Heather King

Heather King

Lead Field Staff, Director and Co-Founder

Heather King is most profoundly moved by the relationship between children and nature. “Nothing else has the same mirror to the nature of being human; A sense of calm, a surge of energy, a marvelous moment that lasts a lifetime, these are the gifts of nature, and I can only hope to create the space for that connection to happen more often”. Heather has two daughters (her best teachers) and is married to Greg Grant. With a Masters Degree in Outdoor Education Administration, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Education and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, she continues to seek new insight and knowledge of nature, kids and herself. She is a professional outdoor educator and mentor with over 25 years of experience. Her broad range of positions have included outdoor education coordinator and science teacher at Oak Grove High School, wilderness educator for the International Center for Earth Concerns on the Taft property in Ojai, the Sunbow Ecology Center in Ojai, and Naturalists at Large in Ventura among many other programs around the country and internationally. Currently Heather continues her work as the director and lead instructor of Ventura Wild, a program of the Ventura Land Trust as of January 2020. With a growing staff team of leaders and a community of families and collaborators, Heather hopes to solidify a sustainable organization that reflects the diversity of our communities and provides access to nature to everyone. This is a heartfelt profession for Heather, who is committed to fostering a playful sense of discovery and wonder that leads to a joyful curiosity about life and learning.

Sara MacCracken

Lead Field Staff

Sara has been a lover of the outdoors and nature since she can remember. From camping in Mammoth as a child to riding her horse for hours in the canyons as a teen. She has always found solace and connection in nature. Sara spent many years working with special needs children and at risk youth. She recently taught leadership and team building to students at Montessori School of Ojai. Sara holds a M.A. from Naropa University in Dance/Movement Therapy. It was here that she was introduced to wilderness therapy. Following the completion of her degree she worked with at risk youth for 5 years. During that time she developed and co-led bi-yearly backpacking trips for the youth. Later she led groups of young adults through Central America where they worked in National Parks, helped the plight of sea turtles and did other service projects. She has studied the medicinal uses of plants for the past 20 years. She is a bird watcher and has a great love for all creatures. Sara has led rites of passage programs for women and expressive arts therapy programs for pregnant women. She is very excited to support Mothers in their connection to the wilderness.Currently Sara is the mother of two energetic boys. She not only teaches cooking at the Montessori School of Ojai she also holds the position of Director of Development.  She recently completed her own 4 day vision quest in nature. She and her husband enjoy spending as much time as possible in nature with their boys.

Sarah (Trudy) Trudeau

Lead Field Staff, Preschool Program Director

Trudy was raised in the Ojai Valley, finding growth within herself deep beneath the mud that swallowed her bare feet. She believes one of the greatest gifts in her life was the support from her family, to trail off into the field, following her curiosities even at a very young age. Closely accompanied by her two goats, she’d travel to the pond to search for tadpoles or carve tunnels within the fields of mustard or follow the bees around the garden. Through this freedom to discover, her youthful curiosity and confidence was able to flourish. This admiration and respect for her environment continued into her playful adulthood. She headed North into the PNW, where she earned her B.S. in Biology while building a career in wildlife conservation and rehabilitation. During this time, she found the love and gift of education through her focus on public outreach. After 10 years working with wildlife, she decided to turn her efforts fully towards nourishing the connection between our youth and the preservation of our environment. She has since returned to Ojai, where she is happily educating, climbing, birding, gardening, backpacking, and continuing to play!

With awareness, comes understanding. Respect and conservation quickly follow.

Tessa Womack

Lead Field Staff

Tessa weaves her understanding of human development, ecological systems, and the power of play to design and facilitate experiential learning opportunities in the field, garden, and classroom. She is a nurturer of nature and lover of language. Her playful approach and adaptable tools invite practices of self- and environmental-inquiry, expression, and balance in an ever-shifting world. She is a Masters student at Antioch University, and is pursuing a Certificate in Ecopsychology through Pacifica Graduate Institute. Tessa has a BA in psychology and education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has over ten years of experience working with children, teens, and families through local organizations committed to self-awareness and nature connection. Her current paths of service include: Environmental Educator with Food for Thought, Birth Doula with Kindling Connection… and Lead Field Staff with Ventura Wild! Tessa operates with a “systems mentality,” honoring all experiences as invitations to explore relationships within this interwoven reality.

