Nancy Stranahan
Executive Director

Nancy is the Director of the Arc of Appalachia, and was one of the non-profit’s founders in 1995. In the span of directing the organization over the ensuing years, Nancy has cultivated a vigorous citizen advocacy network in Ohio (what she likes to call a tree-roots organization) to support new natural areas in twenty-one preserve regions of southern Ohio.

Altogether, Nancy has personally led the charge to save 7000 acres of wildlands in Ohio and has participated in well over 100 separate real estate closings. The Arc’s headquarters, the 3000-acre Highlands Nature Sanctuary, is the Arc’s largest preserve region, and the area that Nancy and the Arc’s fledging board first concentrated their land preservation efforts in the non-profit’s early years. A few of the signature wildlife species now protected within the Arc suite of nature preserves include such rarities as Henslow’s sparrows, cerulean warblers, bobcats, northern long-eared bats, river otters, and timber rattlesnakes – just to name a few. The Arc has also been instrumental in saving four Native American Indian legacy sites  — Spruce Hill Earthworks, Junction Earthworks Glenford Fort and Steel Earthworks. The Arc also manages Fort Hill on behalf Ohio History Connection.

Nancy previously served as Chief Naturalist for Ohio State Parks with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; and operated Benevolence Café and Bakery in downtown Columbus’ city market for 20 years, where she promoted healthy and intentional food choices.


Rick Perkins
Board President

Rick Perkins serves as director of Camp Oty’Okwa, a year-round Big Brother Big Sisters of Central Ohio children’s camp and education center in Hocking County. He left the National Park Service after a full career, having worked as Chief Ranger for Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, Ohio, and as Park Ranger at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan and at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. Because the Arc often embeds Native American earthworks inside its larger preserves, the Arc’s marriage of cultural preservation and ecological preservation appeals to Rick. He is also attracted to the Arc’s flexible grass-roots infrastructure and its ability to act quickly to preserve landscapes in peril.

Rick shares his wise counsel to the Arc in the fields of history interpretation, security and land management. Rick holds degrees in Outdoor Education and Field biology from Ohio University. Hobbies include running a family-sized homestead with chickens, goats, pigs, and rescue horses. His favorite pastimes include bird watching and hiking.

Marilyn Welker
Vice President

Marilyn’s passions include earth care and involvement with nonprofit organizations whose missions contribute to a world that works for all. Living with her husband on three acres of land in Champaign County, she works on ecological regeneration year-round, including removing invasive species, building soil health, and planting for habitat biodiversity.

She has worked many years for and with nonprofit organizations in Central Ohio, becoming acquainted with the Arc of Appalachia in its founding phase. More recently she has been part of the Arc invasives removal group at Ridgeview Farm. (Join us to be inspired by such tangible results!)

More recently, lifelong learning as a cherished value has led her into the depths of EPA’s Superfund Division, working with an inspired group of citizens in Clark County on a toxic barrel fill site that potentially endangers the Mad River Aquifer and City of Springfield’s well field. Driven by the belief that we must work together to understand and act on behalf of the integrity of life on Earth, she is grateful for the legacy of all who have “filled the sails” of the Arc’s mission and continue to create its vision.

Dave Todt

Dave Todt is a professor of natural science at Shawnee State University. He has served in various capacities at Shawnee since 1975, including the most recent seven years as the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at SSU.

Dave’s love of the natural environment started at an early age with family camping trips around Ohio and summers in the mountains of western North Carolina. At Shawnee State he has taught a course called Ohio’s Natural Heritage, Field Ornithology, Ecology, and numerous other science and recreation courses.

Dave has been involved in the preparation of science teachers and environmental educators while at Shawnee. He also worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as a manager of the Youth Conservation Corps program. Dave served two terms on the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves Natural Areas Council and is currently active with the Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Association.

Dave lives in Friendship, Ohio with his wife of 45 years, Patsy. He is currently developing and teaching an online course called Naturally Ohio which will explore Ohio’s five physiographic regions and natural history.

Jean Farkas
Board Member

Jean first connected to the Arc when she became a Land Steward at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary in 2008 at Shellbark Woods, where she now lives part-time and helps steward the property’s plant and animal diversity. Here you can find her every spring actively and energetically removing non-native invasive plants from Shellbarks’ organic soils and rich understory. She takes pleasure in being part of a larger community of neighbors and stewards who are passionate about nature preservation.

Jean has provided extensive volunteer hours supporting the Arc’s education programs where she often performs the role of course facilitator. She is retired from a 30-plus year career as an administrator of health and wellness programs and non-profit organizations, most recently in Dayton, Ohio; and has served on several non-profit boards and professional organizations throughout her long philanthropic life.


