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Eva grew up in Berkeley, CA and is a recent graduate of UCSB, where she studied Aquatic Biology and German Language. During her undergrad, Eva worked as an aquarist at UCSB’s Research Experience and Education Facility (the REEF), where she managed the aquarium facility and found a love for science communication and conservation.
Eva is passionate about environmental education as a way of breaking down the walls around science literacy and as a way of reintegrating us with our natural world.
When she’s not working at Explore Ecology, she enjoys hiking, swimming, cooking, and writing silly folk songs.
Phillip is a recent Westmont College graduate and a proud member of the inaugural class of Environmental Studies students from Westmont. Phillip is excited to be on the Explore Ecology teaching team because he loves to inspire others about nature as his mentors have done for him.
Outside of Explore Ecology, Phillip is an active SCUBA diving instructor and enjoys teaching others how to scuba dive on weekends. In addition to teaching, Phillip loves to be with his friends. Whether that is inside doing something or outside on an adventure, he loves it!
Ellie Cotter is a recent graduate of UCSB who studied Environmental Studies with a minor in Philosophy. Ellie learned the importance of community based action, spending her years interning and volunteering for local groups, such as Coal Oil Point Reserve and North Campus Open Space.
Ellie is very excited to apply her passion for environmental awareness and community building and action towards her love for teaching youth.
Joey is grateful to have grown up with an abundance of nature around him and is happiest in the water or in the sun. From a young age, Joey felt a responsibility to take care of the Earth in return for all the ways she has taken care of him. This led Joey to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies at UCSB where he furthered his knowledge of how different human societies have conceptualized and interacted with the natural world throughout history.
Joey believes that while it’s important we know the severity and multitude of ecological crises we face, too much doom and gloom leads to inaction and a lack of hope and that we are deceived into believing that humans are inherently “bad for nature” and further separated from the reality that we are ecological beings- as capable for creation as we are for destruction.
Joey thinks it’s crucial t0 focus on creative and direct solutions towards building a more sustainable future. He believes that one of the most important ways we can do this is by re-entering a reciprocal relationship with the Earth and in the garden this type of relationship is clear. The love and labor we put into the garden, the garden gives right back!
Rachel is an artist and arts educator who loves to see people access their innate creativity and jump into the fun of making.
Rachel’s own creative practice centers around fiber arts and the magic of natural dye.
When she isn’t in her small dye garden or working on a project, she’s most likely on a hike, or at the beach with her dog Kiko.
Garden Education Coordinator
Alyssa grew up on Long Island, New York and spent a lot of her childhood and early adulthood exploring the mountains, meadows, and beaches throughout the East Coast. These formative experiences in nature, along with impactful mentors and coursework in undergraduate and graduate school, inspired her to pursue a career connecting youth with the natural world. From the deciduous forests of New England to the shores of the Big Island of Hawaii, Alyssa has spent over 10 years working with youth of all ages on urban and rural farms, in school gardens, and in beautiful, wild places. Alyssa is passionate about facilitating meaningful experiences for youth that deepen their connections to self, community, and the land and she believes that school gardens are the perfect place to do this.
It brings her great joy to work in the school gardens throughout our community and to guide youth in learning how to become stewards of our earth, gaining an appreciation for growing plants, and experiencing the magic and wonder these special spaces have to offer.
In her free time, Alyssa loves hiking and backpacking, experimenting with natural dyes and pigments, reading, and playing the violin.
Art From Scrap Creative Reuse Store Director
Nicole is a mixed media artist and vintage goods specialist who has been managing Art from Scrap since 2020.
Originally from Santa Barbara, she spent nine years living in San Francisco before returning to her hometown.
Prior to her work in the art world, Nicole had a background in visual merchandising, fashion styling, and graphic design.
In her free time, Nicole is passionate about political and social activism, and is always looking for ways to make a positive impact in her community. Nicole also loves spending time with animals, particularly dogs and horses, and used to work as a dog walker before transitioning into her current role as an art manager.
