The Staff


Desere Desere is our camp Co-Director and office manager. Since 2006, Desere has lived and taught at Turtle Island Preserve. She brings over 15 years of experience as an outdoor educator and has worked at various camps and educational institutions throughout the nation. She has a wide and adventurous background, in travel, art, woodworking, and science education. She received a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts from The Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY and an Associates in Visual Communications at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. 

Thoughts from Desere:
“Camp season is my favorite time of year at Turtle Island. Everything is alive and blooming and our young guests bring even more excitement into base camp life. Its in the warmth of summer that we share the most special aspects of the preserve with unique and amazing young people. I feel so fortunate to share hikes to waterfalls, discovering the wilderness, and fostering a sense of wonder in our visitors. I think fondly of the songs around the camp fire, and dancing under the stars, much like we can imagine our ancestors did so long ago. Celebrating the essentials in life -  like firecraft and the sacredness of water, we reach a place in camp that goes beyond a geographic location. Many people carry the spirit of Turtle Island in their hearts for years and years.

I look forward to each camper having the opportunity to discover the natural wonders here, as well as the discoveries that happen within. It has been a distinct honor to see campers come again, year after year, growing and developing into fine stewards of the land and planet. We welcome all the newcomers and hold all the return-campers in the highest regard."


Janice Durand - Girls Camp Director Janice Marie Durand was the founder and Director of Turtle Island Girls Camp from 1992-95.  She is a lover of nature and all its’ beings and has a passion for ‘wildness’ and earth-skills, crafts & basketry.  She has dedicated much of her life to empowering the feminine.  Janice has been in the role of mentoring girls, & girls camp staff.  She continues to bring her wisdom and playful spirit and Earth Skills and Crafts to Girls Camp sessions. Janice brings her 25 years of experience as a naturalist, body worker, and mindfulness movement teacher of yoga and T’ai Chi to share self-care and nourishing embodiment practices and tools for stress with the campers and staff.  She creates a sacred container for discovery, healing, adventure and transformation to unfold in.  She directs her holistic healing center called Tree of Life Center in Efland, NC. 




Terra Currie Feather has been living in close connection to her most basic needs for food, shelter, water, and community since 2002. With a strong background in theater, Terra enjoys teaching Earth-based skills with creative flair. Terra has a special love for Turtle  Island, where she lived for two years (2004-2006) and has been teaching with and visiting TI off and on since.  Fiber arts, shelter and construction, fire tending,  plant identification, wood fire cooking, sewing, physical endurance, theater, yoga, and a loving kinship with the natural world are among Terra's specialties. Terra lives with her husband Paul and daughter Zinnia (who is a great co-teacher) on their farm outside Carrollton, Georgia. This summer, Terra will be looking forward to swimming in the creek, night hiking under a canopy of stars, seeing old friends and campers and meeting new ones.


"Sweet" Shirin EshraghiIn nature, we find so much peace and healing. We are also faced with challenges that help us grow into who we are meant to be. Sweet loves working with youth and staying young by keeping her free-spirited nature. She wasn't always an "outdoorsy nature lover" and over the years, has come to greatly appreciate camping and outdoor living as well as learning these important survival skills. Sweet is passionate about singing, dancing, yoga, meditation, sustainability, and community building. She is so excited to be back at camp again this year and reconnect with all the beautiful ladies. Camp is such a powerful experience, and together, we are strengthening sister bonds and learning about ourselves.



Erin Cram, from Austin, TX via Atlanta, GA with a heaping tablespoon of the salt and sands of SW Florida, was invited to participate in FLT 2018 as a vendor, Erin was struck in awe of Turtle Island. She’s always been drawn to outdoor living and curious about natural building. And so it was during her stay, she had an opportunity to get her hands back into the earth of her childhood. This time instead of making mud pies, she mixed the red clay with straw and water to make cob for improvements to the straw-bale house, and helped build a flame resistant ring around the gazebo fire pit. Additionally she worked in the kitchen learning to cook food over flame. Erin holds a degree in Integrative studies with a focus on Women’s Studies, Anthropology, and Recreation, from the University of North Texas. Having a background in the restaurant and food industries, Erin is thrilled to be back at TIP this summer working in the kitchen during all of the kids camps!



Counselor Jais Jais Brohinsky has spent years roaming rural landscapes, plugging into a variety of different community-based projects and education centers, and wearing a variety of hats (hard hats, wide-brimmed straw hats, even a funny little floppy hat that Catalan shepherds wear).  Despite wandering from the Spanish Pyrenees to New Mexico's Manzanos, when summer days grow long, he always tries to return to Turtle Island's valley home in the southern Appalachians to share stories and challenges and lessons beneath one of his favorite (and physically non-existent) hats: that of the summer camp counselor.  




