Our Staff

saul photo
Saul Weisberg
Executive Director
Saul  is executive director and co-founder of North Cascades Institute. He is an ecologist, naturalist and writer who has explored the mountains and rivers of the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years. Saul worked throughout the Northwest as a field biologist, fire lookout, commercial fisherman and National Park Service climbing ranger before starting the Institute in 1986. He has authored Headwaters: Poems & Field NotesFrom the Mountains to the Sea, North Cascades: The Story behind the Scenery, Teaching for Wilderness, and Living with Mountains. Saul is an adjunct faculty of Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University and has served on the board of directors of the Association of Nature Center Administrators, the Natural History Network and the Environmental Education Association of Washington. Saul and his family live near the shores of the Salish Sea in Bellingham, Washington.

Media coverage of Saul includes "Follow The River: Saul Weisberg’s Lifelong Journey Down the Skagit" — a profile by the Skagit Watershed Council — and several interview podcasts: "Exploring North Cascades National Park" from Living on Earth, "Parks as Classrooms" (2018) and "Park Connections" (2020) from National Parks Traveler.


Administrative Coordinator
Kayla­ is a Washington native who spent most of her childhood outdoors with the kids on her cul-de-sac, or inside practicing different instruments. After toying with the idea of becoming a music teacher, she eventually graduated with her BS in Geology from Western Washington University, and has made Bellingham her home ever since. She brings her love for the outdoors, youth education and data entry to the North Cascades Institute as the Registration Assistant. Living in such a beautiful place has given her endless opportunities to try every type of outdoor activity possible. Her free time is currently spent rock climbing, hiking, snowboarding, playing music, reading, cross-stitching or planning for the Girl Scout troop she co-leads. 

Paula Berg
Development Coordinator
In 2014, Paula joined North Cascades Institute with more than 10 years of experience serving foundations and nonprofit organizations in various fundraising capacities. She is passionate about working with groups who contribute to the vitality of local communities through educational opportunities engaging children and families, the arts and the environment.   Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Paula’s love for nature developed at a very young age and was cultivated by many years of family camping trips and outdoor adventures. She now enjoys sharing her love of this place with her husband, daughter and the international students they host. She especially enjoys road trips, nature walks, hiking, reading and art.

Alexa Brandt
Program Instructor
Alexa was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, residing in Renton and Kent before moving to Bellingham to study at Western Washington University. Each year growing up, her family ventured out backpacking around the Washington Coast. This is where Alexa first fell in love with nature and it is still one of her favorite places to this day. She ultimately decided to let this passion guide her in studying Environmental Science at Western Washington University. Over the last couple years, Alexa has been gaining habitat monitoring and environmental education experience working with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Wild Whatcom and YMCA Camp Seymour. She is stoked for this opportunity to help foster and empower youth to explore self-growth, stewardship, curiosity and respect for the ecosystems in this beautiful state. In her free time, you can find Alexa hiking, spending time by the water and playing choice board games such as Settlers of Catan.

Jodi Broughton
Development and Marketing Director
Jodi joined the Institute in 2014, bringing with her 14 years of conservation nonprofit experience, including fundraising consultation, grant writing, membership acquisition, donor relations, event planning and senior management. She has a B.S. in Environmental Policy from Huxley College. Jodi is dedicated to helping conservation supporters achieve their goals and keep nonprofit organizations running smoothly. Based in Bellingham, she spends as much of her spare time as possible enjoying the outdoors – whether gardening, backpacking, kayaking, skiing, or just exploring, she’s always happiest being at one with nature.

Mark Browning
Systems Administrator
Raised in Southern California by a family of unabashed geeks, Mark’s fascination with technology developed early on. Road trips took him exploring landscapes across the West: from the Joshua trees near his home to Half Dome, Utah’s Arches, towering Sequoia trees and the Mendenhall Glacier. These encounters contributed to Mark’s love of nature and respect for its fragility. Honing his skills in his college’s IT department, he also operated his own computer repair business for six years. Mark brings eight years of volunteer experience at a nonprofit, combined with thirteen years professionally as its Technical Director. He is passionate about empowering others to feel comfortable using technology. In moving to the Pacific Northwest, Mark is thrilled to use his knowledge to support the work of North Cascades Institute. Mark is an avid PC gamer, and enjoys dog agility training with his Shepherd mix rescue, cuddling his three cats, dabbling with drones and hiking with his wife.

