Our People: Science and Policy in Action
Working to create lasting solutions in Virginia and around the world.
Our world faces complex conservation challenges. Meet some of the people who are working to create lasting solutions.
Media Inquiries: To schedule an interview with a member of our science, conservation, or policy staff please contact Kelley Galownia, Media Relations Manager, by phone at (571) 403-4625 or email email@example.com.
Locke leads a team of scientists, conservation practitioners, policy experts and fundraisers committed to seeking creative solutions to Virginia's most complex conservation challenges. That includes protecting and restoring the commonwealth's forests; securing clean water and abundant wildlife from the Clinch River to the Chesapeake Bay; supporting sustainable fisheries and a healthy ocean in the Mid-Atlantic Seascape; and protecting and restoring healthy natural systems to withstand a changing climate and rising seas.
"This is the dream job for me—leading a team with a remarkable record of applying solid science and evidence-based decision-making to conservation and making a significant and lasting impact on the commonwealth."
Bill has been with TNC for 30 years. His duties as Virginia’s Deputy State Director include development of overall conservation strategy for the chapter, management of its conservation programs and development of specific high-risk strategies that achieve big impacts.
"I get to go to work every day knowing that my contribution will save something for the next generation.”
Nikki works to foster strong partnerships with government agencies and environmental organizations, while advocating for TNC’s policy priorities with state and federal decision makers. Her goal is for every elected official to recognize stewardship of our natural resources as a core function of government. In addition to leading Virginia’s Government Relations team, Nikki oversees the chapter’s Chesapeake Bay work and the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund.
"Conservation is my passion. I feel incredibly lucky that my career centers on learning about and advocating for the natural world.”
Liz leads a team of fundraising professionals to support the conservation activities of the Virginia chapter, as well as TNC's North American and Global priorities. She achieves this by building relationships with donors who care deeply about TNC's mission, connecting them with scientists and subject matter experts to grow a community of supporters.
“I enjoy providing people with access to unique experiences in nature and building community around a vision of the world where people and nature thrive together.”
Thomas Colbert, Director of Operations
Tom works with our Operations Team to help ensure the chapter has the people and financial resources needed to achieve our priorities.
We have a knowledgeable, dedicated and engaged staff and I am inspired to do my best to help them in their work.
Judy’s work focuses on the intersection of policy and science. In her more than 28 years with TNC, Judy has worked extensively in the areas of strategic conservation and business planning, fire ecology and operations, freshwater flow protection, habitat stewardship and restoration, GIS and impacts from conventional and renewable energy development.
"TNC gives me a chance to work across disciplines and other divides to protect the things we all want: clean air, clean water and safe places to play."
Sam began his career with TNC in 1995, with a focus on terrestrial forest restoration. Today, Sam is responsible for TNC lands—both fee owned and easements—managing a team of TNC staff and partners to implement ecosystem restoration, preserve and easement management, volunteer programs and landscape level fire management across Virginia.
“The thing I like most about fire is seeing big changes quickly. Plus, walking through the woods with a drip torch and lighting things on fire—there are few things in life I enjoy more than that.”
Alex Novak, Director of Marketing and Communications
Alex leads a team of communications professionals who provide expert conservation and science storytelling across print and digital platforms, delivering compelling stories of the chapter’s conservation efforts and successes.
“Our conservation stories are timely, captivating, positive and enlightening. Their creation is made possible through a team effort of passionate collaboration with our conservation and science, philanthropy and government relations colleagues.”
Blair leads our efforts in the Allegheny Highlands, a key part of TNC’s six-state Central Appalachians Program, directing land protection and forest and habitat restoration efforts, including our work to return fire to Warm Springs Mountain’s oak and pine communities.
“I enjoy getting to work at a larger scale and having a broader impact. Collaborating with partners allows us to work together to achieve lasting impacts and implement strategies like prescribed fire at a landscape level.”
Jean Lorber, Conservation Scientist
Jean uses his forestry and forest ecology background on projects ranging from land protection to conservation planning. Currently, he provides scientific and analytical capacity to the Allegheny Highlands Program, focused on Appalachian forest restoration.
“I love working in the Appalachians because of the sheer volume of life it holds. In the same hike, I can find 10 salamander species, 50 birds and 100 wildflowers. Working to keep that diversity around is an honor and a privilege.”
Laurel Schablein, Conservation Coordinator
Laurel collaborates with our diverse set of partners to achieve the Allegheny Highland Program’s large scale restoration and monitoring goals, including working with fire as a tool to achieve healthy mountain landscapes.
“Every day is different and every time I set foot on the lands we support, I feel a renewed sense of awe in these mountains.”
