President, Executive Director
Dana Pounds grew up immersed in nature with the beautiful landscape of the New Jersey shore, Vermont and Maine. She graduated Cum Laude with a double major in Environmental Studies and Biology from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1995. She received her Master’s Degree in Marine Biology from Nova Southeastern University in Florida in 2005. Dana has since devoted her knowledge and experience to teaching children and adults the importance of STEM literacy and environmental conservation throughout the Unites States and as far as the Galapagos Islands and Australia. In 2017, Dana received three national awards recognizing her dedication to environmental science education: the National Wetlands Award for Education and Outreach from the Environmental Law Institute; a Lifetime Achievement Award from Project Green Schools; and the EPA’s Gulf Guardian Award.
Deputy Director, Co-Founder
Jim Pounds is originally from North Carolina. He moved to Florida in 1995 to pursue his love for fishing and the ocean. Jim has an extensive background in marketing, sales, hospitality management, and small business development. He has donned many hats while building Nature’s Academy from the ground up: field program logistics support, customer relations, maintenance and upkeep of all facilities and assets, inventory control, procurement, safety officer … you name it. Together, Jim and Dana have provided award-winning outdoor education programs to over 55,000 students from 41 states and 5 countries.
Dr. Kristi Foster
Kristi Foster grew up in Indiana but has lived within an hour of the ocean her entire adult life. She has a PhD in Oceanography and joint MS degrees in Marine Biology and Coastal Zone Management from Nova Southeastern University, a Masters in Engineering Management from Lamar University, and a BS in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University.
Kristi has over 30 years of professional experience: her love of scuba diving led her to switch careers from engineering in TX and NJ to marine biology in FL, the Cayman Islands, and the Arabian/Persian Gulf. She currently splits her time coordinating environmental education and outreach programs in Oregon, writing grants and serving on the Board of Directors for Nature’s Academy, and running her own environmental consulting company. When she’s not working, Kristi enjoys traveling around the world. She’s visited more than 50 countries and has been underwater in half of those.
Sarah Pecoraro, a Florida native, was born and raised in Cape Coral. She graduated from Eckerd College in 2013 with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and minors in Psychology and Human Development.
After graduating, Sarah continued to develop her passion for nature and aiding all living species, working in the educational departments of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife in Sanibel, Florida. She joined the Nature’s Academy team as an Education Specialist in January 2016. When Sarah is not teaching students about Florida wildlife, she likes to read, paint, garden and enjoy the great outdoors.
Julie Austin was born and raised in Horsham, Pennsylvania. She spent her summers growing up at the Jersey Shore and that is where her love for marine science developed. She graduated in May 2015 from Coastal Carolina University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Science.
Following graduation Julie moved to New Jersey where she was a lead scientist for Marine Science Camp. She was also a naturalist on the Cape May Whale Watcher where she educated the public on the local marine wildlife. Through her job with Marine Science Camp, she was relocated down to Key Largo, Florida where she was an educator for the Eco Resort Series on the weekend. She educated the guests at hotels about local marine ecosystems. She also worked at John Pennekamp Coral Reef state park as a narrator on the glass bottom boat, The Spirit of Pennekamp. Julie joined the Nature’s Academy flock in October 2016 and has been aiding our education staff in spreading STEM literacy to the public. When Julie is not teaching students, she spends her time surfing, paddle boarding and going for bike rides.
Keaton Reinhart, a Florida native, was born and raised in the Tampa Bay area. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in ‘Sustainability in the Built Environment’.
After graduating, Keaton searched for jobs in the field of education due to his passion for teaching. He found Nature’s Academy in February 2017 and was asked to join the flock as a part-time teacher due to his knowledge in environmental education. Through the continued growth Keaton has shown with the company, he was offered a full time position as an education specialist. With prior experience leading programs as a Resident Assistant in college and working with children as a camp coordinator for many years, Keaton has developed all of the tools needed to run the educational programs at Nature’s Academy. When Keaton is not teaching students about environmental education, he spends his time kayaking and hiking with his two dogs.