Who We Are

Meet the team!

Meet the Team

Get to know your friendly neigborhood EcoForesters.

Andy Tait
Director of Ecoforestry

After exploring the woods for his whole life and 10 years learning about and doing on-the-ground research on ecologically beneficial forest stewardship in western North Carolina, Andy is excited to lead EcoForesters’ work. Putting to use the best science on southern Appalachian forest stewardship – which he was part of at the US Forest Service’s Southern Research Station in Asheville for 6 years – is exactly what he was preparing for and aims to do. He is eager to apply the cutting edge experience of working on upland hardwood silviculture (how to grow trees, oaks in particular) at the Bent Creek Experimental Forest and integrated forest health management to conserve, restore, and enhance our forests. In the past 10 years Andy has also managed a privately owned forest and worked on numerous natural resource conservation projects in the region. Previously, Andy taught high school and led youth backpacking trips for 12 years, hiked half the AT, and bicycled around the country before moving to Asheville with his wife (who is from the area) to follow his true calling: forestry. He enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, and spending as much time as possible with his wife and two little boys. Andy oversees all of EcoForesters’ Southern Appalachian forestry projects, including forest stewardship planning and timber sale administration.

Wade Johnston
Director of Mapping and Technology

Wade developed two seemingly incompatible passions at a young age: a fondness for the outdoors and a love of cutting edge technology. When he was a kid, you would have similar luck finding him building a fort in the woods as you might finding him tinkering around in his parents’ computer. As an Eagle Scout, Wade learned the value in serving others and developed a moral obligation to environmental stewardship. In college he had trouble deciding whether to pursue a career that involved working in the outdoors or one in computer systems/IT. Luckily he stumbled upon a program of study at Western Carolina University that afforded the best of both worlds – Geospatial Analysis in Forestry! Wade began working as a student intern at Forest Stewards in 2009, and continued after graduating with honors in 2011 until he took a position as full time staff. In 2015 he became one of the founding staff for EcoForesters as the Director of Mapping and Technology, and gets to put both his skills and his lifelong passions to work for the greater good.

Mary Vann Johnston
Forestry, Education, and Outreach Associate

Growing up, you would almost always find Mary Vann exploring the woods of western North Carolina either on her horse or "hoofing it" on foot. Eager to learn more about these natural communities, she went on to pursue her B.S. in Environmental Science with a concentration in Sustainable Forestry from Warren Wilson College in 2014 as well as a minor in Traditional Appalachian Music. She began her career in forestry with a student internship at Forest Stewards and after college began working full time at Blue Ridge Forestry in Asheville. Mary Vann is passionate about her work at EcoForesters because of its dedication to both sustainable forestry and education. When she's not out in the woods, you’ll find Mary Vann playing her banjo, working with draft horses, learning about native plants, cooking up comfort food, or reading the works of Carl Schenck.

Gabby Hovis
GIS Technician and Administrative Assistant

Gabby spent her early life hiking and camping with her family and gained a fond appreciation for the joys of the woods and what it provides. At Western Carolina University, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Immediately after graduation in 2014 she joined Forest Stewards as an intern and later stayed at Forest Stewards as an Americorps Project Conserve volunteer. She is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in GIS from NC State. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, camping, and spending time with family and friends. She is excited to work part-time at EcoForesters to put her skills to use, as well as to learn new ones.

Jon Shaffer
Director of N.E. Forestry and Ecosystem Services

At an early age Jon gained an appreciation for the outdoors and forested ecosystems through exploring the woods around his home, canoeing and fishing along the Potomac River, and enjoying family camping trips in the Maryland and Virginia mountains. To pursue his goals of forest stewardship and conservation, he obtained a master's of forestry from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Since that time, Jon has worked extensively in the southern Appalachian region for more than six years, providing consulting forestry services to private landowners and municipalities, as well as being involved in prescribed fire research on state and federal lands. He has comprehensive experience in forest stewardship planning, forest inventory design and implementation, timber sale planning and administration, forest growth modeling, controlled burning, and geospatial analysis. Jon has also become one of a small handful of experts capable of quantifying and verifying carbon offsets from Appalachian forestlands. In addition to starting our New England EcoForestry branch, Jon’s work includes verifying Forest Carbon Offset projects under the California Air Resources Board protocol. Jon recently moved to New Hampshire where he enjoys working in and exploring New England’s forests, fishing, cross country skiing, gardening, hunting, and backpacking and canoeing with his wife and Labrador retriever.

Our Mission

EcoForesters is a non-profit organization led by professional foresters dedicated to using positive impact forestry and natural resource education to conserve and restore ecological resilience to our Appalachian forests.