Michael Wall, Ph.D., Executive Director

Dr. Wall, a distinguished leader in his field of environmental conservation and education, has been at the San Diego (CA) Natural History Museum for more than 16 years and is currently Vice President of Science and Conservation. He joins the Trust as an accomplished executive leader, scientist, educator, committed conservationist, environmental steward, effective fundraiser, collaborator, and creative thinker. Describing his work ethic, Wall said, “My first and unending love is teaching about the wonders of nature. Even in my career as a scientist, I’ve always leaned more into science communication than research…to not just tell people about nature, but to give them gateways to experience it. In short, my mission is to deepen community involvement in the science and practice of conservation.”

Rachael Hart, Wildlife Caretaker/Naturalist

Rachael is the caretaker of our animal ambassadors and naturalist for the Trust. She graduated from HCC with a degree in Wildlife Management and certification in Forest Management Technology.  She has been at the Trust since 2021 and feels passionately for the care and lives of the animal ambassadors here at the Trust. She grew up with an immense passion for animals and the outdoors and was always outside in the dirt with bare feet, which holds true today. Haywood gave Rachael a comprehensive and hands-on education by providing ample opportunities to work with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and other organizations of the like. She also spent two years at Cape Fear Raptor Center where she volunteered her time rehabilitating and releasing birds of prey, as well as working with a local wildlife rehabber.  Rachael continues to love anything wildlife-related and enjoys being hands-on to help our environment in any way she can.

Amy Duggins, Community Science Coordinator

Amy Duggins grew up sloshing through creeks and climbing trees in the mountains of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee and has been head over heels in love with nature for as long as she can remember. She has over two decades of experience in the environmental field, including working as an interpretive naturalist and ranger with Colorado and North Carolina State Parks, a field biologist in the Gila National Forest, and an environmental educator and nature connection mentor. Amy is delighted to join the Balsam Mountain community – humans and bears, oak trees and fungi, wood thrushes and trilliums, and creatures of all kinds. She looks forward to working together to learn more about our wild neighbors through citizen science and conservation projects, and to experience the wonder of our Southern Appalachian home.

Gina Patton, AmeriCorps Service Member/ Education Outreach

Gina recently completed her master’s degree at The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point in Environmental Education and Interpretation. She promptly moved to North Carolina and is loving exploring all the radiant beings of her new biome. She is also a writer, artist, and naturalist who incorporates art, nature connection, and childlike wonder into the programs she leads.

Gina is serving with AmeriCorps, an eleven-month national service program with positions offered by community and non-profit organizations. CTNC manages an AmeriCorps program that has placed 18 members with conservation and environmental groups throughout North Carolina. The program’s goals are to connect thousands of people to the outdoors and to develop future leaders in conservation. Learn more about CTNC’s AmeriCorps program.

Kim Jacobs, Administrator

Kim Jacobs and her husband, Mike, retired early from Aerospace in 2022.  Kim was an Executive Admin for a very large Flight Test organization for over   20 years. She moved from Lancaster, CA to Balsam, NC to be near family.  She enjoys having a few acres to watch all the local wildlife in her own backyard- birds, squirrels, turkeys, deer, a bobcat, and even bears. Kim feels  so very happy to be in this beautiful state! We are fortunate to have Kim and her experience to facilitate all things Trust-related.