Education Docents

educ_docents4Connecting youth to their local foothill habitat is an important step in developing future young stewards. SFC is fortunate to have a group of volunteers that is passionate about working with elementary aged children and providing them with an amazing outdoor experience.

Each season education docents engage over 500 young students, introducing them to an exciting world of wonder. Though the program remains small, the efforts are extremely fruitful. It is pure joy when a docent sees a child’s face light up with excitement!

educ_docents5Follow the links below to learn about each of these dedicated education docents. As different as many of their backgrounds might be, they come together with a common goal – to connect young people with the natural world in an exciting and meaningful way. Our education docents are wonderful and we are grateful for their selfless commitment and endless enthusiasm!




Our Education Docents

Elissa Blair

e_eblairElissa is currently studying wildlife at Humboldt State University. She goes outdoors to adventure as often as possible whether it be hiking, searching for wildlife, or backpacking. She loves sharing her knowledge about the natural world, especially in the fields of ornithology and botany. Elissa is also involved with the non-profit organization Bird Ally X, who rehabilitate sick and injured wildlife, specializing in aquatic birds. Elissa is incredibly passionate about the foothills and has been a member of SFC since 2010.

Doug Broten

e_dbrotenDoug was born in Whittier and moved to Fresno to attend Fresno State College in 1965. He graduated from Fresno State in 1970 with a degree in Social Sciences, and after teaching for 3 years spent the next 40 years managing local non-profits. He is now retired. Over the last 40 years, he has deepened his love for the Sierra Nevada and the surrounding foothills. He has spent many hours backpacking, and cross country skiing throughout our local mountains. For many years he led Sierra Club hikes and cross country ski trips. Spending as much time in the mountains as he can he now spends his retirement kayaking the San Joaquin River year around (the wildlife on the river is fantastic during the winter), hiking on a weekly basis, skiing during the winter, and leading Foothill Conservancy hikes.

Joni Bunnell

e_jbunnellI work as a chemist for an agricultural laboratory in Fresno.I now live in Clovis but lived in the foothills for many years. I love to hike in the mountains, ride horses and travel. I enjoy working as a docent for SFC because it gives me much pleasure to see children learning about nature and having a great time. I have a border collie dog named Maggie that hikes with me whenever she is allowed into the area we are hiking.

Dennis Christiansen

e_dchristiansenDennis Christiansen is a retired elementary and middle school science teacher. While teaching, he participated in the “Owls In The Classroom” program, caring for and monitoring the growth of over 50 barn owls and great horned owls. He is a co-sponsor of the Tenaya Middle School Wildlife Club and maintains a section of Highway 41 (Adopt-A-Highway program) in their name.

He is the pick-up and temporary care person in the Coarsegold/Oakhurst area for Critter Creek Wildlife Station. For over 20 years he gave informational talks on birds of prey, owl box construction, and was Educational Team Leader for Fresno Wildlife Rehabilitation. Dennis and his educational barn owl, Rosie, appeared in Audubon Magazine.

He volunteers for DFG’s Salmonids In The Classroom and KRCD’s Fish Management Program. Dennis’s love of children and the outdoors has led him to volunteer for Sierra Foothill’s McKenzie Preserve spring educational program.

Caryn Coss

e_ccossCaryn Coss is a bargaining specialist for the California Teachers Association but spent her first 20 years of professional life as an elementary teacher. She enjoys sharing her love of the Sierra Foothills as an Education Docent for SFC’s school Field Trips on the McKenzie Preserve. Connecting people with the beauty and wonder of nature is a passion of hers. She loves hunting for newts and frogs with her grandchildren, exploring nests, granary trees, and all the wonders of the foothills with a new generation.

Caryn and husband David live in a log cabin that has a view of the McKenzie Preserve from the front porch. They have been members of SFC since 2000 and have helped with the Annual Fundraising Dinner in various capacities since 2003—working hard to preserve this beautiful land for all.

