meet our team

Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is powered by a small yet dedicated group of leaders and nature lovers! If you need to get in touch with anyone on staff, our emails are listed below. Please note that many of our program staff spend most of their time outside interacting with young naturalists, plants, and animals and may not respond immediately. If a conversation is more appropriate, you are also welcome to call (423) 821-1160 for a staff directory. 

 
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MARK MCKNIGHT

President/CEO

Team member since: 2017 


Mark brings more than 15 years of outdoor recreation industry expertise to bear as the President of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. While serving as Marketing Director for outdoor retailer Rock/Creek for more than a decade, Mark led an expansion online and into regional brick-and-mortar. While there he co-founded RootsRated, a media startup answering the question of where to go outdoors. 


Mark enjoys sharing success stories from Chattanooga, especially where lean teams punch above their weight by working together in a smarter way. He has been a featured speaker at tech events like Oracle’s OpenWorld and Twitter’s global sales conference in San Francisco as well as outdoor industry events like the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance tradeshow in Knoxville.


Mark uses photography and storytelling to highlight the natural beauty of this region. He first discovered Chattanooga during college while working in Mentone, Alabama for a summer camp. Leading the nature center and encouraging people to spend more time outside reconnecting with nature feels like the perfect continuation of that work.


If you give him enough time, Mark will eventually start talking about iNaturalist, a platform for citizen science and a type of social network for nature nerds. 

[email protected]

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COREY HAGEN

Director of Education

Team member since: 2005


Corey is a lifelong outdoor enthusiast whose passion is introducing and teaching children about the natural world around them. Corey graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Wildlife Science. While at Auburn, he was a member of the Wildlife Society and on the planning committee for Youth Day. He also worked for five summers as the lead riflery instructor at Camp Laney for Boys in Mentone, Alabama. 


Corey had worked for five years as a crew leader for a landscaping company in Nashville when his dream job opened at what was then the Chattanooga Nature Center. In 2005, Corey joined the team working in education and marketing. In 2011, Corey became the Director of Education for Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature  Center and has been growing programming, outreach and educational opportunities for the community ever since. Corey’s love of the natural world and desire to educate the next generation have placed him in a perfect work environment in a place that is very dear to his heart.  During his time away from work, Corey enjoys taking hikes with his family and introducing his two children to the natural world.  He also enjoys birding, fly fishing and spending time on the lake.

[email protected]

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TISH GAILMARD

Director of Wildlife

Team member since: 2000

Tish Gailmard is the Director of Wildlife Conservation and has been part of the Reflection Riding team since 2000. Since she was a child, spending her days playing and exploring in the woods, Tish has loved animals. Tish is a graduate of the University of Georgia and is a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency licensed rehabilitator for mammals and rabies vector species. 

In 2016, Tish was named the Tennessee Wildlife Federation Environmental Educator of the Year, and has also been recognized as a Girls Preparatory School notable alumnae. As a passionate advocate for wildlife, Tish is a Red Wolf Species Survival Plan management team member, Red Wolf SAFE committee member, Red Wolf Task Force member, and red wolf blood champion.

When she's not working, Tish serves her community and her family. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, proud Georgia Bulldog fan, and former Signal Mountain Parks board member — she also professes to be solar-powered. She loves a day at the beach and a day in the woods. Next time you see her, ask Tish about her mob of dogs and her flock of chickens... and about how much she loves Post-It Notes.

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TIM GAMBRELL

Director of Operations

Team Member Since: 2016
Tim grew up in the Upper Cumberland area and spent most of his time as a child outside in nature. In the late 1980s, his family moved to Chattanooga — and he really wasn’t happy about it given the state of its environment then. He realized later that he had good timing, and arrived in Chattanooga just as its renaissance was starting. 
Tim’s career has tracked the operations and management of many of our most important community assets, from working at the City of Chattanooga Parks Department, to managing Frost Stadium, to directing operations at Engel Stadium, AT&T field for the Lookouts, and Finley Stadium. He also was closely involved with the 21st Century Waterfront, Coolidge Park and Renaissance Park. Tim managed some of the biggest sporting events Chattanooga has hosted, including SEC and SoCon softball tournaments, TSSAA Spring Fling, NCAA football championships, USA Men’s and Women’s soccer games, UTC football, Chattanooga Football Club, and lots of special events along the river and in our parks.
For the last three years, Tim has been leading the Operations team at Reflection Riding and loving it. He feels grateful to work on our beautiful campus every day, and to have helped shine a new light on one of Chattanooga’s old gems over the last few years. When he’s not working, you’ll find him hiking, backpacking, rock hopping in the creeks, canoeing, camping, and exploring the great outdoors. [email protected]Connect

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JESSICA WHITEHORN

Welcome Services Manager & Camp Director

Team Member Since: 2014


Jessica has been working in early childhood education for more than 15 years and really just loves spending time with kids. She grew up as a beach bum outside on the coast of Florida. Following the very busy hurricane season of 2005, she decided to head to Chattanooga for the mountains and four actual seasons and has been loving it ever since. 


