The North Cascades Institute 2017 Naturalist Team

Last month we welcomed the 2017 naturalist team to the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center. A mixture of new and returning faces, these naturalists are an integral part of our community here in the mountains. Throughout the spring and fall, they will work alongside our graduate M.Ed. residency students, teaching students across the state participating in our Mountain School program. In the summer months, naturalists will also lead summer expeditions with Youth Leadership Adventures and various educational activities offered in many of our Learning Center programs.

As you will soon find out, this group of talented individuals bring many gifts and experiences with them. We look forward to all that they have to share this upcoming season in the North Cascades.

Evan Holmstrom (Lead Naturalist)

Hailing from the little-known Alaskan burg of Chugiak, Evan is an artist, naturalist, hobby multi-culturalist and outdoor frolicker. His childhood included time on the tundra, amid his father’s falcons and on the sports field. Moving into young adulthood Evan developed his language and art skills, travelling to Japan, Korea, and Mexico, all the while nursing a relationship to the Earth. Upon graduation from college at the University of Montana in Japanese Language, he took his completely predictable next step working in the outdoors.

His position as a field leader for the Wilderness Institute sent him into the austere backcountry and Wilderness of Montana, leading volunteers and college students. He moved into experiential and environmental education of high schoolers with Ecology Project International before feeling inspired to come out to the North Cascades and confirm his long-lived suspicion that the lichen-adorned, moss-engulfed cedars and sword ferns speak to a special place in his soul.

His position this year as Senior Naturalist, amid the spectacular team at the Environmental Learning Center (ELC), is a terrific opportunity for him to share experiences, mentor other educators and help ensure that everybody is set up for success. Look for him smiling in the company of naturalists, graduate students, ELC staff or nestled into a forest tussock treating his ears to the pure, flutelike song of the varied thrush.

Natascha Yogachandra

Born in Hong Kong and raised in western New York, Natascha found early passions for reading, writing and dance. She moved to India at age 12 and to Thailand at age 14, after establishing an educational nonprofit with her parents as a result of the 2004 tsunami. She later returned to her native state to receive a degree in journalism and anthropology at New York University. Shortly after graduating, Natascha ventured down to Southern Patagonia, where she managed community partnerships for an environmental fund based in Torres del Paine National Park and its gateway community. Deeply inspired by those she met there in the outdoor field, she found her way to the Pacific Northwest and has been mesmerized by these mountains ever since. After serving as a trail crew leader for high school students with the Student Conservation Association in Alaska, Natascha grew more intentional with her environmental work pursuits and knew they needed to include working with youth. In came North Cascades Institute! She loves the community and the work she has found here and stays busy by exploring her new home on foot or in books.

Mari Schramm

Growing up in the mountains around Chelan, WA, 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.

Amy Rudko

Born and raised in Washington, Amy feels right at home in the North Cascades! Amy grew up hiking and exploring around the Pacific Northwest and expanded her love for the outdoors by studying Geology at Western Washington University. After completing a B.S. in Environmental Engineering Geology, Amy moved towards a role in education. Through experiences with the Student Conservation Association at Mount St. Helens and Pinnacles National Park, Amy was inspired to bring together her passion for science with a new challenge of adult and youth education. Now as a naturalist with North Cascades Institute, Amy is thrilled about connecting people with the beautiful landscape of the North Cascades. In her time away from the ELC, Amy loves hiking, climbing, eating pie and doing yoga.

Will George

Will began his journey in Italy where his parents were nomadic magicians who performed in villages throughout Europe. Unfortunately his parents discovered that Will’s voracious appetite caused demands beyond their means. One day as they prepared for a show for the king of Liechtenstein, they abandoned Will in front of a cave with a kind pack of of wolves. The alpha wolf said she would be more than happy to look after him until the magicians got back. At first Will flourished with the wolves, but soon the wolves found Will’s terrible howl was so off-key it caused indigestion within the pack and the wolves left him in front of a bear cave. The bear, a former circus performer, gave Will a new name, Bob the Bear, and trained him in the fine art of bicycle riding while balancing spinning plates on a stick. Bob took to circus arts very well and soon a circus producer from America took note and captured Will and shipped him to the U.S.A. Bob got a job with the Fellini Brothers Circus and was quite happy. The circus crisscrossed the country until one day they arrived in Newhalem, Washington. Between shows Bob wandered around and saw his first Mountain School program which led to an existential crises. He felt there was more to life than plate spinning and wanted to become a Mountain School instructor. Bob ran away form the circus and joined the ELC staff. The rest is history.

Travis Schultz

A playful explorer since childhood, Travis cut his teeth in the outdoors terrorizing the suburbs of Kansas by bicycle. He channeled additional energy on the soccer field through University, after which he joined the Peace Corps and became an instructor at a Bangladeshi College. With political unrest in Bangladesh, Travis completed his service and taught for three more years in the Philippines and developed the first ever curriculum for English and Computer Science at National Health and Training College, in Lesotho.

Seeking answers to questions about how and why we learn resulted in a Masters Degree in Sociocultural International Development Education Studies at Florida State University. Post graduate school, Travis once again found himself in Asia before returning to UC Davis as part of the International Education and English for specific purposes programs. During a trail trail run in Northern California, Travis decided that he wanted to further explore experiential education though the outdoors. Specifically, challenge what can be taught outside of a traditional classroom.

When not reading voraciously, Travis can be found going up, down, around and over mountains on foot or via his trusty steed (bike).

Alex Patia

Alex Patia was born and raised in Springfield, IL and grew up constantly exploring the outdoors looking for elusive reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Alex moved to the Pacific Northwest to study environmental science at Evergreen State College and it was during this time he discovered his passion for teaching others about the wonders of the natural world. After getting his bachelor’s, Alex first came to North Cascades Institute as graduate student enrolled in the Western Washington University M.Ed. program. Since graduating he has spent the last four years working as an environmental educator in Oregon, Washington, California and Maine before returning to teach in the best classroom he knows: the North Cascades. Alex still spends the majority of his spare time outside watching wildlife, especially birds as he attempts a second Big Year of birding in Washington state.


  1. Saul Weisberg

    What a wonderful crew of creative professionals! It’s an honor to have you working, playing, learning and leading at NCI.

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