Thomas C. Lamar, Executive Director
As PCEI’s Executive Director since 1990, Tom has launched multiple efforts to increase citizen involvement in numerous environmental issues. Tom has served as a Latah County Commissioner since 2015. Before that, Tom served on the Moscow City Council for over seven years. Tom also taught Conservation Leadership at the University of Idaho, Conservation Social Sciences Department for six years. Tom holds an MS degree in Environmental Science from Washington State University (1985). He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and Anthropology at the University of Delaware in 1982. While at Delaware and WSU, Tom studied the medicinal use of plants by the Shipibo Indians of the Peruvian rainforest. Tom’s background includes Central American peace organizing in the 1980’s. He also worked with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides for two years as an advocate for pesticide exposure victims. Tom is currently serving on the Idaho Climate-Economy Impacts Assessment Advisory Board. Tom enjoys swimming, running, bicycling, triathlons, and gardening. Email Tom
Kori Claffey, Business Manager & AmeriCorps Compliance Officer
Although she traveled for most of her childhood, Kori is getting back to her roots in Moscow, ID where she was born. She has an extensive background in many different financial institutions and looks forward to eventually getting her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting at the University of Idaho with a minor in Arts/Music. Kori loves to travel, meet new people, listen to music/sing, read quotes, be outdoors as much as possible and enjoys spending time with her family any free moment she has. Kori is excited to be joining PCEI and says, “It feels so great to be a part of the working family I have always strived to find. I feel so lucky to be included in this amazing organization and the people that are involved with PCEI. Thank you to everyone who supports this beautiful place. I have completely fallen in love with it here and I can’t wait to see where the years take us.” Email Kori
Heather Huston Bell, Program Manager
Born in California, and raised in Illinois, Heather fell in love with the Palouse-Clearwater region and now considers this her home. Heather has over 10 years of program management experience in the Palouse and Clearwater region. She started working with PCEI in 2011 assisting with and overseeing the restoration and education – outreach projects and programs. Heather has formal training and practical experience in program development and management, grant writing, environmental education and outreach coordination. Her degrees are from University of Idaho in Human Development with minors in Psychology and Outdoor Recreation; and a Masters degree in Environmental Education with a certificate in Permaculture Design. She completed two terms with AmeriCorps, where she loved engaging community and youth in skill-building programs. Heather values the importance of creating a caring learning environment, working with mentors and volunteers and creating healthy communities. In her free time, Heather and her husband enjoy gardening, farming, cooking, camping and playing in water with their dog Moco. Email Heather
Frances (Frankie) Curet, Education Coordinator
Born on the Palouse and raised in the shadow of the Continental Divide in Salmon, Idaho, Frances, like many Idahoans is an outdoor enthusiast and is happiest when she’s surrounded by nature. After completing a Rotary exchange in Brazil post high school, Curet found herself at the University of Idaho where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture & Urban Agriculture with a Field Crops minor. During her time at the U of I she fell in love with the vibrant Palouse community and is humbled by the opportunity to give back to the community that supported her through university. Frances is elated to be a part of the PCEI family. You will find her camping, bouldering, skiing, bike riding, snow shoveling, propagating plant starts and flower picking in her free time. She adores puppies and loves seeing them at the PCEI Nature Center. Email Frankie
Cameron Nielsen, Education Outreach Assistant/AmeriCorps Member
Cameron is currently a student at Northern Kentucky University pursuing a degree in Integrative Studies. This includes focus areas in Environmental Studies, Photography and Journalism. While at school Cameron works as the Photo Editor for NKU’s newspaper and is the Vice president of the Hiking Club. She has always had a passion for the outdoors which was started by going on camping trips with her parents as a child. Through this passion for the outdoors, Cameron also developed a love for photography. She hopes to work as a conservation photographer to help spread the importance of protecting the environment through photos. While she is new to the area, she is very excited to learn more about environmental conservation and education during her time at PCEI. When not taking pictures, Cameron enjoys hiking, kayaking, sewing and historical reenacting.
