Garrett is the Executive Director of RiverLink. He is a native of a rural town in Pennsylvania and brings a diverse set of experiences to RiverLink. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Navy Flight Training as a designated Naval Aviator, he served 10 years on active duty and gained valuable experience as a senior manager, instructor pilot and helicopter aircraft commander.
In 2008 after graduating from Law School, he moved with his family to Asheville and began his legal career at Pisgah Legal Services and later worked as corporate counsel for a local military contractor. In 2014 he co-founded a walking and biking advocacy group, Connect Enka, in Enka-Candler working to make the area along Hominy Creek and Enka Commerce Center friendly to people who want to bike or walk safely.
He continues to be active in the community and is a member of the Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyers, Pro Bono Committee Chair for the local bar, and is a League Cycling Instructor. In his free time, he likes to bike, hike, canoe and camp in the local WNC mountains with his family.
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 a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from UNC-Asheville where she took every botany course that was offered. Her 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 sustainable landscaping through the use of native plants and organic gardening. Three years ago, the pull of learning led Renee away from the work force and back to school where she received her M.S. in Biology from East Carolina University. As a graduate student, Renee studied the conservation of an endangered plant species that grows in wet pine savannas.
While living in Asheville, Renee has been drawn to the surrounding rivers, whether it was canoeing the French Broad, swimming in the Swannanoa, or rafting the Nolichucky where she and her husband Dave were married. As the Watershed Resources Coordinator, Renee is excited to apply her skills to conservation of the surrounding rivers, which are vital both ecologically and economically to this area in which we live.
Micaela grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, which fostered her love for the outdoors and respect for the environment. Following high school, Micaela took a gap year during which she built trails and managed invasive species with Utah’s Canyon Country Youth Corps and then honed leadership and outdoor skills through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Baja, Mexico. She then attended Washington University in St. Louis, where a service-learning environmental justice course led her to conduct a stakeholder assessment of the St. Vincent Greenway, her first exposure to the importance of greenways.
A desire to focus more wholly in environmental sciences took Micaela to the University of Oregon, where she completed her B.S. in Environmental Science and Political Science in June 2016. While in Eugene Micaela developed and facilitated a place-based environmental education curriculum for 6th through 8th grade students through the Environmental Leadership Program’s Canopy Connections. Additionally, while studying ecology abroad in Panama with the School for Field Studies, Micaela realized the power of communicating a community’s ecology to its residents.
Ultimately these experiences brought Micaela to Riverlink, where she is so excited to put her passions into action and explore this watershed with local students.
When not facilitating watershed lessons, Micaela enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee, hiking, and practicing yoga.
As a professional operations manager, Melinda started her career with a national marketing firm, but she eventually found that working for nonprofit organizations was the most rewarding and contributory use of her professional time.
She and her partner, George, have turned their one-acre piece of land into a small urban farm, where they strive to produce most of what they consume. Melinda raises chickens, while George tends to the greenhouses and their tilapia fish, which they grow in their new aquaponics system.
Melinda enjoys reading, hiking, gardening and summer vacations in the lovely Village of Clayton, New York, on the Saint Lawrence River.
Suzanne is a native of Winston-Salem where she grew up exploring creeks and enjoying other outdoor adventures. Her love for exploring prompted her to take some extended time away from college to travel. During this time, she lived in Dillon, Colorado, backpacked through the mountains of Alaska, and ultimately moved to Morgantown, West Virginia.
Suzanne finds her true passion is in the nonprofit sector. After finalizing her degree in Fine Art and Political Science, she returned to the nonprofit sector. She has extensive experience in the Development field having worked for the Alzheimer’s Association, WV Chapter, directing the efforts of Friends of Deckers Creek in Morgantown, WV, and serving on the Development Committee for a small organization that promotes biking for all ages. She gladly returned to her home state to work with RiverLink. Her passion for environmental stewardship, water resources, and the arts make RiverLink the perfect organization for her to share her expertise in development and passion for conservation.
In her spare time, she enjoys adventures with her husband, two children and dog Toby, making pottery and enjoying the outdoors.
RJ grew up in northern Indiana, but has always considered the South as his true home. Much of his early years were spent exploring in the woods or playing in the streams and wetlands of his Indiana home and his family lands in Kentucky. A scientist at heart, he could be found running barefoot through the woods and climbing trees, playing with his chemistry set or dissecting earthworms in the garage. He has always had a bond to the land and to the natural features in the landscape.
After graduating with a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of South Carolina, RJ spent many years as a geologist in the oil/gas business along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas. When the cyclic nature of that industry resulting in a layoff on EarthDay, RJ saw it as a sign from the heavens and left that industry for a change in his career path to environmental sciences. Since then, he has worked for several environmental consultants in Texas and for a county agency that managed the bayous and other waterways in Houston, Texas.
After the experiences of volunteering with a number of non-profit land and water conservation groups, he was offered the position of Conservation and Stewardship Director of a land trust protecting urban and rural lands in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. He has recently moved here to Asheville area to follow his bliss and be a part of the culture and outdoor attributes of western North Carolina. His passions include the study of native plants, natural habitats and work on river systems. With previous certifications in wetland sciences and environmental studies, RJ feels that his role as a steward of the natural ecosystems and the landscape is an important calling in his life.
RJ enjoys hiking, camping, biking and kayaking, along with travel and the study of nature. Like when he was a boy, he still enjoys getting outside and exploring our amazing natural world. Many years of experience in working with land and water have taught him that protection and conservation of our surface and groundwater water resources is an important objective for all landowners and our communities.
Justin is a second year AmeriCorps member here at RiverLink and has created lots of exciting volunteer opportunities for anyone who wants to help us keep the French Broad River beautiful! Justin was born in Raleigh North Carolina. He attended school at Appalachian State University where he studied Sustainable Development. During his degree program he helped create the first Homegrown Film Festival. Traveled to Peru to research the effects of climate change on glacial retreat. But most importantly gained a passion for water and other environmental issues. After receiving his BS in 2013 he joined the Maryland Conservation Corps.
During his year of service he spent a lot of time handling raptors and reptiles. The goal was to educate the public about the importance of those species and how we can protect them. His interpretive work also included field trips for schools and youth groups. Activities would range from paddling and fishing to low and high ropes courses. All aimed at encouraging positive interactions with the natural environment. Of course no conservation job would be complete without getting your hands dirty. Justin spent much of MCC removing invasive species, planting living coastlines, and administering prescribed burns.
After facilitating such great interactions with nature Justin is ecstatic to bring that experience and passion to the people of Asheville. He hopes to inspire and encourage new groups of people to protect their natural surroundings. If you need to find Justin he’ll likely be floating down a river, hiking up a mountain, or painting one of the incredible vistas provided by the Blue Ridge.
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