Nature Camp Staff

Sarah Strew

SARAH STREW

Lead, Nature Camp & Adult Programs
MEET SARAH

Sarah Strew has been the Lead for Nature Camp and Adult Programs at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science since 2014. Sarah feels deeply connected to VINS, and its camp program specifically, as she can recall being a VINS camper when the organization was at its original site in Woodstock, Vermont

During college, Sarah spent summers as a counselor and backpacking instructor at an overnight camp in Fairlee, returning eventually to manage the Camp-craft department. For four years, she moved between Big Sky, Montana, where she taught skiing, and Hartford, Vermont, where she held various positions with VINS as a Lead Counselor for VINS Nature Camp and also as an Environmental Education Intern, providing educational programs at the VINS Nature Center as well as handling and training the raptors.

Prior to stepping into her current position, Sarah was involved with various educational efforts in the Upper Valley. She earned her MS in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England where she concentrated in Education. Sara loves living in the Upper Valley and the lifestyle it affords her. She is an outdoor enthusiast and enjoys skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, gardening in the summer, and hiking with her dogs all year round.

Julie Kozak

JULIE KOZAK

Nature Camp Assistant
MEET JULIE

Julie Kozak has her BS in Wildlife from Unity College in Maine and her MEd in Elementary Education from Antioch University New England.
 
She has held a variety of jobs in the fields of wildlife and education ranging from working as a vulture nest biologist in the Golan Heights of Israel, to working in Ohio and Massachusetts as a field educator. She has worked as an environmental youth developer in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, as well as a classroom teacher in Maine and Vermont. Julie joined the VINS Nature Camp community in 2016 as a Lead Nature Camp Instructor and returned for her second summer in 2017 as the Nature Camp Assistant.
 
For the past year, Julie has been working at Union Elementary School in the special education department.  She is excited to return to VINS again for a second season as the Nature Camp Assistant to work not only with our campers and staff but also with the adolescents in VINS’ L-I-T program.  

Julie enjoys non-fiction books, cooking, birding, being in the outdoors, weaving baskets, and connecting with people of all ages and all walks of life.

Emily Anderson

EMILY ANDERSON

Lead, Nature Camp Instructor
MEET EMILY

I first started working in summer camps as a volunteer counselor with the Middlebury Area Land Trust's naturalist camp. Over the three years I worked with this program, I taught children of all ages naturalist skills and about the forests and streams of Vermont, all while cultivating my own love of nature education. That experience led me to pursue a bachelor's degree in ecosystem ecology at the University of Maine, which I completed in the spring of 2016.

After graduating, I spent time working as an intern on a citizen science project for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center then returned to my hometown of Middlebury, Vermont to coach high school cross-country. Last summer, I traveled the west volunteering with several organic farms through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms and more recently have been volunteering with a local land trust in Brunswick, Maine.

I am excited to be working with VINS Nature Camp this summer because I strongly believe that developing an enthusiasm for nature at a young age not only enriches a young person's life, but also helps them become life-long stewards of the planet. On a personal level, I look forward to the opportunity to reconnect this summer with two of my greatest passions, ecology and education as I continue expanding my skills in both fields.

Sydney Spicer

SYDNEY SPICER

Lead, Nature Camp Instructor
MEET SYDNEY

My name is Sydney Spicer, and I am a rising senior at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. I'm currently working on a degree in Environmental Studies and Communication. Originally, I am from Springfield, VA (20 minutes south of DC) where I volunteered at a local nature center from 7th grade until I graduated high school. It was during my time there that I fell in love with environmental education.

Outside of work and school, I spend time hiking, knitting, writing and exploring. I am so excited to be spending the summer as a part of the VINS Nature Camp staff, getting back into teaching and spending my summer outside in beautiful Quechee, VT! Fun fact about me: I spent a month in New Zealand last summer working on a horse trekking farm teaching riding lessons and leading treks.

Sean Taylor

SEAN TAYLOR

Lead, Wilderness Camp Instructor
MEET SEAN

Sean is a recent graduate of McGill University, and earned a bachelor's degree in Microbiology and Immunology. He has experience working with children in recreational and educational environments including as a lifeguard, swim instructor, substitute teacher, and first responder. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2016 working with VINS as a Nature Camp Instructor Most recently, Sean worked in a virology laboratory at Dartmouth College under Dr. David Leib.

Growing up in the woods in New Hampshire climbing trees and playing outside led Sean to develop a love for the outdoors. He still plays outside, although these days it is in the form of hiking, rock climbing, cycling, scuba diving, and swimming. Sean also loves reading, cooking, working on his Jeep, and sharing his knowledge of science with others.

Sean is very excited to return to VINS Nature Camp for a second summer of teaching kids all about nature and the place we call home; and most importantly, having fun!

Megan Treece

MEGAN TREECE

Wilderness Camp Instructor
MEET MEGAN

My name is Megan Treece and I am a junior at the University of Montana, where I am working on a degree in Parks, Tourism and Recreation Management. I am an outdoor enthusiast and when not working I like to spend my time hiking, fishing, mountain biking, running, and hunting.  This past summer I worked at the Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I spent my summer educating, hiking, and exploring Teton National Park with children of all ages. This was where my love for outdoor education started. I think outdoor education is important because it allows children to appreciate and connect to nature at a young age. I love to push curious minds and help students establish connection to place. I am excited to spend a summer working at VINS so I can meet new people, spend every day working with children in Vermont and become a better educator.

