Staff at The Arb
Nate has always lived by the plants. Growing up in a multigenerational household in Tucson, AZ, his grandfather raised him like a farm kid caring for their family’s two-acre property that felt like their own private botanical garden and natural area. This upbringing instilled a dedication in Nate to spend his life trying to understand the relationship of people and the natural world- particularly with plants! For over 20 years, Nate has worked as a research ethnobotanist and horticulturist managing public and private gardens in Arizona and Oregon.
Nate holds a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University with focused studies in cultural/environmental anthropology, ethnobotany, horticulture, and ecology. His professional horticultural experience includes working in the nursery industry in both field propagation and sales, as a market permaculture/organic farmer, and as the Curator of Horticulture at the Tucson Botanical Garden. For several years, he also operated his own horticultural consulting, teaching, design and care business. After moving to Oregon, Nate served as a landscape manager and designer where he oversaw the planting and care of a 300-acre master plan development along the Deschutes River.
Working as an ethnobotanist, Nate has conducted farm restoration projects on tribal lands, state and national parks as well as documented traditional plant knowledge among peoples of the Caribbean, Native American, and Hispanic communities. In an effort to safeguard natural and cultural heritage, he has given scholarly presentations at conferences, authored articles, community publications and technical reports. His passion for education has led him to teach college level courses in anthropology, botany, ecology, environmental psychology and landscape architecture as well as offering numerous community classes on topics related to general gardening, edible and ecological landscaping. In his free time, Nate plays the Scottish bagpipes and blogs about his garden with his wife.
Sheila’s main interests are the rare and endangered plants of the Colorado Plateau, and she contributes to The Arboretum’s mission by collecting, growing, and studying these native plants. Sheila grew up in the small ghost town of Jerome, AZ and has always had a love of the outdoors. She moved to Flagstaff to pursue a career in the natural sciences, and received her B.A. in Environmental Sciences from Northern Arizona University. She has been on the plant research track at The Arboretum since 2001. When she finds free time, she enjoys river rafting, hiking, cross-country skiing, creating botanical illustrations and indulging in other forms of artwork. Most of her free time activities inevitably include botany in some fashion.
Educational Programs Director
Helena came to Flagstaff from Simi Valley, CA to obtain her BS in Environmental Science from Northern Arizona University. While going to school, she worked as an early childhood educator and became passionate about working with children. She is thrilled to combine both of her passions in her role with The Arboretum. She loves the focus on environmental education that The Arboretum provides the Flagstaff community. In her free time, she loves to go on adventures with her husband and two dogs. Helena also enjoys getting into a good book, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, and soaking up the sun.
Contact Helena if you need information regarding summer camps, school field trips at the Arb or in your classroom, docent training and outreach.
Public Engagement Manager
Bren Sessions moved to Arizona from Idaho in 1996. Then another move from the too-hot and too-many people valley brought her home to Flagstaff along with her husband, son and daughter in 2004.
Contact Bren with membership, visitor center or facility rental questions.
Gina has been in Flagstaff since 2008 when she obtained her Masters Degree in Applied Environmental Communication.
Her educational focus is on human’s relationship with the natural world, and she finds herself often pondering all the ways in which we can help this place we call home.
She has a deep love and appreciation for the Colorado Plateau landscape and a perpetual curiosity about all the plants that grow in such a temperamental environment. When she is not working with the plants in the greenhouses she can be found out in the wild with her dog, Ruca.
Contact Gina with horticultural questions.
Sarah grew up in a backyard right outside Austin, TX. Whenever she complained of being bored,
her mom threatened her with chores unless she went outside to play. And outside was really
where she loved to be- either exploring the natural world on hikes, gardening with her mom, or
running around like a wild banshee.
After graduating in 2013 with a B.S. Architecture and minor in Environment and Humanities,
Sarah left her home state of Texas and began to travel to connect more with the natural world.
While traveling, she gained a wide variety of plant knowledge and garden experience from
working at farms, plant nurseries, a landscape company, and doing botanical fieldwork. Sarah
loves learning about plants of the southwest region. In 2023, she returned to Flagstaff to settle
down in Arizona. She’s excited to bring her gardening experience, joy, and curiosity to the
Arboretum as Gardens Manager.
Wedding & Banquet Coordinator
Alexis Holle has lived in Flagstaff since 2000. After graduating from Southern Illinois University with a BFA in Painting, she headed west in search of an artistic and open-minded community in which to raise her then infant son. She found what she was looking for in Flagstaff, and has been an active member of the downtown cultural scene ever since. In addition to her artistic roots, she has extensive experience in the hospitality industry, having worked for several restaurants and catering companies over the years. She was also the owner and proprietor of Sundara, a boutique, art gallery, coffee house and music venue formerly located in downtown Flagstaff, from 2007-2013.
Contact Alexis with questions about our wedding venue.