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 AN (Class of 2025)

Rachel paddling in a canoe on a lake with a mountain in the background

Rachel Goland

Rachel grew up in upstate New York and has since had the privilege of exploring mountains and other wild places near and far from home. Rachel graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences. As an undergrad she counted seedlings in New Hampshire’s forests, led teenagers in felling trees and building bridges on the trails of New England, and spent many hours working in Cornell’s herbarium, collecting, preparing, and digitizing specimens. Since graduation, Rachel has assisted in research efforts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire focused on water quality and plant phenology and been a land manager for conservation easements in the Adirondacks. She has also collaborated with the National Phenology Network and is highly interested in citizen science and optimizing land management practices for increased resiliency in the face of climate change. Outside of work and school, Rachel enjoys exploring the outdoors by foot, ski, or boat and foraging for fungi.

Lucy smiles in the sun in front of a pond in the woods

Lucy Gross

Growing up in the Midwest, Lucy often found the places she traveled, like the Boundary Waters and Rockies, far more exciting. However, when she wandered into a prairie with a botanist while attending Grinnell College, the vast plant diversity made it just as fascinating as those far-off places. Understanding plants opened the door to her deep appreciation of ecosystems and began her interest in ecological restoration and land management. She continued her path in restoration while in both Minnesota and Massachusetts, branching out to wetlands, forests, and riparian habitats. Her interest in the intersection of ecological health and agriculture culminated in farming for a year at an organic community farm, where she saw firsthand that people are seeking a connection to land. Whether as a restoration practitioner, farmer, or environmental educator, she is always searching to learn something new. Lucy's favorite time of year is spring ephemeral season, and when she is not out hiking or in search of the next swimming hole, she is often joyfully cooking a labor-intensive meal and listening to a book.

Robert in a sunlit forest

Robert Langellier

Robert is a magazine writer and field botanist from the Missouri Ozarks. After being fired from a hometown job waiting tables, he decided to become a long-haul trucker, a confused tangent that became a feature story for Esquire. Throughout his 20s, he oscillated between stints in freelance writing – publishing stories with National Geographic, The Nation, and New York Times Opinion – and conservation work, which has included field botany in the Northern Rockies and the Ozarks. Much of his natural resource work is informed by fire, either on a hotshot wildland firefighting crew in northern California or running prescribed fire crews in Missouri. A throughline of his work has been a deep love for Ozark flora and the written word. Two of his reporting projects have taken him to the war in Ukraine, one of which was nominated, weirdly, for Best American Sports Writing 2017. Entering the Field Naturalist Program, Robert has managed to delay the choice between a writing career and a botany career even further.

Veronica holding up a plant she's clipped from beside a stream

Veronica Magner

Before moving to Vermont, Veronica grew trees for the City of Philadelphia, aiding in the effort to grow and restore the native tree canopy in the city's watershed parklands. She is currently expanding on her ability to support urban environmental stewardship through the Field Naturalist Program. She has a background in architecture, which stems from a general desire to make sense of the physical world and informs her understanding of human impacts within it. Her environmental design work has been published in Powering Places, an outlet of the Land Art Generator Initiative. She is or has been a craftsperson, a draftsperson, a bartender, a boutique chicken accessory seamstress, a person who can't whistle, and a radio DJ.

Steve smiles in front of a grove of trees in a patterned shirt

Steve Root

Steve was born and raised in Florida, where he spent his youth exploring longleaf pine forests and coastal sand dunes before studying psychology at the University of Miami. After graduating, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer, connecting deeply to the land and people of Kyrgyzstan while living and working in the Tien Shan Mountains. He then moved to California and worked as an outdoor guide, trail access coordinator, and land steward. He left the comforts of the Redwood Forest and enrolled in the Field Naturalist Program to deepen his understanding of the natural world and to explore ways to promote a stronger connection to nature in all people. Steve enjoys running, green tea, bananas, and peanut butter.

Alyssa van Doorn

Growing up on the Jersey Shore, Alyssa spent many days soaking up the sun and wading through ocean water looking for marine critters. Her original interest lay in marine science, but as she grew and ventured into the woodlands of her home state she found herself drawn to the forests. Since graduating from Rowan University with a B.S. in Geographic Information Science and minors in Environmental Studies and Art, Alyssa has followed the call of the forest. She’s lived and worked in New England since finishing her undergraduate studies, first working with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), where her affinity for field science and the natural world only expanded. She reveled in getting to tramp around the woods everyday, conducting plant diversity surveys and trapping small mammals, affectionately known as “smammals.” After her time with NEON, she put both her forest science and geospatial analysis skills to work as a GIS and Forest Science analyst with Wildlife Works, right here in Burlington. Alyssa is delighted to continue to call Vermont home where in her off time you may find her snowboarding at Smuggs, paddleboarding on Lake Champlain, or rollerblading down the bike path.

Cohort AM (Class of 2024)

Will paddles in a kayak

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.