Ground Truth Trekking

Bretwood "Hig" Higman, PhD, Executive Director

Co-founder and Executive Director of Ground Truth Trekking, He and Erin Mckittrick are responsible for the exisistence, vision, and ongoing development of the organization. In particular Hig specializes in geologic research, website development, photography, figure creation, and of course the Journeys that explore the "ground truth" of natural resources issues in Alaska.

Hig received a PhD in geology from the University of Washington in 2007, following a BA in geology from Carleton College in 1999. He studied the geologic record of tsunamis and has particular expertise in geologic hazards, sedimentology, and geomorphology. More broadly he studied geology, physics, and computer science. Hig has also studied Yoshokai Aikido, invented the jewelry manufacturing method behind Sundrop Jewelry, and sews some of the gear for expeditions.

Hig grew up in Seldovia, Alaska, where his family moved when he was 8 months old. After graduating from high-school there he spent 13 years in college and grad school, studying glass art, and walking from Seattle to the Aleutians before moving back to Seldovia. He and Erin now live in a yurt a hundred yards from his mother where they're raising their children and running Ground Truth Trekking.

Erin McKittrick, M.S., Director

Co-founder and Director of gtt. In addition to overseeing gtt and planning the journeys, Erin is one of Ground Truth Trekking's primary writers, responsible for communication of our mission and journeys through essays, books, blogging, media coverage and Facebook.

She is the author of Small Feet, Big Land: Adventure, Home and Family on the Edge of Alaska and A Long Trek Home; 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft, and Ski

On journeys, you'll find her taking long notes on every day of a trip. Erin also edits and writes issues article on the site and has taken many of gtt's most memorable photographs (she's a photographer when the kids let her be, anyway).

Before moving to Seldovia, Erin grew up in Seattle. She received a MS in Molecular Biology from the University of Washington in 2005, following a BA in biology from Carleton College in 2001. She met Hig in college, studying aikido (which she studied for many years both before and after college). Erin and Hig have been trekking together for over a decade, logging over 8000 miles of wilderness travel, mostly in Alaska. Their son Katmai joined them in 2009, and in 2011 his sister Lituya became part of the expeditions as well.

David Coil, PhD, Director

David is a long-time member of gtt, a Director, has written most of the articles on natural resources issues such as Coal and Metals Mining and has participated in the evolution of Ground Truth Trekking and this website.

Originally from Colorado, David received a B.A. in Biology from Carleton College in 1999 and a PhD in Biology from the University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2005. He has done post-doctoral work in Belgium and at the UC Davis in California.

David currently lives in Northern CA where he and his family enjoy hiking, fishing, hunting, camping and rafting. In addition to working for Ground Truth Trekking, David is involved in outreach/education in Microbiology and in Genomics mostly through the microBEnet project. His current work involves sending bacteria to the International Space Station.

Andrew Mattox, MBA

Andrew is a geologist, scientist, writer, and sometimes-adventurer.

He holds an MBA in Sustainable Systems and a Certificate in Energy Solutions from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, and a BA in Geology from Carleton College. Beyond gtt, he works as a technical analyst in the oil spills industry. He has special interests in systems theory, operations, economics, and industrial accidents.

Andrew served six years as a forester and firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, in the Baker River Hotshots and the North Cascades Smokejumpers. Andrew was also a co-owner and executive Vice President at Alpacka Raft for three years.

Bjørn Olson, Director

Bjørn is a lifelong Alaskan and wilderness adventurer. He contributes to Ground Truth Trekking through writing, photography, filmmaking, guiding and some behind the scenes data entry.

Bjørn has always been inspired by 19th and early 20th century exploration, wherein adventurers took a renaissance approach to their travels and significantly contributed to the scientific community. In Ground Truth Trekking Bjørn has found an outlet to communicate and share some of what he experiences and sees while on his excursions through the rapidly transforming landscapes of Alaska.

Caleb Billmeier, MA

Caleb is a social science researcher, commercial fisherman, and father. He holds a MA in Cross Cultural Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a BA in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington. His interests are in collaborative research projects, ethnography, and traditional knowledge. Raised in coastal Maine, Caleb moved to Alaska in 2005 and has undertaken human powered journeys throughout the state. He and his wife, Kate Hohman-Billmeier, live in Seldovia just up the road from Hig and Erin.