Jim Silver
Board Member

Jim Silver, and his wife Emily, have been engaged supporters of the Arc of Appalachia since 1998. He first visited the area as a child going to Seven Caves. A lifelong hiker and camper, Jim is dedicated to helping preserve land and habitat.

Having majored in Anthropology at Grinnell College in Iowa, Jim is excited about the Arc’s successful efforts to preserve Earthworks and other American Indian heritage sites.

Jim has 30 years experience  specializing  in fixed income securities, primarily municipal bonds. He comes to the board with past and present non-profit board appointments in the Cincinnati area.



Martha Fikes
Board Member

Martha Fikes has been a supporter and volunteer for the Arc since 2002. As a board member she works diligently to support education programming and to provide professional review in realms of insurance, contracts, and deed restrictions. She has an excellent eye for detail and brings accuracy and perfection to the Arc’s records and operating systems. She also has been very active in land stewardship, spending hours of her time removing non-native invasive plants.

Martha worked as a Zoology lab coordinator for 9 years at Ohio Wesleyan University. A resident of Delaware County, she has volunteered in past years with Stratford Ecological Center, primarily in school children’s outdoor education programming and development. Martha is particularly attracted to the Arc for its agility and speed in land acquisition and its commitment to biodiversity protection.



Michael Rigsby
Board Member

Michael Rigsby has been an avid naturalist ever since he was a young child. He currently works as an independent writer and content developer for museum exhibit designs – bringing natural and cultural history stories to life for the visiting public. His work can be seen, among other locations, at the Utah Museum of Natural History, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, and California Academy of Sciences.

In earlier years, Michael was employed as a biologist and science writer for the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Michael holds a degree in English Rhetoric from the University of Illinois and studied for a masters in Biology at Northeastern Illinois University. His favorite pursuits include being in nature and exploring new landscapes. Michael discovered the Arc of Appalachia not long after moving to southern Ohio in 2005 and was attracted to the innovative ways the Arc buys and preserves land.


Brian Blair
Board Member

Brian Blair earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio State University School of Natural Resources (wildlife management) in 1980. He has 32 years of professional experience in the environmental field primarily with Ohio EPA, overseeing the cleanup of toxic waste sites.  Before working at Ohio EPA Brian completed a 1-year internship with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Columbus. He has served on the boards of a number of land trust and environmental organizations in Ohio, and has expertise in conservation easements. He also started Forest Conservancy, Limited which buys and holds key parcels of land until funds can be secured for permanent preservation by a non-profit or governmental entity. “Saving land is a race against time and against competing pressures, and it’s now or never to preserve our treasured flora and fauna that need these wild places to simply survive”.  Brian lives on his (conservation easement-protected) woodland farm in Hocking County with his partner Susan Spinelli.



Hazel Morrow-Jones
Board Member

Hazel is a life-long urban dweller and retired OSU professor of City and Regional Planning.  In part because of her urban life she is passionate about preserving natural lands both for their intrinsic value and for future generations to enjoy.  Her academic research focused on why people choose certain places to live with special emphasis on the choice of greenfield development over existing neighborhoods. She finished her career at Ohio State as Associate Provost for Women’s Policy Initiatives and Director of the Women’s Place, OSU’s women’s policy office.  In that role, she focused on helping people understand their own implicit biases around race and gender and learn to counteract those biases. Hazel and her husband Charles Morrow-Jones have been supporters of the Arc since its inception.

For 25 years Hazel and Charles kept a naturalized garden on an acre of land in Upper Arlington, Ohio, where they enjoyed removing invasives, reintroducing native plants, stewarding the trees on the property and bringing back wildlife of all kinds. With the sale of that property in 2018 they have moved into Ohio Living Westminster Thurber where Hazel serves on the landscape committee and now gardens in a raised bed on the roof while continuing to stay in touch with students and colleagues around the metropolitan Columbus area.

Lewis Ulman
Board Member

Lewis Ulman served as a faculty member in the English Department at The Ohio State University from 1986 to 2014, where his teaching and research always contained a stream of work in environmental studies. He developed and taught courses on nonfiction nature writing, environmental autobiography, ecocriticism, and environmental citizenship. Working with colleagues in other disciplines, he established an Ecocriticism Reading Group and Sustainability Across the Curriculum Working Group, and he served as bibliographer for the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment from 2000 to 2010.

In addition to his academic work, Lewis volunteered at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park from 1999-2020, and in 2017, he completed Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist training. As an Arc volunteer, he has drawn on his background in computing, photography, and videography to help with fundraising campaigns, publications, and our vascular plant database. Along the way, he has pulled an invasive plant or two.

David Baker
Board Member

David worked 44 years in telecommunications, all with Verizon, serving in various roles in management and financial analysis of business operations. After retiring in 2019, he began to think about the future of the family farm. David and wife Kim have been OSU 4-H leaders for the past 15 years and love working with kids. They believe the fate of our planet will depend on the next generation and our most important job is to prepare them to make good decisions.

