About Us


Berton Harris, Ph.D., Executive Director

Bert has a long-standing interest in the ecology and conservation of forests and grasslands in the eastern United States. He grew up chasing birds and salamanders in the oak-hickory forests of northern Alabama and studied changes in forest composition and ephemeral pond bird communities as an undergraduate at Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. While at Sewanee he founded a natural history club in an effort to expose his fellow students to the amazing diversity of life on campus. Bert also has a background in research on the effects of the wildlife trade, climate change, and habitat loss on tropical birds, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Ecuador. After attaining his B.S. at Sewanee, Bert completed a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Adelaide, Australia. He then undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University and has since been employed as Director of Biodiversity Conservation at Rainforest Trust, a non-profit dedicated to creating protected areas in the tropics. Bert is passionate about documenting the thousands of species that occur at Clifton and sharing the wonder of their life histories with the local community. More information about Bert including his publications can be found here: https://bertonharris.com/publications/. Email: bharris@cliftoninstitute.org.

Eleanor Harris, Ph.D., Managing Director (starting on March 15, 2018)

Eleanor is fascinated by evolution and she delights in teaching young people about the natural world. As a theoretical ecologist, she is interested in understanding how information is processed in biological systems, the origins and functions of hierarchical organization, how social systems function on ecological timescales, and how social systems evolve. After attaining her B.A. in Mathematics with Honors at the University of Chicago, Eleanor completed a Ph.D. in Quantitative and Computational Biology at Princeton University. She has since been employed as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Maryland. In addition to this extensive experience in biological research, she has had several experiences in education, working with students ranging from elementary school to college. More information about Eleanor including her publications can be found here: http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~ebrush/. Email: eharris@cliftoninstitute.org.

Sue Garvin, Education Specialist

With over 25 years of experience working in conservation and education, she has held an impressive variety of leadership positions in local, state and national youth education programs. Sue earned her BA in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Clifton Institute, she worked in conservation education and volunteer management at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Sue is an avid naturalist with a passion for both teaching and learning. She enjoys studying the intricacies of nature and inspiring others to do the same. Email: sgarvin@envstudies.org.

Felieicia Brooks, Administrator (fbrooks@cliftoninstitute.org)


Sheri Thorpe, Accountant
Sue Marshall, House Manager
Charles Brooks, Groundskeeper
Ken Lang, Assistant Groundskeeper


Douglas Larson (President)

was formerly a Vice President at the Piedmont Environmental Council with primary responsibility for the development program of the organization. He has had extensive non-profit experience serving as the Director of the Airlie Foundation, Board member of the Fauquier Hospital, and a variety of other community organizations. Following his graduation from Drake University he served in the US Peace Corps. His career took him overseas working for The Agency For International Development and later for The George Washington University in international health education programs.

Robert C. Karch, Ed.D. (Vice President)

has been a member of the American University faculty, in Washington, D. C., since 1969. He is a Professor in the School of Education, Teaching and Health and the creator of two academic programs at the University: the Master of Science program in Health Fitness Management, now 30 years old, and the Bachelor of Science program in Health Promotion, now in its 15th year. He is also the founder and Executive Director of the University's National Center for Health Fitness and the University's International Institute for Health Promotion.

Edward J. Bernacki, M.D.

is Professor of Medicine, Director, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine and Executive Director of Health, Safety and Environment for the Johns Hopkins University. He is past President of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and former Corporate Medical Director of United Technologies Corporation, Hartford, Connecticut and Corporate Vice President of Tenneco, Inc., Houston, Texas.

Melissa Johnson, MS

was an adjunct professor in Health/Fitness Management at American University in Washington, D. C., She has served as Director of Operations for National Fitness Leaders Association (NFLA), and as vice president and western regional chair of the National Association of Health and Fitness, formerly the National Association of Governor's Councils on Physical Fitness and Sports. She was appointed Executive Director of the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and appointed by President Bush as Executive Director of the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness.

Jocelyn Arundel Sladen

is a conservationist and lifelong resident of the Warrenton, Virginia area. She worked closely with her husband, Dr. William Sladen, in founding the Environmental Studies on the Piedmont program (part of the Clifton Institute). She has served on numerous boards, including the Center for Plant Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, Rachel’s Network and the Advisory Board of Virginia Working Landscapes.

David Snyder, M.D.

is a founding member of Blue Ridge Orthopaedic Associates in Warrenton, Virginia and a diplomat of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery with extensive experience in reconstructive surgery. He has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Virginia and as Chief of Surgery and President of the medical staff at the Fauquier Hospital.

Phoebe Tufts, M.Ed

has an M.Ed in English and an M.Ed in Special Education, is certified to teach Biology and has taught in both independent and public schools. She is currently teaching (Special Education) at Kettle Run High School in Fauquier County. Prior to teaching, she served as a humane investigator for the state of Virginia, as a member of the Head Start Parent Policy Council, Head Start Health and Education Advisory Council and as chairperson of the Fauquier County Public Schools Vocational Education Advisory Council. More recently she has served on the board of the Fauquier Mental Health Association.

Sheri Thorpe – Finance Consultant

Sheri has developed her interest in community nonprofits over a career of more than two decades in public accounting, serving on nonprofit boards, and more recently as an interim executive for nonprofit organizations. She enjoys taking a break from crunching numbers to explore the landscape of the Clifton Institute property, and looks for opportunities to invite others to experience this special place. Sheri looks forward to continuing to support the Institute’s mission through programs that serve the entire community.


Copyright © 2018 Environmental Studies on the Piedmont, 6712 Blantyre Road, Warrenton, Virginia 20187-7106