Staff & Board

The Pajarito Environmental Education Center is operated by a Board of Directors, staff members, and a corps of devoted volunteers. To contact us, please use the e-mail addresses below or the Contact page.

Katie Bruell

Executive Director


Katherine Bruell learned to love having dirty feet at years of Farm and Wilderness summer camps in Vermont, where she only put on shoes when she was on dish duty or a backpacking trip. She came to New Mexico to go to St. John’s College, where the Search and Rescue Team and trips to Canyonlands and Joshua Tree were highlights of her experiences in the Southwest. Katie says, “I love working at PEEC because I get to use my teaching skills and my administrative skills to help people enrich their lives through the outdoors.”

jonathanJonathan Creel

Director of Interpretation


Jonathan vacationed in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee as a child and caused his first “bear jam” at Cade’s Cove after spotting his first black bear. He developed wanderlust and a love of the outdoors after taking a cross-country trip with his mentor that brought him to Los Alamos. This trip led Jonathan down a career path in the field of interpretation that took him to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park. But, even while working as a ranger in these parks, Jonathan dreamed of returning to Los Alamos and the mountains of New Mexico. His dream came true when he joined the PEEC staff in July 2014.


Siobhan Niklasson

Education Programs Director


Environmental education made an early and lasting impression on Siobhan when Ellsworth the Owl visited her fourth grade class in her home state of Maine. Since then she has been engaged in environmental outreach and education. Siobhan has a BS in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University and an MS in geophysics from UC Santa Barbara. She came to Los Alamos in 2001, working for several years as a researcher at LANL in the areas of materials science and geophysics. She has also worked as an educator at the Randall Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe and volunteered at the Wildlife Center in Española. She enjoys swimming, hiking, cross-country skiing, and seeing the world through the eyes of her two children. Siobhan served as a member of PEEC’s board of directors from October 2010 until July 2013, and then became the staff educator.


Beth Cortright

Nature Center Manager


Beth spent most of her childhood running around the creeks and forests in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her parents always stressed the importance of volunteering and environmental protection, and it seems like it stuck. The biology department at the College of Mount St. Joseph was able to harness Beth’s outdoorsy nature, infect her with a travel bug, and enable her love of biology. A combination of good memories from visiting family in the southwest and caving expeditions in Carlsbad resulted in Beth moving to White Rock in 2012. She wasted no time getting involved with PEEC, first as a volunteer, then through an Americorps program called Public Allies, and finally joining the staff. Beth loves to get outside and explore and enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for nature, including hiking, caving, camping, and rock climbing.


Christa Tyson

Volunteer Coordinator


As a young child, every time Christa told her mom she was “bored” her mom would respond “Well then, you can either play outside or do a chore!” When given the choice, she chose to play outside, exploring the woods and creeks near her house. She also spent most weekends and summer vacations at the lake by her grandparents home or on trips to the ocean. The exposure to water as a child led her down a path of environmental biology with a focus on marine life. Christa worked as marine biologist in New York, Hawaii, and Australia, studying cetaceans, specifically spinner dolphins and humpback whales. In addition to her research background, she created outdoor education programs and coordinated volunteer efforts for marine non-profits. When she moved to NM it was quite an adjustment! She now loves the dry air, breathtaking mesas, canyons, and bright blue skies. Christa has three children; Jaia, Ahma and Aven, and is thrilled to live and raise her kids in such a kind, loving, and beautiful community. Christa joined the PEEC staff in June 2016.


Kate Barrere

Gift Shop Manager


Kate came to Northern NM in 1997 from her hometown of Seattle, Washington where she got her BA in International Studies from the University of Washington. She worked in Japan and in marketing before landing a job in visual display and merchandising for Nordstrom. After a decade she came to her senses, asked, “What do I really want to be when I grow up?” The answer included a move to NM and the desert ecosystems she always loved and a complete career change to fine art. Kate supported herself and her husband with her paintings and mixed media pieces for over 10 years. But as change continued to happen, Kate returned to her first love of nature and went back to school at Northern NM College in Environmental Studies. Kate loves the outdoors, hiking, camping and exploring back roads, and she continues to make art commissions. She brings a strong customer service ethic from her days at Nordstrom, a lot of people skills from her years on the road at art shows, and a passion for nature and learning to her position as Gift Shop Manager. Kate joined the PEEC staff in July 2015.


