2018 Speaker List

Michelle Covi – Keynote Speaker

Michelle Covi is an assistant professor of practice at Old Dominion University in the Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and a Virginia Sea Grant extension partner. She conducts research and outreach activities for climate adaptation and coastal resilience efforts for Virginia with an emphasis on Hampton Roads. Her research areas include sea level rise and resilience risk perception and communication, public participation in adaptation planning processes and engagement, outreach practices. She co-organizes the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise/Flooding Adaptation Forum, a quarterly meeting of adaptation stakeholders and co-chaired the Citizen Engagement Working Group of the Hampton Roads Intergovernmental Pilot Project. She completed her doctorate in Coastal Resources Management at East Carolina University, where her focus was on seal level rise risk communication and policy. She has a Master’s degree in Marine Science for University of Georgia where she studied salt marsh ecology.


Philip van Wassenaer

Philip van Wassenaer, B.S. in Environmental Sciences, Master of Forest Conservation, is the principal consultant for Urban Forest Innovations, Inc., which specializes in the preservation, enhancement, and management of the urban forest using a research- and science-based approach. He is an ISA Certified Arborist, member of ASCA, a Past President and Director of the Ontario Urban Forest Council, and a 2009 recipient of the ISA True Professionals of Arboriculture Award.


Claudia West

Claudia West is a leading voice in the emerging field of ecological planting design. Known for her passionate advocacy of plant-driven design, Claudia is a widely sought out speaker and consultant who applies the technologies of plant systems to bring essential natural functions back into our cities and towns. She has worked on all sides of the green industry – as a designer, a grower, installer, and land manager – grounding her innovative work in pragmatic solutions that address the realities of our urbanizing world. She is the co-author of the critically acclaimed book, Planting in a Post-Wild World (Timber Press, 2015).

Having grown up on a family-owned nursery, florist business, and design/build firm in eastern Germany, Claudia was propagating plants before she could walk. Her love of American native plants brought her to the U.S. where she worked at Blue Mount Nurseries in Maryland and immersed herself in the study of American flora and mid-Atlantic ecosystems. Claudia holds a Master’s Degree of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from the Technical University of Munich, Germany. Her intense studies of plant habitats and the science of plant community-based design strategies at the renowned school for horticulture in Weihenstephan, Germany, built a solid foundation for her current work. Before co-founding Phyto Studio, Claudia was ecological sales manager at North Creek Nurseries, a wholesale perennial grower in Landenberg, PA. Her work was focused on bridging the gap between growers, designers, and land managers as well as introducing more functional and beautiful ecological plants into the nursery trade.


Gregory Dahle

Gregory Dahle is an Associate Professor at West Virginia University where he teaches courses in arboriculture and urban forestry. Greg’s research lab utilizes a biomechanical approach to understanding how trees grow and survive environmental loads, as well as broader urban forest management issues. He has worked as a commercial and utility arborist in California and is an ISA Board-Certified Master Arborist.


David Orcutt

Professor Orcutt is Emeritus Professor of Plant Physiology where he spent nearly 30 years in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science at Virginia Tech, conduction research and teaching in the areas of plant stress physiology and plant growth and development. He is author or co-author of 3 books on plant stress physiology and became a Master Gardener in 2010. He teaches a section on abiotic stress in the NRV Master Gardener course, as well as Virginia Master Gardener College.


Dr. Robert Lyons

Dr. Robert Lyons is the former Director of the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture and currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Delaware. He received a B.A. in Biology from Rutgers University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Horticultural Science from the University of Minnesota. Previous positions include the J.C. Raulston Distinguished Faculty Chair and Directorship of the J.C. Raulston Arboretum at N.C. State University, and Professor of Horticulture and Co-Founder/Director of the Hahn Horticulture Garden at Virginia Tech. He is a Fellow in the American Society for Horticultural Science and has received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the University of Minnesota and the Award of Merit from the American Public Gardens Association.  Dr. Lyons has taught herbaceous plant materials for over 30 years and has been a photographer for over 35 years.  He has exhibited nationally and received awards from the Garden Writers Association of America.


Bryan Ramsey

As a Virginia native, Bryan learned early on about his unique positioning in the Mid-Atlantic region that provided a vast knowledge of varied plant material as well as how to implement them correctly into his gardens throughout the United States.

Bryan’s extensive design experience provides a wealth of ideas and tricks of the trade. His repertoire embodies a comprehensive list of high-end residential and commercial designs that include contemporary and unique plantings, distinctive and classic design, uses of garden structures, fencing, gates, and follies!


Kelby Fite

Kelby has been a member of the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories team for 15 years. In his current position as Director of Research, his key area of responsibility is research and public education in shade tree management and arboriculture, with emphasis on urban soils and integrated pest management. He holds a Ph.D. in Plant and Environmental Science from Clemson University, with a research focus on urban soil renovation and root biology. He also holds a Master of Plant Protection and Pest Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture, both from the University of Georgia


Colston Burrell

Colston Burrell is an acclaimed lecturer, garden designer, award winning author and photographer. A certified chlorophyll addict, Cole is an avid and lifelong plantsman, gardener and naturalist. Cole is a popular lecturer internationally on topics of design, plants and ecology. He has shared his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and his abiding respect for regional landscapes with professional and amateur audiences for 40 years. He is principal of Native Landscape Design and Restoration, which specializes in blending nature and culture through artistic design. In 2008 Cole received the Award of Distinction from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers for his work promoting sustainable gardening practices.

Cole worked as curator at the U.S. National Arboretum and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. He has devoted a lifetime to studying native plants in the wild and in gardens which lead to undergraduate degrees in Botany and Horticulture. He has an M.S. in Horticulture from University of Maryland and a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Minnesota. He is a lecturer in the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia, where he teaches about plants and their ecological connections to natural systems and cultural landscapes.

Cole’s latest book, Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide, coauthored with Judith Knott Tyler, received the 2007 American Horticultural Society Book Award. He is author of several popular titles, including Perennial Combinations, Revised 2008, Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants, Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials – 10th Anniversary Edition with Ellen Phillips, Perennials for Today’s Gardens and A Gardener’s Encyclopedia of Wildflowers, which won the 1997 AHS Book Award. Cole’s articles have appeared in Horticulture, Landscape Architecture, Fine Gardening, American Gardener and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. His writing reflects a love of plants, and he champions their use in artistically designed, environmentally friendly gardens.


T. Mike Likins

Since 2002, Mike has been the Director and County Agent for Chesterfield Cooperative Extension where he is responsible for agriculture and horticulture.  He attended the University of Memphis, graduating with honors with a BS in Botany, and then enrolled in the graduate Plant Pathology program at West Virginia University, graduating with an MS in forest pathology.  Immediately following graduate school, he was employed as an Assistant Extension Specialist with WVU Cooperative Extension where he oversaw pesticide applicator training, plant diagnostics, and integrated pest management.

In 1990, Mike was selected as the State Plant Pathologist for the Commonwealth of Virginia, serving in the Office of Plant & Pest Services for the VDACS.  During 12 years with the Department of Agriculture, Mike served concurrently as the State Endangered Species Coordinator (for plants & insects), and as supervisor of the Beneficial Insect Rearing Laboratory for 3 years.