Top navigation

2022 Conference Speaker Biographies

Return to Full Conference Schedule.

Sandra Albro

As director of community partnerships at Holden Forests & Gardens, Sandra Albro works to connect local communities to the wonder, beauty, and value of trees and plants. Her areas of expertise are in collaborative urban greening and vacant land use as tools for community health and revitalization. She was project manager for “Vacant to Vibrant,” an urban greening initiative in three Great Lakes cities, and is author of the book Vacant to Vibrant: Creating Successful Green Infrastructure Networks (Island Press, 2019).

Rasmus Astrup

Rasmus Astrup is Partner and Design Principal at SLA and spearheads the studio’s largest and most complex international projects. He is a leading specialist in sustainable landscape architecture, integrated climate adaptation, and nature-based design and has led SLA’s most forward-looking and award-winning projects all over the world. His perpetual emphasis on creating the best possible opportunities for public life is continuously manifested through inspiring and green urban spaces with living ecosystems that help create robust cities, better living environments, and a higher quality of life. Mr. Astrup holds a MA in Landscape Architecture from the University of Copenhagen and a BA from the Politecnico di Milano.

Pamela Berstler

Pamela Berstler is a nationally recognized expert on soil and water management who developed the Watershed Approach, a regenerative landscape strategy, and grew it into a nationwide movement with twelve guidebooks on the subject. Agencies and municipalities throughout the western U.S. have adopted its principles as their landscape standards. For fifteen years, Ms. Berstler has helmed G3, Green Gardens Group, an award-winning EPA Professional Certifying Organization. Prior to G3, Ms. Berstler spent a decade as a licensed landscape contractor with an award-winning bespoke design-build firm. She is the recipient of three Environmental Protection Agency annual professional awards, the Garden Writers Association Green Medal for Sustainability, and APLD’s International Sustainability Award. She also is a graduate of the Al Gore sponsored Climate Reality Training and Speakers Corps. Ms. Berstler didn’t come to landscape and agriculture through a direct route, as she first took a detour through a career in derivative securities trading and raising private equity for technology and media companies. Pamela is deeply committed to the reinvigoration of American entrepreneurship through regenerative land management and agriculture.

Kate Cholakis

Kate Cholakis is conducting research examining the intersections of sustainable stormwater management, landscape perception, and environmental behavior through the MSLA program at Penn State University. She teaches ecological design and planning within the Conway School’s graduate program, and her professional practice experience involves green infrastructure planning and design and ecological approaches to land management. Ms. Cholakis earned her BA in Architecture from Smith College and MA from the Conway School. She is a LEED Green Associate.

Ted Elliman

For many years, Ted Elliman worked at Native Plant Trust as a staff botanist, invasive plant program manager, and course instructor. Now retired as a staff member, Mr. Elliman continues to teach botany and ecology classes for Native Plant Trust and a number of other botanical gardens and environmental organizations. He is the author of Wildflowers of New England (Timber Press 2016) and co-author with Lauren Brown of Grasses, Sedges, Rushes: An Identification Guide (Yale University Press 2020).

Chris Evans

Chris Evans is an Extension Forestry and Research Specialist with the University of Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. He has expertise in forest health, hardwood tree management, invasive species, and agroforestry.  Mr. Evans also serves as the interim state coordinator for the Illinois Master Naturalist Program, program director for the Illinois Arborist Association, and associate editor of the Natural Areas Journal. He holds an MS in Forestry from Iowa State University, and earned a BA in Wildlife Biology from Murray State University.

Anthony Fettes

With over sixteen years of global experience in habitat restoration, ecosystem monitoring, and landscape architecture, Mr. Fettes recently joined the Landscape Architecture faculty at the University of New Mexico in 2019. As a founding Associate of Sasaki’s Ecology practice (2011-2019), he is driven by his passion for revealing the complex, interconnected cultural and ecological narratives behind every landscape. Drawing inspiration from the unique characteristics and challenges of every project site, his teaching, research, and practice focus on advancing regenerative, ecologically-based design approaches – with a particular interest in biophony and the presence of urban wildlife as a landscape performance metric.

