Staff Bios

Staff Bios

Syd (Squid) Andrews
Lead Instructor

Syd grew up in a small town in New Zealand, across the street from the ocean. As a kid she loved exploring the sandy dunes and swimming with her family. When she was 7, Syd and her family moved to Santa Cruz, California, where she spent her time roaming through her redwood forest backyard searching for frogs and banana slugs. For a few summers while she was growing up, she spent time with her aunt in Taos, and attended FITaos Mountain Camps with her sister. Her favorite parts of camp were nature journaling, scavenger hunts, and the July 4th Duck Race.

Syd eventually went back to NZ for university, studying marine biology, ecology, and biodiversity. Since then she’s worked in elementary schools in afterschool programs and on Catalina Island as a marine science instructor. In her free time, she loves learning about local plant species, going on long hikes, and searching for cool ocean creatures on snorkel ventures.

Moving from the ocean to the mountains, Syd is stoked to join the FITaos team and work outside with kids in the community. She’s excited to learn more about the mountains, enjoy and explore the outdoors with kids this summer!

Loren Bell
Mountain Bike Coach 

Loren’s love of riding bikes borders on obsession. When he’s not spending long hours in the saddle exploring the trails and two-track of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, he’s thinking about the next big adventure. Whether he’s on mile 70 of an epic endurance race, or day 7 of riding the Continental Divide, Loren is most at peace during what he calls, “spinning meditation.” He is stoked to be sharing this passion with the next generation – adding to a long history of inspiring kids to get outside. Previously, he has taught outdoor education to inner-city fifth graders and coaxed high school crews into building wilderness bridges with only hand tools and willpower. When the snow gets too deep to ride, Loren serves as a Pro Ski Patroller at Taos Ski Valley, and fills his remaining free time with journalism and occasionally writing guidebooks.

Sean Cassily
Assistant Director, Lead Instructor, Mountain Bike Coach, and Logistics Guy

Sean Cassily grew up in the rural mountains of northern New Hampshire where he developed a love for everything outdoors. He has worked for FIT since 2002 and has coached alpine skiing since 2003. In both jobs Sean enjoys connecting youth to our natural world by engaging youth in lifelong activities that are fun.

In 1996 Sean moved to Taos and was intrigued by the dramatically different ecosystems that exist in Northern New Mexico. Sean began to learn about the local Taos eco-systems and was fascinated by the differences from the woods of the East Coast. He realized that sharing his love for the outdoors and sharing his curiosity about the natural world was a path worth following. He began working with FIT in 2002 and has been an integral part of the team ever since. His role within FIT has grown as has his love of sharing his love of adventure with young people.

Sean has a degree from St. Michael’s College in Vermont and is a certified Wilderness First Responder.

Susie Fiore
Founder, Executive Director, Lead Instructor, Mountain Bike Coach

Susie Fiore, FounderSusie founded Field Institute of Taos out of a strong desire to combine her love of the outdoors, natural sciences, and working with youth and share this magical combination with the community. Raised in California in a large family that spent a lot of time camping and exploring, she has always felt the most happy, energized, and challenged outdoors. On family camping trips as a child, her favorite activity was washing rocks in any accommodating creek and building tiny houses of mud and sticks. After graduating from Colorado College where Susie thrived on the experiential style of field courses, especially in archeology and geology, and working for the college for 2 years, she made the move to Taos (in 1989).

After seven years splitting her seasons between working as an archeologist for the U.S. Forest Service and a supervisor in the children’s ski school, the dream of Field Institute of Taos became a reality. In 1996, Field Institute of Taos was founded and a new, exciting journey began. In addition to leading groups herself, Susie’s role has included growing programs, cultivating donors, and increasing the capacity of FIT to reach more youth by increasing attention to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion.

When she isn’t hiking or biking in the field with kids or in the office keeping up on administrative duties, planning, and scheming, Susie spends time skiing, camping, mountain biking, traveling, and going on as many adventures as possible (both big and small) with her family. Seeing the world through her son’s eyes brought new magic and watching him grow up within FIT has been incredible. She thrives on this lifestyle where her world adapts with the changing seasons. Over the years, Susie has also been found teaching spinning and ski conditioning classes and personal training at a local gym as well as working in a local ski shop.

Susie is a certified Wilderness First Responder.

Andy Greif
Mountain Bike Coach and Program

Since 1988, Andy has been in the service of the developmental needs of children and youth, through experiential and wilderness activities. In 2005, he founded a program in Biddeford, Maine somewhat similar to the Field Institute of Taos called the Community Bicycle Center (now Apex Youth Connection).  He focuses on youth development experiences and mentoring through activities including: bike repair instruction, job readiness skill building, mountain and tandem bicycling, and civic engagement experiences. Andy moved to Taos in 2015 with his wife to live in a co-housing community – Valverde Commons. During his retirement he has volunteered for youth serving organizations including: Field Institute of Taos, Twirl, Youth Heartline, the Nurturing Center at Enos Garcia Elementary School, and the Taos Milagro Rotary Club Interact Club at Taos High School. FIT has nudged him out of retirement to facilitate the Building Bikes, Building Futures program at the Taos Pueblo Day School.

