Our Staff

Bec Detrich
Executive Director
Bec began her outdoor career 20 years ago as an educator and naturalist. During her career, she has led backpacking trips in Yosemite, marine science adventures in Catalina, ecology lessons in Maine, and has worked in four different National Parks. Bec oversaw field science programs in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, served as Chair for the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary advisory council, and was Executive Director for Trips for Kids Bay Area. Bec holds a BA in Environmental Science from Willamette University, an MA in Biology from Miami University’s Global Field Program, and an MBA from Sonoma State University. In her free time, Bec loves to adventure locally with her big dog Miga as well as travel solo both near and far. However, even after exploring over 60 countries, she can’t think of a more exceptional place to live and work than the North Cascades!

Learn more about Bec in this story from Whatcom Talk!

Hannah Black
Program Coordinator
Hannah Black grew up in Seattle and credits the region with her curiosity and love of crafting and natural history. She pursued a B.S. in environmental science and an M.A. in environmental communication at Stanford University. Over the last decade, Hannah's passion for experiential education brought her to jobs across the American West including peering into the depths of the Grand Canyon and tromping through snow in the Tetons. The regional scope, integration of science and art, strong community, and prolific quantities of moss, lichen, and fungus are what drew Hannah to the North Cascades Institute. In her free time Hannah enjoys cooking, writing letters, trail running and all types of skiing. Her guilty pleasure is glitter.


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 Administrative Coordinator. 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, mountain biking, playing music, cross-stitching and working out in her garden.

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 kitties, dabbling with drones and hiking with his wife.

Eric Buher
Program Director
Eric grew up in Skagit County, and first encountered North Cascades Institute as a Mountain School student in the late 90’s. He received a B.S. from Western Washington Universy, and taught high school mathematics for 10 years. Seeking to pursue teaching beyond the classroom, Eric returned to the Institute to complete a M.Ed in Environmental Education as a part of our 17th graduate cohort, C17. He has spent the last 3 years working as a Program & Camp Director for the local Boy Scout council. Returning once more to the Institute, Eric is excited to be leading the Mountain School program that continues to impact so many youth. In his free time Eric enjoys swimming, hiking, and reading a good book.

Alma Busby-Williams
Director of Inclusion and Community Partnerships
Alma grew up in Oakland, California. She received an undergraduate degree from Auburn, and a Juris Doctor from New College of California School of Law. She has facilitated Cultural Humility Trainings for over 12 years, and believes her most important role is facilitating difficult—but vital—discussions. Alma has also been an Outdoor Afro Leader since 2018. Early vacations were spent traveling up the California coast in her family’s motorhome in awe of redwood trees, and her first visit to a national park in Washington occurred when her son began his Graduate M.Ed. Residency at North Cascades Institute. After spending a few days at the Environmental Learning Center, she knew how important it was for marginalized groups to experience the Institute’s transformative programs. Their mission to “inspire environmental stewardship through transformative learning experiences in nature” aligns with her own.  When she’s not organizing events to get people outdoors, you can find her hiking, kayaking, putting loads of bird feed into her six bird feeders and bragging about her author-daughter and her park ranger-son!

Charles Claassen
Food Service Manager
After almost twenty years of raising his family in Bellingham, Charles has returned to North Cascades Institute in his role as the Chef and Food Service manager. As a member of the team that originally opened the Environmental Learning Center in 2005, Charles has a passion for connecting people, food and the environment. An avid climber, he can often be found exploring the intersections of history and landscape in the wilderness surrounding Diablo Lake.

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, Washington, Stephanie’s love for nature was cultivated by parents whose work as school teachers allowed for summers spent outside.  Gardening and canning, camping, hiking, 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. With a career path guided by her passion for editorial and marketing design, she enjoys blending messaging and visuals to create meaningful connections. As a member of the Institute's marketing team, Stephanie is happy to have found a way that her creative skills can support such an amazing mission. 

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 25 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.

Alexis Hager
Conferences and Retreats Coordinator
Alexis Hager grew up in Oakland, California, where school science trips shaped her interest in conservation and the environment. She studied environmental policy at Loyola University Chicago before returning to California to do education and outreach work for environmental organizations in the Tahoe basin. Now up north in Washington, she is eager to further the Institute's mission through her work with the Conference and Retreats team.

