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 and Elaine Maier, are acting as independent contractors while leading courses and performing duties for the Field Institute. Mike, Jack, and Elaine are full-time employees of the Grand Canyon Association Field Institute.

Listed alphabetically by last name.
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Andre Potochnik

Andre Potochnik is a Flagstaff-based geologist, educator and river guide with a doctorate in geology from Arizona State University. Andre’s inspiration in geology and rivers stems from working as a river guide in the Grand Canyon since 1973. His interest in conservation of natural resources spurred his involvement with Grand Canyon River Guides, where he currently works as river science coordinator. For the past eight years, Andre has also served on the Adaptive Management Work Group to improve operations of Glen Canyon Dam for the benefit of the river ecosystem in Grand Canyon. Andre has held lectureships at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, Yavapai College and Prescott College. He also develops river guide and interpreter-training seminars and teaches outdoor public education classes through the Grand Circle Field School, Elderhostel and other groups. Andre is currently organizing and leading a group of educators from across the nation to advocate for education-based river trip access to Grand Canyon National Park. Today, he continues to integrate research, policy and education on Colorado River and Grand Canyon issues.

Wayne Ranney

Wayne Ranney has been intimately associated with the canyon since 1975, when he worked as a backcountry ranger near Phantom Ranch. He is a professional geologist, writer, river and trail guide and educator with a specialty in interpreting the landscape evolution of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau. Notable books by Wayne include Carving Grand Canyon, Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau and Sedona through Time. Wayne has an easygoing leadership style that blends well with his knowledge, experience and love of the Grand Canyon. Participants who attend his classes come away with not only a clearer understanding of how this landscape may have evolved through time but an appreciation for how humans beings have interacted with it and have been shaped by its power and sublime beauty.

Frank Romaglia

As a Southwest Airlines captain, Frank Romaglia flew over the Grand Canyon hundreds of times and finally decided to change venues and spend more time at the bottom. Putting his organismal biology degree from Rutgers to work, Frank has been guiding for outfitters and Elderhostel for the last seven years. He also leads educational hikes and teaches for McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and Fountain Hills Conservancy. Frank volunteers for Project Great Outdoors, taking underprivileged children river rafting in the Sierra Nevada. He has also been a part of numerous National Park Service archaeological and biological research projects.

Christa Sadler

Christa Sadler has worked with the Field Institute since its inception in 1993. She is a geologist, educator, author and naturalist with a serious addiction to rivers, deserts and mountains. She has pursued research in archaeology, geology and paleontology across much of the globe, including searching for dinosaurs in Montana, fighting off dust storms and overly curious camels in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and steering clear of annoyed marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands. Christa teaches geology and guides in the canyons and on the rivers of the Southwest in the spring and fall, and escapes to Alaska in the summers. She also runs This Earth, a small business that takes geology and fossil programs to children around the country, and designs Earth science exercises, programs and field trips for students in grades K–12. Christa’s writing and photographs have appeared in Plateau Journal, Sedona Magazine and Earth Magazine, and she is the author of Life in Stone and Dawn of the Dinosaurs and the editor of the anthology There’s This River … Grand Canyon Boatman Stories.

Amanda Sahli

Amanda grew up in Los Angeles, California, but knowing that the city life was not her destiny, immediately after high school she moved to the closest university to the Grand Canyon, Northern Arizona University, where she studied literature and art history. She also studied Spanish and International Literature in Mexico and New Zealand. For over 15 years Amanda has lived in the Grand Canyon area studying, exploring , teaching, guiding, and more exploring. Amanda's goal in guiding is to help people understand and enjoy nature and to help them become sustainable lifelong learners. She spends winters living and working at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and summers on the South Rim leading tours. When not sharing her passion of the region with others Amanda enjoys making art and traveling the world finding new trails to hike and bike and new rivers to raft.

Richard A. Schmitt

Richard's love for nature and recreation began as a child as he grew up exploring parks while camping, fishing and hiking. As member of the Boy Scouts (Eagle Scout), Explorer Scouts, and employee of Milwaukee County Parks Recreation and Culture he began his stewardship for the great outdoors. Richard’s formal training began with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Recreation from UWM and a Masters in Recreation Management from the University of La Crosse – National Accredited Program by NRPS/AALR. His dedication to improve lives of children through recreation activities continued throughout his career as a member of Wisconsin Parks and Recreation Association (CPRP). At the Child and Adolescent Center as the Aquatic Instructor and Pool Manager, Schmitt worked with children, adolescents, and adults with mental or heath concerns empowering and improving their lives and wellbeing through recreation and aquatic therapy programs.

Rick began his Park Ranger career with Waukesha County Parks and then moved to the Grand Canyon in 2009. Schmitt gained “behind the scenes” knowledge while employed as an Interpretive Park Ranger for the Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Field Institute. Schmitt’s interpretive talks, walks, and hikes include Geology, Cultural and Natural History with a few personal stories of this amazing natural resource.

Jake Slade

Since moving to Northern Arizona in 2006, Jake's love for the Grand Canyon has only grown. After graduating from Northern Arizona University in 2009 with a B.S in Global and Environmental Change, Jake's life trajectory took a major turn after his first rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. He went from being a classroom teacher to a full fledged outdoor educator. 5 years later and he works as a backpacking guide as well as an outdoor educator for school groups who come to explore the area. He believes that the potential power of outdoor experiential education cannot be matched in any other form. The Grand Canyon has become his classroom and he would not have it any other way.

Michael Stock

Michael Stock has been getting to know the Grand Canyon for 35 years and learns new things each time he hikes it. He was a schoolteacher on the neighboring Hopi and Navajo Reservations for 16 years, and brings a Native American layer to his Field Institute programs in addition to a comprehensive understanding of the canyon’s natural history. Michael has a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University.

Denise Traver

Denise Traver worked for Grand Canyon National Park for five years. As a backcountry ranger she was responsible for search and rescue, law enforcement and emergency medical services. She conducts programs on backpacking, geology and the human and natural history of the canyon.

Ken Walters

Ken Walters has been backpacking, climbing and skiing throughout western North America since 1961, teaching skiing and wilderness camping since 1977, and leading trips for the Field Institute since its inception in 1993. Within Grand Canyon, he has hiked more than 13,000 miles and climbed 141 buttes. Holding a master’s degree in geology, he worked as an exploration geologist in Montana and Wyoming. Ken also taught commercial photography at Northern Arizona University for 12 years and outdoor and wildlife photography in Yellowstone National Park. Ken is a Leave No Trace master trainer.