The staff and Board at Eastern Sierra Land Trust are delighted to welcome Catherine Tao to our team as our 2015/2016 Education Coordinator and AmeriCorps Member! Catherine comes to us through the Sierra Nevada Alliance’s Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) program; she began her 11-month service term just last week, and will be with us through September 2016. Catherine is thrilled to now live in the Eastern Sierra, and is looking forward to working on a variety of exciting projects and connecting our community to the Eastern Sierra lands she has recently come to love.

Our new Education Coordinator/AmeriCorps Member, Catherine Tao, at the summit of Mt. Whitney - the pinnacle of her JMT hike this past summer.

Our new Education Coordinator/AmeriCorps Member, Catherine Tao, reveling at the summit of Mt. Whitney and the end of her John Muir Trail experience this past summer.

Growing up in the lush forest and rolling plains of Michigan, Catherine developed a craving for mountains. She decided to hike the John Muir Trail this past summer after finishing her bachelor’s degree in Geology and Environmental Science at the University of Michigan. “I wanted to spend time in a place that took me to glaciers, paternoster lakes, and other alpine treasures,” Catherine shared. “I had never done a thru-hike of this length before so I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to know what it would be like to ‘live’ off of my back and outside for a while.”

She couldn’t help but fall in love with the Sierra. Among many favorite stops along the trail, Long Meadow stands out in her memory, “lush with the colors of deep purple wildflowers, whites of sheer granite, and fluorescent green pines – all framed under the bright blue sky. It reminded me of the colors of my deciduous roots, but blended with my dreams of high mountains.”

Catherine has wanted to pursue environmental work for many years, a desire “fueled by the natural inclination of wanting to be close to something you love… I feel as though my limbs are a bit more free, my priorities a bit straighter, and my heart a little lighter when I am outside – feelings that I cannot replicate doing anything else.”

Catherine Tao ClimbingCatherine feels fortunate to have found ESLT to continue her path in environmental work, and she is eager to dive in.

“I am most excited to work with ESLT because this is an organization that makes a permanent impact. I had not known of Land Trusts or development rights before finding ESLT. The more I learn, the more I appreciate the impact it is making and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

As for life in Bishop, this may be her personal version of paradise. “I am looking forward to being in the Eastern Sierra, as it is one of my favorite ecosystems that I have encountered. I can hike and climb to my heart’s content! I am excited to explore a place that is completely foreign to me, to take the time to slowly learn its contours. In the future, I hope to continue to be this fortunate to enjoy whatever work I do while living in a place I equally revere.”

Catherine told us that she, “still pinches herself every so often to make sure this is not a dream.” We hope you’re not dreaming, Catherine, because we’re equally thrilled to have you on the team!

Catherine Tao on the JMT