The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is led by a dedicated group of full time staff, part time staff, volunteer board members, and community volunteers. We’re proud to call these people family and appreciate the efforts they put in on a daily basis to preserve and protect the Catawba-Wateree River Basin.

John Searby

Executive Director

As Executive Director, John is responsible for the overall leadership of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and serves as its primary fundraiser, visionary, and relationship developer. John brings a diverse background in coaching, athletic administration, fundraising, design, marketing, sponsorship planning, and sales management to the Catawba Riverkeeper. He leverages these experiences to build an organization that uses engagement with the water to fund protection of the water.

John grew up in Central Illinois where his passion for the outdoors began while bird hunting with his grandfather. John attended Milligan College in Johnson City, TN, where he was a 3-year starter and captain of the basketball team. John fell in love with the mountains of East Tennessee while earning a Bachelor’s Degree in History and English from Milligan College and a Master’s Degree in English from Tennessee Tech University. After college, John embarked on a ten-year basketball coaching journey at Gardner-Webb University, Tennessee Tech University, Lincoln Christian University, and Auburn University before working in athletic administration at Bradley University. Following his time in athletics, John worked in the business world for XOS Digital, Downstream Design, and Adams Outdoor Advertising.

John currently resides on Lake Wylie in Belmont, NC with his wife, Jessi, and two children, Jack (15) and Josie (12). During his free time, he enjoys all things outdoors – kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, camping, bird hunting, and fishing as well as consuming as much American History as possible. John also serves the Charlotte region and Catawba-Wateree River Basin as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Carolina Raptor Center, a member of the Board of Directors of the Catawba-Wateree Relicensing Coalition, a member of the Gaston County Travel & Tourism Board of Advisors, and as a leader on the South Fork River Health Committee.

Brandon Jones


Protecting the Catawba-Wateree River basin is more than a job to Catawba Riverkeeper Brandon Jones. As Riverkeeper, he focuses on threats to clean water, including monitoring and addressing coal ash issues and permitted pollution discharges, stormwater runoff, concentrated animal feeding operations, and preventing waterborne diseases.

Jones is pursuing his master’s degree in Earth Science at UNC Charlotte; his studies focus on hydrology, specifically water chemistry. He previously attended UNC Chapel Hill and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a minor in Environmental Science. That’s where he found his calling in environmental protection. “I took an environmental law course as an undergraduate at Chapel Hill, which was my first introduction to environmental protection. After that class I knew I wanted to work protecting water.”

Jones joined the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in 2017 as its director of technical programs before being promoted to Riverkeeper in November 2018. As Riverkeeper, Brandon is CRF’s chief scientist and advocate and is responsible for coordinating the organization’s testing, sampling, research, and legislative initiatives. He is also the primary contact for all citizen concerns. Jones is a Gaston County native who’s committed to the environment both inside and outside the office. He spends his free time on the water as an avid whitewater paddler and river guide, and on the trails playing disc golf.

Diana Daniels

Director of Development and Marketing

Diana works to raise funds and awareness for the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.

She focuses her fundraising efforts on major gifts from private individuals, corporations, and foundations and leads the organization’s membership program. She also leads the organization’s marketing efforts which includes websites, newsletters, social media, and events.  

Diana began working at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in 2012 after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her B.S. in Business Administration from Kenan-Flagler Business School where she concentrated in Marketing. 

Diana is a native of Charlotte where she lives with her husband. Her love for the River and desire to protect it comes from spending time at her grandparents’ home on Lake Wylie.

Vanessa Covington

Program Director

As the Program Director, Vanessa is responsible for leading the community facing programs for the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation including recreation and volunteer programs, education, and retail. Vanessa has over 15 years in outdoor recreation community engagement and environmental conservation. Before Catawba Riverkeeper, she was with Carolina Thread Trail and Catawba Lands Conservancy as the Engagement and Volunteer Manager and before that the Charlotte Market Outreach Specialist for REI and Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

Vanessa graduated from Bradley University with a degree in communications. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and two young children and enjoys kayaking, hiking, camping and hopes to rock climb again with her children as they get older.

Grant Buckner

Northern Basin Coordinator

As the Northern Basin Coordinator, Grant works to advance the goals of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation. He collaborates with Lake James Environmental Association and a variety of stakeholders to develop a watershed management plan for the Northern Basin of the Catawba River. Additionally, he helps the Catawba Riverkeeper coordinate and implement current projects, such as the Swim Guide Program.

Grant is a native of Western North Carolina. He received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and his Masters of Science in Biology at the Appalachian State University. For his master’s thesis, he focused on biomonitoring using aquatic insects in Central America. Before joining the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Grant worked as an Adjunct Lab Instructor in the Biology Department at Appalachian State University. Grant’s passion for protecting rivers stems from fly fishing while growing up in Western North Carolina. In his free time, Grant enjoys birding, wildlife photography, and fly fishing.

Morgan Long

Education Manager

In this role, Morgan refines and advances our environmental education programming for people of all ages to learn more about the Catawba River Basin and the ecosystems it encompasses. She also works to develop new educational programming to serve all areas of the basin.

