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 backdrop of trees, smiling during the chapter's annual staff retreat.
Maryland/DC Staff 2021 Staff of the Maryland/DC chapter gather together during a 2021 strategic planning retreat. © 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.

Tim Purinton headshot. A smiling man wearing a blue shirt stands in front of the Potomac Gorge. The Potomac River rushes past below him.
Tim Purinton Executive Director © Severn Smith / TNC

Tim Purinton, Executive Director

Tim’s work ranges from leading the implementation of our conservation vision and launching new initiatives to working closely with the Chapter’s volunteer trustees. This diversity of work is for a single purpose—to address the most pressing environmental issues facing Maryland and Washington, D.C.

“I get to work with motivated and talented people every day. Couple that with a steady flow of exciting implementation projects make this job extremely rewarding."

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 Management © TNC

Deborah Barber, Director of Land Management

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."

Mark Bryer headshot. Close cropped head shot of a blond man wearing a blue shirt standing in front of green trees.
Mark Bryer Chesapeake Bay Program Director © Severn Smith / TNC

Mark Bryer, Chesapeake Bay Program Director

Mark coordinates TNC's Bay efforts across six states focusing on both policy and conservation projects to improve water quality and enhance and restore critical habitats. 

“I feel fortunate to wake up every day and know we’re making a difference in this watershed where I grew up and that I dearly love."

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 Project Manager © Severn Smith / TNC

Michelle Canick, Conservation 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.”

Mike Dryden headshot. A smiling man wearing a ball cap and blue checked shirt stands in front of a narrow creek with forested banks.
Mike Dryden Restoration Specialist © Matt Kane / TNC

Mike Dryden, Restoration Specialist

Mike works with our partners and landowners to implement wetland restoration practices on state and private lands to enhance water quality and habitat and reach the chapter’s goal of 3,000 acres of restored wetlands.

“As a project takes shape I can see, even with the ugliness of construction, the wonderful outcomes we can achieve.  Helping to make that happen is rewarding for me.”

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 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."

Kelly Leo standing on a beach. A grass covered dune rises behind her with white capped water visible in the distance.
Kelly Leo Senior Conservation Projects Director © TNC

Kelly Leo, Senior Conservation Projects Director

Kelly was part of TNC's first coastal resilience project on Long Island in 2006. Now based in Washington State, she continues working on projects focused on helping coastal communities plan for and adapt to a continually changing climate and rising seas. 

"It is incredibly rewarding to know that it is my job to make sure our coasts stay clean, healthy and protected so that future generations can continue to enjoy them."

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.”

Greg McHale in an orange vest sitting on a felled tree in a forest.
Greg McHale Forest Restoration Assistant, Resilient Forests Program © courtesy Greg McHale

Gregory McHale, Forest Restoration Assistant

Greg joined the chapter's Resilient Forests Program in September 2021. His work spans a variety of restoration practices in the field, including prescribed fire, supporting late successional forest management and invasive species detection and treatment.

"My work is rewarding because I know I am a part of something bigger—a science-based mission for global conservation of nature and the human communities that rely on it."

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."

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

Chase McLean, Stewardship Field Assistant

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."

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."

Jackie Specht headshot. Standing on a forest trail with blurred trees visible behind her.
Jackie Specht Resilient Coasts Program Director © Jackie Specht

Jackie Specht, Resilient Coasts Program Director

Jackie leads efforts focused on building resilience for Maryland’s coastal communities, developing and informing strategies for facilitating marsh migration and conserving coastal landscapes, and ensuring that scientific data is informing our coastal management decisions.

"I enjoy being challenged to think creatively about how we can conserve and restore our coastal landscapes for the benefit of people and nature."

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."

KC Theisen headshot.
KC Theisen Donor Communications and Stewardship Specialist © courtesy KC Theisen

KC Theisen, Donor Communications and Stewardship Specialist

KC has a background working in the zoo field, and joined the chapter in early 2022 after several years spent working for wildlife conservation and animal protection organizations. She takes pride in carrying messages between TNC's science and conservation experts and our members. She aims to assist donors and foundations in embracing and supporting our efforts to protect biodiversity and reduce the negative effects of climate change.

"I love when I can connect an individual, company or foundation to our projects and vision so they say, 'Yes! I want to be a part of that.' That's the zing of my work; when I know I've helped create an enduring commitment to protecting nature and people."

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."

Trustees

Officers

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

Amy Boebel, Campaign Steering Committee Chair
Sculptor
Baltimore, MD

Board Members

Tom Amis
Chairman, Amis, Patel & Brewer, LLP
Chevy Chase, MD

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

Roger Ballentine
President, Green Strategies Inc.
Bethesda, 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 and CEO, Hannon Armstrong
Annapolis, MD

Barbara L. Franklin
Owner, Pine Island Designs
Washington, DC

Peter Goodwin, Ph.D.
President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Cambridge, MD

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

Steve Hills
Founding Director, Georgetown University Law Center Business Law Scholars Program
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

Pier LaFarge
Co-founder and CEO, Sparkfund
Washington, DC

Tom Monahan
President and CEO, DeVry University
Founder and Managing Partner, Norton Street Capital
Chevy Chase, MD

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