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Conference Speaker Biographies

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Gerdo Aquino, FASLA, RLA

Gerdo Aquino is co-CEO and Principal of SWA, an award-winning, global practice of landscape architecture, urban design, and planning. As 100-percent employee-owned, SWA comprises over 250 people who explore the creative intersection of ecology, design, and urbanism through public realm projects located in cities around the world. Gerdo’s work addresses issues of urban ecology, climate change, resiliency, programming and complex social and cultural systems. Recent notable examples SWA’s work include the celebrated Culver Steps in Los Angeles; culturally significant San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, Texas; Belgrade, Serbia’s Sava Promenada; Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park in Long Island City, New York; and Buffalo Bayou Promenade and Greenways in Houston, Texas. Based in Los Angeles, Gerdo has served on numerous national boards, lectured at universities and other institutions around the world, and co-authored the award-winning book Landscape Infrastructure: Case Studies by SWA.

Jesse Bellemare

Dr. Jesse Bellemare is a plant ecologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Smith College in Northampton, MA.  He also currently serves as president of the New England Botanical Club.  The Bellemare Lab’s research at Smith College focuses on questions of plant species’ distributions and dispersal in the forests of eastern North America, seeking to understand how large-scale plant diversity patterns have been shaped by past climate change, such as the Ice Age, and how rare and vulnerable plant species might be affected by modern climate change.  This research has also explored questions around so-called “assisted migration” and whether such conservation approaches might be justified or safe in the future, and how these issues intersect with our conceptions and biases around “native” and “non-native” plant species.

Asmeret Asefaw Berhe

Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe is a Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry and Falasco Chair in Earth Sciences at the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Merced. She is also currently serving as the Interim Associate Dean for the Graduate Division at UC Merced. Her research interest lies at the intersection of soil science, global change science, and political ecology, and seeks to improve our understanding of how the soil system regulates the earth’s climate and the dynamic two-way relationship between soil and human communities. Among many awards and honors, Asmeret received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award; is a member of the inaugural class of the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s New Voices in Science, Engineering, and Medicine; and is a recipient of the Bromery Award and Fellow of the Geological Society of America. She is passionate about all things soil and is driven to ensure that scientific education and careers are equally accessible to people from all walks of life, and that academic workplaces are free from bias and harassment.

Carrie Brown-Lima

Carrie Brown-Lima is a Senior Extension Associate and the Director of the NY Invasive Species Research Institute at Cornell University. In this role, she works closely with research scientists, state and federal agencies, the NY Invasive Species Council and Advisory Committee, and regional stakeholders to promote innovation and improve the scientific basis of invasive species management. Carrie has over 20 year of experience working with natural resource conservation and management across ecosystems and borders. Prior to her position with the Research Institute, she spent 11 years promoting conservation strategies and partnerships in Brazil and throughout Latin America on diverse programs such as sustainable fisheries certifications, agriculture and conservation, and transboundary protected areas.

Matt Charpentier

Matt Charpentier is a botanist and environmental consultant with Oxbow Associates, Inc., an environmental consulting firm which provides wetlands and rare and endangered species services to clients throughout New England. He is also the current vice-president of the New England Botanical Club and a member of the Native Plant Trust’s New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCoP) advisory group. Matt’s passion for botany extends to his personal time, which he uses to document un-recorded populations of endangered plant species; and he can often be found spelunking through talus in search of weft fern.

Sandra Nam Cioffi

Sandra Nam Cioffi is the Founding Principal of Ink Landscape Architects, PLLC, Director of Marketing and Outreach at QiqoChat Inc., and Creator of the CUT|FILL conference series for civic design practices.

Pamela Conrad

Pamela Conrad is a Principal at CMG Landscape Architecture, in San Francisco, CA. She brings a strong ecological background to her projects and works on resiliency and climate change solutions. Her drive to protect the environment stems from her childhood on a farm, education in plant science and regenerative landscape architecture, and experience restoring waterways at the US Army Corps of Engineers. She focuses on transforming challenged urban areas into socially valued and ecologically performing public open spaces. Pamela has experience on two of the largest environmentally innovative projects in the Bay Area responding to Climate Change – Treasure Island Parks and Open Space and the San Francisco Waterfront Resilience Program. Additionally, she is a recipient of the 2018 Landscape Architecture Foundation Fellowship for the development of the Pathfinder landscape carbon calculator app and the Climate Positive Design Challenge – products of an extensive research initiative which she is sharing around the globe. Pamela serves as a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects Climate Action Committee and was recognized by the SF Business Times in 2019 as a NCRE Woman of Influence.

