Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center
Visit Mercer Slough
Located on a biologically diverse 320-acre wetland nature park in the heart of urban Bellevue, WA, Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center is a collaboration between the City of Bellevue and Pacific Science Center. To learn more about Mercer Slough Nature Park or adult and family programs offered by the City of Bellevue, stop by the Visitor Center and talk to a Park Ranger or visit bellevuewa.gov.
Mercer Slough Educational Programs
Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center
1625 118th Avenue SE
Bellevue, WA 98005
For more information about Mercer Slough, call (425) 450-0207.
To register for our programs, call (206) 443-2925.
Meet Our Staff
Caroline Cook – Early Childhood Education Coordinator
Caroline loves jumping in mud puddles, holding millipedes, and sharing her love of nature with early learners. She came to Mercer Slough from North Carolina, where she worked at an outdoor after-school program, taught elementary students about barrier island ecology, and led guided hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from UNC Wilmington, and has worked at camps and environmental education centers for over 10 years.
Charity Villines – Lead Educator
Charity firmly believes that playing outdoors is an essential part of becoming a scientist and an environmental steward. She’s been playing outside in various capacities since she was a child building driftwood forts on Puget Sound beaches. Since earning her B.Sc. in biology and environmental studies, she has hooted at spotted owls in California, taught elementary schoolers in New Hampshire, built trails in Maine, and led volunteers in habitat restoration around Seattle. In the words of her hero, Mrs. Frizzle, life is best when you can “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”
Chelsey Hottle – Educator
Chelsey comes to us from the east coast, where she earned her Bachelors of Earth Science Education from California University of Pennsylvania. She brings 6 years of middle school science teaching experience from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She’s always had a love for nature and the outdoors and feels “in her element” in Washington where she enjoys fishing and hiking. Outdoor education at the Mercer Slough allows her to combine her love of teaching kids and being in nature!
Elley Vanderlinde – School Program and Site Supervisor
Elley’s story begins back in a the quiet neighborhoods of New England, jumping in leaf piles, shoveling snow, and hiking the mountains. After graduating with a B.A. in Environmental Studies from UVM, she sought out bigger leaf piles and mountains and ended up in Seattle. Elley worked as an environmental educator at Mercer Slough before transferring her skills to the PSC Camps for Curious Minds, and now she is back at Mercer Slough guiding the new generation of environmental educators. If she is not teaching a program or laminating supplies, you can find her hiking, snowshoeing, backpacking, car camping, and climbing her way through the PNW wonderland.
Elyssa Kerr – Educator
Since graduating from the University of Washington, Elyssa has spent her time performing restoration fieldwork along riparian corridors in King County with the Washington Conservation Corps, restoring dry land forest on the leeward slope of Haleakala with the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, and delivering interpretive education on the beaches of Puget Sound. She can often be found playing in the garden, looking for creatures on the beach at low tide or snuggling with her cat, Elon Meowsk.
Erica Calhoun – Early Childhood Lead Educator
Erica is excited for her fourth year at Mercer Slough, and second as an educator in Polliwog Preschool. After earning a BA in Environmental Studies at McGill University, she moved to Seattle and made a career of messy jobs in education, teaching a toddler art program at Seattle ReCreative and marine science lessons for Pacific Marine Research. She is excited to see our preschoolers learn and grow throughout the year- working at the wetland park is always a muddy, fun-filled adventure!
Ian Schooley – Teen Programs Supervisor
Ian grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains where the Platte River cuts through the Colorado plateau, but the lack of salt water drove him to the Puget Sound. After a brief 10-year stint at the Seattle Art Museum his love of nature, being outdoors, and desire to help people connect with each other and life around them lead him to pursue a certificate in Environment, Education and Community from IslandWood and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from UW.
Jenny Hughes – Educator
Jenny is a North Carolina to Washington transplant with a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He field study experience in NC, Mexico, Belize and the Galapagos Islands are a reflection of her inability to sit still in one place for very long. She loves all things furry, swimmy and slimy, and she’s always looking for suggestions for sweet spots to SCUBA dive or hike!
Kailyn Jasonowicz – Sales Representative
Kailyn is the brains behind registration at the Mercer Slough. She graduated from Michigan State University and moved out here after graduation. In her free time, Kailyn likes to be outside hiking, skiing and exploring, making food with friends and cuddling with dogs.
Leilani Nussman – Youth and Family Programs Eastside Supervisor
After childhood in Colorado, Leilani earned a Bachelor’s in Biology from the University of Portland, a certificate in Education, Environment, and Community from IslandWood, and a Master’s in Science Education from UW. She believes that all students have a scientist inside them, and hands-on learning is the best way to draw that scientist out. Her favorite part of her job is taking children on their first camping or canoeing trip and hearing their stories about their favorite parts of camp. She hopes all campers leave Mercer Slough with a new appreciation for the natural world of the Puget Sound watershed.
