Stories in Maryland/DC

Our People: Experts in Action

Our world faces complex conservation challenges. Meet some of the people who are working to create lasting solutions.

Group photo of TNC MD/DC staff. A large group of people stand together outdoors in front of a red barn, smiling during the chapter's annual staff retreat.
Maryland/DC 2023 Staff of the Maryland/DC chapter gather together during a team retreat, June 2023. © TNC

Media Inquiries: To schedule an interview with a member of our science, conservation or policy staff please contact Matt Kane, Senior Media Relations Manager, by phone at 323-898-6510 (mobile) or email matthew.kane@tnc.org.


 
Candid headshot of Kahlil Kettering.
Kahlil Kettering Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy in Maryland/DC. © Trent Burns / Casey Trees

A Message from the Executive Director

Homecoming

I am incredibly honored to come home to where I started my career with The Nature Conservancy eight years ago as urban conservation director, now with the privilege of serving as the executive director of the Maryland/DC chapter. This region is unique, unlike any other place in the world: from the forested Appalachian Mountains, to our vibrant cities, to the fertile agricultural lands, to the storied waters of the Chesapeake Bay, where the crash of every wave is a whisper of the rich history in which this region is interwoven with the natural resources that have shaped the course of history for our region.

These places are all connected, and we feel a mighty responsibility to care for this beautiful place in which we have the privilege to reside.

Though I’ve had opportunities that have taken me away for periods of time, the National Capital Region has always been my home. I have always felt the magnetic pull of this landscape, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead critical conservation work that will have lasting benefits for our communities.

Our region is not spared from the stark realities of the environmental crises plaguing our planet. Climate change wreaks havoc on our ecosystems and threatens our quality of life. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to tackle the environmental challenges we face and for our region to continue to be at the vanguard of implementing solutions that protect nature and people. Our chapter is in a fortunate position to serve as an example to others.

Our staff, partners and supporters share the passion and commitment to lead ambitious and innovative projects and programs designed to deliver lasting solutions to the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss so that others around the world can look to us for inspiration.

My career at TNC has highlighted the importance of both firmly establishing tangible solutions at the local level while working with partners that span large geographies to achieve success at scale. I am keen to work with all of you as brothers and sisters in conservation as we keep our sights set on 2030—a year that represents a tipping point for our planet.

I am grateful for your continued support as we tackle existential environmental threats locally and globally, for current and future generations. I look forward to this new adventure and the fruitful impacts we will have together in our home.


Read the Press Release: Kahlil Kettering Named New Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Maryland and DC Chapter

Kahlil Kettering, Executive Director

Kahlil provides overall management and leadership for the Maryland/DC Chapter’s conservation and policy work across the state and district. He previously served as TNC’s Bezos Earth Fund Program Director from 2021-2023. In this role, he provided strategic management, overseeing all TNC deliverables associated with the $100M Bezos Earth Fund gift to TNC. He served as the point person working with project teams around the globe to collaboratively deploy and scale natural climate solutions to capture greenhouse gas emissions.

Prior to this position, Kahlil started his career at TNC as the inaugural Urban Conservation Program Director for the Maryland/DC chapter from 2015-2021, where he developed conservation strategies in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, centered on implementing projects that elevate the intersection of protecting nature in urban areas and the benefits nature provides people in cities.

“Now, more than ever, is the time for us to tackle the environmental challenges we face, and for our region to continue to be at the vanguard of implementing solutions that protect nature and people.”

Candid selfie headshot of Bob Allen.
Bob Allen Director of Climate and Ecosystem Resilience © courtesy Bob Allen

Bob Allen, Director of Climate and Ecosystem Resilience

Bob began his TNC career in 2004, working in New Jersey for more than 18 years as Director of Science, Director of Conservation and Assistant State Director, before joining the Maryland/DC chapter in 2022. He oversees much of our conservation work across MD/DC including our work in the Appalachians, along our coasts, in Baltimore, public preserves, and climate and policy efforts.

“I love that TNC aims to do big work—work that is challenging, complex, important and has real conservation impacts for people and nature”

Candid headshot of Austin Bamford.
Austin Bamford Landscape Architect © TNC

Austin Bamford, PLA, ASLA, Landscape Architect

Austin joined MD/DC's Baltimore Program in December 2022, working to advance TNC's commitment to equitable conservation and community resiliency. He leads planning, design and implementation of cultural landscape and landscape infrastructure projects that prioritize co-benefits for people and nature. Austin is a licensed landscape architect and member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

"Everyone deserves and needs nature in their everyday lives. It is a privilege to be working locally and systemically to help enable thriving cultural landscapes in Baltimore and beyond."

