Meet Our Team
Jess Haas, Executive Director
Jess believes that experiences in nature are crucial to the well-being of individuals and communities. With over ten years of non-profit outdoor education experience in urban and rural areas, she has been integral to the development and sustainability of outdoor education programs for youth and adults across the west. Jess is an active volunteer and committee member with several state and national organizations including the Montana Environmental Education Association, Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association, and the National Parks Conservation Association. She spends her time skiing and running with her rescue dog, Hazel, reading with her plus-sized cat, Suki, and eating elaborate meals with her Michigan-born partner, Eric.
Elizabeth Green, Education Director
Elizabeth is passionate about getting kids outside in order to spark a lifetime love of nature. She firmly believes this is the key to future conservation and preservation of our wild spaces.
Liz earned her BA in Education from Roger Williams University in RI and her Master’s in Education at Berry College in Georgia. She taught elementary school for five years, honing her skills as both an educator and a teacher mentor.
Elizabeth and her husband moved to Bozeman in 2011 to raise their young son in a place that values the outdoors as much as they do. They have a small menagerie at home, which includes dogs, cats, fish, and chickens.
Britney Gitch, Summer Program Director and Lead Instructor
Britney grew up in Vancouver, Washington and her relationship with the outdoors began when she was extremely young through numerous hunting and hiking excursions. In 2013, she made her way to the spectacular Bozeman area to attend Montana State University and absolutely fell in love.
Britney’s passion for learning intensified ten-fold after taking a two-month backpacking and kayaking trip throughout Montana with the Wild Rockies Field Institute, where she learned the powerful advantages of outdoor education. She graduated from MSU with a degree in History-SETS (Science, the Environment, Technology and Society) and is currently working towards her Master’s in the history of the American West.
When Britney isn't teaching for MOSS, she can be found backpacking in the backcountry, snowboarding or hunting. As a MOSS instructor since 2016, Britney continues to have a blast teaching summer camps, PIR days and traveling to schools across Montana to show kids the incredible outdoors!
Trista Fery, Office Coordinator
After visiting Bozeman in 2010, Trista made the official move from her childhood stomping grounds in Oregon the following summer. While looking to further her education at Montana State, she was also drawn here by the incredible natural playground that surrounds Bozeman, as well as the strong outdoor community it provides for. Trista holds a life-long passion for the outdoors, from her childhood running around the farm she grew up on to finding solace in the deserts of Utah or in the local mountain ranges between semesters at MSU.
Trista graduated from MSU in 2018 and is excited to now have more time than ever to get involved in the community and inspire others to love and protect our environment - locally & globally.
When she’s not at MOSS, she can be found wandering the local trails, running the Gallatin River, on her yoga mat or taking laps at Bridger Bowl. Above all else, Trista is inspired by a passion for constant growth as well as compassion for others and nature and is excited to be a part of the MOSS team!
Heidi Buzzetti, Outreach Coordinator and Instructor
Heidi grew up on the Central Coast of California, but the mountains were always calling her name. After graduating high school, she quickly headed east for the Rocky Mountains and more adventures. She followed her love for the outdoors and obtained her Associate's Degree in Outdoor Education and Leadership from Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. With her eyes set on bigger mountains, she turned her gaze north to Bozeman and finished a Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Studies from Montana State University while finding time to explore Montana's great outdoors.
After traveling and working at MOSS, Heidi has now returned to school to obtain her K-8 Science teaching credentials in hopes of connecting with children through applied science and experiential education. In her spare time Heidi loves to ski, climb, backpack, play with her dogs and chickens, cook yummy food, read, and play music!
Phia Swart, Instructor
When Phia was just a little guppy growing up in Bozeman she went exploring with MOSS in the summers. Now, years later she has returned to pass on her love for rocks, plants and animals as an instructor! Phia often skis, climbs, plays in the mud, climbs trees and paints in her free time. She is an artist specializing in abstract wildlife and landscape, and her favorite thing to do is collaborate on art with kindergarteners!
Before returning to Bozeman last year, Phia went exploring with NOLS for a semester in the Rockies and the Southwest where she recieved her Wilderness First Responder. She then lived in Seattle where she worked as a fulltime nanny and then moved to Bellingham where she worked as a ski instructor for the kids of Mt. Baker. Phia has been taking on a double major in Geology and Conservation Ecology at Montana State University in hopes to teach, explore, protect and inspire a love for the land.
