Mountaintop to Tap

Trek Leaders

Wes Gillingham


Wes Gillingham, Trek Leader, is a native of the Catskills and gained a passion for the outdoors and natural history while tracking animals in his backyard. After receiving his B.S. at the University of Maine in environmental Education, he joined and quickly became Acting Director of Field Programs with the National Audubon Society Expedition Institute (AEI). For the last 30 years, AEI has used education to create inspired, compassionate and creative environmental leaders and activists. It is a fully accredited, traveling undergraduate, graduate, and dual enrollment program.

Wes specifically spent time at the AEI at Lesley University, an academically rigorous alternative to traditional colleges and universities for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a deeper ecological understanding of environmental education, leadership and advocacy. Their goal is to create experiential learning communities that inspire informed and compassionate ecological leaders. Wes taught at AEI with the belief that the best way to learn about the environment is to experience it directly. He led full semester programs in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Newfoundland, Florida, Southern Appalachia, and Desert Southwest, and assisted with the Pacific Northwest and Gulf Coast programs.

Wes also spent ten years working as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service at the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, where he led canoe training for incoming park rangers and interpretive history and natural history programs. He also conducted canoe patrols along the river.

Wes and his wife Amy have been growing organic vegetables and herbs commercially since 1997. Wes serves on the Board of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York and the Sullivan County Farm Bureau. Over the last year, Wes and a coalition of partners launched the Catskill Mountain Keeper, a non-profit advocacy organization whose mission is to protect the ecological integrity of the Catskill Mountain range and the quality of life of all those who live there. Through a network of concerned citizens, they work to promote sustainable economic growth and the protection of natural resources essential to healthy communities.

Sara Scott


Sara Scott teaches earth science at New York Harbor School. Before that, she taught at East New York Family Academy and was a New York City Teaching Fellow.

She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Mount Holyoke College and a Masters in Science Education from Pace University.

Sara’s outdoor experience includes backpacking and camping in Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Canyonlands National Parks. She has led backcountry trips throughout Washington and spent two weeks exploring, camping, hiking, and whitewater rafting in British Columbia.

Todd Paternoster


Todd Paternoster, an active outdoorsman and Boy Scout leader, teaches biology at Sidney High School. After serving in the United States Air Force during Operation Desert Storm and subsequently the Army National Guard, Todd received a B.S. in Biology from Eastern New Mexico University. At ENMU, Todd was the assistant curator for the Natural History Museum, and he worked under contract from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to produce a population survey of the black-tailed prairie dog.

Todd holds a Master of Arts in Biology from State University College at Oneonta (SUCO). His thesis focused on the ecology of the Upper Susquehanna Watershed. Through his involvement with SUCO, Todd and two of his colleagues initiated a water quality network at Sidney High School. With an $80,000 grant Todd has been able to fund a three-year study that involved seven school districts along the headwaters of the Susquehanna. With the purchase of a mobile testing van and the hiring of 29 student interns to date, Todd’s Upper Susquehanna Watershed Project (USWP) has gathered vast amounts of physical, chemical and biological baseline data of the Upper Susquehanna River.

Tizoc Gomez


Tizoc Gomez is Community Coordinator and Marine Technology Consultant at New York Harbor School. He also co-runs the Maritime Adventure Program, which teaches students how to build boats, work together, and navigate the marine environment. He worked with several community rowing programs and helped educate young rowers in seamanship skills and water safety. Previously, Tizoc worked with the South Street Seaport Museum’s Education Department, where he is a 3rd mate, on many overnight programs.

Tizoc has over nine years of experience planning and leading rowing, sailing, and backpacking trips for students, and he was hired by Fox Studios as a consultant and sailor for the production of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

With his background in carpentry, Tizoc is overseeing the building of several boats by NYHS students, which trek students will use to navigate on the Hudson River.

Ed McGee teaches biology, chemistry, ecology, environmental science, science research, and physics at Andes High School in Andes, NY. He has co-led trips to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on which students have experienced science and nature first-hand through snorkeling, monitoring turtle nesting areas, whale watches, and rain forest hikes. Ed has also owned and operated an organic farm since 1999. Ed has been an Audubon Naturalist in Naples, FL, a Park Ranger for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River National Park in PA and an Environmental Educator for NYDEC. He received his A.S. in Engineering Science from Sullivan County Community College, his B.A. in Environmental Economics from the University of Buffalo and his Masters of Teaching (Biology) from SUNY College at New Paltz. He is a member of the Science Teachers Association of New York State, Northeast Organic Farming Association, and North American Fruit Explorers.

Jennifer Ostrow is Assistant Principal at NYHS.  She came to the NYHS from Bushwick Community High School, a transfer school for 17-21 year olds where she was an English teacher, Assistant Principal, and co-leader of the school creation team. In addition to her interest in making great high schools for the young people of Bushwick and surrounding communities, she also has a strong belief in environmental education and expeditionary learning, stemming from her work as an educator at the Frost Valley YMCA Environmental Education Center, Longacre Expeditions, and as an intern on the sloop Clearwater. Previous to her work in Bushwick, Jennifer worked in an elementary school in the South Bronx and spent a year teaching 5th grade in rural Costa Rica. Jennifer holds an M.A. in Educational Theatre from New York University.