Nikole Simmons, Restoration Coordinator
Fire plays a central role in Nikole’s work, using controlled burning for forest restoration in the Allegheny Highlands. She serves as a lead for the Heart of the Appalachians Fire Learning Network (FLN) and serves on the Women-in-Fire Training Exchange (WTREX) planning team.
“I enjoy working in a complex and dynamic ecosystem. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing changes we make in the forest; watching the places we work become more healthy and resilient places.”
Andy joined TNC in 2000, devoting much of his time to land protection initiatives and large-scale oyster restoration projects, all with the goal of protecting and improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia’s efforts to bring oysters back to the bay is helping to set a standard that is being followed globally.
“To have examples of large-scale oyster reefs that have been restored and to be able to point to places and say they are protected is incredibly rewarding.”
Brad leads our community-based conservation program in southwest Virginia and northeastern Tennessee that has helped conserve more than 200,000 acres of critical natural habitat in one of North America’s biodiversity hotspots.
“I believe deeply in TNC’s mission and our collaborative approach that seeks to build bridges and broaden the relevancy of conservation to people across all walks of life. The Central Appalachians are home and I love both the people and the incredible biodiversity of our landscapes.”
Braven Beaty, Ph.D., Ecologist
Braven collaborates with a range of partners to enhance the ecological integrity of stream systems in the Appalachian region, particularly the Clinch and Powell Rivers, to restore the globally significant populations of native freshwater mussels, fish and crayfish. Braven shares his expertise beyond the Clinch Valley, working on regional, national and international projects related to freshwater and mining.
“My work is an almost ideal mix of applied science, research and art. It provides the opportunity to make a lasting contribution toward better natural communities for future generations—like my granddaughter’s—interact with academic leaders and wrestle with complex and challenging issues for which there are no easy solutions.”
Ronald Lambert, Land Protection Manager
Ronald is part of the Clinch Valley Program team and has been with TNC since 1996. Based in Tennessee, he works across state borders to build relationships and support projects in VA, TN and KY, including land protection associated with USDA Farm Bill programs and community outreach and education efforts.
“I get to see immediate and long-lasting results of on-the-ground implementation. It is rewarding to work with farmers to protect their most valuable commodities, soil and water.”
Sherrie Leab, Clinch Valley Program Office Manager
Sherrie provides a full range of operational and program support to the Clinch Valley Program, a hot spot for biodiversity in southwest Virginia. She is involved in a variety of projects including serving on committees that benefit local communities and assisting with the Clinch Valley Program’s Conservation Forestry program and CF Highlands property.
“I enjoy working with people that are passionate and appreciate nature.”
Mark Rogers, Central Appalachians Forest Manager
Mark joined TNC in 2021 and brings more than 25 years of professional forester experience to the Clinch Valley Program. He directs the forest management, operations and Forest Stewardship Council certification across the 253,000-acre Cumberland Forest Project in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia to ensure long-term sustainability, health, and resiliency.
“I love having the opportunity to influence the health and sustainable direction of our forest resources for future generations to utilize and enjoy. It’s an honor to get the chance to leave something better than I found it on a large scale.”
Kate's work is focused on protecting marine habitats for the benefit of both people and nature. She works with fishery managers to create regulations that promote efficient, sustainable harvest of fresh seafood. She also addresses the challenges of identifying the most important—and vulnerable habitats—and designing rules to protect them for the benefit of the fish and marine life that rely on them for food, protection and reproduction.
"One of my favorite parts of my job is working with people who have spent their entire lives earning a living from the ocean. Their success comes from an intimate knowledge and respect for the ocean, and the most rewarding conservation is created together with these partners."
Karen joined TNC in 2004 and leads the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (VARTF), a mitigation program that offsets impacts to stream and wetland resources throughout Virginia, using TNC science and priority setting to pursue projects in ecologically significant areas.
“It’s uplifting to see how sites can be healed and restored even after decades of human impact and use. I feel like I’m making a difference.”
Alex Fisher, Wetland Restoration Assistant
Alex's work focuses on ecological monitoring and evaluation of VARTF project sites to protect and restore high-quality, aquatic, and terrestrial habitats that support rare species, sensitive biological communities, and ecological integrity. He is the Conservation Chair of the Virginia Native Plant Society.
"There is an immense thrill from aiding in the application of science-based restoration and management, which offers me the opportunity to intimately witness the wonders of ecological succession and recovery."
Diane Frisbee, Stream Mitigation Manager
Diane’s work focuses on ensuring the long-term resilience of Virginia’s streams and wetlands. She manages the Trust Fund’s stream restoration program, from identifying new projects and managing design and implementation to overseeing ecological monitoring and maintenance to ensure project success.
“I love being able to see the impact of our work in a very real and tangible way. Being able to play a key role in transitioning a site from a degraded state to a heathy and functioning stream ecosystem is very rewarding.”