Deborah Barber headshot. Close cropped head shot of a brown haired woman. Blurred palm trees are visible in the background.
Deborah Barber Director of Land Conservation © TNC

Deborah Barber, Director of Land Conservation

Deborah is responsible for the management of the chapter's land holdings, including easements and public preserves, for their conservation, research, and recreational value. 

“When someone says thank you for bringing them to a place they’d never visited before, it just makes my day.”

Kristin Bramell headshot. A smiling woman wearing a dark gray blouse poses in front of a white backdrop with her arms casually folded across her chest.
Kristin Bramell Director of Development. © Kristin Bramell

Kristin Bramell, Director of Development

Kristin began her career at TNC in 2004 and leads the chapter's team of development professionals. She works every day to meet with TNC's generous supporters and share the impact of their philanthropy on our conservation programs. She enjoys sharing our mission and the amazing work of our staff and programs with everyone she meets.

"It is a pleasure to connect thoughtful donors to the conservation programs that inspire them and can change our world. Everyone deserves to feel and understand the impact they can have because of their generosity."

Gabe Cahalan headshot. A smiling man wearing yellow protective fire gear and a red hardhat stands in a forest during a controlled burn.
Gabe Cahalan Conservation Steward © Severn Smith / TNC

Gabe Cahalan, Fire Manager

As the chapter's burn boss, Gabe is involved in fire management on both TNC and partner lands, working to return this critical natural process to the landscape. In his role as preserve manager he oversees TNC owned properties, balancing the needs of both people and nature.

"I enjoy working outdoors in beautiful, unique places and helping to keep these habitats healthy."

Michelle Canick headshot. A smiling woman in a pale green shirt stands in an open park space with trees behind her.
Michelle Canick Conservation & GIS Project Manager © Severn Smith / TNC

Michelle Canick, Conservation & GIS Project Manager

Michelle ensures that we’re using the best available GIS geospatial technologies and data to map, analyze, and communicate conservation challenges and solutions. She helps to answer the ‘where’ questions like, “where can coastal habitats help protect people from erosion and sea level rise?” 

“It’s rewarding to work for an organization with a mission I believe in and in collaboration with many wonderful colleagues.”

Elizabeth Carter headshot. A smiling, dark haired woman wearing a gray top and red leather jacket leans again a tree.
Elizabeth Carter Land Protection Director. © Mary Ella Jourdak Photography

Elizabeth Carter, Land Protection Director

Elizabeth is responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing land protection projects in support of TNC’s climate resilience and clean water objectives. She works directly with landowners, building relationships to achieve mutual land protection goals and protect properties with vital ecosystems.

"I enjoy working with landowners to provide them a conservation option that will allow them to pass their property on to the next generation."

Aileen Craig headshot. A smiling woman poses outdoors under a tree. Its branches are heavily laden with pink and white blossoms.
Aileen Craig Stormwater Retention Project Manager © Aileen Craig

Aileen Craig, Stormwater Retention Project Manager

Aileen leads the chapter’s green infrastructure planning and implementation projects throughout Washington, DC as part of the DC Department of Energy and Environments Stormwater Retention Credit Program. She engages property owners and stakeholders to improve water quality locally in the Potomac and Anacostia watersheds, and ultimately, downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.

“My role at TNC allows me to bring nature to city landscapes. I love the intersection of people and nature and believe the two must go together for both to thrive.”

Kristin Fisher headshot.
Kristin Fisher Applied Agricultural Scientist © TNC

Kristin Fisher, Ph.D., Applied Agricultural Scientist

Kristin joined the chapter in June 2022. Her efforts will focus on agricultural sustainability, working with partners across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to apply new research ideas to on-the-ground projects aimed at both supporting farms and farmers and improving water quality and biodiversity in the Bay.

"I love that our work is grounded in science but also practical enough to be relevant to our stakeholders, and ultimately effective in improving agricultural sustainability and water quality."

Andy Freeman headshot.
Andy Freeman Conservation Associate © courtesy Andy Freeman

Andy Freeman, Conservation Associate

Andy joined the Maryland/DC chapter in August 2022. As part of the Land Team, he will support land protection and preserve management to advance our conservation initiatives.

"Sharing outdoor experiences with my daughter gives me the greatest joy of all. Doing my job to protect the land and environment is my humble way of making the world a better place for her and her peers to grow up in."

