Caribbean Staff

Steve Johnson, EcoFS Director & Professor

Steve earned his Masters of Science degree from the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana at Missoula (UM) in 1995 & is currently an Affiliate Professor at UM.  Steve has devoted his entire career to studying and teaching Rocky Mountain and Caribbean ecosystem science and has 20+ years of experience in the field of ecosystem education. Steve founded the Ecosystem Field Studies (EcoFS) Program in 2006 in Colorado with a mission to provide unparalleled ecosystem learning opportunities for undergraduate college students. Steve has now safely and successfully taught over 20 EcoFS courses to over 400 students.

Before creating EcoFS, Steve was Program Director at Cal-Wood Education Center, a private non-profit outside of Boulder, Colorado & the lcurrent ocation for the Colorado EcoFS course. At Cal-Wood Steve established environmental education programs to K-12 school groups & collaborated with teachers to design field science programs. Other ecosystem education experience includes serving as a Naturalist for the National Park Service, Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator for the Student Conservation Association, and Field Instructor for Yosemite National Institutes in California. Steve holds an Advanced Open water SCUBA certification with over 250 Caribbean dives & has lived in Boulder, Colorado since 1997. Steve's wife, Jen Johnson is a Board Certified Family Physician who serves as the course doctor & EcoFS medical advisor.  

Madi Jones, Teaching Assistant (Course 1)

Madison completed her Honors Bachelor of Science degree in Neurology at the University of Toronto in 2013. She has served as Teaching Assistant for the past 2 courses.  As the TA she creates & grades assignments, teaches topical lectures, facilitates student research projects, and assists with all logistics. Madison has been fascinated by marine life since she was young. Madison is currently working for Qualicare Family Homecare in Toronto, recruiting nurses, personal support workers and other health-care professionals to work in the homecare environment. In her spare time, she loves to ski, play volleyball, sing & do yoga. Madison has her Advanced Open Water and Research Diver certifications and over 100 dives completed on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

Madison was a student on the Caribbean EcoFS course in January 2014 & served as a Course Assistant for 3 courses, She will be returning for her 7th Caribbean EcoFS course!In the summer of 2012, Madison lived on the Sian Ka'an Biosphere in Quintana Roo, Mexico & worked as a volunteer research diver at the Pez Maya research base. As part of the Coral Specialist team, She spent her days underwater, observing & recording data on the abundance & health of coral communities on the Mesoamerican Barrier reef.  She gained a vast knowledge base of coral reef structure & function that she loves to share with students on the course.

Laura Mudge, Teaching Assistant (Course 2)

Laura is currently a PhD student studying coral reef ecology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her research looks at the ecological interaction between the endangered elkhorn coral, spiny sea urchins, & parrotfish.  She has a strong academic background in marine biology & conservation with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Master of Science in Environmental Studies, both from the College of Charleston S.C. Laura lives for fieldwork and has spent countless hours surveying the saltmarshes of SC and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in Mexico and Belize. She also spent 2 years in the Philippines as a coastal resource management advisor working on marine protected areas management and helping to set up an artificial reef program.

Laura is a PADI Divemaster and AAUS Scientific Diver with 15 years of diving experience, including 100+ dives off the Yucatan Peninsula. A self-proclaimed 'coral-geek', Laura loves sharing her knowledge of coral reefs outside the traditional classroom setting by getting students into the water & making observations about nature as they see it. She is excited to join the EcoFS team as a Teaching Assistant & have the opportunity to engage students first hand in ecological research!

Ray Lowenstein, SCUBA Operations Director & Course Assistant

Ray is a graduate of the University of Florida & majored in Natural Resource Conservation with a minor in Geology. Growing up in Miami Beach, FL, Ray has had the opportunity to be surrounded by the ocean most of his life. Given this luck, Ray has worked in dive shops since the age of 16, able to complete his Divemaster at the age of 18 and is now a NAUI Instructor. Among other certifications, Ray is also a Lifeguard Instructor, AAUS Scientific Diver and Tec Diver with hundreds of dives under his belt.  Ray currently works in Miami Beach Florida as a SCUBA dive instructor.

Ray completed the Caribbean EcoFS course the winter of 2015-2016, where his research focused on ocean currents and their various speeds at various depths. He then returned as a Course Assistant for the past 2 EcoFs courses. This past course Ray helped create the EcoFS dive operation out of Xpu-Ha. Ray has a large interest in marine renewable energy application & physical oceanography and hopes to complete a masters in physical oceanography or join the NOAA Corp in the coming years. He is looking forward to an amazing summer of diving and ocean exploration with the Caribbean EcoFS course. Ask him about his experience helping National Geographic do shark filming!

Jenny Bueno, Course Assistant

Jenny is currently a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she is pursuing her Bachelors of Science degree in Earth and Environmental Science. This past summer she was part of the SUGAR project, Suwanee Suture and Georgia Rift Basin Experiment, an NSF project through the Lamont-Doherty Observatory where she collected seismic refraction data and gained valuable field work experience. She is working on independent research in the Atmosphere, Climate and Ecosystems Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago studying and analyzing carbonyl sulfide.

Ever since Jenny took the Caribbean EcoFS course in the summer of 2015 she has become more passionate about the environment. Jenny has deep roots in Mexico as both her parents are from the Durango region of Mexico and she is a native Spanish speaker.  She is returning for her third time as Caribbean EcoFS course assistant and is an amazing cook and coordinates the food supply for the course.

Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Course Assistant

Juan Carlos Rodriguez is from Akumal, Mexico and is a SCUBA diving Instructor, certified through PADI. He worked at Akumal Dive Center as divemaster and instructor for the past 3 years. During that time he led many dives for the Caribbean EcoFS class and is a long-time friend of the course. He has a passion for teaching scuba diving and snorkeling to young students and exposing them to the wonders of the ocean. Juan is extremely excited to join the EcoFS staff and has been vital in facilitating the switch to the new course location at Xpu-ha.

Juan grew up in rural Mexico where he developed a love for the land and nature. He did his academic studies in Mexico City in the Anahuac University and achieved a degree in Strategic Communication and Public Relationships. Before SCUBA diving dominated his life he worked for five years in Organization Development and working on leadership and teamwork programs.  He has dual citizenship in Mexico and the United States.