Katie Ryan, Executive Director
Katie joined Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center in March of 2005. She brings fifteen years of experience organizing and leading field education programs throughout Oregon, Washington, California, the Yellowstone region, and Canada. Before coming to Opal Creek, she was directing programs at OMSI’s Cascade Science School in Bend, OR. At home in the mountains, she has dedicated her career to sharing these special places with students of all ages, believing 100% that people need to experience wild places in order to care about them. Having spent three years living full time at Jawbone Flats, Opal Creek has become one of her absolute favorite places to share. Katie worked as our Program Director building our ever growing programs from 2005-2009 and took over as Executive Director in October of 2009. She now lives in Bend, OR with her husband Joe and dog Murphy. When not working on behalf of Opal Creek’s amazing programs, Katie spends her time skiing, hiking, rafting, and just trying to be outside as much as possible.
Hometown: Cazenovia, NY
What are you thankful for this year?: New bridges
Playing on your iPod right now?: Phish – pretty much always
Currently reading?: In the Temple of Wolves by Rick Lamplugh
Guilty pleasure?: People magazine
Describe your ideal sandwich: A true NY deli sandwich–crusty bread, turkey, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, cheddar, and just a little dab of mayo. With a true NY pickle on the side.
Favorite outdoor spot?: Steens Mountain
When you’re not working, you’re: Hiking, rafting, skiing, spending time outside with my dog Murphy and my friends and family.
Who’s your hero?: The many people who face physical and mental disability with courage and grace.
Favorite quote: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” –John Muir
Jay joined the Opal Creek team in 2016. An adventurer by heart and experiential educator by trade he has been inspiring awe and beauty within natural areas since 2002. Jay brings to Opal Creek his creative mind, years of program facilitation, and the ability to wonder at the natural beauty of the land. Previously he developed educational programs for a farm & wilderness preserve in Northern California and served as a field educator at an outdoor school in Southern California, in addition to his many years supervising residential programs. Jay holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis on Nature Center and Camp Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a Master’s of Science in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University – Mankato. He enjoys trail running, biking, water play, scrambling, photography, and interacting with all types of animals.
Hometown: West Allis, WI
What are you thankful for this year?: I am thankful for my continued good health and the opportunity to travel, explore, and adventure.
Playing on your iPod right now?: Gramitik – Muy Tranquillo
Currently reading?: Experience and Education by John Dewey
Guilty pleasure?: hot water
Describe your ideal sandwich: My ideal sandwich is a grilled egg, cheese, and avocado sandwich with pickles and sprouts and a bag of sea salt & vinegar chips.
Favorite outdoor spot?: In a tree or on a rock.
When you’re not working, you’re: In the woods running or taking photos with my camera.
Who’s your hero?: I admire Dr. Seuss for having a strong positive impact on the populace through his simple and creative thoughts. This is how you influence the world in less than twenty words – “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will ever change no it will not.”
Favorite quote: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” –Jimi Hendrix
Simon Gray, Facilities Assistant
Simon grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and attended the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, where he received a dual BS/BA in conservation biology and American history. Simon likes to think of himself as an adventurous soul who is open to all the greatness that life has to offer—soaking up the bright lights of the big city and basking in the solitude of wilderness. Commonly seen or heard singing and playing music around camp, Simon is an aspiring musician who encourages you to bring an instrument on your next trip to Opal Creek.
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
What are you thankful for this year?: My strange and wonderful family
Playing on your iPod right now?: Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John
Currently reading?: Count Zero by William Gibson
Guilty pleasure?: Burt Reynolds movies. No wait, why would I feel guilty about that?
Describe your ideal sandwich: Meaty, beaty, big and bouncy
Favorite outdoor spot?: Palisades Lake along the John Muir Trail
When you’re not working, you’re: Strummin’ my guitar or exploring the woods
Who’s your hero?: Ry Cooder
Favorite quote: “All I know is that I know nothing.”
Gabrielle Haber, Development & Communications Manager
A New England native and long-time Oregon resident, Gabrielle Haber spent three years working as Opal Creek registrar before transitioning to development and communications at the end of 2014. After graduating from Lewis and Clark College with degrees in both Art History and Anthropology, she spent six years in farmers market work and food access activism, culminating in the founding of Kitchen Share NE in 2013. She loves putting her writing and strategic planning skills to good use for Opal Creek’s grants and communications, and is currently on a continuing mission to hike all of Oregon’s 45 wilderness areas.
