INSTRUCTORS FOR FIELD CLASSES
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.
Robin Balch is a Desert Institute “lead” volunteer. She has hiked several portions of the Pacific Coast Trail and has been a Forest Service Fire Lookout. Her hiking and camping skills make her a great co-instructor for the Women’s “Get-Away” Weekend.
In addition to his new role at the museum, Brian is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Coordinator of the Central Coast Information Center of the California Historical Resources Information System. Flintknapping and replicating traditional technologies have long been his passion, eventually leading him toward his current career path. Brian’s dissertation research focuses on shell bead production and exchange, using experimental replication to understand the bead production traditions in the Chumash region.
Amanda began professional work as a facilitator, teacher and guide in 1995. She became interested in Life-Long, Experiential Learning teaching in public schools, facilitating social service programs and by guiding the Montessori method. She has continued to deepen her understanding of the journey to connect with The Creative Nature of The True Self as a Therapeutic Yoga Teacher. Amanda is honored to be a student of Dr. Amy Wheeler, Optimal State Yoga Therapy. Amanda lives in Joshua Tree, California alongside a menagerie of cats, dogs, birds, lizards, snakes, humans, bunnies, insects and flora of all kinds.
Steven Biller, the longtime editor-in-chief of Palm Springs Life, writes and lectures about early and contemporary California art with an emphasis on the Coachella Valley and High Desert regions.
Jeanne Day Binning, Ph.D., Senior Cultural Resources Specialist, California Department of Transportation. Dr. Binning has been a professional archaeologist for over 50 years. She is a specialist in the lifeways of hunters and gatherers of the western contiguous United States. Within the discipline of archaeology, Dr. Binning has focused on the economics of lithic technology including the manufacture and use of flaked-stone tools. She has been flintknapping for over 40 years and has received flintknapping instruction from Jeff Flenniken, Jacques Tixier, Jacques Pelegrin, Mark Newcomer, Errett Callahan, Gene Titmus, and Tim Dillard.
Charles 'Chuck' Bouscaren
Mr. Bouscaren received his bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside and has been a professional archaeologist for over 30 years. He has participated in dozens of Archaeological projects in California and Arizona. He excavated the Manzanar National Historic Site; surveyed large areas of San Bernardino County including Fort Irwin, Silverwood Lake, and areas along the Colorado River; participated in pedestrian surveys and excavations in the Colorado Desert; recorded numerous historic and prehistoric archaeological sites; and conducted the analysis of flaked-stone and ground-stone artifacts in a laboratory setting.
Theresa Clark is a bryophyte ecologist from Maine, but much of her research has been in the American Southwest studying tiny dryland mosses (which are often a quarter of the size of their mesic Maine relatives). She earned a M.S. at Northern Arizona University researching the diversity and community ecology of mosses in Grand Canyon National Park. During her PhD at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, she studied dryland moss survival and the potential for these small mosses to “hide” from climate change in protected microhabitats. After finishing her degree, she has continued in research and science education. At the University of Minnesota, she has been teaching biology and studying long-term desiccation tolerance and functional trait ecology of dryland mosses including characterizing their unique “spongey adaptions” for holding and moving water. In progress is her moss flora of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (Utah) and she has helped develop a photographic moss guide for using California mosses as bioindicators for riparian health. She offers regular moss outreach events, teaching children and adults alike how to “moss hunt” without disturbing these important and sometimes delicate plant communities.
Melanie Davis lives in Joshua Tree CA and is a field biologist and botanist at UC Riverside’s Center for Conservation Biology in Palm Desert. She has been working and living in the Mojave Desert since 2017. Her field research brings her to remote corners of the Colorado, Mojave and Sonoran deserts, from Joshua Tree National Park to the Mojave National Preserve, 29 Palms Marine Base, and across the Coachella Valley. She primarily studies the effects of human disturbance on native plants and ecosystems, as well as the distribution of rare native plant species. She is also an artist and has self-published illustrated field guides for several groups of native desert plants. Melanie holds a Bachelor’s from The Evergreen State College and the Desert Ecologist and Naturalist certifications from College of the Desert.
