Dave Scott

Founder/Executive Director

Dave Scott can trace his deep love for nature and the outdoors back to his earliest childhood memories catching crayfish and minnows in the little creek behind the house he grew up in, hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather in Corpus Christi, TX, and riding horses with his brother in the Colorado Rockies. After a childhood filled with outdoor exploration and adventure, Dave joined a Search and Rescue team in Southern Colorado where his passion for self-reliance and wilderness survival was kindled further through his experience helping others in wilderness emergencies.


He then went on to serve 6 years in the US Army. After exiting the military Dave began pursuing his passion for the outdoors full time, studying wilderness survival, wildlife tracking, youth and adult mentoring, naturalist studies, and sustainable living skills at wilderness schools across the country. 


In 2011, after moving back to his hometown of Austin, TX from the Pacific Northwest, Dave’s vision of opening a Wilderness Skills School became reality when he founded Earth Native Wilderness School with plenty of help from his wonderful wife Mikki. It has been one of his greatest life experiences to watch the school grow, along with the wonderful community that it has sparked.


In addition to his love of wilderness survival and bushcraft skills, Dave has an intense passion for wildlife tracking. In 2011 he was certified as a Track and Sign Specialist through the Cybertracker Conservation evaluation system, an international standard for certifying wildlife trackers, becoming the 12th person in North America at the time to attain the certificate. 


Dave is also the co-author of Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species. A book he wrote with his good friend and fellow wildlife tracker Casey McFarland.


As an educator, Dave’s passion is to help his students establish strong lifelong bonds with nature and the outdoors through knowledge of wildlife behavior and track and sign, increased sensory awareness, wilderness survival skills, self-reliance, and the knowledge of place. Dave’s greatest love is spending time outdoors with his wife and kids. 

Ilya Shmulenson

Director of Youth Programs

Ilya grew up in Brooklyn, NY and was lucky enough to trade the concrete playgrounds of the city for the fields and woods of the Catskill Mountains each childhood summer.

Ilya witnessed, and was mesmerized by, his first bow-drill friction fire at the Wilderness Awareness School in Duval, WA while he was earning his Master’s degree in Education from the University of Washington and completing the Education for Environment and Community graduate residency program at IslandWood. For over a decade, this exposure to wilderness skills, the natural cycle, core routines, and activities outlined in the Coyote’s Guide to Connecting to Nature have been integrated into his work with organizations which have offered the full gamut of environmental education programming -- from four-day residential field trips, to summer camps, after-school programs, in-school programs, and supporting young educators and leaders in the field. 

Prior to joining the staff of Earth Native, Ilya served as the Deputy Director of PEAS- Partners, for Education, Agriculture, and Sustainability, the Director of Programs at Keep Austin Beautiful, and helped lead the implementation of Austin’s Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative with the City of Austin and Austin ISD. He currently serves on the Children & Nature Network’s Youth Leadership Advisory Council and Austin ISDs Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee. In 2016 he was named to the North American Association of Environmental Education’s “30 Under 30 Game Changers for the Planet” list. 

Ilya is a firm believer that people should strive to be life-long, life-wide, and life-deep learners - learning new things throughout their entire lives and delving deep into the topics which interest them most. As Director of Youth Programs at Earth Native Wilderness School, Ilya excitedly offers his leadership and expertise to the staff, support to students and their families, and always looks forward to learning new things from our instructors and students! 

Britt Luttrell

Forest Preschool Director/Instructor

Britt Luttrell is a native of Austin, Texas. Growing up he spent many an afternoon catching bugs or in some treehouse he had built with his nose in a journal.  His father worked for the Texas Agriculture Department and used to take him on ranch visitations where he experienced MASSIVE purple grapes on the trellis and corn fields with more ravens in them than corn. These trips, and others, bound Britt to the natural world in a truly significant way. 


Britt loves witnessing the wonders of nature, whether it be giant trees growing on the edges of sheer cliffs or the impossibly perfect adaptations of tiny insects. He loves challenging his body, finding nooks and crannies no person has ever been to before. The stories of an ecosystem captivate him… Are these ants coming or going? Who was here last night? Britt feels so proud to have retained his childhood sense of wonder about the world. He values green belts as much as huge forests and he believes every kid should have a safe place to connect to the Earth and its wildness.


