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Who We Are

Meet the team

Our Staff

We are a team of farmers, lawyers, fundraisers, creative minds, and land conservation experts who live and breathe our mission. We hike, we fish, and we’re regulars at local farmers markets. Most of all, we care about the people of Tennessee and are passionate about conserving land that is important to our communities.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Alysia Abrams

Alysia Abrams

Senior Director of Finance & Operations

Alysia Abrams brings over 30 years of hands-on accounting experience to her role as Senior Director of Finance & Operations. Alysia oversees our organization’s finances, human resources, office operations and systems in partnership with our senior management and Board of Directors.

Prior to joining The Land Trust team in 2015, Alysia held senior finance positions at Boult, Cummings, Conner & Berry Law, Nashville Trane (division of American Standard, Inc.), Vanderbilt University, and Navihealth.

After being raised in Texas for most of her childhood, Alysia moved to Tennessee and has called this beautiful state home ever since. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her two children and loving pets. You will often find Alysia exploring the outdoors, gardening, relaxing by her pond with a book, or planning her next outdoor project. Alysia is also a self-published children’s author and illustrator and is hard at work on her second book.

I feel so fortunate to be part of a team of such dedicated people who love the outdoors as much as I do.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown

Director of Communications

Daniel Brown tells the stories of The Land Trust for Tennessee and the many landowners and partners working to conserve land across the state. As Director of Communications, Daniel is the organization’s main point of contact for media relations and public communications.

Daniel was driven from a young age to lift up and support the people and places in his community through the power of storytelling. After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University, Daniel worked to promote “Zero Waste”, recycling, composting and environmental initiatives at the City of Austin, Texas. Daniel was drawn to Nashville for its proximity to family, natural beauty and strong sense of community. Before joining The Land Trust, he told the stories of Nashville’s unsung volunteers serving their communities during his time at Hands On Nashville.

In his spare time, Daniel can be found exploring Tennessee’s beautiful trails, strumming along to folk records, or walking his dog around the Cornelia Fort Airpark in East Nashville.

Every inch of our land has a story, and I have the good fortune to tell them. There are countless individuals and organizations working every day to conserve important places, and I am inspired to be part of an organization protecting land with great passion for the greater good.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Virginia Comer

Virginia Comer

Special Events Manager

Virginia Comer develops meaningful events that express the passion and skills we have for protecting land important to Tennessee. As Special Events Manager, Virginia works collaboratively with vendors, Land Trust team members and volunteers to create meaningful experiences that give pride of ownership to both attendees and volunteers.

Originally from New Orleans, Virginia grew up in a small town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast surrounded by beautiful shorelines and river systems, as well as all of the recreation opportunities the Gulf of Mexico has to offer. In 2015, Virginia graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology after spending time working in development departments at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. She moved to Nashville in 2015 to join Cheekwood Estate & Gardens as a Development Manager of Annual Giving, where she oversaw internal donor cultivation and appreciation events, as well as the institution’s corporate giving and sponsorship program.

In her free time, Virginia enjoys cooking, hiking on nearby trails, exploring Nashville’s historic places, or spending time with friends.

I learned at a young age that what is here today is not guaranteed to be here tomorrow. I am thrilled to work with such a thoughtful organization to help conserve these beautiful landscapes, so that they continue to exist for present and future generations.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Emma Davidson

Emma Davidson

Director of Transactions & General Counsel

Emma Davidson provides her legal expertise and passion for conservation to strengthen The Land Trust for Tennessee’s mission. Emma oversees land transactions, serves as project management for our conservation team, facilitates the legal needs of the organization, and serves as our General Counsel.

Emma grew up in New York City and graduated from Duke University, where she majored in psychology and minored in biology. Emma spent six years exploring the beautiful mountains and landscapes of Colorado where she earned her law degree. Eventually, Emma and her husband were drawn to Nashville in 2014 by the exceptional food, waters, and southern hospitality Tennessee has to offer. Emma joined our team as a volunteer in 2015 but quickly realized she had found a perfect fit at The Land Trust and formally joined the team within a few months.

Outside of work, Emma can be found walking the Warner Parks trails with her sons and dogs, or enjoying a delicious meal at one of Nashville’s many renowned restaurants.

