AmeriCorps Project Conserve Members
Jen grew up in a small town in New Hampshire where her love for the environment first developed. She attended Elon University in North Carolina where she received a BS in Environmental and Ecological Science and a BA in International Studies with minors in Statistics and Biology. Her passion for non-profit work began when she joined a humanitarian aid organization at Elon called Periclean Scholars, which focused on youth and community development in Honduras and in the local Latino population. During Jen’s senior year, she worked on a project with the Haw River Trail and Alamance Recreation and Parks to survey exotic invasive plants along the Haw River and develop management plans for park staff. In her free time she enjoys hiking, climbing, and skiing. She looks forward to using her passion and experience to serve for her second term as the Habitat Restoration Associate at Conserving Carolina.
Emily was born and raised in sunny Fort Myers, Florida. Growing up she always enjoyed the outdoors, making mud pies, climbing trees, and having fun on the beach! After finishing high school early, Emily did a semester in the Rocky Mountains with the National Outdoor Leadership School. This solidified her passion for the outdoors and made her dedicate her life to showing others the wonders of nature. Emily then returned to Florida to study at the University of Central Florida, earning a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Having recently moved to Asheville, she enjoys rock climbing and paddling! After living in Western North Carolina, she is very excited to protect and conserve this wonderful land for everyone to enjoy. She will now be the Conservation Education & Volunteer Outreach Associate with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy!
Jennifer comes to WNC all the way from the Great Plains of Oklahoma. She grew up on a family farm in the small town of Bristow with the outdoors as the ultimate playground. She recently graduated from Oklahoma State University with a B.A. in Strategic Communications and began searching for her place in the nonprofit sector. Her passion for sustainability and desire to see the world from higher ground led her to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Jennifer will be serving as the Community Outreach & Education Associate for Conserving Carolina. She hopes this position will allow her to help create a sustainable future by spreading environmental awareness. In her free time, Jennifer likes to hike, garden, create art projects and practice the ukulele.
Rebecca grew up on the outskirts of New York City. She moved to Boone, NC after her freshman year of college to attend Appalachian State University where she received her Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development with a minor in Sustainable Technology. Although she has found a great home in Boone, she truly finds a connection with mountain ranges all around the world. She spends all of her free time doing various outdoor activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, trail running, yoga and mountaineering (when I get the chance!). She will be serving as the Energy Savings Outreach Associate for Appalachian Voices. Two years ago she began volunteering with App Voices and fell in love with the work they do. She wanted to be involved in a more committed role which is why she applied and accepted this position. She is extremely excited to start making a difference in Western North Carolina!
Robert is a native of Troutman, North Carolina. His fondness for the Southern Appalachians led him to attend college at Appalachian State University where he studied sustainable development and environmental biology. After graduation in 2013, he worked as a summer intern in aquatic ecology at Ball State University. Shortly after, he embarked on his first AmeriCorps service term with the Pennsylvania Mountain Service Corps. He served with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Watershed Conservation program where he facilitated aquatic organism surveys, stream habitat assessments and restoration projects. His time in AmeriCorps led him to pursue a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he continued studying stream ecology and instructed introductory biology labs. He is currently finishing up his thesis and looking forward to returning to the non-profit sector as RiverLink’s Education Coordinator. When he is not working in a stream or writing, you can find Robert playing outside in one way or another – hiking, trail running, snowboarding, or trying out other outdoor activities.
Rose Bruce grew up on a farm outside of Ferryville, WI and has always had a passion for botany, wildlife, and land stewardship. She pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Ecological Forestry at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. She is thrilled to be joining MountainTrue as the Forest Keeper Coordinator. She looks forward to learning more about the ecology of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains while engaging the communities of Western North Carolina in environmental restoration. Rose enjoys traveling, hiking, foraging, beekeeping, making art, and kayaking whenever she has the opportunity.
