About Us

“To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.” 

-Thomas H. Huxley

Wild Oakland is an organization dedicated to providing free environmental education to busy urbanites.  In a world where over half the population now lives in cities, many people have very limited knowledge of nature, either of its systems or the flora and fauna that share space with them.

Our talks are geared towards adults and teens, but we encourage parents to bring their young children even if some information may be over their heads.  Kids are a great source of curiosity, and often ask questions that adults haven’t even considered!

We are a 100% Do-It-Yourself volunteer organization, from the Executive Director to the guiding committee to the walk leaders. All people involved in this project donate their time because of a shared passion for ecology and education.

Our ultimate objective is to foster “biophilia,” the instinctive attraction all humans have to living systems. We hope our programs will inspire awareness of wild places all around us.

Our Mission:

To provide free, Oakland-centered environmental education.

Executive Director: Constance Taylor

A humble citizen with no accredited scientific background but plenty of real-world experience, Constance founded Wild Oakland in early 2012 after talking to all sorts of people and realizing there was a need for more free, fun, local, and commitment-free environmental education for busy urbanites.

Our parent non-profit organization, Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue (YUWR), was chosen after Constance had worked under, learned from, and befriended Lila Talcott-Travis, founder of YUWR.

Making Oakland her home base in 2010, she has volunteered with local organizations such as the Marine Mammal Center, Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue Center, Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and The Bikery.  She has worked for many conservation organizations both domestically and abroad doing everything from tracking lions to grant writing.  Constance spends most of her free time organizing Wild Oakland, learning about local ecology, and trying to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the conservation world.

Wild Oakland Guiding Committee (in alphabetical order) 

Lee Aurich

Although he has significant professional experience in finance and accounting, Lee is best known to Wild Oakland for his love of nature, crackerjack photography skills, and website know-how.  Not only has he managed to take fantastic photos of the elusive Lake Temescal river otter, he also helped Wild Oakland through their very first website hack!  Lee can often be found wandering outside with his camera in hand, trying to get the perfect shot.  You can see his pictures at aurich.com/photos

May Chen

May has an MS degree in Nutrition Science from U.C. Davis.  She has been involved in nature education for more than a decade.  As a docent at Audubon Canyon Ranch at the Martin Griffen Preserve for the last 17 years, she has visited countless classrooms in the Bay Area and guided hikes at the nature preserve. She did a 6-year stint as a docent for the Natural Sciences Gallery of the Oakland Museum.  Currently she is on the Aquatic Insect Monitoring team for Friends of Sausal Creek, and a volunteer working with plant propagation at the Native Here Nursery in Berkeley.  Recently made a board member of the Insect Sciences Museum of California, and a Guiding Committee member of Wild Oakland, she’s thrilled to finally have the opportunity to work on the issues closest to her heart in her own community. Discouraged by a year of helping in the science program in the Oakland schools, May is convinced that inner city children can benefit from more time outdoors.  She’s currently working on creating opportunities for Oakland children to enjoy nature, as well as on some enrichment programs that could be brought into their classrooms/playgrounds. Her favorite subjects are insects, plants, and their interactions.

Samantha Conner

Samantha currently works as a naturalist, animal caregiver, and nanny with the goal to keep youth interested and engaged with our environment. Moving north from San Diego in 2009, Samantha obtained her Bachelors of Science in Physical Geography and aims to bring science education to under-served communities.

Norah Cook

Norah Cook’s childhood in the wilds of Big Sur instilled her with a life long fascination with botany and passion for conservation. After completing a degree in Modern History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, she served as a writing teacher and docent at the Lincoln Park Conservancy in Chicago. Returning to native soil, she is excited to learn more about Lake Merritt’s sordid and starry-eyed social history as well as the complex natural history of our beloved slough. She wants to become a high school teacher.

Eddie Dunbar

Eddie Dunbar is Founder and President of the Insect Sciences Museum of California, an Oakland-based 501(c)3 non-profit. He leads the Museum’s online collaboration to write “Insects of the San Francisco Bay Area” and parks-based Exploring California Insects program that trains residents to observe, recognize, photograph and work with local insects. Dunbar studied entomology at the University of California, Berkeley, but finished with a degree in Business Management and an MBA with emphasis in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix.While at Berkeley Dunbar was awarded three consecutive Interactive University grants for CityBugs, a web-based program which recruited students from Oakland Schools. CityBugs challenged recruitees to help write a web-based field guide.

Dunbar founded organizations that create insect displays and delivered professional development for teachers. He credits his science foundation in youth to an entomology grad student Den Mother who provided entomological literature, equipment and supplies.

Dr. Dianne Fristrom

Dianne is a retired biologist from UC Berkeley and a natural history docent at the Oakland museum. She and her husband moved to Oakland in 2000 to a condominium on Lakeside Drive. The new location inspired an interest in birding – starting with learning to identify the Lake’s waterfowl. More recently she has focused on learning about the social history of Lake Merritt.

Marissa Ortega-Welch

Marissa Ortega-Welch is a colorful bird that thrives in the habitats of Oakland. She can be seen both on land, teaching a watershed education program in Oakland schools with Golden Gate Audubon Society, or out on the open water, as a naturalist for San Francisco Whale Tours. Her range map extends down to San Diego, where she was born, and as far north as western Washington where she taught environmental education at Olympic Park Institute and adult ESL at a community college, worked as field biologist for Institute for Bird Populations, and founded a community food gleaning program. Key identification characteristics include a blue bicycle, a pair of binoculars, and a cup of coffee.

Lila Talcott-Travis

Lila has been a Wildlife Rehabilitator, Naturalist, Educator, and Squirrel Behavioralist for the last 20 years. With college training in biology, ethology,  wildlife triage, and anthropology, and with decades of experience working with animals, children, and teaching environmental education through lecture and hands-on experiences, it was a natural next step that she should co-found Oakland’s Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center.  She currently holds the position of Director of YUWR and volunteers many hours a week fielding wildlife emergency calls and organizing wildlife foster care while also raising her 4 year old son.

Wild Oakland Interns

Kevin Hong

Kevin is a biology-loving student who saw what was happening and wanted to help out! Pilot intern of Wild Oakland, he ran with the organization from the beginning of Summer 2012 until Summer 2013, designing the logo with the Canadian goose, writing follow-up reports for the walks, and helping out with carrying things! Kevin is currently studying at the Rhode Island School of Design.

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