Our Conservation Education Team
Conservation Education Coordinator- Ben Porkolab
Ben grew up near Kane, PA spending most of his time hunting, fishing, and exploring the outdoors. He earned a scholarship to attend the Safari Club International’s Wildlife Leadership School in Jackson Hole Wyoming while in high school. Ben then attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and obtained his Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education. Ben student taught at McKeever Environmental Learning Center and absolutely loved his experience there. Upon college graduation, Ben taught elementary school for two years in the bush country of Alaska and then taught one year in Nevada. He then chose to return to his family and his roots in the hills of Pennsylvania, and took a teaching position in nearby Cameron County where he taught for 19 years. While there, Ben was very involved in many conservation education programs. Some of those were Trout in the Classroom, a pheasant egg hatching program, a con-ed program with the Cameron County Conservation District, working with 4H, programs with the local gardening club, working closely with the Cameron County Outdoor Youth Association and National Archery in the Schools Program. He is also trained in Project Wild, Project Wet, Project Learning Tree, Go Teach Snowshoeing Wild About Bears and Wild About Elk. Ben has also taught Hunter-Trapper Education with the PA Game Commission for the past fourteen years. Now living in St. Marys, Ben continues to find himself in the woods, and on the rivers and streams.
Conservation Education Specialist- Russell Wheeler
Although Russell Wheeler grew up near Gettysburg, his love for the outdoors was always centered in Pennsylvania’s Elk Country. As a boy he spent a lot of time in the area hunting, fishing, and catching snakes. Russell found that helping people better understand wildlife was something he wanted to do. The Keystone Reptile Club is where he began educating people about Pennsylvania snakes alongside his family in Sinnemahoning and Cross Fork. Russell then earned an associate’s degree in wildlife technology from Pennsylvania State University. Russell’s time at Penn State Dubois Campus was highlighted by his internship at the Elk Country Visitor Center. As soon as Russell graduated in 2020, he accepted a seasonal position to return to the Elk Country Visitors Center through the Pennsylvania Game Commission. When finished with the Game Commission’s position in November, Russell was hired as the Conservation Education Specialist for the Keystone Elk Country Alliance.
Seasonal Conservation Education Specialist- Cali Housler
Cali is a native to the PA Wilds, growing up in the heart of it, in Cameron County. She has spent all of her life enjoying the outdoors through hunting, fishing, and hiking. Cali’s love for the outdoors led her to pursue an associate’s degree in Wildlife Technology from the Pennsylvania State University. During her time at Penn State she obtained an internship for 2 years with the McKean County Penn State Extension as a 4-H summer assistant/educator. She also became involved as a volunteer in bird banding programs which she still helps with today at Penn State DuBois and the Audubon Community Nature Center. Upon graduation she decided she wanted to further her education, but in a different area of conservation. This led her to attending the Pennsylvania College of Technology to pursue another associate’s degree, this time in Forest Technology. During Cali’s time at Penn College she became involved as a volunteer with Cameron County Outdoor Youth Activities helping with youth hunts and joined the local Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation as treasurer on the committee. She also worked for McKean Environmental Solutions as a pesticide applicator to help control invasive pests. Some of this work was in Cook’s Forest doing root injecting on our states tree, the Eastern Hemlock, to control the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. This job led Cali to become a Certified Commercial Applicator through the company she worked for and is still currently doing pesticide application in her free time. After Cali graduated with her second degree she wanted to pursue a career that would benefit the environment in her home county and surrounding counties. Once she heard of the rewarding position with the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, she knew this was the place she was meant to be. Cali is still currently living in Cameron County and plans to spend the rest of her life in the PA Wilds enjoying everything that it has to offer.
PA Game Commission Northcentral Environmental Education Specialist- Mandy Marconi
Mandy graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences, Minor in Natural Resources, and an Associate in Science in Wildlife Technology. Mandy is the Northcentral Environmental Education specialist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission with the responsibility of providing educational outreach throughout the Northcentral Region, including at the Elk Country Visitor Center. She has co-developed the Woodring Farm Interpretive Hiking Trail, the Game Commission Elk Information Radio Station, as well as the production of educational videos and materials. Mandy is a facilitator for Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, and Project WET. She has completed training as a NAI Certified Interpretive Guide, Hunter Education Instructor, National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Instructor, Growing up WILD, Project WILD, Pennsylvania Songbirds, Pennsylvania Biodiversity, Pennsylvania Land Choices, and Watershed Education. She also graduated from the American Wilderness Leadership School.
KECA Conservation Education Volunteers
KECA has so many volunteers who make a difference in our organization. The conservation Education Department has several volunteers who help make field trips and education programs a success.