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Our people

Our staff

  • Sarah headshot

    Sarah Charlop-Powers

    Executive Director and Co-founder

    Sarah is the co-founder and executive director of the Natural Areas Conservancy. She is passionate about increasing the health and resilience of urban forests and wetlands and catalyzing connections between people and nature.

    For the past two decades, Sarah has built programs and organizations that strengthen the environmental workforce, partnered with local governments to create data-driven plans for the care of urban nature, and increased access to nature for diverse communities. She has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Binghamton University and a master’s of environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where she was a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow.

  • Headshot of Elizabeth Jaeger

    Elizabeth Jaeger

    Deputy Director, Public Programs & Operations

    Elizabeth currently manages the NAC’s Trails program and Internship & Training program, as well as oversees HR, operations, and strategic planning.

    Her path to the NAC was preceded by a career in journalism, communications, and economic development. She has a master’s degree in animal behavior and communication from the City University of New York – Hunter College. 

  • Shannon Jordy

    Deputy Director, Communications & External Affairs

    Shannon is an urban planner and storyteller with an over 20-year career in strategic communications, government policy, learning and evaluation, and advocacy.

    She leads the NAC’s communications, marketing, and advocacy work, with the goal of building local and nationwide awareness of the NAC’s efforts to preserve and improve forests and wetlands. Prior to earning her master’s in urban planning from Hunter College, Shannon’s professional experience centered on content strategy and copywriting, with specialties in PR, digital marketing, and brand messaging, particularly around complex urban issues. She has previously worked for organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, Living Cities, and Bike New York. She has a bachelor’s degree in corporate communications from the University of Texas at Austin.

  • Headshot of Amica Khanal

    Amica Khanal


    Amica joined the NAC in May 2023. She oversees all aspects of the organization’s finances, including developing and managing budgets, preparing financial statements, and reporting to the Board.

    She brings nearly 14 years of non-profit experience to the NAC, focusing on financial reporting, auditing, and compliance. She worked for over a decade at the Lymphoma Research Foundation, a non-profit that serves those touched by Lymphoma, where she was last the associate director of finance. Khanal is a CPA with a bachelor’s degree from Baruch College of the City University of New York.

  • Headshot of Clara Pregitzer

    Clara Pregitzer

    Deputy Director, Conservation Science

    Clara Pregitzer led the Forest Assessment component of the NAC's Ecological Assessment for NYC parkland and the development of the Forest Management Framework.

    She previously worked with NYC Parks’ Natural Resources Group, conducting ecological assessments in over 1,500 acres of New York City parks. She holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Northern Arizona University, a master’s in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Tennessee, and a doctorate from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is currently working on understanding conservation goals and management strategies for urban forested natural areas in NYC and across the U.S.

  • kate headshot

    Kate Sease

    Deputy Director, Development

    Kate is an enthusiastic fundraiser with over 10 years of experience in non-profit development and relationship management.

    At the NAC, she develops and leads the organization’s strategy to raise the funds needed to champion urban nature in New York City and across the nation. Before joining the NAC, Kate spent five years as the assistant director of strategic investments at Girls Inc., a leading youth development organization that provides comprehensive programming for girls and young women. She began her fundraising career at the Lower Eastside Girls Club, where she held a number of roles. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Vermont.

  • Headshot of Naiyiri

    Naiyiri-Blu Brooker

    Internship Community Coordinator

    Naiyiri-Blu leads the NAC High School Internship Program in both Queens and Staten Island, with the goal of introducing high school students to the ecology and environmental fields through hands-on fieldwork.

    Her background experience in benthic invertebrate ecology, wetland fieldwork, and education outreach plays a key role in her passion to help those interested in nature navigate the path from high school to college to having a career in the field. Her other projects include supporting the NAC Intern Alumni Network and coordinating the internship exchange program between the NAC and the Leon Levy Plant Preserve Bahamas. She received her bachelor’s of science from the City University of New York – Lehman College.

