Earth Science Learning Community (Grant objective #1)

One of the goals of GeoPaths Legends is to build a community of educators and scientists who are working together to engage southern Nevada youth in learning about earth science in the context of the local environment.  Here are the members of the community as of summer 2022.

  • Pamela Burnley - UNLV

    Pamela is the Geopaths Legends project PI.  Her research specialization is in rock deformation and mineral physics; her “field area” is hundreds of kilometers beneath our feet.   However, she is a huge fan of surface geology and the geologic stories available to us as we look at the natural landscape.  As a geoscience educator, her goal is to make knowledge of our natural world more available to K-12 educators and students as well as to the general public. Email –

  • Monique Somma - Leadership Academy of Nevada

    Originally from Gunnison Colorado, Monique Somma is a doctoral student in postsecondary CTE emphasizing STEAM trades and occupations at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from Western State University of Colorado and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, emphasizing art and technology integration, from Nova Southeastern University.  Monique currently serves as a high school science mentor for biology, chemistry, and geoscience at the Leadership Academy of Nevada.  Monique works collaboratively with parents, administration, business, industry, and community partners to engage students in work-based learning and STEAM career pathways accessible to all learners. Member of Association of Career and Technical Educators (ACTE); Geological Society of America (GSA).  Monique’s research interests are focused on Black women’s empowerment and success. She aims to increase  Black female’s pursuit and persistence in male-dominated STEAM CTE trades and occupations,  improving employability skills for underrepresented women and helping them become financially independent.

  • Dawn Reynoso – Ice Age Fossils State Park

    Dawn is the Park Interpreter at Ice Age Fossils State Park. Her background is in Geoscience and Paleontology, and she was one of the leaders for the field trip to Ice Age Fossils State Park. Email –

  • Christy Lawrence - Desert Pines High School

    Christy has been interested in science since she can remember. Her answer to ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ was always a scientist. The scientist was stopped in her tracks when marriage came into the picture. After 20 years without science, teaching science became an alternative that has allowed her love of science to flourish again!

  • Ganqing Jiang - UNLV

    Dr. Jiang has taught undergraduate and graduate geoscience classes at UNLV for nearly two decades. Dr. Jiang’s research focuses on environmental and climate changes across critical transitions in geological history. In particular, his research aims at a better understanding of the causal relationships between carbon isotope excursions, ocean redox changes, sea-level changes, and biotic innovations ( Email –

  • Maizie Miller - Sunrise Mountain High School

    Maizie is working as a high school Geoscience Teacher while simultaneously working on her Doctorate Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at UNLV. She fell in love with Geology in college, at Auburn University, and double majored in Science Education and Earth Sciences before attending Colorado State University to receive her Masters in Natural Science Education. She is passionate about exploring the local landscapes through hiking, scuba diving, off-roading, and rock hunting.

  • Gene Smith - UNLV Emeritus

    Gene co-led the Whitney Mesa field trip and provided information about the geologic history of the Las Vegas Valley. Gene’s current research deals with the use of volcanic material (tephra) as a tool to date geologic deposits. More information is available at

  • Johana Mendoza - Durango High School

    Born and raised in the Las Vegas Valley, this city has always been my home. As a high schooler, when I was thinking about my future career, I knew I wanted to give back to my community by going into education. I chose STEM education because I believe the ways of life are due to math and science. My goal as a teacher is to empower students in Las Vegas to achieve their goals regardless of their adversity. I have taught physical science courses such as geoscience and chemistry for three years.

  • Michelle Hinz - Sierra Vista High School

    Michelle hated science in high school and slept through most of chemistry. When she was working on a degree to be a history teacher, an advisor told her she wouldn’t get a job teaching history and suggested something math or science related. She picked Earth Science because it required the least amount of classes for certification. Two weeks into Geology 101 she fell in love with the topic. After 10 years of teaching 7th grade Earth Science, she switched to teaching US History and hated it, So she switched back to teaching Science.

  • Steve Rowland – UNLV Emeritus

    Steve is professor emeritus at UNLV. He is a paleontologist with research interests ranging from Pleistocene mammals to fossil footprints to archaeocyathan reefs. He also teaches geology of the southern Nevada region and created accessible content about the geology of the Great Unconformity at Frenchman Mountain – Frenchman Mountain Great Unconformity website. Email –

  • Frank Garcia - Las Vegas High School

    Mr. Garcia is a physical science teacher at Las Vegas HS where he has been teaching Geoscience for the last 8 years. His passion for STEM subjects has taken him to  form a robotics team, having them participate in the regional VEX and FIRST robotics competitions. Additionally, he holds an M. ED from UNLV, Differentiated instruction certificate from Touro U., and a GATE endorsement from Southern Utah U. Mr. Garcia’s teaching philosophy uses a constructivist approach exposing students to new and challenging learning experiences where the learning process is dynamic as knowledge is built block by block and new concepts are assimilated and integrated with the old ones making learning an active process instead of a passive one. Mr. Garcia is also an active member of the learning community, continuously participating on projects with the Desert Research Institute and UNLV science and engineering departments. Recognitions include two nominations to the Heart of Education 2016 and 2022 becoming a finalist in 2022. Mr. Garcia is also a 20-year veteran of the US Navy.

  • Tina Vo - UNLV

    Dr. Vo has taught and researched science education for more than a decade. Her work focuses on standards-aligned phenomena and inquiry-based teaching & learning; specifically around models and modeling. She works with teachers and scientists to create the best learning opportunities for students K-16 in both formal and informal settings. Her interest areas are geology/hydrology, scientific model-based explanations, and gamification. ( Email –

  • Norman Bard - Del Sol Academy High School

    I am a Special Education teacher (Generalist/Resource). I have been teaching for 7 years. Raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and moved to Las Vegas in 1985, I worked in DIY retail (Lowes and Home Depot) for 29 years and am a self-taught horticulturist.

  • Aubrey Bonde - UNLV

    Aubrey’s Research interests are in Cenozoic vertebrate paleontology, reconstructing paleoenvironments through time, and identifying how extinct mammals occupied those environments. She partners with Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument and co-led the field trip to Tule Springs. Email –

  • Hasan Deniz - UNLV

    Dr. Hasan is an active researcher in the field of science education. His research areas include nature of science, epistemological beliefs, evolution education, science teacher professional development, and engineering education. Email –

  • Jessica Butanda - Western High School

    Jessica grew up in Las Vegas and always wondered how our desert valley was created. She received her associate degree in physical science and her undergraduate degree in Geology. Currently, she is pursuing her Master’s degree in education.  Her goal is to encourage students to wonder how the world works. She has taught sophomore studies and physical science and uses project-based learning throughout her lessons. This coming year, she plans to focus on teaching geoscience and hopes to encourage students to wonder about their community.

  • Tomas Capaldi - UNLV

    Tomas’ research uses sedimentology, stratigraphy, and geochronology to trace the transport of sediments across Earth’s surface to address problems related to the timing and mechanisms driving mountain belt erosion, non-marine sediment transport processes, and basin evolution over variable timescales.

  • Dawn Girard-Goodrich - Legacy High School

    I have lived most of my life in Henderson, NV. I grew up here, but was born in and spent a lot of time in Belgium and western Europe. I completed my bachelor’s at UNR, but have attended UNLV and CSN also. After graduating, I never thought I would be a teacher. I started substitute teaching for CCSD and then completed a master’s degree in teaching after enjoying my experience as a long-term/vacancy substitute teacher for the district. I have 10 years teaching the subjects of Environmental Science, Geoscience, and Physical Science.

  • Kalie Kelly - Western High School

    Kalie grew up in the southwestern US, including Nevada, Arizona, and Southern California. She received her B.S. in Geology with a minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She worked as a soils lab technician and a staff geologist at a geotechnical and engineering sciences company all around southern Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. She just began teaching in January 2022 and is teaching geoscience as well as in the master’s program at UNLV.

  • Michael Nicholl - UNLV

    Dr. Nicholl’s areas of expertise include vadose zone hydrology, environmental fluid mechanics, and geological engineering. His research currently focuses on the study of fluid flow in fractured rocks, with particular emphasis on two-phase flows. Dr. Nicholl co-led the field trip to Whitney Mesa. Email –

  • Ritchie Dale - Virgin Valley High School (Mesquite)

    Born in Colorado, but raised in  Dallas…therefore Southern ways such as the importance of manners and respect.  Have loved nature as a child and through adulthood, especially ants, astronomy, plants,  beef cattle, and Native American studies. Also enjoy photographing nature, rockhounding, and petroglyphs. Spent 20 years in the Nursery business…I am a professional horticulturist. Graduated with a BS in Agriculture, Sam Huston State University, but also spent time at Rick’s College and Texas A&M. I actually started as an Ag teacher, but have been teaching Biology and Geoscience the last 8 years.

  • Jeremy Koonce - UNLV

    Dr. Koonce’s current focus is unsaturated water flow in arid soil. His research focuses on soil water storage evolution and evaporative physics in bare arid soils. Email –

  • Margaret Odlum - UNLV

    Margo’s research centers on developing and applying novel techniques to document thermal signatures and thermal histories of Earth processes from microscales to orogen scales. Her research involves working out fault zone evolution and deformation in rifts and orogens through the continental lithosphere.

  • Jennifer Holguin - Durango High School

    She has 11 years of teaching science including; Biology, Chemistry, Geoscience, Physics, and Physical Science. She is a New Jersey born but a California native that did her undergraduate at UNLV and her Masters at the University of Phoenix. She taught for 7 years in a Fresno, California charter school and assisted with science curriculum obtaining the UC A-G science department qualification. Currently, she is in her 5th year teaching science at Durango HighSchool. She is also a mother of 2 active boys and loves to travel in her free time.

  • Shichun Huang - UNLV

    Shichun’s research is in the areas of high temperature geochemistry, petrology, and non-traditional stable isotope geochemistry.

  • Brian Kourik - Basic Academy of International Studies

    Four years teaching as a licensed physical science teacher for CCSD, before that four years as a long-term substitute for CCSD.  Before that, I spent ten years as a construction electrician for Local 357, and taught for the trade.  I also did some part-time dabbling as a game developer for tabletop games.  I served 12 years in the Air Force as a Satellite & Wideband Communication Technician and also taught in that career field as well. I have many Associates Degrees and a Bachelor’s degree that got my foot in the door to start teaching. I currently have a Master’s Degree in Curriculum & Instruction and plan on getting a Master’s degree in Environmental Science.

  • Henry Sun - DRI

    Dr. Sun’s research is in the area of biological rock weathering and mineral formation in microbial environments. Email –