DeLene Hoffner is currently teaching 4th grade at School in the Woods, a natural science immersion school. She has been an elementary teacher for over 28 years. DeLene earned her Masters degree in Integrated Natural Sciences from Colorado College. She has been recognized for her teaching with numerous honors; 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence, Teacher of the Year, Exceptional International Elementary Science Teacher, Space Foundation Advisory Teacher, to name a few. DeLene also is a regional director for Colorado Environmental Education Council, a teacher trainer for her school district, President for the Colorado Association of Science Teachers, executive board member/instructor for eleSTEMary and an adjunct professor for a local university. She is very involved in the National Science Teacher Association where she previously was the Preschool/Elementary Committee Director and now reviews articles for the Science & Children magazine and chairs the committee for the selection of the Outstanding Science Trade books award. She is an international teacher/presenter who shares her passions for learning with teachers ranging from her local state conferences to Australian teachers!! (She spent a year in Australia on a teaching exchange) DeLene marvels at the wonders of the world we live in and strives to share ways for all to enjoy, understand and care for our precious natural world!!
Chris Hoechstetter has been attending summits since he was two. Since then, his interest in the outdoors has done nothing but expand. Completion of a NOLS course in 2012 combined with working at Outdoor Source, a local outfitter in Columbus, OH, has provided Chris with the skills and equipment to work with groups around central Ohio.
Don Hendershot is a freelance writer, naturalist and biological consultant living in Waynesville, North Carolina. Don has been an avid birder for years, leading trips for organizations like the Great Smoky Mountains Audubon Society, Town of Waynesville, Haywood County Arts Council, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wildflower Pilgrimage and the Franklin Bird Club. He is contracted with the USDA Forest Service to conduct bird point surveys in six of the eight North Carolina Ranger Districts. Don has written for national and regional magazines like Our State, Native American Journal and Louisiana Road Trips. He is a regular contributor for Smoky Mountain Living Magazine. His regular column, The Naturalist’s Corner, appears in the Smoky Mountain News and he has a website www.thenaturalistscorner.com.
Peggy Hays teaches elementary science in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She has been teaching for 32 years in all grade levels with the past thirteen years as a science specialist. She has also created and taught several outdoor education classes and science workshops for both students and teachers. She loves to ski, bike, hike, play tennis, and spend time with family and friends. She especially enjoys helping children to appreciate and take responsibility for the preservation of nature. She is very excited to be returning for her 12th summit as one of the Junior Naturalist teachers.
Ila Hatter is renowned for her extensive knowledge of plants and their folklore. She produced “Roadside Rambles”, a wild foods cookbook, the DVD “Mountain Kitchen” and a video series “Wild Edibles & Medicinals of Appalachia”, and edited the ethnobotany book: “Plants of the Cherokee”. Ila hosted “Folkways” and “Our State” programs for UNC-TV (PBS) and has appeared on CNN, TurnerSouth, RFDTV, and A&E networks. Her website www.wildcrafting.com features plant photos, videos, and other educational links.
Jeff Harding is an enthusiastic amateur naturalist who grew up exploring California’s woods and wetlands. As a teenager, backpacking in the Sierras occupied most of his summers, but after earning a BS in Zoology from Oregon State University, He made his home in Oregon. He has been birding for 40 years, conducting breeding bird surveys, compiling and participating in Christmas Bird Counts, helping with breeding bird atlas programs and currently serving as an eBird reviewer, for two counties in Oregon and the country of Colombia. For several years he edited Oregon Birds, the quarterly journal of the Oregon Birding Association. Jeff is a veteran Summiteer, having been on the faculty of 15 NWF Summits in the 1990s, as well as three in this decade.
Amy Hahn grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. In 1988 she moved to Colorado and in 1989 led her first hike as part of the faculty of Family Nature Summits (then National Wildlife Federation Conservation Summits). She worked in the outdoor industry for 22 years as a product tester, sales rep and consultant, before turning her attention to the world of conservation, where she still works. She is a confirmed altitude junkie, and spends as much time as possible in the mountains of CO and WY near her home. She enjoys turning people on to playing outside, environmental stewardship, green habits and activism to address environmental degradation.
Doug Elliott is a naturalist, herbalist, storyteller, basket maker, back-country guide, philosopher, and harmonica wizard. For many years he made his living as a traveling herbalist, gathering and selling herbs, teas, and remedies. He has spent a great deal of time with traditional country folk and indigenous people, learning their stories, folklore and traditional ways of relating to the natural world. In recent years he has performed and presented programs at festivals, museums, botanical gardens, nature centers and schools from Canada to the Caribbean. He has been a featured storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival. He has lectured and conducted workshops at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the Smithsonian Institution. He has led ranger training sessions for the National Park Service and guided people on wilderness experiences from down-east Maine to the Florida Everglades. He was named harmonica champion at Fiddler’s Grove Festival in Union Grove, NC. He has made his home in the mountains of western North Carolina for the past 35 years. He has spent a great deal of time with traditional country folk and indigenous people, learning their stories, folklore and traditional ways of relating to the natural world. He is the author of five books, many articles in regional and national magazines, has recorded a number of award winning albums of stories and songs, and is occasionally seen on PBS-TV, and the History and National Geographic Channels.
When not acting as President of Family Nature Summits Chris Blank is a private practice attorney based in Newport Beach, California. His firm’s focus is business litigation, business law, and bankruptcy. In addition to his law practice he sits on the board of a local educational non-profit organization and founded a political action committee to support local candidates. He has been coming to the Nature Summits since 1994. This is the highlight of the year for he and his sons. He has been a committed environmentalist since the 1970s and is excited about continuing the Summit mission
Liz has over 25 years of experience as a naturalist, educator, wildlife biologist, photographer, and writer. She received her M.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Biology from the University of Florida in 1995 and her B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Cornell University in 1987. She is trained in CPR and is certified by The National Registry as a Wilderness First Responder. Since her beginnings as a research scientist at Cornell University, Liz has conducted research on and contributed to the study of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and plants in the Northeast, West, Southeast, and Midwest United States, as well as in Belize.
Liz’s interest in and study of the natural world has been a lifelong pursuit and joy. In fact, her first word as a child was “bird.” She has gained extensive outdoor experience while hiking, backpacking, canoeing, camping, and photographing wildlife in their natural habitats across the United States, in the US Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, and Central America.