Veronica grew up in San Diego and spent four years in San Luis Obispo studying Animal Science at Cal Poly. As an undergrad she learned lots about livestock, agriculture, and wildlife.
Veronica is very passionate about conservation and sustainable agricultural practices. She has spent many summers working in environmental education at various zoos and museums and loves introducing kids to the plants and animals that coexist with us.
In her free time, Veronica likes to sit at the beach and read, take dance classes, roller skate, and walk around fancy neighborhoods to look at the houses.
Explore Ecology Mascot
I love coming to work and getting pets from everyone.
In my spare time, I like to sleep, eat, hike, and explore nature.
Did I say eat and sleep?
Ian graduated from UCSB in 2020 and recently returned to Santa Barbara after a two year hiatus doing seasonal work in avian conservation, as well as environmental restoration and education.
When he’s not teaching Ian likes to be outside learning more about native plants, vegetable gardening, natural history, birds, and bioacoustics.
He’s beyond excited to be back in a place he loves while helping students connect with the natural world!
Art From Scrap Sales Associate
Emma Serr is an artist and student studying Studio Art at SBCC.
Emma has a background in art and customer service, having worked as a camp counselor at sewing camp and assistant for sewing events and classes, and display manager and cashier in previous positions, and was recently a nanny to several young children.
Emma first found us as a customer who loved what Art From Scrap represents!
Environmental Education Coordinator
Lydia Ballantine grew up in New Hampshire, where she developed a love of nature playing in the woods and fields and going on outdoor trips with her school and summer camp. She moved to Colorado for college, and while there began working at an environmental education nonprofit.
After moving to Santa Barbara in 2019, she found her way back to environmental education and joined the Explore Ecology team first as an educator and then as a program coordinator.
In her free time Lydia enjoys surfing, rock climbing, and spending time with her dog, Scrappy Coco.
Roxanne is very excited to be part of Explore Ecology’s Garden Education team. She really can’t think of anything she adores more than plants and kids (maybe pets.) Roxanne and her husband Jeff have been working in agriculture for decades. It’s been very rewarding for them to continue to be active in the community and use their growing skills in new ways.
Roxanne has been in the Santa Barbara area her whole life and has no intention of leaving, ever.
Roxanne graduated from UCSB many many years ago with a degree in Spanish. She currently is studying viticulture/agribusiness at Allan Hancock in Santa Maria because she loves knowing as much as she can about agriculture in our area.
Iliana Jacobo is a Garden Educator at three different school sites. Iliana has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Sustainability and Social Justice and a minor in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University.
She was born and raised in Santa Barbara CA and is excited to be back and surrounded by her community.
Iliana teaches in English and Spanish to ensure she reaches as many students possible. She believes children are not only our future- but our TODAY and the treatment that children receive today, shape our present. Iliana provides a fun learning environment where students can grow, feel nurtured, and confident in themselves!
Outside of work- Iliana enjoys creating beautiful picnic spreads with friends and lounging on a blanket.
Public Relations Director
Jill loves educating about nature through all forms of media. She’s a UCSB grad, with additional training in Environmental Horticulture, Documentary Film, and Permaculture.
She is the host and producer of Sustainable World Radio, a long running podcast about the natural world, plants, and Permaculture.
When she’s not hanging out with plants, you can find Jill reading novels (or seed catalogues), natural dyeing, or concocting herbal remedies.
Lindsay grew up in Colorado, where her passion for the outdoors and the wonders that our earth holds started during weekend camping trips in the Rockies and winter ski trips to Colorado’s best ski areas.
When Lindsay’s not working, she spends time with her family in Santa Barbara, traveling, and exploring.
Melissa grew up loving art and nature and was a Fine Arts Major at UCLA. As a child she would dream of making the world a more beautiful place. After graduating, she began her career in Los Angeles as a freelance designer, then segued into the advertising, marketing, and development fields.
Melissa is a singer and musician.
She also loves her chickens!
