Leader Bios

When you join a Yosemite Conservancy Outdoor Adventures program, you will have quality time in the field with some of the most knowledgeable and talented naturalists, historians and artists in Yosemite. Collectively, they’ve hiked tens of thousands of miles in the park, won numerous awards, authored dozens of books, and had their art or photographs published around the world. Our guides are excited to share their passion for Yosemite with you.

Karen Amstutz, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Karen Amstutz

Karen Amstutz is a California native with a Masters in Environmental Education who has over 15 years of experience working in Yosemite. She has taught for NatureBridge and has worked as a National Park Service ranger in Tuolumne Meadows, where she is well-known for her campfire programs. Karen lives with her family in El Portal and loves to share her extensive knowledge about the natural world.

Allison Baggett, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Allison Baggett

Allison Baggett grew up in a small town at the entrance to Yosemite. She has backpacked from Mt. Whitney to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail and from Portland, Oregon, to Missoula, Montana, following the route of Lewis and Clark. Allison has worked as a teacher, naturalist, mountain guide and artist since graduating from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She has been trained as a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician and currently holds a Wilderness First Responder certificate.

Kylie Chappell, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Kylie Chappell

Kylie Chappell grew up in the Yosemite gateway, Mariposa. She has always enjoyed a love for the outdoors including rock climbing, backpacking, skiing and swimming. After traveling abroad to New Zealand, Australia and China she couldn’t wait to return to her roots and settle in Yosemite. She has worked as a horseback riding guide and packer in Yosemite for three years. As the Outdoor Adventure Coordinator for Yosemite Conservancy, Kylie is able to share her love and knowledge of Yosemite with visitors from all over the world.

Pete Devine, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Pete Devine

Pete Devine has taught outdoors in Yosemite for 30 years and is the now the Yosemite Conservancy’s Resident Naturalist. Originally from New England, Pete has worked in the West as a park ranger, archeologist, river guide, naturalist and teacher. He has hiked the Alps, Andes, Himalaya, Min Shan and Southern Alps, and has a bird list that includes motmots, minivets, drongos and the plain-mantled tit spinetail. Pete has been studying the recession of Yosemite’s Lyell Glacier since 1998.

Dick Ewart, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Dick Ewart

Dick Ewart, a veteran hiker and winter enthusiast, has been a park ranger in Yosemite for over thirty years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of New Hampshire and has hiked and snowshoed most of the park’s 800 miles of trails. Dick spends his summers presenting naturalist programs at Glacier Point while during the winter he enjoys leading snowshoe hikes at the Badger Pass Ski Area.

Peter Hemming, Yosemite Conservancy expert photography guide

Peter Hemming

Peter Hemming grew up in Los Angeles and now lives on the Monterey Peninsula. He is a featured Nikon photographer who has been published in hundreds of periodicals and websites around the world. He is a member of the Explorers Club and has extensive experience traveling in the High Sierra, with a particular focus on the Tuolumne Meadows area.

James Corwin Johnson

James Corwin Johnson

James Corwin Johnson has specialized in professional photography for over 35 years. He is a graduate of the Glen Fishback School of Photography, and is currently on the faculty of the Ringling School of Art and Design, Longboat Key Center for the Arts and Photo Experience Education. James has taught in many institutions, including: Eckerd College, Anna Maria Island Art League, Safari Education, Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams Gallery, Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line. James shares his vast experience out of his home base, Photo Experience, located in Sarasota Florida.

David Lukas, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

David Lukas

David Lukas is a popular and knowledgeable naturalist who has been leading programs in the Sierra Nevada and writing natural history books for over 20 years. He is the author of the revised guidebook “Sierra Nevada Natural History” and the new comprehensive guidebook, “Sierra Nevada Birds” in addition to contributing to 40 additional books. David lives in Groveland, Calif. and delights in leading visitors on hikes in Yosemite.

Karyn "Kestrel" O'Hearn

Karyn "Kestrel" O'Hearn

Karyn "Kestrel" O'Hearn has spent almost 20 years studying and sharing the Natural History of California. She graduated in 1996 from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Environmental Studies. After two short seasons with Cal Fire, a 10 year long career in Environmental Education lead her to the Sierra in 1999, where she has been ever since. For the last 12 years, she has been a Ranger Naturalist interpreting, teaching and guiding visitors throughout Yosemite, including a trip each June as part of the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua.

Julia Parker, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide and basket weaver

Julia Parker

Julia Parker has lived and worked in Yosemite for over fifty years where she is the park’s longest-tenured employee. As a “living legend”, Julia has dedicated her life to preserving and communicating traditional American Indian cultural history, inspiring visitors to be responsible environmental stewards. She has studied under master weavers and currently demonstrates basket weaving techniques at the Yosemite Museum. Her handiwork is highly sought after and several of her baskets are displayed in prominent museums and collections all over the world.

Lucy Parker, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide and basket weaver

Lucy Parker

Lucy Parker is descended from a long line of Yosemite cultural interpreters. Brought up in a traditional cradle basket, Lucy worked in the park as an Indian cultural demonstrator for many seasons. She has also performed living history at Bodie State Park, and demonstrated traditions of the Paiute people at the Lee Vining Visitor Center.