Holly Lafferty, Stream Restoration Ecologist
Holly's work focuses on the long term monitoring of Trust Fund stream restoration sites for their physical and biological conditions to ensure that projects are successful in meeting the program's goals of restoring ecosystem function.
"I enjoy all of the time I get to spend in the field exploring the different regions of Virginia. I love that one week I can be working on a mountain stream in the Tennessee Valley, and the next, working in a Coastal Plain wetland."
Brian manages TNC’s conservation work across the southeastern Coastal Plain and leads the chapter’s effort to re-establish longleaf pine forests to Virginia as part of a nine-state effort to restore one of the most species-rich ecosystems in North America. In his more than twenty years with TNC, Brian’s areas of focus have come to include longleaf pine and floodplain forest ecosystems, fire ecology and management, native plant conservation, peatland restoration, land conservation funding and land protection.
Bobby Clontz, Southeast Stewardship and Fire Program Manager
Bobby has been involved with TNC since 2003, joining the Virginia chapter full time in 2007. His primary focus is the restoration of flora and fauna, like red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered species and indicator of the healthy fire-maintained pine forests that once dominated southeast Virginia—something that is still quite rare in the commonwealth.
“Working with the close-knit fire partnership, introducing others to the wonders of this ecosystem and seeing the results of our efforts is very rewarding to me.”
Jill brings more than 30 years of experience in marine science and environmental education to her role as director of the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve where she leads a staff of twelve professionals working to protect, restore and sustain the barrier islands, coastal lagoon and bayside ecosystems of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
"Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a rare, conserved wilderness with communities that are friendly and full of character and culture. I feel privileged to live and work here."
Susan leads VVCR’s Coastal Resilience Program. Her work involves engaging with partners to develop tools and strategies for informing coastal resilience decisions and projects, demonstrating the value of nature-based solutions and building community relationships. Susan holds a Master of Science degree in Oceanography and a Doctorate in Climate Dynamics and has more than 20 years of experience in these fields.
Brittany Collins, Marine Restoration Specialist
After spending two summers at VVCR as a seasonal marine field technician, Britt joined TNC full time in 2020. She assists the Coastal Scientist in conducting marine ecological restoration and monitoring for VVCR’s oyster, eelgrass and bay scallop restoration efforts. Britt was commissioned into the U.S. Navy as an Oceanography Officer in 2008 and served for nine years before returning to civilian life in 2017.
"I love that I can spend the majority of my time outdoors, not just connecting with nature but also coming up with solutions for how we can protect it and the surrounding communities."
Amanda Hurley, VVCR Office Manager
Amanda was born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She provides administrative and finance support, welcomes visitors to the preserve, and keeps the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserveoffice humming.
"I love working for an organization whose mission I’m passionate about."
Marcus Killmon, Captain and Facilities Manager
Marcus supports every program at the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve. He maintains VVCR’s fleet of marine vessels and has held a captain’s license since 2002. Marcus grew up spending time on Cedar Island and has been a member of the Wachapreague Volunteer Fire Department for more than 30 years.
"I enjoy that I spend 90% of my time outdoors. I love sharing my local experiences with the school groups we take out to Parramore Island."
Bo grew up playing and working in the waters of the Eastern Shore. He leads the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve’s marine restoration work, including ongoing projects to restore oyster and eelgrass habitats, as well as working with partners to re-introduce the bay scallop to Virginia waters.
"I get to work in and help improve this incredible place to make it resilient for my children’s future and ensure its value for those of us who work and play here today."
Jim McGowan, Land Protection Manager
Jim has called the Eastern Shore home for more than 25 years. He leads the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve’s land protection efforts, working with state, local, and private landowners as well as monitoring the 33,000 acres of land owned by TNC along with 70 private conservation easement properties that protect more than 13,000 acres.
"I like seeing so many beautiful properties on the Eastern Shore and working with landowners to conserve them."
Jennifer Miller, Preserve and Education Manager
Jenny provides unique, hands-on learning opportunities for both teachers and students in Accomack and Northampton Counties. She also manages the Brownsville Preserve and maintains the William B. Cummings Birding and Wildlife Trail for the public to explore.
“It is an amazing feeling to leave a part of ourselves in every project we do to protect and preserve this beautiful area that we share with the community.”
Zak Poulton, Coastal Biologist/Technology Specialist
Zak is part of the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve’s shorebird and migratory bird team. A certified UAV pilot, Zak often finds himself out on the water or at the controls of a drone implementing the program’s monitoring, management, and research priorities.
"Virginia’s barrier islands are a beautiful place to work with a great group of people with strong conservation values."
Margaret Van Clief, Outreach and Education Coordinator
Margaret works in the community to connect residents and Eastern Shore visitors with the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve’s properties through public events and educational programming, both on and off the preserve.
