Bert Harris, Ph.D. – Executive Director
Bert has a long-standing interest in the ecology and conservation of forests and grasslands in the eastern United States. He grew up chasing birds and salamanders in the oak-hickory forests of northern Alabama and studied changes in forest composition and ephemeral pond bird communities as an undergraduate at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. While at Sewanee he founded a natural history club in an effort to expose his fellow students to the amazing diversity of life on campus. Bert also has a background in research on the effects of the wildlife trade, climate change, and habitat loss on tropical birds. After attaining his B.S., Bert completed a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Bert is a Research Assistant Professor in Residence in the Department of Environmental Science at American University. He also serves as an Academic Editor for PLOS ONE and an editor for Cogent Environmental Science. Since moving to Virginia, Bert has become fascinated by grassland restoration and he spends every free moment helping native plants thrive on his property.
At Clifton, Bert oversees all of the organization’s activities, with a focus on restoration. He is passionate about documenting the thousands of species that occur at Clifton (see our iNaturalist project) and sharing the wonder of their life histories with the local community.
More information about Bert including his publications can be found here.
Eleanor Harris, Ph.D. – Managing Director
Eleanor is fascinated by evolution and she delights in teaching young people about the natural world. As a theoretical ecologist, she is interested in understanding how information is processed in biological systems, the origins and functions of hierarchical organization, how social systems function on ecological timescales, and how social systems evolve. After attaining her B.A. in Mathematics at the University of Chicago, Eleanor completed a Ph.D. in Quantitative and Computational Biology at Princeton University. She has since been employed as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Maryland. Eleanor is a Research Assistant Professor in Residence in the Department of Environmental Science at American University. Eleanor has taught students ranging in age from kindergarten to college and loves helping people learn about nature and mathematics.
At Clifton, Eleanor oversees all of the organization’s activities, with a focus on education.
Feliecia Brooks – Administrator
Feliecia has supported nearly every aspect of the Clifton Institute for over 30 years. From overseeing the office, employees, and events to removing a raccoon from the bookshelf, she has seen it all! As a life-long resident of Fauquier County, Feliecia cherishes both the natural beauty and historical aspects of Virginia. She is an ardent volunteer for local as well as national non-profits, especially in health and literacy and currently serves on the Fauquier Library Board of Trustees. Feliecia’s interest in history has led her to study historic foodways and textiles as well as initiate the restoration of the cabin on the Clifton Institute property that dates from 1820.
PART-TIME STAFF AND CONTRACTORS
Sheri Thorpe – Accountant and History Program Specialist
Sheri has developed her interest in community nonprofits over a career of more than two decades in public accounting, serving on nonprofit boards, and more recently as an interim executive for nonprofit organizations. She enjoys taking a break from crunching numbers to explore the landscape of the Clifton and Adams properties, and looks for opportunities to invite others to experience this special place. Sheri looks forward to continuing to support the Institute’s mission through programs that serve the entire community.
Sue Marshall – House Manager
Charles Brooks – Groundskeeper
Ken Lang – Assistant Groundskeeper
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Douglas Larson – President
Doug was formerly a Vice President at the Piedmont Environmental Council with primary responsibility for the development program of the organization. He has had extensive non-profit experience serving as the Director of the Airlie Foundation, Board member of the Fauquier Hospital, and a variety of other community organizations. Following his graduation from Drake University he served in the US Peace Corps. His career took him overseas working for The Agency For International Development and later for The George Washington University in international health education programs.
Robert C. Karch, Ed.D. – Vice President
Robert has been a member of the American University faculty, in Washington, D. C., since 1969. He is a Professor in the School of Education, Teaching and Health and the creator of two academic programs at the University: the Master of Science program in Health Fitness Management, now 30 years old, and the Bachelor of Science program in Health Promotion, now in its 15th year. He is also the founder and Executive Director of the University’s National Center for Health Fitness and the University’s International Institute for Health Promotion.
Edward J. Bernacki, M.D.
Edward is Professor of Medicine, Director, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine and Executive Director of Health, Safety and Environment for the Johns Hopkins University. He is past President of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and former Corporate Medical Director of United Technologies Corporation, Hartford, Connecticut and Corporate Vice President of Tenneco, Inc., Houston, Texas.
Melissa Johnson, MS
Melissa was an adjunct professor in Health/Fitness Management at American University in Washington, D. C., She has served as Director of Operations for National Fitness Leaders Association (NFLA), and as vice president and western regional chair of the National Association of Health and Fitness, formerly the National Association of Governor’s Councils on Physical Fitness and Sports. She was appointed Executive Director of the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and appointed by President Bush as Executive Director of the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness.
Jocelyn Arundel Sladen
Jocelyn is a conservationist and lifelong resident of the Warrenton, Virginia area. She worked closely with her husband, Dr. William Sladen, in founding the Environmental Studies on the Piedmont program (part of the Clifton Institute). She has served on numerous boards, including the Center for Plant Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, Rachel’s Network and the Advisory Board of Virginia Working Landscapes.
David Snyder, M.D.
David is a founding member of Blue Ridge Orthopaedic Associates in Warrenton, Virginia and a diplomat of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery with extensive experience in reconstructive surgery. He has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Virginia and as Chief of Surgery and President of the medical staff at the Fauquier Hospital.
Phoebe Tufts, M.Ed
Phoebe has an M.Ed in English and an M.Ed in Special Education, is certified to teach Biology and has taught in both independent and public schools. Prior to teaching, she served as a humane investigator for the state of Virginia, as a member of the Head Start Parent Policy Council, Head Start Health and Education Advisory Council and as chairperson of the Fauquier County Public Schools Vocational Education Advisory Council. More recently she has served on the board of the Fauquier Mental Health Association.