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 and an Affiliate Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy Department at George Mason University. He also serves as an Academic Editor for PLOS ONE. 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
Every since she was young, Eleanor has loved being outside and learning about animals. In high school, she developed a love of mathematics and she attained her B.A. in Mathematics at the University of Chicago. Late in college, she rediscovered her interest in animals and went on to complete a Ph.D. in Quantitative and Computational Biology at Princeton University. In her research as a mathematical biologist, she is interested in the evolution of animal communication and animal social systems. After graduate school, Eleanor held a James S. McDonnell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Biology at the University of Maryland. Eleanor is currently a Research Assistant Professor in Residence in the Department of Environmental Science at American University and an Affiliate Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy Department at George Mason University.
As Managing Director at the Clifton Institute, Eleanor oversees all of the organization’s activities, with a focus on education and development. Eleanor is fascinated by evolution and she loves helping people of all ages learn about nature and mathematics.
More information about Eleanor including her publications can be found here.
Alison Zak, M.A. – Education Associate
Alison is fascinated by the relationship between people and nature. She grew up in Florida where she learned to love birds, and ironically, the mountains. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of South Florida, and a M.A. in Anthropology from San Diego State University where she studied primatology and human-wildlife conflict. Alison is passionate about wildlife conservation and inspiring children to be curious, compassionate learners about the natural world through science education, writing, art, movement, and more. She has a wealth of environmental education experience and has developed and/or taught programs for the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, the Smithsonian National Zoo, and at multiple schools.
At Clifton, Alison runs our education programs.
You can read more about Alison and her interests on her blog, Almost Anthropology.
Marie Norwood – Land Management Outreach Associate
Marie grew up north of Boston, but spent a lot of time visiting family and hiking, canoeing, fishing, and falling in love with the outdoors in central Virginia. She found a passion for ecosystem restoration after attending an ecological field study in East Africa. She has a B.Sc. and B.A. from McGill University, where she majored in Organismal Biology and International Development. After graduating, she worked in Colorado conducting terrestrial ecosystem monitoring for the Bureau of Land Management, and in Georgia as a prescribed fire crew supervisor for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Marie believes deeply in the power of good management and science education for building a sustainable future.
At Clifton, Marie is available to visit local landowners to give recommendations about land management for the benefit of native plants and animals. Marie also liaises with companies, government entities, and other non-profits to improve land management across our area and helps manage our 900-acre field station.
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.
Lindsay Hogeboom – Communications Assistant
Lindsay is a writer, photographer, and communications professional who believes that by sharing stories of nature and outdoor experiences with all people, we can foster environmental stewardship that will benefit the health of both our communities and our lands and wildlife. Lindsay’s love of nature began in the mangroves of Jupiter, Florida, where she spent her childhood prior to moving to New England where she developed a passion for hiking and photography. In 2015, Lindsay moved to Virginia, where she currently serves as editor, writer and photographer for print publications focusing on conservation, recreation, wellness, equity, and community.
As Communications Assistant at the Clifton Institute, Lindsay helps to share the stories of our education, research, and restoration efforts through public relations, social media and more.
Ken Lang – 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.
Jocelyn Lee Alexander, M.Ed.
Jocelyn is an educator, conservationist and neighboring landowner. As owner of her family’s long-held (since 1941) property on Wildcat Mountain, whose fields and woodlands she has hiked and ridden since childhood, she represents three generations of a family closely involved in the preservation of natural values in the Warrenton community. She remains involved in Great Meadow Outdoors Foundation, which her uncle founded and where she rode as advanced level competitor. Jocelyn (MA. SpEd) is a caseload manager and teacher in the county with a passion for connecting the varied working components of her community which reaches to Washington D.C., where she went to school.
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.
G. Robert Lee
G. Robert (Bob) Lee served as a Virginia local government county administrator for 30+ years. On retirement, the Virginia General Assembly in 2005 adopted a Joint Resolution commending him “on completion of an exemplary career of service.” Bob next served as a State Agency Head (Virginia Outdoors Foundation) during the terms of three Virginia Governors. On his second public service retirement, the Board of Trustees of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation named Bob as Honorary Executive Director Emeritus. He has served on many non-profit boards, including the Board of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and decades on the Board of the Foundation of the State Arboretum of Virginia. Bob was the recipient of the Mosby Heritage Hero Award in 2013. Bob also received the 2012 Conservationist of the Year Award from the Land Trust of Virginia, and the WIngate Makay-Smith Clarke County Land Conservation Award (2017). In 2019, the Citizens for Fauquier County recognized Bob with the Kitty P. Smith Conservation Award. Bob had Gubernatorial and Virginia Cabinet level appointments on statewide boards, commissions, and committees. He has an undergraduate degree from the College of William & Mary and a graduate degree from Cornell University.
Charles G. Mackall, Jr.
Charles is Chairman of Avenir, a value-oriented investment management firm located in Washington, D.C. Prior to founding Avenir with an associate in 1980, Mr. Mackall worked for 17 years at NS&T Bank (now SunTrust Banks, Inc.) serving as Vice President and Manager of Commercial Lending. He received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1957 and an M.B.A. from the Colgate Darden School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia in 1962. Charles is a passionate conservationist who is especially interested in restoring native grasslands in the Northern Virginia Piedmont.
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. David is also the founder of Verdun Adventure Bound.
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