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


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Naturalist Staff Photo
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 Emma
Emma Ervolina (Glacier) 
Emma grew up in New York’s Hudson Valley surrounded by a playground of trees, rocks, and ice cold streams. She earned her B.S. in Geology at the College of Saint Rose in 2014, where she had opportunities to study glaciers on the Juneau Icefield, paleo landslides in the southwest, and microplastic pollution in northeastern waterways. Feeling the need to share her passion for environmental conservation with the next generation of scientists, Emma packed up her car and drove out to California to become a naturalist intern at Sierra Outdoor School in 2015. Here she had the opportunity to work alongside some incredible educators, soaking up their knowledge and developing her own teaching style. Emma has since worked for other outdoor schools in NY and CA, but eventually found her way back to SOS where she is excited to work with an exceptional team and continue sharing her knowledge and passions with students. In her free time Emma can be found hiking, camping, cross country skiing, paddleboarding, roller skating, finding secret swimming holes and hot springs, playing the fiddle, foraging wild edibles, or playing board games with friends. 
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 Victor
Victor Gonzalez (IO)
Victor grew up in Madera Ranchos on a small farm. He received a B.A. in Natural Science, with an emphasis in Earth Science from CSU Fresno, then received a Credential and Master’s in Education from National University. While in undergrad, Vic worked for California Teaching Fellows at Edison High School, prior to the pandemic, then transferred to McLane High School, during the start of the pandemic, to assist in the After School Program for tutoring. He then transferred to CUSD to be a substitute teacher and found many opportunities to bond with students over his love for winter sports and outdoor experiences. More importantly, Victor’s hobbies of backpacking, kayaking, snowboarding, and mountain biking has lead him to flow smoothly into the outdoor world of education at SOS. 
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. 

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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