I love the variety of challenges my job offers—everything from negotiating a contract term to brainstorming conservation strategies for a unique property —but it is the people I get to work with each day that make my work particularly special.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Jack Duffus

Jack Duffus

Glen Leven Farm Steward

Jack Duffus manages The Land Trust for Tennessee’s beautiful, 64-acre historic Glen Leven Farm located just four miles from downtown Nashville.

As Glen Leven Farm Steward, Jack takes cares of the many dynamic aspects of the farm, including our education garden, arboretum, honey bee sanctuary, springs and creeks, and livestock pastures. Jack also helps coordinate the public programming we offer on the property, including field trips for local students, tree plantings, guided hikes, and numerous volunteer service activities.

Jack grew up enjoying the great outdoors and first came to Tennessee to attend Sewanee: The University of the South, where he received his degree in biology with a focus on conservation and land management. Following multiple years serving as Assistant Park Manager at Lake Johnson Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jack and his family relocated to Nashville where they are happy to once again call Tennessee home.

Jack enjoys most any activity that will get him outside, especially in the mountains. He is an avid hiker, paddler, and loves to travel throughout the country and abroad.

I am inspired to be a part of an organization that values land conservation as much as I do. Places like Glen Leven Farm are truly special and I am proud to help protect it and similar properties for future generations to experience.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Harper


Office Pup

Harper is The Land Trust for Tennessee’s loyal and trusted companion and our resident conservation canine.

Born in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Harper loves the outdoors. In her leisure time, she can be found swimming in Tennessee rivers, scampering through open fields and pastures, and playing with her companions in Tennessee’s beautiful rolling landscapes.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Luke Iverson

Luke Iverson

Conservation GIS Manager

Luke Iverson is the Conservation GIS Manager for The Land Trust for Tennessee and is often referred to as our in-house “map guy”. Luke furthers our statewide conservation mission with his geospatial research, data analysis, and cartography expertise. Luke’s ability to create insightful, accurate maps enables us to better identify opportunities to protect valuable land facing critical threats

While born and raised in a small town outside of Chicago, Luke grew up working on his family’s cattle ranch in central Montana. His experiences in those vast, wild spaces gave him a love for nature, agriculture and open lands, with a desire to protect our natural, rural landscapes.

Luke’s love of music brought him to Nashville, where he graduated from Belmont University with a degree in philosophy. Luke joined The Land Trust for Tennessee in 2013 and has held many roles within the organization, ranging from fundraising to GIS specialist. Luke is based in our Chattanooga office, where he and his family enjoy exploring our beautiful state. You will often find them hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, or just plain exploring.

I love working for The Land Trust because I know the work I do helps to ensure that there will still be natural, untouched open spaces for future generations, as well as for this generation.

Jackson Lundy

Jackson Lundy

Conservation Project Manager

As a Conservation Project Manager, Jackson Lundy works closely with landowners and partners to conserve important landscapes in Tennessee. Through his work, Jackson cultivates, engages and maintains relationships with private landowners to permanently conserve land.

Originally from Kingston Springs, Tennessee, Jackson grew up in Middle Tennessee and has developed an appreciation for the natural beauty of the area. Jackson earned his bachelor’s, in environmental science, from Sewanee: The University of the South. Jackson then spent two years working for TDOT where he facilitated land acquisitions for infrastructure projects in the Middle Tennessee area.

In his free time, Jackson can often be found exploring the many waterways of Tennessee by kayak. He enjoys hiking, fishing, running, and trying new restaurants. Jackson is also an avid sports fan.

“It’s inspiring to work with a group of committed staff and dedicated private land owners to protect the landscapes of our state for future generations to enjoy.”

Land Trust For Tennessee - Kayla McBride

Kayla McBride

Operations Manager

Kayla McBride embodies the true team spirit of The Land Trust for Tennessee – dedicated, passionate, and ready and willing to always go the extra mile to support our cause. Kayla serves as Operations Manager and oversees a wide range of tasks to ensure The Land Trust operates as efficiently as possible.

Growing up, Kayla fell in love with the beauty and adventure of the outdoors while exploring then rural Smyrna, TN with neighborhood friends and family, and attending camp every summer at Horton Haven Christian Camp in Chapel Hill. Kayla has long felt the importance of sharing nature and knowledge with future generations, and went on to serve as Camp counselor and worked with at-risk youth at Rocketown in Nashville.

