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
john@catawbariverkeeper.org

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 Foundation.

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 (14) and Josie (11). 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, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Catawba-Wateree Relicensing Coalition.


Brandon Jones

Catawba RIVERKEEPER®
brandon@catawbariverkeeper.org

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.


Claire Atkins-Davis

Watershed Resilience Manager

As Watershed Resilience Manager, Claire works to advance the mission of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation through landscape-scale riverine habitat monitoring and restoration in order to enhance resilience throughout the watershed.

In this role, Claire works in collaboration with local, regional, and national partners to advocate for both state and federal action that will monitor and restore critical habitat throughout the basin protecting people, wildlife, and the resiliency of our water. Claire writes and oversees grants related to habitat enhancement, stream and shoreline restoration, and water quality improvement programs in the Catawba-Wateree river basin. She works closely with other Riverkeeper program staff, grant and coalition partners, local municipalities, landowners, educational institutions, restoration companies, public policy representatives, geospatial analysts, and hydrological experts to achieve the desired outcomes of approved projects. In addition, Claire is responsible for the operation and management of the organization’s popular Swim Guide Program every summer.

Claire graduated with her Master’s in Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, which allowed her to pursue technical, political and ecological components for effective natural resource management. During the pursuit of her graduate degree in Coastal Environmental Management, Claire also received a certificate in Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

She previously attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish.

Claire began her career at Catawba Riverkeeper in 2020 as Technical Manager and GIS Specialist before transitioning into her current role in January 2021. In her spare time Claire loves enjoying the outdoors hiking, biking, kayaking, camping and going to concerts. Claire was born on Earth Day and has always felt a responsibility to protect the environment and restoring critical ecosystem services.


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. Her love for the River and desire to protect it comes from spending time at her grandparents’ home on Lake Wylie.


Haley Tedder

Southern Basin Director

As Southern Basin Director, Haley manages the programs and activities of Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in the Southern Basin (downstream of Lake Wylie in SC). Haley helps connect new and old friends of the River to more on-the-water outdoor experiences.

Before CRF, she was an educator for UNCW’s MarineQuest and Fort Caswell Environmental Stewardship programs. She also worked as an Environmental Specialist for Duke Energy. Haley is passionate about educating the local community and preserving local water quality.

Haley is a Charlotte native who earned a B.S. in Environmental Science with a minor in chemistry at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.


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 Coordinator, Resilience Corps NC Member*

As a Resilience Corps NC Member, Morgan serves as our Education Coordinator. 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.

*Resilience Corps NC is a partnership between the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the NC Commission on Volunteerism through a grant provided for by the federal agency AmeriCorps.


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 CRF volunteer and supporter for almost 20 years, including three terms on CRF’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.


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.


Shannon Bognovitz

Administrative Assistant

As Administrative Assistant at the Catawba Riverkeeper, Shannon provides support in the areas of development and marketing, as well as financials.  She assists with our donor database, revenue tracking and membership. 

Shannon is originally from Maryland and graduated from the University of Maryland with a BS in Family Studies.  She has called Charlotte home since 2000 and currently lives in Belmont.  Shortly after moving to NC, Shannon pursued her Montessori teacher training for ages 6 – 12 and worked as a Montessori teacher in both the private and public sectors.  She always wanted to get her students outside to participate in gardening, composting, creek clean-ups and nature walks.  She worked to get her school recognized as a Certified Schoolyard Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.  This not only provided the elements of sustainable habitats for wildlife, but also served as an outdoor learning environment.

As moms to twin two-year-old boys, Shannon and her wife have enjoyed creating a fun, Montessori-inspired outdoor play space and garden in their yard.   They love visiting local parks and walking on the Carolina Thread Trail. 


Deb Nahikian

Youth Kayaking Programs

Deb is a former 8th grade science teacher with 14 years of experience in the classroom. Prior to being a teacher, Deb was a forester who worked in private industry and with forest landowners on forest land management. She has 8 years experience working with Mecklenburg Park and Recreation with their summer environmental camps. She has a passion for the outdoors and the water and enjoys every opportunity to be on the water sharing this passion.