Director of Programs, People & Culture
Jenny joined Explore Ecology first as an Environmental Educator, then as a Program Coordinator, and most recently moved into the newly created Programs, People & Culture position. Prior to Explore Ecology Jenny worked in science research and consulting, however her passion has always been science education and outreach. Jenny loves all things related to the ocean, especially free diving, and enjoying the beauty and wonder that is the underwater world. Her greatest life passion is traveling, which she hopes to do more of again soon.
Lu’s love of all things Earth began at James Madison University in Virginia, where they got their Bachelor’s degree in Biology. Lu has a Master’s degree in Spatial Ecology- the study of how creatures interact across landscapes- from East Carolina University, where they studied rock pools along a river and the critters that dwell in them.
Lu is thrilled to be teaching budding scientists about the Earth and why it’s important for us to protect and preserve the environment.
When they aren’t teaching, Lu enjoys hiking, bike riding, laying in a hammock near the beach, and listening to one of their 20+ music playlists!
Genevieve grew up in Carpinteria, CA where she spent many years building her tan, tough feet, and love of nature. She studied biological sciences at SBCC and UCSB, and graduated with a BS in Zoology. She spent quite a bit of time traveling and eventually found her husband in the rugged land of Wales. They have raised their two beautiful daughters in Carpinteria over the past 15 years.
Genevieve got her first taste of teaching children about nature at her daughters’ preschool and hasn’t looked back since.
Genevieve started working as a Garden Educator in 2014 and became a Garden Coordinator four years later. Genevieve loves working for an organization that is so committed to helping children connect with nature and the food they eat.
Luz developed a strong sense of devotion for working with diverse populations after studying Sociology at UCSB. Her background in social work includes case management for various non-profits, experience with trauma informed care, and developing/teaching curriculum for school garden education & art resiliency.
Luz’s passion for nature, cooking, and social justice continue to lead her on a mission to improve the health, wellbeing and resilience of her community.
Luz’s goal as a Garden Educator is to create a space for healing and community in the garden.
Sarah is very passionate about being involved in the outdoors, as well as expressing creativity. She grew up in the Bay Area learning to garden with her mother and going hiking, camping, and backpacking with her family regularly. While gardening with her mother, she grew a deep connection with the processes of ecosystems and food production, so Sarah believes it can be incredibly beneficial for kids to get hands-on experience in nature.
In her free time Sarah enjoys creating art through crocheting, drawing, watercolor, and sewing! She is also passionate about small-scale sustainable food production, and being mindful of where her food is coming from, as well as how it was produced. Sarah went on to follow her passion for the environment at UC Santa Cruz, and she recently graduated with a major in Environmental Studies, focused on plant sciences and environmental policy. Much of what Sarah studied had to do with the connection between environment, social, and economic inequities and possible solutions, while the other half of her studies focused on field work and research projects.
Previously, Sarah worked at Fort Ord Natural Reserve, a reserve owned by UCSC for the purpose of research where she assisted with ongoing research projects, learning about, and testing various ecological theories.
Sadie lives outside of Buellton with her husband, two boys, dog, cat, and tortoise.
She grew up farming in the midwest and has a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago.
Sadie loves gardening & landscaping at home (especially irises!) and is the garden educator for Santa Ynez Elementary and Oak Valley Elementary in Buellton.
While she never achieved her childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, her greatest aspiration is still to someday make it into space.
Clare is a professional actress, a mother and a serial volunteer.
Clare was born the 7th of 8 children on a Catholic mission in rural Zimbabwe to a mission doctor father and school teacher mom. Raised in Santa Barbara, Clare enjoyed acting in plays, playing sports and gardening with her family in their backyard.
Clare started acting at Montessori Center School at age six; her first play was performed in a garden. An auspicious sign, to be sure. After graduating from SBHS, Clare went straight to Hollywood and within three years was on a network sitcom; “Coach”. After that, she spent many years acting in television shows and films. She got married in 2002, and had two kids: Lucy in 2003 and James in 2006. After having children, she did some of her best acting work: Weeds, Jericho, Aquarius, Crash, CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, to name a few.
