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Board Members and Staff

Board Members

Meredith Emmett
ECWA Board Member


Meredith Emmett has lived in the Ellerbe Creek watershed for over 30 years. The water in her backyard finds its way into the Creek and her family takes almost daily walks in the 17-Acre Woods. As President of Third Space Studio, Meredith is a consultant to dozens of nonprofits – in North Carolina and across the country – as they focus their intended impact, design ambitious strategies, and develop the resources and capacity needed for success. Meredith also teaches nonprofit management at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and is one of the lead instructors for the Institute for Conservation Leadership’s Executive Leadership Program. Meredith is happy to be bringing what she has learned from environmental leaders across the country to ECWA and to her own backyard.


Suzanne Hartley
ECWA Board Member


Suzanne Hartley Selfie

Suzanne is a graduate student in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation at NC State researching differences in eggshell patterns of house sparrows across the United States. She is interested in using citizen science and informal science education to connect people to the natural world around them. She enjoys sharing the curiosities of nature with people of all backgrounds and ages.

Suzanne fell in love with rivers and streams growing up only a few miles from the mighty Susquehanna in Southcentral Pennsylvania. Prior to moving to Durham in 2015, she spent a year and half in Alaska researching food webs of arctic streams. She started volunteering with ECWA's education committee in January 2016 and feels lucky to live in a town with a great community of people dedicated to protecting their local watershed.

In her free time, you can find her hiking, tending to her urban garden, or eating pastries at the Durham Farmer's Market.


Amit Khanduri
ECWA Board Member, Sanford Board Leadership Institute


Amit Khanduri Selfie

Hailing from Atlanta, GA, Amit graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Business Administration. He began his career with Deloitte Consulting's Federal Government Practice and later joined the City of Atlanta, where he served on the workforce development agency's leadership team.

Amit is a Masters in Public Policy candidate at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy. He serves on ECWA's board as a non-voting member via the Sanford School's Student Board Leadership Initiative. Amit is interested in studying how local governments can increase economic immobility. He's looking forward to supporting ECWA's work and contributing to the greater Durham community.


Katie Kovach
ECWA Board Member


Katie Kovach Selfie

Katie has lived most of her life in the Piedmont of North Carolina, growing up in Asheboro. Katie’s professional background is rooted in science and education, having NC Environmental Educator Certification, a B.S. in Botany and Biology from NCSU and an M.S. in Forestry from Virginia Tech. Needless to say, she loves plants.

Katie currently works with Schoolhouse of Wonder and Central Park School for Children. Katie began working with ECWA as a volunteer by developing an online field guide, and has continued to be involved with ECWA's educational outreach. When not out in the woods, Katie enjoys crafting botanical goodness, creating art, climbing trees, and spending time with her cats and family.


Daniel Kulenic
ECWA Board Member


Daniel was introduced to ECWA while co-producing the Bull City Food & Beer Experience. He chose ECWA as the beneficiary with some guidance from others and before truly understanding the energy and the passion behind the organization and the mission. Once meeting all of the volunteers and members and learning more about whom and what ECWA is he found an opportunity to give back the city he loves so much through an organization that appreciates being outdoors in a learning and safe environment.

Daniel lives in Durham with his wife Kate, two daughters Colby and Rowan and their dog Jasmine.


Heather Linton
ECWA Board Member


Heather Linton portrait

Heather has been a fan of ECWA for many years. She especially likes the birding hikes, but has been involved with cleaning up the 17-Acre Wood near her former house. She has lived in Durham for over 20 years, most of this time in the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood, and now she lives downtown in the Durham Central Park Co-housing Community. Heather is an environmentalist as well as a CPA. She founded the Linton & Associates, PA CPA firm in 1989. This is an unusual combination in the financial field.

Speaking of the financial field, Heather is on the Finance Committee of ECWA, and she brings a financial perspective to her work on the board. She has degrees in philosophy and art history from the University of Delaware, and an MBA with a concentration in accounting from UNC-CH.


Anastasia Maddox
ECWA Board Member


For a short bio of Anastasia please check again later.


Sarah Musser
ECWA Board Member


Sarah Musser
Sarah Musser

Sarah became actively involved with ECWA while working on the George Watts Montessori Elementary playground project. She and another parent oversaw the partnership between the PTA and ECWA in the installation of several rain gardens and storm mitigation features integral to the renovation. She was excited to incorporate storm water design elements on the playground after installing various “Creek Smart” features at her home in Trinity Park.

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in ecology with a focus in environmental studies from Princeton and received a Masters of Divinity and PhD in Religion at Duke. Her research interests involve identifying and exploring resources within the Christian tradition to encourage practices of creation care. She hopes to help ECWA think about and facilitate ways they can partner with faith communities.


Peter Raabe
ECWA Board Member


Peter settled in Durham in 2007, discovering an awesome and quirky community. He currently the NC Conservation Director for American Rivers and has worked for the organization since 2001 in various capacities.