Allison Hardy
Lead Instructor

Growing up in a suburb outside Chicago, Allison always loved being outside, but didn’t have the chance to explore the outdoors until later in life. After moving to Burlington to study Psychology at the University of Vermont, she discovered her love of working with people and what elevation was. Her first hike was on a week-long segment of the Long Trail; it was as rewarding as it was challenging. Since then she has been lucky enough to live in many beautiful places that have allowed her to play and explore outside. Over the past few years, Allison has led youth on backpacking trips, completed a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, and currently spends her winters teaching kids to ski here in Taos. In her free time, she enjoys hanging at the river, roller skating, and trying to thread her serger.

Alastair Keith (She/Her)
Program Director and Lead Instructor  

Alastair grew up in the mountains of Utah and Colorado going camping with her family every few weeks. From the time she was 11 years old, Alastair had the opportunity to go to a canoeing camp in Ontario, Canada each summer. Since she was a young girl, one of Alastair’s dreams was to travel around the world. In 2013/2014 she was able to made it happen, packing a daypack and setting off solo to 22 countries. While on this 15-month journey, she volunteered and worked in hostels, guided backpacking expeditions, taught English, and developed an Outdoor Education program for a high school in India. Alastair also trekked over 600 miles in Chile, Tanzania, India, Nepal, and New Zealand. One of her greatest experiences was meeting and connecting with the people she met along the way.

In 2008, Alastair completed a NOLS Semester in India, during which she realized she wanted to spend everyday outside! Alastair received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Experiential Education from the University of Utah. It was during the first day of her studies that she realized we can change the world through getting people outside and engaging with nature! Throughout the past 15 years, Alastair worked a number of interesting and varied jobs in outdoor education that took her all over the country. 

Most recently, Alastair was a Lead Instructor for Outward Bound in Minnesota for the past 5 years. She facilitated life-changing experiences for teens and adults on 30-day wilderness canoeing and backpacking expeditions as well as 1 and 2-week dog sledding expeditions. 

“When campers are in the field with me, we are a team! Campers take care of each other and support one another in being safe, having tons of fun, and learning. I love random costume changes, “Cheers!” water breaks, weird facts, teachable moments, continuing to learn and grow, and empowering others.”

Weird Facts: Alastair has eaten grubs and termites (they tasted like lemons), built a canoe, climbed two of the Seven Summits, survived being lost in the Andes, and slept outside in -40F.

When she is not committed to getting local youth outside, exploring, having fun and learning she can be found hiking, camping, snowboarding and skiing, traveling, in her art studio, working with her retired avalanche dog Izzy, or mushing her retired Sled Dog, Weezer.

Alastair is a certified Wilderness First Responder.

Alina Moore
Assistant Instructor 

Alina was born in Kirovograd, Ukraine and came to Taos when she was 19 months old. Alina graduated from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa in 2022 with a major in environmental studies, focusing on wildlife conservation. In Iowa, she was a volunteer at the Iowa Raptor Project for two years. She is passionate about birds of prey and wildlife conservation. Alina began her journey with Field Institute of Taos as a camper at age five and has so many great memories of her summers as a camper, CIT, and Junior Counselor. She recently moved back from Iowa to work as a Lead Instructor with FITaos and is excited to be home and share her love of the natural world with campers.

Sophia Moser
Lead Instructor 

Sophia was born and raised in New Hampshire where from a young age she felt deeply connected to the mountains, lakes, and the natural beauty of the region. Raised in a family that was always stressing the importance of health, activity, and the outdoors, her childhood was packed with outdoor activities and adventures throughout all the seasons. Freestyle skiing in the winter followed by backpacking and hiking trips in the summer, and mountain biking into the fall. Sophia moved to Portland, Oregon in 2010 for college and spent 6 years exploring and adventuring the great pacific northwest region. She also began working with children with an interest in early childhood education. She has worked at multiple preschools over the years as well as outdoor education programs and camps for kids. Sophia loves to ski, read, run, hike, travel, take photographs, play the banjo, cook, dance, listen to live music, and spend time with her family. She loves her golden retrievers, Stella and Arlo, and her cat, Sheba-Dee.

