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 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 since 2010. Prior to moving to Oregon, she taught at Michigan State University and she is our go to person for all things interpretation. Karen oversees the creation and facilitation of DYF programming; spanning seasons, topics, audiences and forests. She also acts as the trainer for our volunteer interpreters, preparing them to answer visitor questions and interact with the public. When she’s not working, you’ll find her exploring waterfalls, botanizing, birding or running the rivers on her SUP.

Gail Whelan
Retail Operations Coordinator & Business Manager

Gail joined the Discover Your Forest team in 2012. Gail has lived in Bend for 36 years and is a Montana native. She is responsible for 10 retail stores in Central Oregon, which includes Lava Lands Visitor Center on the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Cascade Lakes Welcome Station and Central Oregon Forest Service Offices. Gail manages recreation pass sales for 5 sites in Central Oregon. She hires, trains and manages a staff of 8 sales associates. When Gail is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, son-in-law and 4 grandchildren.

Stacey Cochran
Community Engagement Director

Stacey has been part of the team since 2014. She brings a strong project management and outreach background from her work with the American Cancer Society. She also brings her tenure in creative services management in both the wine and software industries. Stacey oversees our career pathways programs and the associated staff members. In addition, Stacey does the recruiting, on-boarding, training, scheduling and stewarding of hundreds of volunteers each year. She plays a vital role in connecting various interest groups throughout Central Oregon to their forests. As the leader of our engagement team, Stacey is one of the reasons we can boast to provide the second largest volunteer force to the Forest Service in the United States!

Amy Jensen
Marketing & Events Director

Amy has been part of the team since early 2019. She is a life-long Oregonian who has called Central Oregon home since early 2014. Her role at Discover Your Forest includes the planning and execution of our major annual fundraising events such as Stars Over Newberry, Campout for Public Lands, and the Backcountry Film Festival. She also runs our membership program and oversees all marketing efforts. After work hours, you can catch Amy on her SUP, and backpacking or snowboarding through our local mountain range!

Bess Ballantine
Conservation Education Specialist

Bess joined the Discover Your Forest Team in 2016. She has worked in the Conservation Education field since 2007, working with Wolftree and the Children’s Forest of Central Oregon, as well as a few other positions throughout the Pacific Northwest. 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 Education Specialist

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!

Sierra Derke
Volunteer Coordinator

Sierra is a fresh face here at Discover Your Forest. She was raised outside of Seattle, where her love for the outdoors was first cultivated. Sierra completed her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Spanish, then spent a semester abroad in Costa Rica where she interned at a marine park rehabilitating sea turtles. Since graduating in 2016, Sierra has worked in the outdoor / environmental / experiential education field in California, North Carolina, Wyoming, Peru, and Fiji. On her free time, you can find Sierra playing outside, dancing her heart out or cooking up some tasty treats.

Anna Salber
AmeriCorps Member -Volunteer and Career Pathways Coordinator

Anna is an AmeriCorps Volunteer serving with Discover Your Forest from September 2019 – August 2020. Her role is to help propel our Career Pathways program forward and to coordinate conservation volunteers on the Forest. She received her B.A. from OSU Cascades in Social Science. Anna’s work experience includes being a youth camp counselor and delivering outdoor education programs. When she’s not at work, you might see her skiing down the mountain in the winter, or exploring the forests in the summer.

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