He has been a river lover since birth, growing up only 3 blocks from the Mississippi River in New Orleans. He loves walking, running and biking along the Ellerbe Creek greenways and looks forward to the completion of that trail. He is passionate about Durham and believes that Durham’s future and the creek’s future are intertwined, what is good for one is good for both.

He lives and works in the Ellerbe Creek watershed. He is an aspiring gardener and enjoys home improvement work. Before joining American Rivers headquarters staff in Washington, D.C., he worked for River Network focusing on organizational development and policy coordination of watershed groups throughout the country.

Peter also has experience as a staffer in the U.S. Senate, a wealth of political campaign experience, and event planning experience. He has a B.A. in American Government and Environmental Studies specializing in watershed protection from Franklin and Marshall College.


Lesley Starke
ECWA Board Member


Lesley Starke
Lesley Starke

Lesley is a conservation ecologist with a passion for protecting special places and seeing them restored and/or managed to their full potential. She grew up in the New River Valley in Virginia, but after moving to the Triangle in 2006, she quickly learned about the Ellerbe Creek and the impressive work of ECWA. She was hooked. Starting out as an intern from 2008-2009, Lesley has been involved with ECWA off and on, as her schedule allows, ever since.

Lesley has a master's degree from Duke University in environmental management, specializing in conservation planning with an emphasis on wetland ecosystems. Lesley works for the NC Plant Conservation Program, a state agency in the Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services, protecting imperiled plant species across the state.


Jazmin Varela
ECWA Board Member


For a short bio of Jazmin please check again later.


Jess Wilkinson
ECWA Board Member, Sanford Board Leadership Institute


Jess Wilkinson
Jess Wilkinson

As an avid biker, Jess was delighted to stumble upon the Ellerbee Creek Trail shortly after moving to Durham in August 2017. She has been on the trail nearly every day since and has loved learning as much as she can about the watershed's history.

When not biking around town, Jess studies Public Policy at Duke University. She is concentrating on social policies, specifically related to paid family leave and criminal justice reform. Before starting her studies at Duke, Jess lived in Washington, D.C. and worked on global HIV prevention programs.

Jess will serve as a non-voting member of ECWA’s Board of Directors until December 2018. While on the board, she will focus her efforts on helping ECWA to connect with historically underserved communities in Durham to improve the impact of watershed work.

Besides biking, some of Jess’s favorite past-times are being a doula, playing around with a few stringed instruments, drawing, and cooking Korean food.


Steve Hiltner
ECWA Executive Director Emeritus


Steve Hiltner
Steve Hiltner

Steve has degrees in botany and water quality. In addition to his work in founding and nurturing the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, he has also enjoyed previous lives as a horticulturist, piano teacher, composer and jazz musician. 

Steve served on the Durham Environmental Affairs Board, and leads periodic plant walks along the West Ellerbe Creek Trail and at Penny's Bend.

In a region dominated by trees, his particular passion is bringing back the colorful wetland, prairie and savannah plant communities that historically graced the Durham area. Steve lives with his wife and two young daughters in Princeton, NJ.



Steve Cohn
ECWA President


Steve is the Director of Duke University Press and a former long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Watts-Hospital-Hillandale Neighborhood Association, for which he served as chair of the Parks Committee as well as the liaison with ECWA.

Steve is a frequent user of the West Ellerbe Creek Trail and got involved with ECWA because he was tremendously impressed by the vast amount ECWA was accomplishing with such a small group of active volunteers. He brings to the board not much knowledge of the natural environment, but lots of interest in the functioning of small organizations as they grow and develop.


John Dorney
ECWA Vice President


For a short bio of John please check again later.


Dexter Blackwell
ECWA Treasurer


Dexter Blackwell Selfie

Dexter has spent the majority of his life as a North Carolinian, growing up in the glorious mountains of NC and then attending undergraduate and graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill. After moving to the triangle, he fell in love with the area and has been here ever sense. He works as a wealth manager at a multi-family office in Chapel Hill. Dexter, his husband, and their dog live in Duke Park, one block away from the site of the annual Beaver Queen Pageant.

Dexter joined ECWA's finance committee two years ago after searching for environmentally-focused organization opportunities through Hands On Triangle. He enjoys walking with his family through the 17 Acre Nature Preserve.


Ian Pond
ECWA Secretary


Ian is a keen kayaker on flat and whitewater and has explored many of the local rivers and lakes by boat. An exploratory trip down the Ellerbe from Red Mill Road introduced him to the trash islands including a huge one at the trestle. With that memory, when Ian was approached my fellow Northgate Park resident Mike Shiflett to help with Big Sweep it was an easy leap for Ian to lead a clean up on the Ellerbe – the hook was cast!

