The Chesapeake Conservancy staff and some of its advisors during a planning session in Fall of 2014.


Joel Dunn photo

 Joel Dunn, President & CEO

Prior to joining the Chesapeake Conservancy, Joel conducted government relations and project management in the Chesapeake region for The Conservation Fund. His work helped establish protection for National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and National Trails, including the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Dunn also worked with David Burke, Senior Advisor to the Conservancy, to produce A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation.

Joel received a Master of Environmental Management degree and a Master of Public Policy degree from Duke University, where he was a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow. In 2010, Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment gave him their Rising Star Award for his work in conservation. In 2012, Dunn was elected to serve as Chairman of the Partners for Open Space.


Jeff AllenbyJeffrey Allenby, Director of Conservation Technology

Jeff is developing new ways to incorporate advanced remote sensing and geographic information systems into conservation targeting, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Conservancy’s projects throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. He is also creating new ways to use online engagement tools to disseminate data and increase public outreach.  Jeff has a Masters of Environmental Management from Duke University and a Bachelors of Science from the University of Richmond.


Jody Hedeman Couser, Director of Communications

A native of Annapolis, Jody oversees the Conservancy's public and media relations. Previously, Jody was principal of River Bay Communications, LLC and press secretary for a Maryland gubernatorial candidate.  She served on the cabinet for Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens as director of communications; as public information officer for the American Medical Association (AMA); director of communications and development for the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) and as production manager at The Kamber Group. She has a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Roanoke College and a Master's in Political Management from The George Washington University. She lives in Annapolis with her husband and two daughters.

Carly Dean, Project Manager

Carly facilitates large-scale, cross-sector conservation efforts throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed on initiatives including Envision the Susquehanna, Watermen Heritage Tours, and Baltimore Wilderness. After completing her M.S. in Environmental Science at Towson University, she researched social resilience at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis near Vienna, Austria, and sustainable development for a real estate developer in Beijing, China. Her B.S. in Environmental Science is from Baylor University.



Paula Degen, Interpretive Specialist

Paula serves as an interpretive specialist, bringing experience in writing, editing, and content development. She comes to the Conservancy from the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office, where she developed content for, and for interpretive signage on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake and the Star-Spangled Banner national historic trails. She has a B.A. in American History and M.A. in American Studies.



Sarah ElderSarah Elder, Director of Operations

Sarah brings more than 25 years of management experience in business, budgeting, strategic planning, operations, marketing, and communications to the Conservancy. Previously, Sarah led fundraising and communications efforts for the AUA Foundation, where she worked with national organizations such as the National Football League and Kimberly Clark Corporation. She also has worked extensively with conservation and preservation organizations including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Historic Annapolis Foundation, and the National Aquarium. 


Sarah ElderEvelina Erickson, Director of Development

Born in Annapolis and raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Evelina most recently served as the executive director of Prevention Connections. Her environmental nonprofit experience includes positions with the American Farmland Trust, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, and the Chester River Association, and she served as assistant to U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and former Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening.



Emily MyronEmily Myron, Acting Director of Programs 

Emily manages landscape-scale river corridor conservation projects and collaborative partnerships with federal, state and non-profit partners across the Chesapeake watershed. She has a strong background in conservation, community-based environmental management, and geospatial analysis. Emily has a Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from St. Mary's College of Maryland. 


ConorConor Phelan, Conservation Analyst

Conor is providing further computational, geospatial, and community involvement support for the Conservancy through programs such as Envision the Susquehanna and large landscape analysis. Conor has experience with biological fieldwork conservation efforts through botanical research in Oregon and Alaska. Having spent the first few years of his life on the banks of the Susquehanna River, Conor is excited to be a member of a group dedicated to protecting such idyllic landscapes. He has a Bachelors of Science in Biology and Geography (University of Richmond).


Helen SierackiHelen Sieracki, Development Coordinator

Helen joined the Conservancy two years ago as Executive Assistant. Today she coordinates the individual giving program, focusing on donor stewardship and Annual Fund giving. She has lived in Annapolis her whole life, and is proud to be part of an organization like the Conservancy that focuses on conserving the natural as well as cultural resources of the region. Helen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Dance from Ursinus College.



Colleen WhitlockColleen Whitlock, Director of Administration

Colleen brings over 10 years of various non-profit experience with her to the Chesapeake Conservancy. Her duties include overall management of the Conservancy office, human resources, and financial support. Colleen holds a B.A. in History from Washington College as well as an M.A.T. in Elementary Education from East Tennessee State University.  She lives by the Bay in Shady Side, MD with her husband and young daughter.



 Chesapeake Conservancy Advisory Staff 


David BurkeDavid Burke, AICP,
Conservation and Strategic Planning/ Senior Advisor

David is a natural resource and land conservation consultant with over three decades of experience in the Chesapeake Bay region developing and managing numerous coastal, wetland, watershed and land conservation programs. During his 20+ years with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, he led the watershed services and public lands planning units, developed the state’s award winning Non-tidal Wetlands regulatory program, and was the principal architect and coordinator of Governor Glendening’s statewide green infrastructure-based approach to land conservation. 


Kate Baker, Partnership Coordinator 

Kate serves as the coordinator for the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, a coalition of diverse organizations and agencies engaged in land conservation within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  Kate joins the Conservancy after two years in Seattle, where she worked with state agencies on renewable energy policy and was a graduate fellow at Environmental Defense Fund.  Kate has a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Washington with concentration in Environmental Management and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Maryland.  


Regan Gifford, Virginia Outreach Coordinator

Regan serves as outreach coordinator for the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Envision the James Initiative.  She comes to the Conservancy with field work experience in forestry, invasive species management, and aquaculture.  A native upstate New Yorker, Regan received her bachelor’s degree in natural resources management from SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY.



Michael ShultzMichael Shultz, Public Relations Advisor

Michael provides support for the Conservancy’s public relations efforts.  He is a communications consultant accredited by the Public Relations Society of America who has worked with regional and national groups to develop and execute their strategic and communication plans.  He has played in and written about the Chesapeake Bay during most of his career.