Sandra West

Marketing Manager


Sandra West earned a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from New Mexico Tech and a M.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico. She studied plant drought tolerance at LANL before exploring environmental education by teaching science and ecology to youth through the Family YMCA. She went on to the Los Alamos Co+op Market, where she focused on outreach and marketing to adults and families. Sandra’s passion for connecting people to the world around them and encouraging awareness and respect for our natural world started as a child. The pinon-juniper forest in her backyard offered lessons regarding her direct impact on the ecosystem. In-direct, long-term effects were brought to life by working alongside her father, a fire and stream ecologist. Even as an adult, Sandra feels most at home outside and makes time to hike, mountain bike, and observe nature. Sandra joined the PEEC staff in August 2015.

Denise_MatthewsDenise Matthews



Denise’s passion for the environment was sparked through many birding field trips in her environmental science classes while growing up outside Portland, Oregon. After high school she continued her education at Oregon State University, receiving a B.S. in Biology, an M.S in science education, and a secondary teaching certification in science and ESOL.  While in school Denise worked as an instructor and education coordinator at the Corvallis Environmental Center, giving her the opportunity to share her love for the environment with others through school programs, field trips and community events. After graduating she worked as a science and health teacher for two years in Albany, Oregon before moving to Los Alamos in August of 2015. Denise spent her free time in Oregon climbing many of the cascade mountains, skiing, camping, kayaking, running, and taking her dog for walks. Denise is excited about the new ecosystems and mountains to explore in northern New Mexico. Denise joined the PEEC staff in September 2015.

Bob W

Bob Walker

Board President

Bob and his wife Laurie have been residents of White Rock, NM since 1976. Until he retired in January 2008, Bob was a member of the Theoretical Chemistry Group at Los Alamos. Bob’s retirement interests include watching and photographing birds, and other outdoor activities such as gardening, hiking, and traveling. He has been involved for many years as a youth and high school soccer referee and was an avid tennis player. He is a member of the Los Alamos Photography Club, the Los Alamos Master Gardeners, and recently completed a 5-year term on the Los Alamos County Parks and Recreation Board, serving as its Chairman for two years. PEEC Board member since fall 2013.

Daniel Poretti

Board Vice President

Dan is a Minnesota native, where he learned to love nature from his father. Dan’s formal education includes a BA in History, a master’s degree in Public Affairs, and a law degree, all from the University of Minnesota. Dan has always had a deep interest in environmental issues (his Master’s thesis, completed in 1983, was on climate change), and during his legal career he handled a number of environmental cases, and performed pro bono work for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. Dan and his wife are avid scuba divers, and greatly enjoy hiking in and around Los Alamos, which has enabled them to develop a great appreciation for our local birds and wild flowers. Board member since October 2015.


Rick Wallace

Board Secretary

Rick has a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from U.C. Santa Cruz (Lick Observatory), with a concentration in numerical calculations of stellar explosions (Novae, Supernovae, X-Ray Bursts), and nuclear fusion. He has worked at LANL for 30 years, including physics simulations, security of Russian nuclear material, technical management, and international safeguards. He was awarded a shared Nobel Peace Prize for work he did to improve non­proliferation of nuclear weaponry. Rick’s hobbies are nature and wildlife photography and developing shows for the planetarium. Board member since fall 2016.


Nancy Arendt

Board Treasurer

Nancy served as PEEC’s volunteer bookkeeper 2010-2012, and she joined the board as treasurer in fall 2012.


Michele Altherr

Board Member
PEEC Co-founder

Michele grew up in the Maryland countryside and remembers playing in the woods and visiting the museums and monuments in D.C. She graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology with a BS degree in ecology. She met her future husband there, and eventually had two wonderful children. Once the children were in school, she became a certified elementary teacher and has taught for Los Alamos Public Schools since 1997. Currently she teaches sixth grade science at Mountain School and attends graduate school in the evenings. She is a graduate of Leadership Los Alamos and has served on the Parks and Recreation Board. Founding Board member, 2000-2007 and 2011-present.


