DAVE SCOTT - Founder/Executive Director
Dave developed a lifelong love for the nature as a young child exploring Texas’ wild places with his brother, Michel. As a teenager, a passion for wilderness survival skills and self-reliance was kindled while he was involved with his county’s local search and rescue team.
After spending 5 years in the US Army, Dave began pursuing his true passions full time, studying wilderness survival, wildlife tracking, youth and adult mentoring, naturalist studies, and sustainable living skills at wilderness schools across the country. Dave has been involved in Environmental Education since 2003 and, in addition to Earth Native Wilderness School, has instructed at several wilderness schools across the country including the Wilderness Awareness School and Alderleaf Wilderness College. Dave is currently one of only 20 individuals in North America certified as a Track and Sign Specialist through the Cybertracker Conservation evaluation system, an international standard for gauging and enhancing in-field knowledge of wildlife behavior and track and sign identification.
Dave is the co-author of Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species. As an educator, Dave’s passion is to help his students establish stong bonds with the outdoors through wildlife tracking, increased sensory awareness, wilderness survival skills, and the knowlede of place. However, Dave’s greatest love is spending time outdoors with his kids.
KRISTEN GERHARD - Director of Youth Programs
Kristen is inspired about connection with youth, adults & whole families through nature immersion, social-emotional learning and community building. She intends to foster opportunities for self-discovery, personal growth, inspiration, self-empowerment, and a greater awareness of sustainable living and land stewardship through Earth Native programs both for herself and others. Kristen holds a degree in Sociology from the University of Texas. She completed Earth Native’s Survival Skills Intensive in 2013. She has also studied native plants & trees with local herbalist Ginger Webb and most recently received a certificate in Permaculture Design. Kristen was deeply moved by her experience in the Art of Mentoring training at Earth Native this year and will be serving on the facilitation team for AOM at the Wilderness Awareness School this summer.
She most recently comes from the Whole Life Learning Center, of which she is a co-founder and has served as Assistant Director for the last several years working to create an inspiring, empowering and engaging learning environment with a connected community of families as an alternative to traditional schooling. Previous work has included youth camp directorship and program coordination at El Ranchito, the Amala Foundation and Youth Advocacy. Other things Kristen loves are dancing, being playful & sneaky, the healing arts, travel & community sharing through food, music, ceremony & storytelling. She will soon be living near Bastrop in a remodeled 1973 airstream with her partner Braden and their amazing dog Star.
JESSICA ENNIS - Youth Instructor/Adult Instructor
Jessica was born and raised in the Great Lakes bioregion. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, she has spent recent years living in Michigan before moving to Austin. After graduating from Calvin College with a degree in International Development, she spent two years working for a refugee resettlement agency, getting to know people from all over the world, starting a craft business for clients, and matching community members with newly arrived refugees.
She has always loved spending time outside, but a few years ago she decided to pursue rewilding full-time. So she left the non-profit world, moved to the Pacific Northwest, and enrolled at Alderleaf Wilderness College, where she completed their 9-month Certification Program.
At Alderleaf, Jessica began to learn more about the art of tracking, a subject which she wasn't particularly passionate about until she met some inspiring tracker women, whose excitement proved to be contagious. She also deepened her knowledge of plants, learning more about ethnobotany and permaculture. After struggling to find and keep one, going to her sit spot became one of her favorite activities. Her passion is nature awareness, and she loves to see kids grow to feel at home in the outdoors.
This will be Jessica’s 4th year as an Instructor with our 9 month Weekly Nature Program. She also teaches at our Youth Monthly program, our Adult Plant Intensive course and many other shorter adult and youth classes. Jessica loves finding the wild in urban environments, and seeing the resilience of plants and animals taking over places abandoned by humans. She finds joy in riding her bike, watching the sky, brewing kombucha, and exploring the landscape.
Mike Dimauro - Youth Instructor/Adult Instructor
Raised in New Jersey, Mike's initial fascination with nature came from countless hours in his backyard woods digging for arrowheads, collecting rocks, building forts, playing spy games, and catching his own wild pets. The land spoke to him through day dreams as he sat in his treehouse, and his favorite pastimes include playing in the rough surf along the Jersey shore.
He spent 4 years studying at Ramapo College of New Jersey, where he graduated with a degree in Accounting while being the captain of the school's soccer team. Mike decided against an office career and went in search of something different. Being inspired by reading Tom Brown Jr.'s The Tracker, he spent the next summer camping with minimal gear in a remote area near coastal Maine and then went on to pursue a five year Mentorship with Mike Douglas, director of the Maine Primitive Skills School. During his stay in Maine, he helped the school grow to a full time endeavor, including infrastructure, a successful apprenticeship program, and a residential instructor staff. Upon leaving Maine in October of 2014, Mike was the school's Head Instructor for Adult Programs and Assistant Instructor for Children's programs. He is also a Registered Maine Guide.