Before joining the Earth Native teaching staff, Britt spent eight years practicing, learning, and teaching young people at Nature’s Way Preschool at the Austin Nature and Science Center. He was fortunate enough to study with some leading figures in play-based education, including Tom Hobson (Teacher Tom), International Play Iceland, and others. Britt has held the microphone on discussion panels for the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin (CINCA) and led countless meetups in the greater community. Between preschool classes, summer camp groups, volunteer days, hiring and training new staff, and international trainings, Britt has shown his city the benefits of playing outside.


With nearly a decade of outdoor education experience, Britt knows that the best place for children to learn is in the woods, forests, and wild places. He is eternally joyful that he has the opportunity to continue to give children some of their first great adventures in nature at Earth Native.

Mike DiMauro

Lead Adult Instructor

Raised in New Jersey, Mike's initial fascination with nature came from countless hours in his backyard woods digging for arrowheads, collecting rocks, building forts, playing spy games, and catching his own wild pets. The land spoke to him through day dreams as he sat in his treehouse, and his favorite pastimes include playing in the rough surf along the Jersey shore.

He spent 4 years studying at Ramapo College of New Jersey, where he graduated with a degree in Accounting while being the captain of the school's soccer team. Mike decided against an office career and went in search of something different. Being inspired by reading Tom Brown Jr.'s The Tracker, he spent the next summer camping with minimal gear in a remote area near coastal Maine and then went on to pursue a five year Mentorship with Mike Douglas, director of the Maine Primitive Skills School. During his stay in Maine, he helped the school grow to a full time endeavor, including infrastructure, a successful apprenticeship program, and a residential instructor staff. Upon leaving Maine in October of 2014, Mike was the school's Head Instructor for Adult Programs and Assistant Instructor for Children's programs. He is also a Registered Maine Guide. Mike joined the Earth Native team in early 2015.

The lessons Mike has learned from survival trips into the wilderness and living for years at a time in structures such as a tipi, a yurt, a grass hut, and an earth-lodge have inspired him to live a life of moderation, and one in tune with the natural rhythms of the Earth. He remains focused on further developing his earth skills, his yoga practice, and exploring the integration of ancestral wisdom with the modern ways of living and thinking. He loves being in the Austin area and is thankful for the opportunity to share skills with children and adults.

Lauren Somody

Senior Youth Instructor

Lauren was raised in Helotes, TX, an old farming town Northwest of San Antonio, surrounded by the Texas Hill Country. Growing up she spent much of her time exploring the wooded areas around her home with neighborhood friends and alone. Lauren recalls that she and her friends sometimes spent entire days working to accomplish such important tasks as damming a creek bed or building a new “home”, but that her favorite experiences were ones had in solitude. She found that being alone in the quiet of nature fueled her imagination as she developed friendships with plants and critters she met on her explorations. Lauren’s greater appreciation for the natural world was ignited by the annual camping trips to the San Juan National Forest that she took with her family. Weeks spent canoeing, fishing, hiking and observing the wildlife ignited Lauren’s passion for nature. 

Lauren loves children and feels a natural connection to them. She has decades  of experience working with kids of all ages, beginning with caring for a younger sibling and babysitting and volunteering her time with special needs children as a teen. In 2008 she began teaching preschool and taught children ages 2-4 using the High Scope curriculum which allows teachers to facilitate learning by supporting self-discipline and encouraging children to explore, make choices and problem solve, and then in a Montessori preschool where she gained further experience allowing children to develop self-confidence and learn through personal discoveries and drawing of conclusions. Lauren adores sharing  the excitement that kids feel when they discover something new and loves to guide her Earth Native kids on new paths of discovery!

Lauren studied American Sign Language interpreting at ACC and has obtained a certificate in ASL Studies. She is also certified in CPR and First Aid.

Lauren loves to be active and health and fitness are integral parts of her life. She is energized by practicing yoga, riding bikes, swimming, taking long, meditative walks and enjoying life with her family. 