Hometown: Westford, MA
What are you thankful for this year?: Forward movement
Playing on your iPod right now?: Van Morrison
Currently reading?: Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams
Guilty pleasure?: Cheesy sitcoms on Netflix
Describe your ideal sandwich: A hot, messy Reuben on sour rye
Favorite outdoor spot?: Anywhere on the Oregon coast overlooking the ocean
When you’re not working, you’re: Either hanging out with all my favorite farmers at the Hollywood Farmers Market, or exploring the trails of the Pacific Northwest.
Who’s your hero?: My cancer-beating, twinkly-eyed grandfather who can out-cycle me any day of the week, and then do it again tomorrow.
Favorite quote: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” – Che Guevara
Janelle Hammerstrom, Registrar
Having recently moved to Portland from Richland, WA, Janelle is excited to be joining Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center as Registrar. Janelle graduated from Willamette University in 2011 with a bachelor’s in Mathematics and a minor in Studio Art. After graduating, she moved back home to eastern Washington where she spent a couple years working as a research associate in the Advanced Power & Energy Systems group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. A member of the Mid-Columbia Symphony and part of a very musical family, Janelle has played bassoon for roughly 13 years and is looking forward to finding groups around Portland to play in. Additionally, Janelle is passionate about the visual arts and is working to boost her skills and exposure as an illustrator.
Hometown: Richland, WA
What are you thankful for this year?: My family, my health, and the opportunity to be a part of OCAFC
Playing on your iPod right now?: Júníus Meyvant’s “Color Decay” on repeat
Currently reading?: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn & Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Guilty pleasure?: Terrible puns
Describe your ideal sandwich: Breakfast sandwich! Delicious bagel, salty fried egg and extra sharp cheddar
Favorite outdoor spot?: The middle of a river on an inner-tube in summer
When you’re not working, you’re: Hunched over my dining room table working on a drawing, playing bassoon, running, or hiking
Brian O’Neil, Facilities Director
Brian first came to Opal Creek for a Wilderness First Responder certification in 2009. While up for the ten-day course he quickly became enamored with the pristine beauty of the ancient forest as well as the community and lifestyle Jawbone Flats affords its residents. Prior to Opal Creek, Brian enjoyed working in the elements as a river guide, ski patroller and senior wilderness therapy instructor. When not at work you’ll find him in the mountains, on the river, or missing putts on any of Oregon’s fine disc golf courses.
Hometown: Rip City! (Portland, OR)
What are you thankful for this year?: Lots of big change in my world and a lot of positive things happening with my family and friends
Playing on your iPod right now?: Peruvian pan flute station on Pandora
Currently reading?: Thunder Over the Ochoco by Gale Ontko
Guilty pleasure?: Honky tonkin’
Describe your ideal sandwich: Toasted cinnamon raisin bagel, guacamole with greasy fire-cooked summer sausage, rocket, smoked Tabasco and melted sharp cheddar.
Favorite outdoor spot?: About 20 to 25 miles south of Mt. Thielsen is the sweetest water I’ve ever tasted
When you’re not working, you’re: taking long walks on the beach
Who’s your hero?: Dr. Who
Favorite quote: “Hard tellin’ not knowin’.”
Cody Ries, Facilities Assistant
Megan Selvig, Program Coordinator
Megan moved to Jawbone Flats in 2015. A proud Midwest native, she has been fortunate to live and work in many distinct places. After graduating from Luther College in Decorah, IA, with a degree in Environmental Studies, Megan was a teacher/naturalist of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed where she developed an affinity for wetlands and the amphibians and reptiles that inhabit them. Most recently she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Paraguay, where she learned to slow down and listen to the howler monkeys and dwarf frogs. At Opal Creek she enjoys hunting for ‘phibs, playing in the snow, conversing over yerba mate, and learning and teaching about the ancient forest.
Hometown: St. Michael, MN
What are you thankful for this year?: Living close to nature and far from distraction
Playing on your iPod right now?: Jesse and Joy
Currently reading?: The Circle by Dave Eggers
Guilty pleasure?: Spanish love ballads
Describe your ideal sandwich: Anything grilled
Favorite outdoor spot?: A mucky swamp
When you’re not working, you’re: playing the piano in cabin 9, or drinking mate/tereré
Who’s your hero?: My dad
Favorite quote: “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo