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Professional Growth and Enrichment

Speaker Bios

Nancy Adamson is an ecologist with Xerces Society and USDA NRCS in Greensboro, NC. She supports pollinator conservation, especially native bees, and loves sharing her passion for native plants and all the wildlife they support. Along with work inventorying natural areas, collecting native seeds, propagating and selling native plants, and restoring riparian habitat, she was a farm hand at Wheatland Vegetable Farms, taught handicapped children in Tunisia with the Peace Corps, and helped the Itza-Maya protect their communal forest in Petén, Guatemala. She has a PhD in entomology (VA Tech) and MS in natural resources (U.of Maryland). Nancy@xerces.org or 336-370-3443.

Randy Burroughs is a horticulturist, NC landscape architect and meadow gardener still practicing deep in the mountains above Asheville.

1980 UGA Botanical Gardens senior year work/study - Mike Dirr’s tractor driver.
1980-86 Greenville SC City Horticulturist. 1986-96 Arbor Engineering Inc LA apprenticeship.
1997-2001 Botanical Gardens at UNCA – Garden Manager. 2001 & beyond - Private practice.
2004 & persevering - Main Street Nature Park, Weaverville NC – Nature Park Avuncular.
An earnest student of natural systems and their uses in civilized landscapes.

Meredith Clebsch has been the Land Director/Lead Biologist at Foothills Land Conservancy (FLC) in Rockford, TN since 2007 (recently semi-retired). Prior to working with FLC she owned and operated a native plant nursery for 26 years, Native Gardens in Greenback, TN. Meredith's formal education includes a BS degree from Clemson University and post grad work at the University of TN primarily studying botany, ecology, horticulture and wildlife biology. There was also a stint in Peace Corps in Costa Rica after college. Much of her recreational time is spent outdoors gardening, hiking, cycling, kayaking, birding and pursuing nature study. She has attended this conference since the very beginning as participant or on steering committee until recently. Since 1983 Meredith has lived and gardened on a most wonderful 15 acres in Loudon County TN.

Jim Costa is executive director of the Highlands Biological Station and professor of biology at Western Carolina University, where he currently teaches courses on Darwin's Origin of Species and biogeography. An entomologist and population geneticist by training, Jim has long studied the evolution and ecology of social behavior in caterpillars, sawflies, and beetles. As historian of science, he has also written extensively on Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Jim's most recent book is "Darwin's Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory" (2017, W. W. Norton).

David Cozzo

Ryan Davis is the manager at Cure Nursery and has been an employee there almost 15 years. Him and Katie are committed to carrying on the nursery's mission of spreading awareness about native plants and outreach to get more of them into our communities.

Eli Dickerson is the Ecologist and chief “tree hugger” at Fernbank Museum of Natural History where he manages the 65 acre, old-growth Fernbank Forest.  Eli is an avid distance runner and enjoys exploring the trails of Georgia and North Carolina.  In his spare time he also serves on American Forests National Cadre of Big Tree Measurers and manages Atlanta’s Champion Tree Program.  Eli has B.S. in Biology from Winthrop University and an MBA in nonprofit management from Georgia State University.

Emily Driskill Emily is an alumna of The Evergreen State College where she earned a B.A./B.S. with concentrations in Botany and Sustainable Agriculture. Through her many seasons of botany fieldwork in the Pacific northwest, the western Rockies, the southern Appalachians, and the mid-Atlantic coastal plain, she has gained a loving familiarity with native plants and their roles in the ecosystem. Emily has professional horticultural experience as the former Nursery Manager at Carolina Native Nursery in Burnsville, NC. She currently operates Blackbird Landscapes in Mars Hill, NC, while continuing as an independent sales rep for Carolina Native.

Bill Finch is chief conservation consultant with the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Center, and Senior Fellow for the Ocean Foundation. In his long career he’s been an award winning environmental writer, Director of Conservation for the Alabama Chapter of The Nature Conservancyl and director of Mobile Botanical Gardens. He’s now working on multiple projects in Alabama, including a plan to conserve the cultural and biological diversity of the Alabama River basin, and a international Forest Research Center in Paint Rock Forest in northeast Alabama.

