Henry “Buck” Cox grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he spent his younger years on the Rappahannock River developing a passion for the natural world. After earning his BS from Virginia Tech, Buck worked with Virginia’s State Water Control Board to monitor pollution sources entering rivers and streams of Northern Virginia. He earned a MS and PhD in Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and started a career in environmental remediation. Over his 37-year career, he jointly owned/co-owned and operated three environmental clean-ups companies prior to starting his fourth business, Advanced Oxidation Technology (AOT) in 1998. His initial startup began in 1982 as Environmental Technology, Inc. (later HazWaste Industries) in Richmond, VA. It became one of the fastest growing small businesses in the US with annual revenue of over $50 million when it merged with EarthTech in 1993. His second company, BioSystems Technology, Inc., became a leader in petroleum soil remediation using a unique biological method, trademarked as Biological Enhanced Remediation. This concept resulted in treatment of millions of tons of contaminated soil in eleven biological treatment facilities around the country. Breakthroughs in his fourth start-up, AOT, in the early 2000’s, resulted in 26 patents for advancing treatment of hazardous waste in soil and groundwater as well as treatment of hydrogen sulfide in natural gas and wastewater. Buck is now focused on giving back to the community where he grew up by creating the RIVERE℠ Ecological Center to conserve the Rappahannock River and support the advancement of water quality monitoring, environmental education, and innovative research.
Executive Director of Operations
Mikel Ann Manchester serves as the Executive Director at RIVERE℠. She has more than 20 years of experience managing people with multimillion-dollar retail establishments as well as large groups of volunteers. She also holds the position of Associate Extension Specialist for Water Quality and Community Development in the Agricultural Leadership, and Community Education department at Virginia Tech. She holds her level I and II certification as a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional. She earned a BA in environmental studies from Virginia Wesleyan University, and a MS in agriculture and life science, plant science and pest management, from Virginia Tech. She has experience in environmental studies, plant and pest management, greenhouse management, landscape design as well as professorial duties at Virginia Wesleyan University and University of Mary Washington. She enjoys public engagement and is passionate about community gardens. Working with consultants, partners and stakeholders, Mikel has guided the team on development of the RIVERE℠ Business Plan. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Virginia Tech in the field of Life Science - Agricultural and Extension Education, with a focus on eco culture and Indigenous Tribes.
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.
Taylor Johnson, a Virginia-native creative professional, brings over seven years of public relations and marketing experience to her role as Communications Director at RIVERE. Holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from Virginia Tech, Taylor has worked with organizations such as the Virginia Zoo, Virginia International Raceway, City of Norfolk, and Downtown Norfolk Council. Since joining RIVERE in January 2021, Taylor has been instrumental in website design, social media management, email marketing, fundraising, and public relations efforts. Beyond her professional pursuits, Taylor is a passionate advocate for conservation and animal education. She finds solace in hiking through the mountains and harbors a fascination for all animals, but particularly frogs. With her blend of expertise, creativity, and unwavering dedication to causes close to her heart, Taylor Johnson embodies RIVERE's commitment to making a positive impact in the world.
Director of Marketing
As a marketing and events professional, Sharon DeSouza has workedin the media industry for over thirteen years. Beginning as the MarketingAnalyst for a Publishing Company in Fredericksburg, she expanded her knowledgebase as the Promotions Director for a multi-station radio group. She created,coordinated, and managed various events including: Chilifest, ‘Burg Idol, Country Idol,including many charitable events. She received a Bachelor’s degree in marketingand a Master’s degree in management from the University of Mary Washington.Sharon resides in Fredericksburg and continues to provide consulting servicesin marketing, entertainment, and event management in Virginia.
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.
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.
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.