:: About GIC :: Who We Are

          : Staff
          : Board of Directors
          : GIC Brochure [PDF]



Karen Firehock

Karen Firehock, Executive Director

Ms. Firehock is the GIC Director and co-founded the center in 2006. She oversees green infrastructure planning and research projects. She is an environmental planner with more than twenty five years of experience in planning and natural resources management. She is also an adjunct lecturer in green infrastructure planning and environmental ordinance development at the University of Virginia (UVA)'s School of Architecture in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning. Prior to her current position, Ms. Firehock was a Senior Associate at the UVA Institute for Environmental Negotiation for seven years and served as coordinator for community watershed and land use plans for localities. She also coordinated the national Community-Based Collaboratives Research Consortium, and conducted public outreach for the USDA Forest Service’s Roundtable on Sustainable Forests. Prior to working for UVA, she served as the Director of the Save Our Streams Program at the Izaak Walton League for 12 years where she directed a national stream and wetland conservation program.

Ms. Firehock has authored numerous handbooks, including the Local Government’s Guide to Stream Corridor Protection, Collaboration: A Guide for Environmental Advocates, a Handbook for Wetlands Conservation and Sustainability, A Citizen's Streambank Restoration Handbook, and Local Watershed Management Planning in Virginia, A Community Water Quality Approach. She has won multiple awards for her planning work, including a Renew America Award for the Nation's Best Water Protection Program, a National River Greenways Award, State Conservationist of the Year Award, and Design Professional of the Year Award.

She has a bachelor of science degree in natural resources management from the School of Agriculture at the University of Maryland and a master of planning degree from the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.

Her most recent publication "Evaluating and Conserving Green Infrastructure Across the Landscape" is available from the GIC.



Stu Sheppard, GIS Analyst

Mr. Sheppard manages the GIC’s mapping and land planning and provides technical assistance to local governments, regional planning agencies, communities, land trusts and conservation groups.

Mr. Sheppard has a degree in Geography from George Mason University. While at the university, he started an internship at The Nature Conservancy where he spent 17 years as a GIS Specialist and Conservation Data Node Program Manager. He has been an independent contractor for groups such as Forest Inform Partners and was a senior faculty specialist at the University of Maryland, where he managed the university’s Carbon Monitoring System Ecometrica web mapping application.

At the GIC, Mr. Sheppard builds models to help states, regions, counties, cities and towns identify, conserve or restore their natural and cultural assets. He brings more than 23 years of experience in spatial planning to the GIC, having worked in developing countries around the world, with international conservation organizations, universities and government entities from the local to national levels. His skills include systematic conservation planning and associated data collection methods, including remote sensing, global positioning systems and training for field data management, as well as geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial data management. He specializes in helping local governments, academia, community members and non-government groups communicate and collaborate to create reality-tested datasets, maps and plans for landscape conservation.

Prior to joining the GIC, his focus had been on GIS program development and conservation planning in developing countries.


Justin Hynika

Justin Hynicka, Sr. Scientist and Forester

Justin Hynicka joined GIC in 2019 as the Senior Scientist and Forester. Justin is working on evaluating complex science behind the health of forests in the coastal regions of Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia. He also conducts research and develops new methods for evaluating our natural resouces as green infrastructure. Justin has long been interested in the chemical building blocks of the natural world and how elements and compounds influence forest ecosystem processes.

He has worked on numerous multi-disciplinary field, laboratory, and computer-based projects. Examples include the mixing of snowmelt and hydrothermal springs in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA, base cation mobility and sources at the hyper-arid limit in the Atacama Desert, Chile, interactions between ecosystem nitrogen status and bedrock on calcium sources in Oregon Coast Range forests, a literature synthesis of nutrient and sediment fluxes from eastern forests that was incorporated into the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Phase 6 Land Use Model, and a custom water-balance model that is already changing the way stormwater managers and engineers think about the 136 million acres (and growing) of urban forest in the United States. These experiences have instilled a firm belief in Justin that both ecological and economic aspects of forestry are essential to a sustainable future.

Justin holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and geology from the University of Pittsburgh and master’s degree in soil science and forest ecosystem science from Oregon State University. Once upon a time, he used a modified lawn mower to drill bedrock samples 9-m below the Earth’s surface. As one might guess, he is often conflicted whether to look up at the trees or down at the soil when he is in the field.


Chris McCormick

Chris Lepetiuk, Community Natural Resources Planner

Chris Lepetiuk is the GIC's Community Landscape Associate. Chris is an environmental planner, arborist and landscape designer with a passion for incorporating food and native plants into community spaces. She employs a data-driven approach to create and achieve community goals. She assists communities with assessing, evaluating and conserving their natural assets. She is working on green infrastructure planning projects across the southern U.S. and beyond.

