Stories in Virginia

Staff and Trustees

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

Group photo of TNC VA staff. A large group of people stand together outdoors in front of Mountain Lake Lodge during the chapter's annual staff retreat.
TNC Virginia Staff Photo TNC VA staff standing in front of Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, VA during the 2024 All-Staff Retreat. © Daniel White/TNC

Media Inquiries: To schedule an interview with a member of our science, conservation or policy staff, please contact Chelsea Bowers, media relations manager, by phone at 804-728-0588 or email chelsea.bowers@tnc.org.

Executive Team

Bettina Ring candid headshot.
Bettina Ring Virginia State Director © Daniel White / TNC

Bettina Ring, Virginia State Director

Bettina assumed her role in April 2023, coming to TNC from a long and distinguished career in conservation and public service. She previously served as the chief sustainability and diversity officer with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), providing leadership on strategic initiatives related to sustainability and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, as well as leveraging SFI’s scale to drive meaningful change in the forest and conservation sector through collaboration and nature-based solutions. Bettina also served for nine months as the Interim Chief Conservation Officer with SFI.

Bettina is a former Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry and former Virginia state forester. She was the first woman appointed to both positions.

In 2018, she was appointed to serve as the fourth secretary of agriculture and forestry for the Commonwealth of Virginia, working to build two of Virginia’s largest private industries while also protecting the environment and strengthening local communities. Prior to her appointment as secretary, Bettina served as state forester. The Virginia native began her career with the Virginia Department of Forestry and held numerous leadership positions in addition to state forester—including deputy forester and the agency’s first chief of urban and community forestry—during her 18 years with the agency.

“I am honored, energized and inspired by the opportunity to work with The Nature Conservancy’s passionate and committed team to build on their tremendous legacy of conservation leadership in Virginia and beyond. TNC's world-class programs, vast network of dedicated volunteers and supporters and track record of well-respected science and innovative partnerships are what the world needs now more than ever to build a brighter future for both people and the planet."

Bill Kittrell headshot.
Bill Kittrell Deputy State Director. © Daniel White / TNC

Bill Kittrell, Deputy State Director

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 Rovner headshot.
Nikki Rovner Associate State Director © Adam Steinman

Nikki Rovner, Associate State Director

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.” 

Tom Colbert headshot.
Tom Colbert Director of Operations. © Tom Colbert

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 Dunscomb headshot.
Judy Dunscomb Senior Conservation Scientist. © Kyle LaFerriere

Judy Dunscomb, Senior Conservation Scientist

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 Lindblom headshot. A man wearing fire gear looks down at a map as smoke rises behind him during a controlled burn.
Sam Lindblom Director of Landscape Conservation © Robert B. Clontz / TNC

Sam Lindblom, Director of Landscape Conservation

Sam began his career with TNC in 1995, with a focus on terrestrial forest restoration and has led landscape level fire management across Virginia. In his current role, Sam facilitates information and knowledge exchange across the chapter's landscapes and cross-boundary conservation teams, fostering collaboration with the goal of achieving the greatest conservation outcomes.

Candid portrait of Ann Nallo standing on a path with mountains behind her.
Ann Nallo Director of Marketing and Communications © courtesy Ann Nallo

Ann Nallo, Director of Marketing and Communications

Ann joined the chapter in June 2023, leading a communications team that is committed to telling stories that help spread awareness around Virginia’s natural beauty, and the incredible TNC staff who are helping to conserve these lands and improve biodiversity. 

"Whether I’m out in a forest or standing on a shoreline, I often feel a swell of gratitude that I am able to experience the calmness and beauty of nature. I hope our work inspires others to join our cause in some way, and to gain an even deeper appreciation of all that’s around us."

Landscape and Land Protection Programs

Jump to Allegheny Highlands | Clinch Valley | Marine | VARTF | Virginia Pinelands | VVCR | Land Protection

Allegheny Highlands Program

Blair Smyth headshot.
Blair Smyth Allegheny Highlands Program Director. © Courtesy Blair Smyth

Blair Smyth, Allegheny Highlands Program Director

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.