Stephanie Frischie

Stephanie Frischie provides pollinator and beneficial insect habitat expertise in Canada, the U.S. and Latin America for a range of land use types – farms, the energy infrastructure, natural areas, and urban green spaces. She also works with the native seed industry and researchers to plan and develop seed supply of important plant species for creating and restoring habitat. Ms. Frischie volunteers as a rare plant monitor with Plants of Concern and is the secretary of the International Network for Seed-based Restoration.

Josef Gorres

Dr. Josef Gorrres holds an MS in Natural Resources from the University of Rhode Island and earned his PhD at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, UK. He studies Soil Properties, Soil Fauna, and Ecological Management for Soil Quality at the University of  Vermont. 

Angela Gupta

Angela Gupta is a University of Minnesota Extension Professor of Forestry who specializes in terrestrial invasive species. She has done invasive species early detection education and outreach for about 15 years. Ms. Gupta is running a “Jumping worms: Report management” citizen science project to try and understand what management options might work for “jumpings.” Ms. Gupta earned a MA in Organizational Management from Spring Arbor University and a BS in Forestry from the University of Kentucky. 

Nick Haddad

Nick Haddad is a professor at Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University. He takes an experimental approach to understand the enduring effects of habitat loss, and the opportunities for landscape conservation. Mr. Haddad conducts his research in landscapes as diverse as US Forests, agricultural landscapes, and military bases. He has shown that reconnecting habitats across landscapes can increase biodiversity and have many benefits for people. His website,, draws together scientists and land managers around the latest science and practice of landscape conservation.

Linda Hwang

Linda Hwang is senior director of strategy and innovation at The Trust for Public Land. She has been with The Trust for Public Land since 2016 and is responsible for developing long-term strategy and direction for the research and innovation team; for providing high-level leadership; and for anticipating, sensing, and monitoring trends in the broader parks, conservation, equity, and technology spaces. Ms. Hwang works in partnership with The Trust for Public Land’s 25+ field offices, content experts, and policy and advocacy teams to develop growth initiatives that enable increased impact and leads the exploration and implementation of new parks and conservation data opportunities for the organization. She previously worked with all of Trust for Public Land’s field offices to develop state-focused five-year strategic plans. Prior to this, Ms Hwang was a partner at a start-up that developed customized decision-support tools that quantify ecosystem services for clients such as The Nature Conservancy, The Dow Chemical Company, and Environmental Defense Fund. Ms. Hwang has a BA in Environmental Economics from the University of Michigan, an MPhil in Development Studies and Social Transformation from the University of Cape Town, and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

Annika Keeley

Dr. Annika Keeley is a conservation scientist with expertise in ecological connectivity science, and animal behavior. As a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, she systematically reviewed the literature at the intersection of connectivity and climate change science and explored the challenges and opportunities for implementing connectivity in California and around the world. Dr. Keeley co-authored the second edition of the book Corridor Ecology and contributed substantially to the “Connectivity Conservation Guidelines” published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. She is now with the Center for Large Landscape Conservation where she provides science leadership and advises on connectivity projects and programs across the organization. She is also a member of the IUCN Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group.

Robert Kourik

Robert Kourik has written 19 books on various environmental topics, including the his classic book Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape, which has been in print since 1986. He has received two gold-metal awards from the Garden Writers of America. With over 100 freelance articles, including seven for the New York Times, Mr. Kourik has a reputation for in-depth books and articles on gardening and environmental lifestyles. He has been gardening organically and consulting on sustainable edible landscapes for over 30 years.

Susannah Lerman

Dr. Susannah Lerman is a Research Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station. She has a BA in American History from the University of Delaware, a MS in Conservation Biology from Antioch University, and a PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Massachusetts. With an expertise in wildlife ecology and urban social-ecological systems, Dr. Lerman translates the application of scientific information into management tools and integrates a citizen science approach. Her ultimate goal is to improve the sustainability of urban and urbanizing environments for birds, bees and other wildlife, and advancing human well-being through strengthening connections between people with nearby nature. Her research emphasis is on private lands, which provide opportunities for the public to participate in science, conservation, and shared stewardship. Her research program also aims to broaden participation in STEM and addresses environmental injustices, also she proudly mentors a diverse and exceptional group of young and early career scholars.

