Instructor Biographies

Sharon Bladholm of Opal Glass Studios
Sharon Bladholm has pursued her artistic vision through the steady acquisition and command of a variety of disciplines, including cast glass, bronze, and ceramic in the sculptural realm, as well as stained glass, printmaking and works on paper. The recurring theme in Bladholm’s work is the interface of people with the natural world, integrating the sciences of anthropology with biology and botany from the plant world. She has participated on expeditions with the Field Museum and Conservation International to the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon, documenting the life ways of the Yanomami people through her art, and exploring conservation of endangered plant and animal species in isolated communities.

She has run Opal Glass Studios since 1983 and continues to complete many important commissions and show her work in galleries and museums, as well as creating public art such as installations at the Garfield Park Conservatory and Museum of Contemporary Art in Bordeaux, France, as well as

Suite Home Chicago, Amazon Rising for Shedd Aquarium,and a Cool Globe sponsored by the Chicago Botanical Garden. Last year she completed sculptural works in glass and bronze for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

This year she is working on another public art piece for Openlands new Lakeshore Preserve based on soil creatures!

She will return this November to the Peruvian Amazon to create new works of art for the Andes to Amazon Biodiversity Program.

Phone: 773-638-3500

Tom Brown III
Tom has been a practitioner and teacher of primitive technology, tracking and nature observation since he has been able to walk. Trained from birth by his father, Tom Brown Jr., founder of the world-renowned Tracker School.

For several years he spent time wandering the United States in search of adventurous challenges and in practice of his skills throughout the national forests as well as cities and suburbia. Upon returning to the Tracker School in 2003 he educated thousands of students from all over the world until his leaving the school in late 2009. Tommy has now combined his naturalist and life experiences by starting his own school in the Cincinnati area while also traveling abroad, In the hopes of educating people in the ways of our ancestors and passing down the skills that were at the forefront of their lives.

Douglas DePauw
BS, ISU, Art Ed & Studio Art. Doug is a second generation, professional fine arts printmaker. Studied & apprenticed with his father, Master Printer Robert DePauw. Doug has his own studio near Metamora, IL.

Greg DePauw
BS ISU Art Ed & Studio Art. Greg operates his own art studio, and is executive director of the Art Rod Foundation, in which he teaches art and promotes a “Can Do” attitude. His artwork is exhibited locally and nationally. In 2002 Greg was the first ever recipient of the prestigious “Chronicles of Courage Artistic Award”. Greg has been an artist in residence in Central Illinois Schools and art agencies for 29 years. Learn more about Greg at and www.

Chad Dunn
Chad is a multipercussionist, drum set player and instrument maker. He has performed with an array of artists and is in considerable demand as a recording musician. He founded and was director of the University of Illinois Brazilian Percussion Ensemble and continues to lecture on Brazilian traditional and influenced drumming styles. Chad is currently exploring improvisational music with The Nu Orbit Ensemble, performing Brazilian Samba and Bossa Nova music with Desifanado, and collaborating with China’s premier erhu player, Yang Ying.

Ella Brown Dunn
Born and raised in Illinois. Graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelors in Fine Arts/ Ceramics. Experience includes workshops and artist in residency programs for preschool through high school students. She resides in Champaign, IL where she creates and displays at “Boneyard Pottery” – a studio that has been in existence for 25 years.

Brian “Fox” Ellis
Brian is an internationally renowned storyteller, actor and author. He has published seven books and is the artistic director for Prairie Folklore Theater. Since 1980, he has been traveling the world collecting and telling tales with an emphasis on earth wisdom and Native American folklore. Learn more about fox @ www.

Brett Root Ericksen
Brett has studied for 12 years at the Tom Brown Jr. Tracker/Wilderness School, and has taken Mentoring courses at the Jon Young Wilderness Awareness School. He is a graduate of the SOLO Wilderness Emergency Medicine School in Conway, NH. He is a Certified Wilderness EMT, and has completed 425 hours at the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies, Boulder, CO. Brett is the site manager for Blue Heron Farm and conservation projects & director of ASAP.