Candid photo of Eric Homan standing on a fire line during a controlled burn with rolling mountain ridges behind him.
Eric Homan Restoration Technician, Allegheny Highlands Program © courtesy Eric Homan

Eric Homan, Restoration Technician

Eric's work is focused on maintaining and restoring connectivity and diversity on the landscape, restoring healthy and functional forests in the Allegheny Highlands through the implementation of fire, and protecting and maintaining Warm Springs Mountain Preserve for habitat and public access.

"I enjoy spending my time outdoors and working to enhance and protect the living world around me. It is rewarding to watch how the forest responds to what we do."

Jean Lorber headshot.
Jean Lorber Conservation Scientist, Allegheny Highlands Program © TNC

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.”

Zoe McGee headshot.
Zoe McGee Program Coordinator, Allegheny Highlands Program © Kyle LaFerriere Photography

Zoe McGee, Program Coordinator

Zoe joined the Allegheny Highlands team in 2021 after working two seasons as the Dave Tice Science Technician. Her role encompasses many areas of the program's work, including prescribed fire and avian and forest structure monitoring, as well as efforts to integrate the 600-acre Hobby Horse Farm property, donated to TNC in 2022.

"I love that I get to support multiple facets of our program. I feel proud being a part of the hard work that staff, partners and volunteers have put in to protecting this beautiful mountain and land along the Central Appalachians."

Laurel Schablein headshot.
Laurel Schablein Conservation Coordinator, Allegheny Highlands Program © Kyle LaFerriere

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.”

Clinch Valley Program

Brad Kreps headshot.
Brad Kreps Clinch Valley Program Director © Brad Kreps

Brad Kreps, Clinch Valley Program Director

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 headshot.
Braven Beaty Stewardship Ecologist, Clinch Valley Program © Braven Beaty

Braven Beaty, Ph.D., Stewardship 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.”

Link Elmore headshot.
Link Elmore Restoration Coordinator, Clinch Valley Program. © courtesy Link Elmore

Link Elmore, Restoration Coordinator

Link joined TNC in June 2022. His efforts will focus on Abandoned Mine Land (AML) reclamation and restoration, engaging with state agencies in VA, KY and TN and bringing geospatial insights and solutions to projects aimed at restoring ecological vitality to mined lands in TNC’s Cumberland Forest properties and enhancing economic vitality in Appalachian coalfield communities.

“Our world has some big challenges that are not easily overcome. I believe my biggest potential impact is to use a geographic perspective to help solve problems. Wherever I go, I try to be the geographer in the room.”

Ronald Lambert headshot.
Ronald Lambert Land Protection Manager, Clinch Valley Program © Daniel White/TNC

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 headshot.
Sherrie Leab Office Manager, Clinch Valley Program. © Sherrie Leab

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.” 

Nick Proctor headshot.
Nick Proctor Community Outreach Manager, Clinch Valley Program © Kyle LaFerriere Photography

Nick Proctor, Community Outreach Manager

Nick joined the Clinch Valley team in February 2022. He leads the program’s outreach efforts, including community support and capacity building and volunteer recruitment and stewardship activities aimed at connecting people to nature as a cultural and economic asset worth protecting for generations to come.    

"Developing meaningful relationships takes time. I enjoy having the opportunity to create deeply rooted connections with our local Clinch Valley communities and partners to enhance stewardship of the natural environment in the face of global climate challenges."

Mark Rogers headshot.
Mark Rogers Central Appalachians Forest Manager © Mark Rogers

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 forest management and operations across TNC’s 253,000-acre Cumberland Forest, a Forest Stewardship Council® FSC®-C008922 Project spanning 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.”

Meg Short headshot.
Meg Short Land Protection Program Manager, Clinch Valley Program © TNC

Meg Short, Land Protection Program Manager

Meg joined the chapter in February 2022. She brings a background coordinating management of threatened and endangered species to the Clinch Valley Program, where she will be working with regional, state and community partners to help conserve some of the most important places for biodiversity and climate resilience in Southwest Virginia.

"The properties that we work toward protecting are valuable for many reasons. I enjoy meeting the landowners and learning their history. I am honored to be a part of preserving these important places."

Marine Program

Kate Wilke headshot.
Kate Wilke Fisheries Scientist © Kate Wilke

Kate Wilke, Fisheries Scientist

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."

