Buck spent his younger years hunting and fishing around his hometown of Fredericksburg, where he became passionate about the natural world. After attaining his BS degree from Virginia Tech, Buck worked with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to monitor pollution sources entering rivers and streams of northern Virginia. This experience resulted in a passion for the engineering behind treating water, which led to a MS and PhD in Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech. Over his 37-year career he owned and operated four environmental clean-up companies. His last business, Advanced Oxidation Technology, featured a variety of chemical and method patents for cleaning up hazardous waste. Buck is now focused on the creation of RIVERE℠.
Executive Director of Operations
Mikel Ann Manchester serves as the Executive Director of Operations at RIVERE℠. She has more than 20 years of experience managing people with multi-million dollar retail establishments as well as large groups of volunteers. She also holds the position of Extension Agent for Water Quality for the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia. As an employee of Virginia Cooperative Extension, she is a direct link to Virginia Tech. She holds level I and II certification as a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional, a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Virginia Wesleyan University, and an M.S. in Agriculture and Life Science, Plant Science and Pest Management from Virginia Tech. She is passionate about community gardens. Working with consultants, allies, and stakeholders, Mikel has guided the team on research and development of the RIVERE℠ Business Plan. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Virginia Tech, with a focus on Eco Culture and Indigenous Tribes.
Michele Phillips is a Virginia Tech and University of Nebraska Alumna, holding a M.S. in Forensic Entomology and a B.A. in Education. She is a respected local artist, educator, gardener and naturalist. Michele has been an integral part of RIVERE℠ from its inception, assisting with the development of the Business Plan, originally working with University of Mary Washington students under the direction of Dr. John Burrow. She serves as the Creative Director, demonstrating her expertise in interior and exterior exhibit design to promote and support education efforts by Friends of the Rappahannock. As a well-connected member of the community, her thirty years of experience in education brings extensive knowledge in curriculum design and instructional methods as well as a strong passion for flora and fauna.
Taylor Johnson is a Virginia-native creative professional with over six years of experience in public relations and marketing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication with a focus of Public Relations from Virginia Tech. Prior to joining the RIVERE℠ team in January 2021 as the Communications Director, Taylor’s experience includes work for the Virginia Zoo, Virginia International Raceway and Norfolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Her current responsibilities include website design, social media management, email marketing, fundraising and public relations.
Lori Blanc has 25+ years of experience with field-based ecological research and management, grant writing, scientific publications, public speaking, academic curriculum design, teaching, and mentoring. She has extensive experience working independently and in collaboration with partners from higher education, government agencies, private business, and public outreach organizations. She holds a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology from Virginia Tech, as well as B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science) from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. After twenty years in academia, Dr. Blanc now works as an independent consultant assisting RIVERE℠ with the development of their business plan, organizational systems and processes, scientific literature reviews, technical writing, project management, and public speaking. She oversees the development and coordination of the Research Advisory Board with emphasis on developing the SmartRiver Initiative involving emerging technologies, big data, machine learning, and predictive modeling.
Botanical Garden Technician
Matthew Amato was born in Long Island, New York but raised and currently resides in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Matthew studied at the Fredericksburg Campus of Germanna Community College, graduating Summa Cum Laude with an Associates of Arts and Sciences in Business Administration. He is currently attending Virginia Wesleyan University, seeking a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies. Matthew has a great passion for the environment and horticulture and mastered the horticultural art of grafting trees, developing a particular interest in bench grafting. In his spare time, he has been working towards the goal of finding fire blight resistant heritage pear varieties and conducts research using USDA donated scion wood. Matthew’s has previous professional work experience in garden centers and retail, joining the team as an intern in 2022, through connections with Virginia Wesleyan University.
Ava is recent graduate from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Environmental Science and minors in Watershed Management, Wetland Science, and Green Engineering. During her time at Virginia Tech, she gained hands-on experience in water quality sampling and analysis, soil physics research, riparian buffer zone maintenance, and citizen science project management for restoration of impaired Stroubles Creek in Blacksburg, Virginia. Ava joined the RIVERE℠ team as an intern in January 2021 and now works as a Research Coordinator. Her work includes conducting scientific literature reviews to inform the development of the SmartRiver Initiative involving autonomous sensor networks on the Rappahannock, grant writing, organizational systems development, data management, and assisting with coordination of the RIVERE℠ Research Advisory Board.