Museum Staff

Staff Contacts


Daniel Harder, PhD,  Executive Director

Understanding nature is a life-long passion for Dan. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in botany from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and went on to graduate school in botany at UC Berkeley. After graduation Dan was hired as an assistant Curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) in St Louis.  For more than a decade, he curated large collections of tropical legumes within the herbarium and led programs in botanical collecting, inventory, and research in 15 countries in the Old World.  He established collaborative partnerships in Africa and Indochina that led to significant new species discoveries and new records for the floras of these regions. For eight years, until late in 2009, Dan was the Executive Director of the UCSC Arboretum and an adjunct faculty member at UCSC. He continues his research on plants from the Central Coast as a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Dan is excited to be working to sustain the Museum and support its primary mission of connecting people with nature and inspiring stewardship of the natural world.

Elizabeth Evans, Program Manager

Elizabeth fell in love with nature as a child on family backpacking trips in the High Sierra. A native of California’s San Joaquin Valley, and graduate of College of the Sequoias (A.A. Fine Art) and UC Santa Cruz (B.S. Earth Science), she joined the Museum staff in 2014. Elizabeth worked as an interpretive park ranger in five of California’s national parks, as an environmental education ranger for the San Francisco District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, and taught Science and Art as a middle school teacher in rural Tulare County. She spent the last four years managing programs for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ Division of Interpretation, Education, and Outreach. Elizabeth is excited about engaging people of all ages with the rich natural history of the Santa Cruz area.

Liz Broughton, Visitor Services Manager

Liz grew up in the San Lorenzo Valley before heading off to UC Berkeley to pursue a degree in anthropology and Celtic studies. While there she conducted research on baboon teeth morphology for the Integrative Biology Department and interned with the Hearst Museum of Anthropology. She continued her education at the University of Washington in Seattle where she earned an MA in the little known field of Museology. She gained a broad understanding of museums through coursework and internships at the Burke Museum of Natural History, the Woodland Park Zoo, and the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum. Liz is passionate about public understanding and engagement in science and as the current Visitor Services Manager, she manages the public spaces of the Museum.

Alie Welch, Financial Administrator

Alie has been fascinated with the sea cow since coming across an entry about the trials and tribulations of Steller’s sea cow in old encyclopedia volume that she used to read for fun as a kid.  Hushed rumors circulate that possible sightings of a living sea cow have been made from the bluffs above Seabright Beach.  As the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History has a sea cow skeleton, speculation has grown that it’s the long-lost mate of the Museum’s specimen returning at last.  When you visit the Museum, perhaps you will see it in the boiling surf, searching…. If you do, please let Alie know asap. She logs the sightings. Alie has years of experience working in non-profit finance at local organizations, both as staff and a board member.  She graduated from UCSC with a BA in film production and modern literature, loves star gazing, chess playing, and spinning fantastic yarns.

Peter Wampler, Education Assistant

Peter was raised in the outskirts of Rochester, New York. It was here in the surrounding forests, that he began his lifelong love of the outdoors. While attending Calvin College as a history and archaeology student, this curiosity took greater shape as he began taking notice of environmental issues and the ideas of stewardship. This interest spring-boarded a career in environmental education that has meandered through two outdoor schools in central California. Professionally, Peter has also worked with adults and children with varying disabilities. Peter coordinates the Neary Lagoon Wetland Walk Program and assists with education programs at the museum. While his passions lie in education and environment, you may also see Peter around town riding his bike, out hiking, or checking out local music.

Daniel James Howell, Volunteer Coordinator

Growing up on the shores of the Delaware Bay, Daniel was raised to love nature and protect the environment by his mother and grandfather. After moving to Santa Cruz he attended Cabrillo College and UCSC, graduating with a B.A. in Community Studies. During his undergrad work in the Community Studies program Daniel developed a passion for non-profit work and spent eight years in the field of Community Access Television, gaining a deeper understanding of this community and its uniqueness. After joining the Museum of Natural History in late 2012, Daniel is now focused on connecting inspired people with fulfilling roles at the Museum and working through the organization to care for our natural world.

Brian Ahlers, Education Assistant

Brian began cultivating his love for nature in his hometown on the coast of Yarmouth, Maine. Upon completing his B.S. in Biology and Neuroscience from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he traveled and volunteered in South America. Although his teaching career began as a Conservation Educator in the Americorp in Oregon, Brian most recently taught Marine Science for two years at the Catalina Island Marine Institute. As an educator and coordinator of the Neary Lagoon Wetland Walk Program for the Museum, Brian draws upon his three years as an experiential educator and lifelong naturalist. In his free time, you’ll likely see him hiking in the redwoods looking for newts, snorkeling down in Monterey, coaching high school lacrosse, and playing the drums.