Instructor Biographies

text: The Grand Canyon Field Institute

Instructor Biographies

Expert Field Instructors

Grand Canyon Association Field Institute is proud of its outstanding team of instructors. Made up of resource experts possessing PhD's, Masters, and Bachelors degrees, our instructors continually share their passion for Grand Canyon with others. The following is a list of instructors that will likely be leading classes during the upcoming season.

If the class description lists the instructor as “Field Institute staff,” one of the following instructors will serve in that capacity. Preclass materials will indicate which instructor has been scheduled for your class, or you can call the Field Institute office for the latest information on specific assignments. All instructors listed, with the exception of Mike Buchheit, Jack Pennington, Elaine Maier, and Jennifer Allen, are acting as independent contractors while leading courses and performing duties for the Field Institute. Mike, Jack, Elaine, and Jennifer are full-time employees of the Grand Canyon Association Field Institute.

Listed alphabetically by last name.
Need to find someone quickly and you know their name? Use the "Search this site" function in the upper right of the page.

Mike Campbell

Mike's professional background is in computational chemistry, but in 2012 he put the high-tech world on hold to tour the Southwest in his Volkswagen van. The next year, Mike moved to the South Rim with his wife Mandy, and has been leading hikes and teaching in Grand Canyon's backcountry ever since. In addition to working as an instructor for GCAFI and the Petrified Forest Field Institute, he also owns and operates his own guiding service. Mike has written for numerous canyon-related publications, including Canyon Views and Hit the Trail.

Bruce Aiken

For over 30 years, Bruce Aiken and his wife, Mary, have lived at Roaring Springs, the source of water for both the North and South Rims located along the North Kaibab Trail. There, in the canyon’s depths, they raised their three children. A renowned artist, Bruce’s paintings of Grand Canyon capture its varied landscapes and mesmerizing beauty with vivid colors, intimate details and a unique style that some art critics have labeled “authoritative realism.”

Stewart Aitchison

Stewart Aitchison is a zoologist and geologist by training and a naturalist of the American Southwest by passion.

He has been exploring, photographing, teaching, and writing about the Colorado Plateau for nearly fifty years, ten of those as a field biologist for the Museum of Northern Arizona. Besides leading trips for GCAFI, he also escorts educational excursions for National Audubon Society, Smithsonian, Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic Expeditions, Elderhostel, and other educational groups across much of the globe.

Stewart has written a long list of popular books including Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Arizona Mountains and Grand Canyon; Grand Canyon: Window of Time; Red Rock-Sacred Mountain: The Canyons and Peaks from Sedona to Flagstaff; A Traveler’s Guide to Monument Valley; A Naturalist’s San Juan River Guide, Utah Wildlands and Death Valley: Splendid Desolation. His latest books include Grand Canyon's North Rim and Beyond, A Guide to Southern Utah's Hole-in-the-Rock Trail and The Desert Islands of Mexico's Sea of Cortez.

He is also an accomplished photographer having his images published in a number of widely circulated magazines including Arizona Highways, and National Geographic Society to name just a couple. Stewart is the 2001 recipient of the Copper Quill Award, an award that recognizes authors who have significantly contributed to Arizona’s literature.

When not working, he splits his time between Flagstaff, Arizona and Bluff, Utah enjoying hiking, llama wrangling, and rowing his raft down the San Juan River.

Jennifer Allen

Jennifer first visited the Grand Canyon in 1982 and, on that first trip, she took a helicopter ride and received an awe-inspiring overview of what is now her home. From that first encounter, she knew she would visit the Canyon again to explore in detail its forested rims and rocky depths. Growing up in Illinois, her love of nature was first cultivated along the Iroquois River and in the Shawnee National Forest. She graduated with a BS in Biology from Illinois College and a MA in Environmental Education from the University of Illinois.

After completing her AmeriCorps work with the Forest Service in Flagstaff in 1997, she moved to the South Rim to work at the Grand Canyon National Park's Native Plant Nursery bringing her botany knowledge to bear.

Since then, Jennifer has spent the last 19 years living, working, raising kids, and exploring at the Grand Canyon. She has worked for the Park's Vegetation Program on the South Rim, North Rim, and along the Colorado River. Additionally she worked for the Park's Concession Management Division. Currently, Jennifer leads Canyon tours, teaches yoga locally, and serves as a board member for the Grand Canyon School District.

