The Emerging Leaders Program (“ELP”) trains a diverse group of outdoor recreationists to help revitalize conservation by making it relevant to all Americans. In conjunction with The Teton Science Schools, participants receive three days of training in advance of The SHIFT Festival, which prepares them to help lead the proceedings.
Out of more than 150 applicants from around the country, 30 were accepted into The 2018 Emerging Leaders Program. By their own identification, this year’s cohort is 40% White, 16% Latinx, 16% Black, 13% Indigenous/Native American, 10% Asian American, and 3% Indian American. Their work includes academic research on the benefits of time outside, expeditions for veterans with disabilities, urban planning, healthcare, storytelling and personal narrative. Hailing from 16 states, they’ll converge in Jackson on October 12 to prepare for integration into The 2018 SHIFT Festival, which begins October 16.
“This year’s class of Emerging Leaders embodies our goal,” said Christian Beckwith, the program’s Director. “We envision an alliance of Americans from all cultures, experiences and perspectives united behind a passion for place—and committed to its protection.
“Only by representing the breadth of the American experience will we be able to guarantee the health and wellbeing of our public lands.”
Please join us in welcoming The 2018 Emerging Leaders.
Cyrus Baird, 27
Director of Programs at the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports
Cyrus Hunter Baird is a talented natural resources professional combining a passion for hunting, conservation and policy to advocate for sportsmen and women around the country. He is currently the Programs Director for the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shootings Sports in Washington, D.C. Mr. Baird holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from Clemson University, and has a background in policy and grassroots advocacy at the local, state and federal level. Previously he has served in roles spanning various fields including wildlife management, conservation, policy and communications with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Clemson University, Ducks Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. He is a dedicated conservationist who enjoys spending his time in a deer stand or duck blind. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, with his wife, Megan, and their golden retriever, Caroline.
Christopher Chalaka, 25
Director of Outdoor Asian
Christopher is a 2nd generation South Asian-Taiwanese American who works at the intersection of health, environment and diversity. He is the founder of Outdoor Asian, an organization that aims to create a community of Asian & Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) in the outdoors by hosting culturally-relevant spaces, fostering leadership development, and providing a platform for stories and untold histories.
Christopher was inspired to this field after working with a few incredible environmental justice organizations in the United States, and after conducting field research on the impact of climate change on nomadic herders living in Western Mongolia. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, where he earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Biology. Christopher is currently based in his hometown Everett, Washington, where you can find him scribing overnight in the emergency room, foraging various fungi, climbing wet moss-covered rocks, and creating gloomy art inspired by the North Cascades.
Jayme Dittmar, 28
Jayme is a conservation photographer, filmmaker and storyteller seeking to protect lands and livelihoods of the last wild places, with a focus on Alaska. She has worked from the Amazon to the Arctic serving as a conduit of stories from indigenous peoples to assist in keeping their lands protected from development, mining and corporate interests. She is currently in the process of directing two larger films. Paving Tundra brings awareness to a 220-mile highway the state of Alaska is trying to build through the Brooks Range, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, adjacent to six subsistence communities, in order to open this area to copper-pit mining. Nature Needs Half is a documentary that conveys the message that half of the planet needs to be conserved for wild nature, and inherently the human species, as we are interdependent on wild places.
Diquan Edmonds, 24
Graduate Student, North Carolina State University
Diquan was born in Southern New Jersey and moved to North Carolina as a teenager. After receiving his undergraduate degree from NC State University in Sport Management, Diquan is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, also from NC State. His research seeks to better understand African-American outdoor recreation participants. Additionally, through his graduate research assistantship program, Diquan works for the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association (NCRPA) as the Community Health and Wellness Research Assistant. At NCRPA, he helps to distribute wellness information to recreation and park agencies throughout the state of North Carolina. Through working in the field of Leisure Sciences, Diquan is able to pursue his passion of promoting the equitable use of parks to achieve healthy outcomes. In his free time, you’ll likely find Diquan spending time outdoors, or cheering on his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
Charles “Swanny” Evans, 29
R3 Coordinator, Georgia Wildlife Federation
Charles S. Evans, Associate Wildlife Biologist, attended the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia, where he earned his B.S. and M.S. in Wildlife Sciences and Forest Resources respectively. In previous roles, Charles has worked in eight states and overseas focusing on everything from forest management plans to non-native ungulate eradication. In his current role as the Georgia R3 Coordinator, he is working to secure the future of hunting and wildlife conservation by acting as the strategic conduit between stakeholders from industry, agency, and non-governmental organizations. He is an employee of Georgia Wildlife Federation with additional support for his position provided by Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quality Deer Management Association, and Safari Club International.
