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 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
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Robin Baer – Early Childhood Educator
Robin has always been in love with the Pacific Northwest. Born and raised here in Seattle, her parents had her in the mountains and not the mall on the weekends. Following her interest, she received her degree in Environmental Education from Western Washington University. Her most recent endeavor took her to Mazama, WA where she designed and delivered nature and art youth programming out of a cross-country ski lodge’s attached ecology center. Her true passion in education combines natural sciences and art. In her free time she enjoys getting outside; swimming, biking and smelling the flowers. Robin is extremely excited to be a part of the Mercer Slough team, teaching and learning with the youth in such a beautiful place we get to call home.
Erica Calhoon – Educator
After working two summers at Mercer Slough, Erica is very excited to teach school programs through the changing seasons of the wetland. An Olympia native, she has always been pulled towards ecological endeavors. These include a restoration internship with the Nisqually Land Trust, gaining a BA in Environmental Studies from McGill University, working several positions for the Pacific Science Center and teaching with Pacific Marine Research. Given her artistic and musical background, Erica enjoys bringing a creative angle to science education.
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!
Nathan Zabel – School Programs and Site Supervisor
While Nathan grew up in Minnesota, he always looked forward to vacations with his family, which took him to the mountains of the West. It was those vacations which led him to an appreciation of nature and a desire to educate others about the outdoors. He completed a degree in environmental education and interpretation from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, which included summer jobs working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska. After graduating, he worked for a nature center in Wisconsin, where he developed and led education programs for all ages. Eventually, the mountains drew him to the Pacific Northwest, where he is excited to contribute to the education at Mercer Slough, while also enjoying the abundant hiking, backpacking, tidepooling, fishing and kayaking opportunities the Pacific Northwest provides.
Erica Duke – Educator
Erica started at the Mercer Slough teaching summer camps and is excited to continue teaching programs during the school year. She graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and has taught outdoor education in many states, including Ohio, Florida, Massachusetts and Washington. In her free time, Erica likes to hike and participate in learning new activities.
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!
Morgan Hefner – Educator
Morgan grew up in Delaware, and attended the college at the University of Maine at Machias. She graduated in the Spring of 2013 with a B.S. in Marine Biology and a minor in chemistry. Most recently, before starting at Mercer Slough, Morgan spent 6 months working in Dutch Harbor, Alaska and on the Bering Sea.
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.