Joe Galarraga stands in a rocky clearing with tall mountains rising behind him.
Joseph Galarraga Coastal Resilience Project Manager © courtesy Joe Galarraga

Joseph Galarraga, Coastal Resilience Project Manager

Joe joined the Resilient Coasts Program team in March 2022. His work accounts for the human elements of conservation—how people fit into their environments and how environments support people. In his role, Joe provides project management, qualitative research and support for our community-engaged conservation work that incorporates an environmental public health perspective.

"I enjoy working with people in a way that supports their ability to achieve and actualize. I hope that the work I undertake leads to increased community capacity around climate adaptation and environmental justice."

Pabodha Galgamuwa headshot. A smiling man wearing a ballcap and orange and yellow reflective vest stands in a forest.
Pabodha Galgamuwa G.A. Forest Science Project Manager © Matt Kane / TNC

Pabodha Galgamuwa G.A., Ph.D., Forest Science Project Manager

Pabodha is part of our team focused on maintaining and enhancing climate resilience in western Maryland's forests. He works on the design and implementation of science-based projects including late-successional forest management, climate-informed conifer restoration, and fire and forest management.

"It’s motivating to work and collaborate with a group of professionals with so much passion and appreciation for nature."

Isaac Hametz headshot.
Isaac Hametz Baltimore Program Director © courtesy Isaac Hametz

Isaac Hametz, Baltimore Program Director

Isaac joined TNC in 2021, heading up the chapter’s Build Green Cities program expansion into Baltimore, guiding projects that aim to address critical and connected Chesapeake Bay conservation issues and the challenges of climate adaptation, social justice and equitable access to nature.

“I’m excited to bring TNC’s expertise, relationships and resources to Baltimore to join the rich ecosystem of partners committed to deepening engagement and positive impact in the region.”

Matt Houser headshot.
Matt Houser Applied Social Scientist / University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Regenerative Agriculture Fellow © courtesy Matt Houser

Matthew Houser, Ph.D., Applied Social Scientist / University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Regenerative Agriculture Fellow

Matt's dual affiliations support the Regenerative Agriculture Program's science-based approach to conservation, while increasing the applied-impact of UMCES scientists’ work. His social-science based research efforts are aimed at understanding farmers’ views and decision-making related to nutrient management, and identifying barriers to the voluntary adoption of new sustainable management practices across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

"I truly believe I have the best job in the world. I am extremely passionate about sharing farmers’ stories to create better understanding and foster more meaningful and effective efforts to promote an agricultural system that works for both people and nature."

Amy Jacobs headshot.
Amy Jacobs Chesapeake Agriculture Program Director © Severn Smith / TNC

Amy Jacobs, Chesapeake Bay Agriculture Program Director

Amy leads our efforts to improve water quality in agricultural landscapes across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Her collaborative efforts are focused across multiple states, working with TNC colleagues as well as farmers and agribusinesses to implement change in agricultural systems to meet our ambitious goals.

“I enjoy finding solutions that benefit both water quality and wildlife and help support local agriculture.”

Donnelle Keech headshot. A smiling woman wearing a dark blue shirt stands in front of tree. A bright patch of sun is visible in the grass behind her.
Donnelle Keech Resilient Forests Program Director © Severn Smith / TNC

Donnelle Keech, Resilient Forests Program Director

Donnelle leads the chapter’s efforts in western Maryland, applying the scientific knowledge and tools needed to improve forest health on public and private lands, as well as working with local stakeholders to promote Maryland’s forests as part of a bright and prosperous future for the region.

"I am so inspired by our vision of a future where nature and people in the Central Appalachians thrive, even in the face of environmental changes."

Deborah Landau headshot. A smiling woman wearing yellow protective fire gear and a yellow hard hat. White smoke rises behind her from a small fire.
Deborah Landau Director of Ecological Management © Severn Smith / TNC

Deborah Landau, Ph.D., Director of Ecological Management

Deborah’s efforts focuses on ecological restoration at more than 30 Conservancy preserves across Maryland/DC and reaching into West Virginia, working to return natural processes—like fire—to the landscape to help maintain healthy, resilient natural systems.

"Sometimes I get satisfaction very quickly from my work, but other projects, like tree planting, will take years to see results. It’s very satisfying to know that I can do these long-term projects and they’ll continue on and on."

Rebecca Luib headshot. A smiling woman wearing a winter parka stands in front of a pond. The water reflects the orange autumn color of the trees behind her.
Rebecca Luib Donor Relations Manager © Rebecca Luib

Rebecca Luib, Donor Relations Manager

Rebecca works with donors to understand their conservation and geographic priorities, with a goal of ensuring our donors are well informed about the chapter's work and knowledgeable about the impact they are making.

