Sarah Sussman

Sarah grew up in Atlanta, GA., spending time with her family hiking & camping in Western North Carolina, fostering her love for the natural world. After her family moved to Bryson City, NC. Sarah attended Appalachian State University, where she received a B.S in Sustainable Development: Environmental Studies and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). After graduating from App State, Sarah wanted to give back to the places that inspired her to pursue a career path in the environmental field. She served with the Student Conservation Association in the Catskills, and two AmeriCorps terms with Conserving Carolina and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy in Asheville, NC. While in AmeriCorps, Sarah gained experience in land management and stewardship activities. She also earned her Pesticide Applicator License in 2021. Sarah’s hobbies include running, hiking, photography, and embroidery.

Pat Barcas

Pat grew up in the Chicago area and earned a degree in print journalism at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater before moving to Asheville in 2014. He worked as a journalist and photojournalist for 20 years before shifting to sustainability work through the Americorps Project Conserve program in 2020, serving one year as an education and communications associate with Conserving Carolina. Pat is furthering his experience in the conservation field by now working as a restoration technician with EcoForesters. When he’s not working, you can find him exploring the woods, traveling to the beach, and just taking in the incredible environment around us. He currently lives in Fairview with his wife Cari and two young children, Pearl and Olive. Bonus nerdy info: Pat collects flashlights and G Shock watches.

Andrew Danner

Andrew Danner is our western Forestry Associate and is eager to expand our mission into the southwestern region of NC. Native to North Carolina, Andrew’s affinity for forestry started at a young age, exploring the nearby woods and creeks. He is an Eagle Scout, has earned an AAS in Landscape Gardening from Forsyth Technical Community College, and a BS in Natural Resource and Conservation Management from Western Carolina University. Andrew’s experience includes working for government agencies & the private sector. His passion is providing landowners with technical assistance and resources to maintain healthy forests. “No job could be finer than walking the woods & making sound forest management recommendations,” – he says. Residing in the Tuckasegee Community of Jackson County with his family, life in the country couldn’t be finer. His hobbies include, hiking, canoeing, bonfires with good people, growing delicious veggies, and music, playing about every stringed instrument you could name. Always equipped with a short story or tall tale, be sure to say “hello” if you see him around.

Kelly Waldron

Kelly grew up on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, spending time in the Cape Cod National Seashore. She studied Sustainability and Sociology at UMass until 2015, after which she worked with an environmental nonprofit based in the Boston Metro area. Hard labor for the greater good, no matter how simple the task, is satisfying for her! She was later hired for an Outreach Coordinator position through American Conservation Experience (ACE) and grew with the company until August 2020. She built and maintained trails as Conserving Carolinas Trails Associate and now brings all of her strengths to leading EcoForesters’ field crews. She loves the work she has done, and she loves the work she is doing. Outside of work – she is seen on the dance floor, at tasty restaurants, or at home with her sweet lil pup and a good book.

Lauren Brietling

While growing up in a suburb of Chicago, Lauren spent many summers camping with her family and fell in love with being in nature. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from Columbia College Chicago, where she incorporated the outdoors in many of her projects. After graduating, Lauren did graphic design work but then decided to switch gears and hiked 800 miles of the Appalachian Trail. After completing that hike she decided she wanted to more directly give back to nature. In 2016 Lauren joined the Utah Conservation Corps, where she worked along the Escalante River eradicating the invasive Russian Olive tree. After her term with UCC, Lauren moved to Asheville, North Carolina where she worked as a corps member with the American Conservation Experience (ACE). While working with ACE she did many projects such as trail building, historic preservation, invasive species removal, and more. After her time as a corps member, Lauren moved on to be the Logistics Coordinator for ACE. She is very excited to be working with EcoForesters, where her love for nature as well as photography and design can both be utilized. In her free time Lauren also enjoys teaching and making pottery, and spending time outdoors near water with her dog.

Joey Borders

Joey moved to the mountain region in 1998, obtained an associate degree in biology, became certified in permaculture design, in herbal studies, and as a plant professional, eventually becoming the proprietor of a landscape design and construction company that focused on using native plants and regional resources. Joey enrolled at Western Carolina after observing the impact of restoration and remediation projects he participated in, both as a volunteer and as a professional. His desire to contribute to the health of the forests in this region motivated him to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in natural resource conservation management and a minor in biology with an ecology focus. He gained valuable experience in forest assessment and management while working with Forest Stewards as the head intern for three seasons. After which he dedicated his effort toward ensuring the continued presence of native hemlock trees in our forests through assisting with the hemlock woolly adelgid resistance breeding program established by the Forest Restoration Alliance, a non-profit run through North Carolina State University. Joey’s experience has provided him with keen insight in appropriate forest management that balances the needs of land-holders with the greater ecological considerations that shape our legacy. Whenever there’s time, Joey can be found crouched over some woodland forbs or peering into the overstory while hiking or camping with his wife and three children. They also enjoy boating, fishing, and snorkeling in area rivers and streams.