New York

Meet the Staff of Central & Western New York

The Central & Western New York chapter staff are responsible for the protection and restoration of more than half of the Empire State. Combining a wealth of talent with a passion and dedication to the mission of The Nature Conservancy, this group of conservationists are making sure our natural treasures stick around for the next generation.

Jim Howe, Executive Director

Jim Howe is The Nature Conservancy’s director in Central & Western New York, a position he has held since 2003. He is proud to be leading a team of staff who are working hard to protect the lands and waters of Central and Western New York, including the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, Alleghenies and Tug Hill Plateau. He started with the Conservancy in 1996, directing conservation programs in Central and Western New York. Before joining the organization, he was the director of conservation at the Sonoran Institute in Tucson. He also spent several years at The Conservation Fund in Wash., D.C. As executive director, Jim Howe leads the Chapter's efforts to protect New York's forests, fresh waters and natural communities. Jim has a passion for nature and a broad expertise in public policy and natural resources. He serves as an advisor to other conservation groups and is co-author of Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities.

Stevie Adams, Fresh Water Conservation Practitioner

As freshwater conservation practitioner, Stevie Adams supports on-the-ground efforts to conserve and restore freshwater biodiversity in Central and Western New York and statewide. Since 2000, Stevie has worked for academic institutions, non-profits and government agencies monitoring marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems, overseeing stream habitat restoration projects and conserving land for natural resource protection. Stevie’s projects include wetland restoration in Eastern Lake Ontario and community engagement to reduce flooding risk and vulnerability.

Darran Crabtree, Director of Conservation Programs

Darran Crabtree is director of conservation programs in Central and Western New York. Darran began with the Conservancy in 2002 working as Director of Conservation Science for the French Creek Project, a landscape managed by both PA and NY. His work has helped lead to a shift from restoration approaches in French Creek to strategies that are aimed at maintaining the already high quality habitats. Now he leads a conservation team focused on conserving ecological processes such as flow regimes and lake levels for Lake Ontario, and restoring resilience to large forested areas and floodplains.

Kristin France, Senior Conservation Scientist

Kristin France grounds our work in science, helping design our approach and evaluate our success. She utilizes research, relationships with academic and other partners, and citizen science to help gather the information we need to accomplish our conservation work. She also co-leads our state-wide efforts on climate change, developing and facilitating collaboration on strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for and responding to a changing planet. Prior to working with the Conservancy, Kristin worked as a community ecologist in marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems, and her research took her from Antarctica to Tanzania. She is a graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts and has a Ph.D. in marine science from the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Kate Frazer, Marketing & Communications Manager

Kate Frazer leads communications and marketing for The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western New York Chapter, raising the organization’s visibility through earned media, events, digital and print products, marketing partnerships and social media. Prior to this role, she held positions including senior writer and associate director of marketing for the organization’s New England region. Kate is an avid writer who also conducts storytelling and messaging workshops for teams across the Conservancy. She recently completed a Coda fellowship focused on Global Content.

Gretchen Holtz, Office Manager

Gretchen is a third-generation member of The Nature Conservancy: her great aunt (a teacher and amateur naturalist) became a member shortly after the founding in the early 1950s. As office manager, Gretchen supports the staff, coordinates volunteer activities and assists with finance and operations. She is an avid canoeist and attended college at SUNY Potsdam.

David Klein, Senior Field Representative

David Klein, senior field representative, has worked for the Conservancy for 23 years. He focuses on conservation issues relating to the watershed, coastline and open waters of Lake Ontario. His current projects include sustainable water management of tributaries, restoration of key native fish species, application of “living shoreline” approaches to areas of the coast, and bi-national efforts to develop a new approach to regulating the levels and flows of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. His work combines wetland ecology with public policy and stakeholder engagement.

Mat Levine, Conservation Lands Manager

Mat Levine manages The Nature Conservancy’s portfolio of preserves and conservation easements in Central and Western New York and is a field operations manager for wetland restoration and ecological management projects in the Lake Ontario coastal zone. He is active in Conservancy wide efforts to incorporate mobile technology into fee-land and easement monitoring and is an amateur outdoor photographer. Mat joined the Conservancy in 2011 bringing with him 10 years of natural resource and land stewardship experience under federal, state and non-profit organizations.

