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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). or 336-370-3443.

Gail Barton taught Plant Propagation for over two decades.  She currently maintains a small nursery in Meridian, Mississippi.  Recently she propagated Black Belt Prairie wildflowers and grasses used to establish a Prairie Garden at The University of West Alabama and another on the Natchez Trace.  Gail writes descriptive plant articles for New Moon Nursery, works as a Landscape Consultant, teaches Propagation Workshops, and blogs at She is past president of the Mississippi Native Plant Society and is a certifiable plant fool. She enjoys exploring her 6 acres of nature trails with her husband and pack of happy dogs.

Kim Brand is engaging citizens across North Carolina to take actions that help birds thrive where we all live, in cities and towns, as part of the Audobon Society's Bird-Friendly Communities program.

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. Meadower.

Matt Candeis is the creator of In Defense of Plants and I is obsessed with botany. He is also a PhD student at the University of Illinois working on plant conservation.

Dr. Chuck Cannon has been studying trees for over thirty years, beginning as a research assistant in Indonesian Borneo.  Thus, began a long love affair with tropical rainforests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and China, during which Chuck has worked to understand, manage, and conserve trees in their native habitat.  After four years leading research at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, China, he joined the Morton Arboretum as the Director of the Center for Tree Science. With ambitious goals and excellent colleagues, he is leading the development of many forward looking programs to protect, manage and improve trees.

John Clarke is a retired US Air Force Officer.  His interest in native plants started after retirement when he and his wife DeeDee built a certified Passive house on 6 acres of land in Chatham County.  Tom Harville worked hard to gain permission for plant rescue on a 5000-plus acre development site in Chatham County and any given week in the growing season, John and Dee can be found leading or participating in plant rescues.  Each rescue is not only a change to save native plants but to learn more about them from other participants.

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.

Trad & Olga Cotter - The Cotters own and operate Mushroom Mountain, a mushroom cultivation and research facility located in the upstate South Carolina.  Tradd is the author of Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation (Chelsea Green), EPA Fellow, and head of Laboratory Research and Product Development and designer of the FDA sanctioned Wild Mushroom Food Safety course.  Olga oversees all company business, social media, green markets, and expert mushroom hunter.The pair launched Mushroom Mountain University, an online learning platform in spring 2017

Emily Driskill is an alumna of The Evergreen State College where she earned a B.A./B.S. with concentrations in Botany and Sustainable Agriculture.  After many seasons of field botany in the service of conservation, research, and restoration projects, she made the transition to horticulture- tending many of the plants she had been observing in the wild.  In her current position as Nursery Manager at Carolina Native Nursery, Emily is in charge of plant propagation and production of about 100 species native to the eastern U.S.  Emily lives on a small homestead in Mars Hill, NC, with her partner and their family.

Bill Finch is a writer, broadcaster and conservation consultant based in Mobile, Ala. He’s been an award winning newspaper editor and writer, the director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama, and director of Mobile Botanical Gardens. He’s now working on major conservations and forest research programs with his wife Beth Maynor Finch, the Smithsonian Institute and the the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. Beth and Bill’s most recent book, Longleaf Far as the Eye Can See, is published by UNC Press.

Erika Galentin MNIMH, RH (AHG) 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 lectures and writes on native medicinal plant conservation and applied ecology, propagation, herbalism, and clinical efficacy.

Becky Griffin is the Community and School Garden Coordinator for University of Georgia Extension and a Georgia certified beekeeper.  You will often find Becky traveling the roads of Georgia assisting in gardens and helping UGA Extension Agents in their projects.  When not on the road, Becky creates a weekly blog and maintains a website of educational information (  In 2016 she launched the Pollinator Spaces Project initiative which encourages gardeners to add pollinator habitat to their gardens.  The project expanded in 2017 into a citizen science program to teach gardeners to identify and count the pollinators visiting their gardens. 

Stephan Hart has been studying plants for over 35 years.  As an avid naturalist/botanist, he has been leading hiking, biking and paddling trips in the southern Appalachian mountains for 22 years Favorite areas of interest are the edible, medicinal and useful aspects of native (ans well as some non- native) plants.  Stephan is co-owner of a native plant education and consulting company called Simply Native Plants, LLC.

Vicky Heatherly is an Agricultural/Horticultural Specialist with Western Carolina University's Grounds Department. She has over 3 decades of work with research trials on native woodland botanicals including native medicinal plants, woodland companion planting research, wild ramp production and marketing, as well as work with wild simulated ginseng production with the NC State Extension Service. Vicky was born and stills lives in Haywood County, NC where she developed her love and respect for the native flora and fauna. Vicky earned her AAS in Horticulture from Haywood Community College and is a Certified Plant Professional. Vicky also is a 3rd generation bee farmer and an avid bird watcher.
While currently working at WCU, she is involved in the installation of many of the native landscapes on the campus and enjoys working and spending time with other native plant enthusiasts!

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

Jonathon Jackson is an avid landscape photographer that loves the natural in Western North Carolina.  After graduating from the College of Charleston he attended the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana and opened Mountain Multimedia in his hometown of Hendersonville, NC.  After a decade of photography and videography for small businesses, he decided to focus his current skill set marketing properties as a Realtor.  In his spare time he continues to seek new locations to photograph with his wonderful wife Shelby (Singleton) Jackson as she teaches him all about the native plants surrounding them.