Chris' past experience includes environmental planning in the Baltimore-Washington DC area, landscape design in the Washington DC area and Certified Naturally Grown farming in the Western Maryland. Chris graduated Magna Cum Laude from Frostburg State University with a B.S. in Environmental Analysis and Planning. While at Frostburg State University Chris collaborated on several research projects. In one such project she studied changes in geomorphology of a local stream and potential impacts to the surrounding urban setting. In addition, Chris collaborated on Chesapeake Bay-wide research of road salt and it's environmental impacts. This project was presented at the American Association of Sustainability in Higher Education conference in Los Angeles, CA. In her free time Chris enjoys hiking, exploring, identifying wildflowers, playing guitar and rock climbing.

Tim Hess

Tim K. Hess, Landscape Design Associate

Tim provides design and illustration for the GIC’s green infrastructure plans. Tim had an early start in the green industry. Born in Toledo, Ohio, he grew up working in his family’s greenhouse and nursery business, started by his grandfather 55 years ago and operated by his family until 2002. Tim has worked in landscape design-build firms in cities including Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, Ohio, and he moved to Virginia in 2010 to be closer to his immediate family.

Tim is also President of the Virginia Society of Landscape Designers. He has been a Certified Landscape Designer with the Virginia Society of Landscape Designers since 2012, a Virginia Certified Horticulturalist with the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, a member of American Society of Landscape Architects, and a certified Energy Saving Landscape designer.

Tim has a BSc in Landscape Architecture and Design from the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture, at Ohio State University. Tim lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife Suzanne and their dog JoJo. Tim is an active downhill skier, hiker, and mountain biker.

Nancy Kliewer

Nancy Kliewer, Senior Accounts Manager

Nancy is the newest addition to the GIC staff, joining us in March 2019 as our Senior Accounts Manager. She brings accounting experience from other nonprofits, from George Mason University, and from Cox Newspapers' Washington bureau. Nancy and her husband Rob moved to Charlottesville in 2010, along with their three (now adult) sons. Nancy has an MBA in Economics from George Washington University and a BA in Business Economics from Willamette University in Salem, OR. In her spare time, you can usually find Nancy somewhere with knitting in her hands.

Jamie Trost

Jamie Trost, Community Planning Associate

As a community planner, Jamie coordinates GIC’s Resilient Coastal Forests Project in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia. He is researching issues affecting coastal forests and developing strategic regional plans in partnership with local communities.

Jamie followed a diverse path to GIC. Growing up on the South Shore of Lake Erie, he spent much of his childhood in the woods and on the waters of Northwestern Pennsylvania. His wanderlust sent him to Wilmington, North Carolina, for a degree in Professional and Creative Writing, then to California to write for the MoJo Wire, the web site of Mother Jones Magazine. He then journeyed to the rolling hills and mountains of Okayama, Japan, where he taught English for two years and wrote several travel pieces for Time Asia.

Jamie eventually returned to the Great Lakes where he became part of the crew onboard the schooner Inland Seas, a tall ship that offered programs in environmental science as it sailed northern Lake Michigan. He spent nearly two decades as a sailor, educator and captain aboard some of the finest traditional ships in the United States. During his tenure as captain of the Pride of Baltimore II, Jamie was extensively involved in grant writing while he spearheaded the development of Pride, Inc.’s first underway education program.

Since moving to Staunton, Virginia, with his wife and two deaf rescue dogs, he has become a Certified Forest Therapy Guide through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) and served as guide and interpreter for ANFT leadership on an 18-day exploration of Japan’s Health and Therapy Forests. He is currently enrolled in the Masters of Urban and Environmental Planning program at the University of Virginia.

Board of Directors

The Center’s Board of Directors meets quarterly in Virginia. Center board members are listed below with their positions and professional affiliations. Click on the board member's name to read their bio. For 2013, the Center’s board members are as follows:

Mike Cook
Retired, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Falls Church, VA

Chris French
Vice Chair
Director of Stormwater Programs, Water Environment Federation, Richmond, VA.

Richard Roth
Secretary and Vice-Chair
Professor of Geography, Radford University
Friends of the New River, Blacksburg, VA

Ralph Jones
Managing Director and Co-Founder, The Cadmus Group, Inc.

Jeff Corbin
At-Large Member
Senior Vice-President for Water Quality Markets and Mitigation at Restoration Systems, LLC.

Jonathan Jones
At-Large Member
Chief Executive Officer of Wright Water Engineers, Inc. (WWE) in Denver, CO.

Deborah Gillette Nagle
At-Large Member
Director, Office of Science and Technology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

If you are interested in joining the board, attending a board meeting, or have other questions, please contact Karen Firehock. The center’s corporate documents are available for inspection.

:: Primary Contacts

Karen Firehock