Althea Harris
Grants Manager
Althea is a born-and-raised Bellinghamster with a passion for being outside. After receiving a BA in Business Administration from the University of Washington and beginning her career with a focus on marketing, Althea joined the nonprofit world and spent seven years fundraising for the arts, history and education. She is thrilled to bring her skills in grant management to the Institute in support of connecting people with nature. Inspired by a childhood spent on the trails of the North Cascades, Althea has a deep connection to the outdoors and prioritizes running, hiking and skiing in her spare time.

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.

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.

Kate Little
Learning Center Manager
Kate grew up in a sleepy beach town on the Kitsap Peninsula before heading east to attend Oberlin College in Ohio. From there, Kate accepted a two-year Shansi Fellowship and moved to Madurai, India where she worked with college students, learned conversational Tamil, trekked in the Nilgiri Mountains, and scoured the city for new varieties of dosa to try. The outdoors have always been a space of learning and growth for Kate. Up at the Learning Center, she's regularly reminded of their capacity to join communities and build meaningful relationships. When not working at the Learning Center, you can usually find her backpacking, biking and kayaking around Washington with her watercolors.

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 lands and history of the Vikings. 

Lindsey McBride
Adult and Family Programs Manager
Lindsey comes from Utah, where she had the access to some of the best outdoor playgrounds: slot canyons, red rock deserts and mountains instilled in her a love of exploring and passion for stewardship. As the Adult and Family Programs Manager she hopes to encourage others to value and embrace the natural world. Lindsey’s interest in biology has increased with every job she’s held, from education at natural history and science museums to programs at botanical gardens to volunteer coordinator and animal keeping at an AZA-accredited zoo. Lindsey loves traveling and exploring new places, spending time with family, art and reading.

Billie R. Morelli
Billie grew up in rural Pennsylvania before heading west to Washington. A life-long learner, she studied the biological sciences at the University of Washington, law at Seattle University, and most recently culinary arts at Skagit Valley College. She loves cooking up nutritious meals made from locally-grown, organic ingredients and helping educate guests about how our individual food choices affect not only one's personal health, but also have broad-ranging impacts on the environment and the communities in which we live.

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. 

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Kim Nelson
Development and Executive Coordinator
Kim grew up exploring the pine forests, lakes, streams and ravines of northern Florida. Her early love of nature led her to work in the fields of conservation and environmental education. She has a BS in Biology from UC San Diego and a MA in Biology from Miami University’s Global Field Program. Kim is incredibly passionate about the outdoors and strongly believes in the Institute's mission. In her free time, Kim enjoys birding, hiking, traveling, foraging, and hanging out with her three rescue dogs, cat, and backyard chickens.

Mountain School Program Coordinator
Phoenix is a member of the Navajo Nation which resides in Northern Arizona. She wa born for the Manygoats clan of the Zuni Edgewater. Though Phoenix was born in Tuba City, she is a very well experienced traveler and has visited all 50 states, living and working in almost all of them! When she is not immersed in teaching outdoors and sharing her wealth of knowledge in survival skills and outdoor stewardship, she also practices ironwork and welding. Phoenix fell in love with outdoor education when working in the New England states and slowly moved across the country learning and sharing all things of nature and outdoors.

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.

Julia Sachs
Youth Leadership Coordinator
Julia grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and spent her summers canoeing and sailing on the lakes in northern Minnesota. After a few summers of leading trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area for a summer camp, she discovered her passion for educating in the outdoors and decided to attend Western Colorado University for a B.A. in Recreation Outdoor Education to further her experience. After graduating, she instructed backpacking, whitewater and canoeing courses for the Voyageur Outward Bound School in Big Bend, Texas. The outdoors have been a place of growth and curiosity for Julia since a young age. There is so much to learn about this world and ourselves, and she is excited about bringing people into outdoor spaces at North Cascades Institute so they can form their own experiences, learnings and memories.