Heather McCargo

Heather McCargo is the founder of Wild Seed Project and is an educator with 35 years of expertise in plant propagation, landscape design, and conservation. She was the head plant propagator at the Native Plant Trusts Garden in the Woods during the 1990s; worked in landscape architecture/planning firms specializing in ecological design; and has been a contributor to research projects with USAID, the National Gardening Association, and MOFGA. She lectures nationally and is widely published in journals and magazines. Heather has a BA in plant ecology from Hampshire College and a MA from the Conway School of Landscape Design. Wild Seed Project, a Maine-based nonprofit that works to increase the use of native plants in all landscape settings in order to conserve biodiversity, encourage plant adaption in the face of climate change, safeguard wildlife habitat, and create pollination and migration corridors for insects and birds. Wild Seed Project sells seeds of locally-grown native plants and educates the public on seed sowing so that a wide range of citizens can participate in increasing native plant populations. 

Christopher Neill

Dr. Christopher Neill is an ecosystem ecologist who studies land use change, land use effects on water quality, and the dynamics of plant communities in grassland, wetlands, and urban ecosystems. He is a Senior Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Falmouth.

Susan Pell

Dr. Susan Pell is the Deputy Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden (USBG). She holds a BS in biology from St. Andrews University in North Carolina and a PhD in plant biology from Louisiana State University where her dissertation focused on molecular systematics of the cashew family (Anacardiaceae). Dr. Pell has spent her career at botanic gardens as a botanist, educator, and leader, and has traveled the world to collect plants for floristics and evolution research projects. She has held positions at The New York Botanical Garden and Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and moved to Washington, D.C. in 2013 for an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship at the National Science Foundation. In her current role, Dr. Pell oversees the USBG’s programs in science, education, horticulture, and operations. While remaining an active scientist, she is dedicated to helping the Garden achieve its mission of demonstrating the beauty and importance of plants to the wellbeing of humankind and the environment, and to diversifying the collections, offerings, and visitorship of the Garden.

Eliza Pennypacker

Eliza Pennypacker is a Professor of Landscape Architecture at Penn State University. Since 2005 she has conducted research with Stuart Echols on “Artful Rainwater Design”: sustainable stormwater management that celebrates the rain in a way that is entertaining and enlightening. She and Echols have presented and published extensively on the subject, including their 2015 book, Artful Rainwater Design: Creative Ways to Manage Stormwater (Island Press). 

Devanshi Purohit

Devanshi Purohit is an urban designer, architect, resiliency strategist, and Associate Principal at CBT. Her work is driven by the constant study of the interplay among societies, infrastructure, and our ever-changing climate. Some of her recent notable work includes the Suffolk Downs Master Plan, Cambridge Crossing Master Plan, the Blueway at the New England Aquarium, Abu Dhabi Climate Interventions, as well as the strategic development planning for Boston University. Devanshi received a MS in Architecture and Urban Design from the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University and a Bachelor of Architecture from M.S. University, India. She is currently actively engaged in the Boston community, focusing on resiliency discussions including the Boston Society for Architecture (BSA) where she co-chairs the Committee on Resilient Environments (CORE) and serves on the community advisory board for Climate Ready East Boston – Phase 2. She was one of the panelists and a contributor to the “Living with Heat” charrette and publication organized by the Urban Land Institute’s New England district council. She was also selected to be one of the eight professionals to participate in Copenhagen Urban Lab 2019, a ten day workshop to develop mitigation strategies for UHI for the cities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg in Denmark.

Chris Roddick

Chris Roddick is an Arborist and Foreman of Grounds at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and a NOFA-Organic land care Professional. In the past 20 years. Mr. Roddick and his team developed the botanic garden’s tree care program and established the BBG as a leader in Conservation Arboriculture and veteran tree care. He also helped lead the Garden’s move from a chemically-based IPM program to a more organic approach. Though the process of trial and error (much error) he has experimented with many different organic, cultural, and environmentally responsible methods and products to improve the garden’s soil and plant health.