Amy Davis

Lead Field Staff

Amy has been a naturalist/educator/guide for nearly 20 years.  Her love of nature started in the Southeast in Charleston, South Carolina as she was earning a B.S. in Geology.  Shortly after graduating she started working at a Nature Center and leading canoeing, kayaking, biking and birding tours along with classes in the nature center.  After moving out to California to work as a naturalist educator teaching environmental education, she continued to be a kayak guide in the summer and winters.  The guiding took her to places such as Belize, Panama, San Juan Islands, Wyoming, Baja, Mexico and the Channel Islands.   She currently lives in Ventura and continues to teach outdoor education through several different organizations in Southern California along with leading hikes with The Nature Conservancy .  Birding is one of her biggest passions and loves to share that with others.  Her goal is to spread awareness of the natural environment in order to develop a deeper appreciation and love of the wilderness in hopes of conserving it.

Erik Nelson

Lead Field Staff

Erik was raised in Colorado & Sweden and even as a child was deeply enthralled by the natural world. He built birdhouses, raised tadpoles, and planted gardens while roaming the mountains and forests around his home. He feels privileged to have had such an idyllic childhood, one where he could find moments of self-directed solitude in nature or push himself towards a new adventure. He enjoyed the challenge of becoming an Eagle Scout and likes using the best parts of that experience to enhance his education programs.  He has a degree in Anthropology and a certificate in Marine Biology. Professionally he has worked as a naturalist, biologist, and educator for various nonprofits including The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies & the Teton Science School and the National Park Service, among others, where he has worked with thousands of participants of diverse backgrounds and interest.
He has also been employed as a bird biologist, roaming the Dakotas and Wyoming, spent time working with sea turtles in Costa Rica, tracked wolves in Yellowstone, monitored mountain goats in Glacier National Park, and guided polar bear expeditions on Hudson Bay. When he isn’t trying to provide formative experiences for children and adults in nature you can find him creating wildlife art, harvesting wild edible plants, or drawing up plans for the hobbit hole he plans on living in someday.

Jenny Jacobs

Lead Field Staff

Jenny grew up in west Sonoma County and spent most of her childhood outdoors, running around with chickens and sheep and adventuring in a nearby creek. She studied environmental science and music at UC Santa Cruz, and after taking an entomology class and spending the last quarter of her undergrad degree in a tropical biology course in Costa Rica, she fell in love with tropical biology and speaking Spanish. She spent many years studying tropical insects and biodiversity, obtaining her M.S. and then embarking on a doctoral program. Part-way into a PhD program, she realized that she preferred exploring nature and teaching, rather than studying nature in an academic context. Jenny recently moved back to California with her husband and young children, after living in Michigan for four years where she had the opportunity to develop a parent-child nature exploration class through Ann Arbor public schools. Upon returning to CA, she was so delighted to find Ventura Wild and is super excited to help connect more children and families to nature! She is also very passionate about bringing more nature connection and education programs to local Spanish speaking communities.

Luc Pelletier

Assistant Field Staff

Born and raised in Southern California at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains, Luc has always had an intense love and appreciation for the outdoors. As a child, he spent most of his time climbing trees, catching frogs, and running around barefoot. He loves animals, although he is allergic to quite a few of them and will never pass up an opportunity to observe wildlife. As a Dual-National of Italy and the United States, Luc has lived in and visited many different countries. He strongly feels that traveling to other countries and witnessing different cultures gives a whole new perspective on life and greatly increases ones appreciation for the earth and the diverse groups of people who live on it. Luc is always happy to go on an adventure of any kind, whether it is just a quick hike, or a long backpacking trip he can lead the way. These days, he spends most of his time working on a degree in Criminal Justice, informing his identity as an advocate for human rights and an activist. Whatever free time he has is usually spent on his one true love: Mountain Biking! It is his form of meditation and also his ‘happy place’. Nowhere is he more at home than on a bike, on a trail, hitting the steepest slopes, gnarliest drops, and always chasing the elusive perfect line. Luc loves working with people and especially kids! He brings his overwhelmingly energetic, playful, and positive attitude everywhere he goes.

