Michael is originally from Chicopee, Massachusetts and holds a degree in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has been an actor, teacher, and musician for various theater companies throughout the Northeast, as well as Virginia and Pennsylvania, and has also toured nationally. Michael’s current endeavors have him working as an actor/teacher in upstate New York and he is also an aspiring stand-up comic. In his down time Michael enjoys the outdoors, reading, writing, playing sports, and spending time with his cat Roxy.
Geologists, biologists, and naturalists from around the world seek Ron’s recognized expertise in the geology, flora, fauna and human history of the desert southwest. Ron teaches courses for the Dixie State College Elderhostel program, is a guest lecturer for Zion Canyon Field Institute, and provides programs to visitors as a seasonal park ranger at Zion National Park. The Travel Channel has also featured Ron as part of their desert southwest series.
Ron has spent most of his life in the southwest and has a true passion for the desert. He is an accomplished photographer, having photographed animals, plants and scenery of the desert for many years. His surroundings have also brought out the artist in Ron. His extensive associations with the Native Americans have inspired art pieces that can be found in many prominent collections. Ron’s work was featured in Southwest Art magazine.
Ron was born and raised in Utah, where his love for the outdoors was instilled upon him from an early age when his parents would encourage him to pursue his interest in nature.
Now, with more than thirty years of learning and teaching about the unique desert environment under his belt, Ron continues to pursue his love for the outdoors and follows many different avenues that would allow him to work with and study natural sciences.
Ron is the author of “Ron Kay’s Guide to Zion National Park” and is currently working on several new books regarding the desert southwest and the Colorado Plateau.
A native New Englander and former news broadcaster, Michele Crane jumped at the chance to narrate the NaturePod about Cape Cod’s beaches and wildlife. Michele has always appreciated the beauty of New England’s rugged and picturesque coastline.
Michele’s broadcasting career includes work as an anchor and reporter for both radio and television news programs. Working at News40 in Springfield, Massachusetts and on WFCR Five College Radio in Amherst provided her with an extensive background in writing, producing and narration.
Michele is currently pursuing freelance writing, voice work and narration projects. She lives in Western Massachusetts and enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children.
Julie Forkner and Nancy Condon (Narrator too) bring decades of experience and vast knowledge to the subject of spring wildflowers. Both our authors are sought for their expertise and regularly lead wildflower walks. They share with you their wealth of knowledge and true love of these amazing little plants.
Julie Forkner first fell in love with wildflowers trailing along behind her father as he called out “trillium, trillium” on spring hikes in the mountains of Tennessee. Earning a bachelor’s degree at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC, Julie learned to identify and love native wildflowers. Her love for plants and all things dirt-related eventually landed her in the native plant propagation business, and she urges everyone interested in growing native plants to buy from nurseries that propagate their own stock responsibly. Having recently graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Julie now gardens and writes in Sweetwater, Tennessee.
Nancy was fortunate enough to grow up in an outdoor-loving family. She fondly remembers leisurely hikes in which Dad would pause to take beautiful photographs and Mom would give a name to everything they saw. The fun was trying to figure out if Mom was telling the truth or not. Gosh darn if the bird book actually showed a yellow-bellied sapsucker!
Soon Nancy’s interest went beyond naming, and discovering anything and everything about nature became a passion. Camping, canoeing and photography were natural extensions and continue to be.
Nancy has a BS in Biology from Hope College in Holland Michigan, where she took every biology class time permitted before graduating in 1982.
She has been an environmental educator ever since, having taught at various venues and states including a residential environmental education center in Texas, a nature center in New York, Science museum in Massachusetts, and a Zoo in Massachusetts. It was at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Tennessee where her love of wildflowers and the Smokies blossomed – excuse the pun. There she was awarded “East Tennessee Teacher of the Year” for 1994. Her fascination of pollination biology took off while there.
During her tenure in the Smokies she made 2 trips to Russia to train national park managers and teachers there in environmental education techniques. With her husband, Tom, Nancy still leads groups of wildflower enthusiasts on trips for a pilgrimage to the Smokies, a spring wildflower paradise.
Nancy and her husband adventurously set out by canoe to paddle across the United States in order to raise awareness about water conservation. The 14-month and 5,000 mile long venture was called, “Paddle for Water”. She encourages young people to take life by the horns and be adventurous.
Nancy now lives in western Massachusetts where she is Vice President of the Springfield Naturalists Club, former conservation director of the local Boy Scout Council, and served for a short time on the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society board. Nancy is the proud co-founder of NaturePods™. Even still, she continues to teach children in the out-of-doors.
Ann and Rob Simpson are well known and highly sought after nature and wildlife photographers and writers. Long known for their stunning images of the natural world their work has been widely published in magazines such as National Geographic, Time Magazine and Ranger Rick as well as many calendars, postcards and books including Birds of Shenandoah National Park.
Their photography business, Simpson’s Nature Photography, keeps their staff busy with photo requests from agents around the world. Their work can be seen at www.agpix.com/snphotos.
Dedicated to teaching others, the Simpsons have shared their vast knowledge of the natural world and photography to tens of thousands of eager learners across the country. Their expertise in teaching methods enables others to be able to understand easily and clearly, the often-complex principles that they need to explain. They are regular contributors to the American Park Network publications that share information free to the public about National Parks across the country. They have led Canon photography workshops in some of the major national parks including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Great Smokies.