Sue Fischbach
Sue graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Special Education. Recently she went back to school and received a certificate in Sign Language Interpreting from Illinois Central College. Sue is a Mom, Girl Scout leader and science lover. She is currently working at PSD150 as a Sign Language Interpreter.
Dan Fitzpatrick
For the past 10 years Dan has taught Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Anatomy, Enviromental Science, Ariculture and Agriculturalscience at La Moille High School. He is a 5th generation farmer with experience growing commercial crops, livestock, bees,orchards, and maple sugar. Dan has also taught thousands of 5th-8th graders outdoor education at Loredo Taft field campus as part of the outdoor education masters program, is a master naturalist for the University of Illinois, and is part of Tom Brown Jr’s tracker school apprentice program.
Merrill Foster

Ph.D. Harvard University. A professor who discusses his subject as enthusiastically with an 8 year old as with his college students. Dr. Foster’s classes are always popular and fill up fast. He is a professor of Geology at Bradley University.

Shelley Fritz
Shelley holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in education from Illinois State University. She taught junior high science for 10 years as a special education teacher, and she directed her district’s gifted and talented program. She has taught preschool science classes through a local art center as well as education courses at ICC and Bradley University. Shelley now volunteers regularly to teach art and science lessons in early elementary classrooms.

Liz Greene
Phillips Exeter Academy, BA, International Relations, Skidmore College & Trinity College, Dublin IRE. Liz works intensively with individuals and groups to develop their goals and transform their lives. She is devoted to the training and study of Aikido. This Japanese martial art has deeply affected her own work. Liz attempts to create every piece of work, and every moment, as if it were her last. Liz uses her artwork as a catalyst for enlarging mental & spiritual experience. For the past 15 years, her work has been shown throughout the United States.

Ann Hagemann
Ann is a professional actress with many state and film credits. She recently finished the independent feature film Sand Prairie, a western, released in the spring of 2007. She also starred in Stalling and Hit the Ground Running. She has worked with Josh Hartnett in Wicker Park and Tom Hanks in The Road to Perdition. Some of her favorite stage roles include: the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Peter in Peter Pan, Guinevere in Camelot, and Mrs. Anna in The King and I. With a degree in musical theater, Ann enjoys passing her knowledge on to students in her studio teaching piano, voice, and acting.

Dellvenna Hambling
BS, MS Indiana University -Dellvenna has completed 16 classes with Tom Brown’s Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School, and has also completed the Tracker School Caretaker Program. In addition she is trained as a Wilderness First Responder by SOLO. She is a licensed science teacher and also the co-founder of Common Heritage Skills, a small company that teaches wilderness survival and outdoor skills.

Steve Hambling
BA Northland College, MS Indiana University – Steve has worked most recently as a Co-Director of the Concentric Rings Program for The Children of the Earth Foundation. He has also worked as a camp counselor and Head of the Nature Program at YMCA Camp Eberhart. He has completed 16 classes with Tom Brown’s Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School, and has also completed the Tracker School’s Instructor Training Program, as well as the Tracker School Caretaker Program. He is also a certified Wilderness First Responder trained by SOLO.

Perrin Henrick
Growing up in New england. artist Perrin Hendrick cultivated a love for both the wild places of the rural northeast landscape and painting and drawing those places. A deep connection to the natural world has strongly shaped his approach to painting, both in terms of landscape and the human figure. Influences which include aboriginal painting, expressionist painting, and urban graffiti, have inspired works which take on a dreamlike quality and speak of both the fleeting moment and the eternal, the sacred and the profane. His works are shown throughout the Northeast.

Douglas Holmes
AA, Illinois Central College. Professional herpetologist with the Peoria Glen Oak Zoo. Doug works to promote understanding and appreciation for all species of amphibians and reptiles – those endangered as well as the common ones that hole up in our gardens and backyards.

