Naturally Wonderful Naturalists: New staff of 2016

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As the snow is melting and the trees are budding, our Naturalist Team is getting ready for teaching in the mountains. At the North Cascades Institute‘s Environmental Learning Center the Senior Naturalist and Lead Program Assist will help guide the five new Naturalist Field Instructors over nine months of teaching in the mountains.
During the spring and fall of 2016 these naturalists will educate elementary through high school students in our Mountain School program about the numerous interactions in the surrounding ecosystem. During the summer they will be leading high school students on back country trips through our Youth Leadership Adventure program. Throughout their time here they will also have opportunities to lead Skagit Tours; a tour of Seattle City Light’s Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.
We look forward to their energy and enthusiasm in the variety of ways they will teach about the North Cascades!
Max Thomas
Max isn’t new to North Cascades Institute, but is taking on a new role with us. After 2 previous years as a seasonal naturalist, Max has moved into the Senior Naturalist position. This position supervises the naturalists and provides leadership and mentorship in our education programs, with a focus on Mountain School, Family Getaways and Basecamp. Max was raised in Minneapolis and went to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth where he received a degree in Outdoor Education. During college he found a variety of passions in the forms of canoeing, hiking, backpacking, snowboarding and cross-country skiing.  After college Max worked as an interpretation ranger in Glacier National Park.  The beauty rocked his socks off.  After 4 years in Montana, the Cascade Mountains called his name and has found a new home in the Evergreen State.  The beauty is still rocking his socks off.  When he isn’t playing nature games with fifth graders or camping in the mountains, Max can be found fiercely rooting on Minnesota sports teams.

Will George
Will is our Lead Program Assist. This is a naturalist position that has some administrative responsibilities built into the position with a particular focus on Mountain School paperwork and Skagit Tours. He will be providing leadership to Skagit Tours in the summer and will be supervising the Skagit Tour guides.
Teaching and the outdoors are two passions for Will. While working in the education department for Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Will taught at the Youth Leadership Conference for several years and recruited students for the Cascades Climate Challenge. He also mentored CCC alumni to teach climate change to middle schoolers in Astoria, Oregon. Besides working for Lewis and Clark NHP, Will worked for a handful of National Parks and outdoor schools throughout the U.S. He keeps returning to his favorite place, the Pacific Northwest, which enhances his love for water, mountains and tall trees. Will has a dry, quirky sense of humor to which people often say, “Are you serious?”  For fun he writes essays and poems which can be found in obscure literary journals. He also likes to write screenplays which can be found in a box in his storage locker in Portland, Oregon. Will is looking forward to teaching at Mountain School, helping oversee Skagit Tours and being of service to North Cascades Institute.

Cynthia Podrouzek
Cynthia is a new member of the North Cascades Institute Naturalist Team coming most recently from sunny Colorado where she has been based for the last few years. She has worked in a variety of Outdoor and Experiential Education programs with participants all the way from little guys at 7 years old, to retired military veterans and everything in between. Although she enjoys all types of educational programs, she is particularly drawn to extended outdoor programs and first time participants! She loves to dabble in all things outdoors and is usually game for most adventures- she’d be happy to extend and receive invites!


Sarah Parker
Sarah is one of the 9 month naturalists. She was born and raised in northeastern Massachusetts, where she spent her days exploring tide pools on the Atlantic coastline and romping around the deciduous woods of New England. Eventually, Sarah made the big transition to the west coast to attend Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. Here, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a love for the Pacific Northwest. Upon graduating, Sarah had itchy feet and spent the next few years exploring new ecosystems. Most recently, she worked at Teton Science Schools in Jackson, WY. Now, Sarah is beyond excited to be a part of the naturalist team at North Cascades Institute. Besides teaching, Sarah is looking forward to exploring the area through skiing, kayaking, hiking and spending lot’s of time with a field guide, or better yet, friends with field guides!

Ellie Duncan
Ellie hails from the glorious realm of Western Montana. She comes to the North Cascades with a background in sustainable agriculture, Wilderness studies and visual art. Ellie demonstrates her adoration of exquisite natural places by running, climbing, walking, hiking and biking around them, as well as drawing, painting, writing and dreaming of them. Ellie is delighted to be welcomed to this incredible new ecosystem and community. She is very excited to bring her artistic lens to the North Cascades Institute, and also to absorb as much natural history as her curious mind can take in!
Shari & Jefe

Shari Galiardi

Combined with an MS in Educational Leadership from Miami University (OH), Shari has 18 years of professional experience working as an experiential educator through service-learning.  To complement this experience, she recently completed a Certificate in Environmental Education from the state of North Carolina and served with as an Education Ranger in 2015 with Acadia National Park in Maine.

On a personal note, Shari loves to both travel and serve and as has volunteered on nearly every world continent.  She and her husband (Hutch featured below) spent the last 3 years traveling, working, and volunteering across North America – adventuring through over 50 national parks, monuments, rivers, and lake/seashores and volunteering on organic farms from Maine to Hawaii.  Some of her favorite days are when she’s backpacking, cycling or kayaking, as well as capturing the beauty of Mother Nature through the lens of her camera.

Hutch & the Bear

David “Hutch” Hutchison

Hutch has 18 years of professional experience working as an experiential educator through recreation and outdoor leadership in higher education.  To compliment an MS in Educational Leadership from Miami University (OH), he recently completed a Certificate in Environmental Education from the state of North Carolina and served with as an Education Ranger in 2015 with Acadia National Park in Maine.

As an outdoor and environmental educator, Hutch has a wide and diverse professional background from University settings, adventure outfitters, organic farms and most recently with Acadia National Park.  Over the summer he is working as a Sea Kayak instructor in Bar Harbor.  He enjoys paddling, hiking, biking and all kinds of other outdoor activities, but is happiest when whitewater kayaking.  Along with his wife (Shari, featured above), he spent the better part of the last 3 years traveling and visiting our nation’s national parks.


  1. Sheri Hathaway

    want to visit and learn more

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