Craig Fucile, B.A., Physical Geography, has taught photography for the University of California Extension programs of Irvine, Riverside and Santa Cruz. He has also taught for University of La Verne, the Sierra Club and Friends of Photography. He is a long-time workshop instructor, leading workshops in the western landscapes he enjoys photographing Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Mojave Preserve, Owens Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Anza-Borrego, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia. During Fall 2017 Craig was an artist in residence for Angeles National Forest/ San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. He received the Fall 2010 Instructor Excellence Award from UC Riverside Extension and the 2007 Distinguished Instructor Award from UC Irvine Extension.
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.
Pam Kersey, Ed.D., MSN, RN
Pam Kersey, Ed.D., MSN, RN is a Desert Institute “lead” volunteer, an archaeological site steward, and has also volunteers as a camp nurse. She has completed four marathon hikes for children’s cancer fundraising. She has camped, backpacked, and hiked for many years including summits over 154,000 feet 5 times. She has taught hiking classes for women, and enjoys others learn how to safely appreciate camping and hiking. She recently retired from a career as a nurse and as a science and math dean.
Casey Kiernan teaches Landscape and Nighttime photography in Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Iceland – through his company “Joshua Tree Workshops” . Casey has been a professional photographer for over 2 decades. He previously managed a studio in Arizona which focused on automotive/motorcycle photography for print and advertising. Casey has won numerous awards, including 2nd place in the annual Joshua Tree National Park Arts Exposition – 2022 / Photography group. Casey also manages the “Joshua Tree Visitors Guide” an on-line resource for all things Joshua Tree!
Mai-Yan Kwan and Emily Nielson, along with their partner Aimee, started Dirty Gourmet in 2010 after a bike tour across Canada and years living and working in the wilderness. The goal was to provide a resource for delicious camping recipes online, which was something the world lacked at the time. Since then, they have grown the business to include camp catering, camp cooking workshops, and a bestselling cookbook, Dirty Gourmet: Food for Your Outdoor Adventures. They are now working on a second book and continuing to provide tips and tricks to get more people excited about making food a part of their outdoor adventures.
BERNARD LEIBOV is the Founder and Director of BoxoPROJECTS, a residency and programming initiative based in Joshua Tree, CA. He is also co-founder and co-curator of the Joshua Treenial. Prior to moving to California, Bernard was Deputy Director of Judd Foundation in New York and Marfa. He also operated a non-traditional gallery space in New York City which featured artists from Joshua Tree and other non-urban areas.
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.
Jim Lowery is a nationally known tracker and author of The Tracker’s Field Guide , Walk with the Animal, and many monographs, workbooks, webinars and articles about tracking technique. He has taught tracking to thousands of students, including many specialized 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, kit fox, elk and black bears.
Stephen J. Myers
Stephen J. Myers is semi-retired after spending 38 years as a wildlife biologist and ornithologist for private biological consulting companies. He has concentrated his studies on birds, but also has extensive experience with small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies, and plants. Much of his experience with birds has focused on threatened and endangered species such as the California Gnatcatcher, Least Bell’s Vireo, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yuma Ridgway’s Rail, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Mr. Myers has been banding birds since 1985, and has been a federally permitted bird bander since 1990. Bird banding projects have included research of the California Gnatcatcher, Bahama Oriole, Lark Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow, and Red-winged Blackbird, along with coordinating or assisting with MAPS banding stations (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship). He has taught ornithology classes at Victor Valley College, and bird banding classes at University of California, Riverside Extension. He also leads regular birding field trips and bird walks for the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and the Wildlands Conservancy. He and his wife enjoy international travel, usually involving birding, to places such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Belize, Mexico, Australia, and Sri Lanka.
Maria Myrick recently joined the Noah Purifoy Foundation as its Project Coordinator. Working in close proximity with Sue Welsh, Co-Founder of the Foundation, Ms. Myrick helped create an online visual curriculum for the NPF Urban Arts Initiative, which included a teacher guidebook, a student handbook and a comprehensive biography of Noah’s life. Using this curriculum as a device to continue bringing the Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum to public school students in South LA, Maria worked with teachers and artists throughout the 2020-21 school year to provide an exceptional educational arts experience. Under Welsh’s tutelage, Ms. Myrick has studied texts of Purifoy historians and has a comprehensive understanding of both his assemblage work and his artistic responses to the politics of his time. Maria has fortified her knowledge of Noah’s creative process and educational endeavors through first-hand accounts supplied by Los Angeles artists and teachers Purifoy once worked with.