Alex Fishkind

ALEX FISHKIND

Nature Camp Instructor
MEET ALEX

My name is Alex Fishkind and I come from Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I am a senior at Unity College studying Captive Wildlife Care & Education. I worked for the Cape Cod YMCA at Camp Lyndon for the past four summers, with children from ages 5-13. My favorite raptor is the osprey, I've taken falconry lessons and have studied songbirds and birds of prey, while also having rescued a few mockingbirds and blue jays in my time. I'm eager to join the VINS team and learn about its resident raptors and I look forward to sharing the wonders of nature with children of all ages.

Tori Burke

TORI BURKE

Nature Camp Instructor
MEET TORI

My name is Tori and I have a BS in Environmental Science and Marine Science from the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. Growing up in Vermont, I have always been animal lover and outdoor enthusiast. I had visited VINS as a little girl, and have always wanted to work at a wildlife sanctuary, so I decided to go to college to do just that. While testing out my career opportunities in the environmental field during college, I was an intern for Runs with Wolves Sanctuary, Wolf Rescue and Education Center in Limington, Maine. I was in charge of general animal husbandry tasks, as well as public education and outreach. This, I thought, ensured my career goal of working in the field of wildlife conservation.

After graduation, I held a position as a substitute teacher at the Family Center of Washington County in Montpelier, VT where I discovered a love for working with children. I stayed on with the Family Center of Washington County during this past school year as a Behavioral Interventionist working in the organization’s pre-school with an individual child with a trauma background. Working in this pre-school setting, I discovered ways to incorporate small amounts of environmental education into their daily lessons through my stories and knowledge. This rewarding experience gave me a craving a way to share my passion for the environment with children in a more focused and deliberate way. I’m very excited to be working at VINS Nature Camp, to watch the kids explore the natural world with fresh eyes, while helping instill an enthusiasm for nature that I believe is crucial for a sustainable future. I am also excited to further my professional career while having fun outdoors and exploring the different opportunities of my field of study.

Ben Becker

BEN BECKER

Raptor Camp Instructor
MEET BEN

Ben Becker is a recent graduate from the University of Maine with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology. Since graduating, Ben has pursued a career in ornithology which took him across the globe, from studying African wildlife management in Tanzania, to Song Sparrows in Maine, and from reintroducing endangered Ospreys to Illinois, to, most recently, living in Peru researching and reintroducing Scarlet Macaws for the Tambopata Macaw Project. Ben’s visited VINS regularly since he first moved to Grantham, NH from the suburbs of Boston in 2002. One of the reasons why he chose to work with animals and the environment was inspiration born from being surrounded by the wildernesses of New England.

One of Ben’s favorite things to do is be goofy and to have fun whenever possible - he's a kid at heart, but what he likes even more is to have fun while sharing knowledge of nature and inspiring others to find the same thrill in discovery that he feels. If he can make just one camper love birds (or any other animal or plan for that matter) as much as he does this summer, then Ben will feel that he did something right. That's why he is very excited to be a part of the VINS Nature Camp team.

profile_pic Brookelyn

BROOKELYN GINGRAS

Nature Camp Instructor
MEET BROOKELYN

Brookelyn has recently completed a degree in Wildlife Ecology with a concentration in Conservation Biology at the University of Maine.

Having grown up in the woods of New Hampshire, she has a soft spot for New England wildlife and loves to teach all who will listen about the wild things in our backyard. In her free time, Brookelyn enjoys hiking, boating, and nature photography. She has also spent many days volunteering for New Hampshire Audubon and visiting other wildlife sanctuaries. Brookelyn is thrilled to be a part of the VINS team and looks forward to a fun summer!

lemmo

NICOLE LEMMO

Lead, Nature Camp Instructor
MEET NICOLE

Nicole Lemmo is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Environmental Education at the Florida Institute of Technology and joins VINS for the first time as a Lead Nature Camp Instructor.  Her current studies have developed outdoor education skills that she seeks to hone through the nature camp experience.  She is thrilled to work in the beautiful environment of Vermont, her grandfather’s birthplace, where she has visited annually and traveled throughout the state. 

 

Nicole’s dedication to the environment, and all of its elements, came after receiving a BS in Finance and International Business and a successful career in the financial markets.  From 2010-2012 she served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand focusing on community based development.  She continued to live and work in Thailand for 7 years in the field of ecotourism with In Touch with Nature Education and Andaman Discoveries.   This experience of leading students on educational adventure tours enabled her to travel extensively in South East Asia.

Her deep passion for nature conservation, cultural immersion and Earth stewardship encourages her to share her life experiences with others in order to help proliferate a more sustainable future for the planet.

Mel Skirkanich

MEL SKIRKANICH

Lead, Raptor Camp Instructor
MEET MEL

Hi, my name is Mel.  I was born and raised in Northern Virginia, and have always had a heart for the outdoors which quickly turned into a passion while I studied wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech.  As I became more and more involved with wildlife science and environmental education, I realized how important and rewarding it was to connect people to the natural world!   

I have worked in a couple different zoos, leading both on and off-site educational programs, as well as performing animal husbandry duties for a wide variety of species.  During the school year, I work as a teaching naturalist at an outdoor science school in Mountain Center, California, where I teach a wide variety of both ecology and recreation classes. When I am not at work, or outside fishing, hiking or climbing, you can always find me curled up with a good book, enjoying a fresh cup of coffee.