Erika Galentin is a Clinical Herbalist consulting from Sovereignty Herbs in Athens & Columbus, OH. She holds a degree in Herbal Medicine from the University of Wales, Cardiff, UK and Scottish School of Herbal Medicine, Glasgow, UK. She is a professional member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (UK) and the American Herbalists Guild (USA). She is also a proud member of Pi Alpha Xi National Honor Society in Horticulture (USA). With her dedication to medicinal plants native to Ohio and the Greater Appalachian region, Erika teaches, lectures and writes on native medicinal plant conservation and applied ecology, propagation, herbalism, and clinical efficacy. She also participates as a member of the Stewardship Committee of Appalachia Ohio Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of land and water in Southeast Ohio.

Steve Greenberg is a Staff Attorney for the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. In that capacity, he manages conservation easement projects in Georgia and Alabama.

Becky Griffin is University of Georgia (UGA)’s Community & School Garden Coordinator where she works with Extension agents across the state helping create successful gardens. Becky believes in emphasizing the ecosystem of the garden and frequently teaches workshops on beneficial entomology and integrated pest management. In 2018 she was part of the UGA Trees for Bees Team. Becky is the coordinator of the 2019 Great Georgia Pollinator Census and enjoys pollinator insect research.

Gerald "Stinger" Guala is the Branch Chief for Eco-Science Synthesis in the Science Analytics and Synthesis Program of the Core Science Systems Mission Area of the United States Geological Survey. His duties include directing the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS - www.itis.gov), which is the Federal standard for the names of biological organisms, and Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation (BISON - bison.usgs.gov), the Federal clearinghouse for species occurrence data with more than 460 million records currently.  He also facilitates other activities at the national level to deliver, integrate, analyze and visualize Federal and non-Federal biodiversity information. He holds a B.Sc. in botany from Michigan State University and an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Plant Systematics from the University of Florida. His botanical work includes floristic work primarily in the SE US, Africa and South America, as well as phylogenetic and taxonomic work on several genera of Andropogonoid and Bambusoid grasses. 

Meg Hanrahan is an award winning documentary maker and media producer, and Writer, Producer, and Director of "A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun." The program is a co-production of Meg Hanrahan Media and Voyageur Media Group, Inc. Meg's credits include two regional Emmy award winners: "Sacred Spaces of Greater Cincinnati" (2008) and "Cincinnati Parks: Emeralds in the Crown" (2009). Additional media credits include museum installations at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cleveland Health Museum, and Ft. Worth Zoo. Meg is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College where she teaches Electronic Media. She also produces video for Procter & Gamble and numerous other corporations and nonprofit organization.

Jeff Jackson was raised in the Lowcountry of South Carolina,  an area rich in both nature and history. Since receiving his BS in Horticulture from Clemson in 1981, he has worked as a landscape designer and environmental consultant.  His areas of interest became native plants and historical materials. Over 20 years ago he began working with cast stone and tabby, an early coastal building material. Incorporating native plant imprints was a natural progression to meld his interests together. He uses his creations to offer his clients something unique for their hardscaper and gardens. His work has been featured in Southern Living Magazine

Gary Kaufman has been the botanist/ecologist program manager for the National Forests in NC since April of 2007.  His duties include planning revision at the forest level, restoration of rare plant populations and rare plant communities, NEPA compliance for forest projects, planning and controlling non-native invasive plant, and assessing collections of forest botanical products such as ginseng, etc. Gary has been with the USFS since 1992 previously filling the Nantahala NF botanist position from 1992 to 2000.  Gary has a master’s degree in botany/mycology.

