CalNat Instructors

Chris Cameron -Executive Director at Camp Ocean Pines


Executive Director of Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria.  Chris has a life-long love for nature. Using wind-felled logs from the property and straw bale construction in the passive solar designed cabins, Chris has developed the reputation of Camp Ocean Pines as a place of natural beauty and sustainable development, a center for growth in students and adults alike. Through the years, Chris has led hundreds of kids and adults on wild adventures.  A resident on the central coast for 37 years, his hobbies include falconry, gardening, and traveling.  

He has a Master’s degree in organizational leadership, and can be reached at 805.927.0254, by cell 805.441.9726 or by email at

John Menke - CalNat Instructor

John Menke studied zoology at Drew University, marine biology at Texas A&M, and has a PhD in ecology from the University of Arizona.  As a resident biologist for the Peace Corps, he researched oysters in Chile, followed by marine ecology/research on coral reefs in Honduras as Fulbright lecturer.  While living in Arizona, John was an adjunct professor at Univ. of Arizona, later head of the science department at the Gregory School, and the President of Saguaro Forest Associates.

Now retired, John generously donates his time as an active docent at the Coastal Discovery Center, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and a naturalist at Camp Ocean Pines (Cambria, CA).

Miranda Canestro - Cuesta College, Rancho Marino

Miranda Canestro studied at UC Santa Cruz and worked as a researcher in marine natural products chemistry. As a specimen collector, she led expeditions to dive for tropical marine sponges throughout the Indo and South Pacific in search of new leads for cancer drugs. Miranda moved to UCSB Rancho Marino Reserve, Cambria in 2001 where she has been involved with research and education and expanded her interests to forest and grassland ecology. Miranda is a part time faculty member at Cuesta College where she teaches life science and human anatomy.

Faylla Chapman - Science teacher, retired

Faylla Chapman is a long time resident of the Central Coast.  She has her MS from UC Irvine, with postgraduate studies at Hopkins Marine Station and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  Her speciality is marine microbiology and algal taxonomy and physical and microbiological characteristics.  She has extensive research and consulting experience, but has expressed her talent by teaching middle and high school science students for over 20 years!  On the side, she repairs microscopes!  In her retirement, she is still very involved in education with our local CA state park system.  She can be reached at

Dennis Sheridan - Naturalist

Dennis Sheridan is a biologist with a special love entomology, herpetology and mycology. His photos have appeared in many publications including National Geographic, Ranger Rick and California Wild (cover).  Dennis provides animal photo seminars to Brooks Institute and Lepp Institute.  Dennis has produced educational video programs on entomology. His own unique animals have appeared on television and films.

Dennis is a long-time member of many plant and animal conservation groups.  He specializes in photography and field monitoring for species of special concern, traveling to wild parts of the planet in search of exotic species. His photographs have been exhibited in many galleries and special shows.

Alena Porte - Ventana Wilderness Society

Alena Porte in an East Coaster who has called California home for 16 years. She holds a B.S.E. in Recreation and Outdoor Education from State University of New York at Cortland, and has extensive experience working with children and young adults in special education, nature education and sports. With Ventana Wildlife Society since 2004, her focus has been on providing meaningful outdoor education experiences for over 1,000 youth annually, and sharing the nonprofit's work in the release and management of endangered California condors in the Central coast region. Her extra time is spent playing and coaching rugby, traveling and ballroom dancing.

Cara O’Brien - CA State Parks

Cara O’Brien has a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been creatively connecting visitors to park resources for the National Park Service and California State Parks for 23 years.  She delights in knowing that hundreds of Interpreters she has trained are engaging visitors with hands-on activities and giving lively Junior Ranger programs throughout California. While at work or exploring above and below the ocean’s surface with her family, she is passionate about sharing California’s diverse natural wonders.  Cara enjoys being the Outreach/Education Coordinator for the Seabird Protection Network and a Co-Chair of the San Luis Obispo County Marine Protected Area Collaborative. Contact her at


Sabrina Drill - Associate Director, California Naturalist

Sabrina has a deep interest in helping people connect to nature, and use scientific information to care for the environment around them, whether in the “big wilds” or the urban core. Her specific area of expertise is freshwater systems. Her current areas of research and education include restoring urban streams habitat for native fishes, and managing invasive species. She has worked in conducted research in Southern California, the Colorado River, the Hudson River, and the East African Great Lakes. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography and a M.S. in Biology from UCLA, a B.S. in Biology from Virginia Tech, and a A.A. in Natural Science from Simon’s Rock of Bard College.



Carol Adams - Piedras Blancas

Carole has been involved in sharing her passion for the natural world for many years, volunteering with several agencies including California State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management. As a volunteer at the Piedras Blancas Light Station for over 13 years, Carole spearheaded a very successful native plant restoration effort and was an active partner in developing public tours. Carole believes that respect for wildlife, and all the natural world, comes from education.

