About

Our Nature Mentors
Chris Hyde

Chris Hyde

School Founder | Director

Born and raised here in Central Texas, Chris has spent his entire life wandering and exploring the wild places across America. Fishing along the coast in Corpus Christi, hiking the trails of State Parks across Texas, exploring the piney woods of Big Thicket and discovering all that nature offered as mysteries along the way. After graduating High School Chris traveled across the country taking classes from dozens of different outdoor schools that focused on modern & traditional skills of survival living, as well as leadership, homesteading and permaculture. In 2009 Chris began working in environmental education for youth and adults teaching outdoor leadership skills, archery, bow making, wildlife tracking, ethnobotany and outdoor survival skills. In 2014 Chris opened Natureversity to help homeschool communities around Austin and Dripping Springs reconnect with nature through the practice of hands-on and passion-led learning while being outside. Chris is a certified Outdoor Wilderness Guide with the National Outdoor Leadership School & Wilderness First Responder with the the Wilderness Medicine Institute of North America. He is also an Active Duty Lifeguard with the American Red Cross and a Wildlife Track & Sign Specialist with CyberTracker International. He lives here in Austin Texas and enjoys traveling to new locations around Texas, making primitive bows and arrows, primitive hunting, fishing and tracking wildlife.

Cam Johnson

Cam Johnson

Lead Instructor | South Austin | Owls

While most think of Rhode Island as the smallest state, for Cam it was a massive expanse which was to be ventured into at every opportunity. All through his childhood, he would spend his time exploring the local woods behind his house, or travelling through the state to go on hikes with his family. Between family trips and outdoor camps, Cam soon had explored almost every corner of the state and wanted to expand. He and his family began to travel across the northeast, skiing, hiking, camping out, boating, and much more. This love of nature continued to grow, and by the time he was 16, Cam had travelled through more than half of the United States and several countries around the world. Cam also had discovered a love for teaching children, and frequently did so between mentoring special needs children with music therapy, and through weekly teaching opportunities at his karate studio. Cam is thrilled to have an opportunity to teach children about the wonders of the natural world, the possibilities of exploration, and to pass on the different stories and survival skills which he has picked up through his own upbringing. From backpacking, to setting up tents, to fire skills and archery, he brings to the table an incredibly positive, can do attitude and outgoing personality. Having recently moved to the Austin area, he is excited to learn about the flora and fauna of the Austin area, and share in the adventure of exploring new areas of the world. 

Carter Liston

Carter Liston

Eagles Lead Instructor

Carter was born in Austin, Texas, but grew up in a town north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a deciduous forest in his backyard. This allowed him to develop an intimate connection with nature at a young age. There he would use his imagination building forts, bike ramps, and a treehouse with his friends. He loved climbing trees, watching birds, carving sticks, and playing games. Being a camp counselor for a church summer camp in 2015, he got a taste of how fulfilling working with kids can be. Carter then went on to college in Ohio, earning a BA in Psychology at Kent State University in 2019 and this past summer, Carter and his girlfriend converted their car into an RV and lived on the road for three months as they traveled around the entire country traversing twenty different states to uncover the beauty that America’s national parks bestow. From Yellowstone in Wyoming, Crater Lake in Oregon, Redwoods and Sequoia in California, to Zion in Utah, his call to nature was reawakened, confirming an inner longing to build a career outdoors. After twenty years, Carter has finally returned to his roots in Austin, hopeful for new growth and revelations. He is grateful to have found Natureversity and is excited to learn and help our future generations develop their own connections with mother earth, which he believes will help our world become an even better place.

Jayd Mendoza

Jayd Mendoza

Falcons Lead Instructor

Spending the first of her life as the plus one with traveling military parents, Jayd was blessed to have some of her earliest memories outdoors be of breathtaking landscapes like the  Black Forests in Southern Germany, The Nile, and the Red Sea in Egypt. Returning back to the Pacific Northwest by the time she started high school.  Jayd continued to explore most of the northwest United States and parts of Canada with her family between orchestra and swim practices. After graduation she moved to Dallas and received her degree in Environmental Sciences, continuing the pursuit of her bachelor’s here in Austin. Jayd’s time before Natureversity was working as a water safety instructor for various pools and companies. Whenever Jayd can get the time she can be found in one place; the water. Whether kayaking or lazily floating down, on the weekends Jayd can be found in one of the many bodies of water surrounding Austin. She is looking forward to connecting with students and parents on the joys of education in the outdoors and naturalist skills. 

