Three New Faces at PEEC

New staff members at PEEC from left, Laura Loy, Siobhan Niklasson and Linda Boncella. Courtesy photo

PEEC News:

If you’ve been to PEEC lately, surely you’ve noticed some welcome changes. Recently PEEC’s board and staff made the decision to relocate the entry to the Nature Center, to make it more welcoming and to create a better flow.

Now, visitors to PEEC are greeted by a friendly docent as they enter, and the exhibits are easier to navigate. Also new to PEEC are three part-time staff members who came on board in July. Siobhan Niklasson, a former board member, has joined the staff as the new educational programs director. Linda Boncella, who has volunteered for PEEC for many years, serves as the new volunteer coordinator. Laura Loy, who has recently returned to Los Alamos, will serve as PEEC’s new communications coordinator.

Environmental education made an early and lasting impression on Niklasson when Ellsworth the Owl visited her fourth grade class in her home state of Maine. Since then, she has been engaged in environmental outreach and education. Niklasson has served as a member of PEEC’s board of directors from October 2010 until she was selected as the educational programs director last month.

“My vision for PEEC’s educational programs is that we will be able to reach all schools and all ages,” Niklasson said. “In addition to our regular field trips for various grades, this year we will also offer newly-redesigned water and energy trunks, which are sponsored by the Department of Public Utilities. In these trunks, teachers will find all kinds of hands-on experiments and activities for third to fifth and seventh to eighth graders, that follow State Common Core and New Mexico Science Performance Standards.”

PEEC’s motto for educational programs this year is, “you imagine it, we’ll develop it.”

“We really want educators to get in touch with us, to tell us what they would like to see offered by PEEC,”Niklasson said.

Niklasson would like to see more teens get involved with PEEC. She encourages teens to contact the center to discuss opportunities for involvement, such as citizen science projects. Examples of these projects might include monitoring small mammals called pika, at the ski hill or creating an online trail guide. Niklasson can be contacted at

Beginning with a hike in the woods with her Girl Scout troop in the fourth grade, Boncella discovered that communing with nature was a wonderful way to spend the day. Her involvement with PEEC began in 2005 when her daughter started participating in the programs and she began volunteering herself. Last month, Boncella joined the staff as its volunteer coordinator.

“My involvement with PEEC began by helping with programs that my daughter was involved with,” Boncella said. “I found that to be an excellent way to really find out what PEEC was all about. This motivated me to become more involved as a volunteer myself.”

In her new role, Boncella is responsible for making sure PEEC’s volunteer needs are met, and also for ensuring that volunteers have a fulfilling experience.

“It is an exciting time to be a part of PEEC,” Boncella said. “We are looking for volunteers who share in our excitement. There are a number of different ways of getting involved, depending on an individual’s interests.”

“We are looking for volunteers for the Park Flight school program in September, as well as opening and closing for our weekday evening programs,” Boncella said. “I would encourage people to consider volunteering one or two hours of their time once or twice a month to fill these important functions within PEEC. Training will be provided at each person’s convenience.”

To learn more about volunteering at PEEC, contact Boncella at

Loy moved to Los Alamos when she was seven, and immediately fell in love with the mountains and the many outdoor activities in northern New Mexico. When she left after graduating Los Alamos High School, circumstances took her further and further away from the mountains she loved. She is thrilled to have moved back to Los Alamos with her family last summer and to join the PEEC staff last month as its communications coordinator.

“PEEC has so much to offer people of all ages that it’s fun to take on the marketing for PEEC,” Loy said.

Her family has participated in PEEC activities and events for several years, but only recently became members. “I hadn’t realized that it only cost $35 a year to become regular members of PEEC,” she said.

Loy will be in charge of all of PEEC’s marketing and communications, from Web updates, to sending out PEEC’s weekly email newsletter, PEEC This Week, as well as handling the organization’s media relations and engaging the community through PEEC’s social media, among other tasks.

“There is a lot to be done, but I welcome the challenge,” Loy said. “I’m passionate about spreading the word that PEEC is a great resource for our community and visitors alike.”

Loy can be reached at

The PEEC Nature Center is open noon to 4 p.m. Tues.-Fri. and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. The center is at 3540 Orange St., behind Los Alamos High School.

PEEC offers a wide variety of programs, including classes, day trips, hikes and more. For a full calendar of events, visit PEEC’s website at Entrance to the Nature Center is free, and there are many exhibits on display for learning and having fun.

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