Jessica spent the first 12 years of her career as a preschool teacher in Florida and Tennessee, working in church and private preschool settings. In 2014, Jessica joined the Reflection Riding team as a part-time educator and moved into her role as Welcome Services Manager and Camp Director in 2019. 


Getting kids outside and their hands in the dirt to explore is what Jessica loves most about her job. When she’s not working, you can find her in the garden planting native plants, hiking, swimming, and biking. You might also come across her at Susan’s Curve at Reflection Riding looking out over the rural view of the valley below and listening to the birds with no one else around.

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HeatheR degaetano

Managing Director and General Counsel

Team Member Since: 2018


Heather grew up on a barrier island on the coast of Georgia and spent most of her time outside. The daughter of a salt marsh ecologist and college biology professor, most of her great adventures as a child involved salt water and algae. Now a devotee of hiking in the southern Appalachian mountains, mostly in search of waterfalls, she loves working at Reflection Riding to support its work and share her love of the outdoors with others.
For more than 20 years, Heather has worked in nonprofits leading philanthropy, governance, operations, and compliance efforts. Heather is a licensed attorney who has served in leadership roles for a number of great organizations both locally and nationally, including the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chi Omega Foundation. One thing Heather really enjoys is facilitation and consulting for organizations as they consider new paths and grow their missions. She is also an adjunct professor at UTC and the primary author of A Guide to Starting a Nonprofit in Tennessee .
A proud “Double Dawg,” Heather attended the University of Georgia for both undergrad and law school. When she’s not working, you’ll find her wandering the trails of East Tennessee with her daughter, camera in hand and beloved hound dog nearby.

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BESS TURNER

Communications and Engagement Coordinator

Team Member Since: 2018


Bess grew up in Chattanooga and attended Tulane University, where she studied English, Environmental Studies, and Anthropology. Her four years in New Orleans deepened her passion for environmental justice. During her college career she served on the Undergraduate Student Government Sustainability Committee, worked as a copy and content editor for the independent student-run newspaper, the Tulane Hullabaloo, and dedicated her Environmental Studies senior capstone project to researching and raising awareness for the population of Isle De Jean Charles, LA, the world’s first example of environmental refugees. Her research team submitted their findings and solutions proposal to the Louisiana government’s relocation committee.


Bess first came to Reflection Riding as a volunteer writing articles for the blog, looking for a way to combine her enthusiasm for writing and environmental science. She liked the mission and the staff so much that she quickly took on more duties, including social media management and newsletter creation. Two years later, Bess is a full-time staff member often found behind the camera streaming for Facebook Live, and behind the computer managing our volunteers and online presence. 


She still takes advantage of working in such a beautiful place with lots of trail runs, and when she’s not working she enjoys rowing on the Tennessee River, hiking with her dog Ellie, and watching really bad movies with her friends.

[email protected]

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TAYLOR BERRY

Lead Naturalist & Director of Avian Conservation

Team Member Since: 2012


Taylor came to Reflection Riding in 2012 as a volunteer working with our native animals. He began his career as a seasonal interpretive park ranger for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation while he was in college at Tennessee Tech. He got involved with the raptor program at TDEC and learned how to give presentations to the public with birds of prey. He held a bald eagle for the first time in 2009, and he was hooked. Taylor was also the teaching assistant for a college class called Backcountry Adventure, where his role was to take novices out into the woods and teach them how to survive. 


He finished school with a degree in Wildlife Biology and a concentration in Wildlife focusing on raptors, and moved back to Chattanooga. He worked at the Tennessee Aquarium early on and then came to Reflection Riding to take care of our animals. Taylor loves animals so much that he also spends a few days a week working with Dr. Chris Keller at the Mountain Hospital for Animals. Taylor is also a certified Professional Member of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators since 2018 and teaches others how to care for raptors.