Although born in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, Laura Collins grew up and spent most of her youth in Greenville, South Carolina. After visiting friends and volunteering on organic farms, she raised livestock on a hobby farm and started farming full time. From 2016 through 2017, she was field manager for a certified organic farm where she fell in love with growing veggies and culinary herbs. She acquired land in Polk County and looks forward to providing the area with the freshest highest quality produce and herbs. Raising a flock of 60 chickens, she provides free range NON GMO eggs to local markets. Her farm focuses on the simplistic nature of farm fresh meals. Sustainability and commitment to the Earth guide her in her farming practices and lifestyle choices. Native plants, pollinators and natural resource preservation are extremely important to her in these changing times. Although mostly self-taught, she takes a variety of classes through Living Web Farms, Clemson Programs and has a constant desire to learn more.
John Connelly grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He recently graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Environmental Engineering. He choose Environmental Engineering because of his passion for the environment which developed over a childhood filled with outdoor adventures. His passion then ignited during an environmental science class in high school. John will be working with Asheville – GreenWorks as their Sustainability Coordinator. He wants to keep trash off Asheville’s streets and out of Asheville’s rivers. He also wants to inspire people of all ages to reduce their waste and improve their recycling habits. In his free time, he likes to play ultimate frisbee, hike, and play board games.
Olivia grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. She always had an interest in the outdoors but her passion for environmental sustainability started during freshman year at Appalachian State University, where she received a BS in Sustainable Development with a focus in environmental studies. Interning at Appalachian Voices made her realize she wanted to work in non-profits, and since moving back to Asheville she has been searching for a way to promote sustainability in the region, which led her to apply for AmeriCorps Project Conserve. Olivia is excited to serve as the Volunteer and Community Engagement position for Conserving Carolina. In her free time you can find Olivia hiking, adventuring to swimming holes, enjoying a beer with a friend, seeing live music, or borrowing a friend’s dog for the day.
Jonathan is a returning ACPC member and he will be serving Conserving Carolina (formally CMLC and PAC) as the Stewardship Associate. Jonathan also works at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and he ain’t got much sympathy for people who complain they “work too much.” He has been doing conservation work around the country for the last three years while attending UNCG and has served in three other AmeriCorps positions. You’ll often find Jon hiking with Pazuzu the Pitador, cultivating mass, personally upgrading his Volvo, being a sultry musician, or writing terrible poetry.
Ingrid spent her childhood growing up in Chicago, Illinois, always wanting to be closer to nature. This desire led her to earn her B.S. in Environmental Science and Management (with a minor in German) at the University of Rhode Island. While in the ocean state, Ingrid became enthralled with exploring its multiple ecosystems, specifically by attempting to identify wildflowers and foreign sea critters. After graduating in 2016, she served both her communities in Chicago and Rhode Island by working with local and federal governments. Now, she is very excited to start working with nonprofits as the Watershed Resources Coordinator for RiverLink! You can find her reading, walking around the city, struggling to grow plants, hiking the WNC mountains, and of course attempting to identify its beautiful vegetation.
Trevor hails from a small town in Rutherford County North Carolina. He considers this, along with the majority of the mountain region, to be home. As a graduate of Appalachian State University, where he earned a B.S. in History, he definitely identifies as a mountaineer. Trevor previously interned at beautiful Chimney Rock State Park in his home county, and spent countless hours exploring the Hickory Nut Gorge where the park is located. This passion for the area, his home region, and the natural environment as a whole are his main motivations for this national service position. Trevor will serve as the trail coordinator for the Town of Lake Lure, as well as for Rutherford County. He hopes to make a positive impact on the local community and to be a good steward for the place he loves. He also hopes to create strong partnerships among various recreation and natural resource entities in the area. He hopes this work will also benefit the regional economy and some under-served populations. In his spare time, Trevor loves to hike, kayak, fish, hunt, read and study history, along with playing guitar. He’s also a big trivia and craft beer fan!