David and his wife, Kim, long nurtured a growing passion to save the forested back aceage of their farm that was dissected by a deep limestone gorge. They wanted to see it developed with a hiking trail so that other people could enjoy it as much as they did. In April of 2021, David reached out to Nancy and the Arc of Appalachia, with an offer to work with the Arc to make their dream possible. Quiverheart Gorge Preserve is now a reality, with David and Kim serving as volunteer stewards for the rest of their lives.



Jenny Sadler
Board Member

As a descendent of families who settled southern Ohio Appalachia many generations ago, Jenny’s passion for preserving the vibrant culture, natural beauty and biodiversity of the region runs deep.

Her connection to the Arc dates back to the beginning.  While working at a bakery in Columbus’ old North Market in the early ‘90s (then owned by future Arc co-founder, Nancy Stranahan), Jenny recalls the very first fundraising campaign:  a little story of a dream to purchase and protect a property, now known as the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, taped to a glass tip jar that sat by the bakery register!  In recent years, Jenny has reconnected to the Arc as a volunteer and as a participant in Forest School education programs and other events.

Jenny’s nearly two decades of experience in the non-profit arts sector includes serving as coordinator for the Columbus Arts Festival and as marketing & events manager for the Greater Columbus Arts Council.  She currently owns and runs a small online jewelry and bead business.  Her passions include caring for orphaned wildlife and championing the native gardening movement in her urban neighborhood and beyond.


John Jaeger
Board Advisor

John F. Jaeger is a field naturalist and outdoor educator with interests in Ohio’s flora, fauna and natural and human history.  He retired as the Director of Natural Resources for the Metropolitan Park District of the Toledo Area where he also served as a Park Manager/Ranger and Naturalist/Historic Interpreter.  He currently is an active volunteer as a Board Advisor for the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System, and conducts educational tours for the public, performs preserve boundary checks and evaluates potential land acquisitions.





Paul Knoop
Board Advisor

Paul is one of those lucky individuals who has spent most of his life in the outdoors. Early years were spent exploring the woods, fields and stream on Grandpa Knoop’s farm near Englewood, Ohio. An early intense interest in birds (12 years old) set the stage for joining the Dayton Audubon Society and participating in field trips around Ohio. A sojourn to the Ohio State University for four years as a major in Dairy Technology and Biology was a brief but productive life experience.

After finishing work at OSU Paul first worked as a museum naturalist at the Dayton Museum of Natural History in Dayton, Ohio and in 1958 joined the National Audubon Society’s Aullwood Audubon Center as an Interpretive Naturalist. Aullwood was perhaps the first community nature center in the mid-west; a model for others as a place where children and adults could experience first- hand, and get to know, the natural history of Ohio.

Life at Aullwood was always busy working with children and adults outdoors, developing school land labs, helping to preserve natural landscapes around Ohio (Stillwater River, Beaver Creek Wetlands, Cedar Bog, and the Wright Brothers flying field at Huffman Prairie near Dayton). While at Aullwood Paul wrote a weekly column for 13 years for the Dayton Daily News. The column was entitled, “The Natuarlist”, which was well received and seemed to be a respite from the ordinary newspaper fare. During a recent year Paul co-authored the book, “The Birds of Hocking County, Ohio”.

After 35 years at Aullwood a move was made to Hocking County and immediately Paul started volunteer work with Camp Oty’Okwa, Appalachia Ohio Alliance, Crane Hollow Nature Preserve, Hocking Hills Tourism Association and other local groups with an interest in outdoor education and land preservation. In Hocking County Paul wrote a weekly column (in excess of 100 columns) for the Logan Daily News entitled,” Wild Neighbors”.  Ever since its inception Paul has been interested in the land preservation efforts of the ARC and being accepted as a board advisor is an especially gratifying experience.

Mark Hoberecht
Board Advisor

Mark’s love and wonder for nature began as a child. He is fascinated by all aspects of the eastern Forest, and especially its ferns. He first became familiar with the Arc when attending a fern course in the summer of 2014. It was during this and other courses, along with the Wildflower Pilgrimage, that Mark developed a lasting bond with the Arc of Appalachia “family.”

Mark is from northeast Ohio, and has recently retired after a nearly 40-year career at NASA working on fuel cell and other energy storage technologies. He holds a B.S. in chemical engineering, and M.S. degrees in engineering science and sustainable systems. Mark also founded a small business, HarvestBuild Associates, that specialized in various natural building techniques, including straw-bale and cob construction. He was also a certified Passive House consultant.

Mark is anxious to expand the educational offerings at the Arc of Appalachia, feeling that this can grow and sustain its mission far into the future.