Program Director
SuJ’n is a native Seattleite and spent childhood vacations roadtripping and camping throughout Cascadia with her immigrant parents and brother from Korea. After earning a MSW from the University of Georgia, SuJ’n returned to the Pacific Northwest as a doctoral student in social welfare at the University of Washington. She has since served in nonprofit and government management roles in social services, community development and the arts. SuJ’n is a writer, photographer, multidisciplinary artist and co-founder of IDEA Odyssey, a nonprofit collective of emerging visual artists whose work focuses on diversity, culture and identity. In her spare time, she spends time in Seattle with her companions Han (human) and Josephine Baker (feline) or in the mountains instructing and leading trips for the Mountaineers.


Head Chef
Justin began work as Sous Chef at the Environmental Learning Center and was promoted to Head Chef in September 2016. Justin began cooking for himself at age 7 and hasn't stopped since. He brings 20 years of professional cooking experience to the Institute, including 6 years at a Palestinian soul food restaurant, a year at a sushi bar in Boise, owning and operating a farm-to-table catering business and a smattering of positions in fine dining restaurants between here and his hometown Kansas City, Missouri. Justin is passionate about food and feels fortunate for the opportunity to share that passion with the guests and staff at the Environmental Learning Center. He currently resides in Marblemount with his faithful dog Cecil and couldn't be happier.

Environmental Learning Center Greeter

Elvis (Corvus corax) lives in the Diablo Lake neighborhood and is a frequent visitor to the ELC. He is known for his size, intense curiosity and ability to learn new tricks, like unzipping Mountain School students unattended backpacks to get at their sack lunches. Elvis has been captured and banded by corvid expert John Marzluff so we can learn more about his range and behavior. Give him a friendly CRAWWWWKK! if you see him on your next visit.

Catherine Endicott
Donor Relations Manager
Catherine lived all over the United States and Cameroon before deciding to make Seattle her home in 2003. Following a 13-year career in corporate sales and marketing and a five-year stint doing volunteer work and obtaining a Master’s degree in theology, she headed West to become a fundraising professional. As a perpetually curious person, she values the impact living outside one’s comfort zone has on changing one’s worldview, and, eventually, one’s behavior. When Catherine isn’t hard at work in Seattle engaging with current and future donors, she is either on the hiking trail, trying another new recipe or visiting her large family on the East Coast.

Stephanie Friesen
Marketing and Design Coordinator
Growing up near Snohomish with her older brothers, Stephanie’s love for nature was cultivated by parents whose work as school teachers allowed for summers of productivity and adventuring outside. Gardening and canning, camping, hiking and playing in the woods, and snapping photos of mossy things endure as her favorite ways to spend time. Stephanie is a graduate of WWU with a Bachelors of Fine Art in Printmaking. She enjoys bringing artistic solutions to her work, and blending messages and designs to create real connections. With a career path guided by her passion for editorial and marketing design, Stephanie is eager to turn her effort toward work that unites her creative skills with her appreciation of wild things. She is especially excited to grow her knowledge of the North Cascades’ eco-systems and its numerous hiking trails.

Elle Gasperini
Elle Gasperini
Youth Leadership Coordinator
Elle grew up in Minnesota, building forts, stomping in mud puddles and going on backyard adventures as a kid. She fell in love with the Pacific Northwest while studying Environmental Policy at the University of Puget Sound. After graduating, she worked as an Outward Bound Instructor among the lakes and white pines of Minnesota & mesas, canyons and rivers of the Big Bend region of Texas. Now back in the PNW, Elle is excited to continue deepening her own understanding of the history, processes and relationships that connect us to each other and to the planet we inhabit and hopefully spark inspiration for others to do the same. She began her North Cascades Institute journey in Fall 2018 as a Mountain School instructor and is excited for the next challenge with Youth Leadership Adventures. When not facilitating experiences for others in the outdoors, she can usually be found curled up drinking tea and reading a book after a day of climbing, snowboarding or paddling with friends.

