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Our Staff

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 - Virginia Comer

Virginia Comer

Director of Development & Engagement

Virginia Comer develops meaningful partnerships and events that express the passion and skills we have for protecting land important to Tennessee. As Director of Development & Engagement, Virginia works collaboratively with supporters, vendors, and volunteers to create meaningful experiences that celebrate and garner support for The Land Trust.

Born in New Orleans and raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Virginia grew up surrounded by beautiful shorelines and river systems, as well as all of the recreational opportunities the Gulf of Mexico has to offer. She graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology after spending time working in development departments of the New Orleans Museum of Art, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, and Auburn University. Prior to joining The Land Trust, Virginia served as a Development Coordinator and later Development Manager of Annual Giving at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, where she oversaw the institution’s corporate giving and sponsorship program, as well as internal donor cultivation and appreciation events.

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

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 - 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.

Ginny Kelly

Regional Director

Ginny grew up in Oxford, MS and graduated from the University of Mississippi. After spending 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry, Ginny made her way to Chattanooga in 2010 as a specialty representative with Johnson and Johnson before transitioning into the outdoor industry, first with The North Face, and then with Salomon. An avid trail runner, Ginny is a trail race director and is one of the founders of the Rock/Creek Women’s Trail Running Summit. She also runs competitively for the Rock/Creek All Mountain Team and Arcteryx.

Ginny currently sits on the boards of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy and Wild Trails and has served on the boards of Lula Lake Land Trust, Ivy Academy, and CHI Memorial Foundation. In 2013, she graduated from the Holmberg Arts Leadership Program and will graduate in the 2022 cohort of Leadership Chattanooga. Ginny is married to Mayor Tim Kelly, has two stepsons, Jack and Cannon, and many pets! In her spare time, you will find Ginny directing trail races for her company, Bad Beard Events, running on trail or road, or volunteering for anything and everything in Chattanooga.

It’s a true privilege to work with the team at The Land Trust for Tennessee to help preserve this incredible state for future generations. It’s a perfect fit for my passions and experience.

Lynn Lentz

Administrative Coordinator

Lynn Lentz is the most recent addition to the Land Trust for Tennessee team serving as the Administrative Coordinator and is happy to be in a role that allows her to support the team in a variety of ways.

She was born in Western North Carolina, and while her family lived in other places, returning to visit family and “Grandaddy’s Mountain” has been a constant in her life.  Lynn is a graduate of the University School of Nashville and the University of Tennessee. Before coming to the Land Trust, she worked at Vanderbilt for many years coordinating educational programs. She and her husband, who is that rare Nashville native, live in Nashville. When not working, you are most likely to find her gardening, reading, and visiting children and grandchildren as often as possible.

“It is exciting and humbling to support the mission of the Land Trust for TN.  It feels like we’re saving the world one acre at a time for generations to come.”

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.”

Paul Malone

Director of Finance

As Director of Finance, Paul Malone works in partnership with the LTTN Leadership Team and the Finance & Audit Committee to oversee the financial operations and financial planning of the organization.

Paul grew up in a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas, where he developed a deep appreciation for the outdoors through the beauty of tall grass prairies and open skies. He earned his Bachelor’s in Social Entrepreneurship and his Master’s in Accountancy from Belmont University. Paul is a licensed CPA and an active member of the AICPA and TSCPA. Before joining The Land Trust, he served in finance and development roles for Mending Hearts, The Brown Center for Autism, and the Tennessee office of the US Tennis Association. Most recently, Paul was a member of HCA Healthcare’s Internal Audit department where he performed financial and control audits of HCA hospitals across the US.

In his free time, Paul enjoys spending time cooking with his wife Logan, tending his vegetable garden, hiking nearby trails, and reading sci-fi.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Kayla McBride

Kayla McBride

Operations & Finance 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

Community Engagement 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 the 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 Maryland and received her B.S. from Virginia Tech. After spending a year abroad in Botswana working as an educator with a nonprofit, Ellen decided to pursue her passion for working with people in the outdoors. During her two years in the Master’s in Environmental Education program at Southern Oregon University, she taught students both in and out of the classroom while earning a teaching certificate for middle and high school science. She then moved to Santa Cruz, CA to work as a naturalist at an outdoor science school, where she helped students explore the natural world and experience personal growth during week-long camp visits. Before joining The Land Trust, she worked with preschoolers in Metro Nashville Public Schools after relocating to Nashville in 2018. She is currently an active member of the Tennessee Environmental Education Association, Tennessee Women in Green, the Overton High School Advisory Committee, and a nationwide group of Land Trust K-12 Education Leaders.

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

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

Engagement Manager & 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

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.

Anna Schilling

Stewardship Coordinator

Anna Schilling works closely with the Director of Stewardship to uphold over 400 conservation easements across the state. This includes annual monitoring of conserved land and communicating with landowners about their conservation easements.

As a native Tennessean, Anna is passionate about protecting this state’s beautiful landscapes. She graduated from UT Chattanooga with a degree in Environmental Science and a minor in biology. Prior to joining the Land Trust for TN Team, she worked at Long Hunter State Park, Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps, the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail, and Ivy Academy Environmental Charter School.

Anna spends her free time playing disc golf, canoeing with her husband and 12-year-old-dog, hiking, and camping.

“I am so humbled to be part of such an impactful organization, and I look forward to working with landowners and The Land Trust for Tennessee team to conserve Tennessee’s unique landscapes for future generations to come.”

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.”