Willow Venzke, Community Engagement Coordinator
Willow was born in northern Idaho but grew up in Moscow. After graduating from the University of Idaho with degrees in Spanish and Sociology, Willow lived in Florida for 10 hot, humid years. Realizing the Palouse truly was home, she moved back in 2011. After beginning her career in social work, she was lucky enough to take a break to raise her three kids during their younger years. Returning to work led Willow to marketing and outreach, which she enjoys because of its creativity and ability to interact with community members. Willow spends her free time hiking, gardening, camping, reading, playing games, and watching her kids’ sporting events. Email Willow
Courtney Warner, AmeriCorps Placement Coordinator
Although she has been passionate about the outdoors as long as she can remember, Courtney began cultivating a more sophisticated taste for nature at age 4, consuming the mouthwatering dirt underneath her swing set. Courtney was born and raised on the Palouse, and grew up in the small hamlet of Deary. She graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in Sport Science but considers life to have given her the most valuable formal education, having lived and worked in a many places. Courtney played rugby through her twenties, and was on the US Womens National Rugby Team for most of those, traveling on tour to Scotland, Hong Kong and Dubai. In her post semi-professional sports life, she has branched out into more creative pursuits, playing music, building furniture, and cultivating a large summer garden. When she’s not busy getting things done or cracking jokes at work, you might find her out trailblazing with her two dogs, or recreating in some body of water. Email Courtney
Dean Nizer, Nature Center Coordinator
Born and raised in Oregon, Dean fell in love with the outdoors at a young age living an hour and a half from the Oregon coast and an hour and a half from Mt. Hood. Dean grew up fishing, crabbing, hunting, hiking, and camping. This upbringing encouraged Dean to pursue a degree that would involve the outdoors and caring for the Pacific Northwest natural resources. He attained his associate degree from Mt. Hood Community College in fisheries technology in 2016. Dean took a year off school and worked for Idaho Fish and Game as a fisheries technician and creel surveyor. After working for fish and game he worked for a private fisheries research company where he led a team for three years as a fisheries specialist designing and implementing beaver dam analogs (BDA’s) and post assisted log structures (PALS). In fall 2019, he completed his bachelor’s degree from University of Idaho in Natural Resource Conservation. He currently is finishing up his master’s at University of Idaho, in their online MNR program. Dean was introduced to PCEI in his last year of undergrad where he and his class helped create a restoration proposal, partnering with PCEI. After seeing the work that PCEI does and how much they interact with the public, landowners, and students alike, he knew he wanted to serve as an AmeriCorps member for the PCEI Nature Center. In his free time, Dean finds himself hunting and fishing with his friends and wife. Email Dean
Olivia Shan, Restoration Coordinator
Olivia grew up exploring the Umpqua Valley, in Western Oregon, fueling a passion for nature. In college, she studied Natural Resource Conservation Science and worked as a Research Technician for the University’s Experimental Forest. It was during this time that Olivia found a new love: wildfire. For the next four years, Olivia worked for Idaho Department of Lands and the U.S. Forest Service as a Wildland Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician fighting wildfires around the United States. She lived in a remote bunkhouse on the South Fork of the Salmon River for one fire season, which was where she became interested in Idaho’s declining salmon populations and wild rivers. From that point on, Olivia has been an active member of the Sierra Club and has ignited a fire within herself to help preserve Idaho’s natural resources through restoration work and advocacy. In March 2021, she moved back to Moscow, Idaho after traveling much of the West in her converted van with her partner, Cole and cat, Charlie. They have recently added a rescue dog to the family, Piñon, who is often seen working alongside Olivia at PCEI. Olivia enjoys backpacking, white water rafting, rock climbing, international travel, skiing, tending to her house plants, and mountain biking. Olivia first learned of PCEI through a University of Idaho class that led her to volunteering on trail work, and then by serving an AmeriCorps term on the Restoration Team. Olivia hopes to make a positive impact on the Palouse Region through ecological restoration and community involvement, and eventually move on to pursue a term in the Peace Corps in international environmental work to create a more sustainable world. Email Olivia
