Meet the Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors

From all over the country, the Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors are working to put biodiversity discovery on the map

Read more about the Ambassadors below.
(Left) A map of the Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors around the U.S. (Right) The Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors at Teddy Roosevelt Island in May, 2016.

Created by NPS.



Meet Mikaila!

Mikaila Ulmer, 12, is the National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador representing the Pollinator Conservation Initiative. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Mikaila is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Me & the Bees Lemonade, creator of award-winning natural lemonade made with flaxseed and sweetened with natural honey. She got the idea for the lemonade after she was stung by a bee at age 4. At first she was afraid of bees after the event until she started doing research and found that they play such an important role in ecosystems and her own life. Around that same time Mikaila also received an old family recipe for Flaxseed Lemonade and the rest is history. Mikaila entered her lemonade in the Acton Children’s Business Fair and Austin Lemonade Day and it quickly became clear that this little idea was going to be a huge success. Me & the Bees Lemonade is now sold at Whole Foods Market stores in the United States Southwest region and Mikaila’s story has been featured on Shark Tank, CBS News, NBC News and countless print sources. As a Youth Ambassador, Mikaila hopes to further promote pollinator conservation and spread the sweet message of her lemonade far and wide!

Mikaila hugging President Obama
Ambassador Makaila after introducing former President Obama at the White House United State of Women Summit.
On Tuesday June 14, 2016 Mikaila was asked to introduce former President Barack Obama at the White House United State of Women Summit where she delivered an inspiring speech about her work to save pollinators and why kids make the best entrepreneurs encouraging anyone who wants to start a business to, “be fearless, believe in the impossible, and dream like a kid.”


Meet Ben!

Ben Clark, 16, is the National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador for the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate (NRSS). He lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His favorite subject is science because he loves to learn about the way the natural world works. His inspiration is Dr. Edward O. Wilson. Ben believes biodiversity affects the world we live in because “it literally is the world we live in.” Ben wants to protect the Earth’s natural resources and inspire other youth to do the same. He believes that if children today care about biodiversity, then future generations will work to preserve it. When Ben is not outside in nature, he enjoys creating art, running competitively and studying cultural diversity, global geography and anthropology. Ben has worked with students, teachers and administrators to start Biodiversity Friends Clubs at three elementary schools in his community. He has organized school bioblitzes at a nearby wetland three years in a row, and also organized the preparation and planting of a pollinator garden at his school last spring. In 2014, Ben was selected as an “Everyday Young Hero” by Youth Service America for his work as a Biodiversity Youth Ambassador raising biodiversity stewardship and awareness among his peers. In October of 2014, Ben presented at the National Park Service Biodiversity Summit on his work as a Biodiversity Youth Ambassador to notable attendees including the Science Advisor to the NPS Director, Associate Director of the NPS Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, President of NatureServe, President and CEO of E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, and his lifelong hero, Dr. E.O. Wilson.

Ben shaking E.O. Wilson's hand and smiling
Ambassador Ben with E.O. Wilson, the "father of biodiversity".
In spring of 2016 Ben hosted a leadership course at his previous middle school and coordinate a school yard BioBlitz with 8th graders as a Biology lab. Ben also worked with his old teachers to design inventories and create species guides and data sheets for the event. His leadership workshop included topics such as coordinating community events, pursuing your goals, and how kids can be leaders among their peers and in their communities.


Meet Lurleen!

Lurleen Frazier, 19, is the Biodiversity Youth Ambassador from the 2014 BioBlitz at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Lurleen got involved with the National Park Service through an internship with the Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders Program (I-YEL) at the Crissy Field Center. Through her work with I-YEL and as a NPS Biodiversity Youth Ambassador, she has been able to appreciate the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, contribute ideas to park programming and take an active role in her community through advocacy and leadership. She loves helping people and teaching people how they can make a difference. Currently, she studying at California State University in Los Angeles, majoring in anthropology.

In 2015, Lurleen organized an activity promoting biodiversity and pollinator awareness and conservation at Backyard Bound, an annual youth-led summit for over 100 bay-area youth.

