About The Morpho Institute

Amazon Conservation Through Education

The Morpho Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.  Our vision is a world in which the Amazon – its forests, rivers, biodiversity, and people –  is treasured and protected as a vital global resource for generations to come. 

The mission of the Morpho Institute is to support the key role of education in realizing the global goal of Amazon conservation and sustainability.  To achieve this goal, The Morpho Institute provides professional development programs and curriculum resources which support local to global environmental stewardship in K-12 instruction.

In collaboration with US and international partners, The Morpho Institute provides US educators the opportunity to experience the Amazon rainforest as a compelling context for developing a global perspective on biological and cultural resources, participating in conservation, exploring sustainability, and inspiring environmental stewardship.  Our field workshops and resources apply key elements of inquiry, STEM, and placed-based learning to assist educators in making these critical local to global connections in their classrooms, instruction, and curricula.

Morpho Institute Board

Executive Board

Contact:  board@morphoinstitute.org

Kelly Keena, PhD

Dr. Kelly Keena is the Director of Education and Outreach for Underwriters Laboratories, a global safety science not-for-profit organization. Previously, Kelly was co-founder and Principal Consultant for Blue Lotus Consulting & Evaluation, LLC. Her research focused on the quality of children’s experiences in green schoolyards and participant-generated data to understand the nature of learner experiences in environmental education. In addition to more than ten years as a non-formal educator and ten years of classroom work as a science teacher and instructional coach, she consulted for projects with the Children’s Museum of Denver, National Wildlife Federation, and international organization Living Literacies. She is currently the Chair of the National Environmental Education Advisory Council for the Environmental Protection Agency where she works on national Environmental Education priorities and partnerships, including evaluation. Kelly was recently awarded the Enos Mills’ Lifetime Achievement Award in environmental education by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE).

Nancy Trautmann, PhD

Dr. Nancy Trautmann recently retired as Director of Education and currently serves as Visiting Fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, focusing on teacher professional development and curriculum development related to biodiversity conservation. Her passion lies in introducing people to the wonders of the natural world and helping teachers go beyond textbooks and lectures to get their students involved in conservation-related investigations and projects. She has published 10 books in collaboration with teachers, on topics ranging from biodiversity to toxicology. Publications by NSTA Press include a manual on citizen science and four environmental science research manuals. A recent book, Birds Without Borders, won the top educational award from the Association of American Publishers for supplemental science curricula in 2016.

Christa Dillabaugh, MA

Christa Dillabaugh is the Program Director for The Morpho Institute and coordinator of our flagship program, The Educator Academy in the Amazon.    Prior to founding the Morpho Institute, she launched Amazon Rainforest Workshops, LLC and has coordinated numerous student and university field programs in the Amazon.  Christa began her love of the Amazon and neotropical rainforests while leading expeditions for her own students from Bexley, Ohio.  She has also worked as a free-lance science consultant to Pearson Education and Discovery Communications, contributing to curriculum and activity guides as well as educator in-service workshops and training materials focusing on STEM and Understanding by Design in the science classroom.  Her current area of focus is community-based conservation and conservation education.


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Marissa Copan

Administrative and Communications Coordinator
Marissa comes to the Morpho team from Butterfly Pavilion, where she served for ten years in the education department, most recently as the Director of Community Engagement.  She is an alum of one of the first Educator Academies in 2013! She has her Masters in Biology from Miami University of Ohio via the Advanced Inquiry Program at Denver Zoo and an undergraduate in Environmental Education and Communications from Goucher College in MD.  She has received the Governor's Service Award for her time in AmeriCorps, and also the Denver Rock Stars of the Rockies 30 under 30 award. Her goal is to bring joy and build community by creating authentic learning experiences (and nature play opportunities) that will translate into conservation-based behavior change. In her spare time, she spends time with her husband Tyler and 2-year-old daughter Mikey, and loves to camp, cook and foster kittens!
Favorite Part of the Educator Academy in the Amazon: Early morning birding and fishing, learning about medicinal plants, and of course, nerding out about bugs!

