Management Team

NANCY SMITH

Executive Director
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Nancy’s passion for land protection stems from time spent in her childhood in the forests and streams of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where for many years her father directed the University of Virginia’s Biology Field Station.  Nancy has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Bates College and a Master’s degree Occupational Therapy from Virginia Commonwealth University.  While raising her three children she helped found the East Aurora Village Tree Board, the Explore & More Children’s Museum and Western New York Earth Day.  She opened the Western New York Office of the New York Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides before joining the Land Conservancy staff in 2004.  Nancy served as the Land Conservancy’s first Community Outreach Director, before transitioning to the role of Stewardship Director in 2010, and then Executive Director in 2012. Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 117.

Gender pronouns: she/her

JAJEAN ROSE-BURNEY

Deputy Executive Director

Jajean was born and raised in Western New York. He has a bachelor’s degree in environmental design and a master’s degree in urban planning, both from the University at Buffalo (UB). After graduating in 2007, he worked at the Urban Design Project, a research center at UB, on several local planning efforts, environmental coalition building, and non-profit development. As a graduate student, Jajean studied in the Sustainable Futures program in Costa Rica, and taught in the same program while working for the Urban Design Project. From 2010 to 2012 he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed with Mexico’s federal environmental agency in Puebla, a large city in southern Mexico, along with his wife Ana. There, he helped protect a large wetland from rapid and unplanned urban development, a project that led to an international Ramsar Site designation for the wetland and a new state park. This project won the 2013 International Planning Award from the American Planning Association (APA). Jajean has written numerous articles and books on environmental topics, leads bird and nature tours, and has worked with several environmental organizations. Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 113.

Gender pronouns: he/him

MARISA RIGGI

Conservation Director 
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Marisa was born in Rochester and grew up in Williamsville, New York. Marisa obtained a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo and attended graduate school at the University of Vermont where she obtained a M.S. in Natural Resources. After graduating, Marisa began working at the Northeast Wilderness Trust, where she worked for over 5 years to protect land in the Northern Forest region. Marisa moved home to Western New York in 2018 with her family to work at the Land Conservancy on making Western New York a more connected, and healthier place. Marisa is passionate about land conservation and wildlife, and enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and gardening in her spare time.Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 127.

Gender pronouns: she/her

JENNIFER MOOG

Finance & Operations Director 
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Jennifer’s upbringing in Colombia, South America coupled with summers spent in Western New York sparked her love of the outdoors and passion for conservation.  A graduate of Georgetown University, her journey in nonprofit finance and administration began at The Nature Conservancy where she spent 8 years in the Latin America Division supporting large-scale conservation projects under the Parks in Peril Program as the Director of Finance for the Andean and Southern Cone Region.  Jennifer has held similar positions at several other nonprofit organizations ranging in size and mission throughout the country over the last twenty years.  She is grateful and excited to return to her early conservation roots and join the Western New York Land Conservancy. Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 116.

Gender pronouns: she/her

ZACHARY ASHBROOK

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AmeriCorps Vista Stewardship Coordinator

Zachary was born in Alaska and grew up in the Adirondack Park. Having grown up in such wild places, nature has always held a special place in his heart. This passion for the outdoors led him to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Outdoor Recreation with a concentration in Environmental and Cultural Interpretation from SUNY Cortland. He is passionate about native plants, land conservation, stewardship, environmental and outdoor education.  He is currently in the process of obtaining a Master of Arts in Sustainability Leadership at the University at Buffalo. Zachary enjoys many hobbies including gardening, biking, reading, making art, and keeping houseplants.

Gender pronouns: he/they

JOSH BALISTERI

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Stewardship Director

Josh was born and raised in Western New York where his experiences hiking and camping in the region’s forests and waterways cultivated a deep passion for the outdoors and inspired him to pursue a career in land conservation. Josh obtained his B.S. in Natural Resources Management with a focus on protected area management, recreation resources, and ecological restoration from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. After graduating, he moved to Virginia Beach to work as an Ecologist with Ecology & Environment, Inc. where he participated in a wide array of environmental projects all over the country for clients like the US Navy, Army Core of Engineers, EPA, and a multitude of state agencies. Josh is passionate about land conservation, ecological restoration, and promoting stewardship through outdoor recreation. In his spare time he enjoys backpacking, photography, playing music, and exploring remote wilderness areas. Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 128.

