15700 Old Oak Ranch Road Sonora, CA 95370  |  (209) 532–3691


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Portrait of Phil
Phil McDonald (Badger)
Phil grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania. While earning B.S. in Natural Resource Management from Northland College in Wisconsin, he discovered the field of outdoor education and developed a passion for teaching. Working with the Great Basin Institute brought him west, and once he discovered the Sierra Nevada Mountains he never looked back. Phil has worked as an Interpretive Specialist for California State Parks, Development Manager with the Nevada Conservation Corps, and non-profit outdoor education centers. Phil is excited to be part of the SOS team and looks forward to helping students discover the outdoors and experience science in the field.

Portrait of Ranger
Ranger Brauer (Bones)
Ranger is a Florida Native with a love for the mountains that has taken her across the US to do what she loves. She discovered her passion for teaching in high school and really got to start exploring that in college, where she got a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and a minor in environmental science. She has worked as a park ranger in Jacksonville, FL for a while and is excited for this new adventure across the country! When not at work she enjoys hiking, reading, and anything that lets her be creative.
Portrait of Angel
Angel Olavarria (Bobcat)
Angel grew up in the small town of Rio Vista on the California Delta. He moved to Southern California where he studied Social Science at College of the Canyons. Angel joined the teaching team in the Fall of 2015 as a substitute naturalist and was hired full time in 2017. When he is not working at SOS he serves as a volunteer with the local fire department as an EMT and Firefighter. Enjoys coaching his kids soccer teams and loves exploring the Sierra with his family. 

Portrait of Mike
Mike Barbee (Gray Wolf)
Born in Coloma, Mike grew up in the small Michigan town exploring the surrounding woods and participating in “anything outdoors”. Mike’s curiosity of the natural world led him to study Education while minoring in Science and Mathematics at Western Michigan University. Mike has lived in almost every region of the United States coaching collegiate Cross Country and Track & Field, however the “Range of Light” or Sierra Nevada Mountain range drew him back to California’s Central Valley and the University of California, Merced. Mike views outdoor education as a “best of both worlds” when it comes to combining his love for the outdoors and scientific discovery. 

Portrait of Scott
Scott Maas (Newt)
Scott grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, often exploring the forest preserve of cook county. He then went to the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point and received his Bachelor's degree in Natural Resource Management with an emphasis in Environmental Education. Scott started his career in environmental education as a Naturalist Intern at Sierra Outdoor School in 2017 and continued to explore wild and exciting places throughout the country. When not sharing his love of nature with students at SOS you can find Scott hiking, backpacking, or exploring the world around him.
Portrait of Eliana
Eliana Sanchez (Fruit Bat)
Eliana is from El Paso, a small city in West Texas. She studied Public Health at the University of Texas at San Antonio, which gave her hands-on experience in community education, health promotion, and environmental health. There, she spent most of her free time swimming in rivers and lakes, exploring hiking trails, and stargazing on warm Texas nights. On her days off, she can also be found curled up under a heavy blanket reading, crocheting, or creating some form of art!  
Portrait of Shea
Shea Merritt (Huckleberry)
Shea grew up in Canada in a small town in the Rockies and then went to college in Victoria, British Columbia. She developed a passion for the outdoors and Biological Sciences through hiking, learning, and skiing anywhere she could.  She believes that the best way to learn anything is to experience it first-hand and went on to work at many Outdoor and Environmental Science programs in Washington, Oregon, and California.  She has a new passion for the Sierra Mountains and all the amazing outdoor experiences they provide.  She now lives in Columbia with her family.
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Carter Scott (Thunder)
Carter grew up in the suburbs north of Atlanta and attended the University of Georgia. After graduating, he taught English in Japan for four years and has previously taught at outdoor environmental education facilities in Alabama, Georgia, and Colorado. He has also worked as a kayak guide on Lake Superior in Minnesota, Acadia National Park in Maine, and the Florida Everglades before venturing out to the central Sierra Nevada.
Portrait of Corrie
Corrie Billiet (Ostrich)
Corrie grew up exploring the beauty of many natural regions in California: body-surfing in the Pacific Ocean, hiking at Big Bear Lake, camping at many state beaches, rafting down the Klamath river...  She earned a bachelor’s degree at Whitworth and a teaching credential at Fresno State, taught 1st, 2nd, and sixth grades for Visalia Unified, and worked as a community organizer in downtown Visalia. She and her husband have been married for 26 years and are raising two boys together. Corrie is a lifelong learner and enjoys yoga, jogging, playing guitar and piano, and she has recently taken up painting. At Sierra Outdoor School, she loves learning from all the naturalists, admiring the view from the top of the mountain, and breathing in the fresh air created by the forest.

Portrait of Austen
Austen Thibault (Aspen)
Austen grew up exploring the forests, mountains, and waters that surround Sierra Outdoor School in Tuolumne County, CA. Here he found a love of all things natural, especially when they involve play like snowboarding and rock-climbing. He found a passion for education first as a snowboard instructor, then a science tutor while attaining his bachelor’s in biology: Ecology & Biodiversity from Humboldt State University. He worked for the university system, Forest Service, and nonprofits in field biology before shifting to education. You may still find him surfing snow, climbing rocks, dabbling in the arts, or hibernating.
Tom Gonzales (Just Tom)
Tom Gonzales (Just Tom)
If you have visited SOS in the past 32 years, chances are pretty good that you know Tom. After working full-time as a Naturalist for 22 years, he retired and is now enjoying a part-time schedule as a sub.  He continues to enjoy working with students and belaying at the High Ropes Course.
15700 Old Oak Ranch Road
Sonora, CA 95370
(209) 532–3691

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