When he’s not working, you can find Taylor working on cars, camping and climbing, and working towards a goal of climbing all of the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado… he’s got four so far.  

[email protected]

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Susan russell


Education Specialist 


Team Member Since: 1989


Susan has been the heart and soul of the Reflection Riding education team since 1989. With a background in early childhood education, Susan began her career as a classroom teacher. While she was raising her own children, a part-time job opened leading camp for three- and four-year-olds at Reflection Riding. She has been bringing the joy of the natural world to people across the region ever since — more than 30 years. Susan was recognized across the state as the Informal Educator of the Year several years ago, and it’s easy to see why.


From her first Busy Bees camp in 1989 to outreach programs in the public schools and libraries to manning the front desk and planning events, Susan has done almost every job there is at Reflection Riding! She loves working with very young children to make outdoor memories and mentoring young women who are interested in a similar career path to hers. She remembers her favorite compliment, when one little boy on a field trip told her “man, I was having so much fun, I forgot I was at school!”


When she’s not working, Susan loves to read, spend time with her grandkids, ride her bicycle, and shop for antique Depression glass antiques. She has more than 70 Depression glass candle sticks in her collection. 


[email protected]

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SCOTTY SMITH

Director of Land Conservation 

Team Member Since: 2018


Scotty is a horticulturist with a passion for all things plants and nature. He is a committed life-long learner and has been studying plants and ecology for more than 10 years. He first began his career as a park ranger working on biological studies, maintaining trails, and practicing land conservation at Shiloh National Military Park. He then set his sights west, where he worked at Colorado State University managing the research arboretum as well as a horticulturist at a landscaping nursery and tree farm.


After taking time off to hike the Appalachian Trail with his dog Bailey, Scotty began his career at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center in 2018 as a Horticulture Assistant. Due to his strong background in plants and his knack for growing them, he became Nursery Manager, and then took on his current role as Director of Land Conservation. 


A passion for plants and ecology comes with a responsibility to share it. Scotty is an advocate of intersectional environmentalism and giving all of Chattanooga a chance to learn and appreciate the ecology around them to which they are so inextricably linked.

[email protected]

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DYLAN HACKETT

Nursery and Greenhouse Manager

Team Member Since: 2019


A lifelong Tennessean, Dylan came to Chattanooga to attend UTC. He loves to be outside and was drawn to Chattanooga’s outdoor community and natural resources. Moving to such a beautiful place and spending even more time outdoors, Dylan put his energy into studying conservation and began teaching ecological and freshwater ecology studies in his undergraduate coursework. 


In 2019, Dylan started work at Reflection Riding as an educator, teaching the community aspects of ecology and the flora and fauna around them. Dylan now serves as Nursery Manager, facilitating the propagation of hundreds of species of native plants endemic to the region. Dylan’s work brings him great joy, especially working with community members to learn about environmental stewardship and sending them home with the power of a little bit of good in their hands. 


If he’s not out tending to the plants or working on campus restoration projects, you can find Dylan on the Appalachian Trail, rock climbing, or hiding out reading a book. He also runs a small music and art venue in St. Elmo, helping support the local art, music, and culinary community. 

[email protected]

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BYRON BROOKS

Invasive Species Specialist

Team Member Since: 2018

As our Invasive Species Specialist, most days you can find Byron out on the property with a pair of lopers and a spray bottle. He is passionately committed to native biodiversity conservation.  

A graduate of UTC's Environmental Science program, Byron started his 20-plus-year career in conservation as a Land Stewardship Intern at the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. He also worked as a seasonal preserve management intern for The Nature Conservancy at a preserve on Long Island, NY, and then as an Environmental Tech for the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission. Byron came to Reflection Riding as a volunteer at the annual Weed Wrangle in 2018. Since then, Byron has been responsible for the death of nearly 1,286,722 Celastrus orbiculatus (oriental bittersweet) plants on the property… and that’s a conservative estimate, of course!

Byron loves working with volunteers and school groups, and feels that it is a way to give back to the community and help instill an environmental ethic. His enthusiasm and attitude make the job of ecological restoration fun. In 2020, Byron became something of an internet sensation as the star of many Reflection Riding Facebook Live videos on getting after invasive plants - the camera loves him!

[email protected]

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Jeff Guenther

On-site Security & Photographer

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Justin Hupp

Community Outreach Manager

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