About Us

Who We Are

Outdoor Education Where & When You Want It.

Naturalists at Large is a leading outdoor and environmental education group in California. Since 1985, we have provided outdoor education programs for tens of thousands of students from over two hundred schools. We have introduced students to environments as diverse as the pygmy forest of Sonoma, the Giant Forest of Sequoia, the spring wildflowers of the Sonoran Desert, and giant kelp forests of Santa Catalina Island’s waters.

We pride ourselves on our ability to facilitate outdoor programs that are exciting and fun, while giving students an understanding of the beauty and diversity of our planet. We are committed to teaching people of all ages the skills to be at ease in the outdoors, and to come to a better understanding of the Western ecosystems: mountains, deserts, and seashores.

Education of the natural world and learning how to become a responsible steward of the environment is every bit as important as traditional academics. Through thought provoking subject matter and activities, as well as Leave no Trace ethics and proper camping habits, we hope to inspire not only a love of the natural world, but a sense of responsibility to sustain wilderness for generations to come.

Richportrait1 The Naturalists at Large Tradition

Naturalists at Large was founded in 1985 by Richard Stowell, a former school administrator, to fill a void that existed in outdoor programs.Existing providers offered only “packaged” programs, where schools had to fit themselves into a pre-defined, inflexible program. Naturalists at Large does not offer “one-size-fits-all” programs, but instead designs a custom program that meets each school’s specific goals. Naturalists at Large ensures that your most precious resource, time, is well spent.

Outdoor Learning Centers

Outdoor Learning Centers

OLCCubeCamping inherently requires a specific set of gear that must be maintained, cleaned and organized in order to have a safe and successful trip. Naturalists at Large are logistical specialists and take the headache out of attending to the details. We are completely mobile with all of our equipment and extremely passionate about creating a program that leaves you with only memories of amazing experiences and none of the hassle of equipment wrangling. We set up a mobile kitchen, environmental education stations and program equipment on site the day before your arrival. Just follow your equipment list and we will take care of the rest!


The beauty of an OLC program is the relaxed but interactive atmosphere. Students participate in getting meals to the table and assisting in the kitchen. They get to experiment with putting up their own tent and learn the secrets of living comfortably in an outdoor setting. Participants gain a respect for the natural environment in a way that cannot be replicated with a “resort-like” experience.  Students frequently achieve an appreciation for an “unplugged” existence walking away excited about the practical skills gained that they can apply in their own lives.





As with most of our programs, OLCs come in a variety of challenges. We have set up programs ranging from weekend family style camping experiences to backpack trips where students carry everything on their backs. Everything from the level of challenge to the menu is open for your design. Give us a call and let us help you begin planning a trip that will change your world!









I was very impressed with the trip this year. I wanted to convey my admiration for the job Michelle and your crew did. I had an amazing time and the kids were part of an amazing experience that they will treasure forever. Thank you. George - Director of Student Activities - The Buckley School

The NAL staff last week was awesome. Everyone of your folks were engaged, professional, energetic, prepared, and great to our kids. I know that does not just happen because you are "lucky" enough to hire great people. You do find fine people, but you also train them, guide them, and "get them" to be the fine educators that they are.  Thank you! Jeff - Teacher - Brentwood School

I want to let you know how impressed I am, once again , with the professionalism of the people with whom we work at NAL. Many thanks to all Peter - Head of School - Rolling Hills Prep - 8th grade - Lower Colorado River

I want to thank Naturalists At Large for doing such a wonderful job in handling our son's multiple food allergies. Jefferson came home today from their 2 night trip and told me everyone took such amazing care to make sure he had the right foods. He was even introduced to a new snack which he thought was delicious. Granola bars and cereals were provided that he and all kids could eat together. When our son is able to eat what everyone else is eating, he feels "normal" and part of the group. This was his best trip ever! I can't thank you enough...truly. Dale - Mother - Keys School - 4th grade - Olema

We can tell that NAL is extremely organized, values input from participants and really cares about making a great outdoor experience for all kids. Thank you from the 8th grade Ufsa team. Candice - Teacher - Untited For Success - 8th grade - Skylark Ranch