Ian’s passion for the Ellerbe is the physical creek and it’s cleanliness but he is willingly involved in land based clean ups too and is on the Land Stewardship Committee.

Ian is President of Northgate Park Neighborhood Association and has lived in the neighborhood with his wife Carol since 2008, Carol being a native of Northgate Park.



Chris Dreps
ECWA Executive Director


Chris Dreps Selfie

Chris Dreps works with ECWA’s staff and scores of volunteers to protect and restore Ellerbe Creek. He spends his time helping to strengthen ECWA’s organizational capacity, creating a vision for watershed restoration, and building innovative partnerships with government, businesses, agencies, foundations, and private landowners. It is a fun and challenging job working with ECWA’s great people.

Chris has been working to protect watersheds for 20 years. In his previous job, he directed the nonprofit Upper Neuse River Basin Association, working with local governments to coordinate a regional watershed management planning process. Chris has also worked for a private consulting firm in Seattle, Washington and the National Park Service in Tucson, Arizona. He has done volunteer work outside of the USA as a Peace Corps Volunteer Central African Republic, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Honduras, and was a Mennonite Central Committee volunteer on a rural water harvesting project in Guerrero, Mexico.


Rachel Cohn
Operations Manager


Rachel Cohn
Rachel Cohn

Rachel was born and raised in Durham and grew up spending time along Ellerbe Creek. She has worked and volunteered for a variety of non-profit and international organizations, ranging from NC Cooperative Extension to the United Nations Development Program. Rachel has traveled extensively in the United States and Latin America, studying, farming, volunteering, working, and exploring along the way. She holds Bachelors degrees in Environmental Studies and Biology from Oberlin College and a Masters in Sustainable Development with a concentration in NGO Management from SIT Graduate Institute.


Anne Maxwell (Ruffin) Ellett
Education & Outreach Coordinator


Anne Maxwell Ellett is an environmental educator with the AmeriCorps - Conservation Trust of North Carolina program. Prior to joining us, she was an environmental educator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Maryland after graduating UNC – Chapel Hill in Spring 2016. During her time at UNC, Anne Maxwell studied biology and marine science, and spent a semester in the Galapagos Islands studying marine ecology. At ECWA, Anne Maxwell will lead Family Explorers Club, Explorers Club, and assist with Nature Walks, all of which aim to get Durham residents outside and connected with Ellerbe Creek. She also will be involved with the planning and implementation of volunteer workdays and assist with outreach for various programs on our social media platforms.


Robert Meehan
Creek Smart Coordinator


Robert Meehan is ECWA's Creek Smart Technician, installing rain gardens and rain water harvesting cisterns at residences in the watershed. He has a degree in biology from UNC-Asheville and teaches ECWA's Creek Smart classes. An avid naturalist, Robert is also likely to be found looking under rocks or leading a bird hike.


Donna Myers
Stewardship Coordinator


Donna Myers
Donna Myers

Donna manages ECWA’s preserves and works closely with the volunteers who make this organization great. Donna brings experience with conservation and land management, watershed education and volunteer organization, as well as fundraising and outreach. Donna spent many days exploring Ellerbe Creek when she first moved to Durham in 2009 and quickly fell in love. Ever since then, she has been involved with or closely followed all of the amazing work that ECWA does and is excited to be part of the team.

Donna holds a M.S. in Recreation and Tourism from Arizona State University and has previously worked at Cocoa Cinnamon, Haw River Assembly, and Frog Hollow Outdoors.


Jeff Masten and Heidi Hannapel (Land Matters)
Conservation Specialists


For a short bio of Heidi please check again later.


Jeff Masten spent his childhood appreciating the woods, streams and rivers in rural New Hampshire, where he developed a strong sense of environmental stewardship for the land and water. Jeff brings that same environmental ethic and desire to make a difference to Durham and to the Ellerbe Creek.

Jeff is partner in the LandSpring Group, a local enterprise that supports private, foundation, nonprofit and government conservation initiatives. Jeff is the former Director of Conservation Strategies at Triangle Land Conservancy responsible for land acquisition, conservation planning and stewardship activities. His 12 year experience at TLC included partnership projects with Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, the conservation of thousands of acres in Durham including the development of the Horton Grove Nature Preserve, doubling the size of the Stagville State Historic Site and planning and land acquisition for the future New Hope Creek Preserve.

Jeff has been a Durham resident since 1997 with his wife Betty and three children Andy, Margaux and Abby. He has a BS in Finance from Northeastern University and a Master’s in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


The Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association bylaws call for the creation of a board of directors to help guide and govern the organization.  The board consists of the four officers and from six to sixteen board members.  Each board member is elected to a two-year term.


The ECWA Board of Directors has created several staff positions to assist in planning, organizing and executing ECWA's initiatives. Staff includes an Executive Director, a Director of Conservation, a Stewardship Coordinator, a Development Assistant and Office Administrator, a Creek Smart Technician, and an Americorps Service Member.