Our Board of Directors

Bill Plotkin, Ph.D.

Bill PlotkinBill Plotkin, Ph.D., is a depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and agent of cultural evolution. As founder of western Colorado’s Animas Valley Institute in 1981, he has guided thousands of seekers through nature-based initiatory passages, including a contemporary, Western adaptation of the pan-cultural vision fast. Previously, he has been a research psychologist (studying non-ordinary states of consciousness), professor of psychology, psychotherapist, rock musician, and whitewater river guide. In 1979, on a solo winter ascent of an Adirondack peak, Bill experienced a call to adventure, leading him to abandon academia in search of his true calling. Bill is the author of Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche (an experiential guidebook), Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (a nature-based stage model of human development through the entire lifespan), Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche (an ecocentric map of the psyche — for healing, growing whole, and cultural transformation), and The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries (an experiential guidebook for the descent to soul). He has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Julian Norris, Ph.D.

Originally hailing from the British Isles, Julian Norris is based in the Canadian Rockies where he currently serves as the Associate Director of Outward Bound Canada. A seasoned guide of adventurous journeys into both wilderness landscapes and the wild places that lie within, his journey has led him to work with at-risk youth and existentially-challenged adults, in numerous Aboriginal communities, with government, corporate and non-profit leaders and in various international development contexts.

More than two decades leading therapeutic, developmental and growth-oriented outdoor programs have left him with the usual assortment of scars, professional certificates and tall tales, as well as a profound curiosity about using nature-based approaches to support deep personal transformation and systemic change in service of more sustainable patterns of consciousness and culture.

Brian Stafford, MD, MPH

Brian Stafford is a guide to the wilderness of nature and soul. He was called out of academic medicine to serve as a guide to the depths and to serve as an agent of cultural awakening and transformation. He guides with humor, playfulness, compassion, discernment, and a deep remembering of the fullness of what each human life can, should, and was meant to be. A native of Colorado and the former holder of an endowed chair and professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, he is an avid outdoorsman, teacher, writer, mentor, partner, and parent. He guides individuals and groups in the Colorado River Basin as well Nosara, Costa Rica, to the place they most long and fear to go – the numinous depths of their soul. Brian currently makes his home in Ojai, California.

Hilary Leighton, Ph.D.

A lifelong apprentice to nature and psyche, and a regeneratrix of radical (re)pair, Hilary is keen to stir-up the kind of trouble that animates those collective spaces of sympoesis essential to generating systems of increasing interdependence, intra-action and tentacularity. She is at home in ‘both-and’ entanglements that are both dark and fruitful and summon the vital emotional labour and deep response-abilities required to venerate living and dying in the ruins of the inbetweennesses; creating the conditions necessary to gestate a more imaginative, evolutionary repatterning for our flourishing ongoingness in service of all life.

With a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies, a Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction, and an Integrative Body Psychotherapy Certification, Hilary is Associate Professor at Royal Roads University, and Ecopsychotherapist and Registered Clinical Counsellor in private practice at True Nature Counselling & Psychotherapy. Drawing upon the wisdom of ecopsychology, depth psychology, systems thinking, the mythopoetic, and embodied, nature-responsive and arts-informed practices, her research, teaching and psychology seek ways to: inspire whole-human, ecologically intelligent epistemes; extend the notion of the individual psyche to a world ensouled; reflect the ethical dilemma, suffering, and loss of our relationships with wildness; and cultivate connections of beauty and belonging with sentient Earth.

While important knowledge has accrued through her formal studies, she credits her most transformative learning to the comprehensive number of Animas programs and trainings she participated in as well as her training with Joanna Macy as a Work That Reconnects facilitator. Living at the rocky edge of the west coast of Canada, she remains faithful to falling more deeply in love with moss-laden, coastal forests, slow-moving slugs, deep reflective waters, and her giant beloved Maremma companion, as they walk each other home.