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Staff & TerraCorps Members

Mount Grace Staff

Emma Ellsworth

Executive Director

Emma comes to Mount Grace as an avid hunter, angler, hiker, and outdoors woman. She lives at the base of Mount Tully, a Mount Grace protected property. Emma feels very passionate about protecting her “backyard” and grateful to be able to call it a job. Emma spent the last 20 years as a union organizer and negotiator, fighting for social justice, for working class people to have a voice on the job, and for a chance at a decent quality of life. She is thrilled to be applying those same collaborative skills to conservation. She believes deeply in our need to bridge differences, foster a culture of finding common goals, and stand up for what we believe in if we are to be successful. She follows in the footsteps of her father, who was a Mount Grace board member, her brother who was the key note speaker at an annual meeting, and her parent Jay Lord, who helped found Just Roots, another Mount Grace project. Love of the land is in her blood. In this age of crazy storms, unprecedented weather, and bird population decline, conservation of our “backyard” is more important than ever.

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Leigh Youngblood

Senior Advisor

Leigh’s tenure began in 1994. Since then, Mount Grace has grown from two to ten staff and has initiated and spun off the successful TerraCorps AmeriCorps program, which supports 20+ nonprofits working at the intersection of land conservation and urban agriculture. With its partners, Mount Grace has protected 35,000 acres since 1986, and actively manages 1,800 acres of land including forests, agricultural leases, and a commercial building lease with the Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op. Leigh’s application of a cooperative approach, both internally and externally, has led to many successful partnerships and innovative landscape-scale conservation projects with land trusts of all sizes, state agencies, and multi-level collaboratives. Leigh has served as an officer of the Mass Land Trust Coalition and was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to co-chair the Massachusetts Commission on Financing Forest Conservation in 2010. She played a key role in establishing the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership in 1997, which continues to bring together diverse groups to protect strategic open space. Leigh has consulted on conservation projects in Oregon, New Hampshire, and Georgia. Since 2018, Leigh has served on the national Land Trust Alliance’s 16-member Conservation Defense Advisory Council.

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Sarah Wells

Conservation Director

Sarah oversees Mount Grace's conservation and stewardship programs, and specializes in putting together multi-landowner, multi-partner projects. She is also responsible for providing leadership for the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership and for coordinating the conservation and stewardship staff. Before joining Mount Grace in 2012, Sarah was the MassLIFT-AmeriCorps Regional Conservationist with the Partnership where she was responsible for organizing the multi-partner/multi-landowner Quabbin to Wachusett (Q2W) Forest Legacy Project. Sarah is a wildlife biologist and conservationist with five years of experience working on ecological restoration and land protection projects, and holds a B.S. degree in Natural Resources Studies with a minor in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation from UMass-Amherst. Sarah is a native of Orange, MA and lives at Fox Hill Farm in Orange.

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Rocio Lalanda

Farm Conservation Program Manager

Rocio recently earned a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Science and Policy, focusing her dissertation on land conservation and, specifically, on the motivations of agricultural-land owners to protect their land in perpetuity from non-agricultural forms of development. She was born and raised in Spain, where she completed two master’s degrees in the fields of Sustainability, Corporate Responsibility and Rural Development Project Planning. Her professional background includes positions as management consultant for entrepreneurs in rural areas and director of human resources for a regional environmental nonprofit.

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David Kotker

Major Gifts and Grants Manager

David joined Mount Grace in 2007. He is responsible for managing major gifts fundraising, foundation grants development, and the annual and spring appeals. He has worked in fundraising for nonprofit environmental and conservation groups for over ten years, including four years with Greenpeace and four with the Citizens Awareness Network. He has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College.

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Marielena Lima

Communications and Engagement Coordinator

Marielena is responsible for engaging our members and the general public through events, newsletters and other outreach. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida and was awarded a Posse Foundation scholarship to attend Mount Holyoke College, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. Marielena has experience working in diverse environments with low-income community members, local nonprofits, and state government agencies. When she is not working, you’ll find her trying out new cooking and baking recipes, as well as exploring the various hiking trails New England has to offer with her dogs, Carrot and Bogui.

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James Holcomb

Membership and Administration Coordinator

James recently earned a master's degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability from Antioch University New England. He previously worked in the food systems realm, working with food cooperatives to secure funding to support local farmers and producers. In the warmer months, you can find James hiking, bouldering, or camping and in the winter you will find him on the ski slopes. 

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Liz Wilson

Finance and Administration Manager

Liz is originally from Rehoboth, a small farming town in southeastern Massachusetts. When she wasn’t out fishing with her father, she usually spent her childhood getting lost in the woods with her sisters, riding her bike, or exploring her neighbor’s farms. After graduating with a master’s degree in History from the University of Connecticut, she moved to her husband’s childhood home of Winchendon in 2012 and worked as an operations supervisor in the financial sector prior to joining Mount Grace in 2019. She loves to read, swim, try new restaurants with her friends, and explore local trails and parks with her husband Deric, her one-year old son Isaac, and her dog Stormy.

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2020-2021 TerraCorps Team

Meira Downie

Youth Education Coordinator

Meira Downie was born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts. She is currently majoring in American Studies and Education at Tufts University. Her childhood visits to Warwick made her fall in love with the outdoors and have inspired her to take the year off from school to help children foster a similar gratitude for nature. She is excited to return to live in Warwick this year and do some of her favorite childhood activities like building fairy houses, stealing yummy veggies from her grandmother’s garden, and taking rides on her grandfather’s tractor. Meira cannot wait to see what she will learn and do throughout her year of service as Mount Grace’s Youth Education Coordinator!

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Aaron Nelson

Regional Collaboration Coordinator

Returning to Western MA after attending college in Washington D.C., Aaron is happy to be hiking and skiing around the New England woods he loves. For the past four years he has explored D.C. while earning a B.A. in International Affairs with a concentration in International Environmental Studies at George Washington University. For his degree, he studied the effects of climate change on different communities around the world, and their approaches to adaptation. He is excited to support Mount Grace’s farmland conservation program and help local towns build resilient food systems. In his spare time, Aaron can be found expanding his cooking repertoire, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

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Kate Sutcliffe

Regional Collaboration Coordinator

A Minnesota native, Kate’s passion for land conservation emerged while building hiking trails in the national forests of Utah. After relocating to Massachusetts, she fell in love with the forests and farms of the Commonwealth and is thrilled to be serving at Mount Grace to help protect local lands! Prior to joining Mount Grace, Kate earned her master’s degree in epidemiology at the University of Michigan and spent four years in government consulting. She is an advocate for building connections between health and the environment and using social media responsibly in the wilderness. In her free time, her favorite things to do are hike, read, and roller blade.

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