Gender pronouns: he/him

LIZ BIRARDI

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Office Manager

Liz has lived in Western New York for more than 20 years. She enjoys spending time outdoors and has a keen interest in the condition of our natural spaces. She discovered the Western New York Land Conservancy through a friend, went on a hike at the Kenneglenn Nature Preserve, and became a volunteer. She took part in several volunteer activities including preparing the office space at Kenneglenn and going on monitoring visits before joining the Land Conservancy staff in November 2011. This work started with a temporary job reviewing the records and files and led to her current position as the part-time office manager in April 2012. Liz is an artist and is a member of the East Aurora Art Society. She is also a member of Enjoy the Journey Gallery and the Buffalo Society of Artists. Her art, while not being representational, reflects her experience of the outdoors and nature. Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 110.

Gender pronouns: she/her

RACHEL CHROSTOWSKI

Farmland Protection Specialist

Rachel has a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from SUNY Geneseo; however, her education in earth science started at a much earlier age. She credits her geologist mother with her deep love of the natural environment, appreciation for open space, and strong conservation values. Before coming to work for the Land Conservancy in 2015, Rachel was a planner for nine years in Erie and Livingston Counties where she specialized in land use planning, smart growth, and the protection of agricultural lands. Rachel is excited to work with our region’s farmers to protect Western New York’s working lands and keep our agricultural heritage alive. Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 126.

Gender pronouns: she/her

SARAH COSTLOW

Land Protection Specialist

Originally from Johnstown, PA, Sarah came to WNY in 2017 because she wanted to help protect the world's largest freshwater system, the Great Lakes!  Sarah received her bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College and attended graduate school at the American University of Paris where she obtained a M.A. in Communication and Civil Society focused on environmental communication.  After graduating, Sarah worked in advertising on sustainability campaigns and then as a translator, living in France for a few years, until she decided to return to the United States to get a master’s degree from Vermont Law School in environmental law and policy.  Her graduate work focused on land use practices to protect water resources. Prior to coming to the Land Conservancy, Sarah worked as a program manager at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and before that was at the The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I). Sarah enjoys time spent with her partner and pets, hiking, and time outdoors learning to garden.

ERIK DANIELSEN

Stewardship Coordinator 

Erik is always asking questions in an effort to understand the relationships between flora, fauna, geology, and society that drive Western New York’s rich and diverse ecosystems. With a background ranging from forestry and pasture management to recycling education with the NYC Compost Project, he began working as an ecological consultant in 2017, surveying plant communities across the northeast for clients starting with NYC-based WildMetro before shifting back towards his home region of Chautauqua County. Erik came on board with the Land Conservancy to assist with The Riverline project and branched out from there. He’s grateful to be able to do so much more as a part of this team in the service of conservation and education.

Gender pronouns: he/him

KARA FRISINA

Communications & Development Manager 

Kara grew up in Olean, NY along the Allegheny River and is thrilled to be back in Western New York to help protect the beautiful places here. She received her B.S. in Visual Communication and her M.A. in Communication and Development both from Ohio University. Her graduate work focused on storytelling about growing food and lead her to travel across the country working on organic farms. She has worked in fundraising and communications positions for different nonprofits both in New York and Ohio. She loves creating art, hiking with her dog, and growing veggies, herbs, and cut flowers.

Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 114.

Gender pronouns: she/her

ANDREW LANCE, Ph.D

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Restoration Ecologist

Andy’s passion for the outdoors began growing up in the beech-maple forests of northern Ohio.  He attended Bethany College in West Virginia where he received a Bachelor of Science degree, then earned a Master’s of Science degree Bard Center for Environmental Policy. Following graduation, Andy taught a series of biology and ecology courses at Lorain County Community College in Ohio. He simultaneously worked as a field botanist with Cleveland Metroparks, developing in-depth vegetative assessments of a wide variety of habitats within the Metroparks system. While working with Cleveland Metroparks, Andy returned to complete a Ph.D. in Biology with a focus in Ecology and Evolution from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. His dissertation work focused on the development of best methods for urban reforestation projects. This work has led to multiple publications in the journal Restoration Ecology as well as publication in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Andy enjoys spending time with his family, including his two children Graham and Rosie, gardening, hiking, camping, and following the Cleveland Indians in his leisure time. Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 129.

