Yellowstone Institute: Meet the Team

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2024 Yellowstone Institute Participants

Svetlana Beamon
Science Educator
Spring Creek High School, Wayne County
Hobbies: Reading, games (board and video), jam-making, spending time with friends and family.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to exploring Yellowstone and all the wonders that it holds. I would love to see Old Faithful erupt, the colors of the thermophilic waters, the nature (plants and animals) and how they are interconnected. I am looking forward to sunrises, sunsets, views, and the smells of nature.
James Robert Blake
Math Teacher
Woodington Middle School, Lenoir County
Hobbies: Sports, reading, and other outdoor activities.
Looking forward to: I’m looking forward to experiencing a completely new environment that I’ve never been to before. I’m also looking forward to seeing and learning about the bison and other wildlife that aren’t present in Eastern NC.
Megan Boltes
K-8 STEM Teacher, 8th Grade Science Teacher
S.W. Snowden School, Beaufort County
Hobbies: Reading, baking, watching sports, enjoying the Pamlico Sound
Looking forward to: Learning from the Yellowstone experts.
Evan Ferguson
Cape Hatteras Secondary School, Dare County
Hobbies: Cooking, reading, yoga, gardening, working on our off-grid cabin, enjoying the outdoors and spending time with my family.
Looking forward to: I am so excited for my first visit to Yellowstone! I look forward to learning about park history, management and sustainable practices. I cannot wait to explore the natural wonders of Yellowstone and observe the vast array of flora and fauna. I also look forward to making new friends and expanding my professional network.
Laura Martinez
Community Engagement Coordinator
Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, Durham County
Hobbies: Watching movies, tap dancing, and hiking.
Looking forward to: Experiencing the history of the country’s first national park.
Allyson McFalls
6th Grade Science and ELA Teacher
Blowing Rock School, Watauga County
Hobbies: I love gardening, reading, baking, and hiking with my family and dog. I also enjoy painting and crocheting when I find the time.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to experiencing all the wildlife in Yellowstone, as well as the mountains that are so different from the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m also excited about experiencing all that the park has to offer with hiking trails and geysers.
Jessica Parker
Science Teacher
Cox Mill High School, Cabarrus County
Hobbies: Baseball, travel, all things science and all the dogs!
Looking forward to: I’m looking forward to seeing a part of the country I have never seen before — the scenery, the flora and fauna, the history and the local culture! I will be thrilled to see a bear or wolf but I know no matter what, I am going to have a wonderful time!
Liz Peeples
Humanities Instructor
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham County
Hobbies: Exploring and traveling with friends and my son; reading; trying new restaurants and bars; and floating in rivers, oceans and lakes.
Looking forward to: Mary Oliver once wrote “Take your busy heart to the art museum and the/chamber of commerce/but take it also to the forest.” I’m looking forward to “being in the forest” with fellow educators, learning with and from them and experts in the field about ways to be engaged in the important work of educating our students and communities about environmental conservation and climate change, and exploring and learning in a National Park.
Lakan Perry Allen
4th and 5th Grade ELA and Social Studies Teacher
NEDA (Nash Everywhere Digital Academy), Nash County
Hobbies: I enjoy all things creative, artistic, and nature-related. Some of my favorite things to do are walk and run, take photos, draw, take care of my chickens, and spend time working in the yard.
Looking forward to: Yellowstone is such an amazing opportunity. I am looking forward to being immersed in nature in a place I’ve never been before. I can’t wait to see all the landmarks, observe all the animals, and bring everything back to share with my students.
Jessica Pichan
Bethel School, Pitt County
Hobbies: Traveling and hiking with my family, going to concerts, and doing all the yoga.
Looking forward to: I am so deeply excited about the opportunity to experience the beauty and wonder of Yellowstone National Park and to hear experts in the field share their perspectives.
Laura Walkup
Special Education Co-Teacher/Middle School
Dixon Middle School, Onslow County
Hobbies: Time with family and friends, yoga, walking, reading & collecting vintage glass to name a few!
Looking forward to: Experiencing a new-to-me place in nature with like-minded educators. I hope to see a BEAR!
David Williamson
Science Department Head and High School Life Sciences Teacher
The O’Neal School, Moore County
Hobbies: Hiking, birding, wildlife viewing.
Looking forward to: I’m most excited to hopefully catch a glimpse of wolves in Yellowstone, as well as experiencing a landscape different from anything I’ve seen before.



Paige Stanley
Elementary Technology and Middle School AVID Teacher
Chicod School, Pitt County
Hobbies: Painting, design, card making, working with plants and flowers.
Looking forward to: Having time to enjoy and experience nature without limits. Being able to take in nature and learn from where I am and who I am with. Being in a different part of the country, in a different climate, and at a very different elevation.
Misty V. Morgan
3rd Grade Teacher
Catawba Elementary School, Catawba County
Hobbies: Reading, school, cooking, hiking, kayaking.
Looking forward to: I am so excited for the amazing experience we will have in Yellowstone National Park. It will be wonderful making new connections and friendships with fellow educators, exploring thermal basins, watching wildlife, hiking trails, and taking photographs. I am looking forward to collaborating with fellow educators on the memorable experiences to come!

Museum Staff Leaders

Melissa Dowland
Manager of Teacher Education
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Hobbies: Camping, hiking, reading, nature photography.
Looking forward to: Returning to Yellowstone with an amazing group of educators and introducing them to its wonders, meeting up with and learning from friends and experts in the park, and experiencing the wildness that is ever-present in our first national park.
Martha Fisk
Manager of Offsite and Virtual Outreach
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Hobbies: Reading, adventuring with my two young boys, piano, and baking pies.
Looking forward to: Being in wide open spaces and exploring the big sky country of Yellowstone. I am excited to really get to know these special places and share these experiences with educators. I hope we see and hear wolves!!
Emma Blackford
Head of Prairie Ridge Ecostation
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Hobbies: Birding, hiking, reading, documenting nature.
Looking forward to: Building connections with NC educators while exploring the wonders of Yellowstone. I’m excited to witness the joy of our group as they see Yellowstone’s wildlife (for many, for the first time), and I am hoping to see a new-to-me bird on the trip!

2023 Yellowstone Institute Team
2019 Yellowstone Institute Team