  • Headshot of Jeffrey Clark

    Jeffrey Clark

    Senior Manager, Applied Climate Research

    Dr. Jeffrey Clark is the senior manager of applied climate research, where his work explores how urban natural areas function in response to climate change.

    Jeff works closely with members of the Yale School for the Environment, Central Park Conservancy, and Forest in Cities network to coordinate and disseminate dynamic research across both spatial and temporal scales. This research focuses on how increased heat, severe storms, and the introduction of non-native and invasive species alter the function of urban natural areas. His research explores how urban natural areas can help cities adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change. Additionally, Jeff’s research background spans urban wildlife conservation, human-wildlife interactions, and residents’ perceptions of urban nature. 

    The full scope of his peer-reviewed work can be found at

  • Headshot of Crystal Crown

    Crystal Crown

    Senior Manager, Data Analytics

    With over a decade of experience working at the intersection of ecology, urban greenspace management, and data science, Crystal serves as the senior manager of data and analytics.

    She is responsible for overseeing the NAC’s proprietary ecological datasets and leads comprehensive research and analysis that centers on the ecological condition and benefits of urban natural areas. Crystal completed her undergraduate education in biology and anthropology at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College, then attended Stony Brook University for her master’s degree in applied ecology. Before starting at the NAC in 2019, Crystal worked for NYC Parks on its street and park inventory projects and led analysis of community science data accuracy. She also spent two years at the Town of Hempstead’s Department of Conservation and Waterways, studying colonial waterbirds.

  • Headshot of Gabriel Cummings

    Gabriel Cummings

    Trails Technical Manager

    Gabriel works as the NAC’s trails technical manager and oversees the trail design, construction, and maintenance operations for the Citywide Trails Team as part of a joint collaboration between the NAC and NYC Parks.

    His favorite part of working for the NAC is increasing access to New York City’s natural areas through sustainable trail design and management. In his spare time, he’s a multi-instrumentalist who enjoys performing live music at venues across NYC.

  • Headshot of Helen Forgione

    Helen Forgione

    Senior Manager, Conservation Science

    Helen is a plant ecologist and restoration scientist with over 35 years of work experience in New York City’s metropolitan area.

    She is a member of the Research & Conservation Team and advises on and contributes to the NAC’s wetlands and forest research protocols and mentors field training. She has produced recent work on funding trends for forested natural area care and developed and guided the organizations’ citywide assessment of NYC’s natural areas–now poised for a 10-year refresh–and was an author of the Forest Management and Wetlands Management Frameworks. In her work directing the NAC’s Conservancy Engagement Program, she connected community stewards to the science-based management tools developed from the Forest Management Framework.
    Helen previously served as deputy director of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Ecological Services Division, managing salt marsh and landfill restoration and piloting green infrastructure in the city. Helen holds a master’s of science in ecology and evolutionary biology from Rutgers and a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Connecticut.

  • Headshot of Giselle Herrera

    Giselle Herrera

    Internship Program Manager

    Giselle manages the NAC’s Internship Program and supports the growth of auxiliary programs with her almost 10 years of experience in urban ecology research, youth development, and program coordination.

    Her goal is to promote the next generation of diverse environmental leaders. She connects students with a variety of green career opportunities that promote healthy and accessible natural spaces, foster a sense of community, and leverage the NAC’s partnerships. She has previously worked with the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens, and with local community-based organizations–all with the aim of connecting people of different backgrounds to nature. Giselle earned a bachelor’s in environmental science and biology from Florida State University and a master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from Fordham University.

  • Headshot of Amy Koeler

    Amy Koeler

    HR Generalist

    Amy oversees all aspects of the organization's human resources functions to mitigate risk, promote a rewarding work experience, and support the development of our mission-aligned staff.