Lurleen in a line with other youth, each putting their hands on the back of the person in front of them
Ambassador Lurleen encouraging youth in her community to learn about biodiversity.
In 2016, Lurleen organized a field trip for youth in her home community (San Francisco area) to teach kids about biodiversity. She worked with a local church to plan a full day event during the 2016 spring break for neighborhood children (ages 5-12). The day was full of learning activities and games with biodiversity walk along the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The focus of the program was to explain the importance of biodiversity, why the species should be conserved, and how to be more aware and open to the biodiversity around them.


Meet Parker!
Parker Hopkins, 20, was selected as the National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador for Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012 and is now studying at the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder, Colorado, majoring in Environmental Studies, with a minor in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. For the two summers, Parker worked with the Continental Divide Research Learning Center in Rocky Mountain National Park to spread biodiversity awareness through citizen science. In addition to his work with NPS, Parker is an intern with NOAA measuring trace gases in the atmosphere, which helped him understand the extent of abiotic factors on the Earth’s ecology. As an active member of his high school Environmental Club, Parker promoted biodiversity awareness by organizing school assemblies, posting fliers about biodiversity issues, and encouraging his peers to volunteer in local bioblitzes.

In 2015 helped coordinate volunteer restoration efforts to re-vegetate riparian areas with native willow species following a devastating flood in the Big Thompson Canyon.

In 2016 Parker initiated a project to help conserve wild pollinators (including bees and/or butterflies) in and around Boulder’s urban environment. Parker engaged his residence hall, Baker Hall, which is part of an interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizing environmental science and sustainability, entomology professors from CU and a small group of students to help coordinate the event which is took place in April 2016. Student volunteers and CU faculty helped to plan native pollinator friendly plants in garden boxes and planters and distributed them around the CU campus after learning about the role of pollinators, their current state in North America, and contributing factors of pollinator decline from CU entomology professors.

Park with other 3D Naturalists in front of a sign reading "The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone"
Ambassador Parker with the 3D Naturalist Hot Shot team.
Parker is also part of the 3D Naturalist Pollinator Hot Shot team which was funded by the National Science Foundation to engage diverse youth in the rigorous science and taxonomy the behind biological inventories conducted at BioBlitzes with a focus on pollinators.


Meet Dara!

Dara Reyes, 17, was the first National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador, nominated at the 2010 BioBlitz at Biscayne National Park in Florida. Dara is currently studying at Clark University in Massachusetts. Dara presented at the 2011 Discover Life in America conference, where she had the honor of meeting Dr. Edward O. Wilson. Her curiosity in nature drives her to learn about the environment, and she inspires others to do the same. For her efforts and contributions to youth, Dara was been honored as a Hero for Change at the 2012 Radio Disney Music Awards.

After attending the 2010 BioBlitz, Dara returned to her middle school and promoted biodiversity awareness and conservation to her peers. With the support of her teachers and school administrators, this enthusiasm ignited the entire school and led to the development of a Biodiversity Friends Club.

Dara interned at Canaveral National Seashore from 2014-2015 where she worked in the visitor center and assisted resource management staff with sea turtle monitoring and conservation efforts. Dara worked with park staff and local partners to promote monarch conservation through an ‘Adopt a (native) Milkweed’ program.

Dara holding a golden award shaped like Mickey Mouse at the Radio Disney Awards
Ambassador Dara accepting the Radio Disney "Hero for Change" Award.
In 2016, Dara worked with her high school Environmental Club to build a monarch garden on school grounds, including a sign with information about monarch migration, native milkweeds, and pollinator decline. Dara views studying biodiversity as important for all youth, because, as future leaders, it will be their job to preserve and conserve the natural world.


Meet Caleb!

Caleb Ezelle, 18, lives in the backyard of the Barataria section of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in southeast Louisiana, site of the 2013 BioBlitz. As a lifelong resident of the area, he has had the opportunity to experience the park as it has changed over the years. Caleb interned at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserved for two summers where he worked alongside interpreters, law enforcement and resource and biological management. Caleb organized 8 park clean up days to allow students from surrounding schools to achieve required service hours. He aided resource management division with salvinia research and developed an interpretive program for visitors about the biodiversity of the Barataria Preserve. He also lead visitors on bird walks, worked in the Visitor Center, and gave presentations on Birds’ of Prey for Cub Scouts.

