Heather Kuhlken, M.A.T. Founder and Director of Families in Nature
Heather Kuhlken incorporated her experience as a teacher, outdoor educator and biologist and her passion for nature and conservation to found Families in Nature in 2008. Over the past 9 years, Heather has guided FiN’s growth from a small family nature club into a 501c3 non-profit with international influence as an example of a program successfully connecting people to nature. As the executive director of Families and Nature, Heather spends time planning and leading family outdoor and environmental education experiences, managing multiple Families in Nature groups, and managing the internal structure, fundraising, website and social media for the organization. She mentors leaders in Austin and around the US to help them engage families in experiential science, outdoor education and nature play. This includes training classroom teachers to incorporate nature and the outdoors into their instruction. During the summer, Heather leads immersive, nature-rich travel experiences for families to destinations around the world. Heather has also designed and lead the community builds of three nature-based play areas at Parkside Community School, a Montessori school in Austin, TX. Heather also works as a nature and underwater photographer through Kuhlken Photography. She leads the Families and Communities project on the Leadership Team of the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin, and is an active part of the international Children and Nature Network, speaking at their annual conference and helping lead webinars for family nature club leaders and the Natural Leaders Network. Heather has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Masters in Teaching secondary science from Rice University. She has research experience studying marine mammals and sustainable fisheries management in Baja, Mexico through the School for Field Studies. Heather also has research experience studying bird behavior at Rice University and the Houston Zoo. She is a National Outdoor Leadership School graduate that participated in the Baja Sea Kayaking program and is certified in Wilderness First Aid and Rescue Scuba Diving. In addition to being the director of Families in Nature, Heather and her husband, David, along with his sister and her family, run Pedernales Cellars winery in Stonewall, TX. Heather and David are the parents of 3 boys who love to be out in nature exploring and traveling with friends and family.
Emily Binford – Communications and Development Coordinator for Families in Nature
Emily was born in Austin and spent much of her childhood outside enjoying our city’s parks and wildlife. She spent her college years in Portland, OR working to obtain her BA in Biology from Reed College. Since graduating, Emily has spent time in a genetics lab, in Guatemala learning Spanish, and is now settling back into Austin life and her new position as Communications and Development Coordinator at Families in Nature.
Alyssa Studer – Intern for Families in Nature
Alyssa is a high school science educator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Botany and Environmental Studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014. She has been teaching high school chemistry for Fort Worth ISD for the past two years and will begin teaching integrated physics and chemistry and environmental systems for Austin ISD this Fall, 2016. She is passionate about intertwining science education with environmental education and strives to grow appreciation and love for the environment in the students she has the opportunity to work with. Alyssa enjoys all aspects of the outdoors and is an absolute soccer fanatic. She looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm for the environment as well as her teaching skills with Families in Nature.
Sara Gordon – Intern for Families in Nature
Sara is a recent graduate from Eckerd College with a BA in environmental studies and minors in biology and coastal management. Sara previously worked at a state park in Colorado and has lived and traveled all over the world. She has explored places like Kentucky, the Bahamas, Micronesia, and South Africa. Her experience has fueled her passion for environmental education and public awareness as Sara wishes to help inspire people of all ages to respect and be involved in the places they call home. Sara is excited to get involved with and learn from local families while sharing her knowledge with the communities of Austin!
Isabelle Galko – Junior Intern for Families in Nature
Isabelle Galko is a high school student who enjoys biology and aquatic science. She has hiked trails on five different continents, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef and observed elephants and cheetahs on a safari in South Africa. She spends her time riding horses, competing at local hunter jumper shows and working with younger riders at Switch Willo Stables. She looks forward to sharing her passion for photography and nature with others through Families in Nature.
Katie Foree – Junior Intern for Families in Nature
Katie is a high school junior. She has spent many summers canoeing the Boundary Waters. She will be guiding and assisting with our new Canoeing Program.