Staff

Lee Amos

Lee Amos

Land Stewardship Manager

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The best day starts with observing bees outside the office and ends with dreams of abundant wildlife. Part of what I do as a biologist is restore and create wildlife habitat. I love working at a place where my knowledge and creativity can make more nature, and then we can enjoy it.

Lee Amos is Land Stewardship Manager and staff biologist at Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. He specializes in plant propagation and conservation and has worked with the Florida Native Plant Society, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sweetbay Nursery, and Florida Native Plants Nursery to encourage the widespread use and enjoyment of Florida's fabulous flora. At Conservation Foundation, Lee is responsible for parks and preserve stewardship, map making and geographic analysis, and assisting with the acquisition of new preserves. Currently, he is restoring and planning public recreation on 230 acres on Pine Island, as well as monitoring and maintaining eight conservation properties from Manatee County to Lee County. Lee earned his BA in Biology from Tennessee Wesleyan College. An avid outdoorsman, Lee enjoys camping, kayaking, hiking and sharing his knowledge of our extraordinary environment.

John Besson

John Besson

Land Steward

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I have had the privilege of forming deep connections with a range of landscapes. These experiences are the source of my passion. I feel driven to foster the stewardship of this area and increase access for the community to experience and connect with it. Mindful of nature, life, and love. This is the mantra I live by, and I am excited to work for an organization that promotes these values.

John Besson joined Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast in May 2021 as the Land Steward. He works with Land Stewardship Manager Lee Amos to manage parks and preserves, monitor conservation easements, and produce maps and geographic analysis. He also aids Director of Land Protection Debi Osborne in the acquisition of new properties. After graduating from Wofford College with a BS in Environmental Studies and Spanish, he conducted research on pit vipers in the upper Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. Since then, he has worked as an environmental educator and guide for several entities including the Clemson Youth Learning Institute. Additionally, John helps manage his family’s 2,000 acre tree farm in Edgefield, SC where he has led the reintroduction of prescribed fire and the establishment of longleaf pine. In his free time, he enjoys exploring nature, travelling, and playing basketball.

Pam Brownell

Pam Brownell

Chief of Staff

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I love the permanence of our work. The land we protect today will have an impact on future generations forever.

Pam joined Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast December 2007. Her current role of Conservation Foundation's Chief of Staff encompasses oversight of daily organizational operations, human resources, Board Governance, risk management and all capital projects. Pam's extensive understanding of the Land Trust Alliance's Standards and Practices have helped the Foundation ensure compliance and achieve the status of a nationally accredited land trust. Pam graduated from Concordia University, Wisconsin with a BS in Occupational Therapy. She is the leader of her daughter's Girl Scout troop and enjoys the beach, camping, canoeing and exploring the outdoors with friends and family.

Sabrina Cummings

Sabrina Cummings

Environmental Programs Coordinator

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When was the last time you stopped to observe and contemplate the shape and color of a flower? When was the last time you really took in the smells and sounds of a pine stand? We should all be entitled to the opportunity to stop and just experience the lives of forests, forever.

Sabrina Cummings joined Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast in April 2018. As the Environmental Programs Coordinator, her role includes programming development, organization and implementation, community partner building, and inspiring new land stewards through hands-on experiences. A Florida native, Sabrina served for two years in the Florida Conservation Corps after completing her BA in Anthropology with a specialization in Archaeology at the University of West Florida. She enjoys good food, exploring the outdoors, playing video games with friends, and expanding her extensive bandana collection

Suzanne Gregory

Suzanne Gregory

Director of Communications & Engagement

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I enjoy working for a mission that has so much ripple effect in the community. Saving land forever supports our economy, enables wildlife, gives us spectacular places to enjoy and nourishes the soul. I feel I have returned to a relationship with nature that was missing in my life.

Suzanne Gregory joined Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast in September 2012, following a 14-year tenure at SCOPE and its predecessor organization. Her work at SCOPE, a community engagement and data-focused nonprofit, included facilitating numerous community engagement initiatives, directing and developing communications strategies and successfully managing a three-year fundraising campaign focused on bringing new donors to SCOPE. Suzanne's responsibilities at Conservation Foundation include all aspects of organizational communications, special event management, community education, and relationship development with the public, donors and volunteers. Suzanne graduated magna cum laude from Wheaton College, Massachusetts with a BA in Psychology. She enjoys cooking, kayaking, reading and spending active time with friends and family.