Jeremy Campbell

Board Member

Jeremy grew up hiking, skiing, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors in the Adirondack mountains of New York. He worked in outdoor environmental education in the mid-1990s at the Sound to Sea program on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as well as the Camp H.R. Erdman program on the north shore of O’ahu. He enjoys camping with his family in New Mexico and Colorado. Jeremy has a B.S. in Business Administration from Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC as well as the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor designation from the College for Financial Planning in Denver, CO. He is a financial planner in Santa Fe with Ameriprise Financial. PEEC Board member since December 2014.

Craig Martin

Board Member

Born in Philadelphia, Craig Martin migrated west in 1980 to work as a naturalist for the National Park Service at Saguaro National Park. He subsequently worked as an environmental educator at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and then taught middle school science with a hands-on emphasis in the South Tucson School District. Following his wife to Los Alamos, he re-invented himself as a freelance outdoor writer while working as the stay-at-home parent to his two children, writing 10 books and 200 magazine and newspaper pieces about Los Alamos and New Mexico outdoor recreation and history. The Cerro Grande fire turned his attention to restoration of trails and watersheds, and to that end for 15 years he worked as the Project Manager for the Volunteer Task Force and the Los Alamos County Open Space Specialist. For his engagement of local youth in restoration projects, in 2013 Martin was honored to be named the youngest Los Alamos Living Treasure. In retirement, Martin continues with trail design work as a volunteer for the Santa Fe National Forest, takes photographs of the beauty of the Pajarito Plateau, is working with Terry Foxx on a plant book for the Jemez Mountains, and plays jazz around town with his Craig Martin Experience jazz septet. Board member since October 2015.

Becky O

Becky Oertel

Board Member

Becky has always had an insatiable curiosity about nature. Her parents fully encouraged her to play outside before she could walk, and when she was 15, let her camp alone in the canyons north of Los Alamos. Her curiosity soon expanded to the science of “why” and she obtained a degree in biochemistry. She conducted cancer research for a few years, but soon realized that environmental science and eventually ecology would be her career. So she became a biologist and ecologist for the National Park Service, the US Geological Survey, and the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Somewhere in the mix of all that, she was a wildland firefighter, a horse packer, a botanist, a birder, and a wilderness guide in Wyoming. Her curiosity is still insatiable. PEEC Board member since fall 2013.


Karla Sartor

Board Member

Karla learned to love nature growing up in Alaska, a passion that led to her career in Ecology and Conservation. She joined the PEEC board in 2011, and serves on the finance, nominations, and landscaping committees. She is interested in local trails and restoration projects, and is an expert in plant, soil, and fire ecology.  Karla works as an Environmental Professional with the LANL Environmental Protection Division. Previously, she managed grassland restoration projects for The Nature Conservancy, and studied climate change impacts on Human Health at the Harvard Center for the Environment. She and her husband enjoy mountain biking, hiking and bird watching at home on the Pajarito Plateau. Board member since fall 2011.


Ann Shafer

Board Member

Board member since February 2014.

Hari Viswanathan

Board Member

Hari Viswanathan grew up in Los Alamos, NM moving here in 1978. After graduating high school and attending undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara, obtaining at PhD at the University of Illiniois at Urbana-Champaign, and spending 2 years as Visiting Professor in Germany, he returned to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2001. He lives in Los Alamos with his wife Gowri Srinivasan and their son Aditya. He is the Subsurface Flow and Transport Team Leader in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory where he focuses on increasing energy efficiency and reducing the environmental impacts of fossil fuels and has authored over 80 publications in this research area. Hari enjoys nature and wildlife photography, and living in New Mexico gives him many opportunities to pursue his hobby. He has also traveled all over the world and has had opportunities to visit and photograph many amazing places. Hari has given numerous wildlife photography talks at PEEC and contributed photos to the new Nature Center. He has also participated in PEEC’s efforts to certify Los Alamos as a Community Wildlife Habitat. Hari has also participated in numerous PEEC Earth Days and worked with his mother, Selvi Viswanathan, former board member, on numerous PEEC initiatives. Hari is now excited to apply his experience with securing funding opportunities, strategic planning, the natural world and general knowledge of Los Alamos to PEEC. Board member since October 2015.