Nature Program Instructors
Eliot Rhodes, Nature Program Coordinator & Nature Program Instructor
Eliot grew up playing in the creeks and parks of Franklin, Indiana. He studied English Literature and Philosophy/Religious Studies at Elmira College in New York and then spent the next 6 years traveling around the country (and the world) studying and teaching environmental education, including stops at High Trails Outdoor Science School in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California and Hava v’ Adam, an ecological farm in Modi’in, Israel. He believes that spending time outdoors is important, and that everyone should learn a little bit about how to grow their own food and cook it, too. His hobbies include: making music, cooking, hiking, gardening, scrabble, frisbee, watching football and just being outside.
Sophia Fox, Learning Garden Coordinator & Nature Program Instructor
Sophia grew up in rural Oklahoma camping, fishing, and gardening with her grandparents. She studied school counseling, and has a Masters in Education. Some of her experiences include: working with the youth of the Choctaw Nation in college-prep programs and facilitating challenge/ropes courses, a 6 month permaculture internship in Hawaii, and most recently teaching and administrative positions at two outdoor science schools here in CA.
Sophia is very excited to be spending her days at the ranch playing, sharing knowledge, and letting Mama nature be the lead teacher! She believes in cultivating a love and respect for our planet by allowing children to explore, and learn from their natural curiosities. Some hobbies include: yoga, crafting, baking, snorkeling, camping, disc golf, dancing, and reading in the sunshine.
Nicole Landau, Nature Program Instructor
Nicole was born in Nicaragua and has lived between her birth place and the Bay Area. She grew up in a multicultural household with music, art, film and dance as constant themes throughout her life. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Film and Digital Media in 2008. At Santa Cruz she discovered farming and got involved with agroecology and sustainable living practices. After college she volunteered in organic farms in Italy through the WWOOF program. Inspired by her experience she decided to continue her studies, which led her to Chiapas Mexico where she researched the impact of school gardens on children’s eating habits and perceptions. After obtaining her Master’s in Science degree for Natural Resources and Rural Development at the Colegio de La Frontera Sur, Nicole moved to Nicaragua where she worked at different educational gardens, helped run an Ecocultural farm and founded a Pedal Power group for rural women. Nicole move back to the Bay Area in 2018 and is excited to teach 5th and 6th grade science at Sienna Ranch.
Kelsey Austin, Nature Program Instructor & Archery Coordinator
Kelsey Austin is an affable and adventurous, nature-loving woman from Walnut Creek, California. She spent her childhood playing soccer, running the open space hills; and volunteering planting trees, pulling weeds, and cleaning creeks. As a girl scout, she camped, crafted, and did more community service. As a White Stag Youth Leader, she taught leadership skills to others through camping and backpacking outings in the Sierra Nevadas. While studying Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at UC Davis, Kelsey was a Kids in the Garden instructor at the Student Farm, as well as the Sustainability Education Coordinator for all campus dining areas. After graduation, she vacationed in Thailand, backpacked around New Zealand, and worked on a fruit farm in Australia and an olive farm in Spain. She spent the following year at Slide Ranch in West Marin, guiding school groups through animal caring, garden cooking, and tide pool exploring. Besides teaching, Kelsey spends her energy backpacking deep into wilderness areas, trail running, dog snuggling, and sharing meals with loved ones. With a motivation to build self confidence in others, Kelsey is thrilled to work at Sienna Ranch, and hopes to expand compassion for the environment and dedication to sustainable lifestyles.
Emily Fuentes, Woodshop Coordinator & Nature Program Instructor
Emily Fuentes is a Bay Area native, avid gardener and tinkerer. Her enthusiasm for outdoor education was nurtured while studying at UC Santa Cruz and afterwards spent over 5 years teaching in school gardens in Oakland, Ca. She got her curiosity for woodworking at a much younger age when she got her first taste of saw dust and building as a child during weekend visits to the Berkeley Marina Adventure Playground. Since then she studied furniture making at Laney College and has had a blast teaching woodworking in a variety of schools and summer camps in the Bay Area. She excited join the Sienna Ranch community and continue to learn and grow with everyone.