Misha Cleveland, Palouse Roots Director & Lead Teacher
My journey with PCEI began at the first Palouse Roots gathering of parents, children (including my then 1-year-old Josephine), and teachers in the yurt at an old farmhouse. The vision resonated with some of my dearest aspirations and I knew right away that I wanted to be connected. Since then I have become increasingly involved and inspired to share my time and skills. My work experience is a mix of childcare, environmental ecology, and nonprofit leadership. I am most naturally drawn to working with children and have been a babysitter, nanny, camp counselor, nature center program leader, and home daycare provider. I also have a graduate degree in Ecology and a rich assortment of related work and travel experiences. As a child I spent a lot of time outside in creeks and trees, both by myself and with friends. It is those early adventures that led me to embrace the outdoors as I do today! Exploring nature with children is intuitive for me, and has also become a delightful part of the time I spend with my family and friends. Directing and teaching at Palouse Roots comes naturally and I feel very much at home. Email Misha
Fiona Quigley, Palouse Roots Assistant Teacher (AM)
As a child to two botanists, I was destined to love the outdoors. Nature and conservation played a very present role in my upbringing. I grew up in subtropical Florida, teeming with life in every corner and endless opportunities for curiosity and hands-on interaction. My time spent wandering the cypress groves and swamps instilled within me a deep connection and sense of peace with nature.
In January of 2019, I drove across the country to begin pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Washington State University. The snow was a shock, but the rolling hills and the community of Moscow, Idaho immediately captured my heart. In the fall of 2020, I was introduced to Palouse Roots as a substitute assistant teacher and was delighted by the opportunity to inspire and educate young children about nature by being directly in it!
Children have a natural curious and creative nature that I have always loved to be around, and I think these qualities are best nurtured in the outdoors. The students’ kindness, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm for knowledge is inspiring and constantly teaching me how to be more kind, resourceful, and enthusiastic in my life. Palouse Roots is a program that I feel is incredibly valuable to its students and to the communities they will touch throughout the rest of their lives. I know that I will be a great fit for the role of assistant teacher, and I am excited for this chance to inspire and educate the children in our community!
Emily Holmes, Environmental Educator/AmeriCorps Member
A native of Moscow and the daughter of two park rangers, Emily has spent 30 years bouncing around the West seeking adventure and connection. Her favorite experiences include running in the desert southwest, building trails in Alaska’s Coast Range, looking for bighorn sheep in central Idaho, and spending nearly every winter skiing in Montana. Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in Rangeland Ecology and Management from Montana State University in 2019, gravitating towards a major that was both hands-on and science-based. She particularly enjoyed studying native prairies and riparian ecology.
Emily’s future goals include graduate school in Environmental Science, learning to be a better vegetable gardener, working with community organizations to foster environmental stewardship, and building a cabin. Her free time is mostly spent writing, skiing, gravel biking, baking, and sharing the joy of trail running with her rescue dog, Coty.
Brooke Lowry, Nature Explorers Director
Brooke grew up spending as much time as she could outdoors in Calgary, Canada. She has since enjoyed living in Utah, Norway and Spain. Since moving to Moscow in 2008 and becoming a mother of three, she has discovered new ways to enjoy exploring outside with kids. She finds biking, rafting and skiing with her family especially happy making. Brooke previously worked as the Safe Routes to School Coordinator for Moscow schools and coached competitive badminton internationally. She is currently on the PCEI Board and is thrilled for the opportunity to create an exceptional Nature Explorers program for children in our Moscow community where they can experience learning and moving outside at the beautiful PCEI Nature Center.
Marley Pankratz, Nature Explorers Camp Assistant
Marley is a student at the University of Idaho studying Natural Resource Conservation & Remote Sensing of the Environment. She is a bus driver for the Moscow School District during the school year and spends the summers in Jackson, Wyoming working for a whitewater rafting outfitter. She loves hiking, camping, river trips, and backpacking.