Narissa Velasquez

Senior Youth Instructor/Lead Monthly Programs

Narissa is an Austin native. She developed a passion for the natural world at a very young age while spending countless hours at her neighborhood creek building dams, investigating insects, and catching toads. One of her fondest memories growing up involved a grand camping expedition with her family to Balmorhea State Park in Texas, White Sands and Mesa Verde National Parks in New Mexico, Arches National Park in Utah, and other state/national parks along the way. 


Before completing her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Foods, through Texas State University, Narissa had the opportunity to intern with Urban Roots, where she empowered, inspired and promoted healthy lifestyle choices to young people through food and farming. This fulfilling work inspired her to continue working in youth education. 


After graduating from college, Narissa dedicated two years of service to the 4-H CAPITAL AmeriCorps program where she brought high-quality nature-based experiences to underserved youth in the Austin area. She taught students how to camp, fish, build shelters and campfires, as well as many other outdoor survival skills.


She is thrilled to share her nature knowledge and experiences with her students and others at Earth Native. She spends her free time volunteering with local organizations, hiking, camping, kayaking, and playing disc golf/soccer in and around the Austin area.

Julia Cosgrove

Senior Youth Instructor

Julia grew up in El Paso, Texas among the strange and beautiful creatures of the Chihuahuan Desert. From a very young age, Julia loved to explore - she explored the mountains and arroyos in her hometown, and she explored the whole universe in the spaceship she built in the basement of her house. Whenever Julia’s family would drive across Texas to visit her grandparents near Houston, Julia enjoyed watching the landscape change and was amazed that one state could contain such vastly different views. 


Julia carried her childlike curiosity and amazement with her to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where she fell head-over-heels in love with evolutionary biology, teaching, singing, and pseudoscorpions. Singing in a choir and a band and teaching within the biology department taught her how powerful groups of humans are when they work together, whether they are making music or asking questions and learning. Evolutionary biology and pseudoscorpions taught her that the planet we live on is endlessly fascinating and beautiful. Julia is incredibly grateful for her professors and mentors in college who shared with her their love for teaching. While in college Julia also learned two of her most valued skills, how to paddle in a kayak and how to properly pack a backpack for backcountry camping adventures.


After college Julia continued to work on the research she had started as an undergraduate, investigating the evolutionary histories of pseudoscorpions on Caribbean islands. She spent the year after graduation traveling to Australia to learn from a pseudoscorpion expert, to Ecuador and Colombia to collect arachnids with a team of researchers, to Kenya to teach workshops on bioinformatics, and eventually landed in Boston to begin graduate school at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. While studying at Harvard, Julia spent most of her free time volunteering as a teacher for K-12 classes visiting the Museum of Natural History. Her favorite lesson to teach was called “Life in a Rotting Log” which involved digging in dirt, sifting through leaf litter, and quality time with real live creepy crawlies. 


After receiving her Master’s degree, Julia moved back to Texas to be closer to her family. Before joining the Earth Native team, Julia worked just across the highway at McKinney Roughs Nature Park where she led K-12 programs on insects, fire ecology, edible plants, and native animal adaptations. She also worked as a member of the recreation staff to facilitate kayaking, rafting, rock climbing, wilderness survival, and GPS activities for children and adults. Julia is thrilled and deeply thankful to be continuing her journey as an educator at Earth Native and for the opportunity to share her curiosity and wonder.

Jason Kleinert

Wildlife Tracking Intensive Instructor

Jason grew up exploring the piney woods and swamps of Southeast Louisiana. He had the opportunity to spend time in Colorado as a child where family roadtrips and camping expeditions helped develop his love of the outdoors. As a teenager he summitted Mt Shavano and Mt Elbert on week long backpacking treks. That love of the outdoors was further explored after moving to Texas to attend college. Here he was introduced to the stunning beauty and tranquility of the Chihuahuan Desert. His first visit to Big Bend National Park left a lasting impression and it remains a beloved place for him and his family.


Jason continues to spend as much of his free time as possible in the outdoors exploring natural and wild areas. He remains passionate about backpacking, camping, and traveling. He is constantly seeking to expand his knowledge and experience of the natural world.