Kayla currently serves on Urban Green Lab’s Nonprofit Sustainability Roundtable, which is setting out to transform Nashville’s nonprofit sector into a system for teaching both themselves and the communities they serve how to live sustainably, while inspiring a replicable model that can be shared region and nationwide.

Kayla spends her spare time updating the home she inherited from her Grandmother, gardening and crafting, and seeking out historical and scenic landmarks with family and friends.

I love having a direct hand in the conservation of the land I have grown to cherish so much. I fully believe that what we are doing here is directly impacting the lives of the present and future generations for the better, and that makes what we do extremely important.

Liz McLaurin

President & CEO

Liz McLaurin believes that land connects us to one another, reminds us that we are a part of the natural world, and refreshes the human spirit. During her eleven years of service to The Land Trust for Tennessee, Liz has been devoted to ensuring that the organization grows in its strength as one most effective, strategic, and respected land trusts in our nation.

Liz has generational roots in Tennessee and was drawn here as a student by the sense of place offered by the Domain of Sewanee: The University of the South. She started her career in theatre, acting in both New York City and in regional theatre. Before joining The Land Trust for Tennessee, Liz held positions at Vanderbilt University, Nashville Public Television, Nashville Public Radio, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, and Colgate University.

Currently, Liz serves on the Land Trust Alliance National Council, the Williamson County Comprehensive Land Use Plan Advisory Committee, Nashville’s Sustainability Advisory Board, the Center for Nonprofit Management’s CEO Council, the Alumni Board of Leadership Franklin, the Williamson County Stormwater Appeals Board, and chairs the Land Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Franklin’s Charge. Liz also co-chairs the Resilience & Adaptation Subcommittee of the Mayor of Nashville’s Sustainability Advisory Committee. She received the EQB Award from the Associated Alumni of The University of the South, is a graduate of Leadership Franklin, was a winner of Nashville Business Journal’s 2014 Women of Influence Awards, and has been named to Nashville Post’s In Charge List multiple times.

Liz lives with her husband, three sons, chickens, horses, and a dog on a farm in the Leiper’s Fork community of Williamson County.

We work with extraordinary landowners from all walks of life who have share a common perspective: they see the life of the land beyond their own lives. We all consider it a privilege to help them achieve their generous visions for their land. It is so fulfilling to work with such a dedicated team to protect these places that make Tennessee distinctive.

Ellen Messerly 2019 Headshot

Ellen Messerly

Education Coordinator

Ellen Messerly develops and leads the agricultural, conservation, and historic experiential educational programming at The Land Trust for Tennessee’s 64-acre Glen Leven Farm. As Education Coordinator Ellen works to bring innovative, hands-on curriculum to community members to inspire a deeper appreciation of land conservation through an historic Nashville landscape.

Ellen grew up in Highland, MD, a small suburb between D.C. and Baltimore. After getting a B.S. in Wildlife Science at Virginia Tech, Ellen spent a year abroad in Botswana working as the educator with CARACAL, a nonprofit that is involved in the community through research, wildlife rescue, and education. This experience made her realize a passion for working with people, and led her to pursue a M.S. in Environmental Education at Southern Oregon University with a middle/high school teaching credential. She then taught and did administrative work at an outdoor school in Santa Cruz, CA before finding her way to Nashville.

In her free time, you can usually find her being active in some way – swimming, biking, running, hiking, kayaking – or in the kitchen experimenting with baking sourdough bread and healthy desserts!

“My goal is to ignite a sense of wonder in everyone who sets foot on Glen Leven Farm. When people see, experience, and learn about the land and its history, they appreciate it so much more.”

Land Trust For Tennessee - Mija Nichols

Mija Nichols

Conservation & Stewardship Coordinator

Mija [My-Juh] Nichols is dedicated to service and sustainability and keeps our team accountable to our long-term land conservation commitments. Mija is responsible for administrative and technical support of our conservation and stewardship programs and works in partnership with landowners and our conservation team.

