About Us

Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj Peña

Founder and Expedition Leader

Ulyana’s infatuation with nature started at a very young age. At 6 years old, she saw mountains for the first time – the Swiss Alps – and was hooked. At age 12, she started dabbling in science fair projects, studying everything from junk mail accumulation, to UV radiation effects on t-shirt materials, to how to travel in space without fuel, using solar sails instead. Ulyana was able to mesh her interests in the outdoors and science as a geology major at Rice University. By the time she turned 23, she had traveled to and worked on all 7 continents. Through her twenties, Ulyana worked with National Geographic Student Expeditions as a geology/climate change instructor in Iceland, and the Girls on Ice program, as a glaciology/volcanology instructor on Mt. Baker, Washington and the Gulkana glacier, Alaska. She has wilderness medicine training (Wilderness First Responder) and is a certified polar field guide through the PTGA (Polar Tourism Guides Association).

Ulyana crafted her PhD project on glacial lakes in the Himalaya through the guidance of geophysicist, Dr. Roger Bilham (University of Colorado Boulder) and Everest IMAX film director, Mr. David Breashears. She funded her work through a combination of small grants and crowd fundraisers. During a Fulbright to Nepal, she was able to immerse herself in the culture and countryside, as well as grow The Sherpa-Scientist Initiative, to educate the locals on their changing climate. In September/October 2016, Ulyana was chosen as mission commander for the NASA Johnson Space Center’s HERA (human exploration research analog) 30-day isolation experiment, simulating a long-duration mission to an asteroid. She was named one of 120 semifinalists out of 18,354 applicants for NASA’s 2017 astronaut class.



Mr. Ricardo Peña

Mountain Guide and Expedition Leader

Ricardo started Alpine Expeditions in 2004, guiding clients to climb the Mexican volcanoes. He has been a Colorado Mountain Club leader since 2001, guiding and climbing extensively throughout Colorado, the Argentinean, Chilean and Bolivian Andes, the Alaska Range, Mt. Elbrus and the Caucasus mountain range in Russia, the Khumbu region in the Himalaya, and Mexico (where he’s originally from). Ricardo has guided and led two expeditions to Denali (20,320′), six to Aconcagua (22,841′), as well as other expeditions to the Chilean Andes and the Cordillera Real in Bolivia. He has wilderness medicine training and is a certified Wilderness First Responder.

On February 12, 2005, Ricardo discovered the coat and documents of Andes Survivor Eduardo Strauch as well other previously undiscovered airplane parts, while climbing near the impact point of the famous plane crash popularized in the book and movie ‘Alive”. In December 2005, with a grant from National Geographic, Ricardo led the first and only to date complete re-tracing of the historic escape route done by Andes Survivors: Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado in 1972. This was done in the same month as the survivors did to experience the challenge of similar snow conditions. Science in the Wild is excited to welcome him to the team!




Mr. Patrick Rowe

Science Tech

Patrick is an experienced science support technician who has been providing scientific field missions with technical, instrumentation, planning and logistical support for over 20 years. He is the owner of Midwest ROV LLC and an explorer who has traveled and worked on every ocean and continent. Patrick’s motto is, “I don’t do the science, I just make doing science better,” although lately he has been more involved in data analysis. Ulyana and Patrick met in 2007, aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer icebreaker, while on expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. Since then, Patrick has supported Ulyana’s research efforts in Iceland during her Masters research, and Nepal during her PhD project work.

Mr. Amrit Thapa

Logistics (Himalaya)

Amrit is the owner of Epic Himalaya Adventure Trek Pvt. Ltd. in Kathmandu, Nepal and a certified trekking guide. He is fluent in Nepali, Hindi, and English. Amrit provides excellent logistical support for Himalayan expeditions, with over a decade of experience. Amrit and Ulyana first met in 2008, when she arrived to Nepal for the very first time to do a trek to Everest Base Camp. Epic Himalaya has provided logistical support for her PhD research expeditions (2013-2014) and will continue do so for Science in the Wild. Amrit is hardworking, reliable, and enthusiastic, always with a smile on his face!