October 18, 2011
Environmental Education Leader Names New Director of Yosemite National Park and Vice President of Operations
NatureBridge, the largest non-profit residential environmental education partner of the National Park Service, is pleased to name Kristina Rylands as the new NatureBridge director in Yosemite National Park. Additionally, after more than 20 years as a member of the NatureBridge family, the former Director, Leigh Westerlund, branches into a new role as vice president of operations.
"Leigh and Kristina have a genuine passion for NatureBridge that is invaluable during this exciting time of growth for us," said Susan Smartt, president and CEO at NatureBridge. "It's humbling to also see one of our own inspired alumni return after an amazing career with the National Park Service, with a strong desire to inspire a new generation among educators, staff, students, teachers, parents, and partners."
Inspired by her high school experiences with NatureBridge programs, Kristina Rylands fulfills a life-long dream and returns to the organization as director for the Yosemite National Park campus. Previously, Rylands served as the Interdisciplinary Project Manager and Outdoor Recreation Planner for the National Park Service in Yosemite National Park. She shepherded the Tuolumne River Plan and provided high level leadership with the National Park Service and Interagency Wild and Scenic Rivers Coordinating Council. In her new role at NatureBridge, she will strive to maintain and expand the high quality education programs and foster community and partner relationships. She will also work closely with the Yosemite-based Board of Directors and the NatureBridge national office to build on the organization's 40 year history of success in Yosemite and increase the diversity of the student populations served, educators and staff.
"Kristina has been a tremendous asset to Yosemite National Park, providing significant management and oversight on numerous park planning efforts," stated Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. "We look forward to working with her in her new capacity at NatureBridge, one of our environmental education partners, where she'll certainly utilize her talents and enthusiasm to educate and inspire children here in the park."
Westerlund's new position as Vice President of Operations will allow her to take her 20 years of experience and implement best practices and insure continued program quality across all the NatureBridge National Park locations in Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Olympic National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Channel Islands National Park.
Celebrating its 40th year, NatureBridge believes that environmental education should be a part of every child's experience. The organization is dedicated to providing education programs that inspire environmental literacy and stewardship, as well as build personal connections to the natural world. Each year NatureBridge brings approximately 30,000 students from 600 schools to participate in its three- to five-day field science programs in Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Olympic National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Channel Islands National Park. Please visit NatureBridge for more information and find out how to support its mission.