Jacob Zimmerer, Instructor
Jacob grew up in Northeast Ohio, wandering through dense deciduous forests, skipping stones, catching frogs, and discovering the beauty of the natural world. In 5th grade, he visited the Rocky Mountains for the first time and fell in love with the West. His dreams of moving to the mountains were fulfilled in 2014 when his family left Ohio for the foothills of Colorado’s Front Range. Soon after arriving, he accepted an internship at Jefferson County’s Mt. Evans Outdoor Laboratory School, where he spent a year teaching ecology to 6th grade students and developed a deep interest in experiential education.
Jacob is passionate about helping people to feel at home in the woods and is excited to share his love for Montana’s vast and varied landscapes as an instructor for MOSS. He is currently a student at Montana State University studying environmental science. When he’s not on campus, you’ll find him fly-fishing, backcountry skiing, foraging, backpacking, and practicing his primitive skills.
Ruthie Castle, Instructor
Ruthie grew up northern Michigan, which is where her love for the outdoors began. Being the free-range youngest of five children, she enjoyed hiking, skiing, playing hockey, and climbing trees. She was home-schooled all the way through high school, which gave her the freedom to learn about the outdoors in a hands-on manner. This type of education also allowed her the chance to travel from an early age, which is when she fell in love with the west, and particularly Bozeman.
Ruthie received her degree in Outdoor and Environmental Recreation and Substance Abuse Education at Central Michigan University. As soon as she graduated, she ran away from the flat cornfields of central Michigan to the mountains of Montana, where she discovered the incredible organization called MOSS! Ruthie is thrilled to spend another summer helping the kiddos of Montana create lasting relationships with the outdoors.
In her free time, Ruthie loves to run with her dog, backpack, create delicious food with friends, and try new hobbies.
Felicia King, Instructor
Felicia grew up in Santa Cruz, CA. Her appreciation for the outdoors started with long summer road trips with her family to camp and hike in National Parks all across the US. This appreciation grew into a passion in high school through many outdoor adventures, including skiing, surfing, and backpacking. This love for the outdoors led her through majoring in Biology at Stanford University in California, where she studied marine organisms on the shores of California, the open ocean, and Fiji. But the mountains were calling...and she moved to Bozeman to teach skiing.
Felicia is now a teacher by trade and knows the meaning of life is "to love and be loved", but speculates that it is also "to teach and to learn". She finds inspiration by observing and playing in nature and loves to help others bring this joy and learning into their lives.
Mellanie Lerum, Instructor
Mellanie grew up in many places, getting an early exposure to various climates, animals, and people which sparked an interest in the outdoors. From the lowest points in Death Valley to the highest peak in Germany, she loves traveling the world. Her excitement for the outdoors has given her a love of animals as well. Over the course of her life Mellanie has lived with many creatures and always looks forward to wildlife encounters. On her adventures she enjoys collecting rocks, bones, shells, and fossils, both as mementos from her trips and as tools for peeking people’s interest in science.
Originally, Mellanie moved to Bozeman with the intention to learn to snowboard, become an Army nurse, then continue to travel the world through the military. Soon, however, snowboarding became skiing, her love of helping people became of a love for teaching people, and Mellanie grew to love Bozeman too much to want to move away. She graduated in 2015 with a science education degree and continues to thrive in outdoor education with MOSS and the school program at Crosscut Mountain Sports Center.
For Mellanie all of these experiences have created a desire to teach young people about the wonders of the world, to help them to explore such places, and impart a sense of stewardship. This summer will be her second full season with MOSS and she couldn’t be more excited!
Maria Neira, Instructor
Maria was born and raised in Wisconsin, but headed west for college to study elementary education and enjoy the beauties of the mountains. Her first job was as a summer camp counselor in the thick woods of northern Wisconsin, and this wonderful experience changed her life. Maria then went on to teach art at a summer camp in Maine and instruct high ropes in the desert of California. Through these experiences, Maria believes in the power of children in the outdoors and wholesome experiences. She even hopes to spend the rest of her life teaching science in the middle school to inspire and engage the future.
Maria has always had a passion for the outdoors and protecting it. When she is not in school, she can be found somewhere in the mountains either skiing, climbing, or backpacking. She also loves creating art and traveling the world!
Josh Buonpane, Instructor
Growing up in New England, Josh’s first experience in the outdoors began in the secondary forests of southern Massachusetts. Having spent multiple summers at family members’ sustainable farm community, he developed an interest in natural systems and was eager to understand how they worked. This, coupled with a budding desire to hike in the mountains, resulted in him ending up at the University of New Hampshire to study environmental science. Upon graduating, Josh spent the next two years working as both a naturalist and environmental educator in the White Mountains. These experiences solidified in his mind the notion that the best way to love and experience a place is through sharing your understanding of it with others.