    With 15 years of expertise in HR and people operations, Amy uses data and humor to influence, advise, and help scale organizations to success. By being authentic, strategic, and passionate about the employee experience, she helps create lasting change while building trusting relationships. A graduate of SUNY Purchase with a bachelor of arts in liberal studies, Amy also obtained SPHR designation in 2010 from HRCI. Prior to joining the NAC, Amy was the director of talent development at Perkins Eastman and is the former HR director of FXCollaborative.

  • Headshot of Jesse Krauss

    Jesse Krauss

    Operations Coordinator

    Jesse's work in operations includes support of the NAC staff’s day-to-day needs and assistance with the implementation of new tools and technology.

    Jesse comes to the world of conservation from a history of science education, starting his work in the field as an intern at the New York City Urban Field Station. Previously, he worked as a high school biology teacher and science tutor. He has a bachelor’s in zoology from the University of New Hampshire.

  • Headshot of Sam Lawson

    Sam Lawson

    National Partnerships Coordinator

    Sam Lawson has made a career helping people share information and support each other to build more resilient networks.

    He works with the Forests in Cities network, NAC’s national initiative to connect professionals who care for urban natural areas. Previously, he conducted community engagement at New York City’s Department of Emergency Management. He holds a bachelor’s from Bennington College and a master’s degree in natural resources from Cornell University.

  • Headshot of Grace Muset

    Grace Muset

    Development Associate

    Grace supports fundraising efforts across individual, corporate, and foundation donors.

    In her role, she seeks funding opportunities for ongoing programs and manages grant applications and deliverables across the NAC’s teams. Grace has a background in geography and non-profit programming, with a focus on education and community engagement. In previous roles, Grace has worked to engage local communities in urban forests and green space to demonstrate and share the incredible value these spaces have. Before joining the NAC, Grace collaborated with geography professionals nationwide to host a professional development network of geography educators. Grace holds a bachelor of arts degree in geography and sustainable development from the City University of New York – Macaulay Honors College and is currently pursuing a master’s in geoinformatics from CUNY – Hunter College.

  • Headshot of Josh Otero

    Josh Otero

    Trails Program Manager

    Josh works as part of the NAC and NYC Parks’ Citywide Trails Team, collaborating with colleagues; members of the New York City community; and partners on the management, improvement, and maintenance of more than 300 miles of trails citywide.

    As part of his efforts, Josh works alongside colleagues on the implementation of the Strategic Trails Plan, the training of NYC Parks and conservancy partners, and the management of the Super Steward: Trail Maintainer program, a stewardship track within NYC Parks’ Super Steward initiative.

    Prior to working with the NAC, Josh had worked as a caseworker, teacher, and environmental steward with a variety of nonprofit, community and governmental organizations. He received a bachelor’s in English from SUNY – New Paltz.

  • Headshot of Sophie Plitt

    Sophie Plitt

    Senior Manager, National Partnerships

    Sophie is an urban forester and network builder with over 14 years of experience in the field of urban natural resource management.

    Sophie has worked with organizations such as NYC Parks, the New York Restoration Project, the U.S. Forest Service, and the New York Tree Trust. Her work is focused on researching, planning, and implementing urban forestry programs with the goal of deepening human-nature connections in cities. She holds a bachelor’s in environmental studies and urban ecosystems from the New School and a master’s in social-ecological resilience research from the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

  • Headshot of Melissa Rosenthal

    Melissa Rosenthal

    Trail Volunteer Coordinator

    Melissa works in close partnership with NYC Parks and other regional partners engaging advanced volunteers in the Trail Maintainer program.

    Her position includes providing training and technical assistance to support grassroots efforts to adopt and maintain trails across the city. Prior to joining the NAC, she worked with the Stewardship Team at NYC Parks training advanced volunteers to work independently in natural areas. Her previous projects include coordinating iNaturalist-based community programs, creating and presenting educational webinars, and leading nature tours throughout all five boroughs. Her favorite green space in New York City is Van Cortlandt Park, where she can be found in her free time hiking, cycling, and flipping logs. She enjoys baking, medieval history, and creating nature-inspired art.