Brendan Runde headshot.
Brendan Runde Marine Scientist © Cameron Luck

Brendan Runde, Ph.D., Marine Scientist

Brendan joined TNC in February 2022 following a post-doctoral fellowship with NOAA Fisheries at their Beaufort, NC lab. His work focuses on promoting environmentally responsible use of the oceans by diverse stakeholders in areas such as offshore wind and participating in TNC’s nationwide effort to strategically improve fisheries data collection and use to help ensure sustainable populations.

“TNC is a respected contributor to regional, national, and global marine fisheries policy. It is exciting and enjoyable to work for an organization that has such a powerful voice and strong reputation.”

Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (VARTF)

Karen Johnson headshot.
Karen Johnson VARTF Program Director © Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson, VARTF Program Director

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.”

Kati Booth headshot.
Kati Booth Wetlands Restoration Specialist, VARTF © Kati Booth

Kati Booth, Wetlands Restoration Specialist

Kati manages the Trust Fund's wetland projects, from identification, design, construction and development through monitoring, corrective action and site maturity—a roughly 15-year process for each site that provides uplift for individual species, water quality improvement in the watershed and links habitat corridors with VARTF projects.

"I love seeing a degraded piece of land restored back into its historic condition as a wetland or forest, knowing that my team and I played a large part in a project that contributes to watershed and water quality improvement."

Chris DuBois headshot.
Chris DuBois Restoration Coordinator, VARTF © Daniel White / TNC

Chris DuBois, Restoration Coordinator

Chris works with contractors on our stream and wetland mitigations sites to conduct site management activities including invasive species management and native tree planting and seeding. The goal of these efforts is to minimize, mitigate or replace impacts to a disturbed site to help it become a healthy, native ecosystem.

"I love having the opportunity to get into the field and explore the diverse landscapes across Virginia. It’s rewarding to provide tangible assistance to an impacted site and see it once again becomes a healthy ecosystem."

Diane Frisbee headshot.
Diane Frisbee Stream Project Manager, VARTF © Diane Frisbee

Diane Frisbee, Stream Project 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 headshot.
Holly Lafferty Stream Restoration Ecologist, VARTF © Daniel White/TNC

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."

Kelly Ridenhour headshot.
Kelly Ridenhour Land Protection Specialist, VARTF © courtesy Kelly Ridenhour

Kelly Ridenhour, Land Protection Specialist

Kelly’s work focuses on locating and implementing stream and wetland preservation and restoration projects across Virginia. Working across all of Virginia’s ecosystems, Kelly works with agencies, local partners and landowners to find project locations that meet regulatory requirements and fulfill TNC’s science and conservation planning goals.

“I love identifying projects that will dually benefit local groups and will have major aquatic advantages. As the projects progress, I enjoy watching the local ecosystem improve and knowing it will remain permanently protected.”

Virginia Pinelands Program

Brian Van Eerden headshot.
Brian van Eerden Virginia Pinelands Program Director © Kyle LaFerriere

Brian van Eerden, Virginia Pinelands Program Director

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.

“TNC operates on a large scale. It’s not only about dreaming big but also about making sure those dreams are relevant now and into the future."  

Bobby Clontz headshot.
Bobby Clontz Southeast Stewardship and Fire Program Manager © TNC

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.”

Andi Clinton headshot.
Andi Clinton Pinelands Restoration Specialist © courtesy Andi Clinton

Andi Clinton, Pinelands Restoration Specialist

Andi joined TNC in 2024 from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) where she worked as a Wildlife Area Manager. Prior to this, Andi had been an Invasive Plant Coordinator, Volunteer Manager and a Park Ranger. She received her degree in Biology from the University of Florida. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in prescribed burning and invasive species control on conservation lands. She’s handled just about every piece of equipment needed for preserve stewardship and more, ranging from tractors, boats, fire engines, chainsaws and woodchippers.

In her role as the Pinelands Restoration Specialist, Andi is involved in delivering prescribed fire, groundcover restoration, invasive species control and rare species management to TNC and other conservation lands, working closely with our many agency partners. 

“I’ve always been a volunteer and educator for conservation. My passion is to spread knowledge and love of nature with others. From rural to urban communities, we crave a greater connection with the world around us. We all want to know how we can make positive change. Having already been a TNC volunteer for years, I know as a staff member I can have a greater impact with more people.“

Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve (VVCR)

Jill Bieri headshot.
Jill Bieri Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve Program Director © Jill Bieri

Jill Bieri, Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve Program Director

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."

