Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center - Meet Our Staff

mseec-calvin-allanCalvin Allan - Educator - Born in the Philippines and growing up in the scenic Columbia River Gorge on the border of Washington and Oregon, Calvin developed a love for dynamic ecosystems, as well as the mighty Pacific Salmon. Calvin attended Seattle University where he cultivated his passion for public health, environmental and social justice issues. He started out as an AmeriCorps Volunteer, doing environmental and sustainability outreach with various school districts in the Puget Sound and other non-profits organizations, before transitioning to a teaching position at the Mercer Slough. When not working for the Pacific Science Center you can find Calvin in one of the many Seattle Public Schools' elementary schools doing before and after school enrichment programming.

Chloe BirnelChloe Birnel - Sub - Chloe Birnel - Sub - Chloe has spent her life exploring Seattle's natural areas. Over the years she has amassed an arsenal of fun facts about everything from medicinal plants to the adaptations of intertidal creatures and she is excited to share what she knows with Mercer Slough's visitors. She is currently working on a Master's in Education focused on science education at the University of Washington, including a ten-month residency at IslandWood on Bainbridge Island. Chloe has worked for various environmental non-profits in Washington and Alaska. In her free time she volunteers as a naturalist for the Aquarium Beach Naturalist program and the Cedar River Salmon Journey and gets outdoors as much as possible.

Dan HannafiousDan Hannafious - Educator - Dan considers the extended Northwest his home and brings his experiences from Washington, Oregon and Alaska to share at the Mercer Slough. He has always enjoyed the outdoors and brings his enthusiasm to our canoeing adventures in serving as a Trip Lead for Mercer Slough programs. He enjoyed exploring the outdoors early on and extended his experiences to include birding, animal tracking, dog mushing (Alaska!) and learning the local landscape through the eyes of native lore. His background includes serving as a biologist and camp director for the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, co-managing research investigations of hypoxia in Hood Canal, facilitating programs for The Washington NatureMapping Program and providing educational Bat Talks to communities and organizations around the Puget Sound. After a summer spent providing outdoor exploration opportunities for our Mercer Slough campers, Dan is looking forward to being an Educator throughout the school year.

Stephanie HuckStephanie Huck - Educator - Growing up in Western Washington and spending summers camping, exploring and beach-combing, Stephanie's childhood relationship with nature developed into an interest in the health of the Puget Sound and Southern Resident Orca population. With hopes of inspiring stewardship in others, she graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor's in Environmental Education, focusing on community education and environmental policy. After graduating, Stephanie spent 3 months in Australia and returned home to spend a year serving an AmeriCorps position with Washington Conservation Corps restoring salmon habitat in Whatcom County. Believing that environmental education is important to start at a young age, Stephanie began volunteering with the Mercer Slough's Polliwog Preschool in 2012 and is now excited to join the Mercer Slough as a teacher for K-8 programs and summer camps. In her free time, you can find Stephanie spending quality time with her dog, hiking, seeing concerts, and travelling abroad whenever possible.

Sarah KabelSarah Kabel - Early Childhood Education Coordinator - Sarah moved to the Northwest five years ago and she never left. She received her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR, and has a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Studies from Adrian College in Southeast Michigan. She has worked around the Puget Sound area teaching environmental education and nature-based preschool education. Sarah loves digging for worms, playing in the forest and observing nature with her preschoolers. She also enjoys reading, taking hikes and learning how to garden.

Karen LennonKaren Lennon - Manager - Karen is a natural resource professional and environmental educator with extensive experience and expertise in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Karen has worked in many capacities as a wildlife biologist, outreach specialist and manager of governmental, non-profit and private entities. Karen has developed and implemented educational programs for all age levels, has published on various wildlife species as well as facilitated complex natural resource programs, projects and negotiations. She has a wealth of experience in innovative program development and implementation and especially enjoys fostering partnership opportunities that provide meaningful service in support of natural resource education, conservation and management.

Amanda MintzAmanda Mintz - Sub - Amanda has been teaching weekend programs at Mercer Slough since spring of 2009. She is a Seattle native, and with the exception of three years in Bellingham she has lived here all her life! Amanda has a degree in environmental science from the UW and is currently pursuing elementary teacher certification. For most of her adult life she has worked with toddlers, but she has also been a baker, cake decorator, whitewater raft guide, stream restoration ecologist, and science teacher for Pacific Science Center's Science on Wheels outreach program. Amanda can't think of any better way to spend her weekends than hiking around the wetland teaching people about skunk cabbage and yellow spotted millipedes!

Siri NelsonSiri Nelson - Teen & Family Programs Supervisor - Siri Nelson grew up in Seattle, and has a B.S. from The Evergreen State College and a M.S. in Biology from the University of Washington. Siri has a unique background as both an educator and scientist. Prior to becoming a teacher at MSEEC, she conducted research in the fields of ecology, conservation biology and biomedical genomics. At the UW she was a National Science Foundation GK-12 OACIS fellow and co-taught high school ecology and biology classes, bringing novel research to local high school students. The coolest part of her job is mentoring young people interested in environmental science careers and connecting them with the greater science community. Siri loves getting outside any way she can and making all manner of stuff.