Regina hails from St. Louis, Missouri, aka the “Show Me” state and she’s always been curious about the natural environment. Luckily, her dad was a science teacher growing up so she always had someone to ask to show her how it all worked together. Attending Southern Illinois University with the Shawnee National Forest in my backyard provided the greatest classroom she could have imagined. There, Regina received her B.S. in Forestry with a specialization in Hydrology and a History minor. She spent summers between semesters traveling all over the country, from Northern California to West Virginia working and guiding on rivers known for their premier whitewater. Regina’s love of free flowing rivers and pristine water quality enabled her the opportunity to serve Western NC as the Water Quality Administrator for MountainTrue. She hopes to inspire many others to become diligent stewards of their watersheds and educate communities on the importance of the rivers that are our nation’s veins. In her spare time you will find her kayaking, climbing, and asking to pet your dog.
Thom was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, where he developed a love for forests and helping others learn about and connect to the natural world. After college, Thom returned to Portland to work as an environmental educator. In 2014, he moved to western North Carolina to study forest ecology and earn a Master’s degree from Western Carolina University. Through his time spent studying Southern Appalachian forests, Thom came to love the mountain region of North Carolina. As the Stewardship and Volunteer Engagement Associate with the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, Thom is excited to bring together his background in science and connecting people with nature in order to help conserve the forests of western North Carolina. He is looking forward to engaging the local community in learning about and protecting their forests. In his free time, Thom loves dancing, hiking, hosting game nights, and walking his dog.
Ellen Gray grew up in the small town of Lancaster, South Carolina and attended Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas where she graduated with a degree in English Literature. After graduation Ellen Gray left for Cambodia where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer and taught English in secondary schools. She lived with a Khmer host family on a small, isolated island in the Gulf of Thailand. Though she served as a part of the English Teacher and Teacher Trainer project in Cambodia, witnessing the environmental issues in her community everyday motivated Ellen Gray to pursue a career in conservation. After returning from Cambodia, Ellen Gray completed a 450 hour term with the American Conservation Experience in Asheville, North Carolina where she participated in conservation projects throughout Western North Carolina. As a part of Project Conserve, Ellen Gray will serve as the Outreach and Education Associate with the Polk County Office of Agricultural Development. In her free time Ellen Gray enjoys climbing, cooking, running, enjoying swimming holes in the Asheville area, taking weekend trips and spending time with friends and family.
Devon was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, but has always been drawn to the mountains. Rather than throwing a traditional birthday party each year, Devon opted to go on overnight hiking trips as a child, exploring a new wonder along the Blue Ridge Parkway each time. She headed to the beach for her undergraduate degree where she majored in Biology and Anthropology at the College of Charleston. It was here that she discovered that she could use her science background to teach and serve her community. As a volunteer at the South Carolina Aquarium, she helped update and interpret their science curriculum and was also lucky enough to help with the care of the Aquarium’s two resident river otters, over 40 birds, and a very sassy skunk. Devon is excited to continue pursuing her passion for conservation and teaching the public as the Outings and Education Coordinator for MountainTrue. She is looking forward to trading the beach for the mountains so that she can once again break out her hiking boots and collection of oversized sweatshirts. In her free time you’ll probably find Devon exploring a new trail, swimming laps in the pool, binge watching crime dramas, or continuing her hunt for the world’s best taco.
Ericka is a native of Western North Carolina, and has spent most of her life in this wonderful area. From the get go she has enjoyed the outdoors, but didn’t really start to pursue this passion until college at Mars Hill University. She has always loved the natural sciences, so choosing Biology as her course of study was an easy decision. During her time at Mars Hill she chose a concentration in Ecology and Field Biology, and also chose to minor in Regional Studies. She has a particular interest in the natural and cultural history of the Southern Appalachians. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2014 and has been hopping from place to place gaining experience in the Environmental Education field. Ericka is extremely excited to be serving a second term as the Citizen Science Educator at The North Carolina Arboretum, and continue to interact with the WNC community in hopes to inspire an interest in the natural world. In her free time, Ericka loves to go hiking, hammocking, spend time with family and friends, and play her ukulele and panjo (not to be confused with the banjo)!
Lillie is a native of Nashville, Tennessee and a recent graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, where she majored in Environment and Sustainability. During her time at Sewanee, her thesis was centered on examining what motivates or discourages sustainable behavior in communities. Most recently, Lillie worked for an outdoor adventure company where she led groups of teenagers throughout the Pacific Northwest to backpack, paddle, and climb. As the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at Asheville GreenWorks, Lillie hopes to share her passion for the great outdoors with the surrounding community, aiming to help others protect and restore the places we all love.
