About Project Conserve

Member Profiles


Jonathan Feldman
Conserving Carolina - Trails Associate
Jonathan Feldman was born in Tampa, Florida but has lived in many other states during his life. He moved to North Carolina to get a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina- Greensboro in Community Recreation & Parks Management with two minors in geography and political science. While having spent much of life his camping, hiking, fishing, and gallivanting outside Jonathan was instantly attracted to western North Carolina; he found splendor in the ancient, rugged mountains. During college Jonathan spent his summers working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Green Mountain, Greensboro Parks & Recreation, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks. Jonathan’s goal during his term of service is to provide and improve recreational activities for North Carolinians through sustainable trail building, environmental stewardship, and outdoor education. When Jonathan is not working you can find him h iking in Pisgah National Forest with his dog.
Renee Fortner
RiverLink - Watershed Resources Coordinator
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 an Associate Degree in Horticulture from Haywood Community College and later transferred to UNC-Asheville for her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. At UNC-A, Renee took every botany course that was offered. For her undergraduate research, she got to explore the forests of Biltmore Estate while studying the invasiveness potential of Chinese silvergrass. Upon graduation, Renee’s 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 sustainability through the use of native plants and organic gardening. Three years ago, the pull of learning and a desire to do conservation work led Renee back to school where she received her M.S. in Biology from East Carolina University. As a graduate student, Renee took a Wetland Ecology course which sparked her interest in conserving wetland habitats. For her graduate research, Renee studied conservation of an endangered wetland plant species called Cooley’s meadowrue. While living in Asheville, Renee has been drawn to the surrounding rivers, whether it was canoeing the French Broad or rafting the Nolichucky where she and her husband Dave were married. In her AmeriCorps Project Conserve position, Renee will serve as the Watershed Resources Coordinator at Riverlink. Renee is excited to apply her skills to conservation of the French Broad River and its tributaries.
Ridge Graham
Appalachian Voices - Community Field Outreach Associate
Ridge Graham is a first time member of Project Conserve, and will be serving as Appalachian Voices' North Carolina/Energy Savings Outreach Associate. Ridge grew up in Rock Hill, SC, before transitioning to Bloomington, IN for high school. Now he finds himself with pretty deep roots in Boone, NC, after receiving an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology degree from Appalachian State University. During his time there, he found a niche as an undergraduate assistant through the years, whether it was helping students make documentaries, guiding study sessions, or educating the public about water quality. A curious and passionate person by nature, Ridge enjoys finding wild critters and mushrooms and playing games and music with his friends. He hopes to learn a lot more about the communities and culture of WNC, while doing all that he can to support the goals and missions of Appalachian Voices. He is very excited for all that is to come.
Jackson Henderson
MountainTrue - Water Quality Administrator
Jack Henderson was born in the suburbs of Washington, DC. More happy in the mountains, he left to attend Appalachian State University where he studied Geography and Recreation Management. While in college, an internship with a local land trust helped spark an initial interest with non-profit conservation. After graduating in May 2014, Jack spent time with non-profits in Oregon, South Carolina, Maryland and Idaho; farming, monitoring conservation easements, coordinating river mapping projects, leading volunteers, and managing invasive weeds. Jack returned to western NC last year for a year in AmeriCorps Project Conserve with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. He's looking forward to second term; now with MountainTrue as Water Quality Administrator, where he is leading volunteer teams whom monitor water quality in the upper French Broad river watershed. Jack loves the southern Appalachians and can usually be found exploring the back-country on his mountain bike, paddling his kayak down a steep creek or planning the next big adventure.
Ericka Hincke
The North Carolina Arboretum Society - Citizen Science Educator
Ericka is a native of Western North Carolina, and has spent most of her life in this wonderful area. From the get go she has enjoyed the outdoors, but didn't really start to pursue this passion until college at Mars Hill University. She has always loved the natural sciences, so choosing Biology as her course of study was an easy decision. During her time at Mars Hill she chose a concentration in Ecology and Field Biology, and also chose to minor in Regional Studies. She has a particular interest in the natural and cultural history of the Southern Appalachians. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2014 and has been hopping from place to place gaining experience in the Environmental Education field. Ericka is extremely excited to be serving as the Citizen Science Educator at the North Carolina Arboretum, and interact with the WNC community in hopes to inspire an interest in the natural world. In her free time, Ericka loves to go hiking, hammocking, spend time with family and friends, and color!
