Our Staff and Board of Directors
Dave Irvine became the Executive Director of the Highlands Center for Natural History in January of 2008. Mr. Irvine brings in over 25 years of experience working with non–profit, science education organizations as a naturalist, program director and executive director. Most recently he was the Director at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center in Northeast Ohio, which was operated in partnership with the National Park Service. He was also a past President of Environmental Education Council of Ohio and has worked for other organizations in Colorado, North Dakota and Ohio. Originally from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Mr. Irvine holds a BS degree from Penn State University in Parks & Recreation with an emphasis in Environmental Interpretation and has done graduate work at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
As a member of the Education team at Highlands Center for Natural History, Sarah brings passion for science, love for education, and rootedness in the communities she serves. As a young scientist, Sarah obtained a B.S. in Earth Science from George Mason University, with research opportunities in freshwater ecology and geomorphology. After working as an outdoor educator and field guide from the Chesapeake Bay, to the Grand Staircase Escalante, her desire to become an educator evolved leading her to receive a M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Prescott College. Sarah brings experience in environmental and educational leadership – constantly learning from and celebrating the communities that make up the Central Highlands, human and non-human. She works hard to facilitate meaningful experiences for people in nature, about nature, and most importantly, with nature.
Maria grew up exploring the woods of southern Indiana, and lived in Colorado and on the Appalachian Trail before making her way to the Central Highlands of Arizona over a decade ago. It’s safe to say her love of the outdoors runs deep. Maria graduated in 2019 from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott with a wildlife science degree. She brings to her role as Education Director her passion for lifelong learning through environmental education, and considers it her calling to help others connect with nature in meaningful ways. Maria also enjoys hiking, backpacking, and birdwatching. She volunteers on the board of Prescott Audubon Society and with Grand Canyon National Park’s Preventive Search and Rescue (PSAR) Program.
Cathy Sutton worked in healthcare for 22 years, primarily as a nurse. She obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing in 2001 and a Master’s of Science in Healthcare Informatics (IT) in 2014 from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Since that time, she moved to Arizona to start a family and begin a new chapter in her life.
In 2021, Cathy underwent a major life transformation, which sparked a newfound interest in hiking and being in nature. In conjunction with this transformation, she needed a career field shift so she became the Operations Director in 2022. With her new found respect for nature, she has become passionate in assisting “children and adults discover the wonders of nature and become wise caretakers of the land.”
Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator
Jules was born and raised on Long Island, New York until given the opportunity to play lacrosse at the University of Tampa where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science degree. Prior to graduating Jules relocated to Arizona in 2017 after visiting her brother multiple times and appreciating the incredible biodiversity the Prescott area has to offer.
Jules’ previous experience in Prescott consists of working as a Childrens’ Advocate for a local domestic violence shelter where her passion for teaching and connecting with our youth grew. She then moved on to working with an Outdoor Education program that focused on teaching and facilitating students in science-based classes as well as helping them succeed in leadership, team building and challenge course activities. Jules had the opportunity to fulfill her student teaching requirements at Skyview School before graduating with her Master’s degree in Elementary Education in December of 2020. She then moved on to teaching 2nd & 3rd grade full-time at Skyview School for 3 years.
Being an avid for the outdoors she spends most of her free time climbing, backpacking, running or finding new places to explore with her dog, Roo. She is excited for the opportunity to be involved with such an extraordinary place and could not be more grateful to be a part of the Highland’s Center community!
Lauren is an avid hiker with her pup Dodger and loves fishing and going off-roading. She loves discovering untouched nature and immersing herself in its healing and renewing abilities, photographing what she sees. And she is excited to be a part of an organization whose mission is to teach everyone about nature.
Lauren has almost 7 years experience in graphic design and is well versed in both traditional and social media marketing. She is dedicated to invoking emotion within the viewer while making an impact through her work.
Jessica Manley Ewald
Youth Education Coordinator
Jessica is a native of California, but has lived in Arizona since 1994 when she came here to attend college and received her Bachelor of Science in Soils from Northern Arizona University. Jessie spent some years working for Sharlot Hall Museum, and then at the local government level, but never lost her passion for the natural sciences. She started as a volunteer for the Highland Center helping with the Knee High Naturalist program, working in the store, and special events. Jessie later transitioned to the Americorps program assisting the Education Department, and now she is a permanent member of our staff.
Events and Volunteer Coordinator
Jena relocated from the scenic mountains of Central Idaho to Prescott in 2022 and is thrilled to bring her profound love of the natural world and passion for community enrichment to the Highlands Center for Natural History team. Jena graduated from the College of Idaho in 2011 with a degree in Historical Studies and spent the ensuing five years exploring the mountains and rugged terrain of the Sawtooth Wilderness. It was during this time that she honed a skillset unique to non-profit development through her numerous roles ranging from community outreach and event coordination to interpretive specialization and education. Beyond her professional pursuits, Jena enjoys backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. As she continues her exploration of the Central Arizona Highlands, Jena embodies a strong belief that the greatest gift is sharing the wonders of the natural world with others.
Community Education Coordinator
Nancy was born and raised in Maryland where she developed an early passion for nature and animals. She started working with animals at 17 and continued working there in her free time while she attended Washington College, where she would earn her BS in Biology in 2016.
After college, Nancy participated in the Disney College Program which ended up turning into a seven year career. Her passion for animals and nature led her to work at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for four of those years. She Educated thousands of guests about the animals seen at the park, her favorite being the gorillas. Animal Kingdom sparked a new found love for environmental education and inspiring young minds.
Seeking to further her career Nancy found the AmeriCorp opportunity with the Highlands Center where she could expand her environmental education experience and be close to family. Nancy is excited to be a part of the Highlands Center family.
Our Board of Directors
Front Row from left to right
Mary Ann Mira
Back row from left to right