The NBNC Team


Our Staff (Click Squares To Learn More)

Naomi Heindel (she/her)
Executive Director

Carrie Riker (she/her)

Chip Darmstadt (he/him)
Bird Ambassador

Fiona Modrak (she/her)

Emily A. Seiffert (she/her)
Deputy Director

Catherine Griset (she/her)
Community Engagement Coordinator

Dave Muska (he/him)

Ginny Brooke (she/they)
Forest Preschool Aftercare Teacher

Ash Kerby-Miller (they/them)

Chelsea Clarke Sawyer (she/her)
Communications Coordinator

Emily Sloan (she/her)
Office Manager

Jenna Plouffe (she/her)
Forest Preschool Teacher

Julia Musto (she/her)
Director of Forest Preschool

Ken Benton (he/him)
Director of Education

Lane Fury (they/them)
Development Coordinator

Lauren Esserman (she/her)
Finance Director

Matt Delligatti (he/him)
Finance Assistant

Megan French (she/her)
Forest Preschool Teacher

Sean Beckett (he/him)
Program Director

Victoria Lee (she/her)

Our AmeriCorps Service Members

Sofie Carlson (she/her)
VHCB AmeriCorps Naturalist Educator

Our Board of Directors


Emily Wetherell (she/her) moved to Vermont in 2001 and lives in Montpelier with her husband and two children. Emily enjoys outdoor activities such as Nordic skiing, running, hiking, and biking. She has served as an ECO and Four Winds volunteer in her children’s classrooms. She and her family have participated in multiple NBNC programs and activities. In her professional life, Emily is an attorney and serves as the Deputy Clerk of the Vermont Supreme Court. Emily joined the NBNC Board in 2016 and served as Secretary of the Board from 2017 until 2020 when she became Board President.

Rick Paradis (he/him) is Director Emeritus of the University of Vermont’s Natural Areas Center and Faculty Emeritus in the University’s Environmental Program, positions he held for 33 years. Both his faculty and administrative roles are intimately tied to land conservation and stewardship. As Director of the Natural Areas Center, Rick supervised the administration and management of the University's Natural Areas System and provided outreach services and professional development for those interested in the protection and management of natural areas and other conservation lands. His faculty appointment allowed him to pursue a research agenda that focused on the ecologies and conservation of mountain and desert landscapes throughout North America from the Canadian Arctic to the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. Rick resides in Middlesex with his wife Susan, a retired preschool teacher who unflaggingly tries to keep him from using his outdoor voice indoors.

Georgia Valentine (she/her) was first introduced to NBNC in 1998 on a visit to Vermont, where her children and grandchildren lived. On one memorable walk, an NBNC Teacher Naturalist plunged into a pond and pulled out a ferocious snapping turtle, much to the delight of her 4-year old grandson. These sorts of experiences at NBNC and remembering her own childhood rich in outdoor explorations helped Georgia see the value of first-hand nature education for children. When she moved to Vermont in 2003, she joined an early iteration of the Board of Directors, focusing on fundraising and public relations. She’s been on the Board ever since, and has been Treasurer for five years, putting to use her 22-year career in estate and trust accounting and her subsequent 15-years of experience preparing individual tax returns - families and finances! She’s a firm believer in full engagement with NBNC, from Board service, to consistent financial support, to participating in walks and classes and committees, with a full commitment to the nature center’s mission and people.

Carol Vassar (she/her) practiced internal medicine in Montpelier for 35 years, retiring in 2016. She and her family have enjoyed jogging, hiking, canoeing, biking, Nordic skating and cross country skiing, often in the North Branch Park and on the NBNC land across the river. She has appreciated the evening lectures at NBNC and its exhibits of nature-oriented paintings, drawings and other artwork. An NBNC birding trip to Costa Rica introduced her to serious birding and, more importantly, to Chip Darmstadt, the NBNC founder, recently retired executive director, and current Bird Ambasador, who led the trip.  She believes that NBNC's land and programs increase our appreciation of and willingness to protect the natural world and that our future depends on that commitment. As a member of the NBNC board of directors, she is able to help accomplish that mission.

Bob Klein (he/him) holds an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and Masters degree in environmental management from Duke University. He has worked for the Martha’s Vineyard Conservation Society, the Maine State Planning Office, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, Goddard College, the University of Vermont, and The Nature Conservancy.  Bob opened The Nature Conservancy’s Vermont Field Office in Montpelier in 1979, and was State Director there for 34 years before retiring.  Bob lives in East Montpelier.

Janet (Jan) Heyman Thouron (she/her) has studied ecology, marine biology, and specifically marine mammals at several academic institutions over the years. She studied the marine life of mangroves and bottlenose dolphin behavior at the New York Museum of Natural History’s marine research laboratory and studied humpback whales songs in Hawaii through grants from National Geographic and World Wildlife Fund with Drs. Roger and Katy Payne. Jan has been a Vet Tech, on ski patrol, a ski instructor, acted in local theater productions, and founded Splash Naturals in Montpelier. She is the chair of the discussion interview committee at the Thouron Award, a scholarship for postgraduate educational exchange between Britain and the US, is a recent graduate of an MA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts on Writing Books for Children, and writes environmentally based picture books. Jan has been on the board of North Branch since 2013, has three wonderful children, and lives with her charming husband on their beautiful land at the base of Mount Hunger in North Middlesex tending extensive gardens, fields and forest, bike and ski trails and a multitude of critters.

Josh (he/him) is the parent of a North Branch Nature Center Forest Preschooler, and an alumnus of NBNC programs himself, dating back to their earliest iterations in 1996. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Science Education from the University of Vermont, and was a program participant at the College of the Atlantic and Green Mountain College. Josh is the North American Manager of Sales and Marketing for Mavic. He leverages a unique blend of sportsmanship and leadership, bringing a strategic acumen and entrepreneurial spirit to the Board that is built in a respect for nature, community, and education. Josh is a passionate cyclist, year round outdoor enthusiast, and naturalist.

Karen Saudek (she/her) is a retired Human Resources professional with a background that includes serving as VP of HR at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, Cabot Cheese, and the Institute for Sustainable Communities. She has served as board member on the State Board of Education, the District 5 Environmental Commission, Vermont Public Television, the Vermont Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights, the Vermont Labor Relations Board, and North Branch Nature Center.

Richard Campbell (he/him) is a parent of a North Branch Nature Center Forest Preschooler and a Montpelier resident. He has a Master of Forestry degree from Yale University, and has worked in forests across New England and California. Born in Northern Ireland and raised in Vermont, Richard brings to the board a love of the Green Mountains and their forests, a career dedicated to land conservation and climate solutions, and a background in forest management and education.

"Do we wish some future historian to say about us: '"With all their genius and with all their skill, they ran out of foresight and air and food and water and ideas"? — U Thant

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7