Rancho El Chorro Staff

Program Director - Celeste Royer - (805) 782-7334

CelesteCeleste Royer (Blue Sky) is the Director of Environmental Education and has been with SLOCOE for 29 years. She directs the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience about outdoor and environmental education to the program. Celeste serves on the Blueprint for Environmental Literacy Steering Committee, provides leadership to the California Outdoor School Association and California Environmental Education Foundation, and teaches Wilderness & Environmental Education at Cal Poly SLO. Celeste earned degrees from UCLA, San Francisco State University, and Cal Poly SLO. Married with two adult children, Celeste enjoys nature, family and pet time, traveling, and reading.

Administrative Assistant - Amie Linscott - (805) 782-7336

AmieAmie Linscott (Meerkat) has worked for the County Office of Education for over 20 years. She keeps herself very busy with all the “behind the scenes” work needed at Rancho El Chorro but she always find time to stick her head out of the office to enjoy the children, animals, and day-to-day magic that happens here. Meerkat has been known to cook breakfast for the students, run the student store, and write the Rancho E-newletter (all in one day)! She’s been married to her favorite guy for over 30 years, has two wonderful “big” kids, a cat and two dogs.

Naturalists - 782-7335 or 782-7336

Karen PolandKaren Poland (Wolf) grew up in Alaska and has always loved being outdoors. She attended Humboldt State University to learn more about wildlife biology. Karen then served two years in Mongolia with the U.S. Peace Corps before coming to Rancho El Chorro where she has enjoyed working for 12 years. During summer breaks, Karen likes to travel to new places and study history, culture and wildlife.

Clara GonteroClara Gontero (Owl) received her B.S. in Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. At Cal Poly, SLO, she received a M.S. in Biology, a B.S. in Applied Art & Design Photography, and her multiple subject credential. Clara enjoys hiking, backpacking, and birdwatching. She raises exotic finches as a hobby and is always willing to help injured birds and animals. The highlight of Clara’s day is to share the wonder, complexity, and beauty of the natural world with her students.

Jim LittleJim Little (Stargazer Jim) has been a Naturalist at Rancho El Chorro for 20 years. He completed a B.S. in Astronomy with a minor in Mathematics. He also completed two years of graduate school in Astronomy, Astrophysics and possesses teaching credentials from four different states including California. He loves sharing his knowledge of the night sky with students. His favorite activity is teaching in the Bubble (Starlab Planetarium). He spends his free time photographing nature and wildlife and has won many awards including Best of Show at the Mid-State Fair. He has published over 60 photos and is active in the local photography club. His primary goal at Rancho El Chorro is to make kids excited about learning.

Norma OchsnerNorma Ochsner (Pika) inherited a love and a curiosity for nature from her grandfather and father and spent her childhood climbing trees, playing in mud puddles and pretending to be various animals in the woods of Colorado. She started out as a psychology major at CSU in Fort Collins. While studying abroad in China, she realized that many children do not have as many opportunities for nature exposure as she did as a child. Upon returning, she decided to switch her major and focus on a career in doing her small part in preventing Nature Deficit Disorder. She earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from CU Boulder and has spent the last three years working as a Naturalist in state and county parks. She loves environmental education because of the connections it fosters between children and the natural world. She enjoys spending her spare time with her husband outside, rock climbing, trail running, hiking and reading. She is ecstatic to join the Rancho El Chorro team and begin a new life in California! 

Maddy Dalgarn (Seahorse) fell in love with the ocean and all its critters during a family vacation to Hawaii.  She remembers learning about the conservation issues regarding all marine life and feeling a need to protect and help these incredible animals. This deep respect for animals and nature led her to pursue a degree in Biology at the University of Washington. She is excited to share her knowledge with the students at Rancho El Chorro and hopes to inspire them to conserve and protect all kinds of wildlife. In her free time, Maddy enjoys relaxing with a good book or exploring the local beaches and hiking areas.

Will GeikenWill Geiken (Barnacle) grew up in Los Gatos, CA which allowed him and his family to make frequent trips into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Eventually, going on hikes turned into going on runs, and from age 13 on Will has been an avid runner as well as outdoor enthusiast. Living in Los Gatos also gave Will easy access to the beaches at Santa Cruz where he learned to surf. So, whether it’s in the water or out in the hills and mountains, Will is happy just to be outside. This appreciation for nature carried into his education and while at Harvard, Will majored in Environmental Science and Public Policy to learn about the current issues with environmental protection and climate science. With that knowledge in mind, Will is excited to introduce younger students to the natural world and the beauty that it contains.

Interns - 782-7349 or 782-7335

Alyssa VogelgesangAlyssa Vogelgesang (Gazelle) grew up in Fishers, Indiana and remembers spending most of her childhood outdoors. Time spent wading in creeks and ponds sparked her interest in freshwater systems, which led her to pursue studies at Purdue University. She obtained her B.S degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Alyssa hopes that through her Internship at Rancho El Chorro, she can spread her love for the outdoors and encourage students to become interested in the environment and natural resources as well. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, reading good books, or playing video games.