John Ricca, Yosemite Conservancy expert photography guide

John Ricca

John Ricca is a San Francisco Bay Area professional fine art photographer who uses the camera to capture moods and visual experiences usually associated with other visual art forms. He focuses on natural and close-up images that emphasize shapes, textures, and patterns. He tutors individuals and small groups in photography workshops and field trips on how to improve their photographic techniques. He has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions throughout the Bay Area.

Ken Rockwell, Yosemite Conservancy expert photography guide

Ken Rockwell

Ken Rockwell is a talented photographer and host of a popular website for essays, photo galleries, lessons and equipment reviews. Having fully the embraced digital age, Ken is equally adept with traditional 35mm, panoramic, medium and large format photography. An engineer by training, Ken has an artistic eye and is excited to share his knowledge and opinions about photography.

Micheal Elsohn Ross, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Michael Elsohn Ross

Michael Elsohn Ross has led Outdoor and Custom Adventures for Yosemite Conservancy since 1977. He is the award-winning author of 42 books for young people including “Baby Bear Isn't Hungry”, “The Happy Camper Handbook”, “The World of Small”, and “Snug as a Bug”. He teaches children’s book writing workshops and is a popular speaker at schools and conferences around the world. Michael is passionate about sharing Yosemite’s diversity to newcomers and long-time park enthusiasts. He lives with his family near the park in a home overlooking the Merced River.

John Senser, Yosemite Conservancy expert photography guide

John Senser

John Senser is an accomplished landscape and wildlife photographer/writer. His images have appeared in Sierra Club calendars and National Geographic publications and he is regularly featured in Central Sierra Seasons Magazine. He has conducted numerous courses and workshops for organizations including the University of California and Columbia College. As the owner of Yosemite Light Photography, he produces finely crafted photographic prints and notecards that are sold at art shows and galleries around California.

Shirley Spencer, Yosemite Conservancy expert artist instructor

Shirley Spencer

Shirley Spencer is a renowned artist, musician/singer, athlete and educator. She is also the author/illustrator of Yosemite Conservancy’s “Flowering Shrubs of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada” and co-author (with her husband Mark) of “Southern Yosemite Rock Climbs”. Since the 1980s, thousands have been lucky enough to explore Yosemite with Shirley and share her infectious affinity for the outdoors.

Heather Sullivan, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Heather Sullivan

Heather Sullivan co-founded and served as the first Executive Director of Balanced Rock and is now the Program Director. Heather is both a yoga instructor and an accomplished backcountry guide with Yosemite destinations and trips in the Himalayas. She has been a NatureBridge (formerly Yosemite Institute) field instructor, a Volunteer Mountaineering Ranger in Denali National Park in Alaska, and Naturalists at Large instructor. Her yoga classes blend Ashtanga flow, Iyengar alignment, a strong connection to the rhythms of the natural world.

Suzanne Swedo, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Suzanne Swedo

Suzanne Swedo is the director of W.I.L.D. and has backpacked the mountains of every continent. She has led groups into the backcountry for over 30 years and teaches wilderness survival and natural science for individuals, schools, universities, museums and organizations, including Yosemite Conservancy and the Sierra Club. She has authored numerous books and has appeared on radio and television to share her knowledge of backpacking, botany and wilderness survival.

Chris Van Winkle, Yosemite Conservancy expert artist instructor

Chris Van Winkle

Chris Van Winkle is an award-winning California artist who has served as president of the National Watercolor Society. He was also selected as one of the “top twenty” art instructors by Watercolor Magazine. For the past 30 years, Chris has taught watercolor at Citrus College in Southern California.

Chuck Waldman, Yosemite Conservancy expert artist instructor

Charles Waldman

Charles Waldman started pursuing a career as a full-time fine art painter in 1999 after practicing Family Medicine in Sonora, Calif. for 22 years. He was selected as an Artist Member of the California Art Club, The Laguna Plein Air Painters and “The Sea-to-Shining-Sea” Exhibition. He shows in galleries throughout the country, attends plein air events, and teaches numerous workshops. Chuck loves to paint outdoors in the Sierras and enjoys sharing his artistic vision and philosophy with others.

Dave Wyman, Yosemite Conservancy expert photography guide

Dave Wyman

Dave Wyman is an accomplished photographer and author of three pictorial guidebooks (“Backroads of Northern California”, “Backroads of Southern California”, and “Yosemite in Photographs”). His photographs and articles have appeared in Outdoor Photographer, Outside, Backpacker, Sky and Telescope, and many other publications. He is an experienced guide, leading tours for environmental organizations and museums, in addition to photography tours and workshops through his company, Image Quest. He enjoys sharing his passion for photography and the outdoors.

Glen Young, Yosemite Conservancy expert guide

Glen Young

Glen Young was born in the flatlands of Michigan. After completing a Master’s in Park, Recreation, and Tourism Management in New Zealand, Glen worked as an alpine guide, and in the fields of international, environmental, and outdoor education throughout the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii). He also worked abroad in Canada, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, and Peru where he led study abroad programs and adventure education activities.