Maria Santiago
Learning Center Director
Maria grew up exploring the Green Mountains of Vermont, before setting her sights west after graduating with a BA in Studio Art from St. Lawrence University. Her pursuit of immersive, rural and community-based experiences have led to opportunities such as volunteering at farms in Ecuador to working in Yellowstone National Park as a Resident Coordinator in the Human Resources Department. Eventually Maria’s travels brought her to Mt. Baker Ski Area, where she lived in the alpine and learned the ropes of mountain operations as the Employee Lodge Supervisor and Caretaker for 9 years. Along with a passion for the outdoors, she brings a background of remote facility operations, managing teams and working in dynamic environments.

Neal Smeltzer
Youth Leadership Manager
Born in Vermont, Neal grew up with a love for wandering around the local woods, lakes and mountains. While attending Colorado College, he realized his love for education. Combining these passions, Neal worked for a number of nonprofits and completed a master’s degree in Outdoor Education at the University of Edinburgh. Prior to arriving in the North Cascades, he instructed dogsledding expeditions for Outward Bound across the frozen lakes of northern Minnesota. Neal enjoys backcountry skiing, paddling and exploring any new area he can find on a map. He acknowledges how his privilege has enabled access to the outdoors, and through this work is committed to promoting equity and justice as they relate to outdoor places. 

Caitlin "Kestrel" Strikwerda
Mountain School Program Coordinator
Growing up in west Michigan, Caitlin spent a lot of time outdoors camping, hiking, and exploring with her family. This spurred an early love for the outdoors that formed into a career and passion for sharing this love with others. From Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Missouri and more, her teaching experience spans many of the seasons and regions our country has to offer. The North Cascades are the perfect place to continue growing her skills and helping others make acquaintance with the birds, plants, and everything else that makes up our beautiful world.

2023 Environmental Programs Instructors 

Victoria Aguilar, she/hers
Environmental Program Instructor 

Victoria was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. She developed a love for nature while growing up surrounded by mountains and deserts. With a degree in Biological Science, she focuses on wildlife ecology and management, scientific collections, and environmental education. She is excited to start her new role, using her experience with nature centers to inspire and educate people about the wonders of nature. She hopes to continue learning from conservation programs to bring back to her community back in Mexico. In her free time, Victoria loves outdoor activities like hiking, nature photography, and camping, as well as spending time with friends, watching movies, and playing board games.

Veronica Banks (Vee), they/she
Environmental Program Instructor 

Veronica arrives to the North Cascades from Pennsylvania—the birthplace of Hershey’s Chocolate but not Veronica. Veronica has taught about the creepiest of crawlies at the Philadelphia insectarium. She has also led outdoor educational programs at Fernbrook Farms in New Jersey. During Veronica’s youth, much of her time was spent outdoors collecting bugs and observing their behavior. Now, she enjoys sharing her passion for the natural world with anyone who will listen. You can still find her flipping over logs to look for bugs and rolling around in dirt on any given day.

Sadie Crews-Nelson, she/hers
Environmental Program Instructor 
Sadie grew up exploring the woods and prairies of Wisconsin. Attending Conserve School - a semester-long outdoor immersive education program in high school - she was inspired by the impact of environmental education. She enjoys traveling and finding adventures in places new and old, and since high school has lived in Wisconsin, Vermont, Colorado, Maine, Ohio, and now Washington. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in 2020. Her experience as a camp counselor has given her enthusiasm for working with kids of all ages and sharing the amazing outdoors. Sadie knows the inspiring and peaceful impacts of nature deeply and will spend her life working in the earth’s service. Outside of work, she enjoys canoeing, climbing on small rocks, petting cats, and reading.

Theodore Hoss, he/him
Lead Program Instructor 
Theo grew up in the mountains of California, moving to Seattle in 2017 to attend the University of Washington. There, he received degrees in Environmental Science and Resource Management and in Biology, also completing a senior project overhauling the Historic Brockman Memorial Tree Tour. Theo has worked as a Wilderness Instructor for Edmonds' Quiet Heart Wilderness School, and has spent 3 summers working for the concessions in Yosemite National Park. He is extremely passionate about forest ecology and the ability of programs like the Institute’s to foster a connection to the outdoors. In his free time he may be found reading, doing art projects, and kayaking or hiking in the great PNW.