"Our donors are passionate and interesting. It’s rewarding to thank them and to share how their support fuels our work."

David Martin headshot. A smiling man wearing a blue plaid shirt poses outdoors in front of a tall green hedge.
David Martin Decision Scientist. © Severn Smith / TNC

David Martin, Ph.D., Decision Scientist

David’s focus is on improving decision-making skills across TNC, collaborating with the chapter’s science team to develop the evidence base for making smart decisions and working with each of the chapter’s conservation programs in all aspects of their strategic planning.

“I enjoy facilitating discussions about our core values and how those values can be used to make actionable decisions that will improve environmental and human health conditions around the world.”

Chase McLean stands in front of an open field that has been burned over during a fire training seminar.
Chase McLean Conservation Steward © Fanny Tricone Photography

Chase McLean, Conservation Steward

Chase is a member of our land management team, focused on chapter properties throughout Maryland’s Eastern Shore. His efforts involve preserve monitoring and maintenance, prescribed burning, invasive species control, and hydrological and biological monitoring projects.

"Knowing that the work I am a part of will help ensure that these natural resources will be around for others to enjoy in the future is very satisfying."

Candid headshot of Mariana Rosales.
Director of Climate © TNC

Mariana Rosales, Director of Climate 

Mariana joined TNC's MD/DC program in November 2023 as the new Director of Climate. In this role, she leads our climate mitigation work, which is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Maryland’s greatest emitting sectors. Mariana sits on our government relations team, which works with elected officials in the state and federal government to create policies that reduce emissions, promote nature-based solutions for resilience and biodiversity, and advance equity.

"I love collaborating to solve the challenging real-life puzzle of Climate Change Mitigation. I enjoy connecting ideas, perspectives, experiences, and scientific knowledge to find sustainable, equitable solutions so that people and nature can thrive.."

Denny Nurkiewicz headshot.
Denny Nurkiewicz Land Protection Manager, Allegheny Front © courtesy Denny Nurkiewicz

Denny Nurkiewicz, Land Protection Manager, Allegheny Front

Denny joined TNC in July 2022. In his role, he is responsible for the conservation and protection of the Allegheny Front, a unique area within the Appalachian Mountains that spans parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Denny will work with landowners, local stakeholders and partners to deploy conservation strategies to safeguard the rich biodiversity of the region and enable species to persist amid rapidly changing conditions.

"My work is rewarding because I know that I’m part of a team that’s building a legacy that will bring innumerable benefits and much enjoyment to so many people for a very, very long time."

Carrie Saylor headshot.
Carrie Saylor Development Program Specialist © Carrie Saylor

Carrie Saylor, Development Program Specialist

A self-described "data nerd," Carrie works behind the scenes to help the development team better understand our supporter base while also ensuring that our donors’ gifts are directed to the conservation work they care about most and that they are thanked for their support. 

"I’m inspired by TNC’s conservation work every single day. I love sharing our progress with our donors, whether it’s through a phone call, email or letter."

Humna Sharif poses for a headshot standing outdoors in front of an ivy covered brick wall.
Humna Sharif Climate Adaptation Manager © courtesy Humna Sharif

Humna Sharif, Climate Adaptation Manager

Humna joined the chapter in March 2023, and leads priority coastal science and management projects that advance coastal habitat migration and community resilience. Her role is at the intersection of climate science, nature-based solutions and policy; her work aims to improve community resilience through equity and access to climate adaptation resources. She will be leading our work on policy changes in Maryland to improve access to climate adaptation funding resources, and advancing community led climate resilience priorities with state level decision-makers.

"I’m most excited to learn from and collaborate with TNC colleagues and partner organizations to make climate adaptation expertise and funding more accessible for communities at the forefront of climate change."

Daniel Sweeney headshot.
Daniel Sweeney Agriculture Program Director © courtesy Daniel Sweeney

Daniel Sweeney, Agriculture Program Director

Daniel joined the Maryland/DC chapter in June 2022. In his role leading the chapter's Agriculture Program, Daniel will work with partners to incorporate today’s conservation practices into tomorrow’s standard operating procedures. He hopes to build and expand partnerships to increase adoption of 4R conservation practices and grow support for wetland restoration efforts aimed at achieving water quality and biodiversity goals.

"Having worked with agricultural and resource-based industry for some time, I am excited to be involved in efforts to expand the use of nature-based solutions, improve the availability of clean water and encourage practices that enable commercial agricultural operations to succeed alongside a thriving natural environment."