Dr. Brian Keener is a Botany Professor at the University of West Alabama in Livingston where he just finished his 16th year. He is curator of the UWA Herbarium (UWAL) which has just topped 45,000 specimen records. He also is director and coordinator of the Alabama Plant Atlas, a heavily trafficked internet site that serves as the virtual herbarium of Alabama maintaining the up-to-date flora and taxonomy. His research primarily focuses on the vascular plant diversity, taxonomy, and systematics of Alabama with projects spilling into other southeastern U.S. states. He has been a part of the description and naming of six new plant species, three of which are endemic to Alabama with others in the works. He also studies the genus Sagittaria worldwide, a genus he researched for his dissertation.

Chris Liloia is a Curator at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, a conservation garden in Chapel Hill. She is responsible for the care of the habitat gardens which represent plant communities of the southeastern United States and display rare and common species in naturalistic settings. She is knowledgeable in the cultivation of native plants and creation of sustainable gardens that are beautiful and brimming with biodiversity. Prior to joining the NCBG staff in 2000, she worked in ecological restoration in NJ and in south Florida.

Lisa Lord is the President of the SC Native Plant Society and works for The Longleaf Alliance, a regional organization working to sustain the longleaf pine ecosystem. She focuses on watershed conservation, landowner outreach, and longleaf forest and species restoration projects. Lisa Lord received her B.S. in Wildlife Science and M.Ed. in Biology Education from Auburn University, and is pursuing a M.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from Clemson University. Lisa became a Certified Wildlife Biologist in 2013. Lisa has worked over the last seventeen years for several conservation organizations where she was involved in ecological inventories, preserve management, education and outreach, longleaf pine restoration, and conservation easement management and negotiation. Lisa started her own natural resources consulting company in 2013 and consulted for several conservation organizations, land trusts, and private landowners throughout the state prior to joining the Alliance.

John Magee has been designing and building landscapes in the Washington DC Metro area and beyond for the past 25 years. After receiving his degree in Horticulture from the Ohio State University and spending a few years training and showing horses, he settled into the industry as the General Foreman of Pennsylvania’s highest award-winning landscape firm. While in Pennsylvania, he became a volunteer at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and not only did he meet his wife there, but he was introduced to habitat gardening and the use of native plants in the landscape. He now operates his own award-winning design firm (Magee Design) in the beautiful countryside of Middleburg, VA where he also enjoys kayaking and taking long walks with his wife and two dogs. He created and hosts the Native Plant Podcast and hosts and produces the “Protecting what matters” podcast in partnership with the Department of the Interior’s “National Invasive Species Council” Secretariat.

Annie Martin aka "Mossin’ Annie," infuses her passion for mosses with her knowledge of bryophytes and successful gardening techniques. A nationally-recognized expert in moss landscaping, she offers a unique blend of creative talents and practical experience. Dedicated to promoting the advantages of mosses, Martin is a popular garden lecturer providing informative yet entertaining programs. She is the author of The Magical World of Moss Gardening (Timber Press 2015; translated into Japanese, 2017). A licensed NC landscape contractor and owner of Mountain Moss, Martin cultivates shade and sun moss species at her Mossery in Brevard. Mossin’ Annie creates magic with mosses!

Brent Martin is the co-owner of Alarka Institute, an educational service that provides workshops and outings on a variety of subjects involving the natural world, including bryophytes, lichens, birding, nature writing, phenology, and more.  He has led trips in the Little Tennessee river valley for fifteen years, and has worked for the Wilderness Society, Little Tennessee River Watershed Association, and Georgia Forestwatch.  He is also currently working as part time director of the NC Bartram Trail Society.

Dr. Kathy Mathews is Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Herbarium at Western Carolina University. She is an active member of the Society of Herbarium Curators, the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and Southern Appalachian Botanical Society. She received her Ph.D. in Botany at UT-Austin in 1997, and has worked as a research taxonomist at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, as a professor at Austin Peay State University, TN, and at WCU since 2003. She performs plant systematics research with students on Southern Appalachian plant groups, such as saxifrages, sand myrtle and trilliums, with a focus on high-elevation rock outcrop plants. She teaches Flora of the Southern Appalachians, Vascular Plants, Principles of Systematics, and Plants and Human Affairs.

