Meet Our Staff

Executive Director (currently recruiting)

Angela Ward, Interim Executive Director/Operations Manager
831-420-6115, ext. 12

Angela is a West Coast native and has enjoyed exploring the outdoors since childhood. Her past employment includes work with the United Indian of All Tribes Foundation, the National Park Service, Youth Conservation Corps, and local non-profit ETR Associates. She holds degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.  Angela was an early participant in national service through the AmeriCorps program and completed her term of service in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park.  She spent many years living and working in Yosemite –as a trailworker, backcountry cook, and school secretary at a one-room school- before moving to Santa Cruz over 10 years ago. Angela joined the museum in January 2015 bringing with her years of non-profit administrative experience.  She is excited about supporting the mission of the museum and helping to expand our reach in the community.  Her interests include a passion for cooking, gardening and travel. Read more about Angela.

Brendan Bane, Community Relations Manager
831-420-6115, ext. 16

Brendan’s interest in biology blossomed when he first laid his eyes upon a giant, hairy tarantula. Soon after, his bedroom bookshelves overflowed with natural history guides and web-filled terrariums. He later followed his passion to the cloud forests of Costa Rica, where he studied how tarantulas communicate their romantic intentions. Though he loved tromping through forests and spying on spiders in their roadside burrows, his greatest thrill did not come from the field or laboratory. Instead, he was happiest onstage, bringing audiences face to fang with spiders through visual storytelling. After earning a B.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology and certificate in science communication from UC Santa Cruz, Brendan began reporting news on local natural history and scientific advancements as a freelance science journalist. He enjoys hiking, herping, and teaching jiu jitsu in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He joined the Museum in July 2018 as Community Relations Manager, and is eager to immerse its guests in the lives of all flora and fauna, whether wondrous or weird.

Felicia Van Stolk, Education Manager
831-420-6115, ext. 17

Felicia is a Santa Cruz native, raised on its trails and beaches. At UCLA she pursued degrees in marine biology and conservation ecology, completing research in Costa Rica and at Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory. While focusing on her studies, she also discovered her passion for education and was involved in a student non-profit focused on teaching in underserved communities in Los Angeles. This background in science, conservation, and education informs an experiential, inquiry-driven style of teaching that promotes critical thinking, problem solving, and achieving depth of understanding. She is passionate about environmental education and facilitating experiences for all people in nature, and brings this enthusiasm to the school and public programs that she oversees for the Museum. When not at the Museum, Felicia can be found with her dog at the same trails and beaches that she grew up on, or SCUBA diving in her favorite kelp forests. Read more about Felicia.

Marisa Gomez, Education Coordinator – School & Public Programs
831-420-6115, ext. 15

Marisa is fascinated by the connections people form with plants, be they for art, tool use or nourishment, and she infuses her work at the Museum with this guiding vision. As a steward of the Museum’s programming, Marisa is committed to providing unique and engaging experiences that connect people with nature through the Museum’s school programs, public programs, and even virtually on the Museum’s social media platforms. She is the person to talk to if you want to bring a group to the Museum and she is often found teaching young students in the Museum’s galleries or leading the public through a workshop in the garden. Marisa has a B.A. in Creative Writing from San Jose State University, is a Certified California Naturalist, and spends her free time foraging for materials to use in textile art, hiking, and hosting trivia events in town. Read more about Marisa.

Chris Soriano, Education Coordinator – Field Programs
831-420-6115, ext. 15

Chris Soriano is a large omnivorous mammal that can be seen wandering the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He has been sighted in many states including Texas, Colorado, Montana and Washington, but the largest number of recorded encounters have occurred in California. He graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, with a B.S. in Zoology and Evolutionary Biology. Chris has taught people about nature from the day he could talk, and still rattles on about dinosaurs just like he did when he was three years old. He enjoys hiking, playing music, and rainy weather. Because of his strong resemblance to Enhydra lutris, Chris is also known as Otter. He joined the Museum in August 2018 and hopes to inspire every child in Santa Cruz County to spend some time outside.

Spencer Klinefelter, Education Assistant – Field Programs
831-420-6115, ext. 15

As a child, Spencer spent much of his time outside hiking, climbing, and playing in the open spaces around his home in the Sacramento Valley and foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Since then not much has changed, and he still divides his time between hiking, rock climbing, and “naturalizing” as much as possible. An avid birder and botanist and a lifelong student of environmental education, Spencer has been teaching children of all ages since high school, and upon graduating from University of California, Santa Cruz with degrees in Environmental Studies and Education, began working full time in the field. Spencer joined the Museum in the fall of 2017 as the education assistant for field programs, and continues to pursue his interests and passions alongside his work. Read more about Spencer.

Maura Connolly, Volunteer Coordinator
831-420-6115, ext. 15

Maura moved to Santa Cruz from Boston, pursuing a lifelong dream of living in California that has yet to disappoint. She started as a member of the AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Program (VIP), serving as Volunteer Coordinator at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. After a year of plants and volunteers she was happily hired by two local non-profits to continue her work in volunteer coordinating. She is excited to join the Museum’s team, where she looks forward to being surrounded by people with a similar love of nature and giving back to the community. As a transplant to California Maura has much to learn from the Museum and hopes to become more of an expert on this magical place we live in. When she is not coordinating volunteers Maura is often volunteering herself, including in her role as a member of the Board of the Arboretum. She also has a vast love of the ocean and spends as much time as she can by it: running, reading, swimming, or contemplating life. She is stoked to be working at a museum with a life size whale out front, and eats her lunch at the beach every day. Read more about Maura.

Kathleen Aston, Collections Specialist

Kathleen Aston has worked as the Museum’s Collections Specialist since January of 2017. Her responsibilities include the day-to-day oversight, documentation, and conservation of the Museum Collections. She has a B.A. in Linguistics from Reed College and a Master’s of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington.  Kathleen is fascinated by the informational life of objects and how they anchor people to an understanding of the natural world. Read more about Kathleen.

Mary A. Verutti, Visitor Services Representative

Mary has been with the Museum since 2006 and has seen so many changes through the years. She continues to be amazed at the contribution the Museum makes to the City of Santa Cruz with such a small staff. She has an English/Writing degree from Chico State but has always had a passion for history, especially of Santa Cruz. She has learned so much about natural history from working at the Museum and is excited when all who enter feel the same. Mary loves all things Italian, New Orleanian, rainy days, moonlit nights and is teased by friends and family to be “married to music.”