Heather Jacob

Heather Jacob

Database Administrator

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I'm not the most out-doorsy person - you won't find me hiking the Appalachian Trail or anything, but my ideal day would be to sit by myself next to a small river and just listen to the water running over the rocks. To breathe in the smell of the trees. To look up and see a deer or a rabbit staring back at me. That shouldn't be something we escape to on the weekends, or for a week or two throughout the year, but something we should strive to experience every day. Jurassic Park is just a movie. If we don't protect it now, future generations won't be able to rebuild it later.

Heather is a self-proclaimed data geek. She holds AS degrees in Web Programming and Database Administration from Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne, IN and a BS from Western Governor's University in Healthcare Informatics. Her first foray into the area of philanthropy was as the Data Analyst for a healthcare foundation and she has been hooked ever since. In her spare time, she enjoys digging through old records to discover, preserve, and share her family's history. Over the last 34 years, she has also enjoyed compiling, counting, organizing, and cataloging an over 100,000-card collection of trading cards. Heather loves to read actual physical books and is a lover of history, the more ancient, the better. She loves to learn why we say the things we say, or do the things we do. She believes that we can't know where we're going without first understanding where we've been. She is an animal lover who is owned by two cats! Heather’s ideal happy place would be in a cabin on a mountain surrounded by dozens of cats, dogs, and horses - and hi-speed internet.

Christine Johnson

Christine Johnson

President

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I grew up here and am so lucky to have this fulfilling career. I know that the work we do today - saving the beautiful area of my childhood - will last forever!

Christine P. Johnson is a fifth generation Floridian who shares the Foundation's vision for the human and natural words of Southwest Florida to flourish together. After earning a BS in Business Administration from the College of Charleston and an MBA from the University of Florida, Christine worked in management and consulted with Fortune 500 companies in fields ranging from manufacturing to media. Her Florida roots run deep though and this Manatee County native couldn't stay away for long. Christine has worked in the nonprofit sector in this region since 2004. She successfully completed the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida's $7M capital campaign to build a regional headquarters and then served as Director of Development for Ringling College of Art and Design overseeing their largest fundraising campaign, leading a team of five to raise over $100M. In October of 2011, she was named President of Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast where she works to save land, ensure good land conservation public policy, and that all have access to natural places. Nature is where Christine's family spends their time together. Her husband, Bill, and their teen-aged children, Grace and Tom, enjoy hiking, camping, backpacking, and being anywhere there is water to swim, fish, sail, or scuba.

Debi Osborne

Debi Osborne

Director of Land Protection

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I'm fortunate to have made my life's passion for protecting nature my profession. Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, my love for nature and the outdoors was instilled in me from an early age through campouts in the Sierra and Appalachian mountains, family vacations to parks and wildlife refuges, exploring rivers by kayak, and a lifetime of walks along the beach. It is rewarding to work for an organization that ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy similar experiences.

Debi Osborne joined Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast as Director of Land Protection in September 2013 and is leading the initiative to save over 10,000 acres along the Myakka River in the next 10 years, as well as working in other land protection priority areas. Previously, Debi was Director for Real Estate for the National Audubon Society, overseeing acquisition of new property interests and management of Audubon's conservation real estate portfolio, including Audubon Centers, sanctuaries and other properties nationwide totaling more than 150,000 acres in thirty states. Prior to joining Audubon in April 2006, Debi worked for the Trust for Public Land for 17 years. After establishing the new TPL office in 1988, she helped conserve over 60,000 acres throughout the mid-Atlantic region during her tenure as project manager and Field Office Director. Debi has assisted communities and public agencies with land conservation visioning, finance and stewardship issues and conducted conservation training workshops at local, regional and national conferences. She has served on the board of both the Maryland and Virginia association of land trusts. Debi currently serves on the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program's Citizens Advisory Committee and is a 2016 graduate of Leadership Sarasota. Debi holds a Master's degree in City and Regional Planning from Harvard University and undergraduate degrees in Social Ecology and Urban Geography from the University of California, Irvine.

Sam Peterson

Sam Peterson

Site Manager

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Working towards the preservation of our natural habitats and communities for future generations to enjoy is incredibly rewarding and I am proud to be a part of the Conservation Foundation and its mission.

