Our Team

We aim to provide the necessary support to Backcountry Squatters’ chapters in their establishment, growth, sustainability, and leadership transition. 

SQUATTERS STAFF

DARBY KNOLL

she/her

executive director

darby@backcountrysquatters.org

Darby’s joy for the outdoors started at a young age somewhere between the mountains and rivers of Teton Valley, Idaho and northern New Mexico. While attending Montana State Univrsity Darby earned a dual degree in Microbiology and Animal Science but her free time was quickly focused on making Backcountry Squatters the best club that it could be. Her attention to detail, commitment to the shared vision, and ‘get it done’ attitude made Darby a valuable asset to the initial success of the MSU club and has made her the right person to become the founding ED of this nonprofit.

She thrives on a passion to share her greatest outdoor experiences with others. Darby realizes that she is lucky to have all of the opportunities that Bozeman has to offer, and hopes to make outdoor recreation more attainable for young women and gender-queer folks across the country. 

LILA SPURGEON

she/her

programs director

lila@backcountrysquatters.org

Growing up in coastal Virginia, Lila spent much of her time playing in and on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. She developed a love for the mountains and hiking at an early age, and her interest in mountain sports only blossomed with a move out west for college. In her time at the University of Colorado Boulder, she embraced skiing, climbing, and backpacking, while also earning a degree in Strategic Communication. She served as the Chapter President of CU’s Squatters Chapter, and completed thesis research on the role of identity for activists working to make outdoor sports more diverse and inclusive.

Lila is grateful for the wonderful support the Squatters community provided to her as she first ventured into new mountain sports. She is passionate about helping create that same sense of community and belonging at Squatters chapters across the country in her role as Programs Director.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Our Board of Directors provides strategic guidance, financial oversight, and community advocacy, ensuring that Backcountry Squatters continues to empower women and non-binary folks in the outdoor community.

ANDIE CREEL

she/her

president

andie@backcountrysquatters.org

Andie grew up in Bozeman, Montana, and stayed to attend Montana State University. She co-founded the first Backcountry Squatters club in 2015 with Kit Kocha. She gained professional skills and personal confidence from the club and is grateful for the opportunity to continue honing these skills while sitting on the nonprofit’s board. These lessons have assisted her when working as a journalist across Montana, testifying in front of state legislators, coaching the Big Sky Big Mountain Freeride team, and creating space for herself at an Ivy League graduate school. Her favorite parts of being on the board are gaining energy from new member’s passion and expanding the club to different communities. Andie is currently a graduate student at Yale University getting her Ph.D. in natural resource economics. She is researching how natural amenities — like parks, open space, clean air, and clean water — are distributed across communities. She hopes that her research will assist in more equitable access to natural resources for all people living in the United States.

NELL GEHRKE

they/she

secretary

nell@backcountrysquatters.org

Nell grew up among the rivers, lakes, and cornfields on the unceded lands of the Dakota in what is now called Minnesota. They earned a BA in Environmental Studies from Augsburg University. There, they worked in a community garden and at the local community center before spending two semesters canoeing down the Mississippi through the River Semester program. She had never canoed before. These experiences were formative for Nell in that they instilled a commitment to social and environmental justice as well as provided a safe and close community in which they could explore and reflect on their gender and sexuality. They returned to guide the River Semester in 2021. Nell moved to Montana to serve a term with Montana Conservation Corps at the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. They completed two terms. Now, Nell works at the Country Bookshelf. Nell joined the board for the Backcountry Squatters in 2023, and she is looking forward to serving the squatters community to the best of their ability. In their freetime, Nell enjoys going on long walks with her girlfriend and their dog, Chicken.

MARA MACDONELL

she/her

treasurer

mara@backcountrysquatters.org

Mara grew up in rural northern Minnesota. Growing up she found community and self-confidence through canoeing, trail running, and cross-country skiing, activities which she often accessed through community and scholarship programs. In college, Mara served on the outing club’s board of directors, working to increase access and inclusion. As a Pell Grant recipient, she relied on her outing club to help her access the outdoors by breaking down financial barriers. Mara recently graduated with her MESc from the Yale School of the Environment (YSE), where her research assessed the outdoor recreation industry as a modality for rural community development. Her research suggests that outdoor recreation can be a tool of empowerment, however it requires active dismantling of white supremacy and patriarchy embedded in conservation and outdoor recreation culture. Prior to attending YSE, Mara worked in social services for four years. She has also served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, backcountry canoe guide, Nordic ski coach, and raft guide. Mara currently lives in rural New Hampshire. When she is not playing outside, she works in renewable energy, with a particular interest in just transitions.

KAITLYNN SORENSEN

she/her

board member

kaitlynn@backcountrysquatters.org

Born and raised in the front range of Colorado, Kaitlynn has been trailblazing since she was young. With no plans to leave Colorful Colorado anytime soon she attended the University of Colorado Boulder where she was the President of the first Squatter’s chapter at CU. Throughout her undergraduate she would discover her passion for encouraging leadership opportunities and recreational growth for college-aged women and other people of marginalized genders. She found joy in spending time outside with people she loved and fulfilment from passing the experience on! After securing her BA in Sociology in 2022, Kaitlynn traveled the United States in a travel trailer to see what trails across the country had to offer. She just couldn’t leave the BCS community behind and stayed involved by becoming the East Coast Ambassador during the 2022-2023 school year. Kaitlynn continued to be inspired by the BCS community and vision, finding so much confidence and professional skill development volunteering for the nonprofit. She is now back in Denver, CO pursuing a career in Occupational Therapy. Outside of her professional life you might find Kaitlynn enjoying a girl dinner of cheetos and chocolate milk, pursuing rabbit hole passion projects, and maybe just maybe, stuck in 1-70 weekend traffic.

FRANNIE ADAMS

she/her

board member

frannie@backcountrysquatters.org

Frannie grew up in Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston, MA. From a young age, she felt a deep connection to nature that led her to admire all its intricacies, earning her the nicknames “nature girl” and “our environmentalist” among others. She received her BA in Environmental Studies at Wellesley College with a double minor in Economics and Africana Studies. Her passion to work on environmental health in the Caribbean guided her through her academic, scientific and professional careers. She continued her education and recently graduated from the Yale School of the Environment as a Master of Environmental Science. Frannie found opportunities to further explore, study, and take care of nature through coursework, research field trips, kayaking, hiking, and environmental clean-ups. She is eager to help expand the reach of this impactful non-profit to help more students find community and have safe opportunities to experience and lead in outdoor spaces. Currently, she works in ocean, coastal, and coral reef management. Outside of work, Frannie can be found singing, playing instruments, at an environmental cleanup, at the beach, enjoying live music, mentally comparing flora and fauna during travels, and trying new recipes.

ERICA KURASH

she/her

board member

erica@backcountrysquatters.org

Erica hails from the Green Mountains of Vermont and ventured to St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies and Sociology. As she embarked on her college journey, Erica sought avenues to explore outdoor spaces alongside fellow female and non-binary adventurers—a quest that had eluded her in the past. Inspired by this vision, Erica took the initiative to establish the SLU Backcountry Squatters chapter, carving out the inclusive environment she had longed for as a female outdoor enthusiast. During her time at SLU, Erica also served as an Outdoor Program Guide, guiding others on their own outdoor adventures. Unwilling to part ways with Backcountry Squatters upon graduation, Erica has continued her journey by joining The Board of Directors, dedicated to fostering an equitable future for outdoor recreation.

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