Excellent. I was very impressed by the way the program ran. This was my first experience with NAL and I was very pleased with logistical arrangements. Dana - Teacher - Cathedral School for Boys

I'm always thrilled to bring kids to the Pinnacles because NAL does such a great job engaging, educating, and entertaining the kids. Sarah - Teacher - Cathedral School For Boys


I was extremely impressed by Naturalists at Large staff and programming. Thank you for the work you do! You are making a positive impression and life long great memories on the children in your programs. In years to come, when people ask these kids who had an important positive impact on their lives - many of you will be the person they name! The work you do is that important! Heidi - Parent - Kipp Summit

"NAL is one of the best-run outdoor ed. programs I've seen and I am constantly impressed by the skill and preparation of the Naturalists. Bravo!" - Mr. Kyle - Teacher - Town School For Boys

Hello Naturalists at Large, It is with great pleasure to inform you that Naturalists at Large helped participate in over 1800 hours of non-native, invasive plant species removal within Pinnacles National Monument. Throughout this year, over 471 volunteers tackled Horehound, Italian Thistle, Summer Mustard, and Yellow-Star Thistle, all plant species that threaten the stability of our chaparral habitat. With thousands of weeds pulled from within Pinnacles National Monument, you have contributed to the conservation and restoration of these protected lands. Volunteers are vital to our Pinnacles habitat restoration project, and I thank you for participating! We couldn't do it without you!! I invite you to join us again for next year's exciting weed pulling season! Have a fantastic and colorful fall, and I hope to see you again in the spring!! - Tessa Volunteer Coordinator for Natural Resources - Pinnacles National Monument

Just wanted to let you know how amazingly wonderful our trip on Tuesday turned out. Your naturalists were fabulous. Their plans worked out perfectly, and the only real rain we felt was after lunch when we were down from the trail. The beach in the afternoon turned out to be blue sky, sun, and dolphins cavorting in the waves (just like you planned!). I'm so glad we all pushed forward with the trip. The kids had a terrific time and so did all the adults. Thank you so much for all the planning and follow-up. We look forward to hearing from you next spring with our 2011 date!! Thanks again for your hard work. Sarah (Private school teacher), Sycamore Canyon program

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about the food on the WNS retreat. My daughters had a fantastic time. I heard a lot about the retreat from them and it all sounds very well organized and extremely enjoyable for everyone. I think they learned a few things about teamwork too! Thank you so much! Sarah, Parent of 6th graders who were on a Malibu Creek State Park program

Our Instructors

Our Instructors

staff photoA cornerstone of the Naturalists at Large safety philosophy is to provide a comfortable outdoor experience.

At a minimum, our instructors have Wilderness First Aid and CPR certifications. Most instructors possess Emergency Medical Technician, Wilderness First Responder certifications, or other advanced wilderness specific first aid training certifications as well.

Naturalists at Large staff members are experienced outdoor professionals. Our instructors possess four year degrees in teaching or outdoor fields, or possess an equivalent in outdoor teaching and guiding experience. They have skills such as rock climbing, backpacking, canoeing, mountaineering, snorkeling and kayaking, as well as knowledge of natural history and experiential education.

Our Naturalists have a lifelong enthusiasm for the outdoors, a special commitment to outdoor education, and a wealth of practical experience working with children and adults in a wilderness environment.

Upon conditional hiring, Naturalists at Large staff are fingerprinted and background checked via Department of Justice Livescan.  Prospective staff with records of previous convictions related to the services we provide will not be considered for employment.  

With their high comfort and experience in the outdoors, their passion for teaching, and a commitment to safety first, we have the foundation for a fantastic experience for you and your students!

Meet Some of Our Instructors

Ally Littell

allyprofilepicOriginally from Alpharetta, Georgia, Ally Littell graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in speech communications. She began working with Naturalists at Large in the Fall of 2002. After 5 years in the field, Ally began working in the office as a Field Coordinator.

