Meet the North Branch Staff


SeanSean Beckett
Staff Naturalist
Years ago in Costa Rica, a teenage Sean was awoken by his NBNC trip leader and shuffled into a humming jungle to experience his first dawn chorus. Hundreds of singing tropical songbirds ornamented the forest in dazzling colors, and Sean was instantly addicted to natural history. He went on to study Biology and Environmental Studies at Vassar College, and received his M.S. from UVM’s Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning Program. Sean has worked extensively as a wildlife ecologist, researching Atlantic Puffins in Maine, Saw-whet Owls in New York, raptors in Idaho, Pygmy-Owls in Mexico, and Clark’s Nutcrackers in Wyoming. Sean joins the NBNC staff after years of leading world-class wildlife safaris across North America, taking inquisitive travelers to the threshold of wolf dens, toe-to-toe with polar bears, and to the heart of Utah’s canyonlands and deserts.

zachKen Benton
Teacher Naturalist
Ken joined NBNC in 2012 through AmeriCorps and is currently running the North Branch Trekkers afterschool program as well as teaching the ECO program at several local schools.  After receiving a B.A. in Creative Writing from Miami University, he spent several years traveling the country, teaching environmental education through the Student Conservation Association and the Audubon Society.  Ken is currently finishing his M.A.Ed. with a focus on natural science and environmental education through Hamline University.  Whenever Ken is not birding, hunting or fishing, he can be found amidst a jungle of vegetables, tending to his garden.Contact Ken .

AmyAmy Butler
Director of Education
Amy Butler has been connecting adults and children with the natural world for 18 years. A love of storytelling, native plants, tracking, hiding in the forest, and colorful treetop birds has inspired her work as a teacher and naturalist. Amy joined NBNC in the fall of 2010 with her work on introducing and developing ECO (Educating Children Outdoors) in area public schools. During the fall of 2011 Amy launched the first Forest Preschool program in Vermont at NBNC. Through teaching children outdoors, Amy hopes for generations of children to develop a strong sense of place that will help keep Vermont beautiful and green. Contact Amy.

LarryLarry Clarfeld
Teacher Naturalist / Webmaster
Larry joined NBNC in February 2007 through AmeriCorps. For 9 years, Larry wore many hats at NBNC, indluding coordination of youth birding and amphibian monitoring programs, leading public programs, visiting with school groups, taking care of the animals in the critter room, and much more. Larry studied mathematics at UVM, completed his Master's degree in Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England, and is currently pursing his PhD in computer science at UVM. Currently, Larry serves as webmaster for NBNC. Larry is interested in pretty much all things having to do with nature, from bugs to birds. Contact Larry.

ChipChip Darmstadt
Executive Director
When Chip is not on the phone or in a meeting, he's eagerly exploring
everything from sedges to sandpipers. He received his masters degree from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where he studied people's attitudes towards snakes. A father of three boys, Chip and his wife Alisa live in Middlesex. Chip is a 24-hour naturalist: By day, he can be focused on birds or botany. And at night he's a skilled stargazer. Chip's latest obsessions include butterflies and lichens. Contact Chip.

suzanneSuzanne Eikenberry
Business Manager
Inspired by her son's experiences in Forest Preschool, Suzanne joined the NBNC staff in 2015 after having served as an accounting consultant for several years.  Suzanne has worked in the non-profit sector for the last 20 years in both Washington, DC and Montpelier, Vermont.  She began her career as program staff, working as an AmeriCorps Program Director, a Housing Counselor, and outreach staff for the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program.  She was drawn to the “business” side of non-profits, eventually becoming a finance director and later running her own consulting business specializing in helping nonprofits better manage and understand their finances.  In 2006, her Vermont roots were tugging on her to come home.  Suzanne relocated to Montpelier where she ran Montpelier Alive, the downtown organization for four years.  Suzanne lives in Montpelier with her husband and young son, a regular participant in NBNC youth programs.

