Alabama 4-H Science School Staff - Spring 2018


Amy Walker, Director of Environmental Education


Amy is a Mobile, Alabama native whose passion for nature inspired to her obtain a B.S. in Environmental Science from Auburn University. Amy has spent her summers traveling to Colorado to share her passion for environmental education at a summer camp. Amy started at the science school in 2013 as an instructor. She has now moved her way up to the Director of Environmental Education. She loves this program and what it teaches youth & adults about loving the outdoors!! In her spare time, she enjoys listening to live music, eating tacos and traveling around the U.S. to visit and make friends!

Jon Harrison, On Site Program Coordinator

Jon is a Columbiana, Alabama native and feels truly fortunate to work for such an incredible program in his own community. Jon began working at the 4-H Center as a counselor in 2010 and was an outdoor education instructor until 2012. During college he served as a communications intern and he is now the full-time onsite program coordinator. He is a 2014 graduate of Auburn University.

Bess Taylor, Animal Care Specialist

Bess is a native of Opelika, Alabama. The love of nature fostered by her family’s encouragement led her to attend the University of Montevallo where she graduated with a degree in Biology. In fall 2012, Bess joined the 4-H Science School in order to educate today’s youth on the importance of conservation. The following year she grew into the role of the School’s full time Animal Care Specialist; caring for the 19-raptors and 100-herpetofauna. By providing proper diet, enrichment, and exercise for the creatures in her care, Bess ensures that they in turn can do their job and spread the message of conservation to the public. In her spare time she enjoys restoring vintage vehicles and fishing with her husband, Josh Taylor.


Katelyn Diercks, Off Site Program Coordinator

Katelyn is from Red Wing, Minnesota. She was raised on a small farm where her love for nature and the outdoors began. She received a B.S. degree in Ecology and Field Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Biology from St. Cloud State University. In college she traveled to Thailand where she volunteered at an Elephant sanctuary and rural hill tribe village. Since college Katelyn has worked at a wildlife rehabilitation center in northern Wisconsin, as a Field Ranger along the coast of Oregon, and most recently on a cruise ship sailing the East Coast. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, star watching, and traveling to new places.

Brittany Connelly, Education Logistics Coordinator

Brittany was born and raised in Delmar, New York and attended The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) in Syracuse where she obtained her B.S in Environmental Biology (Class of '14). After college she spent two years at Arrowhead Ranch Outdoor Science School in the San Bernardino Mountains of California. There she obtained a strong passion for teaching in the outdoors. Brittany has driven across the country four times and explored many of the National Parks and wilderness areas. She's always up for an adventure and loves to hike and take photographs but can also be found curled up with a good book and a cup of coffee.

Alex Taber, Instructor

Hello! My name is Alex Taber, and I am from Columbia, South Carolina. I graduated from Wake Forest University in the spring of 2016 with a BA in English and Creative Writing. Throughout college I worked as a summer camp counselor at Kanuga Conferences, were I spent most of my summers growing up. Over the course of five summers I developed a love for the outdoors and working with children. After graduating I worked as a lead instructor at Mountain Trail Outdoor School in North Carolina for 3 seasons. Some of my hobbies include reading, writing, tennis, and of course, hiking! I’m very excited to learn more about the outdoors, and I cannot wait to share that knowledge with others at the Alabama 4H Science School.

Emily Dowell, Instructor

Emily graduated from Murray State University in Kentucky with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology. After graduating, she worked at national parks and wildlife refuges in Kentucky, Montana, and South Carolina. Her love for environmental education began at Rock Eagle 4H Center, in Georgia, and for the last year, she's been teaching on St. Simon's Island. Her love for animals once led her to win a dance contest by mimicking the mating ritual of the fiddler crab. She loves hiking, caring for her plant friends, eating pie and working with birds of prey.