Thomas Easley

Dr. Thomas R. Easley has spent most of his career as a diversity professional and a forester. As a diversity professional he has focused on the recruitment, retention, and diverse talent in natural resource disciplines. As a forester he has worked with landowners and citizens on land management and stewardship. Thomas earned his undergraduate degree in Forest Science from Alabama A&M University, his master’s degree in Forest Genetics from Iowa State University, and his doctorate in Adult Education from NC State University. He is the Assistant Dean of Community and Inclusion at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University.

Ann English

Ann English, PLA, ASLA, LEED® AP BD+C is the RainScapes Program Manager for the Montgomery County, MD Department of Environmental Protection. Under her direction, the RainScapes program has developed its incentive program into a model that others have copied. The incentive program is based on three elements: clear technical guidance, diligent data management, and excellent customer service. The program has right sized its rebate structure and streamlined its application process and grown to greatly expand the amount of land converted to manage stormwater using RainScapes practices. A key component of RainScapes practices is the improvement of local site hydrology with a focus on native plants and improving infiltration capacity through planting and working with in situ soils to achieve runoff reduction goals. An ongoing effort is being made to evaluate practices as they relate to climate change, carbon storage, carbon footprint reduction. Ann is both a designer and teacher who has worked in the private, non-profit, and governmental sectors. She is passionate about plants, and how to design and evaluate plant performance in the environments in which they are planted. 

Anna Fialkoff

As the new program manager, Anna Fialkoff is ready to help Wild Seed Project further its educational programming, deepen relationships with partner organizations, and catalyze a movement to rewild Maine. Anna was most recently Senior Horticulturist at Native Plant Trust’s Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA, where she designed and installed native plant gardens, managed interns and volunteers, and taught the public ways to incorporate native plants in their own gardens. With a BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic and an MS in Ecological Design from The Conway School, she brings with her a deep knowledge of native plant ecology, horticulture, conservation, and ecological landscape design.

Lupe Gallegos-Diaz

Lupe currently serves as Director of the Chicanx Latinx Student Development Center and Co-Director of the Latinos and the Environment Initiative at the University of California, Berkeley.  In these positions she is one of the leads at the university’s equity, diversity and inclusion efforts, and plays a key role in advancing institutional excellence. She is one of seven offices under the Centers of Educational Justice and Community Engagement (EJCE) that addresses college access, supports student success and enhances diversity-related teaching and learning across campus.  EJCE works collaboratively with and serves as a resource for colleges and administrative units as they establish, coordinate and assess their contributions to institutional diversity goals. 

Lupe also has vast teaching experiences in the Chicano Studies Program/Ethnic Studies Department and School of Social work at the University of California, Berkeley.  Areas of teaching and research include- identity and leadership development, health and mental wellness, environmental justice, Latinas and globalization, and nonprofits, fundraising and philanthropy. Throughout her academic and administrative pursuits Lupe has been committed to addressing educational and economic inequities, advocating for social justice needs, creating new curriculum and programs for Chicanx Latinx students and communities of color in higher education. 

Over 30 years of experience in higher education, Lupe is involved with a number of national and international organizations as a consultant and advisor such as the Mexican government for the Instituto de los Mexicanos en Exterior, National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, UC Chicanx Latinx Alumni Association, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, and the Chicana Latina Foundation.

Lisa Hayden

Lisa Hayden is Outreach Manager for New England Forestry Foundation, where she works with steward volunteers and leads an outreach program in the MassConn Woods of south central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut. Collaborating with numerous partners, her recent grant-funded work focuses on creating and implementing communications tools about climate-informed forestry for land trusts and conservation partnerships. With a Journalism degree from the University of Connecticut and an MA in Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning from Tufts University, Lisa brings experience from The Nature Conservancy developing strategic messaging and blogging about how climate change affects people’s lives. A former journalist covering politics and environment in Connecticut and California, and a woodland owner herself, she is excited to be supporting land owners in her home area.

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 co-author of Native Plants for New England Gardens, and a lecturer on numerous topics including pollinators, sustainable landscape practices, foraging and cultivation of edible species, low-maintenance horticulture, among others. He has developed a native plant horticultural database ( and has years of nursery management experience. Dan 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 (formerly New England Wild Flower Society). He is the Horticulturalist and Propagator for Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary in Wales, MA and is currently building his own home-scale homestead, growing and foraging numerous edible species, preserving and cooking whenever possible, and raising small animals.

Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie

Dr. Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie is a plant ecologist and conservation biologist. She’s currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies at Colby College. She holds a BA in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard University, an MS in Ecological Planning from the University of Vermont, and a PhD in Biology from Boston University. Caitlin’s PhD research that explored climate change, species loss, and spring phenology in and around Acadia National Park; her postdoc research at UMaine brings a paleoecological perspective to subalpine and alpine vegetation in Maine to support climate change vulnerability assessments for these habitats. She is a Second Century Stewardship Fellow at Acadia National Park and recently joined the Council of the New England Botanical Club. She has spent the COVID-19 pandemic sheltering at home in Boston and very much misses everything about life above treeline, even the black flies.

Nadia Malarkey

Nadia Malarkey is a garden and landscape design professional who specializes in providing a comprehensive and personalized design service. She incorporates regenerative land  practices to produce landscapes that enhance biodiversity and biomass while enriching our experience of the changing seasons. Many of these garden landscapes exemplify how regenerative design, while addressing habitat fragmentation and climate change, can be elegant, uplifting and enlightening. She is a member of the Yellow Springs Environmental Commission and her work has been featured in magazines and news articles. One of her U.S. projects was a finalist for the Society of Garden Designers (United Kingdom) 2015 Awards for Planting Design. Evacuated from Beirut Lebanon in 1984, she has since lived in the Village of Yellow Springs, Ohio with her spouse where they raised their three grown sons.

Scott Ollinger

Dr. Scott Ollinger is a professor of ecosystem ecology and director of the Earth Systems Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. His research focuses on carbon, nutrient and water cycles in forests and how factors such as biodiversity and land use change affect feedbacks between forests and climate. Scott has been principal investigator on a number of NASA and National Science Foundation research projects and he has served on a variety of state and national science advisory boards. He was the first Director of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and is presently a member of NASA’s North American Carbon Program. At UNH, Scott enthusiastically teaches courses in ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry.

Leah Penniman

Leah Penniman (li/she/ya/elle) is a Black Kreyol farmer/peyizan, mother, soil nerd, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY. She co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2010 with the mission to end racism in the food system and reclaim our ancestral connection to land. As Co-Director and Farm Manager, Ms. Penniman is part of a team that facilitates powerful food sovereignty programs – including farmer training for Black and Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for communities living under food apartheid, and domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system. She has been farming since 1996, holds an MA in Science Education and a BA in Environmental Science and International Development from Clark University, and is a Manye (Queen Mother) in Vodun. Ms. Penniman trained at Many Hands Organic Farm, Farm School MA, and internationally with farmers in Ghana, Haiti, and Mexico. She also served as a high school biology and environmental science teacher for 17 years. Her work and Soul Fire Farm have been recognized by the Soros Racial Justice Fellowship, Fulbright Program, Grist 50, and James Beard Leadership Award, among others. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is a love song for the land and her people.

Daniel Peterson

Daniel Peterson is a Minneapolis based landscape designer who focuses on ecologically sound, full service landscape design and installation. A majority of his projects involve restorative practices incorporating native plant communities, permaculture practices, water management, and dry stone construction. Daniel holds a level III, Advanced dry stone craftsman certification and dry stone teaching certification with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain. Hel is also currently serving on the Board of Directors for The Stone Trust advocating for the recognition and advancement of the historic practice of Dry Stone construction. For more information about Daniel and HabAdapt Landscape Design please check his website or Instagram HabAdapt.

Michael Piantedosi

Michael Piantedosi began his career in botany as a researcher in cyanobacteria and freshwater plant communities at the Univ. of New Hampshire (UNH), where he received a degree in plant biology. His botanical background includes occupation in regional herbaria, as a horticulturist, and as plant biology research technician. In 2014, he joined the Conservation Department of Native Plant Trust as manager of the New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCoP), Seeds of Success-East, and Native Plant Trust’s regional seed bank of rare and endangered plant germplasm. In 2019, Michael was appointed as Director of Conservation at Native Plant Trust.

Mae Lin Plummer

Mae Lin Plummer is the new Executive Director at Leach Botanical Garden in Portland, Oregon. Mae Lin spent nearly 20 years in the corporate financial industry until discovering her passion for horticulture and public gardens. She served as Garden Director at the Duke Mansion and filled several roles at the UNC-Charlotte Botanical Gardens, both in North Carolina. She recently completed the esteemed Longwood Fellows Program at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.
Mae Lin continues to serve as Co-Chair for the American Public Gardens Association Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) Committee. The primary role of the committee is to benchmark, research, and provide resources and best practices to membership and to provide a platform of ongoing and open interaction and engagement with all interested members. 