Emily McCoy has a comprehensive background in design, ecology, and horticulture that enables her to intricately weave together art and science within the sphere of landscape architecture.  She is passionate about exposing the beauty of ecological processes within the everyday lives of people with the hopes of inspiring appreciation of the processes that sustain our quality of life. As Director of Integrative Research, Emily leads a rigorous review of Andropogon’s past and present landscape interventions in order to integrate the best scientific knowledge and the most effective design solutions into future projects. Emily is an adjunct professor  at NC State University, where she teaches and researches landscape performance, and is a member of the Landscape Architecture Foundation education committee.

Dr. Larry Mellichamp is recently retired Professor of Botany and Horticulture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he taught for over 39years. He was also director of their 10 acre Botanical Gardens which includes many native plants. Larry is an expert on native plants of all kinds, especially ferns and carnivorous plants, and has written many technical and popular articles on plants and gardening. He has received several teaching and botanical awards and written the recent book Native Plants of the Southeast…the best species for the garden (Timber Press). He has observed plants in many foreign counties on his travels in South Africa, Madagascar, Australia, China and Borneo. He is the 2016 recipient of the Tom Dodd Jr. Award of Excellence at the 2016 Cullowhee Native Plant Conference.

Preston Montague is an artist, educator, and landscape designer who developed a passion for the natural world while growing up in the rural foothills of Virginia. Currently, he lives in Durham, North Carolina working on projects that encourage stronger relationships between people and their environment. Preston holds a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from North Carolina State University as well as bachelor’s degrees in horticulture and fine art. His latest body of work, Codex Carolinum, is a series of didactic botanical illustrations using art and storytelling to foster natural science literacy. Find out more at Carolinanaturalist.com.

George Morris George Morris is long-time conference attendee as well as a member of the Cullowhee Players.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in plant science from the University of Delaware.  His previous experiences include Groundskeeper at Mt. Cuba Center for the Study of Piedmont Flora, Superintendent of Grounds at Davidson College, owner of Landscape Sanctuaries, a landscape company specializing in the use of native plants in the landscape, and Habitat Assessment and Restoration Program (HARP), a habitat restoration firm in Charlotte NC.  He is currently the vegetation specialist for River Works, Inc., a stream restoration construction firm based in Raleigh, NC.

Geoffrey Neal is assistant curator at the Coker Arboretum, a 5 acre ornamental and teaching garden begun in 1903 on the UNC Chapel Hill campus and a part of the North Carolina Botanical Garden. He is an ISA certified arbortist, a part-time ecology student at UNC, an amateur writer of verse and a regular CNPC attendee over the past 25 years. He lives in Chatham County, NC and loves to climb trees.

Nadine Phillips is an avowed nature fanatic and lifelong lover of native plants, Nadine has been actively researching and practicing the art of forest bathing for more than 6 years. Like American Naturalist John Muir, Nadine believes “the clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” Equipped with tools from the Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Facilitator program and utilizing resources from Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, Nadine has led workshops at The Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, MS, where she is a long-time volunteer, and at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, MS. Nadine has been attending Cullowhee Native Plant Conference since 2014 and is overjoyed to share forest bathing with her beloved Whee plant family.

Dr. J. Dan Pittillo is a Retired Professor of Biology, Western Carolina University, where he taught 40 years until 2004. Since then he has been conducting botanical surveys at Biltmore Estate (8800 acres), Blue Ridge Parkway (NC section), and Great Smoky Mountains. Currently he writes for The Sylva Herald (Mountain Ventures) on natural areas of Jackson County, fire ecology, trees, fall leaf colors, tree and shrubs of the Greenway, and invasive plants; and he continues with the board of Bartram Trail Society as the founder in 1977.

Karen Rawlins is the Invasive Species Coordinator and the Bugwood Images Coordinator at the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia. Her duties at UGA include; development and delivery of outreach materials and presentations, expanding the development and operation of the Georgia Invasive Species Task Force, developing Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas in Georgia, classification of images and information into the Bugwood Image Database System, development and training associated with the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS), and field work including installation and management of research plots and collection of field survey data.