Preston Jackson – Guest Artist
MFA University of Illinois. Recipient of the State of Illinois Lincoln Award. Nationally exhibited sculptor and professional musician. Chairman of Sculpture Department, Art Institute of Chicago. Sun Foundation Board Member and Arts Advisor.
Katie Kauzlarich
Katie is a naturalist at Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights. She has her B.A. in biology from Augustana College and her certificate in Zoo and Aquarian studies from Western Illinois. At Forest Park Nature Center Katie has the opportunity to share her love of wild animals with the public.

Vern Killion
21 years (Retired) as director of Engineering Nebraska Rural Radio Association KNEB/KWPN. Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer for 47 years. Previous positions include: Broadcast and sales Manager Andrew Corporation, Upland, CA. Involved in planning, construction, and deployment of TV& RF radio station transmitting facilities for ABC, CBS, group owners and international facilities in Iran, Yugoslavia, Poland, South Africa, South America, Australia, and Taiwan. Currently FCC appointed State Emergency Communications Chairman (EAS), Board Member Heartland Amateur Radio Association. Hold FCC Commerical license PG-9-8192. Extra Class Amateur Radio Operators license W5UYF.

Oba William King
“The Poetic Storyteller”. A favored presenter at educational, community and church events throughout the midwest. Graduated from Western Stage Conservatory for Theater Arts in Salinas, CA. A passionate performer, Oba has created community arts programs, after school workshops and participated in school and community based artist residency programs in Chicago for the past 10 years. Oba encourages students to make positive contributions to society by building self-image, self-esteem and communication skills. Learn more about Oba at

Mike Kirshnar
Mike is a professional skateboard artist who has done board graphics for “Element”, “Toy Machine”, and “Baker”. Mike does art for “Obey” and has worked with “Shepard Fairie”, world famous street artist.

Kathy Knapp
Kathy received her BSN from Illinois Wesleyan University. She is a trainer for the Girls Scouts Kickapoo Council. She is a member of Origami USA and the British Origami Society. She has taught origami to children and adults for 15 years. Kathy is a long time volunteer and supporter of the Sun Foundation.

Yona Lunken
Yona is a professional teacher and fundraiser. He has been teaching in various capacities all of his life. Lately he is teaching Hebrew and Prophets at Hebrew Day School and Entrepreneurialism at Bradley University. He is head fundraiser for Peoria Hebrew Day School and Bradley Hillel. In his spare time Yona works on solar energy projects for his home and acts silly with his three children.
Adam Maas
Adam has taught in the Peoria area over the last 10 years, both at the CAC of Peoria and Lakeview Museum. He keeps a painting studio in downtown Peoria in the CAC. His degree is from Illinois State University and he was mentored by Preston Jackson and Jere Allen. Currently he is the IT director for a school in the northern part of the state while teaching and practicing painting on the weekends.

Tom McElroy
Tom McElroy will be teaching the ASAP course in wilderness survival. In his adult life Tom has studied indigenous/huntergatherer cultures & taught these skills to a myriad of students throughout the country. During his early 20’s he was an instructor at the world-renowned Tracker School, from there he went on to obtain a double major from Rutgers University in Anthropology and Geography. Currently, he is pursuing a Masters degree in Policy and Human Rights of Indigenous cultures while also traveling to remote areas, learning from isolated tribal groups. Tom is an avid surfer, climber, potter, photographer, wilderness survivalist and tracker.

Jim Morrissette
BA, University of Illinois. Jim has extensive experience as both a professional videographer & technical consultant. He has been the director of photography on numerous productions including: two episodes of “Discovering Women” for WBGH Boston, and “Shadow Over Tibet”. a documentary featuring the Dalai Lama. He was the principal videographer on the highly acclaimed Frontline documentary “The Farmer’s Wife”. Jim serves as a teacher and technical consultant for numerous community based organizations, museums, and universities. Specifically, he documents many of the new exhibits for the Museum of Science & Industry and Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. As an associate of Kartemquin Films for the last 23 years, Jim has worked on many productions including “The New Americans” and the Oscar nominated film “Hoop Dreams.”

