Climate Resilience - Speakers

Executive Director, Natural Areas Association
Lisa Smith is the executive director of the Natural Areas Association. Lisa has also served as the organizations Board President (2009-2013), Vice President (2005-2009) and member of the board (2003 2005).  Lisa is a trained field ecologist who works with numerous partners on projects related to wild plant and natural areas management and conservation. As a consultant, she works with land trusts throughout the Mid-Atlantic region to strengthen operations and land stewardship programs as a certified assessor and accreditation facilitator. Her education includes a  BSci in Biology from Juniata College, an MSci in botany from Miami University, and an MSciEd. in secondary science education from Duquesne University.

Chair, Natural Areas Association
Science Advisory Committee
Dr. Reed Noss is a writer, photographer, lecturer, and consultant in natural history, ecology, and conservation. He was formerly Provost‘s Distinguished Research Professor of Biology at the University of Central Florida. He received his Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Conservation Biology, Science Editor for Wild Earth magazine, and President of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is an Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His recent research topics include disturbance (especially fire) ecology; ecosystem conservation and restoration; road ecology; and vulnerability of species and ecosystems to climate change and sea-level rise. He has more than 340 publications, including eight books.

Opening Remarks: Natural Areas In The 21st Century

Dr. Reed Noss will set the stage for this symposium by sharing findings of the yet to be publicly released, Natural Areas in the 21st Century, a product of the Natural Areas Association’s Science Advisory Committee. In his opening remarks, Dr. Noss will summarize the role and function of natural areas historically and today and will then speak to the effects of climate change and possible frameworks for practitioners response in stewarding natural areas.

Regional Supervisor
Virginia Natural Heritage Program
Ryan Klopf is the Regional Supervisor for the Mountain Region of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program. Additionally he serves as the Natural Areas Science Coordinator for the state. Ryan works to protect and restore rare species and natural communities within the Ridge and Valley, Blue Ridge, and Piedmont regions of Virginia. He earned a B.S. in Biology at William and Mary, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Biology from Southern Illinois University.

Director of Science
Center for Resilient Conservation Science
The Nature Conservancy, North America Region
Dr. Mark Anderson directs The Nature Conservancy‘s Center for Resilient Conservation Science which provides science leadership, ecological analysis, and landscape assessments for conservation efforts across 50 states. He holds a Ph.D. in ecology from University of New Hampshire and has worked as a conservation scientist for over 30 years (29 with The Conservancy).  Over the last decade, Mark led the effort to identify and map climate resilient lands and waters across the continental US and has published widely on climate resilience, landscape dynamics and biodiversity conservation.  One of the original authors of the National Vegetation Classification, his current research focuses on the intersection between biodiversity, ecological services, and climate change in terrestrial and aquatic systems.  He manages a team of six spatial ecologists and tries (mostly unsuccessfully) to keep up with all their amazing work. In 2017, Mark received The Nature Conservancy‘s Conservation Achievement award, and in 2021 he received the Land Trust Alliance‘s Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award.

A Resilient and Connected Network to Sustain Biodiversity in the Central Appalachians

I will present the findings of a 12 year effort to map a network of sites that meet strict criteria for representation, resilience, connectivity and biodiversity.  The results describe a connected network of lands for the Central Appalachians that, if conserved, will help sustain biodiversity while helping it adapt and change in response to the climate. The network also has remarkable benefits for people in terms of carbon, source water, pollution mitigation and recreation.