harrietHarriet Hart
Forest Preschool Teacher
Harriet is a transplant from the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the United Kingdom. Growing up she spent many a morning wandering the open moorland, making footprints in the bogs, and listening to the larks. Arriving in America 5 years ago, with philosophy degree in hand, she turned her attention back towards the outdoors. She has worked at nature centers in Philadelphia and in Cincinnati, gained her Nature Based Early Childhood Certificate and her Masters in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Antioch University New England, and learnt a lot about US natural history in between. Harriet delights in cultivating joy and wonder in adults and children where nature is concerned. She freely shares her enthusiasm for the weather and the wildlife and is particularly fond of rain.

CarrieCarrie Riker
Teacher Naturalist

Carrie started her Vermont adventures by leading summer camps at North Branch back in 1999. She moved here to finish her M.S. in Environmental Studies from Antioch New England. She also holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education and is a licensed teacher in the state of Vermont. She has been exploring the outside world with children for 20+ years. She is excited to be working with ECO at Twinfield Union School this year. She is also involved with several other environmental science programs. She has a great love for small nature moments, crazy camp songs, and starting her day with tea on the porch with her cat and pup.

EmilyEmily A. Seiffert
Capital Campaign Coordinator
Emily joined the NBNC staff in 2015 to work on our $1.5 Million Our Future In Nature campaign. She has worked in the newsroom and in Human Resources at The Times Argus and Rutland Herald; in violin sales; and in book publishing. She served on the board of the Chandler Center for the Arts and helped with their capital campaign. Emily lives in Montpelier with her husband, George, and their son, Noah. Emily chairs the Montpelier Community Gospel Choir’s board of directors and is a Four Winds Nature Institute coordinator and volunteer teacher at Union Elementary School. She loves paddling, photography, gardening, and poking around in tide pools.

EmilyEmily Sloan
Membership Coordinator
Emily joined NBNC in early 2008 as membership coordinator – but soon her job increased to including all aspects of managing administrative needs – program registration, billing, outreach, event & volunteer coordinator etc…Emily holds a BA in Environmental Studies & Photography, and an MFA in Visual Art, and is a licensed nurse assistant & massage practitioner. Before arriving at NBNC she worked for 10 years at Forest Watch & CCV. Emily loves to hike & explore forested lands, swim & kayak in lakes and oceans, camp, give back with service work when she is able, and is passionate about protecting and creating respect and awareness of our natural world for future generations to come. Emily lives in Worcester with her family and loves being able to bike to work much of the year! .Contact Emily.  

MaryMary Zentara
Director of Forest Preschool
Mary has joyfully engaged children in direct connection to the natural world for nearly a decade. She is guided by wonder and a deep desire to ignite curiosity in children for their natural surroundings. Mary is particularly jazzed about the plant world, bird language, and stories written in the snow by our wild animal friends. She delights in interlacing oral story telling and song in the outdoor classroom. Mary has studied under naturalist, Jon Young, apprenticed with EarthWalk Vermont and is a graduate of the Outdoor Leadership Program. She has a background in Psychology and is especially excited about the links between nature immersion, child development, and deep learning. Mary lives with her family in W. Brookfield. Contact Mary .


Board of Directors and Advisors

Michele Childs
, Montpelier
Pat Cox-Sainsbury
, Moretown
Chip Darmstadt
, Montpelier
Laura Fried, Waterbury
Linda Henzel, Montpelier
Rick Paradis, Middlesex
Scott Sainsbury, Moretown
Laury Saligman, Montpelier
Karen Saudek, East Montpelier
Jan Heyman Thouron, Middlesex
Norma Twombley, Wheelock
Georgia Valentine, Montpelier

North Branch Nature Center
713 Elm Street, Montpelier VT 05602
(802) 229-6206

Open Monday - Friday, 9am to 4pm
Trails open every day
Directions to the Nature Center
Contact Us