In addition to frequent visits to the McKenzie, Caryn and David enjoy boating on Shaver Lake, and exploring old logging roads in the Sierras in their Jeep—only on marked trails, of course. They also love visiting Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia but only in the winter, spring and fall when the crowds are light. In the summer, the high country around Shaver Lake and Dinkey Creek are the places to be.

Nat Gildersleeve

e_ngildersleeveNat worked for 35 years as a radiologist in Fresno and is “almost” retired, only filling in when his old group has several people off at the same time.  He has lived at Millerton Lake for over 25 years and has developed a love of the area.  He wants to see that some of the area is set aside for future generations to enjoy as he has.

He enjoys getting out of doors and learns something new at every Sierra Foothill Conservancy event.

Sue Gorder

e_sgorderSue Gorder inherited a deep love of the outdoors and all things flora and fauna from her mother, Cherry Franklin, a SFC advocate and supporter from the very beginning.   Sue has spent much of her life exploring and enjoying the Sierra Nevada and surrounding area through camping, hiking, and backpacking.  Sue is dedicated to preserving the Sierra environment and enjoys sharing her love and knowledge of the Sierra and the SFC preserves with the Field Trip kids at the McKenzie Preserve.

Ed Hampton

e_ehamptonEd is recently retired and loves to hike and explore the Sierra. He enjoys working with young people and being an Education Docent as it allows him to teach and show students a very beautiful part of the Sierra.

“The kids always are able to teach or show me something new each time we go out.  I love that I am able to make an impact and share some of my knowledge to get people out in the wilderness and show them why it needs protection for future generations.”

Linda Hurst

e_lhurstLinda is a dedicated Registered Hatha Yoga teacher, trained in classical principles as taught by Baba Hari Dass at the Mount Madonna Center in Watsonville, CA. After enjoying a 14-year personal practice, she received her 200-hour teaching certification in 2007 and is currently working towards her 500-hour level certification. Linda’s goal is simple: to use her training and experience to help others feel better: “People of all ages and levels can come to the Sierra Foothill preserves, enjoy a wonderful Yoga practice, and return home feeling refreshed and happy.”

Linda’s teaching style focuses upon individual needs and body types, helping students receive the most from their practice while preventing injury.  “Ahimsa begins with the self; be kind, go slow, avoid injury and see what happens.” When not offering yoga, Linda can be found facilitating hikes on the various preserves.

Chad Otto

e_cottoWhen Chad is not out exploring the wilds of California, you can often find him studying in CSU Fresno’s Science Building, where he is pursuing a degree in geography. His love of the natural world, along with his passion for working with children, led him to the wonders of the Sierra Foothill Conservancy in the spring of 2012. As an education docent, he enjoys introducing students to the various types of ecosystems contained throughout the McKenzie Preserve and the important role that conservation plays in their existence. He hopes to improve the relationship of future generations to the environment through appreciation and understanding.

Chad also enjoys hiking throughout the Sierra National Forest and kayaking the San Joaquin River. He has succumbed to a lifelong obsession with woodworking and blacksmithing through his love of antique tools and the traditions of yesteryear.

Jan Phillips

e_jphillipsJan has lived in the foothills for 34 years. She loves the area and the outdoor living opportunities it provide.  She has two daughters and nine grandchildren.  She enjoys hiking, gardening, and spending time with family.  She works at Intermountain Nursery in Prather and loves working with customers.

“Being an education docent is a wonderful experience. Seeing the kids getting excited about the outdoors is great!”

Rod Sanderson
Alvora Trujillo-Babarovich

e_atrujillobabarovichAlvora is an Educational Docent for SFC.  She and her husband, Todd, plus two dogs and a chameleon live across the street from the McKenzie Preserve.  They moved there 16 years ago because of the spectacular view of the Preserve and the close proximity to the four-lane that takes them to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

She grew up in Fresno and Clovis with many teachers and mentors who guided her along the way. “I feel fortunate to do the same for others as a teacher and volunteer for the last 25 years. The McKenzie Field Trips with kids from the Valley is one of my favorite volunteer activities.  The other volunteers, the teachers and parents, and the children, celebrate the wonder of nature during our time together.  In the short three to four hours of their time on the Preserve, we share the experience with enthusiasm and gratitude for the preserve’s efforts to create a space for us and the environment and its inhabitants to interact.”