Emma Patterson
Mountain Bike Coach and Lead Instructor

Born and raised on the Taos Mesa, Emma grew up playing in the many wild landscapes of New Mexico, many of those years with the FIT crew as a camper! With a passion for fresh air and long hours spent in the sun, rain, mud, and snow there aren’t many days you’ll find her inside. Chronically a kid, the little (and big) joys of the outdoors aren’t often overlooked. For Emma, there’s nothing like sharing that passion for the natural world with others, and later seeing that passion grow and flourish.

As an avid (and arguably rabid) competitive skier, runner, and mountain biker, she finds immense joy in both the hard work and the serenity of being a mountain athlete. After graduating the University of Utah with a MS degree in biomedical engineering and a BS degree in mathematics education, she loves bringing physiological and biomechanical understanding into performance on the trails and on the mountain.

Emma is a Wilderness First Responder who will complete her Wilderness EMT requirements this August.

Nicole Ponte
Lead Instructor 

Nicole’s love of the outdoors started in the rugged White Mountains of New Hampshire. That love quickly grew, leading her to explore far and wide. After graduating from the University of Southern Maine in 2020 with a degree in Classical Voice, she ventured to the beautiful Land of Enchantment. She is an enthusiast for all aspects of the outdoors, especially trail running, hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.

During the Winter, Nicole is a professional ski patroller at Taos Ski Valley. She is a member of Taos Search and Rescue and most often is found training with the K9 Unit. She serves as a Brand Ambassador of the New Mexico branch of She Jumps to help promote getting more girls and women into the outdoors.

Nicole has her EMT-B certification.

Malia Reeves
Program Coordinator, Lead Instructor, and Mountain Bike Coach

Malia is a native Taos local who grew up playing outside in these beautiful mountains. After leaving home early to complete her high school education at an international boarding school in Wales, UK, she attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. When she arrived at Dartmouth, she became actively involved in the Dartmouth Outing Club. Before she knew it, she was a college certified leader in rock climbing, mountain biking, and backcountry skiing. Malia moved home to Taos after graduating with a degree in Fine Arts. She has since thrived on the seasonal existence of working winters as a Ski Patroller at Taos Ski Valley, summers guiding teen outdoor adventure trips all over the world, and the off seasons creating and exhibiting her artwork. Malia’s continuing passion for outdoor education stems from her love for sharing with others the beauty and exhilaration of being outside.

Sparrow Skywalker
Admin Jedi, Lead Instructor, and Mountain Bike Coach

Some say she is part Jedi and part mountain princess, Sparrow Skywalker (yes that is her real birth given name) was born and raised in Taos, New Mexico. Her obsession for the outdoors stemmed from being a part of FIT since she was a young child. Sparrow is passionate about skiing, mountain biking, flying, hiking, and, recently, fly fishing. Growing up in the FIT community gave her the knowledge and skills to have outdoor adventures and bring her into a role of sharing her passion and knowledge of the great outdoors. She worked as a Counselor In Training and Junior Counselor with FIT before becoming a bike coach and summer instructor. Sparrow loves working with children and helping them find a love for themselves, as well as a love for the outdoors. When she is not working with FIT, Sparrow is a ski coach with Taos Winter Sports Team in the winter and has had jobs that involve being in the sky, such as working for plane charters in Alaska and hot air ballooning in Taos.

AimeeLynn Stearns
Lead Instructor 

Aimee Lynn was born and raised in Taos, NM and has been a part of FIT since she was a young camper. She worked as a CIT and Junior Counselor for FIT for several summers. She loves to share in the magic of curiosity with young people while out playing and learning in the mountains. Aimee Lynn has a passion for nurturing awareness, sense of wonder and engagement and knows how important this is for the health of our families, friends, and communities.

Being a part of FIT has allowed Aimee Lynn to cultivate her interest in human development, experiential learning, and mentorship. Growing up in the mountains has helped her develop a spirit of adventure and appreciation of beauty and excellence. She is also interested in literature, art and culture, and well-being studies and loves to read, write, paint, ski and hike. Aimee Lynn has a BA in Psychology and English from the University of New Mexico and is certified in Wilderness Advanced First Aid and CPR.

Stephanie Vigil
Director of FIT Neighborhood Camp

Stephanie grew up living everywhere from Kentucky, Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, and a few more in between. She graduated with honors in 2001 from Taos High and put down roots here. Taos always felt like home to her and was the place her family always came back to.

Many of her moves were due to her families art gallery business and summer volunteer work with the Forest Service doing archeology. Stephanie participated in various projects and helped on archeological digs in Northern California and Montana. With her love for the outdoors and kids, Stephanie joined Rocky Mountain Youth Corp to tutor and mentor youth, emphasizing teamwork and homework skills. She also worked on a forest trail maintenance crew. She loved working outside and benefited from the team building and leadership skills she developed.

