Naturalist icon Naturalist

Chelsea Leven

Time among frogs and hardwood forests established Chelsea’s love for the outdoors as a child in the snowbelt of northeast Ohio. Impelled by curiosity about the natural world, she signed up for field trips in college, earning a geology degree from Amherst College, and studying marine ecology in New Zealand. Snapshots from ensuing science positions include scuba diving research, paleoclimate studies in Chile’s Atacama Desert, and warming bags of live bats against her belly.

Alaska’s wild vastness inevitably stole her heart when she first arrived in 2008 as a guide aboard an expedition vessel. However, finding the sogginess of Southeast Alaska’s winters unappealing, she has chased snow elsewhere: search and rescue in McMurdo Station, Antarctica; handling Iditarod sled dogs in Fairbanks, Alaska; and training hopeful Olympic skiers in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Leading trips among whales in the Sea of Cortez, roadless rain forest in Central America, and cultural wonders in East Asia have provided an occasional thaw and some        vitamin D.

Driven by a desire to connect people with the outdoors, she has worked as a national park ranger, as well as a guide for urban youth, people with disabilities, and others traditionally underrepresented in outdoor pursuits.  Her underutilized professional skills include operating forklift loaders and stilt walking.

In fall of 2017, Chelsea began a master’s degree program at the University of Montana-Missoula.  Her research, in Nicaragua, considers social and ecological resilience at the intersection of volcanic risk, tourism development, and collaborative conservation.