Instructor Biographies

Updated as of 6/4/2021

Ashton Berdine currently works for the West Virginia Land Trust as its Lands Program Manager. Prior to WVLT, he worked 20 years for The Nature Conservancy as the Maryland State Community Ecologist and later as a Land Protection Specialist for the WV Chapter of TNC. He started his career with the Maryland Natural Heritage Program conducting inventory projects for rare, threatened, and endangered species with a focus on botanical resources but also contributing to Lepidoptera, Mollusk, bird, tiger beetle, and small mammal inventory projects. He owes his love for nature and his life calling to rural upbringing, a family passionate about land and heritage, and many mentors that shared their own knowledge so freely with him as a child and adolescent. Ashton currently lives in Elkins WV and believes conservation of land resources for wildlife habitat, clean water, and public recreation are important for everyone to consider and to contribute and this endeavor still offers tremendous opportunities to make a positive impact on our environment and quality of life. Ashton received a BS degree in Botany from North Carolina State University in 1988.

Bill Beatty founded Wild & Natural in 1990, specializing in nature/environmental programs, nature writing, and nature photography (over 3,000 photos published worldwide). From 1972 – 1990 Bill was the Interpretive Naturalist for Oglebay Institute’s Brooks Nature Center. Bill holds a Federal Master Personal Bird Banding permit, studied the breeding biology of Eastern Screech-owls for 28 years and is currently studying Northern Saw-whet Owls. Bill is the author of Bill and Bev Beatty’s Wild Plant Cookbook, an interesting, readable cookbook with recipes and insights for many commonly available edible wild plants, as well as highlights about their nutrition. Bill’s newest book, Rainbows, Bluebirds and Buffleheads, is a humorous, appealing collection of Bill’s most fascinating stories chronicling his life-long passion for birds

Jackie Burns has a degree in wildlife biology and thirty years’ experience with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She worked with visitor services on refuges, teaching people about nature. Since retiring she has completed Master Naturalist training and has volunteered at various things, including Wildflower Pilgrimage and bird banding at Dolly Sods. She enjoys bird watching and noticing the connections of things in nature. She also enjoys yoga, making pottery and other crafts.

Kevin Dodge received his B.S. in Biology from Southwest Missouri State University in 1981 and his M.S. in Biology from Michigan Technological University in 1983. He pursued further studies in Wildlife Biology at West Virginia University from 1983 through 1987. Kevin has worked since 1987 at Garrett College, in far western Maryland, where he is Professor of Wildlife Biology and Director of the Natural Resources and Wildlife Technology program. Kevin teaches various courses in natural history and ecology, including Wildlife Biology, Dendrology, Herbaceous Plant Identification, Plant Taxonomy, Herpetology, Ornithology, Regional Songbird Identification and General Ecology. Kevin’s courses emphasize field experience, and many classes include field trips to other parts of the mid-Atlantic/Central Appalachian Region.

Max Dubansky is a full-time farmer and mushroom grower and part time forest addict. He runs Backbone Food Farm in Oakland, MD along with his family and friends. He loves to talk about mushrooms.

Pam Edwards has an MS from Penn State in forest hydrology and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University in forest soils. She worked for the US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Parsons, WV as a forest hydrologist for 37 years, focusing on the effects of pollutants and forest management effects on water quality and stream condition. Ed Watson and Pam now co-own a company that specializes in watershed and stream restoration.

Zach Fowler lives in Morgantown, WV, and works for West Virginia University as WVU Core Arboretum Director and Service Assistant Professor in the WVU Department of Biology. He spends much of his time helping connect people to nature at the Arboretum, maintaining the Arboretum or teaching at WVU. He also likes to spend time with his family, bike, ski, go on adventures, and look at plants, birds, mushrooms, etc. He grew up near Middlebourne, WV, in Tyler County. Zach went to West Virginia Wesleyan College for a B. S. in Biology and Physics and then to WVU for a Ph.D. in biology (Forest ecology and biogeochemistry). Between college and graduate school, he lived for a few years in Oakland, MD, and served as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Garrett County Cooperative Extension Office and the Western Maryland 4-H Center. Zach feels lucky to be able to stay in WV and pursue an education and career studying nature and sharing knowledge with others.

