- Byron Matthews, Grant Writer
- Kara Sheehan, Development Associate
- Varya Zhigilei, Communications and Marketing Manager
Land and Heritage
- Karen Jensen Miles, Land Use/ Facilities Manager
- Eileen Watts, Assistant Farm Manager
- Justin Beavan, Farm Manager
- Trey Thomas, Grounds and Maintenance Associate
- Jonathan Wright, Maintenance Associate
Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative
Bridging the Watershed
- Heather Zdobysz, Assistant Programs Manager
- Sandy Brown, Educator Associate
- Melinda Campbell, Educator Associate
- Pooja Choksey, Educator Associate
- Jess Gordon-Young, Educator Associate
- Jessica Miller, Educator Associate
- Diane Niedzialkowski, Educator Associate
Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center
- Brenda Wright, HBF Program Coordinator
- Pat Biles, Educator Associate
- Kayla David, Educator Associate
- Lindsay DiNatalie, Educator Associate
- Gina McCullough, Educator Associate
- Debbie Meinholdt, Educator Associate
- Michael Morris, Educator Associate
- Will Orndorff, Educator Associate
- Krupa Patel, Educator Associate
- Sharon Rabie, Educator Associate
- John Sullens, Educator Associate
- Lauren Taylor, Educator Associate
- Teresa Thiemann, Educator Associate
- William Townsend, Educator Associate
- Gabi Zabel, Educator Associate
Lori Arguelles, Executive Director
Lori Arguelles brings nearly 25 years of experience in executive management, public relations, and government relations to her position as Executive Director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF). Prior to joining AFF Lori served as Vice President of Media and Policy Strategy for the marine conservation non-profit organization SeaWeb and she was the founding President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Previously, Lori served as Director of Communications for Girl Scouts of the USA and also as Director of Public and Constituent Affairs for the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Starting her professional career as a radio reporter, Lori has worked for several local and national outlets, as an anchor, reporter, and producer. Lori also served as press secretary for two members of congress. Lori earned her undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism and political science from Northern Arizona University and her master’s degree in public communication from American University.
Laura Ford, Director of Program Advancement
Laura Ford supports the Potomac Watershed Study Center capital campaign, raises funds for operations, and oversees environmental programs such as Bridging the Watershed, the Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, and the Trash Free Potomac River initiative. Prior to joining AFF, Laura was the Vice President of the Accokeek Foundation, where she was responsible for organizational advancement, including fundraising, communications, and strategic initiatives like the Foundation’s agriculture programs. Laura has more than a dozen years of experience as a project manager and technical writer for the Maryland Center for Environmental Training at the College of Southern Maryland. Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in Language and Literature from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. Laura is a senior program officer with the Corina Higginson Trust. She also is a certified horseback riding instructor and owns a small farm with her family in Southern Maryland.
Amanda Foster, Director of Fiscal and Operational Effectiveness
Amanda (Mandie) Foster serves as the Director of Fiscal and Operational Effectiveness for the Alice Ferguson Foundation. She joins the Foundation with 15 years of experience in accounting, having worked in both public accounting firm, as well as private accounting, with a focus on the non-profit sector. Previously, Mandie was the Associate Director of Accounting at Women for Women International and an Assistant Controller for Managed Organizations at Arabella Advisors. Driven by a passion for quality mission-oriented work, she has spent her career focused on non-profit accounting and financial management.
Justin Beavan, Farm Manager
Justin is a lifelong resident of Southern Maryland, and grew up working on his family’s farm, where they raise a large herd of beef cattle. He has always had a passion for farming, and will be graduating from the University of Maryland with a BS in Agricultural Science and Technology in 2015.
Pat Biles, Educator Associate
Hi. My name is Pat Biles and I am excited to start working at AFF. I love being outdoors. I think learning should be hands-on exciting fun. My background is in science. I have a chemistry degree and 25 years of varied analytical laboratory and research work which includes nuclear, forensics and food safety. I became a stay-at-home mom 12 years ago and have homeschooled my two daughters. I have also taught co-op elementary science and art classes. My volunteer work includes American Chemical Society National Chemistry Week doing real science experiments and demos with children K-12, 4-H club and archery instructor, Indian Head Rail Trail cyclist monitor, Charles County Master Gardener, and MD DNR Hunter Safety Instructor. I am also an active artist with the Charles County Arts Alliance and the Mattawoman Creek Art Center.
