Chris Canfield, Executive Director

chris@ctnc.org, (919) 828-4199 extension 11

Chris joined CTNC in 2017. He leads the organization and its staff in protecting land along the Blue Ridge Parkway, assisting local land trusts, and connecting the diverse people of North Carolina to its diverse landscapes. Before joining CTNC, Chris worked with the National Audubon Society for 17 years as the executive director of Audubon North Carolina and the VP for the Gulf and Mississippi Flyway. Chris led Audubon’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by successfully implementing Gulf-wide conservation efforts in concert with federal and state agencies, local communities, land trusts, and national funders. Chris also previously worked in development and communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a U.S. Air Force officer in the Pentagon, and as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Growing up in Louisiana and Alabama, Chris developed an appreciation and understanding of the importance of natural resources and the communities and wildlife they support. He is committed to conservation solutions that honor these complex relationships, balancing environmental and economic needs. Chris graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a B.A. in mathematics. He earned a M.Phil. in 20th-century English literature from the University of Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He served on the Advisory Board of the NC State University Natural Resources Leadership Institute and was a member of the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition Steering Committee in Asheville. He and his wife Kate Finlayson had a passion for nature and especially birds awakened in them when they moved to North Carolina more than 25 years ago.  He also enjoys playing tennis, drumming and dancing in all forms.

Caitlin Burke, Associate Director

caitlin@ctnc.org, (919) 828-4199 extension 18

Caitlin joined CTNC in February 2013. She oversees the organization’s Emerging Leaders Program, manages its collaborative conservation programs including the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative and climate change efforts, and supports its farmland protection and community economic development partnerships. Caitlin has a BS in Wildlife Science from Virginia Tech, and a PhD in Forestry and Environmental Resources from NC State. Before coming to CTNC, Caitlin taught natural resource policy at NC State, worked with the Department of Defense and its partners to encourage compatible land use around military bases, and conducted policy research and advocacy with nonprofit organizations including The Wildlife Society and WakeUP Wake County. Caitlin lives in Cary with her husband, son, and two cats. In her free time Caitlin enjoys running in the woods, and cooking and eating fresh seasonal foods from her local farmers market.

Ben Blankenship, Chief Financial Officer

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Ben joined CTNC in October 2017 as the chief financial officer to oversee finance, accounting, HR, and IT. He is a former executive chef and restaurateur, an entrepreneur and leadership coach, a project manager and business consultant, and a professional steeped in more than 25 years of nonprofit and for-profit business strategy and leadership. Ben has worked with community foundations, museums, and land trusts as a financial leader to enhance business practices, plan and execute strategic objectives, and manage growth. Such organizations have ranged in size from small staffs and limited budgets to more than 150 employees and $50 million in annual revenue. He earned an AA in Culinary Science from the Culinary Institute of America, a BSBA in Finance from the University of Denver, and a PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. Ben’s passion for the outdoors began at a young age when the rule was, “stay outside until dinnertime.” He also spent summers camping on the Black River in Missouri. After moving to Colorado, “the outdoors” took on a new meaning, exposing him to fly fishing, rock climbing, trail running, and so much more. Ben lives in Durham with his wife, Tanya, daughter, Hannah, and his son, Bailey, nearby at NCSU.

Victoria Chetty, Diversity and Equity Director

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Victoria joined CTNC in September 2017 as the Diversity and Equity Director. Before joining CTNC, she worked with the North Carolina Public Health Foundation as the Halifax County Catalyst for Healthy Eating and Active Living, creating environmental changes increasing accessibility to healthy choices for historically underserved communities. In addition to her professional background, Victoria loves volunteering in numerous capacities, working at the grassroots level to create vibrant and resilient communities. While Victoria holds a B.A. in Biology from Mills College, she is most proud to be a reigning Michael Jackson Trivia Queen. In her spare time, she enjoys murder mysteries and meticulously planned road trips.

Nick DiColandrea, AmeriCorps Project Director

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Nick DiColandrea joined CTNC in June 2015 as the director of CTNC AmeriCorps. Before joining CTNC, Nick directed the MusicianCorps AmeriCorps program in North Carolina, and worked as a community developer at Communities In Schools of NC. Nick holds a degree in Political Science from NC State University, and a Masters of Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University. Nick lives in Raleigh with his veterinarian wife Valerie, their daughter Kara, their twin sons Lucas and Benjamin, and adopted shelter dog. When not outside chasing down his kids in a park, Nick enjoys serving on nonprofit boards, volunteering, and Star Wars meme making.

Karen Smith Fernandez, Director of Philanthropyksfernandez@ctnc.org, (919) 828-4199 ext. 13

Karen joined CTNC in 2017 as the Director of Philanthropy overseeing individual, foundation, corporate, and planned giving. Karen has worked in North Carolina nonprofits for 30 years including positions as Communications Director, Executive Director, Development Director, Program Director and Chairman of the Board and has co-founded four nonprofit organizations. Before coming to CTNC she served as the Major Gifts and Planned Giving Director for the North Carolina Symphony and as the statewide Development Director and Communications Director for Audubon North Carolina. Graduating from the University of Virginia with a BA in Psychology, she traveled west for a graduate degree at the University of Washington in child-clinical psychology and worked in the mental health field for several years. Karen is a life-long learner with a myriad of interests in music, arts, language, travel and wildlife. A nature and animal lover since childhood, Karen’s passion is connecting people to the protection of the intricate ecosystems that support us all.

Mary Alice Holley, Communications and Marketing Director

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Mary Alice joined the Conservation Trust for North Carolina in 2016 as the Communications and Marketing Director where she leads the effort to build greater public awareness for land trusts and connect North Carolina communities to the benefits of conservation. Before joining CTNC, she was the Media Relations Director for BC/DC Ideas leading promotional campaigns for numerous conservation clients including Audubon North Carolina and the North Carolina Coastal Federation. Mary Alice holds a B.A. degree in Mass Communications and Rhetorical Writing from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In her spare time, Mary Alice enjoys hiking with her dog, Hazel, and exploring North Carolina’s hidden treasures from her kayak.

Rusty Painter, Land Protection Director

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Rusty oversees collaborative projects that CTNC undertakes with other North Carolina land trusts, as well as CTNC’s land protection efforts along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rusty holds a Masters in Forestry and a Masters of Environmental Management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Wake Forest University. In his spare time, he enjoys activities with his wife, Carrie, and son Benjamin including hiking, canoeing, and mountain biking. His passion for conservation stems from a lifelong enjoyment of outdoor activities like these.

Jan Pender, NC Youth Conservation Corps Project Director

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Jan joined CTNC in 2000 and is responsible for advancing the North Carolina Youth Conservation through partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies, local land trusts, and private and corporate interests. Prior to working at CTNC, Jan worked in foundation and corporate development at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and was Director of Education for Legacy, a statewide environmental education program in Alabama. Jan holds a B.S. degree in education from Kansas State University and a M.S. degree in geography from the University of Alabama. She also studied the European Union on a Rotary Club scholarship at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. Jan and her husband, Tom, have two daughters, Anne Ross and Abby.

Tracy Weidert, Emerging Leaders Program Assistant

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Tracy joined CTNC in January 2017 as the Emerging Leaders Program Assistant. Tracy holds a Master’s in Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and previously supported an AmeriCorps program for the NC Office of Environmental Education in 2013-2014. Between college and graduate school, Tracy served as an AmeriCorps member at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge monitoring the effects of prescribed fire on vegetation. Tracy spends most of her free time enjoying the outdoors.