Staff

Meet The Team
Sally Shuffield
Executive Director

Sally has been executive director of Durango Nature Studies since 2006. Growing up in Arkansas, she spent a great deal of time on the Buffalo River. Then an amazing teacher took her and a group of students to the Keystone Science School for a week-long trip. which changed the direction of her life. So, she knows first hand the power of environmental education.

Sally graduated from Vanderbilt University magna cum laude with a degree in English and Anthropology and holds an MA in Anthropology from the University of New Mexico. For six years, she was the development director and acting director of the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies (now called Western Resource Advocates), an environmental law and policy nonprofit in Boulder, CO. She has a strong background in environmental education, as a manager, educator, and consultant with the Keystone Science School, Calwood Environmental Education Center, Colorado Youth Program, EarthWalk, Summit County, and the National Wildlife Federation.  Sally has served on the board of directors for the Center for the American West and the Colorado Alliance of Environmental Education.

Outside of DNS, Sally and her husband, Mike Matz, along with their son Carson and daughter Celia, enjoy all the amazing outdoor adventures and beauty this region 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 (Camps Coordinator & Site Manager)

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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Mike Bienkowski
Program Facilitator (Internship & Volunteer 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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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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Stuart Beezley
Educator

Growing up in the Ozarks region of Missouri, Stuart cultivated a love for nature and outdoor recreation. He continued his passion for adventurous outdoor pursuits at Colorado College, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Science. Throughout his time in Colorado and traveling the Southwest, he developed an affinity for the landscape and cultures of the area.

Since his time in college, Stuart has pursued a career path of environmental education, seeking to educate and inspire young minds about the natural world. Stuart was lucky enough to have the opportunity to teach in his hometown of Springfield, Missouri at the Springfield Botanical Center, where he guided field trips and private groups around the center.

Since then, Stuart has been living in Durango and working as a seasonal raft guide. Stuart started his involvement with Durango Nature Studies last summer when he served as co-instructor for the middle school summer camps. In his free time, Stuart enjoys being on the river, mountain biking, and skiing around the southwest.

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