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 Faculty 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 25 EcoFS courses to over 500 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.  

Madi Jones, Teaching Assistant

Madison completed her Honors Bachelor of Science degree in Neurology at the University of Toronto in 2013. She has served as the 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 
Winter-break 2014 Caribbean EcoFS course and then as a Course Assistant for 4 courses. 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. She will be returning for her 8th Caribbean EcoFS course!

Laura Mudge, Teaching Assistant (Summer 2018)

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 joined the EcoFS team as a Teaching Assistant this past summer of 2017. She cherishes the opportunity to engage students in 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 4 EcoFs courses & this past year Ray helped create the EcoFS dive operation out of Xpu-Ha. He teaches the SCUBA certification course for EcoFS. Ray has a large interest in marine renewable energy application & physical oceanography and hopes to complete a masters in physical oceanography or join the NASA in the coming years. He is looking forward to an amazing class of diving and ocean exploration with the upcoming Caribbean EcoFS course. Ask him about his experience helping National Geographic do shark filming!

Jenny Bueno, Course Assistant

Jenny is recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where sheearned 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 fourth time as Caribbean EcoFS course assistant and is an amazing cook who coordinates the food supply for the course.

Patrick Cabrera, Course Assistant

Patrick is a senior at Florida International University, majoring in Biology. Marine biology and oceanography are his favorite classes. For his thesis, he is researching sedimentation and other threats to coral reef health of Florida. Born and raised in Miami, Patrick has had a life-long love and appreciation for the ocean. This has led to years of experience as a sailing instructor and his current Divemaster certification. When he is not diving, or working as a sailing instructor he coaches middle school cross-country.

Patrick was a student on the winter-break 2016-2017 Caribbean EcoFS course and his research focused on soft coral polyp defense mechanisms.  He returned as Course Assistant & Divemaster for the 2 summer coursesPatrick is thrilled to join the EcoFS team again this winter-break. Patrick enhoys helping new students learn and have fun while experiencing the incredible diving and snorkeling that Xpu-Ha has to offer.  Ask him about his 100th dive at Xpu-Ha!