Kathy Gregg is Professor Emerita of Biology, having taught at West Virginia Wesleyan College for 37 years. She is currently Curator of the George B. Rossbach Herbarium and Director of the Greenhouse at Wesleyan. She earned her B.A. degree from Emory University and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL. Her course specialties were Plant Systematics, Microbiology, and Experimental Biology. She has published over 20 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and has presented her work at international, national, and regional meetings. Her orchid research in reproductive and population biology of orchids has contributed to the management of orchid populations on the Monongahela National Forest and at Canaan Valley State Park. She recently co-authored a floristic study of a species-diverse meadow in Barbour County and is data-basing and imaging the 25,000+ specimens in Wesleyan’s Rossbach Herbarium. She volunteers as Curator of Buckhannon’s Nature Park and Learning Trail, where signage describes both native and invasive plants.

Alyssa Hanna – Alyssa Hanna’s life-long love of plants and the natural world has taken many forms.  From her fascination with native flowers as a child and her degree in botany focusing on plant ecology to spending three years helping with stream restoration with Canaan Valley Institute and Downstream Strategies, the natural world has always been a critical part of Alyssa’s life.  She now draws on her sixteen years of experience as a formal and non-formal science educator to teach Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science at Tucker County High School.  Alyssa is a Certified Interpretive Guide, a Canaan Valley Master Naturalist, and a Master Naturalist instructor who teaches a variety of core and elective classes.  

Sheri Kosh – Beach to Peak Yoga E-RYT, RYT-500 Sheri first discovered yoga to heal injury. She teaches Strong Hatha Flow, Gentle, Yin, and Restorative styles of yoga. She believes there is a yoga class for everyone and it’s a matter of finding the right yoga for you.

In addition to being registered with the yoga alliance at the E-RYT 200 Level, Sheri has completed her RYT-500 at the acclaimed Kripalu Institute.  Focus of study includes advanced Pranayama (breathing), Meditation, advanced Asana (postures), and teaching special populations (pre-natal, teenagers, seniors, structural/back issues, trauma). She also has advanced certifications in Restorative and Yin styles of Yoga. Sheri focuses on yoga for wellness and also has completed 100 hours of advanced training in Yoga as a Healing Art: Physical and Psychological Strategies for Cultivating Wellness from the renowned Himalayan Institute.  Questions? Go to beachtopeakyoga.com for more info or contact Sheri at beachtopeakyoga@gmail.com

Zac Loughman Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Biology at West Liberty University where he serves as both the Zoo Science and Applied Conservation Coordinator and Biology Co-Graduate Program Director. Zac studies the conservation, natural history and taxonomy of North American crayfishes and dabbles in herpetology with his undergraduate and graduate students. Loughman completed a six year study documenting the diversity of West Virginia’s crayfish that resulted in the description of over 5 new species, and baseline information that was used to federally protect both the Big Sandy and Guyandotte River crayfish. Zac has published over 40 peer reviewed articles, and along with Stuart Welsh is working on completion of a book dedicated to West Virginia’s crayfish.

Doug McCarty is a Fellow of the National Speleological Survey, the former chairman of the Monongahela Grotto (a caving organization for North Central WV), and a life member of the West Virginia Cave Conservancy. He co-authored The Caves and Karst of Tucker County West Virginia. He has an MS from Loyola College (now University) in Baltimore and is retired.

Jim McCormac worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for 31 years as a botanist, and later specializing in wildlife diversity projects, especially projects involving birds. He has authored or coauthored six books, including Birds of Ohio (Lone Pine 2004); and Wild Ohio: The Best of Our Natural Heritage (Kent State University Press 2009). The latter won the 2010 Ohioana Book award. He is a coauthor of the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II book. He is at work on a book about gardening for moths. Jim writes a column, Nature, for the Columbus Dispatch, and regularly publishes a natural history blog. He has written numerous articles in a variety of publications, and has delivered hundreds of presentations throughout the eastern United States. He was named 2015 Conservation Communicator of the Year by the Ohio League of Sportsmen. Jim is an avid photographer, shooting a range of natural history subjects. He has had hundreds of photos published in various forums.

Laura Miller has been working as an entomologist for the WV Department of Agriculture for over 20 years. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology at the National University of Mexico and a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences at Marshall University, in W.V. with a specialty in Entomology. She has been teaching Master Naturalist lectures for nearly 15 years. Besides a passion for insects, she loves learning and studying about nature, its organisms’ interrelationships and their role in the ecosystem.