Max was born and raised in North Carolina, calling Chapel Hill his home until he left for college. He attended Denison University in Ohio where he earned a B.A. in environmental studies and a minor in geoscience. He gained a great appreciation for environmental service through his internship at Triangle Land Conservancy and interest in conservation. Knowing he wanted to return to North Carolina after graduation, he looked towards western North Carolina for an experience in the mountains while preserving the land. He will serve as the Habitat Restoration and Volunteer Coordinator at Conserving Carolina. In his free time he enjoys swimming, disc golf, biking, and watching college basketball.
Growing up, Emily spent the majority of her childhood in western North Carolina (with a few years along the East Coast) and recently spent five years in the Piedmont region while attending The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC).Emily found her calling in conservation after she redirected her career path to reflect her passion for protecting the planet’s natural resources and ecosystems from pollution and human exploitation. As a second year AmeriCorps Project Conserve member, Emily is serving as the Outreach and Education Coordinator for Mills River Partnership. She is very excited to be back in western NC gaining valuable skills and experience, and anticipates the abundance of knowledge she will gain throughout the term. When not working on her multiple side businesses, you can find her eating, hiking, or loving on all the animals.
Cate grew up in the rainy and beautiful city of Seattle, where proximity to the Olympic Mountains, Pacific Ocean, and everything in between sparked her passion for ecology and conservation. She followed these interests at University of Oregon where she graduated with degrees in Biology and Environmental Science. While in college Cate became involved with a variety of science outreach efforts and spent time working on a citizen science project where she researched agricultural microbiology in maize farmland. Through these varied experiences she developed a passion for science communication and holistic land management. She is quite excited to connect with the local community and learn about applied conservation in the Appalachians while serving as a Stewardship and Volunteer Associate with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. When she isn’t wandering off trails in search of birds, you can find Cate rock climbing, backpacking, or spending some quality outdoor time with a beer and sketchbook.
Madelyn is a native of Western North Carolina and a returning AmeriCorps Project Conserve member. Growing up she always had a fondness for the outdoors and exploring the natural world. She took super Saturday classes that pertained to nature as a young child at UNCA and fell in love with not only the campus but also science itself. She went on to attend and graduate UNCA with a B.S. in environmental ecology and field biology. During her time at UNCA she fell in love with entomology and water quality and started volunteering with local water monitoring groups. It was there that she found a passion for water quality monitoring that lead her to this position with ACPC. Madelyn’s goal for her second term or service is to continue to provide and improve upon citizen science in relation to water quality through education, outreach, and volunteer coordination.
Katie grew up in the suburban jungle of Northern Virginia. She moved to Pennsylvania to attend the University of Pittsburgh, graduating with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Economics. At Pitt, she was involved in student organizations advocating for gender equality and sustainability. She is excited to serve another year with AmeriCorps Project Conserve as the Energy Savings Outreach Associate at Appalachian Voices and to use all of the experience she gained the first time around to help families in western North Carolina save even more energy. When she’s not pontificating on the benefits of LED light bulbs, you can find Katie reading, running, or eating some yummy food.
Michael is serving as the Environmental Education Associate at Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) in Tryon, NC. He is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where he studied energy and sustainability to earn a B.A. in Environmental Studies. While in school, Michael spent a summer with the North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps working to improve state parks across eastern North Carolina. In Chapel Hill, he worked at UNC’s Battle Park to maintain trails and remove invasive species. After serving six months at FENCE with CTNC AmeriCorps, Michael is excited to continue to serve his home community of Tryon and dive further into the realm of environmental education at FENCE with Project Conserve. In his spare time, Michael likes to get outdoors to hike and improve his disc golf game.