Debbie Roos. Since 1999 Debbie Roos has been an Agriculture Agent for the Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension where she is responsible for programming in the areas of commercial vegetable production, organic production, pollinator conservation, alternative agricultural enterprises, forestry, and beekeeping. Debbie worked for three years as an agroforestry Extension agent and technical trainer for the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa, and later completed graduate degrees in applied anthropology and horticulture at the University of Florida. Debbie delivers educational programming through regular workshops and her award-winning Growing Small Farms website at www.growingsmallfarms.org.

Ed Schwartzman is the owner operator of Joe Pye Ecological Consulting, based in Cullowhee, NC. He is a botanist/ecologist with a Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Maryland. His professional expertise includes botany, bryology, herpetology, and forest and wetland ecology.  Ed previously worked as a biologist for the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program (NCNHP) for 10 years, conducting natural area inventories in the NC mountains. The inventories represent a systematic survey of the most significant natural places in a county, rare species, and unique habitats.

Pete Schubert is a retired engineer and geologist. As a naturalist, Pete leads wildflower, ecology, and geology hikes in natural areas across NC. He is the Director of the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference, and serves on the boards of the NC Invasive Plant Council, the Eno River Association, and the B.W. Wells Association. Pete also volunteers with the New Hope Audubon Bird-Friendly Habitat Program, and the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. He is passionate about sustainability, is a LEED Accredited Professional, co-founded the South Durham Farmers’ Market, and is the founder and chocolate maker at Muzina Chocolate in Durham.

Dr. Dawn Sherry is an avian ecologist by training and a native plant enthusiast largely because of this conference.  She is a Professor of Biology at Middle Georgia State University where she serves as the Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences.  When she’s not in the classroom, she enjoys hiking, kayaking and any excuse to be outdoors.

Susan Smith Pagano

James E. Stewart is a Durham, NC native, and a hoodoo practitioner of over 10 years. He currently has a spiritual home cleansing company called “Conjure Cleaning”.

Ann Stoneburner received her B.S. from Radford University (VA) and her M.S. from James Madison University (VA), both in Biology.  She obtained her Ph.D. from Duke University (NC), studying under Lewis Anderson, a leading authority on the moss flora of North America.  As a research scientist in the Department of Botany at the University of Georgia, Ann’s research centered on the systematics and evolution of polyploidy in species of the Mniaceae, a largely circumpolar family of mosses with a number of species whose geographical ranges extend to the Southern Appalachians.

Gregg Tepper is a professional horticulturist, consultant and life-long native plant tnthusiast. He began his career operating a garden maintenance business in DE and PA and went on to hold the positions of horticulturist , Woods Path Horticulturist and Director of Horticulture at Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware. After that he held the position of Director of Horticulture at the Deleware Botanic Gardens for 4 years where he helped create the Piet Oudolf Meadow Garden. He is now the Horticulturist for Larurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries in Bala Cynwyd, PA.

Ginger Woolridge Ginger Woolridge is an Annapolis, MD based landscape designer, author and consultant. Her particular interest is in supporting the use of native plants wherever appropriate. Woolridge is the an author of “Essential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern US”. The book’s co-author, Tony Dove recently retired as a horticulturist at the Smithsonian Institution. Ginger has a BS in Landscape Architecture from Penn State and an MBA from the Wharton School at the Univ. of Pennsylvania. “Essential Natives” was chosen for the 2018 NY Times Summer Reading List.

Robert Wyatt obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his doctorate from Duke University, both in Botany.  He taught at Texas A&M University before joining the faculty at the University of Georgia, where he was a Professor of Botany and Ecology for more than 20 years.  From 1999 to 2005 Dr. Wyatt was the Executive Director of the Highlands Biological Station, an interinstitutional center of the University of North Carolina.  He has won numerous awards for teaching and research, trained more than 40 graduate students, and published more than 160 scientific papers.

Jeff Zahner

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