Director, Biogeosciences Research Group (BRG)
Director of Environmental Sciences, B.A. Program (ES)
Professor, Graduate School of Geography (GSG)
Adjunct Affiliation with Department of Biology
Clark University
Dr. Christopher A. Williams is a professor of earth system science and director of environmental science at Clark University.  He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and MS in Hydrology and Water Resources. His biogeosciences research group specializes in terrestrial ecosystems, global ecology, and hydrology.  Their work combines combines big data geo-computation of in situ and spaceborne observations with computational modeling of ecosystem processes to document how earth's biosphere is responds to, and feeds back on, global climate change.  His team‘s leading science on the climate impacts of forest change is guiding state offices of environment, conservation and climate (e.g. MA, CT, NY, VT, RI, NH, ME) and conservation and land trust organizations (e.g. The Nature Conservancy, the Open Space Institute, and the Trust for Public Lands) with decision support for carbon and climate mitigation in natural and working lands.  He is a multi-year participant as a Science Team Member for NASA‘s Carbon Monitoring System, and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Science Leadership Group for the North American Carbon Program.

 Conservation of Forest Carbon as Climate Protection: Assessing Opportunities and Limitations

We all know that forests soak up and store carbon, and that this helps to keep atmospheric CO2 levels lower than they otherwise would be.  Figuring out how forests in different areas contribute, and to what degree that depends on management, can be challenging.  This keynote will examine what we know about baseline carbon uptake in forests of the U.S., provide insights into the underlying science, and spotlight some tools available for practitioners.  Also it will discuss the value forest conservation for climate protection, and what can be claimed as a nature-based climate solution.

Director of Conservation Research
Open Space Institute
Abigail Weinberg develops science-based approaches to climate change and water quality for foundations, non-profits and public agencies as Director of Conservation Research for the Open Space Institute (OSI). Abby leads research and education and outreach programs to clarify how land protection can contribute to landscape-scale solutions to climate change and water quality. Her work helps inform OSI‘s direct land protection activities and establishes criteria and geographic priorities for OSI‘s land protection grant programs, informing placement of millions of dollars for conservation across the Eastern U.S. each year. Abby‘s recently been excited to support land conservation organizations in accessing the tools and resources to maximize forest carbon. Abby has a Master of Forestry degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Bachelors from St. John‘s College (the Great Books School), Santa Fe.

Putting forest carbon data to work: Strategies for maximizing Pennsylvania‘s forest carbon by 2050

How do we use forest carbon data to help maximize carbon stored in our forests (and not the in the atmosphere!) by 2050? How do we know where Pennsylvania‘s unprotected high-carbon forests located? How can we use the data to inform how we manage lands to maintain and increase forest carbon? This presentation will provide strategies from Open Space Institute‘s decade of work to target and evaluate conservation for climate resilience.


Professor, Assistant Department Head
Geography Department, Texas A&M University

Charles  Lafon is a Professor of Geography at Texas A&M University, where he teaches and conducts research in physical geography with an emphasis on biogeography. His research focuses on vegetation patterns and change, including the role of fires, storms, and other disturbances. He is especially interested in fire history and the spatial patterning of fire on Appalachian landscapes. A native of the Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia, he earned his B.A. from Emory & Henry College, Virginia and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee.

Fire through Space and Time on Appalachian Landscapes and Implications for Vegetation Change

The presence of fire-adapted species and pyrogenic communities implies a long history of fire on Appalachian landscapes. In this presentation, I discuss reconstructions of past fire regimes based on evidence from witness trees, soil and sediment charcoal, and fire-scarred trees. These records suggest that fire was common over much of the Appalachian region before the advent of effective fire prevention and suppression in the early to middle twentieth century. Frequent burning helped maintain forests and woodlands that were dominated by tree species such as oak, chestnut, and pine, especially in the Ridge and Valley, the Blue Ridge, and the Piedmont, and in parts of the Appalachian Plateau as well. Most fires were probably ignited by people, as are most wildfires today. Lightning-set fires would have also been important on certain landscapes where terrain-vegetation-climate interactions favored their ignition and spread. The reduction in burning over the past century has led to shifts in vegetation composition toward a greater abundance of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs and to an increase in forest density. Oak- and pine-dominated forests are declining in extent while mesophytic forests expand, thereby rearranging the patterns of vegetation across landscapes. These changes have implications for managing natural areas to sustain ecosystem integrity, economic viability, and wildlife habitat under alterations in climate, land use, or other environmental conditions.


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