Before becoming an instructor, Jason participated in many intensive courses Earth Native, completing the Survival Skills Intensive, Wildlife Tracking Intensive, and Advanced Wildlife Tracking Intensive. His study at Earth Native sparked a passion for wildlife tracking. He is currently certified as a Track and Sign Specialist through the Cybertracker Conservation evaluation system, an international standard for gauging and enhancing in-field knowledge of wildlife behavior and track and sign identification. He is one of only 4 in Texas and 27 individuals in North America to attain this level of certification.

Hayley DuPont

Youth Instructor

Hayley has always had a love for nature. As a young girl, she would often venture out into the woods behind her home in northeastern Georgia, foraging for berries and herbs, building tree forts, and studying about native wildlife. After moving to Southwest Florida, she continued to pursue an understanding of her natural surroundings. 


Hayley worked as an Educator at the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, where she participated in creating and facilitating fun, creative and engaging lesson plans focusing on the natural sciences, art and humanities for children ages 4-16. She taught frequently about the South Florida ecosystem, including native animals, their habitat, and animal track identification. 


She has volunteered at various conservation organizations—including the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Rookery Bay Estuarine Reserve, and Calusa Nature Center—where she helped with wildlife rehabilitation and environmental cleanup.


Hayley has a bachelor’s in psychology from Portland State University, in Portland Oregon. For her senior project she took a course on outdoor environmental education where she helped create lesson plans focused on the local native plant and animal species of Tryon Creek State Park and the Greater Portland area. She led interpretive nature hikes and taught flora and fauna identification, all while educating kids on the importance of environmental stewardship. 


She is also a certified Yoga teacher and in her free time, she enjoys hiking and camping with her dog Oliver, climbing, yoga, herbalism, naturalist studies, aerial arts, and silversmithing. 


Hayley is thrilled to be able to share her sense of wonder and love for nature with children at Earth Native, to teach sustainability and to instill a passion in the younger generation to be good stewards of the environment. 

Jack Pain

Youth Instructor

Jack was born in Indianapolis and raised in south central Indiana. Every summer of his childhood was spent in southeastern Kentucky in the backwoods surrounding Dale Hollow Lake. It was there that his fascination with the forest began. As an adult, Jack moved to Washington State to attend the Alderleaf Wilderness Certification Program, it was in this program that his deep love for the outdoors resurfaced and sparked a desire to pursue outdoor education full time. After spending 3 years studying and apprenticing at Alderleaf Wilderness College, where Jack honed his skills in birdwatching, wildlife track and sign identification, wildlife trailing, plant identification, bow making, knife forging, and bushcraft and survival skills, he joined the Earth Native Instructor team as a Youth Programs Instructor.

Jack currently holds certifications in Wildlife Track and Sign Identification, Wildlife Trailing, Permaculture Design, and Wilderness First Responder. He spends his free time camping and hiking, going out into the woods to decipher the track and sign puzzles that animals leave behind and to watch birds.

Sean Vallefuoco

Youth Instructor

Sean is an Austin native and has had a deep connection to the outdoors since early childhood. In fact, he loved the outdoors so much as a kid that he’s always known that an indoor career wasn’t his thing. While in college at the University of Texas, Sean worked with Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Children in Nature where he helped to promote nature-based programs in Texas and lead work crews in Colorado Bend State Park.


After graduating from UT, Sean moved to Colorado where he worked with the County of Boulder leading youth crews in local parks, and then on to Utah where he worked with kids in a wilderness therapy setting. In Utah, Sean would spend 8 days at a time with kids in the backcountry sharing his love of nature and wilderness skills with program participants. However, as cool as his adventures in the Rockies were, Sean’s happy to be back home in Austin sharing his love of the outdoors with kids at Earth Native.


When Sean isn’t leading groups of kids through the Central Texas woods, he enjoys rock climbing at places like El Potrero Chico and the Red River Gorge. If not for the lack of access to Torchy’s Tacos in these remote areas, he figures he’d likely be able to spend the rest of his life outside. 

Ann Kolbeck

Wildlife Tracking Intensive Instructor

Ann grew up in snowy Central Wisconsin, just a couple of hours away from the Northwoods and wolf packs.  She spent much of her childhood wandering local parks, fishing with her father, and looking forward to summer camp.  When she left Wisconsin for collage, her adventures continued—including an inadvertent experience snow-camping in Kings Canyon over one spring break.  However, it wasn’t until she moved to Texas that she became enamored of foraging, gardening, and wildlife tracking.  One of her favorite places in the world is the mouth of Santa Elena canyon at sunset.