Gender pronouns: he/him

KYLE SEMMEL

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Communications Manager

Kyle grew up in Livingston County on 30 acres of land, where he learned to appreciate the beauty of nature by wandering the woods alone or with his siblings. In his career, he has served in a variety of capacities in nonprofits, including, most recently, as the Executive Director of Writers & Books in Rochester, NY. In addition to his work at the Land Conservancy, he’s a writer and literary translator (as K.E. Semmel) whose fiction, nonfiction, translations, and literary criticism have appeared in the Washington Post, Lithub, The Writer’s Chronicle, and World Literature Today, among other outlets. He has translated 12 books from Danish or Norwegian, and he was a 2016 NEA Translation Fellow.

Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 112.

Gender pronouns: he/him

PRISCILLA TITUS

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Ecologist & Manager of the Stella Niagara Preserve

Priscilla is an expert ecologist with more than 30 years of experience throughout much of the United States, Europe, and southern Africa. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Augusta State University and began her career at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. With each new experience, Priscilla noticed the importance of the integrity of the plant communities in ecosystem function and wildlife support. This has kindled a lifelong interest in the restoration of damaged landscapes by returning local native plant communities to the landscape. Priscilla manages and directs our restoration efforts at Stella Niagara Preserve and supports our other projects and ongoing stewardship with her expertise.

Gender pronouns: she/her

KYRA UMRIGAR

Executive Assistant

Kyra grew up in Ithaca, NY in the Finger Lakes region exploring the woods in her neighborhood and learning about contemporary environmental issues.  At Cornell University, she studied History and French, and minored in Climate Change. In the summer, she had the opportunity to work on a farm that will one day become part of the Finger Lakes Land Trust. Through this experience, she learned about the importance of land conservation and the role of land trusts. After a year of serving with AmeriCorps in Gloucester, Massachusetts working with English learners, she was thrilled to find this opportunity with the Western New York Land Conservancy. In her free time, Kyra enjoys hiking, horseback riding, and hummingbird sightings. 

Gender pronouns: she/her

EMMA VICARETTI

Community Engagement Specialist, AmeriCorps VISTA

Emma was raised in Western New York and graduated with a BA in Communications Studies from Canisius College in Buffalo. Her passion for the environment was ignited from her time as a rower on the area’s waterways. She is interested in environmental justice and sociology, and is excited for the opportunity to work with local leaders in the field through the Western New York Land Conservancy. Emma is eager to join the environmental movement in the city she calls home. In her free time, she coaches for the West Side Rowing Club. Emma also enjoys yoga and taking care of her house plants.

ANGELINE WOODWORTH

Administrative Assistant

Angeline was born in Santa Fe and also spent part of her childhood in Houston, TX, but at a young age moved with family back to the Western New York region. Some of her favorite memories are in Elma, NY where she grew up exploring in the woods, playing in creeks, apple picking, and helping her family with their flower and vegetable gardens. She has a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Graphic Design and minor in Psychology from Rochester Institute of Technology and has worked for over a decade at nonprofits for community and mental health. As a mom to three children and a practicing artist, children’s well-being, self-expression through the arts, and preserving and protecting our environment are all very important passions to Angeline.

ANTHONY ARMSTRONG

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The Riverline Project Consultant

Anthony believes in the power of collaboration to make communities thrive. He is skilled in neighborhood and grassroots development strategies, regional planning, housing and vacant properties, stakeholder engagement and inclusion, data and demographic analysis, quality of life and placemaking. He also provides racial equity training as an affiliate of Just Partners, Inc. and the Race Matters Institute. Anthony is co-founder of Make Communities, a mission driven consulting firm with a vision for accessible, equitable and empowered communities. Anthony holds a B.A. in Media Study from University at Buffalo Honors College, an M.S. in Urban Affairs from Hunter College and teaches a course in Neighborhood Revitalization at Buffalo State College.

Gender pronouns: he/him

Board of Directors

John Owen

President

 

Gail Wells

Vice President
 

Robin Ross

Secretary
 

Kathy Lasher

Treasurer

 

Steve Blabac

Larry Brickman

Kasey DeLuke

Theresa Gaglione

David Hahn-Baker

Gayle Hutton

Bart Roberts

Marcus Rosten

Kayla Stocking

Robert Townsley

Alisia Vilonen