Beyond his internships, Caleb has been an ongoing volunteer at the park since 2013. In May 2016 Caleb was awarded the Hartzog Regional Youth Volunteer Award in recognition of his volunteer service. Among the highlights of Caleb’s volunteering include serving as an inventory lead at the March 2016 Jean Lafitte Bug Blitz, accompanying NPS Director Jarvis to commemorate events for Black History Month in February 2016, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in January 2015 and assisting with annual events such as the Better Health Bayou Festival, National Public Lands Cleanup Day, and the Spring in the Swamp festival.

Caleb talking to a group of young children
Ambassador Caleb teaching students about native plants.
In 2015 Caleb hosted a booth at the Swamp Festival at the Barataria Preserve about native hummingbirds and how community members could create hummingbird habitat and food sources in their own backyards. In 2016 Caleb did extensive research on edible plants of the gulf south region and how they have been traditionally used and contemporary uses to demonstrate cultural associations with biodiversity. Caleb will develop learning materials based on his research that he will share with Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and local summer camp programs. Students will be able to learn about uses of these native plants and learn how to identify them in the wild.


Meet Julia!

Julia Espaniola, 21, is the 2015 Youth Ambassador representing Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Born and raised on the island of Hawai‘i, she is a graduate of Ka‘ū High School and is now a student at Hilo Community College. Julia started with the National Park Service in 2011 years ago as a summer Youth Ranger. In this role, she gained skills to provide walks, talks and programs for park visitors. While in high school, she joined the NPS Pathways program in the park’s Kahuku Unit. Her passion for working with children has been extended to working at the education center and providing ranger-led programs for school groups. As a Youth Ambassador, Julia’s goal is to encourage other youth to visit, discover and love the park enough to want to share it with their family and friends. Julia will graduate this fall with an associate’s degree in liberal arts and will transfer to the University of Hawai‘i-Hilo to pursue a double major in English and environmental studies.

As a Biodiversity Youth Ambassador, Julia has developed several youth programs for young children focusing on Hawaiian Biodiversity. She has worked with 3rd – 5th graders at three local elementary schools (Pahala Elementary, Pahoa Elementary, Volcano School of Arts and Sciences) giving a 1-2 hour presentation to the students focused on the unique native flora that were present on their school campus. Following the presentation, she would take the students on a mini-bioblitz as they walk around the school campus and count and identify as many plants as they can. Julia would also follow up visits with the students to reinforce what they learned.
Julia with a classroom of children
Ambassador Julia with students in Hawai'i.
Julia is also working diligently to create a subcommittee for the Friends of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park aimed at engaging youth of the island to do service and conservation projects. Furthermore, Julia has planned activities such as guided hikes to teach participants about native biodiversity and threats to biodiversity. She has coordinated trash clean-up efforts and community outreach events such as community presentations and potlucks to inform the local community about biodiversity and conservation.


Meet Katherine!

Katherine Hagan, 21, is the Biodiversity Youth Ambassador for National Capital Parks East and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Growing up on a farm in Western Kentucky inspired a deep appreciation of the natural world and encouraged her responsibility in conservation. During the summer of 2015, Katherine was a camp counselor at Nature Camp in Vesuvius, Virginia teaching principles of wildlife conservation to children ages nine to sixteen. This experience introduced Katherine to the importance of conservation education and environmental stewardship. An environmental science major at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, combines Katherine’s interest in conservation education and entomology, particularly the study of bees and the relationship that humans play in their decline. Katherine spent the month of January, 2016 interning at the Entomology Department at the University of Kentucky identifying bee genus from the Ohio Valley Region and measuring species richness in the area. The following spring semester was spent in Mérida, Mexico, working with a stingless tropical bee of cultural and ecological importance to the Maya. As a current senior, Katherine hopes to promote conservation through education programs while furthering her degree in graduate school.

Katherine teaching young children how to play a game about biodiversity
Ambassador Katherine teaching young children about biodiversity during the 2016 National Parks BioBlitz in Washington, D.C.
Over the summer of 2016, Katherine worked as an intern at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Katherine assisted resource management staff with processing of data from the May 2016 BioBlitz and other biological inventory efforts. She also helped to coordinate outreach events such as the Lotus and Lilly Festival to engage youth and the local community with park biodiversity and resources.

Last updated: July 12, 2017


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