Mija grew up in Arkansas, the Natural State, surrounded by the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, but has also spent time in her early childhood years in Colorado, Missouri, and Illinois. Each place inspired her connection to the great outdoors. Mija graduated from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 2013 with a degree in Environmental Technology and Management and Lipscomb University in 2016 with a Master’s degree in Sustainability with a focus on fostering sustainable behaviors. After graduating from NCSU, she went on to serve for a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA before joining the Andrew Jackson Foundation in 2015.

When not working, Mija can be found enjoying a favorite Science Fiction novel, heading to a music festival, enjoying some of the delicious food found across Nashville, or simply exploring this beautiful state.

I am excited to have the opportunity to bring my academic and professional skills to help The Land Trust for Tennessee further the education, conservation, and stewardship of our Tennessee lands and people.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Brickey Nuchols

Brickey Nuchols

Donor Engagement Coordinator & Resident Historian

Brickey Nuchols is a dedicated student of history and key member of our Development and Engagement Team. Brickey ensures our generous donors remain connected to our mission, writes grants to further our work, and leads tours at The Land Trust for Tennessee’s Glen Leven Farm.

Brickey was born and raised in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Maryville. He holds a B.A. in History from Maryville College and an M.A. in Public History from Appalachian State University. His past nonprofit experiences include tenures with the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, Community Food Advocates, and Alignment Nashville.

Brickey’s work with The Land Trust inspired him to enroll in the Tennessee Naturalist Program to learn more about our natural world. In his free time, Brickey enjoys spending time outdoors in Nashville’s parks and greenways, conducting genealogical research, exploring Middle Tennessee’s historic sites, and searching Nashville’s record stores to expand his vinyl collection.

I grew up in a “holler” in East Tennessee where my family settled nearly 200 years ago. I feel connected to this state and am passionate about its history. I am honored to be part of an organization that works to protect and conserve the hills, mountains, farms, and historic places that make Tennessee home to me.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Sarah Orear

Sarah O’Rear

Director of Stewardship

Sarah O’Rear ensures we are actively upholding our 300+ conservation easements across the state. As Director of Stewardship, Sarah guides all of our stewardship activities, including annual monitoring of conserved land, reviewing and approving activity requests, and communicating with landowners about their conservation easements.

Sarah graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South with a B.S. in natural resources. She previously worked for the Kentucky Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where she supported a wide range of projects, including drafting and monitoring conservation easements. Her education and experience have taken her from Belize to North Carolina.

Sarah spends her free time living it up with her husband and daughter in the outdoors-loving town of Chattanooga. Sarah is a hands-on mom who loves hiking, going to Lookouts games and concerts, and finding the best Mexican cuisine anywhere she goes. She has a travel bug that keeps her searching for the next great adventure.

 I feel fortunate that I get to see so many parts of my home state that I would normally never have the opportunity or excuse to see otherwise. But the best part is the amazing stories and experiences we hear from our landowners, it makes you realize how important your work is and how land shapes people’s lives.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Emily Parish

Emily B. Parish

Vice President of Conservation

Emily Parish is a veteran conservation leader – both in Tennessee and at the national level. Since joining the team in 2004, Emily has been instrumental in protecting more than 120,000 acres of land.

As Vice President of Conservation, Emily oversees the conservation and stewardship program, including the projects of nine staff in two offices. Emily joined The Land Trust as a Land Protection Assistant in 2004 and is the longest ranking member of the team.

Emily earned her Bachelor’s from Sewanee: The University of the South and a Master’s in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School. She won the 2012 Nashville Emerging Young Leaders Award for “Environment & Sustainability.” Emily was also a founding member of the Farmland Legacy Partnership, a 13-agency working group focused on the protection of Tennessee farmland. She represents The Land Trust on the USDA Technical Committee, The Tennessee Preservation Trust’s Board of Directors, and the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association’s Board of Directors. In 2016-17, Emily served as a member of the Land Trust Alliance Standards and Practices Advisory Team and now serves on the Alliance’s Conservation Defense Advisory Council and is Chair of the Board of Children’s House of Nashville.

Emily is also a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) graduate who’s hiked three 15,000-foot mountains. In her spare time, Emily can be found lifting weights or outside enjoying time with her husband and two daughters.

I am inspired by the amazing people that I get to work with every day, who choose to protect their land for future generations of Tennesseans to enjoy.