Leilani NussmanLeilani Nussman - PreK-8 Programs Coordinator - Leilani loves water and loves spending time sharing her love of water and nature with kids of all ages. After a childhood in Colorado, Leilani earned a Bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Portland, a certificate in Education, Environment, and Community from IslandWood, and a Master's degree in Science Education from UW. She believes that all students have a scientist inside them, and hands-on learning and exploration is the best way to draw that scientist out. Her favorite part of her job is taking children on their first camping or canoeing trip and hearing their stories about their favorite part of their day at camp. She hopes all campers leave Mercer Slough with a new appreciation for the natural world of the Puget Sound watershed.

Natalie OppligerNatalie Oppliger - AmeriCorps Environmental Outreach Education Programs Coordinator - Natalie brings to Mercer Slough her passion for environmental education. A recent graduate of the University of Washington's Program on the Environment, Natalie has worked with the Girl Scouts, Pacific Science Center's Camp-In program, and the Woodland Park Zoo. She was also a long-time volunteer with Polliwog Preschool and completed an internship focused on standards alignment in Mercer Slough's Wetland Field Study programs. After an exciting summer spent teaching MSEEC camps, she is thrilled to be continuing on in her work with field programs. In her free time Natalie enjoys biking, reading and trips to the beach.

Katelen PhelanKatelen Phelan - Weekend Educator - Katelen loves the outdoors, especially trail running, biking, hiking and other environmental adventures. A recent graduate of Seattle University with a B.A. in Humanities for Teaching and a minor in Biology, she hopes to be a high school Biology teacher and is pursuing a Master's in Teaching at Seattle U. She also spent 5 months in Costa Rica learning Spanish, saving turtles and exploring ecosystems. Katelen is the second youngest in a family of 10 kids, so she's well prepared for the fun and excitement of B’earthdays!

Melanie PrestonMelanie Preston - Educator - Growing up in Michigan, Melanie grew to love the natural world while walking the garden with her mother and grandmothers, exploring the woods and river near her home, and finding inspiration in school. She earned a degree in biology from Cedarville University in Ohio and finished her teaching program in Michigan. While in college, she spent her first summer in Grand Teton National Park, where she later worked several seasons as a park ranger. From Wyoming, Melanie made her way to the beautiful Pacific Northwest where she taught high school science and worked as a park ranger in Olympic National Park. She particularly enjoyed teaching environmental science and leading a local park restoration project. When she is not sharing her love for the outdoors at the Mercer Slough, Melanie enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, alpine climbing, reading, and playing guitar.

Ian SchooleyIan Schooley - Educator - Ian grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains where the Platte River cuts through the Colorado plateau, but the lack of salt water drove him to trade the Rockies for the Cascades and the plains for the Puget Sound. After a brief ten-year stint at the Seattle Art Museum his love of nature, being in the outdoors, and desire to help people connect with each other and with the life around them lead him to pursue a certificate in Environment, Education and Community from Islandwood and earn a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from UW. He is excited to ply his new trade at Mercer Slough and looks forward to connecting with a new community of dedicated educators.

Erin SoperErin Soper - Site Supervisor - Growing up on a small farm nestled between the mountains and salt water of the Pacific Northwest, Erin’s love of the outdoors began in childhood. Since graduating from Western Washington University with a B.A.E. in Interdisciplinary Child Development and K-8 Teaching Certificate, Erin has taught and mentored teachers in both traditional and nontraditional settings. She developed Chippewa Nature Center’s Nature Preschool and then spent a year living, learning, and exploring the North Cascades National Park while earning her M.Ed. in Environmental Education and Certificate of Leadership and Non-Profit Administration through North Cascades Institute and WWU. Erin is thrilled to be supporting teaching staff and site operations while overseeing Wetland Field Studies and outreach programming.

Lee WhiteLee White - AmeriCorps Polliwog Preschool Program Assistant - Lee has only lived in Seattle for a year, but the landscapes, waterways and awesome views make the Pacific North West an easy place for him to consider home. Lee was born and raised in Florida, where he was exposed to swamps and beaches for all nature explorations as a child. He majored in Elementary Education at the University of Florida where he had multiple opportunities to teach science. Prior to moving to Seattle, Lee lived in a small town in Hungary teaching English as a second language to elementary students and adults. Last year, he taught at a preschool nested in Seattle’s Discovery Park, so he is thrilled to have another experience working in classrooms surrounded by nature. His teaching philosophy is rooted in hands-on learning, making the Mercer Slough’s Pollywog Preschool a perfect fit for him.

Jackie WilsonJackie Wilson - Educator - Growing up in the Seattle area, Jackie fell in love with our local forests, waterways and wildlife. She earned a B.S. Biology, B.A. Environmental Studies and an M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Washington, and currently she is taking courses to complete her teaching certificate. Jackie’s diversity of professional experience in museum education, program management, partnerships, field research and teaching all centers around environmental science and education – her passions. Indeed, Jackie is excited to work on programs that build connections between students’ classroom learning and their local ecosystems and communities. This year she is looking forward to working with middle and high school students through the Environmental Science & Technology Practicum and Environmental Science Pathways.


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