Meet Our Team

GALS Leaders 2021

Hi! My name is Meera Butalia and I am Support Lead for GALS 2021. I was drawn to GALS because I think being connected to a community is so important in helping grow a passion and love for science. Being in community with others provides the chance to be seen and heard in ways that awaken new parts of ourselves, and with regard to science, I think it can awaken new ideas. The chance to be part of and help create a community of people who might not feel welcome in science is so exciting. It gives the opportunity to create a new relationship to science as we explore it in a new context. A context that includes connection to others, wonder, alternative ways of knowing, environmental justice, and a visceral relationship with our environment. 

I am currently studying Environmental Science with a minor in Women and Gender Studies at NC State University. I spent the last 5 months working on different organic farms around the country through a program called WWOOF(World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). I spent this time learning about sustainable agriculture and intentional community. Anyway, I’m really excited for GALS 2021 and can’t wait to meet everyone.

My name is Taylor Marshall and I am a senior at Catawba College expected to graduate May 2022. I will receive a B.S. in Environment & Sustainability with a concentration in Sustainable Planning & Leadership with a minor in Business Administration. My role for GALS 2021 was co-leader and I was one of the three to take the students out into the field. What drew me to the program was the opportunity to learn about things I had never done before which was camping, backpacking, wilderness survival and safety, and guiding in a wilderness setting.

After my time at Catawba College I plan to gain an education in regenerative and organic farming and how to run a successful herbal business focused on preventative medicine, health and wellness. My other interests are in reading, kayaking, singing, drawing and painting, watching anime shows and spending time with friends and family.

Hi, I am Torey Vayer. I am a Lead Guide for GALS 2021, I grew up in Rockville,  MD, a suburb of Washington DC, with my parents, brother, and dog.  As a child, I participated in all sorts of outdoor recreation like hiking, swimming, biking, and skiing. I have been a backpacking guide, logistics managers, and adjunct instructor for Aurora.  I have completed research projects in remote locations of Costa Rica and Panama, backpacked part of the AT with my brother, camped in Utah with my college roommate, and picked up countless more outdoor recreation hobbies like climbing and paddle boarding.  In 2017, I graduated from Penn State with a BS in Biology, a minor in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and a concentration in film production.  In 2020, I graduated from NC State with a MS in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with a concentration in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources.

Since graduating from Penn State, I have strived to give similar experiences to others.  When I first learned of the Science GALS program, I knew it was the right place for me.  GALS combines my love of outdoor recreation and my passion for conservation biology by giving back to deserving young women that wouldn’t otherwise have this opportunity.  An overarching career goal of mine is to make the conservation (and outdoor recreation) landscape more authentically diverse, equitable, and inclusive; and GALS it a great place to work on that goal.  I’m hoping I can be not only a backpacking guide, but also a support system to GALS participants as they transition into the next phases of their lives. I’m stoked to guide for GALS this year, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

GALS Team Members

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Natasha Teasley is a Durham native. She has a BS from Western Carolina University with a degree in Parks and Recreation Management, Outdoor Leadership and Instruction concentration, and is a member and alumni of the Wilderness Education Association. Natasha has guided caving, hiking, backpacking, canoe and kayak trips through the southeast. Natasha is the owner of Two Sisters Adventure Company, where she strives to find ways to break down boundaries to the outdoors in traditionally under-represented populations in the outdoors. She enjoys hiking and trail running, snow skiing, attending music festivals, and playing dress up with and throwing sticks for her rescue pit bull, Dove.

Erin Witalison is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Catawba College and the Executive Board Co-Chair for GALS NC. Erin completed her undergraduate degrees in Biology and Spanish at Catawba. Then completed her PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. When she is not working on exciting research projects with students, Erin enjoys traveling, hiking, and camping with her dogs.

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Jackie Gerson is a co-founder of GALS. She loves to hike, camp, bike, canoe, kayak, or just spend time reading a good book outside. Jackie has a Masters degree in environmental engineering and is currently earning her PhD in ecology. She studies contamination of the environment by human activities and has been fortunate to travel to both Peru and Senegal for her research.

I am Kelly Flanigan, one of the Program Facilitators and Board Members of GALS. I love to learn and explore nature. Some of favorite activities include swimming, kayaking, hiking, playing with my pets, and reading. I completed my master’s degree in environmental studies and am currently foraging my path in conservation. I study the natural history of small carnivores and have a strong interest in the ecological-social divide. When I am not exploring the forest of Madagascar or hiking through the bayous of Houston Texas, I am coordinating the many moving parts of the Department of Environment and Sustainability and sharing my love of environmental topics with students in the classroom. During the transition of GALS to its new home at Catawba College I was asked to participate due to my range of interests in conservation psychology, environmental anthropology, and environmental intersectionality. As a female researcher and educator, I understand some of the challenges that underrepresented demographics face in STEM, and I hope to help break down those barriers. Programs like GALS work toward overcoming those challenges with a creative approach that starts with instilling confidence and a sense of belonging in young individuals. I am honored to be a part of this program and am inspired by the young participants in this program.

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Mercedes Quesada-Embid is an interdisciplinary scholar with research and teaching interests spanning the social and natural sciences, as well as the humanities. Her interests gravitate toward and explore an array of eco-egalitarian concerns, in particular, the role of socio-ecological resilience as it relates to local and global sustainability efforts. Key to this work is an understanding of communication strategies. The political sphere that revolves around legislative and social change requires strategic listening and communication skills, an organized vision for long-term impact, and an ability to support and mobilize concerned citizens in a transparent, effective, and relevant way

I am Bryana Eller, I am the current GALs intern. I am a senior at Catawba College, I am majoring in Environment & Sustainability and a second major in Biology. I have a deep passion for nature and spend the majority of my time outdoors hiking with my dogs or riding horses. I was drawn to the GALs program because growing I never had a lot of opportunities to explore my passion for nature or science, and there were times when I didn’t think I would get to but college inspired me to follow my dream. This program is a way to for me to help inspire others to follow or even find their passions.

Luke Dollar is a National Geographic Explorer and a wildlife biologist with more than 25 years’ experience coordinating conservation, research, educational, and development programs. Dollar’s scientific research focuses on carnivores ranging from big cats to Madagascar’s largest carnivore, the fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox), and satellite analyses of their habitat. More than 50 percent of his overall efforts are concentrated on grassroots education and sustainable employment programs for local people sharing space with Africa’s predators. Dollar’s efforts have not only yielded a trove of data on carnivore biology and behavior, but his programs have led to the development of scholastic and sustainable business programs benefiting thousands of local subsistence farmers and their children.  He served as Program Director of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative from 2009 to 2017 and is currently Bashore Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Environment and Sustainability at Catawba College and Adjunct Professor in the Nicholas School at Duke University

Emily Ury is a GALS co-founder and outdoor enthusiast. She began leading backpacking trips in the Northeast while attending Williams College (‘13). Emily is an ecosystem ecologist and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree studying the effects of sea level rise and salinization on the coastal wetlands of North Carolina. She is particularly interested in understanding how restoration and environmental management can be used to mitigate the negative effects of climate change to preserve native habitats and ecosystem services.  When she’s not in the swamp conducting her research, Emily enjoys spending time in the mountains or on the water on her paddle board.