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. 


Chloe Tipton: Teacher, Girls Camp Co-Director, Boys Camp Kitchen Manager, Graduated Intern. Chloe was born and raised in the Asheville area. She moved to Boone and began volunteering at Turtle Island Preserve in ‘09. She has since completed the work internship and become a teacher here. Outside of TIP, she leads water-based adventure trips with Appalachian State University and assists in running a local skills gathering. She has a degree in Empowerment Pedagogy and is a medically certified Wilderness First Responder.

She enjoys whitewater sports and expeditions, geometry, and thick-slice bacon. She can have a hard time skipping stones, losing at games, and getting out of bed on a cold winter morning. She aspires to one day be able to walk on her hands and tell a good joke, not even at the same time. Her favorite things to do at TIP are working with the goats and their milk, cooking on the wood stoves, and sharing the lifestyle with curious visitors. 


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.



Miracle Cline - grew up on her family’s homestead in the foothills of N.C. She is a passionate volunteer and camp counselor at TIP. Her parents taught her how to appreciate the gifts that the Earth gives and to never take away from the Earth unless you build it back up for future generations. She is working on a degree in Agri-Business Technology and is a student of  all thing’s agriculture and primitive living. Miracle’s favorite subject is history, but she prefers living it instead of simply reading about it. For her senior project in high school she grew an acre of tobacco the old-time way and tended it with her horse that she had trained herself, in honor of her family’s southern heritage. Miracle’s family became volunteers at TIP in 2014 and now the beautiful piece of God’s Earth feels like a home away from home to her.  She loves to add to her knowledge of mother nature from the wisdom of others and share her skills of natural horsemanship and homesteading during their visits at TIP. She loves her time at TIP girls camp and embarking on the journey of sharing the joy of simple living with the visitors, campers and fellow volunteers.

Thoughts from Miracle- “Because of our primitive lifestyle it was extremely hard to find someone of like mindedness or a kindred spirit to talk to about the joys and richness of living close to land like my ancestors had before me. I will never forget my first visit to TIP for their second annual Families Learning Together, I looked up into the trees to see the ship in the sky, witnessed my first hide tanning lesson, rode with Eustace on his buggy behind his team of horses. Then on the way home I told my momma I had finally met other people like us! I realized that day that TIP was where my kindred spirits met, worked together, and became family. Five years later TIP and her inhabitants still hold a beat in my heart song.”


Emily Johnson Roberts teaches college English in Tennessee. She became a teacher because she believes in empowering others through shared knowledge and the development of new skills. She considers herself a life-time learner and enjoys learning from her students, who always have something to teach. She strives to live by the idea, often attributed to Maya Angelou, that people may forget what you say, and they may forget what you do, but they never forget the way you make them feel. Emily grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, in neighboring Wilkes County, where she learned many Appalachian traditions she seeks to preserve and many outdoor skills. She loves to hike, camp, ride horses, fish, and explore. In fact, one of her first dates with her now husband was a fishing trip, and another was to Turtle Island on a hike to the waterfalls. Her Chacos have been on the ground in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the coastal waters of North Carolina, the jungles of Costa Rica, the Highlands of Scotland, and the streets of Stratford and London. But her heart will forever remain in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She has a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education/English and a master’s degree in English Literature from Appalachian State University. She is working to complete a PhD in English Literature at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She considers it one of her most important goals in life to empower and encourage young people, but especially young women, to recognize their personal strengths and to become unapologetically comfortable with who they are as individuals.   


Emma Berg is originally from Michigan and after attending Oberlin College in Ohio she relocated to sunny California. It will be her first summer at turtle island and after hearing only the best things about it, she is both excited and honored to be joining the community. She currently resides at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina where she is taking classes on weaving. She had previously been restoring antique rugs for over a year in California and is a crafter through and through  — whether it’s making something with recycled materials or found objects she can always see new possibilities.She loves other people, sharing skills, having a good time and playing just about any game. Attuned to other people’s needs, she is excited to help cultivate a happy, healthy place and journey that empowers young women! 



Erin Cram, from Austin, TX via Atlanta, GA with a heaping tablespoon of the salt and sands of SW Florida, currently travels with her partner, Molly, selling their wares.

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!




Molly was born and raised in the north Texas golden triangle city of Denton. Since childhood, Molly’s had an affinitive love for the outdoors.  She’s spent dozens of winters hunting with her father along with several summers camping, fishing, and exploring. For the past two years she’s been a road warrior traveling the country with her partner and pup selling her wares at festivals and fairs and making connections with all different types of people along the way.



She first stepped foot on Turtle Island Preserve in 2018 as a vendor for the Families Learning Together summer camp scholarship fundraiser and naturally ended up extending her stay. She spent most of her volunteer time helping in the kitchen and is excited to return as a cook for all the summer youth camps. In her spare time, Molly enjoys making others laugh, playing music, and just simply being in good company.