Caleb and Kate organized a project with Ground Truth Trekking to travel under human power around Lake Iliamna in March of 2013 to collect traditional knowledge of seismic events, volcanic activity, and observations of climate change. When not working with gtt, Caleb works as a research consultant and set nets for salmon in Bristol Bay during the summer. He has a daughter, Ada, who is helping her parents homestead on a hillside overlooking Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet.

Kate Hohman-Billmeier, PhD

Kate Hohman-Billmeier lives in Seldovia, Alaska with her husband Caleb, daughter and two dogs. Prior to her move north she lived and worked in various places on the mid-Atlantic coast, from Pennsylvania to Virginia. She received her BA in Political Science and International Affairs from the University of Mary Washington and her MA in Women’s Studies from The George Washington University. In 2008-2009 Kate undertook research for her PhD in central-eastern Nepal, focusing on continued local-level violence in the wake of the Comprehensive Peace Accords that ended the Maoist 10 year civil war. She received her PhD in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies in 2014.

Outside of gtt, Kate teaches Political Science and Women’s Studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She spends her summers at fish camp with her family in Bristol Bay, where the sockeye rule the day.

Mike Borden, M.S.

Mike is an opto-mechanical engineer from Eagan, MN. He is currently a student at the University of Arizona where he is a NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellow. He has worked as an intern with NASA and as a contractor with NOAA at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Mike volunteered with gtt as a geological field assistant and led a glacier photo-documentation expedition in August 2010

Amy Gilson

Amy is the part time gtt bookkeeper, yoga instructor, volunteer ETT, and works for Nuka Research & Planning Group too. She lives in Seldovia and has spent the last 10 years building a home from the trees up - logging, milling, digging, and generally doing a little of everything in order to make a life for herself and partner Chris work. When not at her desk you might find Amy skiing the local mountains, harvesting salmon or halibut, tending chickens, or maintaining a garden. She values the choice to live a semi-remote lifestyle and is working to find more ways to harvest and put up local food sources for the winter months.

Niki Hoagland

Niki is a part time copy editor for gtt articles and has been a participant on several trips featured on the website over the years. Living in Seattle, she has had a long career as a microbiology researcher followed by a second career working with clinical trials in cystic fibrosis and cancer. Newly “retired”, she plans to become more involved with gtt and other volunteer opportunities, as well as spend more time traveling and with family in Seldovia and locally. She is especially looking forward to having time for more wilderness expeditions in her sea kayak or on foot, both in Alaska and “outside”.

Elizabeth Lester PhD

Liz is currently the copy editor for most new Issues articles, as well as providing advice on media relations. She lives in Washington D.C., where she is the Communications Officer for the Ecological Society of America (ESA). She also writes about science life on her website .

Elisa Mader

Elisa has edited blog posts and articles for gtt since December 2012. She holds a Certificate of Editing from the University of Washington and works as a technical writer and analyst, with a budding freelance editing career on the side. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied on the East Coast and in Europe before settling down in Seattle, where she is now enjoying her “happily ever after” with her husband Andrew and a very hungry calico cat.

Kim McNett

Kim McNett volunteers with gtt mostly through expedition based inquiry, and contributed to the documentary 'Where the Heck is Donlin?' . A life long naturalist, she holds a BS from The Evergreen State College and works as a sea kayak guide and environmental educator in Kachemak Bay. Partnered with Bjorn Olson, she has completed many human-powered expeditions in Alaska by kayak, packraft, and fatbike. Living in Homer, Kim spends free time tidepooling, unicycling, and nature journaling.

Damien Tougas

Damien is a forward-thinking father who lives for the journey. Not content with the status quo, he is continually engineering family life for more adventure. Happiest wherever there are mountains and computers, Damien loves exploring creative ways to integrate his passions for family, technology, and wild places. You can find him being a geek behind the scenes for gtt, writing at Backpacking Light, blogging at ADVENTUREinPROGRESS, and building an online community for minimalist footwear enthusiasts at Toe Salad.

Sam Vevang

Currently living in San Juan Puerto Rico, Sam has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota and works with Ground Truth Trekking as a software engineer. When he isn't coding, you can find Sam backpacking or paddling.