2019 Faculty


Joelle Wellansa Sandfort  is a poet, visual artist, and free range naturalist learning how to see the world. She holds a BA in Art from Nebraska Wesleyan University and teaches in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Ted at Pahuk

Ted Burk Ph.D. is Professor of Animal Behavior and Behavioral Ecology at Creighton University. He leads frequent pollinator and insect field sessions for TNS.

Katie Thompson

Katie Thompson, M.S., is a Ph.D in lichenology at University of Wisconsin and loves to share her passion and lives to be outdoors.



Joseph Phillips is a Ph.D. candidate at University of Wisconsin and Lake Myvatn Research Station in Iceland, where he studies aquatic food webs and population dynamics.

Laurajohnsondahlke (1)

Laura Johnson Dahlke, MFA, studied creative writing at Antioch University Los Angeles and also has an MA in English from The University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Johnson Dahlke has a special interest in nature writing; she lives and dreams in Omaha with her husband and five children.



Robert Smith is a naturalist, nature photographer, tree planter, native seed collector, saunterer, and long-time member of The Naturalist School.

Matt Low

Matt Low teaches English at Creighton University. His research and writing interests include prairie restoration, sustainable agriculture, narrative theory, and the intersection of religion and the environment.

Mark and that tree.

Mark Hirsch is a nature photographer, photojournalist, and author of That Tree. Mark travels throughout the country giving workshops and displaying his photography. He lives in Platteville, Wisconsin.


Craig Maier is a tallgrass prairie ecologist and coordinator of the Tallgrass Prairie Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium based in Madison, Wisconsin. Craig has worked for a variety of conservation organizations including The Nature Conservancy and the Aldo Leopold Foundation.


John T. Price is the author of the three nature memoirs Daddy Long Legs: The Natural Education of a Father, Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships, and Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grassland. He is also the editor of The Tallgrass Prairie Reader. His nonfiction writing has also appeared in many prominent journals. He is an award-winning Professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he directs the nonfiction writing program. He lives with his wife and three sons in western Iowa.

Neal Ratzlaff

Neal Ratzlaff is a naturalist and field guide author. Neal is a retired radiologist with a lifelong interest in natural history.

Kevin Smith at New Tree School

Kevin T. Smith Ph.D. is a long-time mentor and friend of The Naturalist School. He is Supervisory Plant Pathologist for the US Forest Service Northern Research Station in Durham, New Hampshire.


Genevieve N. Williams holds an MFA from University of Nebraska, where she received an Academy of American Poets Prize. She facilitates Omaha Writers Group, a weekly writing workshop open to the public, is a teaching artist for Nebraska Writers Collective, and works as a writing consultant for Metropolitan Community College. Genevieve believes an active engagement with the natural world both in our writing and also our lives is vital as we face threats as global as climate change and as local as the defunding of state parks.

jack at pahuk

Jack Phillips is a naturalist, nature writer, consultant, and principal of The Naturalist School.