After graduating Stephanie was a nanny for several families. During this time she also started a home-based playgroup for infants and toddlers, which she ran for 10 + years. For the past 13 years, Stephanie has been very happy as the head of the after school program and a substitute teacher at Anansi Charter School. She loves the challenge, creativity, and rewarding work this job allows her.

As a mother to her daughter Hailey, Stephanie has a whole new appreciation and perspective on life and for her work. She understands the trust people place in her to take care of their most precious parts of their life and is so humbled by that. Stephanie is constantly amazed by her daughter and the wonderful kids she works with. She loves the way they view the world, make her laugh, and always end up teaching her something new everyday!

Cass Landrum

Cass is a native Texan with over a decade of outdoor education experience. She graduated from Purchase, NY with a degree in Environmental Studies. Her senior project was a collaborative nature play about the life of a tree, written by kindergartners. In six years, she moved 16 times to five states across four time zones, teaching environmental education in various biomes along the way.

Cass has a passion for flora and has been a naturalist in New Mexico since 2013. In 2014 she settled into an Open Space in Albuquerque where she was the caretaker and full-time nature observer, while directing expeditions at a local nonprofit. After leading exactly 100 trips, she broke ties with Albuquerque and moved to Valdez, NM where she is now a home-owner. She is also one of less than a dozen Certified Environmental Educators in New Mexico through the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico

Cass has a passion for plant identification, a compulsion for organization, and a small obsession with camo-colors. She estimates to have taught, guided, belayed, and/or played with over 4,000 children.

Fun Facts:
Cass’s favorite toy growing up was a white board.
She spent Friday nights in college looking for the best use of a semi-colon in the literature section of the library.
She owns the entire collection of Gilligan’s Island episodes.

Liana Sonne

Liana SonneAs a young’un, Liana grew up camping in the deserts and mountains of the Southwest US, living some years in a pop-up camper or truck travelling the country with her family. Liana fell in love with everything from ocean animals to desert plants to heritage seeds. They began working at fifteen with wildlife in need of rehabilitation, soon thereafter working with tigers at a Conservation Facility. She ventured into the fields of Environmental Education and Food System Justice. Liana has generated lessons and curricula that have made for an abundance of experiential learning opportunities to youth across the regions.

Liana’s work experience is extensive, her depth and breadth of knowledge is astounding, and her energy level is high. Past work has included many organizations emphasizing social and environmental justice such as…Nature’s Classroom Institute, Lorax Urban Farm, EarthCare, Community Against Violence, MoGro, Public Allies, and Cho Ku Rei Ranch. These organizations are in addition to many outdoor education programs.

Having studied ecology and environmental education at the masters and undergraduate level, Liana persists in investigating every subject from lichens to pegacorns to sociobiology. Fun facts: derby daredevil, avid cyclist who prefers a bike over a car, huge fan of exploration, loves rock scrambling rocks and rio frolicking, growing food, feeding friends human and wild, dance parties, and many, many things OUTSIDE.

Having studied ecology and environmental education at masters and undergraduate level, Liana persists in investigating every subject from lichens to pegacorns to sociobiology. Fun facts: derby daredevil, avid cyclist who prefers a bike over a vehicle, huge fan of exploration, loves scrambling rocks and rio frolicking, growing food, feeding friends human and wild, dance parties, bikepacking and many, many things OUTSIDE.

Upon spending 12 fabulous years working as the School, EdVenture, and Community Outreach Coordinator as well as a Lead Instructor, Liana is further pursuing justice work for and on behalf of marginalized community. She leaves FIT in a much better position directly as a result of her tireless, creative, determined work with a focus on making a difference for all youth in our community. While we miss her energy and expertise greatly, we are lucky to have her work with us as a contractor on special projects.

Germaine Bartlett-Graff – Forever on our Team
Community Programs and Lead Instructor 

GBG photo3As a Taos native, Germaine’s love for the mountains, rivers and cultures that depend on them, began early in life. She began her work as an outdoor and experiential educator in 2007 leading outdoor and environmental education programs with the Field Institute of Taos, Naturalists at Large and was the Nepal Course Director for experiential study abroad programs with Where There Be Dragons seasonally.

When not working in the mountains, Germaine spent her free playing in them, skiing, rafting, hiking and forever learning from the wonders of the natural world. From the mountains and rivers of the southwestern United States to the Nepal and Indian Himalayas, Germaine was always inspired by the natural environment.

With a passion for teaching young people and playing in the mountains with them, Germaine provided many students with the opportunity to learn about the natural world and environmental issues with greater depth and understanding, which in turn enabled them to cultivate a greater awareness of themselves and the world in which they live.

Germaine earned a BA in Religious Studies and Psychology from the University of Colorado in Boulder and was Wilderness First Responder. She earned her Masters in Social Work in 2020.