Emily Nielson and Mai-Yan Kwan, along with their partner Aimee, started Dirty Gourmet in 2010 after a bike tour across Canada and years living and working in the wilderness. The goal was to provide a resource for delicious camping recipes online, which was something the world lacked at the time. Since then, they have grown the business to include camp catering, camp cooking workshops, and a bestselling cookbook, Dirty Gourmet: Food for Your Outdoor Adventures. They are now working on a second book and continuing to provide tips and tricks to get more people excited about making food a part of their outdoor adventures.
Jon Norris is a professional landscape photographer and workshop guide, a JTNPA business member, and a Desert Institute volunteer. Jon offers one-to-one and small group workshops, plus photographic adventure tours, in Joshua Tree National Park. He started taking photos at the age of 14 with his trusty Zenit 10, teaching himself the fundamentals of photography via countless rolls of poorly exposed 35 mm film. Born in the UK, Jon spent 25 years working in aerospace engineering (15 years while living in France and Germany). As a recovering engineer, he now divides his time between marketing and photography and lives in Lake Forest, OC.
Tom Scanlan is a telecommunication professional and a part-time college educator. He loves the outdoors and has ten years of experience as a Boy Scout Leader. As a hiking enthusiast he has climbed Mount Whitney twice. He has taught others of all ages how to backpack, camp, and hike. Tom is an active volunteer archaeological site steward for the Joshua Tree National Park and Cleveland National Forest and for the Desert Institute.
Lynn Sweet is a Research Ecologist at the University of California, Riverside’s Center for Conservation Biology. She has a B.S. in Biology from Dickinson College, and a Ph.D. in Plant Biology from UCR. In the past, she has worked as a natural history tour guide in the dry forest of Hawaii, as well as on research projects focusing on endangered birds in Arizona, weedy plant species in Wyoming, and native oak and pine establishment in central California. Her current projects focus conservation of desert plant communities in southern California, including research within the Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree National Park.
Jason Wallace began his career at the Desert Studies Center back in 2007. As Field Station Manager, he is responsible for overseeing and participating in all aspects of facility operations and guest services. Before joining the DSC, Jason was a part-time faculty member at California State University, Fullerton and Orange Coast College, teaching classes in biology, zoology and ecology. He was also a zookeeper for seven years, caring for a wide variety of Central and South American animals, most of them primates. Jason earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology from California State University, Fullerton. His Master’s thesis examined population dynamics of desert reptiles in the East Mojave/Soda Springs area. In 2008, after joining the staff, he resurrected this research to establish a long-term study of our local herpetofauna. This ongoing study is now among the most comprehensive herpetological surveys in the western deserts of North America. Jason’s other research experiences include studies on Mojave fringe-toed lizard, Mojave Desert tortoise, Mohave tui chub, green sea turtle, and desert willow. Jason has an extensive understanding of desert organisms and desert ecology and regularly collaborates with federal, state and local agencies such as NPS, BLM, NASA, USFWS, USGS, and CDFW. In his spare time, he enjoys music, traveling, chasing lizards, and spending quality time with his wife and two dogs.
Sandi Wheaton is photography instructor based in Windsor, ON and the Salton Sea, CA. 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 photography tours in Iceland and California, has taught Forensic Photography at the University of Windsor, and travels far and wide with Crystal Cruises as a guest lecturer, teaching “Creative Media Fundamentals”.
Sarah is a grassroots educator, artist, and chef who values an exploratory, hands-on approach to how we perceive and interact with the world around us. Sarah moved to the high desert in 2016, and her natural curiosity about the environment sparked several projects that brought people together to explore our relationship to the land through botany, food, and hiking. In collaboration with the non-profit High Desert Test Sites, Sarah founded the monthly community wild-plant dinner and discussion event High Desert Test Kitchen, which later generated Hole in the Sand, her immersive platform for informal desert educational events focused around plant-identification hikes, overnight desert backpacking trips, and seasonal pop-up dinners. Most recently Sarah‘s been teaching culinary arts at Copper Mountain College and College of the Desert, and she‘s so excited to collaborate with the community and broaden her outreach by joining the team at JTNPA as Director of Desert Institute!