A man points at a map on a table with others gathered around

Our program fosters collaboration and mutual support. Cohorts of students, between four and eight per year, form lasting professional relationships and personal friendships, and they learn at least as much from each other as they do from their professors. Although students often work alone in remote places for their graduate research, they learn and socialize together during the academic year.

Cohort AM (Class of 2024)

Will kayaking on a lake

Will Durkin

Will is fortunate to call Maine his home, where he grew up exploring the granite coast and kayaking the ocean. A love for the mountains brought him to Vermont where he studied biology and environmental science at St. Michael’s College. Learning about patterns in geology and soils – and how those shape the processes and distribution of plants and natural communities – fascinated Will. After graduating in 2018, he worked for nonprofits from coast to coast conserving wild places and conducting research on public lands. He is excited to be back in Vermont, his second home, to pursue his passion and deepen his knowledge about ecology and land management.

Will is a spirited botanist as well as a budding birder. Having picked up binoculars in earnest only a few years ago, he is always chasing lifers on eBird. In the summer and fall, you can also find him fending tackles on the rugby pitch. In the winter, he beats the chill by skinning up mountains and skiing down glades.

Michelle consulting a field guide in a woody thicket

Michelle Giles

Michelle was born and raised in northwestern New Jersey. Like many children in a suburban landscape, she spent a lot of time enjoying the outdoors on playgrounds and while tree-gazing from the backseat of the family automobile. She began working as a medical assistant in 2011 while taking college courses toward becoming a registered nurse. In 2017, she earned her associate’s degree in biology, becoming the first college graduate in her family. She then pivoted from the medical world and pursued her love for people and nature, earning a B.A. in Sustainability Studies in 2018 from Roosevelt University in Chicago. While there, she was involved in a rooftop garden, social-justice initiatives, and the campus environmental club. Her capstone project was a field study assessing stormwater retention across a variety of landscapes throughout the city.

Michelle loves wetlands, woodlands, wildlands, and citylands. When not studying, she enjoys explorative neighborhood walks with her partner, playing with their feline furbaby, Leola, rocking out with her headphones, or fighting through beginner crochet projects. In the Field Naturalist Program, she delights in getting to work with such botanically brilliant and all-around passionate and compassionate individuals.

a portrait of Evan

Evan Horne

A native of the D.C. area, Evan grew up exploring the natural wonders of the Smithsonian. At an early age, he was fascinated by all things outdoors, climbing his way through the ranks of scouting. Since graduating with a degree in biochemistry from the University of Maryland, he has sought to deepen his knowledge and better understand how human activities impact ecosystems and how our society can address critical ecological issues.

He has worked on forest restoration projects in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains and sampled plant diversity near Shenandoah National Park to help identify changes in the composition and distribution of native and non-native plant species. More recently, at Longwood Gardens, some of his most meaningful work included establishing and mapping plant communities to provide a framework for developing land management plans in different natural areas. He earned a certificate in conservation actions through Colorado State University and graduated from the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program.

Evan is an avid backpacker who has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He is also an amateur house plant enthusiast, occasional trail runner, aspiring forager, and on the lookout for the best plant-based maple creemees.

Dave taking a water break on a hike, sitting on a rock with hiking poles

David Moroney

David is a San Diegan transplanted to the Northeast for the love of seasons, adventure, and learning. With a B.S. in Biology from Hamilton College, he is passionate about plants and generally has a hard time looking up from the photosynthetic layer of the Earth’s surface when outside. A decade spent in New York City led to a deep appreciation for public green spaces and a fascination with the intrusion of natural ecological systems into human-dominated landscapes (and vice versa).  After working as a musician and a teacher of middle-school/high-school Earth science and biology, he has sought out the Field Naturalist program to deepen his understanding of ecosystem dynamics and become a more active practitioner of conservation and restoration science. 

David believes in reimagining urban landscapes with wildlife in mind; with his former students at the Brearley School, he installed a Manhattan rooftop native-plant garden to study its potential as arthropod habitat (conclusion: it works!).  He currently sits on the education committee of Grow Wild, a community initiative in Burlington, VT, aimed at promoting the implementation of pollinator- and wildlife-friendly habitat in both private and public spaces of the city.  He lives with his wife and dog in Williston, VT.

Lee in the field with binoculars

Lee Toomey

Lee is an environmentalist, birder, and gardener. They received a dual B.A. from the University of Vermont in Environmental Studies and German, a graduate certificate in Natural Resource Management from Harvard Extension School, and a Fulbright scholarship to Berlin, Germany. They have worked in urban agriculture, public horticulture, and plant propagation, most recently at the Arnold Arboretum in their home state of Massachusetts. Broadly, Lee is interested in using nature-based solutions to tackle socio-environmental problems.

