, and other such nature treasures. Since then, her explorations have taken her to the highlands of Central Arizona and the coastal deserts of Sonora, Mexico, where she studied environmental science and education at Prescott College and grew to love the landscapes of the desert. Later she journeyed to the San Juan Islands and North Cascades of Washington, where she has been working as an environmental educator, playing among the ferns, fungi, and banana slugs, and keeping an eye out for Sasquatch. Martha is passionate about sharing love and curiosity for the natural world with students through interdisciplinary and experiential learning in the outdoors.
Guest Naturalist Guides
Ya'at'eeh! I grew up in Navajo Mountain, Utah. I am Navajo of the Bitterwater clan born for Towering House clan. Herding sheep on the weekends and during break from school. The landscape in Navajo Mountain paved the way for my love for the outdoors; rock climbing, sleeping outside with cousins, hiking down to Lake Powell to cool off and try and catch some fish. All this without “proper” gear, just the clothes we wore and a water bottle with crackers.
I attended High School in Tuba City, AZ and college at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. I majored in Architecture, Planning and Design. I played basketball at both schools. A walk on at University. I also ran Cross Country in High School. I coach basketball at the Jr High and High School level. I also donate my time as an official at local youth basketball tournaments.
Aside from my athletic abilities, I love the outdoors. Hiking, camping, fishing, and also being on the river.
I grew up around all kinds of animals. Cats, dogs, chickens, sheep, horse, and cows. Grandparents kept me involved with the livestock. Started with Redwood Llamas in Spring of 2018 for a weeklong hike with Canyonlands Field Institute for their annual Rainbow Bridge Trek. Something about being cut off (electronically), from the rest of this modern world is soothing. Hearing the sounds of nature; animals, wind, casual chats with friends and family. My son always tells me, “Just us, outside, having fun, is the way it should be”, I agree.
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 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.