"I love our community here on the Shore, and this job allows me to become more involved and connect people of all ages with nature."
Alexandra Wilke, Coastal Scientist
Alex manages the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve’s migratory bird program and is responsible for year-round stewardship of 50 miles of barrier island beaches. She works with Federal and State partners along the entire Atlantic coast to integrate VVCR's efforts with broader bird conservation initiatives.
“I love being part of protecting a unique and special place that I hope will still be here in its natural state for my boys to enjoy decades from now.”
Chris Bruce, GIS Manager
Chris joined TNC in 2001. He is an award-winning cartographer and Certified GIS Professional. He creates maps and visualizations that are fundamental to understanding the context and stories of the places we work. He also manages and analyzes spatial data that help us better understand which places are important and why.
"If a picture is worth a thousand words, a map can be worth much more than that. I enjoy helping people visualize the importance of our work and using geospatial technology to help solve conservation challenges."
Jennifer Dalke, Volunteer Program Manager
Jen has been with TNC for more than 15 years and joined the Virginia chapter in 2008. She works with staff, partners and volunteers of all ages to support TNC’s goals and carry out important conservation work like oyster and seagrass restoration, invasive species management, education and outreach and habitat protection. In 2019, more than 1,500 volunteers contributed 8,695 hours and helped with more than 100 projects.
"I enjoy connecting people to our mission and watching them bring their passion, talents, and creativity to our work."
Matt Zabik, Easement Stewardship Coordinator
Matt manages the Virginia chapter’s statewide conservation easement compliance program for 230 properties totaling nearly 95,000 acres. His work ensures that the conservation values of privately owned properties under TNC conservation easement are adequately protected.
“I enjoy working with easement landowners from different backgrounds to build long-lasting partnerships. I have the privilege and responsibility to show the public that TNC is fulfilling its conservation promises.”
Lena Lewis, Energy and Climate Policy Manager
Lena focuses on state-level policy that can lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. She concentrates on two main areas—energy efficiency and vehicle electrification—that have huge potential to reduce carbon pollution while also boosting our economy.
“I enjoy working with coalition partners and communicating with people about solutions to tackling climate change to protect ecosystems and people both locally and globally.”
Zachary Sheldon, Government Relations Associate
Zachary engages with state and federal legislators, executive agencies and partner organizations to advance science-based policy solutions that address the threats facing our environment, enhance the health of natural systems and safeguard the welfare of human communities.
"The most rewarding aspect to my work is knowing I’m helping implement on the ground conservation work across Virginia."
Blair Bowens, Associate Director of Philanthropy
Blair engages with individual donors across Central Virginia to help them achieve their philanthropic goals of protecting and conserving nature via TNC.
“The most rewarding aspect of my work is the people. Our donors, trustees and staff are fiercely passionate about the health and wellbeing of our planet.”
Katherine Knox, Associate Director of Philanthropy
Katherine works closely with philanthropists, conservationists, landowners, TNC members and volunteers to match their commitment and vision for conservation with TNC’s land protection, climate resilience and clean water initiatives.
"I enjoy connecting people who are passionate about nature to the scientists and programs that protect the landscapes they love. Collaborating with Virginia’s team of conservation professionals has been an education and an inspiration."
Whitney Hall, Digital Content Manager
Whitney manages Virginia's digital channels, sharing stories of the chapter's conservation efforts and successes across social media, nature.org and TNC's monthly e-newsletter, Nature News.
"I'm proud to help tell the stories of the transformative work being accomplished by my talented and dedicated colleagues."
Danny is Virginia's resident reporter, photojournalist and all-purpose storyteller. He collaborates with TNC colleagues across the state to document and report on their work, bringing those projects to life for the chapter's supporters and other interested audiences through a variety of TNC and external channels, including award winning magazine and online features and the annual Virginia Impact Report.
"My biggest reward—besides the thrill of experiencing some of the most spectacular places and projects in Virginia—is the occasional feedback that a story I wrote or a photograph I captured inspired someone to take action."
George C. Freeman III, Chair
Robert H. Trice, Vice Chair
William H. West Jr., Treasurer
Deborah C. Lawrence, Secretary
John C. Ulfelder, Immediate Past Chair
Thomas J. Hill, Conservation & Government Relations Chair
Benjamin K. Adamson
Ali W. Bayler
Christopher B. Davidson
Jane T. Fisher
James B. Fleming
W. Cabell Grayson
John H. Haldeman, Jr.
Jil W. Harris
Mark J. Kington, Sr.
Roger H.W. Kirby
Donald Laing III
Thomas G. Layfield III
Charles W. Moorman IV
Mamie A. Parker, Ph.D.
Ting M. Xu