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 Education Director and instructor for Once Upon a Watershed in Ojai, and in 2009 Heather co-founded Ventura Wild and continues as the director and lead instructor with a growing team of leaders and a community of families and collaborators. 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

Trudy was raised in the Ojai Valley, finding growth within herself deep beneath the mud that swallowed her bare feet. The freedom to explore her environment, closely accompanied by her two goats, encouraged her youthful curiosities and confidence to flourish. This admiration and respect continued into her playful adulthood. She migrated 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 at nearby schools. Seeing a similar excitement of our youth as they learned about the species they shared their environment with, beckoned that focus to grow. She decided to turn her efforts fully towards nourishing the connection between our youth and the preservation of our ecosystems. She has since returned to the Valley which first seeded this pursuit, where she is happily educating, climbing, birding, gardening, hiking and continuing to play!

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

Tessa Womack

Lead Field Staff

Tessa weaves her understandings of human development, ecological systems, and the magic of relationships to intentionally design and facilitate experiential learning opportunities in the field, garden, and classroom. She is a nurturer of nature. Her playful approach and adaptable tools invite practices of self- and environmental-inquiry, awareness, and balance in an ever-shifting world. Sandy and sun-kissed, she studied psychology and education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has since been inspired to work with children, teens, and families through local organizations committed to self-awareness and healthy relationships. Her paths of service include: Garden Coordinator and Educator with Food for Thought, Director of Community Enrichment with Sol Sanctuary, Friend and Contributor to Greater Goods, Farmer’s Market Manager with Earth Trine Farm, Doula with Kindling Birth Support… and Wilderness Educator with Ventura Wild! Tessa operates with a “systems mentality,” honoring all experiences as invitations to explore relationships within this interwoven reality.

Camile Guzman

Lead Field Staff

Camila believes that the best way to learn is through play. She grew up in Ventura County trompin’ around the hills and trails, where her passion for plants began. She and her cousins would collect leaves, sticks, flowers and seeds to create crafts while learning about the surrounding environment. Later on, Camila’s curiosity about the homeopathic benefits of plants led her to work with essential oils. She loves to brew up small batches of salves, tinctures and other goodies when she is relaxing at home. She loves to garden and sources many of her culinary herbs and edible flowers from her yard. In 2018, Camila graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Resource Management from California State University Channel Islands. Outside of the garden, Camila has taught yoga and surf lessons in the community for the last several years.

Monica Demetry

Assistant Field Staff

Monica grew up in Southern California in Huntington Beach, deemed Surf City USA.  Her first nature experience, that wasn’t the beach, was in 5th grade on a class fieldtrip to Yosemite.  It was then she experienced a sense of belonging and vowed to cherish, protect and teach others about the beauty & wonders nature has to offer.  She attended California State University Channel Islands for college and graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science and Resource Management.  Some of her hobbies consist of videography, hiking, and volunteering.  She also enjoys entomology, ethnobotany and connecting youth to nature. Ask her about her favorite insect or plant and she’ll nerd out on you!

Katie Gialketsis

Assistant Field Staff

Katie was born and raised in Santa Paula exploring nature through camping, hiking, and running. She is passionate about educating youth through hands-on experiences and enjoys spending days with youth outdoors. Katie earned a B.S. in Environmental Sciences and Management, along with a minor in Education from UC Davis. While in Davis, she also volunteered at the Yolo Basin Foundation to work with youth and educate them about the local wetlands. She continued her education at UC Santa Barbara, where she earned a Master’s degree in Education along with a teaching credential in science. Katie has four years of high school science teaching experience. She also designed, built, and managed a school garden for a high school in Seaside, CA. She previously worked closely with Outdoor Collective, a Monterey-based non-profit, to help youth workers get underrepresented youth outdoors. When not working with youth, she loves to trail run, travel, and backpack.

Rachel Gula

Assistant Field Staff

Rachael Gula grew up exploring trails throughout Ventura County and frequenting the Sierra Nevada mountains for play time. It was here that Rachael’s connection with nature and her practice of mindfulness began to flourish. Several summers spent as a camp counselor revealed that she enjoys engaging with children; Rachael loves seeing creativity, curiosity, and joy unfold before her own eyes! After receiving her Associate’s Degree in Theater Arts from Moorpark College, Rachael road-tripped to the Pacific NW where she volunteered for a youth-driven Music & Arts venue as well as an ecological restoration site. Music has always been a part of Rachael’s creative path; she has been writing songs since she was 7 years of age. Her favorite instruments include piano, ukulele, guitar, and harmonica. While not exploring with Ventura Wild, Rachael enjoys yoga, swimming in the ocean, trying new vegan foods, and running on the beach.

“The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different” – Hippocrates.

Jenny Jacobs

Assistant 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.

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 BEING PART OF THE VENTURA WILD COMMUNITY & JOURNEY

  • Jenny Alvarado
  • Jonathan Twena
  • Bennett Collings
  • Jael Burkhalter
  • Ruby Lacques – youth intern
  • Connor Greene -youth intern
  • Joaquin Pearce -youth intern
  • Carly Leandro -youth intern
  • Alex Richardson -youth intern
  • Riley – youth intern
  • Anna – youth intern
  • Belle -youth intern
  • Serafina McClain – intern
  • 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
  • David Parziale
  • Monika Rolstocki
  • Rita Maes
  • David White
  • Jeff Otterbien
  • Jessica Lindley
  • Anna Minsky
  • Venica Ftacek
  • Sara Brooke Benjamin
  • Kirby Slavin
  • Camille Carlson
  • Suzen Harvey
  • Nash Rightmer – volunteer
  • Brittany Cullen – volunteer
  • Bridgit Banyai – volunteer