Cody LeeCody Lee (Coyote) found his calling during a trip to El Salvador during what was supposed to be the rainy season, when he was standing at the bottom of a dried up riverbed and saw the waterline16 feet above his head. A social ecologist by training, Cody studied the interactions between human society and the natural environment, focusing on transformative learning, otherwise known as the "art and science of worldview transformation", and its relation to the environment. As a child, Cody watched his hometown steadily change from green to grey as many wild places were lost to the Southern California suburban sprawl. He is dedicated to invigorating a sense of wonder and care for the natural world and its creatures.

Elizabeth AdeeElizabeth Adee (Chaparral) discovered a love of nature very young.  As a child she often spent her time exploring, building forts, and reading about edible plants.  Elizabeth followed her attraction for the outdoors and living things and completed a degree in horticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Since then, she has traveled the world, briefly lived abroad, delivered flowers, crowned queens (working with apiaries), counted bugs, and planted seeds.    Curious about professions which could unite her twin passions for teaching and the outdoors, Elizabeth finally found herself back on the central coast at Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School. Who knew that there was such a thing as outdoor science school!!  When not on the trail, Elizabeth enjoys reading, cooking, painting, the beach, and the occasional trail run.

Emily Spurgeon Emily Spurgeon (Mako) was born and raised in Minnesota where she would spend most days outside (even in the winter) trying to do any activity in the water or snow. When the time to go to college came, she headed for Cal Poly SLO. Although she missed Minnesota, her true love for the outdoors blossomed here. She became a guide for outdoor adventures for backpacking, climbing, and surfing. She couldn't get enough of being outside. Emily's true passion is the ocean so she majored in marine biology and became a scientific diver. Every summer she would either study white sharks in South Africa or go out on field work projects diving up the coast and perfecting her underwater and boat skills. After graduation, she pursued a career in shark biology and went to work at the Bimini Shark Lab in the Bahamas. She truly loves doing field work and working with animals. Upon returning to the U.S., Emily was more than excited to take a job at Rancho El Chorro, not only getting to take care of animals, but nurturing and developing the minds of all the future scientists and conservationists!

Maintenance - 782-7336

Dave HeitDave Heit (Mountain Man)






Food Services - 782-7337

Shaun Daniel (Cypress) spent many of his younger years living in Half Moon Bay but he eventually landed in San Luis Obispo.  He developed a real passion for cooking and worked at Camp KEEP and really loved it.  He also worked as a Cook at Camp Westwood on the Oregon coast near Lincoln City.  He really enjoys the atmosphere and values taught at outdoor schools and feels very fortunate now to be cooking closer to home at Rancho El Chorro.

Aubrey Dorrough (Grey Heron) is starting his fourth year at Rancho El Chorro School as the breakfast cook. He is a native Californian growing up in San Luis Obispo County.  He interrupted his college education to serve in the Vietnam War. Upon his return, he worked for over 30 years at California Men's Colony in the Food Services Department. He also worked as a second generation private caterer in this area directing the same annual event for 34 years. He has vast experience in culinary arts, catering and cuisine. He retired from CMC in 2009 and now enjoys gardening, home improvement, cooking, spending time with his six children and ten grandchildren and is a tropical fish enthusiast. He also enjoys living on the Central Coast. He feels very fortunate to cook at Rancho El Chorro School and is happy to be in a kitchen again. He has been married to the same wonderful lady for 40 years and celebrated his 40th anniversary in March 2015.

Diane McCarthy (Honey Badger) has been cooking professionally since the early 1980s. While in Los Angeles, she focused on opening new restaurants and hotels which gave her valuable experience. She relocated to San Luis Obispo in 1989 to open her own restaurant. After starting a family, she owned and operated a catering business. During this time she had the opportunity to teach, consult for new restaurants, and donate her time to charity. She opened a second restaurant in 2009 that is currently operated by family members. She enjoys working at Rancho El Chorro and is excited about the future of the programs.

Substitute Naturalists

Sharlene LucionaSharlene Lucina (Goose) developed an interest in outdoor education after stumbling upon a Field Geography class in the Yosemite backcountry. After completing her degree in Geography at Sacramento State, she worked for a global satellite imagery provider and devoted spare time as an environmental restoration volunteer. She put her navigational skills to use while fulfilling her recent goal of hiking 2,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, from California to Canada. In her free time, you can find Sharlene on her yoga mat, climbing boulders, hiking trails with her husband and beagle, or volunteering with the SLO Botanical Garden.

Dave ShoemakerDave Shoemaker (Bear) has worked at REC since 1998. He earned a Liberal Studies degree and Multiple Subject Credential from Sonoma State University. Dave has worked with kids in a variety of situations for over 30 years. He also worked in the woods in Northern California, fished commercially, and is currently a Docent with Friends of the Elephant Seals. Dave brings his real life experiences, enthusiasm, and support of the environment to the instructional time with his students. Go Rancho!

Tom ReillyTom Reilly (Ocean) - Tom’s love of the outdoors was fostered early on through the Boy Scouts of America. After reaching the rank of Eagle Scout, Tom realized how important nature was to his everyday life. This led him to complete a B.A in Environmental Studies at UCSB. Tom’s experience working with students began in college through their campus Ropes Course. He later became the lead instructor and helped to create a 5th grade team building course for local schools. He spent five years working for Island Packers and the Channel Islands National Park as a Naturalist and an Underwater Camera operator. This experience led Tom to pursue and complete a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Tom joined the Rancho El Chorro Staff in 2000 and continues to share the importance of science and nature to students of all ages.