Rosanna (Ro) Ruiz, EdD
President / 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.
Christa Dillabaugh, MA
Treasurer / Executive Director
Prior to founding the Morpho Institute, Christa 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.
Kirsten Franklin has been an elementary educator for 34+ years with experience teaching the first through sixth grades. In addition to teaching in California, Kirsten was a Fulbright exchange teacher to Scotland in 2006 and taught ESL to primary students in the Galapagos in the summer of 2008. From 2013-16, she was a teacher on special assignment supporting elementary science and the common core in the Petaluma City Schools. During that time, she discovered the Educator Academy in the Amazon and made the first of four trips to the Peruvian Amazon in 2015. Her experiences there had a huge impact on her both personally and professionally! Kirsten retired from the classroom in 2023, but is continuing her work as an Environmental Literacy Coordinator empowering all of the TK-6 students with outdoor learning and environmental projects.
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.
Katie Feilen, PhD
Director of Conservation Engagement
Katie 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.
Amanda Dworak-Rowland, EdD
Connecting folks to nature. Providing opportunities for folks to challenge themselves and fail safely in news spaces is her passion. Amanda Rowland is the Program Manager of Interpretation, Education, and Visitor Services at Zion National Park. She has over 20 years of experience working within the fields of education, partnerships, interpretation, youth and volunteer programming and workforce management. Amanda’s federal career started with the Forest Service in the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) while she was completing her B.S. in Environmental Science and Conservation Management. Amanda holds a M.S. in Resource Interpretation from Stephen F. Austin University, and Doctor of Education from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Her research focused on Social Change Model of Leadership Development, youth leadership programming that connect youth to their public lands and social change. When Amanda is not crafting or cooking, she is in the outdoors bicycling and hiking.
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.
Dr. Katie Feilen, Miami University
Anita Palmer, GISEtc
Dr. Rob Naczi, New York Botanical Garden
Laura Arndt, Global GreenSTEM
Dr. Rusty Low, NASA GLOBE Observer
Michael McAloon, The Taft School