Candid portrait of Mario Balitbit sitting in a boat holding a young shorebird.
Mario Balitbit Migratory Bird Specialist © TNC

Mario Balitbit, Migratory Bird Specialist

A lifelong bird enthusiast, Mario joined TNC full time in December 2022 after working as a summer seasonal shorebird technician. As part of VVCR's Migratory Bird Program, Mario assists with our long-term monitoring efforts of many shore/waterbird species—including willets, American oystercatchers and whimbrels—found breeding, wintering or migrating along the Barrier Islands system. Mario also coordinates our Island Steward volunteer program, engaging visitors on barrier island policies to protect beach nesting birds.

"I enjoy being out almost daily alongside the species we study—VVCR's marshes and barrier islands are my typical office space. Being in the field pushes me to stay curious and develop a deep appreciation for the natural systems that make our biological and societal communities."

Susan Bates headshot.
Susan Bates, Ph.D. Coastal Science Program Manager, VVCR © Susan Bates

Susan Bates, Ph.D., Coastal Science Program Manager

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.

Candid selfie headshot of Libby Bieri.
Libby Bieri Marine Field Technician © courtesy Libby Bieri

Libby Bieri, Marine Field Technician

Libby joined TNC in July 2023. In her role she assists with VVCR's oyster, eelgrass and bay scallop restoration and monitoring efforts, part of a Marine Habitat Restoration Team that is refining existing techniques and implementing new ones to protect unique coastal landscapes.

"I enjoy spending most of my time out on the water, not only connecting with our marine ecosystems but also finding ways to make them and the local communities that depend on them more resilient."

Candid portrait of Mariana Camacho standing in thigh deep water in a coastal Virginia bay.
Mariana Camacho Blue Carbon Specialist © TNC

Mariana Camacho, Blue Carbon Specialist

Mariana joined the chapter in September 2022. Her work focuses on research into the co-benefits of VVCR's seagrass restoration project beyond carbon sequestration, including benefits to fisheries, water quality and biodiversity, with the goal of developing physical and monetary metrics—economic valuations of the seagrass restoration project that may enable future funding opportunities.

"I enjoy being part of a dynamic and mission-driven team, where everyone cares deeply about protecting people and nature."

Marcus Killmon headshot.
Marcus Killmon Captain and VVCR Facilities Manager © Jennifer Miller / TNC

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 Lusk headshot.
Bo Lusk Coastal Scientist, VVCR © Jay Fleming

Bo Lusk, Coastal Scientist

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."

Jenny Miller headshot.
Jennifer Miller Brownsville Preserve and Education Manager, VVCR © Jennifer Davis / TNC

Jennifer Miller, Brownsville 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.”

Candid selfie headshot of Ben Nettleton taken outdoors standing next to a wetland.
Ben Nettleton Land Protection Manager, VVCR. © courtesy Ben Nettleton

Ben Nettleton, Land Protection Manager

Ben first joined the VVCR team in 2016 as a Virginia Sea Grant Fellow, and returned to TNC full time in 2023. As Land Protection Manager, Ben identifies priority sites for protection, and works with willing landowners who wish to see their land conserved. He also leads annual monitoring of VVCR’s more than 70 conservation easements in Accomack and Northampton Counties and works to develop conservation and management plans.

“I love working with private landowners who recognize the importance and beauty of their land and wish to see it protected by TNC. It is inspiring to witness this generosity and facilitate land protection that will leave a legacy on the Eastern Shore.”

Zak Poulton headshot.
Zak Poulton Coastal Biologist / Technology Specialist, VVCR © Jennifer Davis / TNC

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."

A smiling woman carries the long poles of information signs balanced on her shoulder as she walks through ankle deep water in a sandy, coastal area.
Alex Rich VVCR Office Manager © courtesy Alex Rich

Alex Rich, Office Manager

Alex facilitates the smooth running of the Brownsville office. Her role focuses on building relationships, event planning, hospitality and logistics, in addition to managing office bills, contracts and farm leases. 