Steph Jeffries is a naturalist at heart and a forest ecologist by training. She’s the Director of the Environmental First Year Program and a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at NC State, where she earned her Ph.D. in 2002. She also teaches Forest Ecosystems of the Southern Appalachian Mountains at the Highlands Biological Station. Steph recently co-authored Exploring Southern Appalachian Forests, which shows readers how to read the natural history of the forested landscape. Outdoors, she shares her love of the natural world with people of all ages and backgrounds—her two sons most especially. 

Philip Juras’s paintings are an expression of his desire to experience, understand, and celebrate the natural world. He explores the rich aesthetics of a wide range of ecologically intact environments by combining direct observation with the study of the natural science and history of the subject. Philip holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (1990) and a Master of Landscape Architecture degree (1997), both from the University of Georgia. His MLA thesis research on presettlement Southeastern grasslands continues to inspire his artwork. His paintings have been exhibited regionally and internationally and are featured in multiple publications. (

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.

Lenny Lampel is a Natural Resources Coordinator with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation’s Division of Nature Preserves and Natural Resources.  He holds an MS in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Conservation Biology from Antioch University New England and a BA in Biology from SUNY College at Old Westbury.  His responsibilities include the management of biological assessments and inventories, the monitoring of federally and state listed rare plant species and the coordination of various fauna and flora studies and projects, including Mecklenburg County Moth Nights.  Lenny lives in Concord, NC with his wife, three kids, dog and cat.

Rick J. Lewandowski has been the Director of Shangri La Botanical Garden and Nature Center in Texas for five years. Previously he was Director of Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware and led its transition from private estate to non-profit. Rick was also Curator and Director of Horticulture with the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. Rick is a seasoned horticulturist, garden designer, plant explorer, and environmentalist with 35 years of experience. He is passionate about native plants, environmentally responsible gardening, and connecting people with the natural world. Rick earned his B.S. from Kansas State University and M.S. from the University of Maryland.

John Magee has been designing and building landscapes in the Washington DC Metro area and beyond for the past 25 years.  His experiences in fragile natural settings around the world have influenced his designs and installations of his landscapes.  He operates his own, award winning design firm (Magee Design) in the beautiful countryside of Middleburg, VA.  He specializes in the use of native plants, but is also known for his work with stone and water.  These ‘earthy’ elements combine to create a natural setting that enhances not only the home of the landscape, but the surrounding area as well.  In his spare time, he helped to create and hosts the Native Plant Podcast.

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 an Associate Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University where she has worked since 2003. She is Director of the WCU Herbarium and is a 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 since worked at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, and now in western North Carolina at WCU. She has undertaken research with graduate and undergraduate students on Southern Appalachian plant groups, including rivercane, saxifrages, sand myrtle and trilliums. Her current research focuses on the biogeography of high-elevation rock outcrop plants. She regularly teaches Flora of the Southern Appalachians, Vascular Plants, Systematics, and Plants and Society.

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

Andrew Moore is author of Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit, a cultural and natural history of the largest edible fruit native to the United States, and a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award nominee in the Writing & Literature category.  He lives and gardens in Pittsburgh, PA.

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.

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.

Thomas Piper is an award-winning non-fiction filmmaker, specializing in documenting the contemporary arts. He has directed, photographed and edited more than 25 films on contemporary painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, and writers. His most recent film, Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf, is the recipient of the 2018 Polly Krakora Award for Artistry in Film from the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, and is soon to be in theatrical distribution throughout North America. His 2008 film, Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments, won the Best Film for Television award at the prestigious International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) in Montreal.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ms. Anne Spafford MLA, is a tenured Associate Professor of Landscape Design in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University. She has been teaching for 17 years and won many teaching awards, including being inducted into NC State University’s Academy of Outstanding Teachers, and Teacher of the Year when she taught in the School of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University. Her typical courses include Introduction to Landscape Design, Sustainable Residential Landscape Design, Planting Design; Introduction to Permaculture: Sustainable Living, Green Infrastructure, and a Home Landscape Design course for non-majors and homeowners.  She is passionate about all of the subjects that she teaches (and there is substantial overlap between them), but she has a particular fondness for planting design and creating pollinator habitats. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Horticulture, which provided a foundation in plants, plant sciences, and small scale design. Her Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture provided a foundation in cultural and social issues of design and research applied design as well as experience in designing larger projects.

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.

Jesse Turner is a landscape architect with more than a decade of professional design experiences built upon the foundation of having grown up in the landscape design and construction industry. He has worked at almost every scale, across two continents, and with a broad range of clients. Throughout his career he has consulted with many nationally known design firms, artists, and institutions in capacities ranging from construction coordination to programming for children's gardens. Jesse's work is known to be meaningful and environmentally conscious. He was the first designer in the state to work on a certified Sustainable Sites project and is an active member of the Triangle design community. Jesse is a member of the Cullowhee Native Plants Conference steering committee. Jesse holds a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from NC State University.

Rick Webb is owner, along with his wife Susan, of Louisiana Growers, a wholesale nursery located in Amite, Louisiana. The nursery specializes in trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers native to the Gulf South. His small family owned business, located in a longleaf pine grove, supplies the needs of landscape architects who follow sustainable design principles. Webb grows a range of native plants that can be used to reestablish native landscapes.

Claudia West is a leading voice in the emerging field of ecological planting design. Known for her passionate advocacy of plant-driven design, Claudia is a widely sought out speaker and consultant who applies the technologies of plant systems to bring essential natural functions back into our cities and towns. She has worked on all sides of the green industry—as a designer, a grower, installer, and land manager—grounding her innovative work in pragmatic solutions that address the realities of our urbanizing world. She is the co-author of the critically acclaimed book, Planting in a Post-Wild World (Timber Press, 2015).

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.

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