Jorge Michel Acevedo

Jorge Michel Acevedo

Falcons Lead Instructor

Jorge was born on the smallest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, known as Puerto Rico – Originally named Borikén by the native Taíno tribes that stewarded the island. His childhood was filled with adventure and exploration in its many diverse ecosystems. From its lush tropical rainforests to the lively coastal shores, Jorge grew up hiking, camping, fishing, and traveling. This led to an unbreakable spiritual connection to nature. A new chapter was written with his family’s relocation to Central Texas in 2001. Texas has become his new playground, exploring many of its natural treasures and sharing their gleam. He has been fortunate enough to also explore the Andes, Cascades and Rocky Mountains throughout his excursions. As a result of his travels, Jorge has dedicated himself to the pursuit of sustainable methods of living. His focus is in creating community around food, water, shelter, and energy. This consists of organic food production, soil remediation, land stewardship, architecture, and most importantly, educating younger generations. He strives to connect children’s innate senses to the living and breathing ecosystems that make up our home. In 2017, Jorge became a father to his daughter Magnolia, deepening his motivation towards creating a wholesome future. He hopes to launch an outdoor educational center in the Cordillera Central mountains of Puerto Rico, helping local children find their purpose as future caretakers of the land. Catch his family on the trail!

Megan Merritt

Megan Merritt

Hawks Instructor

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Megan was initially inspired to explore from the classic Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider films. Her family was quick to take notice of her growing interest and placed her in outdoor survival camps every summer as a child. However, it was the annual family road trips to see the Redwoods in California or the Great Divide in Colorado that solidified her love for exploration and travel. A history buff at heart, her passion is learning about how ancient cultures and societies lived and worked together. In fact the older it is, the better. Her first job was as a Tour Guide for NASA during the recent 50th anniversary for Apollo 11, where they would take international groups to tour the original mission control room. Megan would then go on to graduate from Texas State University with a BBA in Business Management in hopes to one day combine her degree with her cultural passions. As a self proclaimed “renaissance woman”, she has many interests ranging from punk music, sailing, sports, astronomy, and most importantly, exploration. She is grateful to have found Natureversity and is very excited to show the kids how to develop and adapt their multiple passions to build connection with nature and others.
Taylor Liston

Taylor Liston

Eagles Instructor

Taylor was born in Austin, Texas but grew up in western Pennsylvania with his identical twin brother, Carter. They were lucky enough to have a big deciduous forest in their back yard and so they spent most of their childhood running around playing in the woods, building forts with friends, catching tadpoles, climbing trees, and falling in love with nature. As Taylor grew older he learned more about ecosystems and foraging for wild plants and mushrooms, and loves to go on long lone journeys in the forest. He feels that there’s always magical moments, healing, and wisdom to behold in nature! When he’s anywhere in nature he feels how all life is connected and that always brings him a sense of awe and reinvigorates childlike wonder in his soul! Taylor absolutely loves working with kids and as a senior in High school he organized his own lacrosse skills camp for kids ages 9-14, and had so much fun teaching and encouraging the kids! He also served as a summer camp counselor through his church when he was in high school and he felt so fulfilled and excited every day to share incite with the kids and to listen to their perspectives and hear their wild imaginations, and play tons of games! With a love for helping people heal and overcome hardships in life Taylor went on to graduate from Kent State University with a BA degree in Psychology. Post graduation he spent a lot of time traveling and hiking from California to Europe and many places in between. His most recent endeavor was an off-grid work exchange in Hawaii on the big island. There he learned tons about sustainable living, gardening, and building healthy community. Natureversity feels like the perfect place for Taylor’s next chapter in life and he is excited to share his passion with nature and life itself with the future generation!

Gabby Caraballo

Gabby Caraballo

Eagles Instructor

Gabriella is a Wisconsin transplant who spent her young life traveling and camping before moving to Fort Worth, Texas with her brother and parents. Gabriella always found herself taking in the small details and intricacies of nature at the park or in her own backyard, lighting a spark that burned bright enough to lead her in the pursuit of a BS degree in Environmental Science and Conservation. During her studies, she served in roles such as Conservation Ranger, Sustainability Club President, and as an Environmental Educator for a nature preserve in the Texas Hill Country. Her heart gravitates towards children for their awe and wonder which she possessed as a child, and is constantly inspired by the creativity children express. After four years of work with underprivileged and at-risk youth, and over two years on teaching children and adults about ecology, hydrology, geology, and more, Gabriella is beyond grateful to serve the students of Natureversity, her team, and connect more deeply with the wonderful world around her.