  • Headshot of Alison Uhrlass

    Alison Uhrlass

    Senior Manager, Individual and Corporate Giving

    Alison joined the Natural Areas Conservancy in June 2024. She comes to the NAC with nearly 10 years of nonprofit experience spanning individual giving, special events, and partnership development, along with a passion for protecting the environment and connecting people to nature.

    Alison’s nonprofit work began in community engagement at Our Oregon. She launched her development career in NYC at organizations such as American Ballet Theatre, Third Street Music School, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities. She has a Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree from Vermont Law & Graduate School and a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from SUNY New Paltz.

    Alison grew up in the Mid-Hudson Valley. In her free time she’s active in the NYC running community and co-leads a local trail club, which has the goal of expanding access to nature and the outdoors for New Yorkers through hiking and trail running.

  • Headshot of Emily Walker

    Emily Walker

    Senior Manager, External Affairs

    Emily oversees the NAC’s advocacy and policy strategy, and works across coalitions to help raise awareness of urban natural areas and the resources needed to make them thrive.

    Prior to joining the NAC, Emily served as the executive director of the Broadway Mall Association and was previously the longtime director of outreach and programs at New Yorkers for Parks, where she oversaw the creation of the Play Fair for Parks campaign and the Daffodil Project. Emily is a graduate of the Urban Park Leadership Program of CUNY SPS and the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks. She also has received her certificate in horticulture from Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

    She holds a master’s in nonprofit management and a post-master’s certificate in sustainability strategies from the Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment at the New School, and has a bachelor’s in legal studies from Scripps College. Originally from Southern California, Emily now resides in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, with her husband, two sons, and three cats.

  • Headshot of Mormei Zanke

    Mormei Zanke

    Communications Manager

    Mormei develops the NAC’s social media strategy, creates digital storytelling assets, and supports the production and implementation of outreach campaigns across the organization.

    Her professional experience includes copywriting, social media management, podcast production, and strategic communications. She earned her master of fine arts degree in literary reportage at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and a bachelor’s in English literature and creative writing from the University of British Columbia.

Have a question for our team of experts? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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The NAC staff stand in two rows, smiling in a park

Our Board

  • Officers

    • chairAndrew Wallach Spring Owl Asset Management
    • Vice ChairDavid Langer Latham & Watkins
    • TreasurerJodi Scheurenbrand
    • SecretaryKatherine Fritts
  • Members

    • Adrian Benepe Brooklyn Botanic Garden
    • Jon Paul Buchmeyer M Booth
    • Marcia Bystryn
    • Christina Claudio JPMorgan Chase & Co.
    • Commissioner Sue Donoghue New York City Parks, ex officio
    • Augie Furst Marblegate Asset Management
    • Bram Gunther
    • Ross Haberman RLH Investments
    • Justin Hall Blackstone
    • Caroline McGeough Wavelength Infra
    • Seth McNary Ernst & Young
    • Clark Mitchell BAND Foundation
    • Sarah R. Moros Hartree Partners
    • Clare Peeters Jewish Theological Seminary
    • Julia Robbins New York City Department of Records and Information Services
    • KC Sahl VHB
    • Eric Sanderson New York Botanical Garden
    • Omar Slowe Harpia Asset Management
    • Jane Sokolow
    • Stacy Sonnenberg Goldman Sachs
    • Ariel Speicher Point72 Asset Management
    • Veronica White Bloomberg L.P.
    • Ted Wolff Faegre Drinker
  • A group of interns pose in two rows with Internship Program Manager Giselle Herrera at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center

    Check out our internship opportunities

    Our CUNY internship and workforce development programs provide mentorship, technical training, and community to STEM students.

    Explore Opportunities
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    Learn more about the NAC and our job openings

    If you're passionate about the green and blue spaces of NYC, the NAC welcomes you to turn that passion into practice.

    Work with Us