Ann continues to spend much of her time outdoors—camping, hiking, or planning family rafting trips—as well as bouldering and writing both fiction and nonfiction based on her experiences.  She is always expanding her knowledge of the natural world and looking forward to the next adventure.  She enjoys traveling across the country to participate in Cybertracker Evals and trailing workshops.

Before becoming an instructor, Ann was an Earth Native student, completing the Survival Intensive, the Tracking Intensive, and the Advanced Tracking Intensive.  She has also been a volunteer TA with the Tracking Intensive for several years.

David Croft

Adult Instructor

David Croft is a native of the Texas Hill Country and grew up as a “free-range child” with outdoor experience in all parts of Texas.  He has interests and experience in Primitive Technologies, SCUBA diving, caving, sailing, flying and wildland studies of all kinds.  

In his early college career he studied psychology/geology at the University of Texas and was active in sub-marine and submarine research both with the UT system and the Department of the Interior.  After several years of developing his carpentry skills into a design and construction business, his latent interest in medicine and emergency response led him to become a certified EMT with special skills.  From there he took on firefighting, EMS response and ultimately full time work at the Seton system first as an Emergency Room Technician then as Operations Manager for Seton’s Emergency Services.  During that period he finished a pre-med degree and assumed much of the responsibility for Seton’s disaster response including response to Hazardous Materials Incidents in the region.  He also represented the Seton System at the region’s Interagency Disaster Council.  

David then returned to school full time to complete a degree in Environmental Management with a focus on Natural Hazards.  As an intern at the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, he worked to develop and evaluate emergency response/notification strategies for HAZMAT incidents that threaten water quality in the district.

After graduation, he was recruited by the City of Austin Office of Emergency Management to write the healthcare response plans for Austin/Travis County and then by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help design and implement a Facility Management Information System.  David then joined the City of Austin's Wildland Conservation Division helping to care for and manage the City's preserve lands.  

David became a Master Naturalist in 2004 and has volunteered in various capacities including teaching primitive technologies for the Capital Area Master Naturalists, Westcave Preserve, the Native Prairie Association of Texas, Scouting and YMCA.  He is the Emergency Operations Coordinator for El Ranchito Summer Camp and enjoys teaching “Primitive Technologies”, “Natural Hazards of Texas”, “First Aid off the Grid” and other topics.

Michel Orion Scott

Adult Instructor

Michel spent most of his youth exploring the wooded areas of central Texas where he was born and raised. After earning a degree in film from the University of Texas, Michel went on to crew, direct, and produce numerous successful films that have been screened and distributed all over the world.

After 15 years in the film business, Michel has never lost touch with his childhood love for the nature and continues to use his career in film as a vehicle to learn from native cultures in various locations of the earth. From Botswana to Bolivia, Namibia to Mongolia and many places in-between, Michel has studied with and been deeply inspired by the way of life of the indigenous peoples that he has been fortunate enough to spend time with. It is with great humility that Michel passes on this wisdom to those who seek it. And he sees it as a great honor to learn much in the process from those who listen and share his passions.

Eric Knight

Adult Instructor

Eric is a born and raised Austinite and naturalist. As a kid, his summers were filled with trips to Enchanted Rock, Hamilton's Pool, and all the other natural wonders of central Texas. Eric was one of Earth Native’s first students back in 2011. He then became an instructor at both Earth Native and the Austin Nature & Science Center. During the past few years, Eric has been working as an engineer in the renewable energy and environmental consulting fields, but he always takes time to reconnect with the natural world and teach people about plants. He is especially interested in edible and medicinal plants and has led numerous plant walks. He enjoys travelling and exploring nature with his wife, Stacy. Eric and Stacy also co-founded a yaupon tea business called Local Leaf (; they sustainably wild-harvest yaupon from Earth Native School's land to create a bottled yaupon maté drink as well as powdered yaupon matcha.

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137 Woodview Lane

Bastrop, TX 78602