Jeff Giesen
Associate Director
Jeff was hired as a nine-month seasonal Program Assistant in 1998 and spent the first day of his employment building his own desk. Since then he has had eight different job titles before becoming the Institute's Associate Director in 2012. Jeff oversees the internal operations including programs, finance, human resources and Learning Center operations. Jeff has a Bachelor's degree in environmental education from Western Washington University, a Master's Degree in Science and twenty years of experience, including positions at residential centers in Ohio and Georgia. He lives in Bellingham with his wife Janet, daughter Kate and son Will and has recently rediscovered the joy of skiing at Mount Baker.

Kristofer Gilje
Learning Center Director
Kristofer has been with NCI operations since 2007. For the previous ten years, Kristofer served as operations manager for Holden Village, a remote Lutheran retreat center in the North Cascades. For more than twenty years before that he worked as a building contractor and carpenter in Bonners Ferry Idaho, Minnesota, and California. Kristofer blends 35 years of experience in construction, maintenance and risk management with a philosophy degree from the Paracollege at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. Kristofer divides his time between the Learning Center campus and his home in Bellingham where he and his wife Kristen are restoring their hundred year old home. Their grown daughters Kaia and Johanna are off exploring the world.

Rachael Grasso
Snow School Coordinator
Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a proud Penn Stater, Rachael relocated to the North Cascades for the Graduate M.Ed. Residency in 2016. A seasoned outdoor educator, Rachael enjoys sharing her passion for mountains and nature with others. Whether she’s on a snowboard, skis or snowshoes, Rachael especially loves exploring and teaching about the winter environment. When she’s not working outside, Rachael and her husband own and run Cosmic Colors, a music and event lighting business. In her free time, you can find Rachael cooking vegetables, going for long day hikes and navigating living tiny in a camper trailer with two humans and two cats!

Codi Hamblin
School Programs Manager
Codi works to connect people with the North Cascades by promoting and sharing the Institute's work through various outreach avenues and works closely with Mountain School and SnowSchool. A passion for connecting people with the natural world originally brought Codi to North Cascades Institute as a graduate student where she lived, studied and taught Institute programs at the Environmental Learning Center. Prior to graduate school, Codi received her B.A. in Environmental Journalism at Huxley College and wrote for the weekly and daily Skagit County newspapers. Codi enjoys frigid dips in mountain waters, playing in the snow, and taking natural history notes along the way.

Molly Harrigan
Education Manager
The natural world has been a strong ally for Molly to understand herself internally and in connection to community. She believes that all people deserve access to this type of opportunity. Molly graduated from Western Washington University in 2002 with a degree in Recreation Therapy and minor in Psychology. She has spent about 20 years managing and providing direct recreation services to people with disabilities in Illinois and Washington. Some of her favorite programs have included supporting a City garden with greenhouse, snow sports, adaptive biking and traveling with people with various disabilities. She has also been an adaptive Yoga Instructor since 2011 and enjoys studying Plant Medicine. Molly feels blessed to work with an organization that opens people up for environmental learning and reciprocal healing. Molly’s outdoor interests include kayaking, snowsports and hammocking. She also enjoys travel, humor, live music, reading and four-legged creatures.

Program Coordinator
Hailing from south-central Alaska, Evan grew up canoeing, tromping around the tundra and flying falcons with his father. After studying Fine Art and Japanese at University of Montana, he began volunteering in wilderness monitoring. Evan segued into environmental education and brings an interdisciplinary approach to his work, alongside practices in foreign language and the creative process. If he isn’t nestled into a mossy tussock somewhere reading the poems of Cold Mountain, then he’s likely clinging to a sunny rock face or riding his bike to one.

Calvin Laatsch
Conference and Retreat Manager
Calvin works with a wide variety of groups to bring new and creative programs to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Calvin’s professional life has been largely inspired by the outdoor “friluftsliv” school he attended in Norway. In 2008, he earned a bachelor’s degree in outdoor recreation and tourism from Western Washington University. Calvin has spent the last decade facilitating intimate experiences with nature through his work as an educator and program coordinator. Most of his free time is spent rock climbing and thinking about rock climbing. He also enjoys watching kung fu movies, eating, and laughing.

Orawan Layne
Orawan was born and raised in Thailand. She has a BA in Accounting from Ramkhamhang University, Bangkok. She moved to the US in 1988. Since moving to the US, she has been living along I-5 from the South to the North: San Diego, CA, Eugene, OR, and now Bellingham, WA. She was a YMCA certified aerobics instructor and has taught Step and Kickboxing classes since 1996. Now she gets up at 5 am and uses an elliptical machine at home before she comes to work. She likes gardening, running, and hiking.