A Charlotte native that was raised just across the river, in Mount Holly, Morgan earned a B.S. in Earth and Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has worked throughout New England as an Environmental Educator with the nonprofit Nature’s Classroom. From Maine to Connecticut she has taught in a variety of ecosystems. She is happy to be back to her roots here, in North Carolina, with opportunities to explore and teach in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin. Morgan is currently working to complete her North Carolina Environmental Educator (NCEE) Certification.

In her free time she enjoys hiking, camping, and crafting throughout the state. While her hobbies are continuously growing she’s always more than happy to strike up conversations on wildlife and mushroom hunting within the Basin.

Greg Nance

Engagement Manager

As Engagement Manager, Greg is responsible for many of the activities that connect the general public with the work of Catawba Riverkeeper and its mission. Greg oversees and manages the organization’s kayak rental operationsecotours, paddling instruction program, and other on-the-water activities. Greg also works closely with the Education Coordinator to provide on-the-water activities for educational programs. Additionally, Greg is responsible for management of Catawba Riverkeeper’s clean-up programs including leading the annual basin-wide Riversweep, coordinating tactical and corporate clean-ups, and leading the Litter Gitter crew.

Greg grew up in Asheboro, NC close to the Uwharrie River where he developed his passion for the water. He moved to the Charlotte area in 2008 to pursue a career in the whitewater industry. He now has over a decade of experience working on and exploring rivers and creeks in the southeastern United States and as far west as the Grand Canyon.

Over the years, Greg has participated and organized river cleanups in various basins. He started with the Catawba Riverkeeper as a volunteer and eventually became an Ambassador, Water Watcher, and then employee of the Litter Gitter project. In 2020, Greg took over leadership of the Litter Gitter program and was promoted to Engagement Manager in 2021. When he is not working Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and son in the outdoors and planning his next big adventure.

Morgan Oestereich

Citizen Science Coordinator

As Citizen Science Coordinator, Morgan facilitates engagement in Catawba Riverkeeper’s public data collection and amateur science projects.

Morgan grew up in Apex, NC. As a child, trips to Jordan Lake and to the North Carolina Zoo led her to develop a passion for environmental protection. Morgan graduated from Davidson College in 2021 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Studio Art.  Morgan is working with the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation through the Davidson Impact Fellows program, which connects recent Davidson graduates with organizations that “address critical social needs in health, education, and the environment.

Haley Michelle Brown

Marketing and Events Coordinator

As the Marketing and Events Coordinator, Haley Michelle works to tell the story of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation through digital content creation, print materials, and organizing special events. 

Haley graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte earning her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications – Public Relations and minors in both journalism and psychology. 

Growing up, she participated in both competitive cheer and gymnastics. When Haley was not at practice she could be found outdoors or enjoying trips to the North Carolina Zoo with her family.  After college, Haley continues to live in Charlotte, NC. She enjoys dancing, swimming, paddleboarding, surfing and spending her weekends with family and friends.

Michael Lindsey

Major Gifts Director

As Major Gifts Director, Michael works closely with families, individuals, and foundations who are interested in financially supporting the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.

Michael has lived on Lake Norman for 30 years and is an avid paddler.  He became an environmentalist at the age of 12 when he helped organize his hometown’s first recycling event.  Fast forward a few years and Michael has now been a Catawba Riverkeeper volunteer and supporter for almost 20 years, including three terms on Catawba Riverkeeper’s Board.

After finishing a successful career in technology sales and marketing, Michael has joined the CRF team to lead the major gifts program.  Michael believes education will be critical to developing strong and sustained protection for the Catawba River and looks forward to adding his passion for education and the river to CRF’s development and growth as CRF heads towards its 25th anniversary in 2023.

Jenny Hackett

Administrative Assistant

As Administrative Assistant Jenny works with our donor database, financials, revenue tracking and membership. 

Jenny was born in Cleveland County NC but calls Gaston County home. She graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing and a minor in Business Management. Her professional background is in banking and finance. Jenny grew up playing sports and has coached soccer for several local soccer teams and was a former Recreation Director for Gaston United Soccer Club. 

Jenny enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and four children hiking, camping, kayaking and exploring. She is excited to be part of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation team to help protect our local resources for generations to come. She enjoys helping spread the word about how others can get involved in education, preservation and protection of our local waterways.  

Tim Bettencourt

Retail Coordinator

Tim began his outdoor career in 2005 working in the ski and mountain bike industry in Denver and Telluride, Colorado. He relocated to Charlotte and worked as a land sports supervisor at the US National Whitewater Center for three years. Next, as head brewer for Holy City Brewing in Charleston, South Carolina, he learned about the water needs and usage for a large production brewery. Most recently, he helped run a 60-acre farm in Bend, Oregon.  While running drip irrigation and learning about sustainable watering practices, he was part of a team working to minimize water needs from Central Oregon Irrigation District canals and divert water from the Deschutes River. He is excited to be back in Charlotte and to be a part of the Catawba Riverkeeper team.