Heather Jacobs DeckExecutive Director
Heather joined the staff of Sound Rivers in July 2003, and over the years has led our advocacy, volunteer and educational programs. With nearly 20 years of experience, as the Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper and Executive Director, she is a sought-after expert on river environmental issues. She has been appointed to numerous commissions and working groups related to North Carolina’s water policies and management of the watershed, including the state’s Sedimentation Control Commission for six years. Heather has a master’s degree in environmental management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, where her concentration was in water and air resources, with an emphasis on water quality and wetland ecosystems.
Her undergraduate degree from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is in biology with a minor in economics. From 2000 to 2002, Heather served as a Peace Corps volunteer for agro-forestry and environmental education in El Salvador. She resides in Washington with her husband and daughters.
Contact Heather: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew StarrUpper Neuse Riverkeeper
Matthew began his involvement with Sound Rivers in 2012 as a program coordinator leading the foundation’s Neuse River cleanups and the Muddy Water Watch program, aimed at reducing sedimentation pollution. Matthew was named the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper in 2013. As Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, Matthew is Sound Rivers’ primary representative for the Neuse River basin from Lenoir-Wayne County line westward to Falls Lake.
Matthew was the chair of the Stormwater Management Advisory Commission for the City of Raleigh for six years, with the last three as chair of the Commission. During that time, Matthew was instrumental in carrying out many key stormwater initiatives that protect public water infrastructure, the environment and the safety and well-being of Raleigh residents.
He holds a B.S. degree in environmental management from the University of Maryland and is certified in sediment and erosion control from N.C. State University. He spent six years in the U.S. Army and North Carolina National Guard, including a tour of duty in Iraq. Matthew is married with three children, coaches youth soccer and lives just a few miles from Falls Lake.
Contact Matthew: email@example.com
Katy Langley HuntLower Neuse Riverkeeper
Katy joined Sound Rivers as the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper on June 26, 2017, and is based in New Bern. As Lower Neuse Riverkeeper, Katy is Sound Rivers’ primary representative for the Neuse River basin from the Lenoir-Wayne County line eastward to the mouth of the Neuse River.
Katy worked as an Environmental Science Technician for Kleinschmidt Associates in Lexington, South Carolina, for 18 months prior to moving to New Bern in 2016. Katy graduated with a B.S. in Earth and Environmental Science from University of New Orleans in August 2015. She was a Natural Resource Management intern at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, leading citizen science projects that helped educate diverse groups on science and nature, and was a student ambassador for the U.S. Department of the Interior at the University of New Orleans.
Katy lives in New Bern’s historic Riverside neighborhood with her husband, about two blocks from the Neuse River. She has a long-time passion for water and the environment, is a dog lover, an avid kayaker and a U.S. Department of Interior Certified Motorboat Operator.
Contact Katy: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jillian HowellPamlico-Tar Riverkeeper
Jillian grew up in Saugus, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. She received a B.A. in environmental studies and global studies from Colby College in 2012 before returning to Boston to work for an environmental consulting firm, ATC Group Services. She spent five years as a project scientist for ATC, performing site assessments and environmental due diligence, overseeing hazardous material remediation and conducting environmental sampling programs at properties throughout New England.
Jill spent the last two years in New Haven, Connecticut, at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She graduated in May 2019 with a Master of Environmental Management, with her coursework focused on environmental justice. In summer 2018, she interned with the Spokane Riverkeeper, working mostly on salmon-related issues in the upper Columbia River Basin.
Jill has enjoyed leaving behind New England winters, taking on the role of the Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper with Sound Rivers, and exploring the rivers and coast of eastern North Carolina.
Clay BarberEnvironmental Projects Coordinator
Clay joined the Sound Rivers team in August 2019 as our Environmental Projects Coordinator. Having spent most of his life along the rivers and coasts of eastern North Carolina, like much of his family, he developed great respect for the precious wetlands, waterways and estuaries that are the lifeblood of this state. Clay oversees Sound Rivers’ restoration and stormwater programs as well as the Tar-Pamlico Water Trail.
