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.
Jessica Roberts, Habitat Connectivity Director
Jessica Roberts has over 10 years of experience in wildlife research and recovery, advocacy, and community-based conservation initiatives. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from American University, she began her career working with AmeriCorps as the Watershed Restoration Coordinator for a conservation nonprofit in California. There, she created and supervised watershed restoration and education programs in connection with California State Parks. Jessica was inspired to pursue a graduate degree after working in wildlife conservation at the Wildlife Center of Virginia and as the Red-Browed Amazon Recovery Program lead at ZooTampa. While reinforcing her skills in wildlife population management, captive-breeding, and species reintroduction, she noticed a gap in the research on captive management techniques for improved reintroduction success. Jessica helped fill that gap while earning her PhD at George Mason University in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy by providing more evidence-based information to conservationists for improving endangered species reintroduction programs. Jessica is passionate about wildlife recovery and excited to join the team at Wild Virginia advancing habitat connectivity programs and connecting with more communities in the state she calls home.
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.
A Virginia native from coastal Hampton Roads, sailing and the watery wonders of the Chesapeake Bay played a major role throughout Grethe’s early years. Skippering a sailboat at age 14 alone under the stars in the Atlantic Ocean away from all civilization, yet surrounded by welcoming dolphins and more, changed her forever. With her first career as an award-winning NASA research engineer later morphing to both for-profit and non-profit entrepreneur in challenged locales including Appalachia – the land of most of her forbears – her focus on sustainable development and environmental justice and protection took hold.
Most recently, after returning to Hampton Roads, Grethe began looking for new ways to apply her strengths to urgent environmental disparities “back home.” To her delight, she discovered in Wild Virginia an organization pioneering a statewide wildlife corridor and crossing effort for which she had sadly seen the daily casualties and evergrowing need not only in the hills and mountains but her coastal environs as well. As she learned more about Wild Virginia with its leadership and singular difference-making in the protection and connection of the habitats in Virginia that so desperately need both, she knew she had found a treasure in nonprofit form! Grethe feels honored to serve Wild Virginia now with its vital mission and programs for the good of Virginia’s wildlife, and wild lands and waters… and for all of us, too.
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.
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.