“We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children” – Native American Proverb

Dayana Huerte

Assistant Field Staff

I was born and raised in the Southern California. In between Angeles National Forest and San Bernardino National Forest. The memory that began my love for nature is when my parents took me out to the nearest creeks while my dad fished and my mom collected black berries and cleaned them with a spaghetti strainer in the creek. While studying Environmental Science and Resource Management at Cal State Channel Island I have been able to travel with my class to New Orleans and do tree surveys and go to the Santa Rosa Research station to conduct research with my GIS class. During the summers I typically take on trail maintenance jobs at national parks and national forest. I have done work at Sequoia National park and Siskiyou Mountain range in Oregon. This past summer I had the honor to work at the Santa Barbara zoo as an educator and interpreter. During my free time I love visiting national parks, camping, backpacking and hiking with my friends and loved ones. I would also like to recognize and say that we are able to play and teach the kiddos on Chumash land.

Andrea Manning

Assistant Field Staff

Andrea has been a Rites of Passage guide and Life Coach for over 10 years helping Families and Women discover their power and wholeness by intentionally slowing down to honor all life transitions.  Whether she is holding space for Women’s Circles, Grief Rituals, Childhood and Adolescent Rites of Passage, or Croning Ceremonies, she believes in the power of simple ceremony and nature connections to honor endings as a way of making space for what is to come.  Living in New England for 20 years she fell in love exploring the forests, rivers, and lakes with her 3 children and husband.  She is now discovering the abundant natural gifts of Southern California each and every day and is grateful to be in beautiful Ojai.

Brittany Holden

Assistant Field Staff

Brittany was born and raised in Ojai, CA where she was first introduced to environmental conservation and exploration while traveling to the Channel Islands, backpacking in the Sespe, and befriending spiders on her family’s orange orchard. This early exposure to nature instilled a passion for the outdoors and a desire to protect it. While getting her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from CU Boulder, Brittany had the opportunity to study abroad in both Tanzania and Australia where she furthered her global education in environmental conservation and political ecology. After graduating, Brittany’s interest in environmental policy landed her a job working for State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson where she acted as a liaison between constituents, district organizations, local governments, and state agencies while monitoring pertinent district and local issues specifically related to energy, water, land use, and agriculture. Most recently, however, she was living in Madagascar and working for an environmental NGO, SEED, managing logistics and project research for conservation and livelihood projects. After returning to the states, Brittany began a master’s program in clinical psychology from Antioch University in Santa Barbara with the goal of becoming a licensed therapist. She’s deeply passionate about the intrinsic values we can derive from nature and how healthy relationships with our environment reflect healthy relationships within ourselves and others.

Youth Interns! These wonderfully talented teens are all past participants of Ventura Wild or the Wilderness Youth Project (our sister program in Santa Barbara).

We are honored and lucky to have them join us and be an incredible asset and support team.

Past Staff & Other Important People

THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR ALL THAT YOU ARE AND FOR BEING PART OF THE VENTURA WILD COMMUNITY & JOURNEY

  • Camila Guzman
  • Jamie Block
  • Ruby Lacques
  • Rachael Gula
  • Monica James
  • Katie Gialketsis
  • Jenny Alvarado
  • Jonathan Twena
  • Bennett Collings
  • Jael Burkhalter
  • Connor Greene – youth intern
  • Joaquin Pearce – youth intern
  • Carly Leandro – youth intern
  • Alex Richardson – youth intern
  • Riley – youth intern
  • Anna Berezovska – youth intern
  • (Belle)  Annabella Nemo Page – youth intern
  • Serafina McClain – intern
  • David Parziale
  • Charlie Cook – youth volunteer
  • Maxine Mericle – youth volunteer
  • Stuart Niebel – volunteer
  • Misha Morris – volunteer
  • Amy Davis
  • Pamela Fetter
  • Tawnya Love
  • Declan Blassini
  • CJ Cintas
  • Casey Murphy
  • Andrew Daigle
  • Trevor Cox
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Susan Lynn
  • Shawn Berry
  • Katie Gilman
  • Tess – volunteer
  • Monika Rolstocki
  • David White
  • Jeff Otterbien
  • Jessica Lindley
  • Anna Minsky
  • Venica Ftacek
  • Nash Rightmer – volunteer
  • Brittany Cullen – volunteer
  • Bridgit Banyai – volunteer
  • Kirby Slavin
  • Camille Carlson
  • Suzen Harvey
  • COFOUNDERS: 
  • Rita Maes
  • Alison Bradley
  • Sara Brooke Benjamin