Sarah Quinn

Director of Development

As Director of Development, Sarah Quinn elevates the mission of The Land Trust by cultivating meaningful relationships with volunteers, landowners, community members, supporters, and advocates.

A Winter Park, Florida native, Sarah first moved to Nashville to earn her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University. Sarah quickly fell in love with the Nashville community and her adopted home of Tennessee.

She stepped away from the Volunteer State to earn her master’s degree from Savannah College of Art in Design, but soon returned to support multiple large-scale development campaigns initiatives at her alma mater. Sarah served as a member of Vanderbilt’s Development & Alumni Relations Department for nine years. Sarah came to The Land Trust through a combination of professional and personal passions for the mission, joining our team in 2020.

Outside of work you can find Sarah hiking in Nashville’s Warner Parks, running, playing tennis, traveling, or trying out one of the many new restaurants in Nashville.

“People are at the heart of the work that we do. I feel honored to have the opportunity to get to work with these people on a daily basis and see the tangible difference they are making in the lives of their neighbors, friends, family members, and for future generations.”

Land Trust For Tennessee - Mike Szmkowicz

Mike Szymkowicz

Stewardship Manager

Mike Szymkowicz is committed to being a good steward of land. As Stewardship Manager, Mike coordinates our dedicated team of monitoring volunteers and is often out in the field meeting directly with landowners of conserved land.

Mike developed a love for the outdoors and open spaces while growing up in Upstate New York. When he wasn’t traveling to compete in sporting events, he was fishing the rivers with his father or exploring his family’s property with friends.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York at Potsdam in 2014, Mike relocated to Nashville where he became involved with The Land Trust as a passionate stewardship volunteer. Today, as a full-time member of our team, Mike serves as a great steward for the beautiful Tennessee landscapes he now calls home.

When he is not exploring Tennessee’s green spaces with his fiancé and their two dogs, Mike can be found enjoying live music, trying new places to eat, or in the gym.

Looking out over a protected property with the landowner is the best part of my job. There is mutual sense of comfort knowing the land we are looking at in that very moment will look similar in 5, 50, and 500 years.

Katie Woodbury

Conservation Project Manager

Conservation Project Manager Katie Woodbury builds relationships with landowners and partners to conserve landscapes in Tennessee we can’t afford to lose. From start to finish, Katie manages projects with private landowners in The Land Trust’s conservation opportunity regions.

Originally from a small town in southcentral Pennsylvania, Katie developed her love of nature through hiking portions of the Appalachian Trail. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Harvard University and spent much of her time there focusing on environmental justice and related coursework. Following graduation in 2014, Katie worked in conservation policy for over three years at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. She was drawn to Tennessee by its natural beauty and proximity to friends and moved to Nashville in 2019.

In her free time, Katie enjoys traveling, learning about new cultures, and playing tennis.

“I feel so fortunate to be able to work for an organization with such an important mission. It is inspiring to learn from landowners and community members about why their land is important to them.”

Chad Wykle

Southeast Director

Chad Wykle brings two decades of experience in the Outdoor Industry and a great passion for conservation to his work at The Land Trust for Tennessee. As Southeast Director, Chad leads The Land Trust’s outreach, fundraising, and community engagement efforts across the greater Chattanooga region.

Prior to joining The Land Trust, Chad served as President and Co-owner of Rock/Creek, a Chattanooga-based outdoor specialty retailer, where he worked closely with the nonprofit community to protect and improve access for outdoor recreation. Chad’s philanthropic work at Rock/Creek and love for Tennessee ultimately led him to a partnership with The Land Trust. Chad was integral in building an impactful relationship between the two organizations and helped produce a brand video for The Land Trust in 2018.

Chad grew up in the foothills and mountains of North Carolina and worked on a family farm in Caldwell County. He still calls the Linville Gorge Wilderness ‘home’. After graduating from Appalachian State University, he and his wife, Rebecca, moved to Chattanooga in 2001.In his spare time, Chad can be found exploring, running, hiking, camping, climbing, and enjoying the wonderful rugged landscape of southeast Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau.

“I truly love working within the close-knit outdoor community in southeast Tennessee. My time spent building partnerships across the region has not only cultivated my deep respect for conservation and outdoor recreation, it has inspired me to take action. I am honored to be part of this mission.”