Chrissy Hoefgen, Nature Explorers Camp Assistant
Having recently moved to Moscow to complete her B.S. in Agriculture Education, Chrissy is glad to have found the PCEI community! Chrissy, a farmer at heart, grew up in Wisconsin but spent the last six years living and working on small farms in Bellingham, WA where she deepened her passion for experiential outdoor teaching and learning. While in Bellingham, she lived in a barn, pruned a lot of fruit trees, ate a lot of delicious farm-fresh produce, and of course, spent all her free time in the mountains! When she’s not digging in the dirt or talking about her favorite apple varieties, you can find Chrissy doing science experiments in the kitchen, planning her weekend adventures to the mountains, sewing holes in her favorite sweaters, spending time with friends and family, or, likely, doing schoolwork! Chrissy is excited to have the opportunity to cultivate her teaching skills while actively engaging with and getting to know the Palouse-Clearwater Region.
Jen Hiebert, IT Coordinator
Jen was born and raised in northern Manitoba, Canada, where she developed a love for the outdoors and a commitment to environmental issues. A convoluted career path has led her to her current position at PCEI. Jen has a B.Sc. in Ecology and a Master’s in Watershed Ecosystems. She has been a research assistant working with everything from fish eggs to seal pups, has taught self-defense for women, and was a Front End Manager at the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery in southern Illinois. Jen has enjoyed living in many places (including France and New Zealand) but thinks Moscow is the perfect picnic spot. Jen loves knitting, gardening, photography, and spending time with her husband and two loveable but demanding rescued dogs. Email Jen
PCEI collaborates with this fabulous Portland-based non-profit
Elizabeth Cabral, CEC AmeriCorps Program Director
ecabral [at] confluencecenter [dot] org
Elizabeth is Confluence’s Program Director. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Public Health from Portland State University.
Elizabeth was raised in the Gorge and is the proud daughter of immigrant parents. Before joining Confluence Environmental Center, Elizabeth worked for six years in active transportation – leading efforts to create safe access to walking, biking and transit in undeserved communities in Portland. Elizabeth brings with her experience at the intersections of transportation, housing and the environment and strong commitment to racial and environmental equity, She hopes to bring her passion and background in equity and culturally responsive programming to the organization and its AmeriCorps members. During her free time she organizes bike rides with Portland based Mujeres en – a local Latina bike group she co-founded 3 years ago to encourage more Latinas to bike. She also enjoys to spending time with her family, visiting the gorge, wine tastings, and exploring new hiking trails in the PNW.
Ashlie Tainer, CEC Operations Coordinator
atainer [at] confluencecenter [dot] org
Ashlie grew up in Portland, Oregon, and after a combined eight years of pursuing graduate studies in environmental studies and working abroad leading experiential learning programs, she is excited to be putting down roots back in the Pacific Northwest.
Her career started unknowingly with Confluence in 2011 when she worked as an AmeriCorps member with PCEI, which is where her passion for environmental education and community service was solidified. She then completed a second term of service as an AmeriCorps member with The Nature Conservancy in Phoenix, Arizona and knew she wanted to pursue a permanent role with the AmeriCorps program in the future. Coming full circle, Ashlie is excited to work closely with PCEI again and have the opportunity to put her experiences from the AmeriCorps and international travels to use leading the next generation of environmental stewards and leaders.
When she’s not working, Ashlie enjoys spending time outside hiking, camping and wine tasting. You can also find her catching up on her favorite true crime podcasts and trying to find a way to put chocolate in almost everything.
Samantha Vernon, CEC Program and Outreach Coordinator
svernon [at] confluencecenter [dot] org
Samantha hails from the Hoosier state, but she’s called Oregon her home for the past 4 years. Before joining Confluence Environmental Center, Samantha completed terms of service with AmeriCorps FEMA Corps, AmeriCorps NCCC, and AmeriCorps VISTA. Most recently she was working in homelessness services here in Portland. Samantha is currently Confluence Environmental Center’s Program and Outreach Coordinator.
When she’s not working, she’s studying to complete a degree in Women’s & Gender Studies. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the gorge, hiking, snowshoeing, yoga, and petting other peoples dogs.