:: About GIC :: Who We Are

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



Karen Firehock

Karen Firehock, Executive Director

Karen 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 thirty 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 her latest publication Green Infrastructure: Map and Plan the Natural World With GIS. Her other publictions include Strategic Green Infrastructure Planning: A Multi-scale Approach, A 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 The Paul Revell Award for Urban and COmmunity Forestry from the Southern Group of State Foresters, a Renew America Award for the Nation's Best Water Protection Program, a National River Greenways Award, State Conservationist of the Year Award, and a Design Professional of the Year Award.

Karen was recently recognized as a national leader in Green Infrastructure Planning in the ESRI book, Women in GIS.

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.



Stu Sheppard, GIS Analyst

Stu 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, Stu 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.


matt lee

Matt Lee, Community Landscape Forester

Matt Lee works with communities to determine protection and conservation strategies for natural resources, with a focus on community forests. He is also researching ways to incentivize tree planting and care, on both public and private property, as well as how to maximize landscape connectivity in developing areas. He also coordinates the GIC's Resilient Coastal Forest projects for Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

Mr. Lee has a BSc degree in Horticulture, with a forestry focus, from Virginia Tech. For eight years, he worked as a field botanist for the National Park Service on diverse projects, from long-term monitoring of fire effects on natural systems and restoring degraded sites, to mapping native plant communities of the Pacific Northwest. This work inspired Matt to volunteer for an organization undertaking tropical reforestation projects in Costa Rica, where he learned about biological corridors and the importance of landscape connectivity for wildlife.

Matt conducted spatial analysis of natural resources in Eastern Oregon on juniper woodlands and sagebrush while pursuing a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning at Portland State University. While studying the urban landscape, Matt became interested in urban ecology and green infrastructure, as well as the interplay between the built and natural environments. Matt brought his passion for the natural world to the urban landscape, particularly focusing on connectivity and corridors. He then applied his science and planning knowledge to his next role as Stewardship Director for an urban watershed council in Portland, where he coordinated restoration projects, cleanups, rain garden installation and stakeholder collaboration for a five-year stewardship action plan. Matt is excited to bring his knowledge and skills back to his home state of Virginia and to the GIC.


Tim Lewis, Marketing Director and Web Master

Tim works with GIC's clients to promote their work and develops new relationships and partnerships with land trusts, local and state governments, and conservation organizations. He is also edits GIC's publications and guides. Tim has worked with GIC since its founding, much of that time as a volunteer. Prior to coming to GIC he worked for Microsoft, Adobe Systems, Sun Microsystems, Netscape, Hewlett Packard, Xerox and other software companies. He is also the author of several books including histories, novels and a travel book set in the Western USA.

Born in southern Africa, he grew up in Southampton, England, and has travelled the world but now calls Central Virginia and its rivers and hills his home.

Contact Tim to learn more about how GIC can assist your community.



Nancy Kliewer

Nancy Kliewer, Senior Accounts Manager

Nancy has been with GIC since March 2019 and serves as GIC's Senior Accounts Manager, tracking all federal, state and private grants and contracts. 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.




Jessica Huang

Jessica Huang, Community Landscape Design Associate

Jessica Huang supports the GIC’s work with local government, state agencies, land trusts and community groups to help them recognize the location and value of their natural resources and assist communities with developing conservation plans. In her position, she uses graphic designs tools to create clear messages and communicate results.

Jessica is currently a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of Virginia's School of Architecture. She earned her degree in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College, where she researched sustainable community development. Her projects ranged from assessing community resiliency in Carlisle, PA, to conducting qualitative research on climate change and human security in Nepal.

In 2019, she served as the Tree Equity Coordinator developing the urban forest and stormwater capacity in Portland, Oregon. She addressed environmental equity through targeted areas with low tree canopy, low income, and communities of color. Through this position, she was able to help coordinate neighborhood tree planting events, implement environmental educational programming and develop a strong appreciation of trees.

In her spare time, Jessica likes to get people together around food and to take her dog, Poppy, on adventures.


Zac Walrod

Zac Walrod, Community Landscape Design Associate

Zac works with local governments, state agencies, land trusts and community groups to help them recognize the location and value of their natural resources and assist communities with developing conservation plans for large landscapes and sites.

As our in-house landscape architect, Mr Walrod brings expertise in traditional forms of design communication, including hand sketching, drafting, model creation, rendering and photography. In addition, as an avid landscape technology enthusiast, he utilizes cutting edge technology through analysis, design, documentation and visual communications, ultimately saving time and crafting a clear vision of the desired outcome.

Mr. Walrod received his first professional degree in landscape architecture, with honors, from Colorado State University in 2013. He then spent the next six or so years working in landscape architecture firms in the Denver metro area, ultimately developing a portfolio of work ranging from master-planned communities to detailed site designs.

Whether crafting intricate grading plans for trail alignments or presenting design guideline proposals to communities, Mr. Walrod views our vast patchwork of landscapes and their combinations of assets to be at the core of creating and maintaining healthy and vibrant communities.

In 2020, Mr Walrod and his wife moved from Denver, CO, to Charlottesville, VA, so that he could pursue his postgraduate education in landscape architecture. Upon course completion, he will graduate from the University of Virginia in the Spring of 2022 with the degree of Master of Landscape Architecture II.

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:

Chris French
Regional Regulatory Manager, Contech Engineered Solutions.

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.

William (Bill) Pan
At-Large Member
Elizabeth Brooks Reid and Whitelaw Reid Associate Professor of Population Studies and Global Environmental Health at Duke University.

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