Our Team

Meet The Team
Rika Ayotte
Executive Director

Rika began her job with Discover Your Forest in March of 2015. Her background is in museums and she has experience in executive leadership, public programs and education. Rika’s role in Discover Your Forest is to grow the philanthropic support base for Discover Your Forest to ensure its financial future and to enable DYF to better serve the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests. She is also responsible for the marketing and messaging of the organization. Rika supervises and supports all staff and informs decision making within our various program areas.

Karen Gentry
Education & Volunteer Program Director

Karen has been with Discover Your Forest for since 2010. Her background is in botany and she is our go to person for all things interpretation. Karen oversees all of the educational programming for Discover Your Forest including Newberry Field Trips, Project Snow, Greenhouses to Greenscapes, Young Women’s Natural Resource Career Camp, Natural Resource Career Fair, Volcano in the Classroom and Citizen Science. In addition Karen acts as the trainer for our volunteer interpreters, preparing them to answer visitor questions and interact with the public.

Gail Whelan
Retail Operations Coordinator and Bookkeeper

Gail has been with Discover Your Forest since 2012. She is responsible for 10 retail stores in Central Oregon, which includes Lava Lands Visitor center on the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and the new Cascade Lakes Welcome Station. Gail also manages recreation pass sales for the Central Oregon area. Gail hires, trains and manages a staff of 7 sales associates, and in addition to her retail management responsibilities, Gail also serves as Discover Your Forest’s bookkeeper.

Stacey Cochran
Community Engagement Director

Stacey has been with Discover Your Forest since July of 2014. She brings a strong project management background from her work with the American Cancer Society. Stacey’s role as Volunteer Coordinator requires her to recruit, on-board, train, schedule and steward hundreds of volunteers each year. Stacey also oversees our Generation Green Internship Program. In addition to her work with volunteers, Stacey plays an integral role in our marketing and events efforts.
Stacey serves as our web-master and marketing coordinator; ensuring important exposure in the press and online for Discover Your Forest and Our Programs.

Bess Ballantine
Education and Stewardship Coordinator

Bess joined the Discover Your Forest Team in 2016. She has worked in the Environmental Education field for the past 7 years and recently worked with the Children’s Forest of Central Oregon. Bess is responsible for connecting Forest Service specialists with middle and high school classrooms. She first moved to Central Oregon in 2003 from Tennessee and worked as a whitewater rafting guide for several years before making a shift into Conservation Education. She loves to spend time with her family and friends outside and around the kitchen.

Becky Yaeger
Conservation Educator

Becky became our Conservation Educator in 2018. A former intern with Discover Your Forest, Becky briefly left Bend to attend Southern Oregon University for a M.S. in Environmental Education. At SOU, she completed a capstone project managing place-based field trips. Previously, Becky instructed for Bend programs, Cascade WILDS and The Environmental Center’s Outdoor School. Becky coordinates conservation education programs at Mt. Bachelor, Newberry Volcanic National Monument, and other sites in the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forest. All places she loves exploring, too!

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