Hike Docents

hiking_gilmanSierra Foothill Conservancy hikes are led by a very dedicated group of volunteers who are passionate about sharing the wonder of nature with visiting hikers. As they lead groups on the various properties, they share aspects of cultural history, habitat features, and facts associated with the specific property visited.

Each of our dedicated hiking docents have varying backgrounds, lending expertise in a variety of areas. The common thread is their desire to connect people to the beauty of the land and the importance of conservation for future generations. Our docents are amazing ambassadors and we are grateful for their leadership!

Hike Docent Requirements

  • hiking2SFC membership. A docent is often the first, and possibly the only, connection a new participant will have with the organization.
  • Experience hiking the properties you will be leading hikes on. In Fresno/Madera area this would be the McKenzie Preserve, Black Mountain Preserve, Fine Gold Creek, and Tivy Mountain Preserve. For Mariposa Docents this would be landowner properties such as Trabucco Ranch, Von der Ahe, Clarks Valley, and Long Ranch.
  • New docents can shadow veteran docents until you feel comfortable taking on more of a leadership role.
  • Commit to four hikes per season. There are over 25 hikes in the Fresno/Madera area. In the Mariposa area there are fewer hikes, so the commitment is less.

For more information email


Our Hike Docents

Ron Bohigian

h_rbohigianRon Bohigian was born, raised and educated in Fresno, California. His early outdoor experiences usually involved whizzing past the Sierra foothills on the way to the higher mountains. Around the time of SFC’s birth, Ron joined the Conservancy and served on the board for several years. He now docents regularly. Says Ron, “I really enjoy leading the longer hikes on McKenzie and Tivy Mountain. These lands give me a feeling of wildness. There is always something new to discover. I am so proud to be a small part of what the Conservancy has done to protect these wonderful lands.”

Ron holds a BA degree in biology from CSUF and is an elementary school principal in Fresno. His foothill-related interests include hiking, birding, flyfishing, backpacking, and bicycling. He is married to Megan Bohigian who shares his love of the Sierra foothills.

Doug Broten

h_dbrotenDoug was born in Whittier and moved to Fresno to attend Fresno State College in 1965. He graduated from Fresno State in 1970 with a degree in Social Sciences, and after teaching for 3 years spent the next 40 years managing local non-profits. He is now retired. Over the last 40 years, he has deepened his love for the Sierra Nevada and the surrounding foothills. He has spent many hours backpacking, and cross country skiing throughout our local mountains. For many years he led Sierra Club hikes and cross country ski trips. Spending as much time in the mountains as he can he now spends his retirement kayaking the San Joaquin River year around (the wildlife on the river is fantastic during the winter), hiking on a weekly basis, skiing during the winter, and leading Foothill Conservancy hikes.

John Capitman

h_jcapitmanDr. John Capitman is the Executive Director for the Central Valley Health Policy Institute and the Nickerson Professor of Public Health, College of Health and Human Services, California State University, Fresno.  Capitman brings an extensive background in research on health inequities, long-term care, substance abuse, and racial/ethnic disparities in cancer care and outcomes. Capitman was formerly a professor and director of long-term care studies in the Schneider Institute for Health Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University Capitman has taught and written about how social location influences health and the use of health services. He has published extensively in the areas of: financing, organization, and delivery of community care and the integration prevention, behavioral health, obesity prevention, and chronic care management services in primary care.

He leads a health policy leadership program that engages emerging leaders from throughout the region in exploring opportunities to address regional health problems.  Capitman’s current research and policy analysis is supported in part through The California Endowment, California Wellness Foundation, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and the Fresno Regional Foundation and focuses on access to care for uninsured and underinsured persons, environmental influences on health, health professional shortages, culturally appropriate chronic disease care, and health impacts of immigration. Capitman received his BA in Linguistics from Yale University and his PhD in Social Psychology from Duke University. He is a founder and Board member for VISIONS, Inc. a non-profit provider of multicultural training and consultation.