Elisha Klco, she/her
Lead Program Instructor 
Elisha grew up in Western Washington, centering around the greater Seattle area and Whidbey Island. Before joining the Institute, Elisha taught outdoor education since 2015 at Quiet Heart Wilderness School, and also has taught at Mount Rainier Institute. Elisha received a Bachelor of Science from Western Washington University where she studied neuroscience and chemistry. She loves the outdoors and is very passionate about connecting people with the environment around them, and is especially excited about being part of students' journeys toward connecting with the North Cascades. Out in the field, you will find Elisha getting excited about plants, especially their edible and medicinal uses.

Terra Lieser, she/her
Environmental Program Instructor 
Having grown up in the land of 10,000 Lakes in Anoka, Minnesota, Terra spent her childhood fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, biking, hiking and exploring the great outdoors. While getting her BA in Biochemistry and Mathematics along with a minor in Environmental Sustainability, Terra was able to grow her love for teaching and nature through her work as an Assistant Forest School Teacher and her research within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. After spending a year analyzing air quality from locations around the United States, Terra is excited to follow her passion of outdoor education. In her free time, Terra loves reading, drawing, biking, and taking walks in the rain.

Kaylin Lilly, she/they
Environmental Program Instructor
Kaylin is from the mountains of Colorado and has worked in Idaho and at Mt. Baker for the last few years. Her experience comes from a graduate program in Ecopsychology focusing on the intersection of indigenous leadership, mycology, and gender, as well as working in Wilderness Therapy. She is passionate about mindfulness in nature and inspiring reciprocal and personal relationships with the Earth. They have a deep love for mountains and rivers through their love for skiing and whitewater kayaking.

Luke Pearson, he/his
Environmental Program Instructor 
Luke was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where he taught public education programs at the Louisville Nature Center. He taught courses as an Eagle Scout while completing an undergraduate degree at Berklee College of Music. In between his studies, Luke completed a residency in South Africa where he recorded wildlife sounds in the African Bushveld. He uses these sounds to create works of art and also contributes to media archives for scientific research. Luke went on to study acoustic ecology at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory and wildlife biology at Colorado State University.  His interests include making music and multimedia artwork, which he sometimes uses as a tool for teaching about environmental topics.

Aiyana Mennega, she/her
Environmental Program Instructor 
Aiyana is originally from the Michigan mitten and thanks the Great Lakes for her environmental passions. She's taught environmental courses in Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, while moving around in her van with her cat, Cleocatra! She is especially passionate about water quality, stewardship, and sustainable practices. In her free time, Aiyana can be found reading in her hammock, paddle boarding, talking to a tree, or hiking with her cat.

Wyatt Mullen, he/his
Environmental Program Instructor 
Wyatt is a Skagitonian who has been slowly pulled upriver by the tug of glaciers and huckleberries. After a couple years in California where he studied astronomy and taught Spanish, he returned to the heart of the North Cascades as a landscape photographer attempting to record climate change's impacts on the area. As an instructor he loves getting others way too excited about science, whether it's overanalyzing the unique details of a single snowflake or imagining the crushing weight of the ice sheets shaping the surrounding peaks. In his free time, Wyatt runs and skis over mountains because he doesn't mind if the other side of the mountain is all that he can see.

Rowan Thorsland, she/her
Environmental Program Instructor 
Rowan is from the juniper-laced foothills of Colorado and the city of Boston with its old brick and beautiful green ocean. In Boston, she worked at the New England Aquarium as an educator of marine life and climate change and then study Sociology at Ithaca College in New York. For my minor, she studied Outdoor Education with Outward Bound in an immersion semester trip through the backcountry of California and Oregon. Rowan has worked as a camp counselor in Vermont and Oregon specializing in rock climbing and social-emotional growth. She love the remote wilderness, mountains that seem to know things, fascinating ecology, and most of all pine trees covered in fog and snow. In her personal time, she love to snowboard, rollerblade, go to Costco, listen to Julia Jacklin, and swim in the ocean.