Instructor Kathleen Roberts Kathleen Roberts has a rich and colorful background in back-to-basics living, earth skills, music, song, crafting and teaching art. Alongside her well admired husband Preston, and 3 sons, and a few grandchildren – Kathleen has been teaching, sharing and inspiring others as an outdoor educator at Turtle Island Preserve since its earliest days. She directed Girls Camp for many years, and has led countless hikers down endless trails, up creeks and into the best waterholes all over Turtle Island, and beyond to her own adjoining acreage. She’s a beloved presence at Girls Camp and School Group visits and always has a beautiful lesson or skill to share.


Counselor Jais Jais Brohinsky has spent the past five 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.  


 Jesse Arter grew up loving the mountains in Colorado. He started sharing his love of the outdoors and living with students while still in high school, teaching outdoor education to 6th graders. In 2010 he completed a year-long internship at Turtle Island which further fueled his passion for the outdoors and sharing that knowledge. He loves it all as long it is outdoors and connecting us to each other and our plant and animal relatives. He is passionate about hide tanning, foraging, cordage and fire making. If its rainy outside you will find him making a crafternoon of it, creating everything from clothing to tools from the natural world. Sustainability lies at the core of his values. He’s had a 20-year career in alternative and green building and construction. Jesse currently lives in the hill country of Texas taking care of horses, gardening, writing and is active in land stewardship and ecology restoration. He has a bachelor of arts in English and is a certified Wilderness First Responder.


 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." 


Will Bahr is a 2019 graduate of Warren Wilson College, majoring in Creative Writing. Born and bred in Los Angeles, he keeps getting summoned back to North Carolina, that tar-heeled siren never quite letting up its song. He's had his hands in many pots at Turtle Island, both figuratively as a camper and counselor and literally as Boy’s Camp scullery maid. He is happiest when writing, making music and communing with nature, and looks very much forward  to all three this summer with the lucky TI campers. In a time when the definition of manhood and our relationship to the natural world are very much in flux, Will is proud to continue his relationship with Turtle Island and all its wild friends.


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! 



Konstantinos Tsiompanos first visited TIP as a volunteer and a camp counselor in the summer of 2018, after reading Eustace's biography. He fell in love with the people and the place and committed to keep on returning whenever he has time, especially during summer camps. 


He lives in Greece, where he shares his time between law and the outdoors. He is a human rights lawyer, currently assisting unescorted minor refugees in the island of Lesvos, the main gateway of refugees into Europe. He is the manager of the non-profit organization "Institute of Regeneration - The Seed", runs a Forest School in Lesvos, he is a permaculture designer and loves getting lost in the woods. He is currently completing a MSc in Environmental Sciences (University of Aegean, Greece) with a focus on Environmental Education. Every time he visits TIP from Greece he plants 100 trees to make up for his flight's carbon footprint.




James Tatum is an Appalachian State University graduate and current Middle School Educator tasked with molding the fragile minds of America’s youth. When not consumed by the struggles and joys of middle school life, you can find him in the woods - chasing crispy temps, climbing boulders, and occasionally losing at chess. 







 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"


Jeremy “Bo” Hewett born and raised in coastal North Carolina, was a successful graduate of Eustace Conway’s rigorous internship program in 2004. Since then he has traveled far and wide but always returns to camp each summer, serving as Older-Boys Camp ‘counselor at large’ and changing lives with “Deep Thoughts” - a mealtime favorite. Bo has also led educational school, scout, young-boys campers and father/son camp participants on countless adventures through the wilds of Turtle Island Preserve. He’s an expert at finding the sweetest berries growing wild in the woods and has a keen knowledge of all the best waterfalls and swimming holes on the preserve.



Recently Bo joined his father in a handmade wooden boat, cruising from the Carolina coast to Florida, fulfilling a lifelong dream. By trade he’s a torch-wielding lamp worker. By those who know him at Turtle Island, he’s a sincere and caring friend. 



Jason Lonon - Blacksmith, Educator, Purveyor of early American crafts Jason Lonon, a visiting teacher for years - is a professional cabinetmaker and blacksmith. Since 1997 he has studied, practiced and taught traditional woodworking and blacksmithing in a variety of settings from youth summer camps to community colleges. In his blacksmith shop, Jason specializes in making historical woodworking tools and traditional hardware. Jason has been a masterful teacher at Turtle Island expertly guiding students from small children to elderly adults. His trademark introductory class “100 useful things that can be made from a worn-out horseshoe” – has excited and inspired countless iron working enthusiasts for years. He has also led many groups in beautiful and useful making of wooden benches and stools, and his attention to detail with tools, blades and craftsmanship makes him one of our most saught after instructors. Visit Jason's own website HERE


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