Having always been interested in wild places, Josh hoped from an early age to someday make the move west. A cross-country bicycle trip that took him through beautiful and remote parts of the American West solidified this desire. Discovering southwest Montana through ski instructing at Big Sky, he realized that this area has a beautiful and interesting natural and cultural history. Josh believes that helping the younger generation develop an appreciation for the natural world, especially through the lens of scientific literacy is critical for the future of the planet as well as healthy human societies. This is what led him to the Montana Outdoor Science School. When he’s not teaching kids on the trails or ski slopes, Josh can be found hiking mountains, looking for birds, skiing, cooking with friends, biking, and making music.
Gretta Stack, Instructor
Gretta grew up on a dairy farm/co-housing community in central Vermont. In high school, she started a summer farm camp for kids with two of her friends, called "Cow Camp". She has always enjoyed working with kids in the outdoors and loves teaching others about nature and science. Two summers ago, she had a blast being an instructor for nature/science camps at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont.
Gretta is studying Wildlife Biology at the University of Vermont. After graduating, she is hoping to do field work for wildlife conservation or attend graduate school - she eventually would like to pursue a long-term career in environmental education.
In her free time, Gretta enjoys hiking, running, traveling, camping, milking cows, and cooking. Last summer, she spent a month in Norway working on an organic farm. Currently, she is studying abroad in Botswana with Round River Conservation Studies, a field studies program based out of Westminster College. Although she grew up in Vermont, she was born in Oregon and has always felt a connection to the west! She is so excited to live in Bozeman for the summer and spend time with kids outside exploring local ecosystems!
Brad Cachopo, Instructor
Brad grew up in Northern California where he was blessed to have spent much of his childhood outdoors. Between spending grade school recesses chasing lizards out of the school bushes and sneaking out at night to catch frogs from the neighborhood stormwater basins, Brad knew he had a love for the outdoors from a young age. Brad first visited Montana in 9th grade and fell in love immediately. With the amazing fly fishing and gorgeous scenery, he knew that Montana was the kind of place he could spend the rest of his life.
When it came time to apply for college, Brad sent his applications to Montana State University and fortunately was accepted in 2013. There, Brad achieved a degree in Fish and Wildlife Management. After graduation and numerous semesters of helping teach a plant identification course, Brad found a new passion in teaching. Now he is going back to MSU to get another degree in Secondary Education and dreams of teaching high school biology in the future. Brad loves to share his passion for the outdoors with others and strives to get people inspired about nature and all of its beauty. When Brad isn’t going to school, he is most likely duck hunting, fly fishing or anything else to get him outside and active.
Carly Denler, Instructor
Carly grew up in Champlin, Minnesota where her passion for science grew as she pursued a degree in Biology and Chemistry at University of Minnesota Morris. She first lived in Bozeman in 2012 during a summer research opportunity through Montana State University. She fell in love with Bozeman over the summer and knew that she would be back for more.
After completing her Bachelors she moved to southern California and worked as an Outdoor Education Program Specialist at Cuyamaca Outdoor School. After a year, she decided it was time to move back to Montana and worked as a Teacher/Naturalist for Big Creek Outdoor Education Center in Glacier National Park.
These opportunities fueled her passion for being in the outdoors and teaching others to have an appreciation for nature. She recently moved back to Bozeman and is excited to work with MOSS to share her passion for teaching and learn new skills. When Carly isn’t at MOSS, she can be found climbing big rocks, skiing, backpacking and reading.
Katie Bigbee, Instructor
Katie Bigbee an Albuquerque native grew to love nature on her families ranch. She received her undergraduate degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism from the University of Vermont (UVM) on 2015. While attending UVM, she enjoyed her time participating in the outing club where she honed in on her wilderness trip leading skills. After college Katie moved down to Costa Rica for 3 months to pursue her other love of studying ecotourism.
When she moved back to the U.S., Katie set off to work for an amazing company called Adventure Treks where she lead backcountry trips for teenagers in Washington State, British Colombia and North Carolina. Katie now calls Bozeman, Montana home and feels super happy to split her time between working for MOSS and being a ski instructor at the Yellowstone Club. She is also pursuing her graduate degree in Outdoor Recreation from Prescott College. In her free time, she likes to play with her wonderful cattle dog Bode, ski, fly fish or explore ghost towns.