Margie Ruddick

For over twenty years, Margie Ruddick has been recognized for her pioneering work in the landscape, forging a design language that integrates ecology and culture. Her transformative design for New York’s Queens Plaza has won awards for promoting a new idea of nature in the city, where storm water, wind, sun, and habitat merge within an urban infrastructure to create a more sustainable vision of urban life. The new waterfront at Stapleton, in New York City, brings the harbor and city together in a park with cove and tidal wetlands, catalyzing the revitalization of this historic Staten Island district. Trenton Capital Park restores the connection between the city and the Delaware. Ms. Ruddick has taught at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Yale, Princeton, The University of Pennsylvania, Parsons School of Design, and Schumacher College in England. She’s received numerous design awards, inluding the 2006 Rachel Carson Women in Conservation Award recipient from the National Audubon Society, an award that recognizes “visionary women whose contributions, talent, and energy have advanced conservation and environmental education locally and on a global scale” and was named as one of the top ten women in green design by the Green Economy Post in 2010. Ms. Ruddick graduated from Bowdoin College and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. From 2004-2007 she was a partner at the planning and design firm WRT. She now works independently on projects, in addition to writing, lecturing, and teaching. Her book Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes was published in March 2016. 

Nahal Sohbati

Nahal Sohbati is a landscape designer and a co-founder of Topo-Phyla Landscape Design in Santa Barbara. After earning her bachelor’s degree in interior architecture, Nahal developed a passion for public open spaces with high social and environmental impact, which led her to pursue a master’s in landscape architecture. Nahal strongly believes that design is an advocacy tool to change “what is” into “what could be.” Since completing her award-winning community service project, Ridge Lane, Nahal has made it her goal to contribute design services that form lasting bonds between communities and their environment.

Kishore Varanasi

Kishore Varanasi is a Principal and Director of Urban Design at Boston-based CBT, specializing in the development of authentic design solutions for cities at all scales that address human connection, social equity, and climate resilience. For 25 years, Kishore has worked to shape cities and communities globally through sustainable and holistic solutions in both the public and private sectors. He adopts a distinct approach to urban design which builds on the unique qualities and character of each context while supporting the economic potential of each place, and constantly focuses on environmental sustainability. His recent work includes the Masdar City Master Plan, Lincoln Yards in Chicago, the Blueway at the New England Aquarium, Cambridge Crossing, Boston University Master Plan, Hudayriyat Island Master Plan, Bhavani Islands Master Plan, The Riverline in Buffalo, NY, as well as Abu Dhabi Climate Interventions, and the Suffolk Downs Master Plan, which will transform an under-utilized environmentally vulnerable section of Greater Boston into a highly resilient, transit-oriented, mixed-use development. He holds a MS in Urbanism from MIT; a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and received his Bachelor of Architecture from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad, India.

Vincent Verweij

Vincent Verweij is the urban forest manager for Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, overseeing public trees, forestry planning, and tree canopy permits, and was an urban forester with the department for seven years prior. He has experience in topics beyond urban forestry, with geographic information systems (GIS), stormwater, flood management and engineering. His current work with Arlington ranges from tree inspections to plan review to restoration of natural areas. One of the goals of his work is to maintain the County’s 40 percent tree canopy target in the long term. Previously, Mr. Verweij worked with a federal contractor, performing tree canopy assessments and creating flood maps with GIS. He also worked at an arboretum mapping trees and has a long history working with nonprofit tree planting organizations. Mr. Verweij has an undergraduate degree in geography from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in natural resources management from Virginia Tech.

Benjamin Vogt

Benjamin Vogt owns the prairie-inspired design firm Monarch Gardens, based in Lincoln, Nebraska. His gardens have appeared in The American Gardener, Fine Gardening, Garden Design, and Midwest Living. Benjamin is author of the forthcoming Prairie Up: An Introduction to Natural Garden Design and A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future.

Dan Jaffe Wilder

Photographer and author Dan Jaffe Wilder has over fifteen years’ experience with ecological horticulture. He is a propagator of native species, the photographer and author of Native Plants for New England Gardens and a lecturer on numerous topics including wildlife habitat, sustainable landscape practices, foraging and cultivation of edible species, low-maintenance horticulture and others. He has developed a native plant horticultural database ( and has years of nursery management experience. Mr. Wilder earned a degree in botany from the University of Maine, Orono, and an advanced certificate in Native Plant Horticulture and Design from Native Plant Trust (formally New England Wild Flower Society). He is the Director of Applied Ecology for the Norcross Wildlife Foundation and is currently building his own home-scale homestead, growing and foraging numerous edible species, preserving and cooking whenever possible, and raising small animals. 

Return to Full Conference Schedule.