Elizabeth Van Dolah headshot.
Elizabeth Van Dolah Environmental Anthropologist © Elizabeth Van Dolah

Elizabeth Van Dolah, Ph.D., Environmental Anthropologist

Liz joined the Resilient Coasts Program team in April 2021. Her experience using applied anthropological approaches to build successful community collaborations will help focus our approach to coastal nature-based solutions through an equity lens and advance the chapter's work with communities and agency partners on the Eastern Shore to implement community-driven adaptation projects.

"It’s so enriching to get to listen to people’s stories and experiences, and then to think through how to help leverage them through our conservation work. When we create those opportunities to make conservation a win-win for people and nature, that’s when this work is most rewarding."

Andrea van Wyk headshot. Her arm rests on the top of a fence. A vegetation filled valley extends behind her, meeting the rocky, steep face of a mountain. Thick white clouds hang low in the sky.
Andrea van Wyk Baltimore Community Project Manager © courtesy Andrea van Wyk

Andrea van Wyk, Baltimore Community Project Manager

Andrea joined the chapter in 2022, bringing a passion for urban conservation to our Baltimore Program, and depth of experience educating, engaging and empowering diverse urban communities.

“I have much gratitude for the opportunity to collaboratively work with local community leaders and partners. Everyone has this deep-rooted passion and dedication to the greater good, and to witness it firsthand has been an invaluable experience, especially during these challenging times.”

Steve Volkers stands next to a green information sign at Nassawango Creek Preserve.
Steve Volkers Deputy Development Director. © Steve Volkers

Steve Volkers, Deputy Development Director

Steve works closely with the Director of Development to create and implement strategic goals for fundraising activities in support of the chapter's conservation priorities and provides leadership for all philanthropy support activities including prospect management, donor stewardship and engagement.

"I enjoy working with philanthropists, conservationists, landowners, government and business leaders, TNC members and volunteers to understand their interests and vision for conservation in order to match them with TNC’s conservation priorities."

Candid headshot of Melissa Gardner White.
Melissa Gardner White Associate Director of Development © courtesy Melissa Gardner White

Melissa Gardner White, Associate Director of Development

Melissa is a former journalist turned fundraiser who joined the chapter in 2022 to pursue her passion for the environment, after years working to support cancer research. She specializes in building relationships with individuals and family foundations to help them make gifts that will have lasting impacts for both people and nature.  

“You can’t have healthy people without a healthy planet. As a mother of three, I am keenly aware that the next generation is counting on us to get this right. I treasure being able to work with donors interested in funding progress for the planet, because nothing is more important.”

Trustees

Officers

Elizabeth Lewis, Chair
Managing Director and Head of ESG, Blackstone
Washington, DC

Roger Ballentine, Nominating and Governance Committee Co-chair
President, Green Strategies Inc.
Bethesda, MD

Amy Boebel, Trustee Legacy Ambassador
Sculptor
Baltimore, MD

Pier LaFarge, Nominating and Governance Committee Co-chair
Co-founder and CEO, Sparkfund
Washington, DC

Board Members

George Ashton
Managing Director of Strategic Investments, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); President, LISC Fund Management, LLC
Rockville, MD

Walter Boynton, Ph.D., Trustee Emeritus
Estuarine Ecologist
Prince Frederick, MD

Mark Collins, Trustee Emeritus
Partner, Brown & Advisory Trust
Baltimore, MD

Leigh-Golding DeSantis
Executive Director, Sustainability Products and Solutions, Johnson Controls
Mount Rainier, MD

Jeff Eckel
Chairman, Hannon Armstrong
Annapolis, MD

Barbara Franklin, Trustee Emerita
Owner, Pine Island Designs
Washington, DC

Alisha Griffey
Founder and CEO, Daintree Capital
Chevy Chase, MD

Annie Huber
Community Volunteer
Reisterstown, MD

Terry Hyman
Managing Partner, Northwood Healthcare Partners
Washington, DC

Karl Khoury
Co-Founder, Arborview Capital
Washington, DC

Esko Korhonen
Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Federal Capital Partners
Bethesda, MD

Tom Monahan
Founder and Managing Partner, Norton Street Capital
Chevy Chase, MD

Andres Naím
Co-founder and CEO, Naím Media Group
Washington, DC

Kirsten Quigley
Founder & CEO, Lunchskins
Bethesda, MD

Pamela Smith
Former U.S. Ambassador
Washington, DC

Crystal Romeo Upperman, Ph.D., MPA
Senior Manager, Government and Public Service, Deloitte
Washington, DC