Ben Fluharty
Nat Gildersleeve

h_ngildersleeveNat was a Radiologist in Fresno for 35 years and is “almost” retired, only filling in when his old group has several people off at the same time. He has lived at Millerton Lake for over 25 years and has developed a love of the area. Nat wants to see that some of the area is set aside for future generations to enjoy as he has. He enjoys getting out of doors and learns something new on every Sierra Foothill Conservancy event.

Rich Gilman

h_rgilmanRich Gilman was born in Berkeley, California and raised in Fresno. Rich worked for 30 years as a Registered Nurse and Nurse Educator specializing in critical care with emphasis on cardiac and critical care. He and his wife owned an assisted living care business, Elder Homes Inc., from 1995-2011. His wife, Jane, is also an RN and currently works at Saint Agnes Medical Center as the Director for Case Management. He has two sons who are UC Berkeley grads: Todd, who is currently pursuing a law degree at UCLA, and Sam, a software engineer working in New York.

Rich has been an avid and lifelong backpacker and hiker in the Sierra and the foothills east of Fresno with a passion for its flora, fauna, and geology.  Exploring the local gold mining history has been a special interest for Rich and, along with multiple mines, he and his friends have identified 6 arrastras in the San Joaquin river drainage area. Although Rich now considers himself retired, he continues to create and publish a medical education website,, and is currently developing birding and wildflower tutorials for the SFC website. Rich is a lifelong learner. His interests, besides his family, education, backpacking, birding, photography, and anything having to do with nature.

Ben Goger
Virginia Gutierrez Osborne

h_vgutierrrezosborneVirginia Gutierrez Osborne, was born in Fresno, California. As a young adult she visited just about all of the western United States national parks and as a child she explored the Sierra Nevada mountains with her family. She holds a masters degree from California State University, Fresno in Marriage Family Counseling and has completed extensive coursework in biology. She is an Instructor of Biology at Fresno City College. She has been a docent since 2003 leading several hikes for Sierra Foothill Conservancy. Virginia has been on both the Education and Outreach Committee and the Major Donor Committee.

Kris and Larry Hawkins

h_khawkins h_lhawkinsWe have always loved being in the mountains. We met while working in Yosemite National Park and we spent many years hiking and exploring the area. We moved to the Fresno area to attend college at Fresno State and later moved to Pine Ridge  near Shaver Lake.

Kris is a teacher and works at Clovis West High School and Larry is a soon to be retired traffic engineering technician for the City of Fresno. We spend many summers backpacking in the Sierra National Forest and winters volunteering for the Cross Country Ski Patrol. We have been involved in the Foothill Conservancy for numerous years as docents.  We enjoy any time spent outdoors! Our natural science interests include; birding, wild flower and tree identification, geology and biotic communities.

Linda and David Hurst

h_ldhurstWe are avid hikers who enjoy meeting new people and sharing adventures. David grew up in the Rocky Mountains and spent his teen years backpacking throughout the Sierra Nevada. Hiking and nature is in his blood.

Linda, a registered Yoga teacher, has been teaching Hatha Yoga and facilitating hikes since 2008. Dedicated to principles such as “Leave No Trace” and “Treading Lightly”, we are passionate about preserving the beauty of the wilderness for future generations and are thrilled to be part of the Sierra Foothill Conservancy.

Sue Ludwig

h_sludwigMy name is Susan Ludwig.  I am originally from Maryland, but many years ago came to Yosemite National Park to work. This is where  I met my husband, settled in Clovis and currently work as a Registered Nurse.

I love to spend my free time doing things outside.  I especially like to hike. I have been fortunate to live in the foothills and have enjoyed their beauty for the last 24 years.

Jen McCollom
Mike Mirigian

h_mmirigianGrowing up on a 50-acre ranch in Selma, CA, I was introduced at an early age to the elements of nature.  While attending Selma High School, my favorite classes were science, which led me to a Biology major at CSUF.  When looking for a way to combine my love of education and nature, which I hoped to pass on to future generations, I decided to acquire a teaching credential, resulting in a most satisfying 32-year career.