"As someone born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, I endeavor to be good ambassador for my home; using my knowledge and connection to the area to enrich visitor experiences and to show others what is profound about the coastal wilderness. I appreciate what the VVCR staff do to protect my hometown, so I hope to return the favor by making our office a pleasant place to work."

Margaret Van Clief headshot.
Margaret Van Clief Outreach and Education Coordinator, VVCR © Margaret Van Clief

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."

Alex Wilke headshot.
Alex Wilke Coastal Scientist, VVCR © TNC

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.” 

Land Protection

Jen Dalke headshot.
Jennifer Dalke Volunteer Program Manager © Daniel White / TNC

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."

Maura Duffy headshot.
Maura Duffy Conservation Coordinator © Mark Schwenk

Maura Duffy, Conservation Coordinator

Maura applies her background in habitat restoration and environmental education to support the chapter's land protection and volunteer stewardship efforts. She is also part of Virginia's fire team. Prior to joining TNC in 2021 she led community science programs at the National Aquarium, including Baltimore's participation in the City Nature Challenge, an annual, globe-spanning biodiversity event.

"My work is rewarding because I help to make tangible conservation work happen. I enjoy helping our teams achieve their goals and visiting the beautiful places we’ve protected."

 

Candid headshot of Danielle Kulas standing outside against a backdrop of tall fir trees in Bryce Canyon.
Danielle Kulas GIS Manager © Cullen Murr

Danielle Kulas, GIS Manager

Danielle joined the Virginia chapter in February 2023 after 12 years in Information Management with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Natural Heritage Program, where she mapped Virginia’s rare, threatened, endangered or otherwise significant species and maintained biodiversity information. In her TNC role she manages our GIS program, providing geospatial support to Virginia staff, as well as other TNC chapters and partners through analyses, data management and cartography. 

"I enjoy implementing geospatial approaches to help TNC staff do their jobs efficiently, as well as traveling to our landscape programs. I’m grateful for the opportunity to use my GIS skills to make an impact on the conservation story in Virginia—and beyond!"

Matt Zabik headshot.
Matt Zabik Easement Stewardship Coordinator © Matt Zabik

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.”

Government Relations

Lena Lewis headshot.
Lena Lewis Energy and Climate Policy Manager © Jack Looney Photography

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.”

Candid headshot of Mikaela Ruiz-Ramon.
Mikaela Ruiz-Ramón Public Funding and Policy Manager © courtesy Mikaela Ruiz-Ramón

Mikaela Ruiz-Ramón, Public Funding and Policy Manager

Mikaela joined the chapter in July 2023. Her work is focused on securing available federal and state funding to accelerate protection and restoration of key landscapes in Virginia. Mikaela advocates for TNC’s policy priorities with legislators and helps TNC staff and partners identify relevant funding opportunities that can support their conservation work.

"I love learning from the dedicated conservation professionals I interact with, both within TNC and among our partners. Their work to restore and preserve Virginia’s natural resources inspires and motivates me to keep pushing for the policies and funding to make sure that work can continue."

Philanthropy 

John Blackburn headshot.
John Blackburn Associate Director of Philanthropy © courtesy John Blackburn

John Blackburn, Associate Director of Philanthropy

John works to build close, long-term relationships with donors and potential supporters, educating them about our work and learning about their philanthropic priorities. 

"I love interacting with our donors, especially out in the field. Finding ways for them to contribute meaningfully to conservation is extremely rewarding. I wake up every day excited about building support for our important work."

 

Candid headshot of Madeleine Gill taken in the mountains with rolling ridges behind her.
Madeleine Gill Associate Director of Philanthropy © courtesy Madeleine Gill

Madeleine Gill, Associate Director of Philanthropy

Madeleine works with our supporters in Northern Virginia, connecting donors to meaningful conservation work both here at home and in landscapes beyond the commonwealth.

"I am so inspired by the staff at TNC and with the people who choose to support them and their work. It has been an incredible education being a part of such an extremely talented team."  

Katherine Knox headshot.
Katherine Knox Associate Director of Philanthropy © Katherine Knox

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."