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson has been researching, writing and teaching the history of the Grand Canyon region since 1990. He is the author of three canyon books: Living at the Edge: Explorers, Exploiters and Settlers of the Grand Canyon Region; Polishing the Jewel: An Administrative History of Grand Canyon National Park; and Along the Rim: A Guide to Grand Canyon’s South Rim from Hermits Rest to Desert View. Mike organized the canyon’s first history symposium in January 2002 and edited the resulting proceedings for publication by the Grand Canyon Association.

Mitch Baird

Mitch is a representational painter and believes that painting is a celebration of life and the beauty that surrounds us. He is devoted to the tradition of working from life or ‘en plein air’ to gain inspiration regarding light, color, and design. What better place to seek out this inspiration than the grandeur of the Grand Canyon? It is a natural catalyst for capturing these qualities of natural light, color harmony, and play on designing shape and form. With all that the Canyon has to offer it is a place that keeps artists returning without ever running out of moods, motifs and masterpieces. Mitch uses the Grand Canyon often in his work to communicate his artistic desire, which is to “portray a positive visual statement and hope the viewer will experience what I see and in some sense be inspired, uplifted, or moved by my painting, whether it is of a small intimate setting or a grandiose subject.”

Mitch resides in the desert southwest in Mesa, Arizona with his wife and children. He is a Signature Member in the Oil Painters of America and the American Impressionist Society, as well as a member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters organization.

Lyle Balenquah

Lyle Balenquah, Hopi, is a member of the Greasewood clan from the Village of Bacavi. He has earned Bachelors (1999) and Masters (2002) degrees in Anthropology from Northern Arizona University. For over 15 years he has worked throughout the American Southwest as an archaeologist documenting ancestral Hopi settlements and their lifeways. Currently he works as an independent consultant but his work experience includes time with the National Park Service, The Hopi Tribe, and the Museum of Northern Arizona. He also works as a part-time hiking and river guide, combining his professional knowledge and training with personal insights about his ancestral history to provide a unique forum of public education.

Bryan Bates

Bryan Bates has explored and led wilderness trips in the mountains and canyons of the West for 40 years. Following a B.A. Degree in Native American Studies and M.S. in Environmental Science, he and a friend backpacked 21 days through the Grand Canyon.

Bryan has led canyoneering backpacks, been a river guide, and conducted archaeological & archaeoastronomical research across the Colorado Plateau including the Grand Canyon. He has published 8 vetted papers on archaeoastronomy, was Chair of the Oxford International Conf on Cultural Astronomy, editor of several conference publications, and currently President of the Society for Cultural Astronomy. Bryan taught biology, environmental science and natural history at Coconino Community College, until retiring as Professor Emeritus, Science, at CCC. He now leads tours for GCAFI, National Geographic, and several other distinguished organizations.

He and his family live in Flagstaff, in a “sustainability awarded”, two-story, solar hogan that he designed and built.

Gary Bolton

Gary Bolton fell in love with the Grand Canyon at a young age and considers the canyon his home. In the past 35 years, he has rowed more than 160 Grand Canyon river trips, guided river expeditions in 12 other countries, and led treks in the high Himalayas of Nepal, India, Pakistan and China. Gary received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and botany, respectively, from the University of California, Davis, and his Ph.D. in natural resources from the University of Arizona. He is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, but Gary’s favorite activity is sharing his love of the natural world and teaching natural sciences on long outdoor adventures.

Carl Bowman

Carl Bowman worked for the National Park Service from 1974 to 2013 during which time his career had him in a variety of positions: janitor, wildland fire fighter, archaeologist, ranger, and scientist. At Grand Canyon he was the Park’s air quality specialist for 17 years before moving to a position as an exhibit specialist, where his projects included the Yavapai Geology Museum and Grand Canyon Visitor Center. A long-time student of Grand Canyon, Carl has shared its stories with park visitors, staff, university classes and tour groups, along the rim, on the trails, and down the River. With a bachelor’s degree in biology, and over 25 years of life on the South Rim, he knows the Canyon well, but Carl’s specialty is relating the Canyon’s varied and constantly evolving geologic stories.