Kelsey Noack Meyers
Kelsey holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Southern Illinois University and has completed a master’s degree in historical archaeology at the College of William & Mary.  She is currently a Doctoral student at the University of Indiana. Some of her favorite archaeological projects that she has worked on include Cahokia, Illinois, and Jamestown, Virginia. She specialized in contact period colonial archaeology in eastern North America. She has been both a student and a teaching assistant for Art + Science in the Woods.

Heidi Smith Parker
Heidi is a central Illinois native and grew up in Pontiac. She has a B.S. from the University of Illinois in Animal Science and a PHD from Columbia University in Biological Sciences. She is currently a postdoctoral
research scientist at the University of TExas at Austin studying the relationship between genes and behavior in frogs and salamanders. Frogs, toads and weird salamanders that live in mud are pretty much her favorite things and she will happily convince you of their awesomeness.
Joe Parker
Growing up in Swansea(Wales, UK), Joe became obsessed with insects at age 7. He obtained a B.S. in Zoology from Imperial College, London, and a PHD from the University of Cambridge, UK. Currently he is a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University, NYC, where he studies the genetic control of insect development, and the evolutionary relationships of his favorite group of beetles. He is eager to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with anyone prepared to listen.
Tim Presley
Tim says he likes to fish, fish, fish! He has fished all his life and deeply loves the sport. He sells fish bait for a living and talks fish every day of his life. He loves to share his expertise with folks young and old.
Paul Ritter
Paul says teaching is his life, not just a job. He has a passion for education and the environment that touches every aspect of his life, as well as his students. He has received many accolades for his interdisciplinary projects including 11 major awards from 3 different governors of Illinois. In 2012, Paul was named the National Environmental Science Teacher of the Year, and his Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program named the number one student environmental program in the U>S and number three program in the world. He dedicates his life to teaching others the importance of finding a passion and sharing it with others.
Luke Scalise
Luke is a health and fitness trainer and strength coach. Luke has been on a lifelong journey to explore the workings of mind and body through movement, play, sport and work. He draws his training from a childhood of wooded hills and martial arts. He was a collegiate decathlete before heading west and finding a desire to push beyond the perception of physical limit. This led him to CrossFit certifications, strength training, and an underground self study training approach at Emergent Fitness, Fort Collins, CO. Currently he provides health and fitness consulting online, and to the western Massachusetts area.
Kristi Shoemaker

Kristi is a naturalist at Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights, IL. She loves being outdoors hiking, gardening and crafting!

Dennis Sparr
BS, Eastern Illinois University. Dennis is a teacher and outdoor enthusiast who has been working for conservation practice in Putnam County since 1977. He is on the Putnam County Conservation Board of Trustees and is a member of the Hennepin Wetlands Initiative Committee. He is also Launch Supervisor for the Marshall-Putnam 4H fair.

Dr. Michael Wiant
Director of Dickson Mounds Museum, Anthropologist and Archeologist. His skills and research center on Native American material culture, archaeology, and a bit of Holocene landscape history, especially as it relates to the location of ancient Native American sites and changes in environment during the Holocene and how it may have affected people living off the land. His research includes the history of the Illinois River valley…specifically events that shaped the valley such as the valley being created initially by the Mississippi River and later colossal ice age floods.

Travis Wilcoxen
Dr. Travis Wilcoxen is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Travis is also
the Chair of the Zoology Division of the Illinois State Academy of Sciences. He studies the interaction of ecology, physiology and behavior of birds and amphibians. His current research features local Illinois species and studying the effects of human-provided bird seed on the health of wild birds. Travis is originally from Lewiston, IL and is a Eureka College graduate. He and his wife Jessa now reside in Pana IL.