Staff

Meet The Team
Mike Bienkowski
Program Facilitator (Biologist and High School Coordinator)

Mike came to Durango Nature Studies after teaching for five years at the Salisbury School in Connecticut. During this time, he taught freshman biology, AP Biology, and an Environmental Science elective. While teaching, he spent his summers leading long-distance bicycle tours for high school students with Overland Summers, an outdoor travel company based out of Williamstown, MA. Mike’s passion for exploring the world on two wheels inspired a cross-country bike tour in the Fall of 2016, during which he discovered Durango. The surroundings and community left such an impression on him that he packed up and moved here not long after.

Mike’s deep connection the natural world traces back to summers poking around the tidepools, bays and coastal forests of Maine’s Acadia National Park. As an Environmental Studies major at Colby College (ME) he found inspiration using scientific inquiry to discover the intimate connections and complexity of the natural world. As a teacher, he fell in love with the process of facilitating discovery experiences for students, where learning is driven by curiosity, exploration, and the thrill of conducting science in the field. Shortly after moving to town, Mike discovered an outlet for these passions when he found a flyer in town asking for volunteer naturalists. After a winter session on snowshoes at Havilland Lake, he was hooked, and now he is thrilled to be part of an organization that places experiential learning as a core value. Even more so, he is grateful to be part of a mission with such a wide-reaching and positive impact on the community!

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Jamie Blatter
Educator

Jamie grew up as a daughter of Mother Earth in Central California. Most of Jamie’s earliest and fondest memories take place amongst natural landscapes. The thrill of discovery and wonders of nature continuously propel her throughout her life journey, and have led her to the beautiful Rocky Mountains and Durango Nature Studies.

Jamie believes that it is of the upmost importance to help instill a love of nature in today’s youth, as well as a desire to protect it. Her extensive time spent exploring outdoors, her love of learning and childlike heart, combined with a background in childhood education and community development, allow her to thrive in community based environmental education.

She intends to spark curiosity, foster altruism, nurture growth, and inspire personal empowerment through her work at Durango Nature Studies.

Grace Gordon
Program Facilitator (Curriculum Coordinator)

Grace grew up in Central Ohio and spent her days tromping through the forest outside her back door.  Through her explorations in the woods, she developed a deep bond with the natural world.  After graduating from Miami University of Ohio with degrees in Geography and Environmental Science, she moved to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to teach school groups about the natural and cultural significance of the park.  It was there that she cemented her love of teaching children outdoors and connecting them to their local environment.  However, when her childhood forest was facing development, she moved back home to help preserve the land that was near and dear to her heart.  Working with a local land trust, Grace was able to help preserve 100 acres of that forest, and she started her own summer camp on the land.  During this time she also studied wilderness awareness and primitive living skills.  She incorporated her new knowledge into her camps, helping children to better know their local bioregion.  Wanting to further her knowledge of education, Grace got her teaching license for Middle School, Science and Social Studies.  After getting her license, she spent a winter and spring in Durango and was a volunteer with Durango Nature Studies.  She loved learning about the flora and fauna of the Southwest and enjoyed teaching local school children.  She spent the following year teaching kindergarten at an earth-focused school in New Jersey, but felt a pull back to Durango.  Grace is excited to be back in Durango and working with Durango Nature Studies.  When she is not teaching with Durango Nature Studies, you will find her hiking, biking, camping, swimming and enjoying all the things this area has to offer.

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Andrea McAlpin
Communications Coordinator

As an Arizona native, Andrea grew to find a deep connection to the raw deserts of the southwest, and soon began to pursue her passions for the environment, education, and sharing the beauty and healing capacities of wilderness. After spending her time exploring the mountains and desserts of the southwest, falling in love with the valleys of Glacier National Park, playing in the lush green of the Pacific Northwest, and receiving a degree in Elementary Education, Andrea decided to venture to Alaska to learn and grow as a sea kayak guide and naturalist in Kenai Fjords National Park.  She then landed in Durango where she substitute taught and eventually worked full time with students with special needs, until she planted herself as a 1st grade teacher in lovely Dolores, CO for three years, taking time to always revel in the beauty of the San Juans’ via boat, bike, boots, and skis. After working to establish a new Montessori charter school in Cortez, CO Andrea returned to the joy of learning outside beside children and other nature enthusiasts.  She is so excited to soak up the magic and wonder behind the science of the natural world and share it with the community of Durango Nature Studies.  You may also find Andrea enjoying a good book, tending a tiny garden, dancing, or practicing yoga between outdoor adventures with her dogs and her valued time at DNS.

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Emily Schaefgen
Program Facilitator ( Site Manager and Camps/Internship Coordinator)

Growing up in the lush green countryside of Wisconsin, located near the beautiful hills of the kettle moraine and the ever so swampy Cedarburg Bog, Emily developed a passion for caring for the land around her. Adventuring outdoors, climbing apple trees and riding horses were just a few activities she enjoyed as a child.

As an adult, Emily pursued a degree in environmental education and interpretation at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. During her undergraduate years, she was lucky to experience working at the Mountain Research Station researching Yellow Bellied Marmots in Nederland Colorado, Identifying wildflowers and collecting data for a wildflower census at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Schmeeckle Reserve, and student teaching at the wonderful Central Wisconsin Environmental Station.

Emily has been with Durango Nature Studies for over 2 years as a volunteer, contractor, and Program Facilitator. She continues to grow as an educator and loves discovering all things magical about Durango.

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Stephanie Weber
Executive Director

Stephanie is a Colorado native, and lived in Durango during her teenage years. She moved to Northern California when she was 16. She has lived in Arizona, Washington, DC, and most recently, Virginia. After obtaining her B.S. at UC Davis in managerial economics, she embarked on a career centered mostly on policy and programmatic work with nonprofit organizations. She spent a decade with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, promoting programs and policies nationally to make it safe for people of all ages — particularly children — to navigate their communities by walking or bicycling. Before that she was with BikeWalk Virginia, promoting bicycling and walking throughout Virginia. She has also advocated at the state and federal level for clean energy, scientific research, and higher education.

In Virginia, Stephanie helped coach a youth mountain bike team, taught safe cycling, and enjoyed hiking, camping, and mountain biking throughout Virginia and North Carolina. Now that she’s back in Colorado, she is reacquainting herself with all the great outdoor opportunities our region has to offer.

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