I am now a retired AP Environmental Science teacher from Clovis West High School.  During my tenure at Clovis West I would bring my students on Conservancy nature hikes to reinforce connections with classroom concepts.  As a way to show appreciation to the Conservancy for providing my students these opportunities, in retirement I have enjoyed volunteering as a hike Docent.  My other interests include bicycling, day hiking, canoeing/kayaking, reading nature/natural history journals, learning about local California Indians’ history and interaction with their environment, and striving to become better at identifying local birds and wildflowers.

Marcus Newman

Marcus grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills, from Coulterville to Carter Road. As a Boy Scout, he hiked and camped all over Mariposa County. He is excited to be involved with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy and to contribute to the preservation of this amazing foothill environment.

Karyn 'Kestrel' O'Hearn
Katie Phillips
Robert Snow

h_rsnowRobert Snow was born and raised in Chico, CA. He received his BA degree in Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his PhD in Zoology from the University of Washington. Following a career in Neurophysiology at the University of Maryland Medical School and Tulane University Medical School, Robert joined the fledgling GPS industry in Anaheim, California. He worked for 24 years in that industry, defining GPS systems for precise applications such as timing, geodesy, surveying, and mapping.

Robert retired in 2009 and moved to Fresno in 2010 to be close to family and to enjoy the proximity to the mountains. He enjoys birding, hiking, biking and SCUBA diving as well as working in his garden.

Sue Stone

h_sstoneSue Stone is a family physician with a holistic and integrative practice in Fresno.  While fully trained in conventional medicine, her practice emphasizes natural medicines, nutrition, the patient-physician relationship, removing emotional blocks to healing, spirituality, and faith in the body’s amazing ability to heal itself.

Sue’s love of the wilderness and thirst for knowledge has led her on many distant travels, but she still thinks that the Sierra is the most fabulous place on the planet.  Sue loves to share her knowledge and especially loves learning from others who come along on the SFC hikes.  She has found many ways to enjoy the wilds and the creatures that inhabit it including backpacking, snowshoeing, and scuba diving.

Linda and George Sward

h_lswardh_gswardLinda has lived in Kingsburg since 1982. She has enjoyed camping and hiking in the Sierra since her college days. She works as a bilingual public health nutritionist. Favorite recreational activities include singing in the San Joaquin Chorale, camping, hiking, and volunteering for SFC.

George was born and raised in Kingsburg, California where he learned from an early age a love of outdoors from his father. A painter by trade, he is a birder, hiker, and skier by avocation. He has been part of SFC from its beginning.

Jamelie Taylor

h_jtaylorJamelie is a retired middle school teacher who has lived in the foothills since she married the local ‘water guy’, Ron Taylor (shown with her in the photo), forty-two years ago.  They raised two sons hiking, canoeing, camping and enjoying the outdoors; now a geologist and a hydrologist, the young men have gone on to continue the passion.

Not entirely retired, Jamelie currently works at the family business, Auberry Builders Supply, and is active as a FOAL board member.  Any free time is spent gardening, knitting, quilting or hiking.  Jamelie was part of the group that helped to bring Sierra Foothill Conservancy to fruition, and has been a loyal member since day one.

David M. Weber

h_dweberDavid spends his days as an educational psychologist, but looks forward to any chance to be outdoors.  He enjoys running with his wife Michelle, hiking the Sierra Nevada mountains, gardening around his Clovis home, taking his dog Brix on long walks, and adventure activities when traveling the globe with his wife and two kids.  He has been a member of Sierra Foothill Conservancy since 2010 and began work as a hike docent in 2012.  He is also involved with Trail Spirits, a volunteer trail maintenance crew which is part of the San Joaquin River Council working through the Sierra National Forest.

He looks forward to sharing his love of the Sierra foothills and the SFC preserves with all those interested in exploring these natural environments, and is dedicated to preserving these environments for future generations!

Contact us to become a Hike or Education Docent

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