Ryan Serrano

Ryan Serrano is a regenerative landscape designer and builder, and founder of Earth Steward Ecology Inc. He is a second generation landscape contractor who learned the trade from his father growing up in Southern California. As a young person, Ryan installed turf and tropical plants, but for the last 10 years he has specialized in replacing turf with California native habitats, food productive gardens, greywater recycling systems, rainwater catchments, permeable hardscapes, and more. He is a TedX speaker and Certified Permaculture Designer. He has also been a designer in residence at Southern California’s renowned Tree of Life Nursery, and has worked abroad with the NGO Conscious Impact in Nepal. His work is dedicated to restoring peoples’ relationships to place and to being father and partner to a beautiful family in Long Beach, CA.

Hilary Stevens

Hilary Stevens is the coastal resilience manager at Restore America’s Estuaries. She oversees the Blue Carbon and Living Shorelines programs. She is a geologist and environmental scientist with extensive experience in coastal resource management. Ms. Stevens has worked on coastal issues and climate change adaptation around the U.S. and globally, with an emphasis on using best-available science to address community needs and improve resource management. She has a particular affinity for island communities, stemming from her time working in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines. She holds a master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.

Greg Tepper

Gregg Tepper is a professional horticulturist, lecturer, consultant, and lifelong native plant enthusiast. After studying Ornamental Horticulture at the University of Delaware and several years creating his own ornamental and native plant gardens, Mr. Tepper started a horticultural maintenance business designing and managing private gardens in southeast Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. He went on to work at Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, DE where he held the positions of Horticulturist, Woods Path Horticulturist, and Director of Horticulture. Subsequently he was Director of Horticulture and board member of Delaware Botanic Gardens in Dagsboro, DE. He was instrumental in developing the initial horticultural mission, leading the garden steward volunteers, and implementing a two-acre meadow designed by world-renown garden designer Piet Oudolf. Mr. Tepper is now the Horticulturist at the Arboretum at Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries in Philadelphia, PA where he manages various display gardens including Nature’s Sanctuary, a SITES Gold credited landscape. Gregg has lectured extensively in the United States and Great Britain. Also, he is co-author of the book Deer-resistant Native Plants for the Northeast.

Cleve West

Cleve West is a landscape designer whose creative use of space and imaginative planting have put him at the forefront of contemporary garden design in the UK. Trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew under the tutorship of John Brookes, he has won a total of nine RHS Gold Medals (six at the Chelsea Flower Show) and three awards for innovative garden design. His garden for Bupa at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2008 won the BBC/RHS “People’s Choice” award, and he has won the coveted “Best in Show” two years in succession for The Telegraph in 2011 and Brewin Dolphin in 2012.

One of his more recent projects is Horatio’s Garden (at the Duke of Cornwall’s Spinal Treatment Centre, Salisbury) won three Society of Garden Designers Awards in 2015. He has recently completed a garden for a new Maggie’s Centre in Cardiff and Christ Church Primary School in Battersea where pupils are taught about gardening and the importance of biodiversity from an early age. After 30 years as a vegetarian, Cleve became vegan in 2015. His second book, The Garden of Vegan, was published by Pimpernel Press in May 2020.

Toby Wolf

Toby Wolf is a landscape architect whose designs connect people with the natural world. His work includes planning and design for Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Wellesley College, the Native Plant Trust, Cornell Botanic Gardens, Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, and for homeowners throughout the Boston area. Mr. Wolf is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University and has taught at Cornell, RISD, SUNY ESF, and the Landscape Institute. He serves on the Horticulture Committee of the Friends of the Public Garden and on the board of the Ecological Landscape Alliance.

Yamily Zavala

Dr. Yamily Zavala is a Crop and Soil Nutrient Management Specialist and has managed the Chinook Applied Research Association’s (CARA) crop and soil program for the past seven years. Prior to joining the CARA staff, she was a crop production consultant based out of Ottawa where project work took her to Central and South America as well as points in the south and west of Africa. Early in her career, Dr. Zavala was a Soil Scientist for the National Agricultural Research Foundation at the Tachira State Research Center in Venezuela. Her extensive international experience in restoring soil fertility and improving cropping systems is supported by an education focused on agriculture and soils. She obtained an Agricultural Engineering degree at a university located in the Venezuelan Andes Mountains. She earned a master’s degree from Missouri University in Agronomy (with a minor in Soil Science) and earned a PhD in Soil and Plant Nutrition from Cornell University. In addition to applied research projects, she manages CARA’s Soil Health Lab (CSHL), the first lab of its kind in Western Canada. The CSHL focuses on the evaluation of physical and biological soil properties and allows producers the opportunity for hands-on evaluation of their soils. 

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