Jessica Groetsch, Nature Program Instructor
Jessica is an east bay native who’s steadfast love for all things nature has led her on many adventures, the most recent landing her at Sienna Ranch. She has her Bachelors of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary biology from UC Santa Cruz. Birds are her greatest passion, spending two field seasons in Yosemite National Park working as a bird bander, collecting data from migratory passerines during the breeding season. This experience left her with a strong knowledge of local bird species and a love for leading bird hikes.
Working as an Education Specialist at Lindsay Wildlife Experience she found her love for teaching and working with children. Lindsay gave her the avenue to fuse her two great joys; working with animals and sharing that passion with other people. Sienna Ranch is an exciting venture for her where she can implement her previous experiences.
Anna, Nature Program Instructor, Market Garden Coordinator & Nature Sages and Sage Apprenticeship Coordinator
Anna grew up on an orchard in Oregon City, OR. As a child she loved writing songs, climbing trees, eating wild edible plants, and pretending to be a “tree doctor”- bringing trees plant medicine when they got nicked by the tractor. To this day all of those things still bring her joy! That’s why she’s so grateful to spend each day at Sienna Ranch. Anna went to Cornell University to study environmental science and education, always knowing she wanted to share her wonder and love of song and nature with children.
Xavier Tolbert, Nature Program Instructor & Nature Sages and Sage Apprenticeship Coordinator
Xavier grew up in Chicago IL. From the ages of 15-21 Xavier spent his summers working at Camp Ondessonk in Carbondale, Illinois where he worked his way up to Head Counselor. He then spent two years as an environmental educator in their school-year programs. After his work with Camp Ondessonk, Xavier took a summer to hike 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Hiking the PCT left him feeling more connected to the outdoors. He was able to interact with many different people from across the world and to share with them a sense of why nature is such a beautiful thing. The next two school years Xavier moved down to Texas where he was an outdoor education teacher for 5th graders in the Houston school district teaching skills such as studying water organisms, shelter building, farming and gardening, and team-building. Most recently, Xavier worked as a unit leader at the Fairview Lake YMCA Summer Camp in New Jersey. Xavier is passionate about working with kids outdoors: “The looks on the kids faces when they explore the outdoors for the first time is an amazing sight. I believe that every kid should get a chance to explore the outdoors around them, it will change their lives!”
Corey Chan, Nature Program Instructor & Pottery Coordinator
Corey is a nature program instructor and the pottery coordinator at Sienna Ranch. Born and raised in and around the Bay Area, Corey grew up with a strong love for the natural world. Having first swam and snorkeled as she was learning to walk, Corey has a strong affinity for the underwater world. However, it was the majestic redwoods of UC Santa Cruz that led her on the path of earning a degree in Environmental Studies. College is also where Corey discovered her love for teaching while volunteering at a marine center leading school groups. She has since worked throughout the state as a marine science instructor and naturalist, eventually returning to school for a teaching credential. After teaching (Biology, Marine Biology, and Life Science) inside four walls for a few years, Corey spent time traveling. While visiting places that included the Galapagos, New Zealand, Cambodia, and National Parks across the United States, she often thought about how truly beautiful and special California is and how grateful she is to have been raised there. She also kept thinking about education and the importance of nature connection, jumping at teachable moments out on a trail or while exploring a tidepool. She is excited to be back in California to share the wonders of the natural world with those coming to Sienna Ranch. While not working Corey enjoys sauntering, kayaking, swimming, hanging out with her furry animal companions, cooking, and cloud gazing.
Riding and Horsemanship School
Amity, Horse Riding Instructor
Amity grew up roaming the hills of Lafayette with her older brother in search of lizards, snakes and any other wildlife that could be caught, inspected and released. She was often seen on the back of her horse, Freckles, with a gopher snake wrapped around her wrist.
After discovering Sienna Ranch, Amity says, “Everything I know and love is all within this one place. To learn respect for animals and the world around them is something that many kids are missing out on today.” The ranch is offering all this for kids to discover.
Megan Holmes, Horse Riding Instructor
Megan grew up in Oakland, went to school in New England and Oregon, and lived for many years in western Colorado before returning to the Bay Area recently. She has ten years of classroom teaching experience in public, private, and charter elementary schools in both urban and rural settings. Her animal-related experiences include teaching riding lessons, handling sled dogs for an Iditarod team in Alaska, driving draft horses, and competing in polocrosse. She has been a rider since she was a toddler and currently owns two horses that she uses for competition and trail riding. Her other interests include reading, writing, and exploring trails with her husky.