The lessons Mike has learned from survival trips into the wilderness and living for years at a time in structures such as a tipi, a yurt, a grass hut, and an earth-lodge have inspired him to live a life of moderation, and one in tune with the natural rhythms of the Earth. He remains focused on further developing his earth skills, his yoga practice, and exploring the integration of ancestral wisdom with the modern ways of living and thinking. He is very excited to be in the Austin area and thankful for the opportunity to share skills with children and adults.
NICHOLE CROSSON - Youth Instructor
Nichole Crosson lived most of her life in Michigan, finding secret hiding spots in the woods, swimming in freshwater lakes, and [of course] pretending to be a teacher! While studying elementary education in college, she got her first summer camp counselor job doing high ropes, rock climbing, and team building. Having never been to summer camp as a child, Nichole was amazed at how being outdoors almost all of the time was transforming her. She noticed how quickly the magic was working on her students, too, and decided that this is what being a teacher is all about. She went on to work at summer camps in Rhode Island and Maine, leading 4 day back-packing trips, going on swamp hikes, and memorizing the Lorax for the counselors' weekly Friday performance.
Wanting to sustain this wondrous place beyond our walls and make sure the students she was nurturing every day would have clean air to breathe and water to drink, Nichole developed a strong passion for sustainability and environmental advocacy. After graduating from Central Michigan University in 2010, Nichole moved to Austin to become a teacher full time. She has been lucky to find schools that always support her in having nature study and outdoor exploration as main curriculum components. At Open Door Preschool, she took her students on walks in the woods to make forts and look for edible plants, spider webs, and perfect climbing trees. She led a project-based unit on bicycles that culminated in a bike-safety presentation and her 4 year olds even started a compost bin for the school! When teaching 1st and 2nd grade at AHB Community School, Nichole's favorite unit about Texas flora and fauna helped inspire her students to see their own backyards in a whole new way.
Nichole loves to collect leaves and rocks and feathers, go to comedy shows, and practice yoga. Nichole also teaches kids yoga, sharing how her own practice has helped her connect to herself and the world around her. She is excited to be instructing at Earth Native, alongside her students as they make life-changing discoveries outdoors!
CHRIS HYDE - Youth Instructor/Adult Instructor
Avid naturalist and lover of the outdoors, Chris Hyde grew up exploring and learning from the wild places around the Texas Hill Country. Through the Kamana Naturalist Training Program, Chris learned how to understand and celebrate the interconnections of natural diversity throughout the natural world.
Chris has traveled far and wide seeking out wisdom of native living skills, wildlife tracking and ethnobotanical practices. In 2011 Chris graduated from the 9-Month Residential Pathfinder Program and Wildlife Tracking Intensive here at Earth Native, where he earned a Level III Track & Sign Certification from CyberTracker Conservation International.
Since then Chris has turned his love for nature into a passionate career in environmental education for youth and adults using a teaching method that encourages curiosity, motivation, and playfulness in nature here at Earth Native. Chris is certified in Basic First Aid, CPR and Wilderness First Responder through the Wilderness Medicine Institute. He enjoys skateboarding, drawing, archery, tracking and botanical studies.
LINDSAY LOFTIN - Youth Instructor
Lindsay is an outdoor enthusiast from Asheville in the Appalachian mountain region of North Carolina. Some of her earliest memories are of watching birds with her mother and hiking and fishing with her father. From an early age Lindsay learned to find joy in identifying plants and animals and appreciated the intrinsic value of the natural world. Today she hopes to instill this in the children she meets and teaches.
She received a bachelors degree in Environmental Education from Warren Wilson College in Asheville and shortly there after moved to Hawaii to help run an organic farm for a summer. Her love of travel brought her to Olympia, Washington where she began what would be a three year term of National Service with AmeriCorps. Her first year of service was in Olympia with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinating a shorebird and estuary education program. There Lindsay developed a new level of skill and appreciation for birding. She then found herself in Austin, Texas working in Title I East side elementary schools teaching struggling readers to love books and school.
Lindsay has spent the last 4 years teaching and traveling most recently sea kayaking and backpacking in Alaska for a month with NOLS and orca watching in the San Juan islands of Washington state. She is very excited to be teaching children in the outdoors again and to be living in the artistic oasis of Austin.
DAVID CROFT - Adult Instructor
David Croft is a native of the Texas Hill Country and grew up as a “free-range child” with outdoor experience in all parts of Texas. He has interests and experience in Primitive Technologies, SCUBA diving, caving, sailing, flying and wildland studies of all kinds.
In his early college career he studied psychology/geology at the University of Texas and was active in sub-marine and submarine research both with the UT system and the Department of the Interior. After several years of developing his carpentry skills into a design and construction business, his latent interest in medicine and emergency response led him to become a certified EMT with special skills. From there he took on firefighting, EMS response and ultimately full time work at the Seton system first as an Emergency Room Technician then as Operations Manager for Seton’s Emergency Services. During that period he finished a pre-med degree and assumed much of the responsibility for Seton’s disaster response including response to Hazardous Materials Incidents in the region. He also represented the Seton System at the region’s Interagency Disaster Council.