Lisa Keith – Lead Educator
Lisa grew up near Olympia and spent her childhood playing in the woods, raising tadpoles and woolly bear caterpillars (separately, thank goodness) and exploring tide pools on Puget Sound. As a child, she wanted to be a ranger or a wildlife biologist, but got a little distracted. Years later, after an MA, work in hospice, a stint as a professional gardener, and a serious habit of science and naturalist volunteerism, it dawned on Lisa that becoming a science educator could allow her to pursue her childhood dream. These days, she’s exactly where she wants to be when she finally grows up: geeking out over macroinvertebrates and all things environmental science, and playing and learning in nature with kids of all ages.
Mary-Margaret Greene – Educator
Mary-Margaret earned a graduate certificate in environmental science and education at Teton Science School and a Master’s degree in environmental horticulture at the University of Washington. She’s taught outdoor education programs for six years in Louisiana, Wyoming and Washington with all age groups. In her free time, Mary-Margaret loves backpacking, hiking and all things plant related. At home, she likes to cook good food and watch good movies. She’s excited to be teaching outdoor programs at Mercer Slough.
Olivia Davis – Educator
Olivia started working at Mercer Slough for summer camps, and is excited to continue for the school year. She recently graduated from the University of Washington where she earned her B.S. in Biology. In her free time, Olivia loves hiking, birding, and reading. She also volunteers at the Seattle Aquarium and likes to hang out with the harbor seals!
Sandee Ditt – Weekend Educator
Sandee is a lifelong resident of Washington. She recently received a B.S. in Natural Resource Science from WSU. Growing up she spent a lot of childhood camping, reading and loving animals. In college, Sandee had the opportunity to work at the WSU Wild Ungulate Research Facility and to volunteer for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sandee worked as an Assistant Educator at Mercer Slough during the summer of 2013. She now works full time in Seattle in an office, but is glad to be spending her weekends outside back at Mercer Slough. In her free time, she can be found kayaking, hiking and exploring Western Washington.
Siri Nelson – Manager
Siri Nelson grew up in Seattle and has a B.S. from Evergreen State College and a M.S. in Biology from UW. Siri has a unique background as both an educator and scientist. Prior to becoming a teacher at MSEEC, she conducted research in the fields of ecology, conservation biology and biomedical genomics. At UW she was a National Science Foundation GK-12 OACIS fellow and co-taught high school ecology and biology classes, bringing novel research to local high school students. The coolest part of her job is mentoring young people interested in environmental science careers and connecting them with the greater science community. Siri loves getting outside any way she can and making all manner of stuff.
Tayler Nichols – Educator
Tayler went to Oregon State University and received her B.S. in Biology with an emphasis on marine ecology. Following her passion for exploring nature and teaching, Tayler moved to the state of Washington in October 2016 (and has no plans to leave…ever). She enjoys hiking, eating, and playing with her dog Sadie and her tortoise Roomba.
Rachelle Ruiz Ortman- Educator
Rachelle comes to us from California’s Bay Area, but not before graduating from WWU with a B.A. in Environmental Education. In her spare time she enjoys setting up her hammock wherever she can or spotting birds with her binoculars and is a nerd at heart. She loves exploring new areas and helping to spark connections to love and protect the natural world.
Dakota Spear- Educator
Dakota is thrilled to join the Mercer Slough team! She is an entomologist by training – bugs are her first love, and she can wax on about insects, arthropods, or anything generally creepy-crawly at length, so be careful what you ask. Dakota went to Pomona College for her Bachelor’s degree and then to the University of Cambridge for my Master’s. Her studies as a field biologist have taken her all around the world to research sea turtles, frogs, lizards, spiders and bees. She’s spent time in Costa Rica, England, Indonesia and a bunch of other places. Dakota grew up in Connecticut and made the big move to Washington only a few months ago. She decided to move here after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last year and falling in love with the Washington section. She is excited to learn and teach more about Washington natural history!
Kaija Ollikainen- Educator
Kaija was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she grew an affinity for the wonders of the natural world. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2010, Kaija worked on the coasts of California and Washington as an environmental educator, farmer and professional faerie. Her superpower is the ability to expand time and create a spaciousness that fosters discovery and appreciation of the magic that surrounds us. When she’s not walking the children in the nature, she enjoys photography, felting, watercolors, picnics, hot springs, and backpacking to the misty mountains. She is known for hosting Pretzel Parties, where friends make and share buttery soft pretzels stuffed with anything you can dream of.