Vanessa Morel headshot.
Vanessa Morel Associate Director of Philanthropy, Virginia chapter © Jeffrey Wright

Vanessa Morel, Associate Director of Philanthropy

Vanessa joined The Nature Conservancy's Virginia chapter in January 2022. She provides services and support for new and existing donors in the Richmond, Williamsburg and Hampton Roads regions, helping individuals live their values and make lasting impacts for conservation. 

"I am inspired by the people, programs and loyal supporters of TNC. My goal is to share that inspiration and give every donor the opportunity to experience the work they help make possible.”

Marketing, Education & Operations

Candid selfie headshot of Taylor Fanelli.
Taylor Fanelli Short Term Experience Program Manager © Taylor Fanelli

Taylor Fanelli, Short Term Experience Program (STEP) Manager

Taylor joined the Virginia chapter in September 2022, managing our efforts to create intentional opportunities for students and young professionals from diverse backgrounds to work at TNC. She builds our framework of paid internships, recruiting students through partnerships with local colleges and universities, and creating engagement opportunities for interns to connect with our conservation teams and mission.

"By creating more opportunities for students from historically underrepresented communities, STEP can help ensure that TNC has diverse voices at the table in Virginia. I love opening doors to students who see themselves working in conservation but aren’t sure how to get there."

Avery Stone headshot.
Avery Stone Executive Coordinator & Board Liaison © TNC

Avery Stone, Executive Coordinator & Board Liaison

Avery provides high-level administrative support to the chapter’s Executive Director and Leadership Team as well as serving as liaison for the Virginia Board of Trustees. Her coordination, communication and behind-the-scenes management supports all our chapter staff and helps advance TNC’s mission and priorities.

"I work with passionate, caring, innovative and smart people. I’m inspired every day by my colleagues and the Board members we’re so lucky to have in our corner."

Suzanna Turanyi headshot.
Suzanna Turanyi Operations Manager © courtesy Suzanna Turanyi

Suzanna Turanyi, Operations Manager

Suzanna is responsible for the chapter's land finances and HR functions. She is one of the first faces new staff see as they begin their careers at TNC Virginia, providing support for our core mission projects.

"I enjoy interacting with my coworkers. I get to work with colleagues from every part of the chapter, and I love that."

Daniel White headshot.
Daniel White Senior Conservation Writer © Andy Lacatell / TNC

Daniel White, Senior Conservation Writer

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."

Headshot of Chelsea Bowers.
Chelsea Bowers Media Relations Manager © courtesy Chelsea Bowers

Chelsea Bowers, Media Relations Manager

Chelsea elevates the visibility of The Nature Conservancy in Virginia by cultivating relationships and uplifting stories across the media landscape. She collaborates with internal and external partners to lead story-driven media strategies that promote TNC’s inspiring work and achieve conservation priorities. Chelsea’s goal is to ensure every media moment is poised for success.

I believe we can live in oneness with nature. I’m honored to steward TNC’s stories through the media so others believe this too.”

Headshot of Isabel Hayman.
Isabel Hayman Digital Marketing and Communications Specialist © courtesy Isabel Hayman

Isabel Hayman, Digital Marketing and Communications Specialist

Isabel manages all things digital for Virginia, sharing stories of the chapter's conservation efforts and successes across our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), web pages on nature.org and TNC's monthly e-newsletter, Nature News.

“I find joy in brainstorming creative ways to share our conservation goals and projects while working alongside people who share my passion for protecting our natural world."

Trustees

Officers

William H. West Jr., Chair
Richmond

Katherine Fralin Walker Ph.D., Vice Chair
Roanoke

Puja Seam, Secretary
Charlottesville

James W. Klaus, Treasurer 
Richmond

George C. Freeman III, Immediate Past Chair
Richmond

Trustees

Benjamin K. Adamson
Richmond

R. Brian Ball
Richmond

Ali W. Bayler
Richmond

Edward A. Booth
Richmond

Timothy P. Dunn
The Plains

Quinn F. Graeff
Roanoke

W. Cabell Grayson
Upperville

John H. Haldeman Jr.
Williamsburg

Jil W. Harris
Richmond

Karl K. Kindig
Abingdon

Deborah C. Lawrence Ph.D. 
Charlottesville

William A. Owen III
Williamsburg

Mamie A. Parker Ph.D.
Dulles

Rebecca R. Rubin
Fredericksburg

Ting M. Xu
Richmond