Clay has earned two degrees from East Carolina University: a B.S. in Recreation and Park Management and a M.S. in Sustainable Tourism, and holds a certificate in stormwater management from N.C. State University. During his college years, he helped launch a nonprofit eco-tourism center on the southern end of the Outer Banks called the Hatteras Island Ocean Center. He formed an internship program where students create recreational and educational programs that teach visitors about the natural environments, culture and history of the Outer Banks. During graduate school, he assisted multiple departments with research projects ranging from reports on the importance of public recreation to sustainability, to an economic-impact study of boaters using the North Carolina section of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) for transportation and leisure.
After college, he pursued his passion for outdoor recreation and tourism as a River Guide and Assistant Manager for Knee Deep Adventures, a mobile paddle-sport rental company in Greenville, North Carolina, that specializes in providing safe, memorable paddle experiences to people of all skill levels. He is also a BSA Eagle Scout and credits his love for the outdoors to being engaged with nature and adventure at a young age.
Contact Clay: Clay@soundrivers.org
Corinne Everett BelchDirector of Development
In January 2017, Corinne Everett Belch joined Sound Rivers as our Director of Development. Corinne grew up just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and has a lifelong passion for the environment – her first involvement in politics came at age 7, with a letter to President George H.W. Bush regarding her concerns about the Everglades.
After graduating with a B.A. in Art History from Hollins University in 2006, Corinne started a career in the nonprofit sector in Durham, North Carolina. Most recently she was the Communications and Development Coordinator for Music Maker Relief Foundation. She has 10 years of nonprofit experience, helping organizations grow and meet their goals, and she has enjoyed getting to know Sound Rivers’ wonderful supporters. Corinne enjoys kayaking, cooking and reading. She and her husband, Jeremy, live in New Bern with their three rescue dogs.
Contact Corinne: email@example.com
Vail Stewart RumleyCommunications Director
Vail is the most recent addition to Sound Rivers, joining our team in November 2020 as Sound Rivers’ communications director.
Vail comes to Sound Rivers after a nine-year career as a reporter and editor at the Washington Daily News. Over the years, Vail has written numerous stories about issues affecting our waterways, including our years-long battle with Martin Marietta Materials over the potential destruction of the Blounts Creek ecosystem through the limestone mining process.
Vail’s passion for Sound Rivers’ mission started at a young age when she spent many childhood summers on the Pamlico River at Hawkins Beach with her family. Now she can be seen leading a paddleboard yoga class on the river each week during the summer.
Vail lives in Washington Park with her partner, Liane, and their four rescue dogs, who love the river just as much as they do.
Contact Vail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace Lekson is Sound Rivers’ office administrator. Her history with us started in 1985, when she first became a member of Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, but her love of the river began much earlier, spending childhood swimming, boating and skiing on the Pamlico. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Grace worked in the East Carolina University Central Environmental Lab doing water-quality monitoring of the Pamlico River, South Creek and its tributaries in the early 1980s. Since 1996, Grace has worked on the organizational side of Sound Rivers, doing everything from coordinating volunteers and fundraising to building membership databases and managing the office full-time.
Will ShingletonWater-quality intern
Will is Sound Rivers’ water-quality intern for the Pamlico-Tar watershed. He’s rising senior at East Carolina University, majoring in environmental health with a minor in composite natural science. Will’s academic interests include recreational and potable water quality, on-site wastewater and soil.
For the last two years, Will has worked as a park attendant at River Park North. A Rocky Mount native, Will grew up swimming and waterskiing on the Tar River.
Will is based at Sound Rivers’ Washington office and can be reached at email@example.com.
Leah TilsonWater-quality intern
Leah is Sound Rivers’ water-quality intern for the Upper Neuse and Upper Tar-Pamlico region. She’s a rising senior at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she is majoring in English with a double minor in Environmental Science and Public Policy. Originally from Robeson County, she’s a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Leah now lives in Fayetteville, a few miles from the Cape Fear River, and enjoys hiking, painting and writing stories in her free time.
She hopes to pursue a future in environmental law, and is especially excited to learn more about riverkeeping and environmental nonprofit work in North Carolina.
Leah will be working out of Sound Rivers’ Raleigh office and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nathalie Uriarte-AyalaWater-quality intern
Nathalie Uriarte-Ayala is Sound Rivers’ Lower Neuse River intern for the summer. A rising junior at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Science with a minor in GIS, Nathalie said she’s excited to learn more about water quality and the variety of projects involved in its study. Nathalie is a native eastern North Carolinian, born in Kinston and grew up in Pink Hill.
Nathalie is working out of our New Bern office and can be reached at email@example.com.
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