Hannah Brown , Instructor

Hannah was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She attained a B.S in Biology with a concentration in Field and Wildlife Biology from Cal Poly, SLO in 2017. Throughout college she studied the population dynamics of monarch butterflies and giant kangaroo rats. Since college she has spent time researching shorebirds and seabirds in New York and Washington state. She is passionate about education and teaching others about the importance of the environment. Her hobbies include exploring, hiking, birding and insect collecting. Hannah is excited to share her knowledge with the students at the Alabama 4-H Science School.

Jessica Gary, Instructor

Hello! My name is Jessica! I am from Charlotte, North Carolina. I graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.S in Environmental Biology and a minor in Geography. In the past I have worked as a Natural Resource Assistant for Mecklenburg County and as an Environmental Educator for Haw River State Park. I love having adventures of any kind, singing silly songs, crafting (especially knitting and wood burning), and watching cartoons with my Corn Snake, Rhubarb!

Justin Cummins, Instructor

My name is Justin and I'm from Vicksburg, Mississippi. Growing up next to the Mississippi River, I gained a lot of interest for underwater world.I have a B.S. in Marine Biology and a minor in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Sharks and rays are my main focus of study, but lets face it, the whole ocean is just fantastic! I spend a lot of time outdoors while hiking, fishing, camping, etc.. I am also an avid aquarist, both saltwater and freshwater. I am extremely excited to be working with the 4-H science school in teaching kids about the amazing nature that surroundsthem.

Lauren Kowis, Instuctor

Lauren was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She received her BS in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences from Texas A&M University in December of 2017. She completed an environmental education internship with Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in the summer of 2017. She loves spending time outside. Her favorite things to do include camping, hiking, hammocking, and listening and singing loudly to music.

Nicole Reber, Instructor

Nicole is originally from Douglas, Massachusetts and received a BS degree in Zoology with a minor in Anthropology from the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. She completed an animal care internship at Wild Care Cape Cod, a wildlife rehabilitation center, which is where she fell in love with birds. Nicole studied abroad in Costa Rica her sophomore year, studying Tropical Ecology and Conservation. She has previously held jobs as a Resident Advisor, Production Assistant at UVM's student union, and a Peer Advisor. Nicole's favorite hobbies include hiking, kayaking, birding, wildlife photography, and traveling.

Rachael Brunton, Instructor

Rachael is a St. Louis, Missouri native and attended MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas, graduating in 2015 with a B.S. in Biology. After college she has worked as an environmental educator at Wahsega 4-H Center in Georgia, and most recently at Camp Chingachgook in the New York Adirondacks. In her free time, Rachael likes to hike, canoe, kayak, or anything that involves exploring the natural world. If she could pick one animal as her favorite, it would hands-down be Opossums.

Sarah Paese, Instructor

Sarah migrated south from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work with the wildlife here at the Alabama 4-H Science School. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a degree in Wildlife Ecology, and like any good Cheesehead, she has minors in Green Bay Packers history and the philosophy of cheese. She has worked coast to coast, going from owl research in the Sierra Nevadas of California to outdoor education on the barrier islands of Georgia. When she's not teaching, you can find her listening to her music too loudly, taking a million photographs of the same sunset, or laying in her hammock with a good book.

Sean Laughlin, Instructor

Sean Laughlin was born in Richmond, TX. In 2016 he graduated from Eckerd college in St Petersburg, FL with a Environmental studies major and Biology and Coastal management minor. Sean received his Dive master certification in Cozumel, Mexico. Sean has done field research with seas turtles and crocodiles in Mexico, monkeys in Peru, lionfish and manatees in Cuba. Post graduation Sean spent 7 months at the Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve in Korat, Thailand tracking and handling king cobras. He then spent the summer of 2017 with Operation Wallacea in Madagascar as part of the herpetology staff studying the Malagasy giant hognose snake and leading student groups through the forests. Sean just finished the fall semester doing environmental education in Austin, TX. Seans favorite hobbies include photography, scuba diving, hiking, traveling and working with exotic animals.