Colorado Staff

Steve Johnson, EcoFS Director & Professor (Course 2)

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.  

Rebecca Harris, Professor (Course 1)

Rebecca earned her Master’s degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2013. Her thesis studied the effects of Lodgepole pine death due to Mountain Pine Beetle on understory plant communities. While at CU she served as TA for General Biology and Introduction to Ecology. She was also a National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellow for two years, which allowed her to improve her skills as a science communicator and educator & to bring her own research experience into K-12 classrooms. In addition to her Master's research, Rebecca has ten years of experience working on ecosystem based research projects as a botanist, crew leader, project manager, technician, volunteer, & student. Her research has given her the opportunity to work on plant communities & invasive plants in California grasslands & Colorado subalpine forests, bird diversity in Costa Rica, & nesting sea-turtle populations in Hawaii.

Currently, Rebecca is a secondary science teacher Boulder, Utah. She also has a Wilderness Emergency Technician (WEMT) certification, & serves as an EMT on Boulder's ambulance. In her free time, she enjoys learning new skills, discussing scientific literacy, and spending as much time as possible exploring the expansive wilderness of Southeastern Utah.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2007. Rebecca was a Professor for the Colorado EcoFS class in 2015 & 2016 & Teaching Assistant in 2014. She is passionate about ecosystem-based education & excited to bring her expertise to EcoFS. 

Garrett Rue, Teaching Assistant

Garrett Rue is a PhD student in the Hydrologic Sciences and Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder and is affiliated with the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). ​T​he focus of his research ​is the impacts of disturbance on water quality and the surrounding environment. These include the worsening effects of mine drainage, the influence of the 2013 ​Colorado ​Front Range flood on watershed biogeochemistry, and most recently the consequences of wildfire to the sensitive, headwater catchments of Boulder Creek. Related to these studies, he specializes in exploring the linkages between the aquatic and the terrestrial environment both across Colorado and as far off as Antarctica.         

​Garrett has taught across the continuum of the classroom, lab, and field courses at C​U Boulder. including seven Teaching Assistant positions. He possesses a deep background in both the methodological and analytical aspects of environmental sampling. Synthesizing these roles as a scientist, educator, and mentor, and along with a passion for all things outdoors, his award-winning work lies at the nexus of research on water, ecosystem function, and strategies for management. He continues to collaborate on a host of ongoing projects to monitor, understand, and advocate for the conservation of natural resources on which we all depend. Garrett is also an avid adventurer, taking every opportunity to get “out there” to explore whatever the season offers wherever he may be.

Michael Thomas, Course Assistant

Michael is a recent graduate of Western Kentucky University with a degree in Biology focusing on Botany and a minor in Geographic Information Sciences. Michael was a student on the 2015 Colorado EFS course and also completed the month-long Extended Credit option of Indpendent Research.  He conducted a study Escobaria vivipara (ball cactus) Community Structure Analysis; Habitat Preference, Interspecific Relationship & Diversity Analysis.

Michael is passionate about preserving the environment and is pursuing a career in rare plant conservation. For over two years Michael has worked at WKU’s Upper Green River Preserve where he worked with the WKU biology department to help protect and restore the tall grass prairie of the Green River. In addition to working with WKU’s Green River Preserve, Michael also served as president of the WKU Ecology Club during the 2015-2016 school year.  Michael enjoys playing music and worked as a guitar instructor at the Guitar Academy of Bowling Green where he taught classical and modern music to students of all ages.

Mary Hekker, Course Assistant

Mary recently graduated from Pace University in New York City with a degree in Environmental Studies. Her education focused on environmental philosophy and ethics and she completed a senior thesis on the social impacts of Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybees. Mary participated as a student on the Colorado EFS course in the summer of 2014. 

Since graduating, Mary traveled to Ecuador to intern with the Third Millennium Alliance on the Jama-Coaque Reserve. TMA works to preserve the coastal Ecuadorian rainforest. There she aided in wildlife ecology studies, worked on the reserve's Permaculture garden, and earned her Permaculture Design Certification. She plans to help build a healthier planet and its population by unifying nature and culture through permaculture design. Mary spends her free time hiking, traveling, trying new adventure sports, sharpening her machete, and scooping ice cream.

Tom Danz, Course Assistant

Tom is a graduate of Bard College in New York with a bachelor's degree in Environmental and Urban Studies. His thesis studied the ecological history of white-tailed deer overpopulation in the Hudson Valley. Tom attended the 2015 Colorado EFS course as a student, where he studied the effect of manual forest thinning practices on soil composition.
Growing up as a homeschooler in the rural Northeast, Tom chose to spend most of his time in the woods. His childhood education focused on the land and its history and he is still exploring, observing, and playing. Since leaving Bard, Tom has worked in agriculture and currently manages livestock at a diversified farm. He is grateful that he is able to work and learn in the ecosystem he calls home. Tom plays baseball and hockey and loves carpentry, gardening, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and skiing.