Micaela Hyams
Education Coordinator - RiverLink
Micaela Hyams grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, a place that instilled in her a love and respect for the environment. After high school Micaela spent a gap year doing conservation work with Canyon Country Youth Corps and backpacking and sea kayaking with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). These experiences inspired Micaela’s academic path and, after a year at Washington University in St. Louis, Micaela transferred to the University of Oregon to enter the Environmental Science major, with a focus on life sciences. It was through this program that Micaela had the opportunity to participate in the Environmental Leadership Program as a facilitator for Canopy Connections, an environmental education service learning course. Additionally, after taking a course in analyzing the efficacy of international environmental policies, Micaela chose to add Political Science as a second major. Micaela continues to be fascinated by the intersections between Environmental Science and Political Science--between human and non-human systems--and frequently finds that her background in one informs her approach of the other. With that fascination in mind and her belief in the power of environmental education, Micaela is beyond excited to be serving with Project Conserve as the Education Coordinator for RiverLink, where she facilitates watershed education for K-12 students in the French Broad watershed.
Emily Israel
Mills River Partnership - Watershed Outreach & Education Coordinator
Emily was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, but raised in North Carolina from the age of two. As a child, she lived sporadically from the Appalachian mountains to the Atlantic coast of NC, and actually spent the past five years in the Piedmont region while attending The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She originally did not seek the environmental path straight out of high school, but she has always loved science! Following her Associate’s degree, Emily was very fascinated by medicine, and dedicated her entire undergraduate studies to the Pre-Medical track; however, unbeknownst to her, she enrolled in an elective that would forever change her life. During her last undergraduate semester, the course, Ecological Feminism, was unlike any course she had taken before. The information was so powerful and enlightening, that it completely transformed her as a person. Emily found her calling in Conservation after she redirected her path in life to reflect her passion for protecting the planet’s natural resources and ecosystems from human exploitation and pollution. As an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member, Emily is serving as the Watershed Outreach and Education Coordinator for Mills River Partnership. She is very excited to be back in western NC gaining environmental skills and experience and anticipates the abundance of knowledge she will gain within the Mills River Watershed. When she's not in the mountains somewhere, you can find her in Hendersonville collecting trash/recycling, cuddling with her three cats, walking her dog, or demolishing delicious food!
Madelyn Johanson
Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) - Volunteer Coordinator
Madelyn grew up in various counties in Western North Carolina and now resides in Buncombe Co. She grew up mostly in Madison County and it was there that she fell in love with nature. From hiking the mountain in her backyard to creeking in the laurel river at the edge of the property, she easily fell in love with all aspects of nature, and with natural science. Madelyn attended the University of North Carolina Asheville and while there her major changed various times over the next 4 and a half years. Starting in Chemistry, she then moved on to geology, and mineralogy, than to botany, than zoology, and finally came to settle down in Environmental Ecology. Graduating in December of 2015, she took a year off to take care of her grandmother, during which she volunteered as much as possible and through volunteering met Preston, whom got her interested in AmeriCorps. She plans to go on to get her Masters in Entomology after completing her term(s) with Project Conserve.
Alex Kazer
Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development - Conservation Education & Outreach Coordinator
Alex hails from the idyllic suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from the University of Georgia with degrees in International Affairs and Arabic, he spent two years researching and working on refugee issues in Jordan and another year teaching at the American University of Iraq – Sulaimani. Seeking a change of scenery, he left the Middle East to explore the hidden corners of Europe. During his wanderings, he discovered a passion for farming while working on a goat dairy in Sweden. Alex spent the next three years in Washington state learning to farm and gaining a deep appreciation for responsible land stewardship. He is excited to work with the farmers of Polk County to help preserve the agrarian traditions of the area and to bring more young farmers on to the land.
Katie Kienbaum
Appalachian Voices - Energy Savings Outreach Associate
Katie grew up in the suburban jungle of Northern Virginia, but she has fond memories of family trips to the mountains and hiking on the Appalachian Trail. She moved to Pennsylvania to attend the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 2016 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Economics. At Pitt, she was involved in student organizations advocating for gender equality and sustainability. As a student, she also participated in a summer field course on plant diversity in southwestern Virginia. This experience rekindled her childhood interest in the Appalachian Mountains. She is excited for the opportunity to get to know the region better and to join App Voices as the AmeriCorps Energy Savings Outreach Associate!