Eva Lizette Garcia, 29
Planner, City of Brownsville
As a city planner, Eva has had the privilege of working on projects and programs that promote healthy living and enhance access to outdoor recreation through an active transportation network. Her work also aims to create a regional active transportation network to connect the region’s natural, cultural, and historical resources. This work is important to her because the communities in Cameron County are challenged by the prevalence of health issues related to inactivity. Most notably, one in three residents is diagnosed with diabetes and 88 percent of the population is considered overweight or obese. The area is regularly cited as one of the poorest metro areas in the United States, with 34 percent of residents living below the poverty level. Additionally, there is a lack of awareness of the area’s extensive outdoor attractions that range from historical battlefield sites, sandy beaches, birding centers, and natural waterways. To address these challenges, she has played an active role in a multi-year, multi-faceted active living outreach program. She works on building the infrastructure, improving policies, engaging the public, education outreach, managing grants, and partnership opportunities.
Shonto Greyeyes, 24
Program Coordinator, Ancestral Lands, Southwest Conservation Corps
Shonto became a part of the Ancestral Lands Family in February 2017. He draws experience in conservation corps work from The Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC), Montana Conservation Corps (MCC), Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC), and the Forest Service. Starting with a chainsaw crew in 2012 as a member, to his role now with Ancestral Lands as a Program Coordinator, Shonto has been striving to work his way up the ladder and continually develop his skills to better engage young adults from his own indigenous community. “I want to make a positive impact in the lives of our indigenous youth, and to cultivate more mindful, environmentally conscious tribal leaders for the future of our people.” Whether it is backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, or tending the corn fields, Shonto finds himself comfortable in every aspect of the outdoors.
Morgan Green, 29
Morgan is a Pediatric Resident in his final year of residency at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. He also works for SHINE, an initiative that helps to connect low income patient populations, immigrants, refugees and people of color to the vast amount of regional parks in the community. SHINE seeks to expose the Oakland, CA, community to the resources that are available to them but usually utilized by those with upper socioeconomic status.
Sara Griffith, 24
Masters of the Environment Candidate, University of Colorado, Boulder
Sara is a Masters of the Environment student at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU). She is working with two other graduate students from her program on a year-long capstone project with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). They are developing two papers on the health benefits of outdoor recreation and how they can be used to shape new policies. Her work involves conducting interviews with a variety of stakeholders in business, conservation and healthcare, while synthesizing current research to develop policy recommendations at the state and national level. In the past, Sara has spent time working as an outdoor educator and camp director in Michigan, Alaska and California. She hopes to continue working in the outdoor industry after graduating from CU this December, and use her skills and knowledge developed at OIA to advocate for increased access and utilization of the outdoors.
Avery Harmon, 24
Community Outreach Coordinator, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Avery Harmon is a Connecticut native who moved to Baltimore to attend Loyola University. There, he began to explore Baltimore’s grassroots activism scene, which introduced him to the significance of community-centric public policy and economic development models. Prior to joining the RTC team in 2017 as the community outreach coordinator for the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network, Avery worked closely with Baltimore residents as a Teaching Fellow at Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys and then as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Community Engagement Center. Through these experiences, Avery became fascinated with the intimate relationship between the built environment and quality of life outcomes for predominantly African-American communities. In his spare time, Avery enjoys riding his bike, learning about Baltimore and reading.
Rachel Hopman, 26
Postdoctoral Fellow, Northeastern University
Rachel currently researches the effects of physical activity on cognition as a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health. Rachel recently completed a doctoral program at the University of Utah, where she engaged in research determining the cognitive benefits from spending time in nature. At Utah, Rachel studied the neurological changes from multiple days spent in nature and found that outdoor exposures improve neural functioning and cognition. Rachel and her research team used neurophysiological tools and psychological measurements to study brain behavior in wild places around Utah, including ruins left by Ancestral Puebloans in southern Utah and rivers winding through dinosaur lands in northern Utah. Like the participants that she measured, Rachel found peace through exploring nature during her free time. Rachel plans to continue researching the health benefits of physical activity in outdoor environments and exploring the natural land of New England.
Farjana Islam, 23
Resource Assistant, Conservation Education/Health and Nature Navigator Program Coordinator, USDA Forest Service through the Greening Youth Foundation
As a Bengali Brooklyn native, Farjana believes in the healing power of nature for improved mental, physical, and socioemotional well-being. She started her journey at the intersection of public lands and public health as a “Your Park! Your Health!” intern, encouraging New Yorkers to explore their National Parks through biking, kayaking, camping and interpretive programs at Gateway National Recreation Area. Currently, as a Resource Assistant in the Conservation Education department at the USDA Forest Service, she is managing the Health and Nature Navigators program, a pilot program connecting the medical community to their public lands through the national park prescription movement started by Park Rx America. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Certificate in Public Policy (Health Policy concentration), with minors in Human Rights and Asian American Studies from Hunter College, The City University of New York.