Sandy Brown, Educator Associate
Since moving to Shepherdstown in 2013, Sandy has become very involved with two local environmental non-profits, working as an educator with children and youth, helping to develop the next generation of conservation stewards. Her passion about environmental issues and contagious enthusiasm fosters great student engagement with her lessons. She has also dedicated considerable energy to local issues related to literacy, education and community events.
Prior to moving to Shepherdstown, Sandy spent nearly 25 years in politics, first on Capitol Hill with Senator Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, then as the Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). She left DC to work with the indigenous people of Copper Canyon, the Tarahumara, and then went on to teach in both Mexico and the United States. She eventually returned to DC as the Vice President of Government Affairs for Teach For America. She continues to consult with various organizations on political issues. Prior to working in public policy, she spent six years professionally racing horses. She is devoted to her dog “9er,” one of the best known and beloved dogs in Shepherdstown.
Melinda Campbell, Educator Associate
Melinda grew up in Prince George’s County, and while she has lived as far away as Hawai’i and Australia, she keeps coming back to this fantastic ecosystem she calls home. She got her first dose of the education world on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and has had a passion for teaching youth about their backyard watershed ever since. She has been a high school science teacher in Maryland and Hawaii, and taught informally with various foundations around the Bay. When she is not teaching, Melinda can be found snuggling with her rescue dog, in the kitchen, or exploring the world.
Pooja Choksey, Educator Associate
Pooja was born and raised in Woodbridge, Virginia and is graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. Her passion for the environment started at an early age. Pooja’s family traveled extensively when she was young and she always enjoyed exploring the natural wonders of each country they ventured to.
Pooja developed a strong interest in working with youth after high school and took on several opportunities for teaching summer camps, community outreach and environmental education with local non-profits. She has experience working in the renewable energy industry as well and has lead several initiatives for commercial and residential developments of solar projects. Pooja recently completed a year of AmeriCorps in Pensacola, FL where she served as the director of programming and member services at a teen leadership institute. Pooja is excited to bring her education and environmental background to the Alice Ferguson Foundation.
Kayla David, Educator Associate
Kayla grew up in central and south Florida with a family that took any chance to get outdoors. Her love of the natural world grew as she explored the unique ecosystems of Florida from the white sand, natural beaches of the panhandle, to the swamps of the everglades, all the way down to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelors of Science in Management and Organization and a minor in Environmental Policy. Before coming to the Alice Ferguson Foundation Kayla has worked in conservation, science communication and on a sea turtle monitoring team. She was also a heavily active member of her campus student environmental organization, which is a key driving role on campus and in the community for all things “green” and sustainable. Besides the environment, Kayla’s other passion is for the arts, and has been performing on stage for as long as she can remember. She also taught a children’s improv class and promotes incorporating art into education whenever possible. She attributes her love of the natural world to her hands-on experiences in the outdoors throughout her youth and is thrilled to be working with the Alice Ferguson Foundation to create similar experiences for today’s youth.
Lindsay DiNatalie, Educator Associate
Born and raised in Southern Maryland, Lindsay developed a love for science and the environment at a young age. She spent her summers at the beach and eventually decided to pursue a degree in marine biology. While studying at Old Dominion University, she interned at the Calvert Marine Museum in the Estuarine Department and worked as a graduate assistant at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Lindsay graduated from ODU with a Bachelors of Science, concentrating on Marine Biology and a minor in English, in May 2015. Now she is looking forward to working with Alice Ferguson Foundation in the hopes of getting children excited and interested about the environment.
Adrienne Farfalla, Programs Manager
Adrienne grew up in New York spending her days exploring nature. She developed a passion for the outdoors and is always excited to share her love of nature with others. Adrienne comes to the Alice Ferguson Foundation with over eight years of outdoor education experience. Previously, Adrienne worked as the Education and Adventure Director for a nonprofit in Massachusetts before moving to Washington, D.C. in 2012. Over the past two years, she served as the Program Director for the ACHIEVE Kids Tri Camp and worked for the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. Adrienne holds a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Recreation and Leisure from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. In her free time, she enjoys trail running, hiking, biking, and new adventures.
Jess Gordon-Young, BTW Educator Associate
Jess is a Maryland native, raised in Prince George’s and Charles Counties. She graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Ancient Studies, a minor in Korean Language and Culture. During her tenure in the Baltimore area, she worked primarily as an educator for the Walters Art Museum, the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the National Museum of the United States Navy, and at the Carroll Mansion in conjunction with the Baltimore summer program SuperKids. She has since returned to Southern Maryland with the intent on continuing working as an educator outside the classroom. Jess also works as a Museum Educator at Historic St. Mary’s City Museum, where she works with school groups on their outdoor adventures through history.
