Yellowstone in Winter: Meet the Team 2020

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2020 Yellowstone in Winter Institute Participants

Randy Bechtel
Education Specialist 
NC State Parks, Wake County
Hobbies: hockey, hiking, blacksmithing
Looking forward to: I look forward to experiencing Yellowstone’s iconic animals and volcanic features while covered in a snowy blanket with a great group of people.

Davanne Brigman
Media Specialist
Elizabethtown Middle School, Bladen County
Hobbies: Reading, spending time with family, and church activities
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to spending time with other educators as we experience something completely new. Eastern NC has very little snowy winter weather, so this environment of extreme temperatures, snow, and wildlife will be like another world that I get to bring back to my students!

Blaire Dawkins
Science Teacher
Holly Shelter Middle School, New Hanover County
Hobbies: Singing, cooking, reading, yoga
Looking forward to: Immersion in science! Collaboration with other like minded individuals, and expecting one of the nations greatest wonders!

Jessica Harrell
Third Grade Reading Teacher
Gatesville Elementary School, Gates County
Hobbies: Reading, biking, swimming
Looking forward to: I am excited to learn about the many natural features of Yellowstone National Park. The geothermal features are especially interesting to me.

Katherine Hyatt
Assistant Principal
Edgewood Elementary School, Columbus County
Hobbies: I love to spend time with my two children, work in the garden, can tomatoes the way my grandmother taught me, and read.
Looking forward to: The thing I am most looking forward to experiencing in Yellowstone is the opportunity to experience such an amazing place and sharing that with our students! I can’t wait to see Old Faithful, the many lakes, and check out the animals in the winter time.

Vinod Kamalam
Science Teacher
Hunt High School, Wilson County
Hobbies: Travel, Photography and Fossil collection
Looking forward to: Seeking to experience the ‘tundra like biome’ on a volcanic landscape.

Gretchen Miller
Geology Professor
Wake Tech Community College, Wake County
Hobbies: tatting, metalsmithing, hiking, and kayaking
Looking forward to: I have only been to Yellowstone during the summer, so I am looking forward to experiencing the geology and biology of the park at a different time of year and with fewer people around. I am also really looking forward to working with and learning from the various educators on the trip and the experts at the park to develop activities that I can share with my students. And I hope that I will be able to share my knowledge and love of geology with others on the trip.

Leslie Peele
Second Grade Teacher
White Oak Elementary School, Chowan County
Hobbies: I enjoy walking, reading, going to the beach, and spending time with my family and friends!
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to spending time with some amazing educators while learning about Yellowstone National Park through the beautiful sights, sounds, and animals that I am hoping to encounter throughout this journey.

Chip Pollock
Eighth Grade Social Studies Teacher
Hobbton Middle School, Sampson County
Hobbies: Exploring North Carolina, food and beverage
Looking forward to: Experiencing the inter-connectedness of the ecosystem, playing in snow, observing the wildlife.

Ursula Valgus
Elementary Educator
Woods Charter School, Chatham County 

Combing the beach for shells and driftwood, testing new recipes, hiking to experience and explore our natural world and perfecting s’mores on camping trips
Looking forward to:With this being my inaugural experience in Yellowstone, I am giddy with excitement and anticipation for the adventures.  I am eager to see abundant wildlife in the Lamar Valley and along the Yellowstone River with the hopes of glimpsing gray wolves.  I am excited to gaze at the extreme beauty of the vast landscape and the unique hydrothermal features banked against the quiet of fresh snow.  I am thrilled to explore the trails and blanketed surroundings of Yellowstone on snowshoes.  I am anxious to engage in this unique opportunity and learn alongside Melissa, Megan, and the Yellowstone in Winter educator participants.

Brittany White
Science Educator
Edgecombe Early College High School, Edgecombe County
Hobbies: Yarn arts, rock collecting, traveling, and learning new things.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to seeing first-hand many of the things we talk about in my class. Seeing evidence of tectonic activity and the impact the wolf population has had on the park has been a dream of mine for a long time. I am also looking forward to experiencing hands-on ecological and geological investigations.


Museum Staff Leaders

Melissa Dowland
Coordinator, Teacher Education
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: Camping, hiking, exploring nature, reading, and cooking.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to reconnecting with my favorite place on the planet in its most beautiful season, seeing old friends, and hearing the mournful howl of a wolf.

Megan Davis
Teacher Education Specialist
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: jogging and biking along the greenways, gardening, cooking and baking, hiking and backpacking in new places, spending time with friends and family
Looking forward to: I look forward to the first bite of frigid air in my nose and lungs, and the crisp crunch of snow under our snowshoes. With this phenomenal group of NC educators by my side, I can’t wait to scan the horizon for wildlife and hike and generally be amazed each and every moment of the day by all the animals and thermal features in this vast landscape. I hope we all come home inspired to conserve wild places both in North Carolina and beyond.