Advisory Board


Katie Feilen, PhD

Director of Conservation Engagement

Katie Feilen is a primatologist, conservation biologist, and engaged scientist. She has worked on a variety of projects, including teaching environmental education with Peace Corps Paraguay, studying white-faced capuchins in Costa Rica, mentoring Peruvian students in tropical ecology and conservation in the Amazon, researching seven primate species in the rainforest of Indonesian Borneo, and reversing the decline of monkeys with Disney's Conservation Team. Katie received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from the University of California-Davis and a B.S. in Biology and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She uses behavior, ecology, and evolution to help understand how primates (monkeys, apes, and lemurs) adapt to changes in their environments and how we can use the scientific understanding of species to assist in their conservation. She also engages communities in conversations about climate change through art and works to increase science engagement to broad audiences.

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Rosanna (Ro) Ruiz, EdD

Director of Educational Engagement

Creating personal and meaningful experiences is what drives Ro, whether it concerns participants in the Morpho Institute’s PD programs, the many interns she mentors, the volunteers she works alongside, or the students she has taught over the years.  Ro began an engineering career in the Space Shuttle program with Rockwell International, but an undying passion for the environment and conservation led her into a second career in Outdoor Recreation and Administration.  As a natural teacher and non-stop learner, Ro recently completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State University, Fresno. Her dissertation, “Awe as a Professional Development Approach in Environmental Education,” included research on the impact of Morpho’s Educator Academy in the Amazon as a transformative PD experience for K12 educators.


Lindsey Swierk, PhD

Director of Scientific Research

Lindsey Swierk is a tropical ecologist studying the behavior and evolution of herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians). Lindsey heads an Organismal Ecology research laboratory at the State University of New York, Binghamton, where she and her lab investigate topics related to animal communication, social and reproductive behaviors, and adaptation to a changing world. Lindsey has conducted research throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. Lindsey serves as the Associate Director of Scientific Research for the Amazon Conservatory for Tropical Studies (ACTS) in Peru, with a research focus on lizards living in the tree canopy. Lindsey received a BA in Biology and Environmental Studies and a Masters in Environmental Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in Ecology from Penn State. She was a Donnelley Environmental Fellow at Yale University’s School of the Environment. Lindsey is actively engaged in several initiatives to make science more accessible to the public and particularly to historically underrepresented groups in science.

Educator Council

Laura Branch

Santa Maria School District, Santa Maria CA

HS/AP curriculum development, applied technology, and program outreach

Phil Kahler

Tualtin Academy, Hillsboro, OR

Amazon Binocular Project Coordinator, Citizen Science projects, eBird & iNaturalist

Megan McDaniel

Colorado Springs School District, Colorado Springs, CO

HS/AP curriculum and PD program development, student field studies program development

Janet Ort

Hoover City Schools, Birmingham, AL

HS/AP curriculum development and outreach, student field studies and research partnerships

Debby Prestridge

Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore, MD

Middle school curriculum development and outreach, funding and donations

Jo-Ann Sawyer

Marlborough School District, Marlborough, MA

HS/AP curriculum development and outreach, conference presentations, social media and fundraising

Rebecca Wingerden

Santa Maria School District, Santa Maria CA

HS/AP curriculum development, applied technology, and program outreach

Kirsten Franklin

Petaluma City Schools, Petaluma, CA

Elementary curriculum development and outreach, NGSS and STEM connections

Colleen McDaniel 

Vernier Software and Technology, Biology & Environmental Science Educational Technology Specialist

Chanda Jefferson

Fairfield County School District, Fairfield, SC

HS/AP curriculum development and outreach, PD program develpment, and STEM equity and access

Christi Paulson

Salt Lake City Schools, Salt Lake City, UT

Elementary curriculum development and outreach, nonprofit development & funding

Anne Marie Radke, EdD

Elizabeth City, NC

Retired 30 year NC educator. Working for Edfundamentals-- a grant writing, teaching  and consulting business.

Michelle Watkins

Beaver River Central School District, Beaver River, NY

HS/AP curriculum, New York State Master Teachers Liason, Camera Trap Project, and PD programming

Jordan Wolf

Flushing International High School, Flushing, NY

HS Biology/ENL education and curriculum development, grant writer, Internationals Network for Public Schools liason, Peer Group Connection advisor, Math for America Master Teacher.