Their dedication to changing lives through education finds an outlet at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Virginia where they are both Biology professors. They were instrumental in developing a unique Outdoor and Nature Photography Program at the college. Their nature photography courses at the college have given many novice photographers the confidence and ability to realize their dreams of becoming successful nature photographers.
Touching lives throughout this country and many other countries throughout the world, their dedication to environmentalism and ecotourism has shown many individuals the importance of sustaining the world’s precious environment for future generations. Their natural history tours have included trips to Africa to photograph the great migration across the Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania, into the tropics of Costa Rica, Venezuela and Belize to explore the fast-vanishing rainforest inhabitants, and to the islands of Galapagos, Trinidad and Tobago to share the appreciation of delicate island habitats and their unique ecosystems.
Their most recent books for FarCountry Press include Born Wild in the Smokies, Born Wild in Shenandoah and Shenandoah National Park Simply Beautiful. They are currently working on a new series of national park travel guides for FalconPress including Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Surrounded by wildlife habitat, their home in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia attracts wild birds and mammals typical of the Appalachian region to their backyard. Their four grown children share their love of the outdoors, nature and photography. Their two beautiful granddaughters, Georgia and Gracie, love being photographed by their doting grandparents.
Beth Ann Rothermel is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Westfield State College. Although now living in western Massachusetts, she first became acquainted with Shenandoah National Park when her family moved to Virginia in the 1980s. She enjoys traveling with her husband Mike, especially to national parks, where they often hike and backpack.
Stewart Aitchison is a zoologist and geologist by training and a naturalist by passion. He has been exploring, photographing, teaching, and writing about the Colorado Plateau for more than forty years, ten of those as a field biologist for the Museum of Northern Arizona.
Besides leading trips for Grand Canyon Field Institute, he also escorts educational excursions for National Audubon Society, Smithsonian, Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic Expeditions, Elderhostel, and other educational groups across the globe.
Some of his latest publications include: Grand Canyon’s North Rim and Beyond, Grand Canyon: Window of Time, A Traveler’s Guide to Monument Valley, A Guide to Southern Utah’s Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, and The Desert Islands of the Sea of Cortés. A complete list of his books can be found at Stewart’s homepage.
When not out in the field, Stewart lives in Flagstaff with wife Ann or can be found working on a straw bale building project in Bluff, Utah.
Jody Anastasio lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts and works for Cape Cod National Seashore. She enjoys the diversity of habitat and rich cultural history of the Cape. Jody earned a B.A. in modern culture and media from Brown University, and an M.S. in environmental studies from Antioch University New England. Prior to Cape Cod, she worked for several environmental education organizations across the country, sharing the outdoor world with children as part of school curricula.
Bridget Macdonald spent her first summer on Cape Cod just weeks after she was born, and has returned every year, working for the past six as an interpretive ranger at Cape Cod National Seashore.
Bridget received her B.A. in art history from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2005, and is currently earning an M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University, focusing on natural resources and environmental policy.
See Some Photos of Cape Cod
Thomas Condon is the co-founder of NaturePods, a middle school science teacher, and a former seasonal park ranger for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tom was stationed in Cades Cove from 1990 to 1997, where he developed a love for the incredible valley and a respect for the people who once lived there. Tom authored the park portfolio on Black Bears, the first in a series of portfolios educating visitors on management issues. Tom has also co-authored three books for the park: Hiking Guide to the Smokies, Spring Wildflowers of the Smokies, and Day Hikes in the Smokies.
Tom is an avid naturalist and traveler. Living with his wife Nancy and their two Bernese Mountain Dogs in Western Massachusetts, Tom is on the board of directors for two local conservation groups for which he leads monthly outings. Tom is also involved with the local scouts. Acting as an advisor to Venture Crew 872, he teaches these young men and women rock climbing, caving, canoeing, and other outdoor skills. They put these skills to a test on such extended trips as paddling the entire Connecticut River from the headwaters in Canada to Long Island Sound. This continues Tom’s love for extended canoe trips. Tom and Nancy completed a cross-country canoe trip in 1997 that took them from Washington State to Tybee Island Georgia.
As co-founder of NaturePods and the author of the Cades Cove personal tour guide, Tom hopes you will find that this program enriches your experience in the Smokies and that other NaturePod products will invite you to learn more about our National Parks and nature.
Dr. Mike Pelton is perhaps the foremost authority on black bears in the eastern US. Mike has spent 40 years studying bears as a professor at the University of Tennessee. The work that he and his graduate students have done in the Great Smoky Mountains has helped visitors and managers better understand the significance of black bears in any ecosystem, whether in the Smokies or in your backyard.
Mike will share with you his vast knowledge about black bear biology and behavior. He’ll also discuss the role that research plays in understanding our natural world and the interactions of species within it.
NaturePods is proud to have Mike write for you this exceptional guide to black bears.
Former Great Smoky Mountains National Park Ranger Tom Condon also shares some of his exciting and entertaining stories of black bear encounters.
A native of Maine, Bob received his BS from the University of Maine and a Master’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. He taught high school science in Massachusetts for 30 years and has been a seasonal naturalist for the national park service at Acadia National Park since 1982.
Combining his interest in natural science with his love of photography, Bob has written three books on Acadia: The Park Loop Road, Beyond The Park Loop Road, and Acadia’s Carriage Roads. He loves the challenge of producing audio-visual programs to tell stories using his photographs and looks forward to producing more programs for digital media.
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