Tina Treviño, Horse Riding Instructor & Nature Program Instructor
Tina Treviño is an Austin Texas native who grew up riding horses and showing competitively in the Hunter/Jumper circuit. Her love of horses and helping others led her to Wilson College in Chambersburg Pennsylvania where she earned two Bachelors of Science degrees, one in Equine Facilitated Therapeutics and the other in Psychology. From there she continued working with students in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, helping them succeed and excel through social emotional learning and outdoor education. This career led her to Mendocino County in Northern California where she was the Program Facilitator of Blackbird Farm. In charge of running student programming, she managed the ins and outs of helping high school students through an eleven day school trip where they worked hands on with farm animals and in the garden learning about nature, homesteading, and sustainability. Her love of students and her desire to work directly with horses again brought her to Sienna Ranch where she hopes to continue to empower youth to step outside of their comfort zone and embrace the beauty of the great outdoors. She has an intense love of breakfast tacos, puns, watercolors, and well worn work boots. If she could be any vegetable she would be a pumpkin because spilling our guts is good for us now and then, and making funny faces helps light up the world.
Morgan Heithcock, Horse Riding Instructor
Morgan grew up in Lafayette. She started out at Sienna Ranch as a camper when she was 6 years old. Soon after, she began to take private horse back riding lessons. When she was 11 she became the first apprentice in the horse program at the ranch, helping with lessons and horse care. She has been part of the horse program ever since. She is studying psychology and political science at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Morgan owns four blue silkie chickens, three cats, and two fish. She loves to bake, read, drink espresso and do ceramics.
Kinsey Dunne, Horse Riding Instructor
Kinsey was born in London, England and has grown up in Orinda, California. She currently attends Miramonte High School. Kinsey’s hobbies include art, horseback riding at her barn in Briones, yoga, cooking, baking, meeting new people, and teaching kids. At Miramonte, Kinsey works on metalworking, sculpting and pottery in her 3D crafts class. She has six years of experience in both English and Western style horseback riding and loves being around horses, dogs, cats, chickens, and pretty much all animals! Kinsey also loves spending time with kids of all ages, as she currently works as an assistant art instructor at the Orinda Community Center after-school art class. Last summer, Kinsey was an assistant teacher for a summer school class for special education middle schoolers and had so much fun doing so. She is really excited to bring together all of her hobbies at Sienna Ranch this summer!
Special Events Staff
Maureen Isaacs, Special Events Instructor & Horse Instructor
Maureen grew up right here in Lafayette, tromping through the creek in her backyard and scaling her neighbor’s trees. She has always had a passion for animals, and has worked with shelter pets, horses, and dairy goats in particular. During her time at UCSB, she focused on environment-human interaction, taking as many ecology classes and field trips as time would allow. She spent a large part of her time doing restoration ecology research and interning for environmental science outreach programs, and has since always found a way to keep one foot rooted solidly in nature. In her free time, Maureen loves to read, hike, work-trade her way around the
Lindsay Shannon, Special Events & Nature Program Instructor
Lindsay grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts. What was supposed to be a temporary move to the Bay Area turned into a 25 plus year love of California. She graduated from Hayward State University with a degree in Social Services and Psychology. She enjoys hiking, reading, sewing, riding horses, walking her dogs and hanging out with her two daughters. Lindsay worked as a ABA Behavioral therapist and behavioral consultant for over 15 years and her love of working with children with autism, as well as other special needs, has been a long lasting passion that continues to grow. Lindsay started working at Sienna Ranch in the summer of 2016 as part of the Special Events staff and now has a group during the week. Her love of nature, animals, children and Art has given her the opportunity to continue to nurture these skills with the wonderful staff and amazing kids at Sienna Ranch.
Hunter Rook, Special Events Instructor & Pony Ride Staff
Howdy! Hunter is a transplant from Houston, Texas, where they grew up on a cattle ranch. Hunter has been working with horses for most of their life, with 25 years Western riding experience and 5 years learning natural horsemanship training.
When they’re not doing that, Hunter can be found tramping through the woods, backpacking, and climbing trees. They’re a decent archer, and they enjoy dabbling in many outdoor skills, from basketry, fire starting, and whittling, to leather working and edible plant identification. Self-sufficiency is fun!