Leona Haiden, Administrative Coordinator
Leona Haiden has been handling all things administrative at The Alice Ferguson Foundation for almost five years. Her love of education, the outdoors and children led her to AFF. She has an extensive background in all things administrative. Her duties include administrative support, scheduling field studies, booking busses, communicating with teachers, educators and park rangers, managing and entering data and general office duties. In her spare time, Leona enjoys writing, gaming, music and art. She is a published poet and hopes to one day publish a novel.
Brittney Gray, Administrative Assistant
Brittney was born and raised in Charles County, MD. From a young age, Brittney was fascinated by nature and spent many evenings after school exploring in the woods and visiting local parks. She is a graduate of the College of Southern Maryland, with an associate degree in Social Sciences and joins the Alice Ferguson Foundation with eight years of administrative experience. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, baking, traveling and trying foods from different cultures.
Emily Leedy, Project Coordinator [email protected]
Emily Leedy has been living in Southern Maryland since moving south after graduating from West Chester University and a year of teaching. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, she never saw her connection to nature as something separate or unique. While teaching in Prince George’s County Public Schools, Emily noticed a disconnect between the students she taught and their natural environment. She began to pursue a degree in Environmental Education. She also engaged in many other outdoor education opportunities, including the PG Teacher’s institute here at Hard Bargain Farm. After spending a summer interning with the education programs, Emily decided to join us as the Project Coordinator to help bring kids closer to nature. Outside of work, Emily enjoys adventuring with her family, trying new recipes in the kitchen, and reading a good book.
Byron Matthews, Grant Writer
Byron Matthews brings over 25 years of specialized fund development, strategic planning and project management experience to his position as Grant Writer with the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF). Prior to joining AFF, Byron served the non-profit community as a Development Consultant and Grant Writer for The Community Development Support Group, served as Grants Coordinator for the City of Bowie, Maryland and as Program Director for Community Services for Enterprise Community Partners (formerly The Enterprise Foundation). As a Washington, DC native, Byron graduated from St. Emma Military Academy and studied Philosophy and History at The University of the District of Columbia. He spends whatever free time he can manage to carve out of his busy schedule unapologetically spoiling his four grandchildren.
Gina McCullough, Educator Associate
A self-proclaimed beach bum from South Jersey, Gina received her Bachelor’s degree in special education from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. Shortly after graduation, she and her husband moved to Southern Maryland and she began teaching special education with Calvert County Public Schools. During this time, Gina rediscovered her true passion is nature and all that is in it. She became certified to teach science and spent two years teaching at CHESPAX, the environmental education center for Calvert County Public Schools. While teaching in the traditional classroom setting, Gina incorporated several school-wide programs to help connect students and teachers with their outside world. She also worked closely with the county’s schools to help them obtain and maintain their Green School status. After taking time off to stay at home raising her daughter, Gina is very excited to join the Alice Ferguson Foundation family and to begin sharing her passion of the world with everyone. Gina is an avid lover of the ocean and is most pleased with sand and salt in her hair. She loves spending time with her family, travel, cats of all shapes and sizes, the sun, sand, surf, floppy hats, and flip flops. She hopes to someday retire with her husband and daughter to a place where shoes will be optional and it never gets below 70 degrees.
Debbie Meinholdt, Educator Associate
Debbie grew up in Kansas exploring the natural world, from the stream in her backyard to the grasslands surrounding her grandmother’s farm. She has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and a Master’s degree from the College of William and Mary, both in secondary science education. During her twenty years as a high school biology teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia, she involved her students in experiential learning to help them understand and appreciate the nature of science. Some of her students’ activities included testing local waterways for EarthEcho International World Water Monitoring Challenge, participating in Potomac Watershed Cleanups, and Bridging the Watershed field studies with the Alice Ferguson Foundation. In addition to her hobbies of gardening, knitting, and reading, Debbie is a volunteer at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Q?rius (pronounced curious): The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center. She is very happy to be working at Alice Ferguson Foundation helping students learn about the ecosystem and their role in protecting the environment.
