Executive Director, Co-Founder
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.
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.
Kira Krall is a Saint Petersburg local. She graduated from the University of Florida in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Conservation. She started her environmental education journey as a volunteer for the Museum of Natural History on campus.
After graduation, she shared her passion for the outside world as an Education Intern at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples and the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium in Savannah, Georgia. Herfavorite part about outdoor education is discovering nature’s wonders alongside her students. Kira joined the flock in January of 2018 and is now a grant writer for Nature’s Academy.
When she’s flying solo, Kira enjoys cooking, riding her bike, reading, gardening, and catching up on her favorite shows.
Sarah Sheffer, originally from the upper peninsula of Michigan, has been escaping frigid Midwest winters since 2015. She received an Associate’s in Applied Science in Veterinary Technology in 2011. While interning in the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium’s veterinary department, Sarah discovered her fondness for marine life, returned to school and graduated from Eckerd College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Science in 2018.
Sarah’s love and enthusiasm for environmental conservation and education led her to receive her Scuba School International Open Water Instructor certification. Sarah began as a volunteer for Nature’s Academy in 2016 and has finally come home to roost as a permanent member of the Nature’s Academy flock!
Our flock includes other energetic and passionate individuals that assist with conducting our STEM and marine science-based programming. All of our Education Specialists are college graduates with majors in science, marine science, education or other related fields. They contribute years of experience in research and environmental education within our community that amplifies positive change and promotes STEM literacy to all they encounter.
While our Education Specialists are not teaching students about Florida wildlife, they are continuously improving their level of knowledge by attending conferences, exhibits, and continuing education courses. Interested in potentially joining our flock? We are always looking for volunteers to assist with our mission to enhance STEM literacy and foster environmental stewardship in our local community and beyond. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get things started, we look forward to working with you!
Board of Directors
“A remarkable moment occurs when a child connects with nature. Children want to learn. They are eager for responsibility. They flourish when they can be actively involved. A meaningful outdoor experience can transform a child into a lifelong environmental ambassador. This is the heart of the STEM Literacy Project at Nature’s Academy.” – Dana Pounds, Executive Director
Our board members and staff bring over thirty years of experience in environmental education with them. We are dedicated to conservation and sustainability and have made it our mission to share our passion through education.
“Safety is our number one priority – all Nature’s Academy staff are American Red Cross Lifeguard/CPR/First Aid certified.”