Sarah Knapp, 30
Founder & Director, OutdoorFest
New York, NY
Sarah L. Knapp is the a Brooklyn–based entrepreneur and founder of OutdoorFest – a ten-day outdoor adventure festival in New York City – and Mappy Hour, a global community of outdoor enthusiasts in urban centers. She is a NY State licensed hiking & camping guide, Wilderness First Responder and Ski Patrol Wannabe. She believes that the best way to explore a city is by bike and the best place to get know someone is in the outside.
Adam Magers, 32
Founder & Head of Experiential Healing, Exploring Roots // Founder, Warriors’ Ascent
Kansas City, MO
Adam is a Counseling/Therapist Intern specializing in Ecopsychology and Depth Psychology, and provides psychoanalytically-oriented nature-based therapy through Exploring Roots for a wide-range of populations, including individuals and groups. While his first priority in working with individuals is to help them heal from traumas and the ailments of modern life, his group work generally differs. In working with groups, he facilitates programs aimed at fostering a healing relationship between people and nature, for the wellbeing of both – and at the root of this work is the cultivation of ecological consciousness and putting people in right relationship with the Earth. “Without a healthy relationship to nature, we cannot truly heal – and we cannot create a healthy relationship with nature unless we address our maladaptive psychological position towards the land.”
Dylan McDowell, 26
Program Director, National Caucus of Environmental Legislators
Dylan McDowell serves as the program director for the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators where he supports state legislators across the country working on conservation and environmental issues. He is a science communicator who specializes in making complex science accessible for a general audience, and his background includes developing education and outreach programs for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the Hatfield Marine Science Center. He is an active science writer and has frequently contributed to Oregon Sea Grant publications.
Dylan began working in public policy at the Oregon State University (OSU) Government Relations Office, where he supported efforts to expand OSU Extension programs in the state legislature and managed legislator outreach. He graduated summa cum laude from OSU with Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Fisheries and Wildlife Science and in Education.
Nadia Iris Mercado, 26
Cardiac Nurse // Blogger, Melanin Basecamp // Community Service Chair, Team Blackstar Skydivers
Nadia is a 26 year old, Cardiac Nurse, Afro-Latina, skydiving enthusiast and outdoor aficionada from South Florida. Two years ago she had a life changing experience as she made her first hike in Arches National Park, Utah. She had never seen mountains in person nor had any clue what hiking boots were. Yet she was overwhelmingly filled with awe and surprisingly felt quite at home in the mountains. Since then she has found peace and joy being outdoors, whether it’s dancing in the clouds or climbing the face of giant cliff. Her passion for social justice has brought her to experience her hobbies not just as a participant but also an advocate for people who do not have access to do all the wonderful things she gets to do. This is why she writes for Melanin Basecamp and serves as community service chair for Team Blackstar Skydivers.
Anahi Naranjo, 23
NYC Outings Leader, Latino Outdoors // Community Outreach Coordinator, Kingsbridge Heights Community Center
New York, NY
Anahi Naranjo is an environmental justice advocate and storyteller. Born and raised in the Andes of Ecuador, she explored her cultural ties to the land on her grandparents’ maize farm. She was uprooted to the United States in 2002, where she began to see disparities in access to healthy, green spaces in New York City. Interested in conservation, she often found her own voice and others like hers silenced in dominant environmental narratives.
Anahi is an alumni of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington. She received a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Middlebury College, where she paved the way to create more inclusive outdoor spaces through beginner hiking, backpacking trips, and discussions to tackle the issue on campus. She is interested in exploring how narratives and an exploration of histories can empower local communities to become agents of change to ignite policy actions and awareness.
Karen Ramos, 26
Executive Director, Get Out Stay Out
Santa Maria, CA
Karen works in engaging youth and children of indigenous-migrant backgrounds with the outdoors through the nonprofit she founded, Get Out Stay Out. They focus on using the outdoors environment as a catalyst for social change and inspiring self development. The issues they currently address are sustainability, social justice, intrapersonal healing, and self discovery.
David Rodgers, 30
Communications Manager, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation // Vice President, DT Racing
David Rodgers is the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) Communications Manager, leading the foundation’s national stakeholder communications. He has seven years of experience in the outdoor industry and five years of experience managing RBFF’s stakeholder communications. David leverages press releases, email newsletters, and social media channels to keep the fishing and boating industry abreast of the ways RBFF is working to get consumers out on the water, enjoying some of America’s beloved pastimes.
David earned a B.S. in Business Administration and Marketing from Bridgewater College. In addition to working in the fishing and boating industry, David uses his love for the outdoors to lead the amateur cycling team DT Racing, where he serves as the team’s President as well as competing at an elite level. When he is not working to increase fishing and boating participation, he can be found enjoying the outdoors, both on water and on land.