Karen Jensen Miles, Land Use/ Facilities Manager
Karen has acted as a mentor to teachers and students alike in the fields of biology and ecology. Using her broad background and skills, Karen was project leader for a living shoreline restoration along the Potomac River and is currently Land Use/Facilities Manager at the Foundation, where she acts as staff liaison for a Living Building project at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center. She was a consultant to the Office of Horticulture at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and, prior to that, Project Coordinator and Field Station Manager for a large environmental assessment project at a 1,400 acre proposed nuclear power generating facility site. Karen has authored and illustrated a field guide to invasive plants of the mid-Atlantic region and has extensive photographic images used in publications for The Smithsonian Institution and DK Books.
Jessica Miller, BTW Educator Associate
Jessica grew up in Prince William County, Virginia. She studied geology and geography at George Mason University. Serving with Americorp as a Student Conservation Association intern in various National Parks cemented her desire to work in the conservation field. Before coming to the Alice Ferguson Foundation, she worked in North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia for the National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service. She has a passion for the outdoors and enjoys gardening, hiking, biking, crabbing, and birding.
Michael Morris, Educator Associate
Michael grew up on a small farm in Accokeek, spending most of my childhood playing in the woods and fishing on the Potomac River. He volunteered at Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm as a youth, and has worked with children at nearby Camp Accokeek. After graduating from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Environmental Science in 2016, Michael took an interest in youth environmental education while designing children’s learning exhibits with Friends of the Rappahannock in Fredericksburg, VA. Through working at Alice Ferguson Foundation, Michael hopes to share the knowledge and deep appreciation he has for the ecosystem with all the kids who visit. When he is not educating, there’s a good chance that he is in the woods or on the water learning something new about nature.
Diane Niedzialkowski, Educator Associate
Diane has a passion for the environment and has worked in the sciences her entire career – as an aquatic biologist, marine biologist and policy analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency in DC. She has two sons, and volunteering in their school increased her appreciation for the energy and enthusiasm children have for learning. She left the government, and brought experience into the classroom, spending nearly 20 years as a high school biology, environmental science, and forensic science teacher in Montgomery County MD.
Diane is a fearless adventurer, and her travels have included a teaching fellowship in India, study of the Mayan culture on the Yucatan Peninsula, and a winter working on organic farms and a turtle refuge in Uruguay, SA. She has also participated in Spanish language immersion programs in Guatemala and Uruguay. In the summer of 2015 she realized a life-long dream, taking students to the Peruvian Amazon to conduct research on the effect of climate change on the flooded forest.
Will Orndorff, Educator Associate
Born and raised in Maryland, Will spent most of his childhood camping and running outdoors for scouts and cross country. He hiked multiple sections of the Appalachian Trail while discussing his favorite animal signs with his friends. After graduating from high school Will traveled south to Lynchburg, VA to study Environmental Science. While at Lynchburg College he competed in cross country and track, while working at their outdoor recreation center, and volunteering as a meteorologist for the tv program. During the summers he worked as a lifeguard, at a camp in Honesdale, PA, and an adventure park in Savage, MD. After graduating from college Will traveled north to Lanesboro, MN to become a naturalist fellow at Eagle Bluff ELC. While in Minnesota he taught a variety of classes from history to adventure to sciences. At the end of the fellowship Will decided to come back to the east coast where he flexed his adventure muscles at Adventure Links in Clifton, VA. There he taught a variety of outdoor science materials while also taking groups paddling, caving, rock climbing, and through team building courses. Will is an adventure lover who goes outdoors as much as possible.
Krupa Patel, Educator Associate
I love the outdoors, traveling and photography. Joining AFF as an educator, has been exciting, new experience for her. Everyday at AFF, is a new experience – seeing kids reacting to the pig urinating is priceless! To be serious, seeing kids out on the farm and on the habitat walk excited is great. I have also been interning for Port Tobacco River Conservancy for about a year now to develop skills in the non-profit world as well as in the environmental field. Also, I am pursuing a degree in Environmental Management at University of Maryland University College. I hope to transform the growing world into a sustainable world.
Sharon Rabie, Educator Associate
Sharon was born in Michigan and raised on a 1,000 acre farm that had been in her family for four generations. Her very first summer job as a teen was in Yellowstone National Park where she became a volunteer and enjoyed meeting and working with National Park Service rangers. Following graduation from Corunna High School as valedictorian, she attended Central Michigan University taking dual majors in Art and Biology with a Conservation minor on the “Interpretive Naturalist” program. She added teaching certification for secondary education, and taught school for several years, starting out in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the Island of St. Thomas. Moving to Maryland in 1983, she joined the National Park Service and spent 11 years in sites such as Oxon Hill Farm, the National Mall, Glen Echo Park, Old Post Office Tower, and Turkey Run Pkwy. as a tractor operator. She was married (1985) to the late Fahim S. Rabie and has four children. Residing in Indian Head, Sharon is also an educator for the Humane Society of Charles County, and a 4-H leader. She enjoys training and raising German Shepherd dogs, canning from her garden, and is active in her church. Sharon has been on the staff at Hard Bargain Farm since 1995.
