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.
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Dan Hall

Dan Hall has been a rafting guide on the Colorado River for more than 15 years. Dan came to the profession with a background in philosophy, education and improvisational theater. In addition to guiding commercial rafting trips he is often employed by Grand Canyon National Park to run resource river trips that study vegetation and archaeology.

Sam Hagler

Sam has been playing in the Grand Canyon since the 90's and guiding, and teaching since 2003. He has lived and guided with Takanas in the Amazon, speaks Spanish and Guarani fluently, and loves working with both domestic and international travelers. As a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School’s backpacking course, a WMI Wilderness First Responder, and a returned Environmental Education Volunteer with the Peace Corps, he loves backpacking and interpreting his surroundings through a variety of culturally-colored lenses. He went to graduate school for Sustainable Communities at NAU and studied Parks and Recreation Management and Philosophy in undergrad. He leads his tours with an emphasis on story, photography, and appeals to all six senses.

Wendy Hodgson

Wendy Hodgson is a certified desert rat, having lived in the Sonoran Desert for 47 years. She is a research botanist, herbarium curator and botanical illustrator and has been with the Desert Botanical Garden for 42 years. Her areas of interest and research include southwest US and northern Mexico floristics. For 25 years she has been documenting and studying plants within Grand Canyon National Park, including the evolution and distribution of certain plant groups as affected by the unique factors characteristic of this area. Her research also focuses on taxonomy and systematics of Agave and Yucca, including the study of pre-Columbian agave domesticates, Cactaceae, Sonoran Desert ethnobotany, and rare and endemic plants. Wendy is the author of numerous scientific papers and the illustrated book, Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert (University of Arizona Press), winner of the 2002 Klinger Book Award, presented by the Society for Economic Botany.

Jacqueline Holm

Jacqueline Holm attended Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming. For the last 20 years Jackie has been living and working in the west during which time she has collected experiences about ecological and social issues, wilderness adventures, and great stories to share. She has been a wilderness ranger in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, a ranch-hand on cattle ranches in Colorado and Wyoming, a math teacher for Arapahoe and Shoshone students on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and introduced visitors to the wonders of Humboldt Bay in Arcata, California. She has managed Wilderness areas in Oregon and taught Leave No Trace, but perhaps her favorite pastime is to witness a coyote dig a ground squirrel out of a hole or see the first turkey vultures of the season return to the Colorado Plateau. Jackie particularly likes to share all these stories and experiences as well as excite everyone around her about the wonders of the place she now calls home; Grand Canyon.

Rich Holtzin

Rich Holtzin has taught earth science, music theory and philosophy for over two decades. Having spent more than 30 years in the Southwest, Rich has hiked and explored thousands of miles in Grand Canyon and throughout the Colorado Plateau. He is an avid world traveler, former commercial pilot, wilderness guide and the writer and composer of the Ballads of the Grand Canyon soundtrack.

Ian Hough

Ian Hough currently works for Grand Canyon National Park as an archaeologist in the Vanishing Treasures program.

Ian earned his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Oregon in 1995 and his M.A. in Anthropology from Northern Arizona University in 1999.

After working as a private contract archeologist for seven and a half years in Oregon, Washington, northern California and northern Nevada, Ian began work for the National Park Service in May 1999 at the Western Archeology and Conservation Center in Tucson. His tenure with the National Park Service includes numerous projects at Petrified Forest National Park, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Manzanar National Historic Site, Navajo National Monument, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, and Grand Canyon National Park. In October 2005, Ian was offered the position of Vanishing Treasures Archaeologist at Grand Canyon National Park and is currently working to document and preserve the hundreds of well-preserved architectural sites in the park.

Ian has also traveled and worked on archaeological research projects in Mexico and Peru. Ian’s specialties in archeology include Southwestern Ancestral Puebloan architecture, the development of agriculture and stone tool technology. Ian has completed two Colorado River projects between 2002 and 2004, each involving ruins stabilizations and archeological site monitoring.

Elaine Hultgren

Elaine is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art with a major in painting and a minor in printmaking, and is a multi-talented artist. Her paintings and drawings have been exhibited in several juried shows, and her graphic design work and illustrations have been published in books, magazines and newsprint. Elaine is also an Emmy award winning animation artist who has worked in the television, film, and computer gaming industry for over 25 years as a storyboard and concept artist. Upon moving to Phoenix AZ, a life long love of all things green led her to enroll in the Desert Botanical Garden’s Botanical Art and Illustration certificate program in 2005 from which she graduated in 2010. She has been an instructor at the Desert Botanical Garden since 2007 teaching botanical drawing, watercolor, silverpoint, nature sketching and journaling, and a variety of nature classes. Elaine has taken her Nature Sketching & Journaling workshop on the road to the Toledo Botanical Garden, Ohio Side-Cut Metro Park, and Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City, Utah. Elaine recently relocated to Salt Lake City, UT from where she will initiate a Botanical Art and Illustration certificate program at the University of Utah’s Red Butte Garden.

Kelley Ingols

Kelley began her yoga teaching career in 2004 after taking a yearlong emersion and teacher training in the Anusara yoga tradition. A schoolteacher by vocation, Kelley quickly became a well-loved yoga teacher in the Grand Canyon community. After six years at the canyon, Kelley moved back to Flagstaff, where she continues to teach yoga at Northern Arizona University and the Yoga Experience. Kelley’s other loves, community and nature, compel her to bring people to her Grand Canyon backyard to combine yoga and hiking. She has been organizing and leading yoga workshops and retreats at Grand Canyon since 2003. Her classes transform students through the freedom and ease revealed through good alignment and moving from the heart. She loves to make class playful and challenging, and she consistently invites students to embrace their lives as a vehicle to health, happiness and vitality.

Haley Johnson

Haley’s first Grand Canyon experience was at the age of ten. She passionately recalls witnessing her very first sunrise during that trip. Since then, the lure of the Canyon has drawn her back many times and now this is where her hat hangs.

If she is not day hiking in the Canyon or on a multi-day backpacking trip, Haley is most likely to be found with her nose in a history or geology book, “There is always something new to learn.” An infinite Grand Canyon library could not quench her thirst for knowledge and she revels in sharing during her canyon hikes.

If asked about her favorite Grand Canyon subject she would answer, “Everything… but it’s the little things, the minutiae, that really catch my eye.”

Lisa Kearsley

Lisa Kearsley came to love the Grand Canyon spending her childhood summers on the North Rim while her father studied Kaibab squirrels. She finally was able to move to Arizona in the 1980’s to earn a master’s degree in biology at Northern Arizona University. And, like many who have come to Arizona, she never left.

She has worked for the National Park Service at Grand Canyon as an interpretive park ranger and as a researcher, studying vegetation trends and the effects of Glen Canyon Dam on river campsites. Her love of river running drew her to Utah’s San Juan River, which prompted her to write and publish the San Juan River Guide, a comprehensive guidebook for river runners. In addition to leading backpack trips with the Field Institute, she leads outdoor education trips and provides lectures on the Colorado Plateau for Road Scholar, works intermittently for the Park Service, and is a natural science illustrator.