Visitor Services Staff

  • Matt Conner

    Matt Conner

    Matt Conner is the Visitor Services Manager for Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.  Matt’s journey into a natural resources field began when he discovered an old dusty long bow one spring as the family prepared for a garage sale.  Matt spent countless hours shooting arrows at targets, stumps, and anything in range as he patrolled the forests and ponds near his boyhood home in rural Illinois.   His passion for archery grew as he discovered bow hunting and a family friend took him hunting for the first time when he was 12 years old.  Matt’s time spent in the outdoors bow hunting fostered interests in birds, wildlife, and forest ecology.  After completing his B.S. and M.S. of Forestry at Southern Illinois University, he worked in various national parks and national wildlife refuges with duties ranging from being a costumed chuck wagon cook in Montana to leading hikes in the swamps of White River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.  Matt feels that his past experience of working at four national parks and 4 national wildlife refuges helped prepare him for the challenges of working at Kenai NWR.


  • Candace Ward


    Candace Ward is a Park Ranger in the Visitor Services Program, who supervises the Refuge’s Education and Information Program.  She manages the Refuge Visitor Center in Soldotna.  She supervises the work of permanent and seasonal staff, seasonal interns and volunteers and coordinates special projects including exhibits, publications, and special events. 


    She began her work at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge over 30 years ago starting out as a volunteer then becoming a seasonal Youth Conservation Corp leader moving forward to a permanent field law enforcement ranger and eventually becoming a supervisor for the Education and Information Program.  In her off time, she enjoys wildlife observation, hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.



  • Scott Slavik


    Originally from Saint Louis, Missouri, Scott Slavik came to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in 1990 as Student Conservation Association intern for what he thought would be a 12-week volunteer position.  Twenty four years later he is still here and currently oversees the Refuge’s trails program, Youth Conservation Corps program and Volunteer program as well as serving as a collateral duty wildland firefighter.

    Scott coordinates seasonal trail crews, youth crews and volunteers completing project work to improve the programs, facilities and structures that support and enhance visitors’ recreational experiences on the Refuge.
    Scott earned his BS from the University of Missouri – Columbia in Outdoor Recreation and Park Administration and believes the worse day out on the refuge still beats the best day in the office.



  • Michelle Ostrowski


    Michelle Ostrowski oversees the Refuge’s Environmental Education Program.  An outdoor science educator and naturalist at the Refuge for over 16 years, Michelle continues to connect people with nature on a daily basis. Known affectionately in the community as “Ranger Michelle” she strives to help instill a sense of wonder for our natural environment in students and visitors of all ages. 




  • Leah Eskelin


    Leah Eskelin is a Visitor Services Park Ranger and Natural Resources Interpreter who has lived in Kenai since 2003.  She enjoys developing hands-on programs for Refuge visitors and is available for outreach programs on nature topics in the central Kenai Peninsula.  In her free time, Leah enjoys sharing her love of nature with her two daughters, birding with her ornithologist husband, and experiencing new cultures through travel.


    Leah has a Masters of Science in Resource Interpretation from Stephen F. Austin State and is a member of the National Association for Interpretation.



  • Dan Saxton

    Dan Saxton


    Dan Saxton is a member of the cabin crew at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Prior to coming to the Kenai he worked on historic preservation projects throughout Colorado for HistoriCorps, 

    a nonprofit organization that partners with federal land managers to restore structures on public lands. When not maintaining the Refuge's public-use and historic cabins, Dan enjoys hiking, fishing, and woodworking.

    Public-use cabins on the Kenai Refuge are available for reservation at