Julia Saintz, Trash Community Outreach Coordinator
Julia comes to AFF after serving in AmeriCorps in Elko, Nevada and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her time spent in AmeriCorps and in helping here College’s Farm grow, have shown her the power of what a strong community can do. Julia is all about connecting people who are passionate about the same thing and to link them to resources that can help them bloom. Julia graduated from Shippensburg University with a BA in History and a BS in Geoenvironmental Studies. While not working, you will find her inside attempting to cook or outside attempting to backpack, grow vegetables, knit an Entire pair of socks, or playing with any animal in sight.
Laura Cattell Noll, Assistant Program Manager
Originally from Pennsylvania, Laura has lived and worked in the greater DC region since 2009. Before coming to Alice Ferguson Foundation, Laura worked for the University of Virginia investigating nitrogen pollution from alternative livestock practices. Previously, Laura worked for the National Aquarium’s Conservation department and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. In both capacities, she managed and implemented environmental restoration and education projects across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science from Eastern Mennonite University and an M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia. In her spare time, Laura enjoys reading, biking and cooking.
Kara Sheehan, Development Associate
Kara joins the Alice Ferguson Foundation as a Development Associate with a background in music education, athletics, and a long-standing history in the restaurant industry. Past experiences have allowed her to work as Athletic Director and teacher for the Wye River Upper School, while most recently serving as Choir teacher at an Anne Arundel County Public middle school. Currently she is a resident of Anne Arundel “South” county, living and learning the ropes on a horse farm. As a long-time resident of Maryland’s Eastern Shore Kara spent years living on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, learning to love the water and all that goes with it. Whether on or in the water, hiking a trail with her dog, steaming crabs with the family, or simply enjoying the view, she never takes for granted the opportunity presented.
Hannah Seligmann, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator
Hannah first joined the Alice Ferguson Foundation as an intern with the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative in Winter 2015. After leaving for the summer to be a zipline instructor in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hannah returned to serve an 11 month term with Americorps as the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator for the Alice Ferguson Foundation. She is now the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator and lead contact for the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Reach out to get involved! Hannah’s hobbies include listening to WPFW Jazz and Justice public radio, partaking in potlucks, volunteering, and exploring the Earth, especially the waters.
John Sullens, Educator Associate
John has lived in Southern MD since 1997 after growing up in Baltimore County. His family owned a cabin in the woods on the MD and PA. line and some of his best childhood memories are of camping and hiking there with family and friends. From 2006 – 2012, John owned Mad Science of Southern MD. While performing and having fun with science in the classroom, he realized his passion was to get kids excited about the world in which they live. In 2014 John began working with Calvert Nature Society providing ChesPax Oysters, Terrapins and Animal programs to local students. In 2015 he recieved his Master Naturalists Certification and continues to work closely with the next class of naturalists. He spends his free time beach coming for fossils, kayaking, hiking and biking all parts of MD. He volunteers over a hundred hours each year on projects including the Prothonotary Warblers at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, Barn Owls, American Kestrels, Saw Whet Owls, and is a Parkers Creek canoe guide and a trail guide at the ACLT property in Calvert County.
Lauren Taylor, Educator Associate
Lauren, born with a passion for science, was raised in Southern Maryland where most of her youth was well spent exploring the natural world. She spent her summers volunteering for the Sierra Club which further developed her passion for science and environmental outreach. Her love of the natural world from a young age inspired her to continue on to pursue a career in environmental science. Lauren is currently a full-time student at the University of Maryland, College Park where she studies Environmental Science and Technology with a concentration in Environmental Health. She will graduate with her Bachelor’s degree in December of 2016. Additionally, she is a current and active member of Indian Head’s Environmental Sustainability Committee where she works on special projects such as the “Living Shoreline,” which focuses on the long-term protection, restoration, and enhancement of local vegetated shoreline habitats. Lauren also has a thriving passion for the restoration of honey bee populations and is presently training to become a Maryland State Beekeeper.
