Executive Director Joanna Stodden was born and raised in the rivers, forests, and mountains of the Duwamish, Suquamish, Muckleshoot and other Coast Salish peoples.  After graduating with a BS in field biology from the Evergreen State College, she worked for several environmental consulting firms conducting stream surveys for amphibians and salmon habitat all over Southeast Alaska.  She eventually became lonely among the grizzly bears and mosquitoes and felt a strong desire to share the remarkable biodiversity of our earth with others.  She has taught environmental education on beaches, forests, wetlands, aboard tall ships, in school gardens, and on a beach with the third greatest tidal exchange in the world! She began teaching Beach Heroes Programs for the Environmental Science Center in 2009 and served as ESC’s Program Manager from 2015-2019.  Joanna is delighted to advocate for outdoor programming in south King County and feels honored to be able to partner with the dedicated and talented teachers, parents, students, and community members who understand the value in stepping outside of the four walls of the classroom.  You will most likely find Joanna squawking and dancing with the herons, or following an ant back to her colony alongside her busy and inquisitive toddler. (she/her) 

Grants and Programs Director Kelly Steffen has been working in marine and environmental education for years.  Her previous employment had her sharing the marine wonders to the land-locked citizens of Utah as the Director of Education at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. She has also taught students in south Texas and Florida but the Pacific Northwest has always had that special draw. Working as a naturalist, coordinator for the Salmon Heroes program, and now managing the grants, Kelly is excited to be a part of the work ESC is doing to share the wonders of the Puget Sound area. Kelly holds a B.A. in Biology from Lewis & Clark College and a M.S. in Marine Science from The University of Texas at Austin. When she finds time, she enjoys gardening, camping, triathlons, and chasing after her two girls.  (she/her)

Programs Manager Rosie Wilson-Briggs has been working outdoors with youth since 2012, in habitats ranging from temperate rainforests to urban parks to the waters of the Salish Sea. A certificate program in Scientific Illustration at the University of Washington brought her to the Pacific Northwest in 2010, where she fell in love with this beautiful place. Since then she’s worked seasonally at various outdoor education organizations, including as a naturalist at ESC and as a program coordinator aboard the Schooner Adventuress. In 2020 she received a master’s degree in Urban Environmental Education from Antioch University Seattle, which helped bring clarity and focus for her to the issues of equity, access, and relevance in outdoor education. She is dedicated and wildly enthusiastic about the work that ESC is doing, and is excited to expand into her new role here. Besides working outdoors, she finds joy in drawing, knitting, playing role-playing games, and swimming in rivers. Rosie is out on maternity leave until June 2024. Program questions can be directed to Hanna Jones (see below).  (she/her)

Community Engagement Manager, Katy Kachmarik earned her B.S. in marine biology from the University of Oregon and her M.A. in Biology and Community Engagement through Woodland Park Zoo’s Advanced Inquiry Program. Ever since, she has worked to connect people to their local waterways and build empathy for marine wildlife. She is excited to bring her enthusiasm for accessible environmental education to ESC’s community programs. Katy has held many different education and outreach positions at various institutions including Highline College’s Marine Science and Technology Center, Pacific Science Center, and Imagine Children’s Museum. In her spare time she can be found watching Disney movies, gardening on her apartment’s patio, or reading a fantasy book.  (she/her)

Teen Gardens and Restoration Coordinator, Orian Grant has long felt a connection to communities and the environment coming from rural Xenia, Ohio. While studying sustainability and environmental science at Pacific Lutheran University, they assumed a position as Sustainability Coordinator in 2011. This experience emphasized the intrinsic connection between our food systems, water and our global oceans. Since then, Orian has committed 15 years working in environmental and marine science through STEM and outdoor education and 12 years of permaculture and landscaping design.

Applying these skills in 2020, Orian co-founded a BIPOC urban farming organization titled Black Star Farmer, with their experience providing insight into the programming and mission development.  (they/them)

Teacher Professional Development Coordinator, Hanna Jones moved to Coast Salish lands in 2010. While in college, she started volunteering at a tiny aquarium and became completely obsessed with the marine life of the Salish Sea. Hanna designed an interdisciplinary degree studying marine science and environmental education at Western Washington University. After graduating, she continued to follow her passion for teaching outdoors and had many different jobs including leading habitat restoration, being a beach naturalist, cooking food on a sailboat, and developing curriculum for an aquarium. She started working for ESC in 2017 and returned seasonally for several years. After completing a Master’s in Education through IslandWood and University of Washington, Hanna was thrilled to return to ESC and bring her enthusiasm for youth-led environmental action to her role supporting other teachers. In her free time she enjoys SCUBA diving, roller skating, and caring for her plants. (she/her)

Afterschool Programs Coordinator, Kia Hang was born and raised among the natural beauty of Washington State. This life experience created a deep love for the environment, earning her a B.S. in Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management from the University of Washington. Kia previously worked at the Woodland Park Zoo where she honed her environmental interpretation skills by teaching visitors about the birds she cared for. She began her ESC journey in 2021 as a naturalist and is excited to take on this new role. Her passion for teaching stems from her desire to share the wonders of nature. In addition to working at ESC, Kia also volunteers at Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research (SR3) where she tends the facility and marine mammal patients. During her spare time, you’ll find Kia playing video games, drawing, or spending time with her family. (she/her)

Beach Heroes Coordinator, Haley Virella-Szwejbka graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a B. A. in Sustainability Studies, specializing in Natural Resource Management. Throughout her studies, she noticed a lot of sustainable practices in the corporate world and the community alike rely heavily on education and exposure. She began her career in outdoor education with an internship at the Austin based nonprofit The Colorado River Alliance. Upon moving to the Pacific Northwest a few years ago, she became a naturalist at ESC. Despite living in Texas prairie ecosystems for most of her life, she quickly became comfortable with the Salish Sea and extensive riparian corridors of Seattle. Haley is proud of what ESC provides for the community and constantly strives to make environmental science and sustainability a little less scary for children and adults alike. When she is not working, you can find Haley at the ceramics studio making silly little guys. (she/her)

ESC Board Members: We are supported by an active board of directors and encourage you to learn more about them, and the opportunities to join.

ESC Naturalists: We are also fortunate to have a corps of highly qualified and passionate part-time naturalists! Positions open seasonally for school programs of Beach Heroes and Salmon Heroes and lead into community program opportunities. Volunteering can be a gateway for all roles and we hope you join our team!

Naturalist Introductions: Interested in learning more about our incredible naturalists? Here are some short videos in which our naturalists tell a little bit about how and why they became scientists and educators, and talk about what a day at their job looks like!

Naturalist Vale (3:33 minutes)

Naturalist Alyssa (3:15 minutes)