About Project Conserve
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy - Habitat Restoration Associate
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 as the Habitat Restoration Associate for Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy this coming AmeriCorps term.
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture - Program Coordinator
Sadikshya Aryal was born in Kathmandu, Nepal. From a young age, she loves spending her time outdoors hiking, foraging, and on mountain tops gazing up at the cosmos. In college, she first studied Astrophysics. Although she was in love with this study, she decided to answer the call of the outdoors and of helping others. This brought her to Appalachian State University where she graduated with a Sustainable Development degree. As a Project Conserve member, she now holds the position of Program Coordinator at Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA). Since moving into the High Country, she has been strongly involved with nonprofits in the area as well as the farming community. She is ecstatic to be serving as a second year member with BRWIA, and looks forward to growing with the experience. In her free time, you can find her experimenting with holistic remedies, practicing yoga, spending time in nature, and attempting to understand the vast universe in which we live in!
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy - Community Outreach & Education Associate
Adrienne was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, but spent her most formative years in North Carolina, and considers Mooresville, NC “home”. Her passion for nature conservation, however, was born in Western North Carolina and cultivated by the many visits she took to National Parks across the country as a child. With a solidly formed passion for environmental protection she chose to major in Environmental Studies at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. During her undergrad she also studied in Bremen, Germany, an experience she credits with leading her to the conservation field, and her interest in Project Conserve. This year Adrienne will be serving at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) doing community outreach. She is excited to be in this position because her grandmother, Frieda Brown, placed land in a conservation easement with CMLC in 2004, (which her parents have since inherited), and sees her service as a way of continuing her grandmother’s legacy of nature conservation and service. In addition to conservation, Adrienne fosters a deep passion for the arts. She considers herself an amateur photographer, keeps a bullet journal, and enjoys painting. She also graduated with a minor in German Studies, and when she is not in Germany she spends a lot of time talking about Germany.
Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development - Farm and Consumer Outreach Specialist
Amy grew up in a small beach town on Long Island, NY, where she was taught to swim in the frigid waters of the Long Island Sound alongside prehistoric horseshoe crabs and gelatinous jellyfish. She was also lucky to have spent her childhood camping in the Catskill Mountains - floating down the Delaware River and singing songs while bald American eagles soared overhead. She developed a deep respect for the natural world at a young age as a result of these experiences. Amy went on to attend the University at Albany, State University of New York, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. From there, she spent several years working as an executive recruiter in New York. While recruiting provided Amy with valuable skills and experience, she ultimately realized that she wanted to transition her career to focus on environmental conservation and advocacy. Most recently, Amy has worked on small-scale org anic farms throughout the South and in Western North Carolina to promote sustainable agricultural practices and to support local food systems. She is excited to be serving as Farm and Consumer Outreach Specialist at the Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development this year!
WNC Communities Hemlock Restoration Initiative Program - Outreach & Volunteer Engagement Associate
As a North Carolina native Sara deFosset is excited to take on the challenge of keeping Western North Carolina’s forests healthy while serving as the Outreach and Volunteer Associate with the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a program of WNC Communities. Sara became involved in service at a young age working on grassroots development projects in Latin America as a teenager and throughout college. These projects ranged from disaster relief in Nicaragua, to establishment of ecotourism and conservation in the Peruvian Amazon. While earning her BA in Global Studies and Sustainable Development at New College of California in San Francisco, Sara began a career in the landscape and nursery industries and developed a deep and enduring fascination with human relationships to plant systems, ecology, and the built environment. In order to combine her passions for service, and ecology Sara continued her education by completing an MA in Sustainable Development at the University of California Santa Barbara; where her research examined the ways in which integrated agricultural practices, like agro-forestry, could be used meet development goals like reductions in poverty and improved environmental sustainability. For Sara, working to restore Western North Carolina’s hemlocks to long term health provides a fresh perspective from which continue her life-long learning about the relationships between people, plants, ecosystems, and development; and is a unique opportunity to reestablish deep roots in North Carolina and to contribute to the special character of the region.