Sam Peterson is a Sarasota native and University of South Florida graduate. Sam works with Conservation Foundation biologist Lee Amos towards land stewardship goals at Bay Preserve and other Conservation Foundation properties. He also works on-site for all weddings and events held at Bay Preserve. Sam spent much of his youth on the Intracoastal Waterway from Snake Island to Jewfish Key and the integrity of Florida's waterways are very important to him. His hobbies include camping, photography, writing, and guitar.

Jillian Rockafellow

Jillian Rockafellow

Special Events Manager

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I am excited to begin working at Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast because it includes two of my passions: helping people make everlasting memories through events and protecting the environment for future generations to enjoy as much as I have.

Jillian is a recent graduate of Central Michigan University with a B.A.A. in Recreation, Parks, and Leisure Services Administration, with an Event Management concentration. Before graduation, she completed her internship at The Homestead, a resort in Glen Arbor, Michigan, nestled in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Originally from Westland, Michigan, she moved to Port Charlotte in 2021. Her hobbies include kayaking, hiking, and generally being outdoors as much as possible.

Lee Ann Rodriguez

Lee Ann Rodriguez

Director of Philanthropy

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Natural environments are a source of inspiration for me. Having lived in Puerto Rico for many years, I learned about the importance of a bio-diverse landscape. I enjoyed varied natural areas, including mountains, forests, beaches, rivers, bio-luminescent bays, cave systems, and more. And I was proud to be part of a team that protected these natural treasures. Being at Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast feels like home. Our team together with our supporters and conservation community are making great strides in protecting the natural resources of our region, which are invaluable for our well-being, livelihood and sustainability.

Lee Ann Rodríguez is an accomplished professional with over 20 years of combined experience across the private, higher education, government and non-for-profit sectors. Her expertise consists of strategic planning and resource development, including fundraising, grant writing and research administration, among others. Through her leadership style and team-player nature she has found success in fostering collaborations, partnerships and win-win strategies among diverse stakeholders. Prior to her four-year tenure with New College of Florida, Lee Ann was the Development Manager at Para la Naturaleza of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico (CTPR). There Rodriguez led the development team to support the organization’s mission of protecting land of high ecological value through major gifts, corporate giving and private grants. While at CTPR she received the Citizen Science Champion of Change 2013 award from the President of the United States. Lee Ann received her Doctorate of Business Administration at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. At the State University of Puerto Rico she earned three degrees – a Master’s in Business Administration, a Master’s in Translation and a Bachelor’s in Modern Languages.

Matt Tapson

Matt Tapson

Director of Finance

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Working with such a great group of people with the common goal of conserving natural habitats has immeasurable rewards and I am proud to be part of the Conservation Foundation team.

Matt Tapson joined Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast in November of 2018. As the Director of Finance, he is responsible for maintaining the financial records of the organization, analyzing results, and reporting his findings to Management and the Board of Directors. He has taken on several projects to improve those processes, ensuring that they are operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. Matt transitioned into this role from 15 of experience in public and corporate accounting. Matt has had the pleasure of helping organizations fulfill their missions in Arts, Education, and the Environment. Outside of work, you will find Matt traveling, appreciating his yard and supporting Arts Organizations.

Sam Valentin

Sam Valentin

Marketing & Communications Manager

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I’ve always loved exploring the great outdoors and spending time in nature. To be able to go to work every day at an organization whose mission is to save these natural lands forever is like a dream come true!

In May of 2021, Sam Valentin stepped into the role of Marketing & Communications Manager. In this position she is responsible for developing and executing effective communication strategies to increase engagement, grow target audiences, and increase public awareness of Conservation Foundation initiatives. From April 2018 to May 2021, she was Conservation Foundation’s Special Events & Site Rental Manager, overseeing fundraising and outreach events along with Bay Preserve venue rentals. Before joining the Conservation Foundation team, Sam was Marketing & Communications Manager for Goodwill Manasota where she oversaw all Goodwill marketing and engagement efforts in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee, and DeSoto counties. Sam earned her Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from the University of South Florida and has certifications in Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Google Analytics, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace. Sam is a member of the 2021 Leadership Sarasota class and serves as secretary on Sunshine Community Compost’s Board of Directors. She is passionate about environmental media and communications, environmental justice, and greater representation in conservation and outdoor recreation. In her spare time, Sam loves camping, spending time with her husband and young son, exploring nature with friends, and learning more about our incredible planet.

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