Kea Miles

Kea Miles

Hawks Instructor

Kea was born and raised in Illinois where she has life long memories of being outside. She spent any time she could outside wandering and exploring the flat ground that is Illinois. But her love for nature took a sharp turn towards passion when she began spending countless summers away at camps around the United States. The wilderness has always been a place of awe and reverence, rest and Sabbath, as well as much more. Before her time here at Natureversity, Kea worked in multiple outdoor camps and with teenage girls at a wilderness therapy boarding school. Kea graduated from Toccoa Falls College majoring in Outdoor Leadership and Education, and hopes to use her education and experiences to spark imagination, creativity, conservation, and change in the outdoors through the lives of others. She is new to Austin and loves to spend time exploring the natural spaces, playing volleyball and relaxing near water.

Elizabeth Weeks

Elizabeth Weeks

Summer Programs

Elizabeth was born and raised in Austin, Texas and her love for nature developed through explorations of State Parks, fishing, kayaking, and other family adventures as a young girl. Though she enjoyed many opportunities to connect with nature around Austin, she found a haven with her family deep in the piney woods of Bastrop Texas. She was raised surrounded by friends and loved ones who were happiest outdoors, who had regular conversations with old oak trees, cherished wildlife, and constantly encouraged her to explore the woods at an early age. After high school while pursuing her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher, she began working with children through the City of Austin Outdoor Recreational Department Programs. In 2018, Elizabeth earned her degree in Elementary Education at Texas State University with a minor in Studio Art. She has a passion for educating youth through passion & inquiry based learning, as well as connecting individuals with the earth, their community and themselves. When she isn’t practicing yoga or rock climbing, Elizabeth also enjoys connecting with nature through hiking, camping, wildlife tracking, mountain biking, and kayaking on town lake.

Randy Judycki

Randy Judycki

Wilderness First Aid Instructor

Randy was born in Illinois, and soon realized he needed to move to the mountains to climb, ski and whitewater kayak. So he packed his pack and moved to Arizona where he attended Prescott College received a Bachelor of Science degree in Outdoor Education. After graduation, he traveled to Scotland and Europe to climb ice in Scotland and ski in Europe. He then received a job with a school in California where he started a nationally recognized Outdoor Leadership program for sixth to twelfth-grade students. While at the school, he pursued his certification to become a Level 5 Whitewater Kayak instructor and his American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) Rock Guide certification. Randy is the only AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Provider in the state of Texas, where he certifies individuals to be guides.  He has also pursued his certification to become a SOLO Wilderness First Aid instructor teaching classes to scout leaders, scouts, climbing guides, and all types of outdoor enthusiasts. In 2013, he moved to Austin with his wife and daughter so his wife could pursue her dream job and he started Austin Ascents.

Mark Fagan

Mark Fagan

Director of Marketing & Outreach

Mark was born and raised in Houston, Texas, but considers himself a true Austinite having lived in the Central Texas city since 1990. Growing up in the pre-Internet era, Mark spent his youth outdoors enjoying nature and playing sports with his friends. A dedicated musician since his teenage years, Mark’s work history began with a decade or so working in record stores, including the now legendary Sound Exchange in Austin, the home of Daniel Johnston’s landmark “Hi, How Are You” mural! He then transitioned into a 15-year career at The Austin Chronicle where he held such titles as Online Editor, Events Editor, and Head Proofreader to name a few. Looking for a change of pace, he co-founded popular barbecue trailer Micklethwait Craft Meats which has been included in the Texas Monthly Top 50 barbecue list twice running. After helping to establish the success of that thriving business, it was time for another change of scenery. This led him to Buzz Mill Coffee and managing its Lumber Society. In short the Lumber Society is “Boy and Girl Scout for adults” and teaches survival skills in a casual and fun environment (with beer). That’s where he met Chris Hyde. After working closely with Chris for several years he was delighted to be asked to join the staff at Natureversity and looks forward to a new challenge and another exciting career!