Katelyn Sheehan, 29
Expedition Guide, Veterans with Disabilities // Trauma Counselor
Katelyn guides backcountry expeditions for veterans with disabilities. She’s stoked to be taking a women veteran team up Denali in June and July for a month long expedition. In the past she’s worked as a trauma counselor in ER and in international antihuman trafficking efforts. She enjoys teaching wilderness emergency medicine and working as an EMT when she’s on the east coast. She wants to make the outdoors accessible to traditionally marginalized populations. She knows wild places to be the most powerful source of healing and platform for community she’s ever encountered. She enjoys establishing, and contributing to, efforts to demonstrate and duplicate the medicinal impact of outdoor recreation.
Pınar Ateş Sinopoulos-Lloyd, 29
Co-Founder, Queer Nature // Ambassador, Native Women’s Wilderness // Coalition Member, Diversify Outdoors
Arapaho, Cheyenne & Ute Territories
Pınar is the founder of Queer Nature, a queer-run nature education and ancestral skills program serving the LGBTQ2+ community. They recognize that many people, including LGBTQ2+ people, have for various reasons not had easy cultural access to outdoors pursuits, especially ‘survival skills’ like bushcraft and tactical skills. Their program envisions and implements ecological literacy and wilderness self-reliance skills as vital and often overlooked parts of the healing and wholing of populations who have been silenced, marginalized, and even represented as “unnatural.” Their curriculums necessarily go beyond recreation in nature to deep and creative engagement with the natural world to build inter-species alliances and an enduring sense of belonging. This hands-on type of relationship building both serves to promote environmental stewardship and also nourishes and resources the human souls who have been made to feel that they do not belong. They also utilize traditional skill-building and naturalist knowledge to rekindle and revitalize our connection to all of our ancestors, as well as the ancestors of the land we are occupying. In that vein, they strive to understand further how this work can support indigenous communities in Turtle Island who continue to be harmed by processes of colonization.
Sarah Shimazaki, 26
Program Coordinator, Resource Media
Sarah is a multimedia strategist and artist with a deep commitment to equity and inclusion efforts in outdoor spaces, environmental movements and yoga communities. As program coordinator at Resource Media, she is dedicated to tapping into the power of storytelling to amplify marginalized voices, inspire change and cultivate connection in our increasingly divisive world. Sarah is also a yoga teacher (RYT 500) grounded in the philosophy that yoga is a tool for life for every body. She co-facilitates trainings and workshops with a trauma-informed, social justice lens that holistically promotes self-care and community resilience. She carries these same values to her love for and work in the outdoors, where she mentors youth on outdoor programs.
Vasu Sojitra, 26
Program Director, Eagle Mount Bozeman // Admin, Earthtone Outsideᴹᵀ // Athlete, The North Face
Vasu works to build visibility for two different marginalized groups: people with disabilities and people of color within the outdoor industry which lacks a great deal of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This a heated topic and a challenging obstacle to overcome not just for him, but for everyone. He does this by his actions and his voice as the Program Director for Eagle Mount Bozeman, an Admin for Earthtone Outsideᴹᵀ and nationally/internationally as a professional athlete for The North Face.
Jasmine Stammes, 27
Healthy Eating and Active Living Coordinator, The Conservation Fund
Jasmine Stammes is a Sierra Leonean-Togolese American, born in Belgium and raised in West Africa and the United States. While attending college in New Hampshire, she developed a specific passion for environmental justice, and food as a mechanism for engaging community in the environmental movement.
Jasmine now resides in North Carolina where she works for Resourceful Communities, a program of The Conservation Fund. She provides technical assistance to community-based organizations in rural towns across the state. She assists these organizations in linking public health aims to environmental conservation, through innovative programming that addresses social justice, economic development and environmental stewardship.
She holds a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a Bachelor’s in Human Geography from Dartmouth College. She is an Environmental Conservation Public Benefit Advisory Committee Member for the Triangle Community Foundation and a member of NC Environmental Professionals of Color.
Olivia VanDamme, 27
Program Director, City Surf Project
San Francisco, CA
Olivia VanDamme is a Latina, mixed race woman who is passionate about connecting people to the outdoors, especially in the ocean. She loves rock climbing, and surfing along the California coast. She graduated from CSU Chico with a BA in Geography and Latin American Studies, was an NHRE intern at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, has volunteered or worked for over 8 non-profits in the Bay Area, and currently is the Program Director for City Surf Project in San Francisco. She is an alumni of the Youth Outside Rising Leaders Fellowship, member of Environmental Educators of Color group, and has spoken at the This Way to Sustainability, Institute for Women Surfers and PGMONE conferences. She is also a contributor to the Brown Environmentalist Media Co. Through advocacy, she hopes to continue to make the California coast more accessible to ALL Californians.