Liz Marr, Finance/Operations Manager

Liz Marr has been director of finance and operations in Central and Western New York since early 2007. A veteran accountant, she has 20 years of experience in her field, having worked in government and non-profit finance and operations since the early 1990s. As a result of her move to the Conservancy, she has enriched her life through hiking, kayaking and bird watching, experiences she is passing on to her family.

Jan Miller, Senior Philanthropy Officer

Jan Miller’s career in non-profit management and development has included work with health agencies, a world-class orchestra and urban youth programs. Jan, CFRE, is an accomplished fundraiser who comes to us from the National Kidney Foundation, where she served as Division President for Upstate and Western New York. Her thirty years of fundraising experience also includes positions with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the American Heart Association. As a founding member of a local land trust, Jan is enthusiastic about protecting our natural resources. 

Megan Pistolese, Education & Outreach Coordinator

Megan is a conservation practitioner for The Nature Conservancy's Central and Western New York Chapter serving as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (SLELO PRISM). She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from SUNY Empire State College with a focus in Environmental Education, Sustainability and Ecology.

Mary Ripka, Office Manager and Volunteer Coordinator

Mary Ripka is The Nature Conservancy’s volunteer coordinator, hunting coordinator and Northern New York office manager. She brings over 25 years of administrative experience, mostly in education. As a native northern New Yorker, she is deeply familiar with the land and residents of the area and is proud to be working for the Conservancy, as she believes sustainability is the key to our region's future.

Brian Roat, Northern New York Conservation Lands Manager

Brian manages The Nature Conservancy's portfolio of preserves in Central and Northern New York, and is the field operations manager for forest restoration projects on Tug Hill. Brian has vast experience in stewardship and ecological management from his work with NGOs and federal and state agencies around the country. He joined the Central and Western New York Chapter in 2014.

Gregg Sargis, Director of Ecological Management

As director of ecological management, Gregg Sargis manages stewardship and ecological management activities across Central and Western New York. Gregg manages several Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded projects focused on coastal wetland restoration and invasive species prevention and management. He is also the lead on a dam removal project to restore hydrologic connectivity for native fish species. Additionally, he oversees the Chapter's stewardship program, which includes maintaining preserve infrastructure, monitoring conservation easements and managing the Chapter's hunting program.

Harshita Sood, Philanthropy and Operations Coordinator

Harshita Sood is the Philanthropy and Operations Coordinator for the Central and Western New York Chapter. In her role, she provides internal support to the philanthropy team, and serves as a liaison for the chapter’s Board of Trustees. She is a recent graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, where she obtained her BS and MS degrees in Environmental Science, and studied the nutritional quality of fruits that birds consume at stopover sites during fall migration. Harshita is originally from Kolkata, India, and has a long-term goal of leading conservation projects in her home country.

Monique Watts, Donor Relations Manager

Monique Watts is the Donor Relations Manager for the Central and Western New York Chapter. A seasoned fundraising professional, her career highlights include work with the Buffalo Zoo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Elmwood Franklin School. In addition, Monique is a founding member of the Buffalo Urban Roots Community Garden Center.  

Andrew Wheatcraft, Critical Lands Coordinator

Andrew Wheatcraft is the critical lands coordinator in Central and Western New York. In this position, he helps the Conservancy identify priority sites for protection, develop relationships with property owners, acquire legal interests in land and water, and create strategies that ensure long-term protection and sustainable management of lands important to nature and people. Andy brings more than 30 years’ experience as a consultant and planner for private, government and not-for-profit agencies, most recently serving as educational facilities planner for Rochester City School District—a position he held since 1996.

Robert Williams, Invasive Species Program Coordinator

Rob is the invasive species program coordinator for the St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (SLELO-PRISM), providing strategic leadership to a coalition of partners and coordinating both terrestrial and aquatic invasive species projects. He is based at our Northern New York Field office in Pulaski. Rob is a graduate of the Biological Sciences program at SUNY Brockport. He is a freshwater limnologist with extensive field experience, and co-founder of both the Finger Lakes – Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance and the North Coast Initiative, a.k.a. Lake Ontario Coastal Initiative.