Teresa Martin Thiemann, Educator Associate
Teresa grew up in Prince George’s County and returned here in 2010 to raise her two nature loving children. With a degree in social work, she spent 13 years working in the foster care systems of Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, and Prince George’s county before joining the Alice Ferguson Foundation in 2014 as an environmental educator. Teresa became a Watershed Steward with Anacostia Watershed Society in 2013 after learning about the plight of this beautiful river near her home in Hyattsville. This coursework put her on a different path in life, and she is now passionate about sharing a hopeful message with students about how they can affect their environment and about instilling a sense of adventure in every child who is exposed to something new at the farm. Teresa leads the Children’s Garden team, and wants every student who comes to the farm to learn about healthy food and to get dirty while doing it. She is a beekeeper at home, and always wants to learn more about pollinators. In her free time, she loves to bike, paddle, swim, and hike with her kids.
William Townsend, Educator Associate
Bill Grew up in Accokeek, working on Hard Bargain farm and exploring the Potomac River. After graduating from Springfield College with a B.S. in Outdoor Recreation Management, he spent several years teaching English as a second language in Taiwan and photographing Asia. When he returned, his love of the great outdoors lead him back to Hard Bargain Farm as a Naturalist and wildlife photographer. When not teaching children about nature and agriculture in southern Maryland, he spends his time kayaking, climbing, hiking, and traveling.
Eileen Watts, Assistant Farm Manager
Eileen is a D.C. native, but had the love of the quieter, natural world instilled in her as a child by her parents. As a student, Eileen loved science and chose microbiology as a major in college. After graduating with a B.S. from Maryland University, she worked at the National Institutes of Health for three years, became a stay at home mom for 10 years. Eileen started working at Hard Bargain Farm in 1973 and is still enjoying every minute of it.
Brenda Wright, HBF Program Manager
Brenda came to Maryland from Massachusetts in 1983 and purchased an 1800’s farm house in Accokeek. Prior to working at AFF, she discovered Piscataway National Park, and worked as a student teacher at the Accokeek Foundation teaching students about Colonial life. Brenda joined AFF in 1994 as a Naturalist and now serves as the Hard Bargain Farm Program Manager. Brenda has always loved the outdoors and has fond memories of playing in her “hundred acre wood” as a child. She wants to share that passion with the students that visit the farm. In her spare time, you can find Brenda playing with her beagle, working in her garden, quilting, and spinning wool.
Heather Zdobysz, Assistant Programs Manager
Heather is a life-long resident of Southern Maryland. Growing up in the region and participating in a myriad of outdoor activities has instilled in her a love of the natural world and a passion for environmental education and outreach, with an emphasis on local marine and freshwater ecosystems. These interests motivated her to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and a Master of Science in Environmental Management.
Heather has worked with a variety of organizations to help further environmental education and awareness among a wide range of audiences. A few of her favorite examples include organizing and taking area students on three-day trips to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s education centers, working with high school students as an aquatics instructor to help prepare them for the Charles County Envirothon competitions, and helping to run the U.S. Navy’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Robotics Program. Through this program, which is based out of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Heather has had the opportunity to teach STEM concepts to elementary and middle school students in classrooms across a wide variety of schools in Southern Maryland.
She is also an active volunteer in a wide range of groups. She is on the board of directors for the Port Tobacco River Conservancy, is a chief participant in administrative and fundraising activities for the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, and works with Second Chance Dog Rescue to help find homes for dogs in need.
Gabi Zabel, Educator Associate
Gabi has lived in Southern Maryland nearly her whole life. She has always been passionate about nature and animals, which led her to earn a Bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a minor in environmental studies, and a Master’s in environmental education from Concordia University. She spent over three years in Paraguay in South America as an environmental educator with the Peace Corps. Gabi also works in animal rescue with Round Table Haven and the Humane Society of Charles County, usually fostering kittens until they are ready for adoption. Additionally, she is a tutor with the College of Southern Maryland. She loves the water, and will jump at the chance to look for what lives in it, whether it be by dip netting in the river, or scuba diving in the Caribbean.
Varya Zhigilei, Communications and Marketing Manager
With experience in both corporate and nonprofit organizations, Varya Zhigilei serves as the communications and marketing manager at the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Before coming to the Alice Ferguson Foundation, Varya was a communications specialist at an international consulting and management firm and a program associate at the National Endowment for Democracy. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and has a Master’s degree from George Washington University.