Meet Our Summer Staff at Mercer Slough
Amanda Mintz - Early Childhood Education Coordinator
Amanda has taught weekend programs at Mercer Slough since spring 2009. She is a Seattle native, and with the exception of three years in Bellingham, she has lived here all her life! She has an environmental science degree from UW and is pursuing elementary teacher certification. For most of her adult life she has worked with toddlers, but has also been a baker, cake decorator, whitewater raft guide, stream restoration ecologist, and science educator for Pacific Science Center's Science On Wheels
. Amanda can't think of a better way to spend her weekends than teaching people about skunk cabbage and yellow spotted millipedes!
Belinda Paterno - Assistant Educator
Belinda grew up in Western Washington and spent summers traveling to different national parks. Wanting to learn more about the environment, Belinda earned a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and a MS in Environmental Science from WSU. During college breaks she honed her field skills at the WSU Extension Center in Puyallup, working in farm maintenance, sustainable agriculture, plant pathology and biocontrol for noxious weeds. Desiring a shift in careers, she volunteered with the Tacoma Nature Center teaching environmental education. Belinda is excited to grow as an environmental educator with Camps for Curious Minds.
Carly Fischer – Summer Camps General Aide
Carly graduated from Whitman College in 2013 with a BA in Biology and Environmental Studies. While at school she developed her interests in plants, sustainable agriculture, anthropology and cooking, but couldn’t major in everything. She believes that kids benefit from starting environmental education young and hopes to help facilitate that for the rest of her life. In her free time Carly likes to be by the water, read, cook, garden, and hang out with her dog.
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. She is working on a Master's in Education focused on science education at UW, including a 10-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.
Dan Hannafious - Educator
Dan considers the Northwest his home and shares his experiences from Washington, Oregon and Alaska at Mercer Slough. He has always enjoyed the outdoors and brings his enthusiasm to our canoeing adventures as a Trip Lead for our programs. His experiences include birding, animal tracking, dog mushing (Alaska!) and learning the local landscape through the eyes of native lore. He served as a biologist and camp director for the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, co-managed research of hypoxia in Hood Canal, facilitated programs for the Washington Nature Mapping program and provided educational Bat Talks to Puget Sound communities. After summer outdoor exploration with our campers, Dan looks forward to being an educator throughout the school year.
Erin 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 non-traditional settings. She developed Chippewa Nature Center’s Nature Preschool and then spent a year living in 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 support teaching staff and site operations while overseeing Wetland Field Studies
and outreach programming.
Hilary Poore - Educator
Hilary moved to the Pacific Northwest from sunny California, not quite sure she was ready for the rain. This is her second summer teaching with Camps for Curious Minds
. Hilary graduated from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, with a concentration in Marine Science. Her passions include all things science, teaching early learners, and informal education, so she is thrilled there is a place like Mercer Slough that fulfills all three! Her broad experience includes being a swimming instructor, leading science camps, volunteering at an ocean-side aquarium, and working in her hometown as an education specialist at a non-profit that emphasizes art and conservation. In her spare time she loves arts and crafts, music, swimming, reading and being outdoors.
Ian 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 10-year stint at Seattle Art Museum, his love of nature, being outdoors, and desire to help people connect with each other and with life around them lead him to pursue a certificate in Environment, Education and Community from Islandwood and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from UW. He is excited to ply his new trade at Mercer Slough and to connecting with a new community of dedicated educators.
Jackie 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 UW, and is completing 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. Jackie is excited to work on programs that build connections between students’ classroom learning and their local ecosystems and communities. She enjoys working with middle and high school students through the Environmental Science & Technology Practicum
and Environmental Science Pathways
Jillian Johnson – Summer Camps Educator’s Aide
Jillian started at Mercer Slough as a Naturalist in Training
while in high school at International School in Bellevue. Now she is a student at UW studying Drama and Education. She loves that Mercer Slough gives her a chance to get outside after spending much of the school year inside a dark theater. She is excited to return this summer as the Educator’s Aide. Besides working with the awesome campers and teachers at Mercer Slough, Jillian enjoys swimming, singing, and musical theatre.
Katelen Phelan - Weekend Educator
Katelen loves the outdoors, especially trail running, biking, hiking and other environmental adventures. A 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 five 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 Wild B’earthday parties
Kelly Fish – Educator
From her childhood in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to her current residence in the Puget Sound region, Kelly is a lifelong inhabitant of the Pacific Northwest. She recently graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a B.A. in natural science education, a K-8 teaching certificate, and a minor in biology. During her program, she researched phytoplankton diversity and frog distribution on Blakely Island, studied coral reef ecology on the Belize Barrier Reef, and developed a love of identifying native plants. She also interned as an earth science educator at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Kelly believes in encouraging children to spend time outdoors, and hopes to inspire them to be stewards of nature. Besides teaching, Kelly enjoys running, rock climbing, archery, and playing with her dog.
Lee White - Educator
Lee has only lived in Seattle for a year, but the landscapes, waterways and awesome views make the Pacific Northwest 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. He has taught at a preschool nested in Seattle’s Discovery Park, and he is thrilled to have another experience working in classrooms surrounded by nature. His teaching philosophy is rooted in hands-on learning, making Polliwog Preschool
a perfect fit for him.
Leilani Nussman - PreK-8 Programs Coordinator
Leilani loves water and 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 stories about their favorite part of the day at camp. She hopes all campers leave Mercer Slough with a new appreciation for the natural world of the Puget Sound watershed.
Lisa Keith – Educator
Lisa enjoys poetry, long walks on the beach, and poking dead stuff with sticks. As a kid, she spent her time playing in the woods, raising tadpoles and wooly bear caterpillars, and exploring the beaches of South Puget Sound. Back then, Lisa wanted to be an astronaut, marine biologist or park ranger. Years later, after a couple of degrees, work as a hospice chaplain, a stint as a professional gardener, and a habit of serial science and naturalist volunteerism, it dawned on Lisa that becoming a science educator would allow her to be all those things she wanted to be as a kid. When she’s not geeking out over aquatic macroinvertebrates at Mercer Slough, you can find Lisa gardening, camping, trail running, continuing her education on all things nature-related, and spending time with family and friends.
Melanie Preston - Educator
Growing up in Michigan, Melanie grew to love the natural world, 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 a summer in Grand Teton National Park, where she later worked as a park ranger. Melanie then made her way to the 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, Melanie enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, alpine climbing, reading, and playing guitar.
Natalie Oppliger - Educator
Natalie brings to Mercer Slough her passion for environmental education. A 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 Camps for Curious Minds
, she is thrilled to continue on in her work with field programs. In her free time Natalie enjoys biking, reading, and trips to the beach.
Siri Nelson - Teen & Family Programs Supervisor
Siri grew up in Seattle, and has a B.S. from The Evergreen State College and a M.S. in Biology from UW. Siri has a unique background as both an educator and scientist. Prior to becoming a teacher at Mercer Slough, she conducted research in the fields of ecology, conservation biology and biomedical genomics. At 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.
Stephanie 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 WWU with a Bachelor's in Environmental Education, focusing on community education and environmental policy. After graduating, Stephanie spent three months in Australia, then spent a year in 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 Polliwog Preschool
in 2012 and is excited to teach for K-8 Field Study
programs and Camps for Curious Minds
. In her free time, Stephanie spends quality time with her dog, hikes, sees concerts, and travels abroad.