Anona was born in Bamberg, South Carolina – a small rural town with some nice Carolina swamps. For 18 years she lived out in the country where she would frolic in the woods during her spare time. Her mother (a horticulturalist) and her father (an agriculture researcher) raised her with a deep respect and love for nature. In search of an adventure, after graduating high school she ran off to the mountains of North Carolina to attend Appalachian State University. For 4.5 years she studied Ecology and Environmental Science. After graduating she worked for the Blue Ridge Parkway as a 6-month seasonal Biological Science Technician. She had a great time, learned a ton, and fell in love with Appalachia even more. After her position with the Parkway ended she decided to see some neat places outside of her little pocket of the world so spent several months traveling in Europe and across the US. Eventually she decided it was time to return to Appalachia and her passion for conservation. Last year Anona served as a Land Stewardship and Volunteer Associate at Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy in Asheville, North Carolina. She had such a great learning experience and meaningful year of service that she decided to return to SAHC for a second term with Project Conserve.
Emma Rast grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania within a community that greatly valued music and the outdoors. She attended Oberlin College where she majored in biology and environmental studies and developed a particular interest in ecology and conservation. During her time at Oberlin, Emma worked within local elementary schools teaching environmental as well as movement education classes. She also had the opportunity to participate in research examining the impact of emerald ash borer induced ash death on ground vegetation. While she has greatly enjoyed the research element of conservation, she is excited to explore a new side of this work as volunteer coordinator at RiverLink. In her free time Emma enjoys reading, hiking, and playing music- particularly folk and old-time.
Katie recently graduated from the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle where she earned a degree in Public Health. During her time at UW, she worked closely with a student-run food justice organization and the campus food co-operative. Both roles motivated her to focus her study of public health in the areas of nutrition and environmental health, and they encouraged a passion (obsession?) with all things related to the food system. When Katie discovered the service position at the Organic Growers School through ACPC, she knew that it’d be the best place to learn more about building a local food economy. When Katie isn’t campaigning for a sustainable, compassionate food system, you’ll probably find her scrolling through recipes on Pinterest, searching the city for the best cup of coffee, reading, painting, exploring the hiking trails nearby, and plotting where she wants to travel to next.
Eli is from Morganton, North Carolina, growing in this area he took advantage of the diverse opportunities for outdoor recreation. His love for the North Carolina mountains lead him to attend Appalachian State University ’17 and major in Recreation Management as well as double minor in Geography and Sustainable Development. During his summers in college he completed an internship as an interpretive ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway and another as a recreation aid at a military outdoor adventure center in the Downeast area of Maine. Service to local communities and stewardship to the environment motivated Eli to apply to the Trails Coordinator position. During this upcoming term Eli hopes to to provide the highest quality of recreation to any and all populations. When not working, Eli can be found reading a newspaper, planning out new places to explore on a map, and viewing YouTube videos of Tiny Houses.
Jessica Stump, grew up in the High Point, NC. She considers the New River Valley in southwest VA home because it is where she fell in love with streams, rivers, mountains, and valleys. Her love for nature and youth led her to complete her bachelor’s in Outdoor Education and begin work on a master’s in Environmental Education at Montreat College. During graduate school, she worked with an environmental education program that partners with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) to take high school students on week-long expeditionary science trips. Protecting and teaching others to protect western North Carolina is important to her. She is serving as the Citizen Science Assistant in the GSMNP through AmeriCorps Project Conserve. “I am excited to come full circle and complete national service through conservation education in the Smokies. I love this place and have seen the Park impact some many young people’s lives.”
Trey is from Raleigh, North Carolina. He recently completed a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning at UNC Chapel Hill with a focus on land use and environmental planning. Trey is looking forward to joining Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy as a Land Protection & Education Associate, because he loves Western North Carolina and wants to help preserve its fantastic habitats, views, and watersheds for future generations. In his free time, Trey can be found hiking, fishing, or searching for a great cup of coffee.
Mike grew up in Arlington Virginia. As a kid he spent a lot of time exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley area, where he also attended college at James Madison University. Spending so much time in the mountains gave Mike a passion for exploring and protecting the environment and led him to majoring in Geographic Science. He worked in Seattle as a corps member and loved it, and decided he had to bring his passion and knowledge back home to the east coast. He is excited to be serving as the trails associate at Conserving Carolina. In his spare time Mike enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and playing music.