While volunteering for the green team at her kids’ elementary school the idea arose to build a native schoolyard habitat adjacent to the edible garden, An education of sorts ensued, and Clare and two other moms spearheaded the building of the largest native garden on any campus in the LAUSD. She spent the next ten years dedicated to the garden, which she named The Walgrove Wildlands. Clare did everything from writing grants to consulting designers, enrolling environmental & ecological experts to researching and planning curriculum. She organized work days with the community, helped to maintain the gardens and built partnerships to supply the garden with plant starts, mulch and other essentials. As part of a task force clare was working with her school board member and experts in arts and special education to find a way to expand the use of school gardens in the district.
Clare moved back to SB five years ago so her kids could have some experience of living in this beautiful community. She is thrilled to turn her passion for school gardens into a job!
Chloe grew up in nearby Ojai, CA, which helped shape her passion for living a green lifestyle and conserving wildlife.
Chloe loves animals and has fostered puppies and kittens for the Ventura County Humane Society for years.
She also enjoys thrifting and vintage clothing, playing guitar, and anything related to gardening.
Chloe loves helping foster the connection between children and the natural world.
Aimee moved to Santa Barbara from Asheville, North Carolina. She grew up visiting her Grandma in Ojai and wanted to take the opportunity to be closer to her. By lucky accident, she has also found that she is in love with beautiful Santa Barbara! Aimee’s background prior to her Garden Educator position was in Animal Agriculture and she had a layman’s interest in keeping a garden. The Central Coast is a completely different ball game as far as growing produce and she has greatly enjoyed the challenge, as well as taking every opportunity to grow and learn with her students. She loves giving students opportunities to grow lots of food that is delicious right off the plant, as well as learning about the entire ecosystem of their school gardens. She hopes her teaching feels student-led and informed.
Outside of work, Aimee enjoys reading, taking her dog for long walks at Hendry’s beach, and crafting with yarn.
Angie was born and raised in Santa Barbara. She studied Psychology at San Diego State and was a social worker in San Francisco for five years before she discovered her love of growing food. Angie learned how to grow vegetables with the Green Urban Lunch Box in Salt Lake City and then moved back to the Bay Area to start farming.
Angie made her way home to Santa Barbara and discovered Explore Ecology where she is able to combine her love for people, plants, and the environment. She enjoys working as our resident Vermicompost expert and is passionate about soil health, the soil food web, and keeping the red wiggler worms in our large-scale worm bins happy!
Angie loves surfing with the leopard sharks at Devereux and getting lost in the backcountry of Santa Ynez with her husband Chris, son Frank, and their little dog Lucy. She loves being back in Santa Barbara County and her new favorite hobby is learning the names and faces of all the native plants on her walks and hikes. Keep an eye out for Angie on the trails collecting seeds and smelling the sage.
Art From Scrap Store Associate
Paloma is a Chicagoan who came to Santa Barbara to chase the sun and sea. She has always had a passion for the arts and discovered ArtFrom Scrap during one of her visits to the city. It is such a special community gathering spot, and walking in for the first time she knew instantly this was the artistic-minded city she wanted to live in.
As an abstract artist, jewelry maker, and avid sewer, the philosophy of reduce, reuse, and recycle resonates deeply, and she encourage all artists to do their part for Mother Nature.
Greenhouse at La Colina
Vermicompost Coordinator (The Worm Lady)
Angie was born and raised in Santa Barbara. She studied Psychology at San Diego State and was a social worker in San Francisco for five years before she discovered her love of growing food. Angie learned how to grow vegetables with the Green Urban Lunch Box in Salt Lake City and then moved back to the Bay Area to start farming. Angie enjoys teaching students how to grow and harvest veggies, loves surfing with the leopard sharks at Devereux, and getting lost in the backcountry of Santa Ynez with her husband Chris and their little dog Lucy. Keep an eye out for Angie on the trails collecting seeds and smelling the sage.