Carole received the prestigious BLM Making a Difference Award in 2004.


Phil Adams - Friends of the Elephant Seals


Phil has been an active member of Friends of the Elephant Seal (FES) since 1998. Together with his wife, they wrote a book on elephant seals that is widely used for general information and training purposes. Phil has been involved in training FES docents for over 9 years. He enjoys speaking to the public about elephant seals in the hopes of stimulating respectful viewing of these remarkable animals. Phil also volunteers for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s TeamOCEAN and BeachCOMBER programs.

Phil has won several awards, including the National Marine Sanctuaries Outstanding Volunteer Service award, 2008.


Chris Dicus - Cal Poly fire/forest

Dr. Dicus, our resident fire guru, comes to Cal Poly from down on the bayou in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There, he was a Gilbert Research Fellow and received a Ph.D. in Forestry at Louisiana State University. He received an M.S. in Forest Resources from Utah State University and a B.S. in Forestry and Wildlife from Louisiana Tech University.

Dr. Dicus sits on the Board of Directors of The Association for Fire Ecology and also the San Luis Obispo County FireSafe Council. He is also is active in the Society of American Foresters and the International Association of Wildland Fire. He enjoys spending time with his family and church activities, surfing, backpacking, and writing music


Carolyn Skinder - Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary

As Education and Outreach Specialist, Carolyn Skinder staffs the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary's southern office and oversees operation of the Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay. The docent-run Coastal Discovery Center serves to educate over 15,000 visitors and school groups annually about the marine environment, the MBNMS, and the CA State Parks.

Ms. Skinder earned a Master of Science in Science Education from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master of Science in Marine Science and Policy from the University of Maine. Her career as an educator encompasses 15 years of teaching, designing, and directing programs in formal and experiential education.

Dr. David Chipping - Cal Poly

Dr. David Chipping was born in Scotland in1943. He has a BA from Cambridge University (1965), came to the U.S. and earned a MS (1967) and PhD (1971) in Geology at Stanford University. He has taught at U.C Davis (1968 -1971), and Cal Poly State University (1971-present), where he is Emeritus Professor of Geology. He joined CNPS in 1987 as Conservation Chair and is currently Chapter President. He has served on the Executive Council of CNPS and was Conservation Director from 1999-2005. He serves on several state CNPS Committees and is Vice President of The Friends of the Carrizo Plain.


Royce Larson - UC Coop Extension

Royce Larson is the University of California Cooperative Extension Area Watershed / Natural Resource Advisor on the California Central Coast. He has conducted educational and applied research programs in water quality, watershed function, water quality, grassland restoration, forage production and ecology, oak woodlands and other natural resource issues associated with rangelands since 1997. Royce received his B.S. from Utah State University, and M.S. and Ph.D. from Oregon State University. He is a certified rangeland manager with the California State Board of Forestry and the Society for Range Management.  


Don Canestro - Rancho Marino UC Reserve


Don Canestro has been the Reserve Director of the UC Ken Norris Rancho Marino Reserve since its inception in 2001.  With an undergraduate degree in Conservation of Natural Resources from UCB and masters in Marine Science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories,  he has participated in underwater research projects from the Arctic to Antarctic, and worked as theScientific Diving Safety Officer at UCSC, training the next generation of underwater biologists. At the reserve he has worked to facilitate grassland, forest and marine research.




Michele Roest - Science and Environmental Education Development

Michele Roest is the founder of Science and Environmental Education Development (SEED). Michele has been a science educator since 1987 and holds advanced degrees in biology and education. Michele is passionate about nature interpretation as a means to stimulate engagement and offer meaning to the lives of others. Michele's clients include federal, state and regional government agencies, national and local non-profit organizations, and private companies. Visit SEED's website at

Michele's completed interpretive projects include project management locally on nature centers (the Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay and the Sanctuary Exploration Center in Santa Cruz), interpretive signage plans (Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary), theme-based education programs (Threatened and Thriving), college-level biology and science education courses (Cuesta College and Cal Poly State University), and nature camp programs (Camp Ocean Pines). Michele is a volunteer field trip leader for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival and writes the Coast Lines column for the Cambrian newspaper. 

Sarah M. Bisbing - California Polytechnic State University

Dr. Sarah Bisbing is a classically-trained forest ecologist, whose research focuses on the dynamic relationship between disturbance and altered climate on forest composition, structure, and function. She is currently a professor of forest ecology & silviculture at Cal Poly - SLO. Sarah earned her BS and MS in Forestry from the University of Montana (go, griz!) and her PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University. Sarah’s teaching emphasizes field-based learning, and she is always up for a trip to a mountain forest ecosystem. When not teaching and researching, you can her find running, biking, or climbing with the lab mascot, Dawkins the Dog.