 Harry Bo feels most alive when he's dancing, singing, talking to trees, digging his hands in the dirt, and deeply listening to the world of right now. As of the Spring Equinox, his favorite snack is yogurt, sauerkraut, and  cashews. On a good day, you might find Harry riding his bike on the streets of Philadelphia, going between a mindfulness class for toddlers and a creative dance class for elders. On a stressful day, you might find Harry repeating his two favorite mantras: "Breathe and Remember"; "I'm here to love." 




Joey Brown was born and raised in the lovely mountains of western North Carolina. He will soon graduate from Appalachian State University with a degree in socio-cultural anthropology. Joey first came down Turtle Island’s driveway in fall of 2015 as a volunteer and has worked as a camp counselor during the older boys’ sessions for the past two summers. During the summer, you can catch him on the benches outside of the classroom playing guitar or banjo and writing songs with other Turtle Island community members. He is happiest when outside in the sunshine with great friends and family. His favorite tree is the Fraser Magnolia, and he is serious about that! 











 Fred Pree - my given name is Fred James Pree Jr, I've worn many hats and been called by many names(Red, James, Man on the Silver Mountain to name a few). I sprouted roots from seed in Saint Petersburg Florida, all my days as a boy were shaped by this city in which I still live, the ocean where I still swim, the rivers, springs, and swamps where I still frequent to reconnect with the soul of the earth. As I grew, I traveled finding myself fortunate to be exploring the richness of the Appalachian Mountains discovering a deep lasting love. The forces of nature destined me to Turtle Island Preserve where all life's lessons would be shared, tested and honored. It is here on this land that has brought many of my most cherished connections to people and planet. My favorite past times are connecting with my mother/grandmother, working outside, whittling, leather crafting, self-defense, exploring movement as a mobility specialist with anyone interested to play and learn. I look forward to sharing these skills/passions with the many excellent inhabitants of Turtle Island Preserve for many moons and morning walks to come. Much love and many thanks for trusting your loved ones to this capable team.


"Man on The Silver Mountain"




Educator Spencer Bolejack Spencer ‘two-dogs’ grew up on a North Carolina farm and developed a love for the outdoors at an early age. Active from the earliest levels of scouting, he’s carried the way of the scout into adulthood. Spencer apprenticed under Eustace Conway in the late 90’s, and is an NCNPI licensed educator and Teaching Fellow in History and Social Studies of grades 6-12. He holds instructor ranking in numerous martial arts, has taught outdoor, survival and primitive earth skills in a variety of landscapes from open water sailing to backcountry woodland and rainforest. Spencer is also the co-host of the first survival/reality style tv show filmed in 3D, ‘Hillbilly Blood’ which set records for the Destination America Network.  The series creates an opportunity to showcase and highlight Spencer’s resourceful mountain innovation and survival tricks and techniques, but nothing  quite compares to getting to study with him in the field. Hundreds of campers and aspiring scouts have been captivated and motivated by the teachings he offers here at the Preserve. Visit Spencer's own website HERE


Our Legacy...

In honor of our founders and mentors, please feel free to read more:


Preston and EustacePreston J. Roberts

“Jack of all trades…Master of some”

After marrying the love of his life: Kathleen, and spending 4 years in the U.S.A.F., Preston first met Eustace Conway in 1983 at Appalachian State University while acquiring a BS in Art Education.

As a Member of the American Indian Cultural Association, Preston spent 12 years as a member of their “drum” and a “contemporary traditional dancer” traveling  the Powwow circuit over much of the eastern seaboard. He has been a guest instructor at River Cane Rendezvous, Rabbit Stick Rendezvous, O.A. Indian Seminar, and numerous Cultural Festivals throughout the South East.

Preston and Kathleen have been living a simple lifestyle, close to the land, for over 35 years. (Even spending 18 months in a tipi with 2 children.) He fathered 3 sons, and worked for the Wilkes county schools system - elected East Wilkes High School “Teacher of the year” twice during his tenure. Preston and Kathleen have backpacked extensively throughout the mountains of western North Carolina, and they paddled the entire Yadkin/Pee Dee river from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina to Georgetown South Carolina (approximately 440 miles). They paddled across much of Florida on the Suwannee river, and have volunteered at a Sea Turtle restoration project in Costa Rica.

Preston has ridden horses across North and South Carolina with Eustace on the ”short riders” trip. He also drove a horse and cart across Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska with Eustace on the ”Buggy trip.” The Roberts’ own 90 acres adjoining T.I. Preston has built about a third of the buildings at Turtle Island and another third in collaboration with Eustace. He is a self- trained carpenter and architectural designer - having built over 30 buildings by himself - all while additionally teaching outdoor education for 40some years. 

Thoughts from Preston:

“I am a maker of things; Art, knives, buckskin, furniture, tree houses, barns, Adirondacks, cabins, etc… but what I am the most proud of though is my ability shape the minds of young people. Teaching is my profession, the study of the natural world my passion. I learn best through observation and teach through practical application of newly gained knowledge. Being the eldest of 5 children, and the only boy, I fell naturally into teaching.”  visit Preston's own website HERE