As a child, Lee tried to gain the skill of flight by gluing an assortment of bird feathers – blue jay, goldfinch, crow – onto two pieces of cardboard and attaching those with string to their arms. Dismayed but not deterred by the failure of this technology, they decided to learn more about the natural world and their place within it. In the Field Naturalist Program, they are exploring opportunities to both preserve and reimagine relationships between people and land conservation for future generations. As a transgender naturalist, Lee is particularly excited about the creative visions that LGBTQ voices bring to the field of environmental sustainability.

Catherine with a tree-lined campus in the background

Catherine Wessel

Catherine loves finding out what sparks wonder for others in the natural world. In her work, she has canoed with kindergarteners, grown vegetables with middle-schoolers, interpreted climate change research on salt marshes for adults, and read grants for environmental literacy funding. Whether working as an elementary science teacher or a park naturalist, she always finds herself learning more through the curiosity of others. When not flipping over rocks on trails, Catherine likes doing yoga (especially lying down at the end), making soup, and floating in the water.

Cohort AL (Class of 2023)

Charlotte on a mountain with a marmot

Charlotte Cadow

Charlotte grew up along the fertile river bottoms and rocky ridges of Vermont’s Upper Valley. Pursuing a growing passion for unraveling the mysteries of the natural world, she studied Environmental Science at Colorado College. Since graduation, she has sought out opportunities to encourage an environmental ethic that connects people to landscapes.

Charlotte is proudly distracted by all things (a)bioblitzing: birds, flowers, rocks, water/snow, and, more recently, bees. Observing and imagining the transformation of landscapes during timespans, from minutes to millennia, is a favorite activity.

Erica holding a giant pinecone

Erica Hample

Erica has been wandering in the woods her entire life, first as a baby in a hiking backpack, then eventually carrying her own pack on personal backpacking trips, and finally as a backpacking guide herself across the United States. As a child, she could be found turning over rocks in her Atlanta backyard to look for roly-polies and toads. She collected sand-grain ruby fragments on the shores of the Upper Tallulah River in north Georgia and amassed a feather collection that filled her closet.

Erica studied forest canopy ecology, outdoor education, and visual art at Hampshire College. After college, she worked throughout the United States as an outdoor and environmental educator. Her work introduced her to unique biomes from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest and the Desert Southwest. Erica is excited to be back in the Northeast, rediscovering the landscapes she studied as an undergrad, surrounded by deciduous forests.

Sonya with a chainsaw

Sonya Kaufman

Whether Sonya is applying prescribed fire to restore South Carolina longleaf pine savannahs, calling contra dances for a large hall of dancers, or hiking up steep terrain on an early morning wildfire response in eastern Washington, you’ll always find her smiling.

After graduating with a degree in Biology from Oberlin College in 2013, Sonya moved to Washington state to work in the woods for the Washington Conservation Corps. She worked on wildland firefighting crews in Washington state for five years, and she was the only woman for four of those five years. Between summers fighting fires with the Forest Service and winters lighting fires with The Nature Conservancy, Sonya has driven across the country more times than she can remember. She decided to stay on the east coast when the pandemic hit and spent the second half of 2020 working on a variety of construction projects for an organic vegetable farm and sourdough bakery in southern Vermont. She hopes to become an effective leader in climate resiliency and natural disaster response.

Hayley touching a hickory tree

Hayley Kolding

Hayley is a naturalist, educator, and president of the Connecticut Botanical Society. Storytelling and community involvement are central to her environmental ethic: a teacher even outside of the classroom, she is equally at home leading a plant walk or testifying at a public meeting on behalf of CBS. Hayley has collaborated with the Native Plant Trust, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, and local land trusts on land stewardship, public engagement, and conservation research projects. Her botanical avatars are the red cedars that cling to southern New England’s traprock cliffs.

Dylan on a snowy mountaintop

Dylan O'Leary

Dylan grew up shuffling his feet through highways of sting rays in the Gulf of Mexico and moved to upstate New York at the age of ten. He earned a B.S. in biology at Ithaca College in 2012 with a focus on animal behavior. Over the last decade, he worked as a research biologist, field crew leader, and environmental educator for the National Marine Life Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and universities across the country. Whether he is tracking snowshoe hare in the Poconos or monitoring the sage grouse populations of California, Dylan falls in love with every opportunity to use his passion as a naturalist to solve environmental problems. Most recently, he worked as a land steward for The Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of Land Management where he especially enjoyed the challenge of connecting science with conservation action. He likes to take his friends sailing, observe the Krumholtz by ski, and has a marked propensity for embracing the path of most resistance.