Cindy Lee
Human Resources Manager
Cindy was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska and spent most of her life there. She moved to to Bellingham for 5 years in 2000 and later returned to this area in 2012 because of its natural beauty, friendly people and outdoor activities. She has an extensive background in Human Resources with the State of Alaska, the National Park Service (Glacier Bay NP and North Cascades NP) and Goldbelt, an Alaska Native Corporation. She is a member of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska. Cindy enjoys spending time with family, playing with her beagle dog Bender and gardening.

Darcie Lloyd
Administrative Assistant
Darcie joined the Institute in Spring 2012 as a seasonal to support Skagit Tours registration and has continued on doing everything from administrative work to housekeeping to program support. As a native Washingtonian, she has spent much time camping and exploring the state with her family, and feels blessed to have such a wonderful area to explore and play in in the North Cascades. She enjoy being outside with her husband and son camping, hiking, biking and just enjoying what nature has to offer.

Christian Martin
Communications and Marketing Manager
Since 2006, Christian has served as the lead writer and editor for Institute print and online media, the contact for media inquiries and organizer of many of the Institute's community events. In the past, he has been the features editor for the Bellingham Weekly, an English instructor at Whatcom Community College, backcountry host on the Snake River in Jackson Hole and a field educator in Alaska. Christian's freelance writing work can be found in publications throughout the Pacific Northwest and he is a contributing author to The North Cascades: Finding Beauty and Renewal in the Wild Nearby. He loves to take road trips, make soup, hike, read, observe birds, paddle the Salish Sea, practice yoga, serve traditional oolong tea and explore the Viking 

Chris Nelson
Facilities Manager
Chris is a Northwest native who grew up on Guemes Island in the San Juan Islands. Summers spent hiking, camping and boating with his parents instilled a lasting bond with the Pacific Northwest. He brings over 25 years of experience in the construction, property management and food and beverage industries to his position at the Environmental Learning Center. Chris lives on a family farm in Burlington and is an avid boater who enjoys snow skiing, dancing, camping and traveling with his wife and family.

Kim Nelson
Executive Assistant
Kim grew up exploring the pine forests, lakes, streams and ravines of northern Florida. Her early love of nature led her to work in conservation and environmental education. Over the years, she has worked for and the National Park Service and multiple environmental nonprofits. Kim has a BS in Biology from UC San Diego and a MA in Biology from Miami University’s Global Field Program. All of these different experiences led Kim to realize just how important collaboration, communication and organization are to running a successful business. Kim is really excited to apply her passion and experience towards her role as an Executive Assistant with the Institute. In her free time, Kim enjoys volunteering, birding, hiking, camping, traveling, foraging, reading and hanging out with her one cat, two dogs and eight backyard chickens.

Patrick Renau
Retail Manager
Born in Charleston, S.C., raised in British Columbia and Florida,  Pat found his way back to the Pacific Northwest 20 years ago after accepting a position in retail operations with Mt. Baker Ski Area.  Bringing that experience to the Institute has allowed him to reacquaint with his true passions: the physical environment, the wonders of wild animals and the human interaction with both. Pat acquired a Masters in Earth Science from Georgia State University and Bachelors in Business from Berry College, Ga. He has undertaken expeditions to Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories, circumnavigated Iceland and explored the Lofoten Islands off the coast of Norway. His interest include photography, music, sports and German Shepherds.  Pat and his wife maintain a self-built hobby farm / bed and breakfast near Glacier with sheep, ducks and chickens.

Jason Ruvelson
Finance Director
Jason has diverse background experience including strategic planning, auditing, financial analysis, market research and developing business plans. He has received a M.B.A. from Western Washington University, a M.A. in Contemplative Psychotherapy from The Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado and a Bachelor of Arts in Transpersonal Ecology from Fairhaven College. Jason has a deep connection to the Pacific Northwest, having lived in the region for over 30 years. He has spent significant time sailing, kayaking, scuba diving, hiking and camping throughout our region. Currently living in Sudden Valley, Jason loves to play percussion and is also involved in the study, education and practice of Tibetan Buddhist meditation, including serving on the council at the Bellingham Shambhala Center.