Her passion for working with kids in the outdoors comes from time spent with them in the rolling hills and lakes of North Georgia, the rainforests and beaches of Costa Rica, and the rivers and rocks of Southern Montana. Ally has spent the majority of her time at NAL working on Catalina Island and the Colorado River.

Over the past few years, she has had the chance to travel to Central America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Africa. She enjoys biking, swimming, yoga, and spending time on the beaches of Ventura.

Greg Poulton

Greg Poulton

Greg started working for Naturalists At Large in 2007. He enjoys river rafting, backpacking and snowboarding in his time off, and spends much of his time in the redwood forests of the Northern California coast. Greg loves hiking, playing games and teaching about astronomy and ecology on NAL programs. He holds a Master's degree in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Sarah Johnson

sarah johnsonSarah has been working for Naturalists At Large since 2013. She comes from a background in Child Development and started in education as a preschool teacher. After being in the classroom for some time, the redwoods of the Pacific North West soon inspired a change in careers - to be in the outdoors! She spends her time in California exploring the coast line and during the off-seasons enjoys skiing and traveling.

Rachel Jutkowitz

RachelprofilepicOriginally from New Jersey, Rachel graduated from Muhlenberg College with a degree in psychology. After her first season with Naturalist at Large in 2008, she couldn't help but fall in love with the west coast. Some of her favorite things to do are rock climbing, running, poi (fire spinning), music, laughing, and traveling the world! Since college, she has traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Morocco, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Mexico! She believes her passion for the outdoors originally stems from the summers she spent at an overnight camp in Maine as a kid. Camp helped her build self confidence, become more self reliant and accountable, establish life-long friendships, and develop an appreciation and respect for nature. As a naturalist, she strives to achieve these same things in the students she works with.

Nate Pakula

nateprofilepicNate Pakula was born and raised in the humble state of Rhode Island. As a youth, Nate spent many summers backpacking and canoeing in the charm-filled mountains and rivers of northern New England. In 2004, he moved to Burlington, Vermont where he attended the University of Vermont. Upon finishing his degree in Sociology at Vermont, Nate made the journey to California and quickly found a home at Naturalists At Large. Over the past 7 seasons he has filled virtually every field position at NAL and currently works as the Rock Climbing Coordinator.

During the NAL season Nate typically can be found working as a Program Coordinator or Climbing Instructor in Joshua Tree National Park, Pinnacles National Monument, and Yosemite National Park. When Nate is not working for NAL he can be found traveling the world following his deep passion for rock climbing in places like Argentina, Thailand, and the deserts of southwestern US. Some of his other passions include noodling on the guitar, catching a few snowboard turns in the backcountry, and guiding canoe trips on the rivers and lakes of Maine.

Nate is a certified AMGA Single Pitch Instructor.

Bill Vecchiarelli


Bill Vecchiarelli is a transplant from Massachusetts, originally coming to California in 1991 to work at an outdoor science school in the San Bernardino Mountains. The warm, sunny climate was a welcome change from Syracuse, N.Y. where he got his degree in Fine Arts.

Bill first started at Naturalists at Large in 1995, working as a Naturalist, climbing instructor and commissary director, and even did a 2-year stint as the staffing manager from 1997 to 1999. Taking a break from administrative work at NAL, he went on to instruct mountaineering and rafting trips in Oregon with Outward Bound from '99-'03. He eventually became OB's program director in California for several years.

Throughout this time, Bill never strayed far from his roots at NAL, usually taking time to work a ski trip or rock-climbing program each season. These days, Bill can once again be found in the NAL office managing the logistics and working with some of our schools to plan trips.

Ellie Piper

ellieprofilepicHailing from the Seattle area, Ellie Piper has been working for NAL since the Fall of 2009. After graduating from Montana State University in cell biology and neuroscience, Ellie has been busy traveling, skiing, rafting and spending time with her family.

Ellie finds NAL to be a perfect fit for her lifestyle, allowing the fulfillment found by working with children, the adventure of traveling through California, and the seasonal breaks that allow for a variety of work and travel.

