Calandra Waters Lake, Executive Director
Calandra Waters Lake is passionate about empowering others to create a flourishing people and planet. She has over 15 years of experience around environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Calandra served as the inaugural Director of Sustainability for the College of William & Mary where she was also adjunct faculty for the Environment & Sustainability Program. As director at W&M, she co-led a Climate Action Partnership with the University of Virginia, facilitated the university’s first Sustainability Plan, and chartered their green revolving fund. Calandra co-chaired the Virginia Sustainability in Higher Education Network and is a board member of the Virginia Conservation Network. Calandra holds a Bachelor of Science in natural resources from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master of Arts in education from William & Mary.
David Sligh, Conservation Director
David Sligh has worked for 35 years to make the promises of our environmental laws real. He has consistently and successfully pushed private parties and government agencies to base their actions on science, law, and the public interest. He has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia, a law degree from Vermont Law School, and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar. Dave has worked as a Senior Environmental Engineer for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Founder and Director of Virginia PEER – the state branch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Southeast Regional Representative for American Rivers, Upper James Riverkeeper, adjunct instructor of Environmental Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and as a consultant and advisor to citizen groups around the country.
Courtney Hayes, Habitat Connectivity Program Director
Courtney Hayes received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and is currently finishing her Master of Science degree in Biology from Eastern Kentucky University where her research focused on mesocarnivore ecology, especially of the eastern spotted skunk. Courtney has worked as an instructor and museum curator at EKU, as well as a zoologist and data scientist for the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Courtney is passionate about protecting wild animals, plants, and ecosystems through scientific research, good management practices, and getting people involved. In her free time, you can find Courtney at the summit of a mountain or in the woods looking for salamanders.
Kylie McLatchy, Conservation Support Coordinator
Kylie McLatchy received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has worked for the National Park Service, the Fairfax County Park Authority, and in the environmental non-profit sector. She was born and raised in Virginia and is proud to work for an organization that is committed to protecting the ecosystems that she cares deeply about. Kylie loves gardening, especially with native plants, spending time around animals, and being outside.
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Bette Dzamba – Chair Outings and Education/Vice President
Bette Dzamba has loved hiking for as long as she can remember. She first became involved with Wild Virginia as a hike leader in order to share the fun of spending time “playing outside” with others. She believes that the more people spend time in wild places like the George Washington National Forest the more they will feel the value of such places and know the importance of protecting them.
In the winter of 2010 Bette and her partner David Sellers spent three months living in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park as volunteers for the Yellowstone Association Institute. They supported field seminars that the Institute holds at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. Closer to home they are Virginia Master Naturalists and the trail maintainers for the Wildcat Ridge trail in Shenandoah National park.
Bette has a PhD in cell and molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin. She currently works in the Cell Biology Department at UVA trying to understand morphogenesis: the cellular movements that create form.
Leigh Kirchner – Treasurer
Leigh’s proud to serve Wild Virginia—an organization dedicated to protecting and connecting her favorite wild places. She grew up in beautiful Rockbridge County in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley where she developed her love for nature by spending time in the woods, creeks, and cow pastures near her home.
After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.A. in English, Leigh moved to Boone, NC, to earn her M.A. in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State University. For nearly five years, she put her degrees to use as a fundraising professional with the environmental advocacy organization Appalachian Voices—which often partners with Wild Virginia on issues related to environmental protection. Leigh took on a new role in mid-2020 as the Director of Development and Donor Relations at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. The Food Bank serves people in need across 25 counties and 8 cities in central and western Virginia, including those who live near the waterways, mountains, and other wild places Wild Virginia preserves.
Kate is an environmentalist, an advocate, and a farmer who feels strongly that we must preserve our planet and its biodiversity for future generations. She is drawn to the ways in which better, responsible policy can solve larger problems of human and environmental health and the many related equity issues. Kate has specific interest in chemical and hazmat pollution to air and water, and resultant human and environmental health consequences and solutions.
Drawn to Wild Virginia while following their efforts to stop pipelines in Virginia, Kate has appreciated the breadth of the policy and advocacy work the organization has achieved despite its small size. Kate graduated from Dartmouth College and completed a Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree from Vermont Law School.
Grace Tuttle – Chair Development and DEIJ Team
Grace is proud to serve on the board of Wild Virginia, the organization that sparked her entry into the movement to protect Virginia’s communities and ecosystems. She started by attending a book club and loved the welcoming feeling of Wild Virginia events and their focus on learning. Grace then became a volunteer with Wild Virginia’s Outings & Education and Communications Committees, which she still very much enjoys. She spends every free second tucking native plants into her garden, seeding flowers, listening to podcasts, baking or enjoying a book from atop her kayak. During her time at the University of Virginia, while studying Public Health, Grace was a Co-Captain of the UVA Women’s Rowing Team and her love of water was set in stone.
For several years after graduating, Grace worked for Region Ten Community Services Board in Charlottesville as a Support Coordinator for adults with developmental disabilities. Grace is now the Coordinator of Protect Our Water Heritage Rights (POWHR), where she works as a grassroots community organizer to stop the fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline and other fossil fuel infrastructure from further harming Appalachian communities, lands and waters. Grace has a particular fondness for bats, birds, bears, and salamanders and loves to see them in Western Virginia where she currently lives.
Ryan Wagener – President
Ryan grew up playing in the woods behind his house in Northern New Jersey, and remembers taking his first hikes with his family in the Ramapo Mountains. He went to college in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, where he soon found himself spending as much time as possible outdoors–much of it rowing on the waters of Cayuga Lake. After graduating with a degree in Economics, Ryan moved to Northern Virginia and joined the world of federal contracting. He now enjoys taking his kids on hikes each weekend, and tries to spend as much time with his family in the Blue Ridge mountains as possible. Ryan found Wild Virginia after becoming active in the fight against the pipelines threatening Virginia’s public lands, and was drawn to the organization’s focus on both education and advocacy. He looks forward to working with Wild Virginia to help reconnect those of us in Northern Virginia with our public forests, mountains, and waterways.
Lil Williams [Elizabeth Kennon Williams, MD]
Lil has been a life-long lover of nature. She grew up in Richmond, Va, and spent her summers either on a farm on the Chesapeake Bay or in the mountains of North Carolina, at a camp that sent the 12-13 year old girls out on 5 day backpacking trips with only sleeping bags as nighttime covers since tents were ‘too heavy’ for us to carry! The air, beauty, and natural life of both the bay environment and the South Eastern forests, deeply informed her childhood.
She graduated from Antioch College with a multidisciplinary degree in Botany/Latin American Studies and Modern Dance. After studying History of Science at the University of Kentucky, Lil began medical studies in her late 20’s at the University of Virginia. During her 30 year practice in Pediatrics in Charlottesville, an area of special interest was adolescents, especially teens and young adults with adjustment concerns, depression, eating disorders.
Lil retired a few years ago. Combining her love for Nature and years of professional focus on the healthy and happy future for all children, she has found Wild Virginia to be a wonderful organization to volunteer for. Wild Virginia, by providing multiple opportunities for the community to engage with our beautiful forests and advocating for the vulnerable ancient and splendid forest ecosystems, plays an invaluable role in today’s challenge of the threatened natural world.