Hunter is a graduate from Rice University and is an accredited public school teacher. Their most favoritest thing to do in the whole world is share the wonder of nature with city kids who don’t ordinarily get to experience it.
Animal Care, Facilities & Administration
Mike Jennings, Facilities Coordinator
Born and raised in the east Bay Area, Michael enjoyed hiking, camping and gardening throughout his childhood. He studied horticulture in Santa Cruz and the Sierra Foothills before attending Prescott College in Arizona, where he received a degree in agroecology and permaculture design. He has 14 years of experience in horticulture and has also worked as a botanist for the National Forest Service–in Sonora and the Lake Tahoe Basin.
A member of the Sienna Ranch family since May 2012, he is thrilled to put to use his expertise in sustainable land stewardship. He enjoys using his plumbing and carpentry skills to maintain and improve amenities at the ranch. He is also excited for his daughters, Lillian and Alice, to attend Sienna Ranch once they are old enough.
In his spare time, he enjoys plant propagation, especially edibles, succulents, and native plants. His garden in Lafayette is a yearly stop on the East Bay “Bringing Back the Natives” garden tour, where his passion for drought-tolerant, sustainable gardening is on display. A self-taught musician, he loves to sing and play the guitar, mandolin, banjo, and piano.
Julie Sanders, Business Manager & Nature Instructor
Julie grew up in the East Bay and just returned from living abroad in Glasgow, Scotland for two years. While she was there she worked alongside youth from many different communities and backgrounds in Glasgow taking them on outdoor adventures and teaching cooking skills, life lessons, and mentoring youth on how to be the best versions of themselves. Prior to moving to Scotland Julie studied Business at the University of Oregon and is a proud Duck fan. In her spare time she loves hiking, camping, and being outdoors with her friends and family. Julie is passionate about building communities and connecting with everyone she meets. Julie is excited to be working at Sienna Ranch and exploring more of the East Bay hiking trails!
Chris Lauf, Ranch Director
Chris grew up in Australia where he spent most of his childhood weekends in the shed, building go-carts, toys and tree forts, doing science experiments, or backpacking in the mountains around his hometown of Canberra. As he grew up, the urge to build things, experiment and explore the world never left him.
While studying Biology and Jazz at UC Santa Cruz, Chris began teaching basic bicycle mechanics to developmentally disabled adults, sharing the feeling of empowerment which comes from the building process. He also studied education theory and philosophy which led him to complete a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication at the Australian National University. 2008 he co-founded the Cycling Scientists, a 100% bicycle-mobile educational organization which ran hands-on science and technology workshops for remote Indigenous schools in the Australian Outback. In 2009 Chris lived and worked in Jakarta, developing and delivering a wide range of programs with the Indonesian National Science and Technology Centre.
Chris began working at Sienna Ranch in 2010.
Lauren Matters, Director of Animal Care & Education, Equine Therapy Coordinator
Alison Gould, Assistant Director
Originally from Nashville, TN, Alison first began working with children in high school as an art teacher for an after school program. She has a B.A. from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and a certification in Permaculture and Naturalist Mentoring from the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, CA. She has also studied tracking and wilderness skills with Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, WA and Boulder Outdoor Survival School in Boulder, UT. Alison has taught naturalist skills to kids for over a decade and has been with Sienna Ranch since its inception. In her free time she enjoys hiking, rock climbing and yoga and believes that there is always more to discover and learn about the natural world.
Nick Jennings, Facilities Director
Nick has lived in the East Bay Area for most of his life, and spent much of his childhood and teenage years right here in Lafayette. While he attended Acalanes High School, he often looked over at Deer Hill Road and wondered, “What is that place with the white gate and weird telephone poles?” Little did he realize, he’d one day be working there.
Nick was introduced to Sienna Ranch in 2013 by his brother Mike after returning to the Bay Area from attending CSU Chico, where he studied geology. He began helping out with projects here and there, and by Fall of 2014, was a full time employee. He loves the unique challenges the ranch provides daily as well as the endless opportunities to learn new skills. In his time here he has picked up everything from carpentry and plumbing to welding and even beekeeping. He enjoys figuring out how things work and is always looking for something new to learn.
In his free time, Nick loves camping and playing music with his family, enjoys hobbies such as leatherworking and antique collecting, and is an avid player of board games and tabletop role-playing games.