Mary Kate Dodge
MountainTrue - Outings & Education Coordinator
Mary Kate is excited to join AmeriCorps Project Conserve as MountainTrue’s Outings and Education Coordinator! Mary Kate grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, where she fostered a love of all things outdoors. Seeking a change of scenery, she traveled to eastern Virginia to attend Christopher Newport University (CNU). There she studied Environmental Biology with minors in Business Administration and Leadership Studies, hoping to find a career that blends engaging and leading groups of people with the conservation of our important ecosystems. Missing the mountains and looking for an escape from the urban space around CNU, Mary Kate began to volunteer with the Grounds Department at a local museum, developing her love for community engagement and working to improve a local environment. She also spent a summer doing her first AmeriCorps term with the Maine Conservation Corps, repairing and constructing trails in the backwoods of Maine. While in school, she worked heavily in Student Affairs, focusing primarily on Orientation and Judicial Affairs. She spent a summer term in Costa Rica, studying Tropical Marine Biology, and loves to travel internationally and explore new cultures all over the world! In her free time, you can find Mary Kate hiking up to catch a sunrise, researching her next snorkel/dive site, traveling up to Maine, or just watching cat videos on YouTube.
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy - Trails Associate
Jonathan Feldman was born in Tampa, Florida but has lived in many other states during his life. He moved to North Carolina to get a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina- Greensboro in Community Recreation & Parks Management with two minors in geography and political science. While having spent much of life his camping, hiking, fishing, and gallivanting outside Jonathan was instantly attracted to western North Carolina; he found splendor in the ancient, rugged mountains. During college Jonathan spent his summers working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Green Mountain, Greensboro Parks & Recreation, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks. Jonathan’s goal during his term of service is to provide and improve recreational activities for North Carolinians through sustainable trail building, environmental stewardship, and outdoor education. When Jonathan is not working you can find him h iking in Pisgah National Forest with his dog.
RiverLink - Watershed Resources Coordinator
Renee is a life-long resident of Western North Carolina, growing up along the New River in Ashe County. Spending most of her childhood exploring the woods and creek near her home instilled an unwavering love of the outdoors and passion for conservation. When Renee moved to Asheville, she pursued an Associate Degree in Horticulture from Haywood Community College and later transferred to UNC-Asheville for her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. At UNC-A, Renee took every botany course that was offered. For her undergraduate research, she got to explore the forests of Biltmore Estate while studying the invasiveness potential of Chinese silvergrass. Upon graduation, Renee’s newfound love of botany led her to a job at the Botanical Gardens of Asheville, a garden dedicated to plants native to the Southern Appalachians. Here, Renee helped educate visitors about the importance of using native plants in the landscape. Later as the Assistant Supervisor of Landscaping at Warren Wilson College, Renee continued to promote sustainability through the use of native plants and organic gardening. Three years ago, the pull of learning and a desire to do conservation work led Renee back to school where she received her M.S. in Biology from East Carolina University. As a graduate student, Renee took a Wetland Ecology course which sparked her interest in conserving wetland habitats. For her graduate research, Renee studied conservation of an endangered wetland plant species called Cooley’s meadowrue. While living in Asheville, Renee has been drawn to the surrounding rivers, whether it was canoeing the French Broad or rafting the Nolichucky where she and her husband Dave were married. In her AmeriCorps Project Conserve position, Renee will serve as the Watershed Resources Coordinator at Riverlink. Renee is excited to apply her skills to conservation of the French Broad River and its tributaries.
Appalachian Voices - Community Field Outreach Associate
Ridge Graham is a first time member of Project Conserve, and will be serving as Appalachian Voices' North Carolina/Energy Savings Outreach Associate. Ridge grew up in Rock Hill, SC, before transitioning to Bloomington, IN for high school. Now he finds himself with pretty deep roots in Boone, NC, after receiving an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology degree from Appalachian State University. During his time there, he found a niche as an undergraduate assistant through the years, whether it was helping students make documentaries, guiding study sessions, or educating the public about water quality. A curious and passionate person by nature, Ridge enjoys finding wild critters and mushrooms and playing games and music with his friends. He hopes to learn a lot more about the communities and culture of WNC, while doing all that he can to support the goals and missions of Appalachian Voices. He is very excited for all that is to come.
MountainTrue - Water Quality Administrator
Jack Henderson was born in the suburbs of Washington, DC. More happy in the mountains, he left to attend Appalachian State University where he studied Geography and Recreation Management. While in college, an internship with a local land trust helped spark an initial interest with non-profit conservation. After graduating in May 2014, Jack spent time with non-profits in Oregon, South Carolina, Maryland and Idaho; farming, monitoring conservation easements, coordinating river mapping projects, leading volunteers, and managing invasive weeds. Jack returned to western NC last year for a year in AmeriCorps Project Conserve with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. He's looking forward to second term; now with MountainTrue as Water Quality Administrator, where he is leading volunteer teams whom monitor water quality in the upper French Broad river watershed. Jack loves the southern Appalachians and can usually be found exploring the back-country on his mountain bike, paddling his kayak down a steep creek or planning the next big adventure.