Program Coordinator
Growing up in the mountains around Chelan, Mari has always loved working and playing in the North Cascades. Her love for the outdoors compelled her to study Biological Research and Environmental Studies at Gonzaga University where she graduated in 2015. Mari has generally spent her summers doing post-wildfire plant research with Forest Service crews in the eastern Cascades, while working as an outdoor educator during the school year. This year, she is excited to be working as a naturalist educator in the mountains she loves! In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, climbing, kayaking, nerding-out about plants and watching basketball.

Marilú Fernández Silva
Assistant Program Instructor
Surrounded by tulip and berry fields, Marilú grew up in La Conner before venturing off to Seattle to study At the University of Washington where she majored in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. The North Cascades has a special place in she heart ever since she attended Youth Leadership Adventures (YLA) program in the summer of 2015. After graduation, she joined NCI as an assistant program instructor in June of 2019. Today she assists in coordinating trips for the YLA program. In her spare time, Marilù spends her time hiking, cooking or binge-watching a Netflix series.

Cara Stoddard
Grants Coordinator
Cara grew up on a lake in Michigan boating with her family and camping in her backyard during the summers. Since then, she has lived in the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado, the Palouse prairie in Idaho, the channeled scablands of eastern Washington, and the Snohomish River watershed in Everett working as a backpacking guide and writing instructor. Cara lends her twin passions for expeditionary learning and ecofeminism to her mentorship role with the graduate program. Prior to coming to the Institute, Cara taught undergraduate courses in nature writing, women’s literature, the graphic novel as literature and podcasting. Cara has her Master’s degree in creative nonfiction and is working on a book that examines the intersection of illness, identity and environmental toxicity. In her free time, Cara enjoys mountaineering, fresh water snorkeling during the salmon runs, and trail running with her dog Scout.


Youth Leadership Manager
Julie grew up in the wilds of Whatcom Falls Park, traversing deer trails to explore the green spaces of Bellingham, WA. She developed an appreciation for trails while hiking, skiing, running and climbing in the North Cascades. After graduating from Western Washington University, Julie started digging in the dirt and living outside while working for Montana Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps and Northwest Service Academy.  She then let her love of public lands, stewardship and connecting with youth bring her back to the North Cascades, first with the National Parks Service and now with North Cascades Institute. In her off time, Julie enjoys mushroom hunting, fishing, canning and eating her foraged goods. 

School Day Program Coordinator
Originally from eastern Pennsylvania, Abby’s introduction to the Pacific Northwest (and the Institute) was as a Mountain School intern-instructor in 1999. Captivated by the North Cascades, she spent 12 seasons as a Wilderness Ranger for Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades National Park. Between seasons in the local wilderness, Abby has managed remote field camps in Antarctica and Alaska, ski patrolled in northern New Mexico and taught adaptive skiing in Colorado. When not exploring new or familiar terrain, Abby is likely to be dreaming up more long backcountry trips, writing, crafting or visiting friends and family.

Outreach and Events Coordinator
Deven’s love for the natural world began while growing up in a rural area of eastern Washington, where she spent her free time getting dirty on the family farm and exploring the woods and rivers of the area. She moved to Bellingham in 2010 to attend Western Washington University where she earned a B.S. in Environmental Policy through Huxley College. Since graduating, Deven has been doing marketing and outreach work — she spent 3 years working in the nonprofit sector at the Non-GMO Project as the Brand & Outreach Coordinator and the past year working for a local, organic chicken feed company as Marketing Coordinator. In her free time, you can find Deven exploring the trails of the North Cascades with her dog, Lewis, or enjoying live music.

Program Coordinator - Mountain School and Conferences and Retreats
Raised among the salty waters of the Salish Sea, Zoe spent her youth immersed in tidepools and the forests of the Pacific Northwest. After witnessing the profundity that is fostered through an appreciation for the natural world, Zoe sought a path that fuses natural curiosity with lifelong learning and children’s laughter. Since 2007, she has facilitated after-school programs, STEM-based sailing camps and informal classroom experiences all across the world. After earning an M.Ed. in 2018 from Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University and North Cascades Institute, she found her love for ecology. When she’s not working to support Mountain School and Conferences and Retreats, Zoe is likely deep in thought about bioluminescence, splitting rounds of firewood, or howling at the moon with her love and their four-legged fur babies.