David then returned to school full time to complete a degree in Environmental Management with a focus on Natural Hazards. As an intern at the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, he worked to develop and evaluate emergency response/notification strategies for HAZMAT incidents that threaten water quality in the district.
After graduation, he was recruited by the City of Austin Office of Emergency Management to write the healthcare response plans for Austin/Travis County and then by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help design and implement a Facility Management Information System. David then joined the City of Austin's Wildland Conservation Division helping to care for and manage the City's preserve lands.
David became a Master Naturalist in 2004 and has volunteered in various capacities including teaching primitive technologies for the Capital Area Master Naturalists, Westcave Preserve, the Native Prairie Association of Texas, Scouting and YMCA. He is the Emergency Operations Coordinator for El Ranchito Summer Camp and enjoys teaching “Primitive Technologies”, “Natural Hazards of Texas”, “First Aid off the Grid” and other topics.
MICHEL ORION SCOTT - Adult Instructor
Michel spent most of his youth exploring the wooded areas of central Texas where he was born and raised. After earning a degree in film from the University of Texas, Michel went on to crew, direct, and produce numerous successful films that have been screened and distributed all over the world.
After 12 years in the film business, Michel has never lost touch with his childhood love for the nature and continues to use his career in film as a vehicle to learn from native cultures in various locations of the earth. From Botswana to Bolivia, Namibia to Mongolia and many places in-between, Michel has studied with and been deeply inspired by the way of life of the indigenous peoples that he has been fortunate enough to spend time with. It is with great humility that Michel passes on this wisdom to those who seek it. And he sees it as a great honor to learn much in the process from those who listen and share his passions.
In the early 1990s Mikael started taking zoology classes for fun while working on his computer science degree at the University of Texas. Ornithology was one of those classes, and since then he's been actively birding and volunteering for bird conservation and education activities in the Austin area. These have included Golden-cheeked Warbler surveys for The Nature Conservancy, leading field trips for the Travis Audubon Society, monthly bird surveys at Hornsby bend, many Christmas Bird Counts, and internet-based citizen science projects like eBird and iNaturalist. Since 2006 Mikael has been leading monthly bird walks in his northwest Austin neighborhood and blogging about the more than 200 species of birds he has found there. This neighborhood birding has fueled his excitement for showing people how they can experience nature without leaving the city.
Lee was born in Kerrville and spent his youth exploring the lands and waters of the Texas Hill Country. After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in aerospace engineering, he lived and worked overseas for many years in Germany, England, and China. During this time, he traveled extensively and spent considerable time in some of the greatest ecosystems and wildlife sanctuaries in Asia, Africa, and South America including an epic journey up Mount Kilimanjaro. He also spent numerous months volunteering at various Nature Conservancy preserves in Himalayan China, the desert mountains of the American Southwest and the Pacific Northwest, and most recently central Texas. Upon his return to the U.S., Lee organized and led wolf tracking trips in the mountainous areas of Oregon and the sky islands of the Arizona/New Mexico borderlands before relocating back to the Austin area in 2011.
As a Texas Master Naturalist, Lee has an appreciation regarding all aspects of the outdoors and participated in Earth Native Wilderness School's tracking, primitive hunting, and survival skills intensive programs, subsequently becoming a certified CyberTracker after completing a wolf and brown bear tracking expedition in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. He is an avid backpacker and loves to fish and hunt using his own hand made bow, and enjoys studying riparian, prairie, and forest ecosystems. He is currently developing and leading Earth Native Wilderness School expeditions to numerous intriguing locations in North America and beyond, with a focus on animal tracking/trailing, primitive survival, and pre-historic archeology trips.
Eric was born and raised in Austin. As a kid, his summers were filled with trips to Enchanted Rock, Hamilton's Pool, and all the other natural wonders of central Texas. These experiences instilled a love of the natural world and influenced him to study Environmental Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Upon graduating, he decided to travel throughout Southeast Asia learning about their diverse cultures and ways of life. When he returned to the states, Eric worked on an organic farm on the Oregon coast. All this time away from Austin made him realize how much he loves central Texas and forced him to recognize the importance of 'home'. Wanting to embrace and share all that is Austin, he got a job at the Austin Nature & Science Center teaching elementary kids about the natural world. Some of his accomplishments there include developing a pilot program that brings science and nature to afterschool recreation centers on the east side and creating a botany/edible plant class for homeschoolers.
In 2011, Eric was lucky enough to apprentice through the Way of the Pathfinder program here at Earth Native. The program vastly improved his nature mentoring skills and furthered his knowledge and love for survival skills and naturalist studies. Some highlights include building a hackberry bow, making a knife with an agarita handle, brain-tanning, and tracking throughout Big Bend and the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
In the end though, Eric's passion lies with the plant world. Eric has led multiple plant walks through the Austin Nature & Science Center and Earth Native and has studied herbalism at the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine here in Austin. Plants are his hobby; if you find him on any given day, he's probably doing something with plants.