Becky Rudy

beckyprofilepicBecky Rudy is a native Californian who grew up in the Mojave Desert and became a Marine Biologist (logical right?) She received both her B.S. and M.S. in marine biology of the Pacific Coast at Cal State Northridge. You will usually find her working NAL sites with either a desert or ocean nearby. She taught six years in the classroom (grades 1-2) and thus excels at packing everything anyone might need on a program. During Becky's off season she continues to do algal research at Cal State Northridge, and if you ever meet her on program she has an alter ego named The Tent Fairy!

Anna Greenberg

annaprofilepicAlthough born and raised in Washington DC, Anna Greenberg has deep family roots in California. As a child, she couldn't wait for the summer to come, which meant travels through the Sierras. After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies, she spent a few years traveling and working in places such as New Zealand, the Middle East, Thailand, and the Southwest, until she found her dream job working with NAL, in Spring 2009.

These days you can find Anna working and exploring all over California, especially in her beloved Sierra and desert regions. She loves canoeing, rock climbing, snorkeling, and kayaking, but her favorite outdoor activity is still simply to grab some comfy shoes and a water bottle, and go out for a wander. 

John Drips

johnAfter completing his undergraduate work at UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies, John Drips began working as an outdoor guide. He started here at NAL in 2009. During the summer John guides whitewater rafts in the northern Sierra and leads summer teen tours with The Wild Traveler. In the winter he volunteers for an outdoor adventure non-profit that leads ski trips for people with disabilities. While there, he composed "A Winter Natural History of the Ebbetts Pass Corridor".

He has traveled in West Africa, but you're more likely to see him on the Colorado River or at any one of our Northern California sites. With students, he focuses on bird behavior and plant identification.

Adele Schopf

adeleprofilepic Adele Schopf calls "home" Colorado but has also lived in California and Chile. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in Business Marketing and has spent the past four years working in California.

Adele's traveled to many Naturalists at Large sites since starting in 2009. Her favorite sites are Joshua Tree, Pinnacles, and the Lower Colorado River. When not working for NAL, you can find Adele out and about in California following her love of climbing or on horseback in the backcountry of the Eastern Sierras.

David Gibbons

davidprofilepicGuided by the belief that having a wide variety of experiences and traveling widely helps to make a person a well rounded individual, David Gibbons left his home state of Wisconsin to adventure far and wide, while earning his master's degree in South Asian Religions at the University of Hawaii. Since graduating in Spring 2007, David has worked primarily in outdoor recreation throughout the United States. He has worked with Naturalists at Large since Spring 2008.

When David is not working with NAL he usually spends his summers instructing aquatic activities at youth camps. During the winter he is a ski patroller at Mt. Baldy. He also enjoys working as an extra on TV shows, soccer referee and serves as a Marine Corps Reservist.

Lodge Programs

Lodge Programs

Lodge programs involve the same great programming that our Outdoor Learning Center (OLC) programs provide without adding the extra challenging layer that can come with living outside. Lodge sites often fit perfectly for trips focusing on retreats and group bonding. There are several levels of accommodations with the lodge sites ranging from basic to resort.

We run lodge based programs throughout the state of California and Arizona including sites in Malibu, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, the Sierras, and Catalina Island. Many of our high ropes, low ropes, and challenge courses are located at our lodge based sites. Other common activities include canoeing, kayaking, cross country skiing, snorkeling, swimming, hiking, and more. Our lodge sites feature cafeteria style meals and comfortable beds in a camp or resort type setting. All lodges have running water, flush toilets, showers and indoor meeting areas. Several of our lodge sites also have camping areas. This permits an OLC type set-up while allowing access to lodge amenities.

Once we know what the goals of your program are, we can find a lodge site that will fit your needs. Contact us today to start planning your trip.

Naturalists at Large is a leading outdoor and environmental education group in California. Since 1985, we have provided outdoor education programs for tens of thousands of students from over two hundred schools, offering custom client designed trips, flexible dates and locations, commitment to safety and comfort in the outdoors, the wonder of nature and the importance of outdoor and experiential education.

Discover the world... design your own custom program today!

Naturalists at Large  •  P.O. Box 3517  •  Ventura California 93006  •  (805) 642-2692  •  Fax (805) 642-2843  •  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.