Herb Myers is a retired physician. He moved to Harman, West Virginia, where his wife grew up, in 2010. His primary avocation is birding which he took up when he turned 60. He loves birding in West Virginia. He has taken numerous birding trips with a group affiliated with Camp Swatara, a Church of the Brethren camp in PA. He now has a North American life list of 595 birds. He also has lists from Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands, and Costa Rica. In addition to birding, Sarah and Herb volunteer at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center which is near their home. They both completed the Master Naturalist course in Canaan Valley in 2011 and love to be outdoors in all seasons.

Sam Norris is a retired botanist and conservation biologist, as well as an artist and illustrator. An avid gardener and seed saver, he grows mostly heirloom varieties. Some time ago he quit Facebook and now wastes his time on iNaturalist.com.

Kevin Oxenrider is the Amphibian and Reptile Program Leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. He received his MS from Frostburg State University and completed Doctoral work at Ohio State University. Before coming to WV, Kevin worked for state wildlife agencies in Delaware and Florida, specializing in amphibian, reptile, bat, and shorebird conservation. Currently, Kevin is leading conservation efforts for multiple species of amphibians and reptiles, both in WV and throughout the Northeast US.

Susan Olcott has been a WV DNR biologist since 1995 with the Wildlife Diversity Program. She earned wildlife management degrees from the University of Maine (B.S.) and Frostburg State University (M.S.), and is a Certified Wildlife Biologist. Her past work includes survey and monitoring for a variety of taxa including birds, dragonflies and damselflies, moths and butterflies, mammals, and plants; education work with school and civic groups; writing; and providing technical assistance to citizens. Susan is currently Project Leader for Pollinator and Monarch Conservation with projects such as the WV Butterfly Atlas, WV Monarch and Pollinator Conservation Plan, and service on a Midwest regional technical steering committee and a national species status assessment team for the monarch butterfly. She headed up the WV Dragonfly and Damselfly Atlas, was WV project leader for a multistate RCN grant on conservation of wetland butterflies, served as a regional coordinator for the WV Breeding Birds Atlas, and was part of the team revising the state’s State Wildlife Action Plan. She lives in southern Monongalia County.

Jan Runyan has had a lifelong interest in Nature and outdoor activities. After 35 years as an educator at various levels and venues in Ohio (Master-in-the-Art-of-Teaching degree) she moved to her adopted home state of WV. Jan has a Federal Bird Banding Sub-Permit under Bill Beatty’s Master Personal Bird Banding license and they band over 1000 birds each year, mostly at their home near Wellsburg, WV. Jan teaches Nature programs at various venues around the state. She is also involved in citizen-science activities, the Brooks Bird Club, and volunteering at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory banding station. She and Bill enjoy flat-water kayaking, growing their own food, hiking, and sharing Nature in their blog at www.wvbirder.wordpress.com.

Rose Sullivan is a retired wetland biologist who worked at National Wetlands Inventory mapping wetlands all over the USA. Later she was at WVDNR where she originally suggested a WV Master Naturalist program, developing course outlines and program design along with her husband Sam Norris. Rose was the first State Coordinator of the WV Master Naturalist Program and was also on the board of directors of the national organization helping other states start their MN programs.

James Van Gundy holds a Ph.D. in Aquatic Ecology from the University of Utah and taught a variety of Biology and Environmental Science courses at the college and university level over a career of 32 years. He has been involved with the West Virginia Master Naturalist Program since its inception, having served on the steering committee that designed the program and also having taught classes on a number of different topics over the years. He was also heavily involved with the design and writing of the Program’s Student Training Manual.

He has served on a number of state boards and committees including the WV Water Quality Committee, the Public Lands Corporation Board, the Environmental Quality Board, and the Environmental Policy Advisory Committee.

In  2018 he was hired by Holland America Corporation to serve as a ship’s naturalist and to develop a series of programs for use by shipboard naturalists on the company’s Caribbean cruise ships. He served as Ship’s Naturalist on both Caribbean and Alaska cruise ships for nearly nine months during the 2018-2019 cruise season.

Ed Watson has an M.S. from University of Montana in forest hydrology. He has been a hydrologist and fluvial geomorphologist for 19 years, working primarily for Canaan Valley Institute designing and performing stream restoration. Ed and Pam Edwards now co-own a company that specializes in watershed and stream restoration.