Georgia River Network Staff
Send a staff member an email.
April Ingle, Executive Director -
Chris Manganiello, Policy Director -
Gwyneth Moody, Community Programs Coordinator -
Jesslyn Shields, Watershed Support Coordinator -
Dana Skelton, Director of Administration & Outreach -
Debra Tate, Administrative Assistant -
Davin Welter, Development Director -
Read our biographies below.
April Ingle, Executive Director
I joined Georgia River Network (GRN) as the Executive Director in June, 2003, and it’s fun to think back on how quickly time has passed and how far we’ve come in that time.
I am originally from Indiana, where I grew up loving summer camping trips, swimming, riding my bike, and later paddling, and at a very early age came to know myself as an environmental advocate – starting with convincing my family to start recycling our trash in the early '90s. When it came time to choose a college and a major, I knew without question that I wanted to major in Environmental Science and Natural Resources at Purdue University (I applied only to Purdue and never changed my major), and I’m still amazed to this day that my 17-year-old self had it so right. My passion for environmental protection continued to gel throughout college as I learned about things like ecology, environmental laws, horror stories of environmental destruction, and innovative solutions to our biggest environmental problems. I also received my first training in being an environmental activist as an active member of our campus environmental group where I got involved in protests, campus education and outreach, and worked with the University to improve its recycling programs.
Right out of college I worked as an environmental educator at outdoor schools in Connecticut and Maine, where I got paid to spend my days with kids in forests, wetlands, salt marshes and tide pools, and then finally landed a job as the first coordinator for the St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. There, I worked with farmers and Soil and Water Conservation Districts to get more water-friendly farming practices into use. That job led me to a Public Relations Specialist job with the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and later I was promoted to Executive Director of the Association, where I stayed until I decided to make a change and move to Athens and to the Georgia River Network.
At GRN, I work with our Board of Directors and staff to develop and oversee our programs, projects, administration and fundraising so we can meet our mission to protect and restore Georgia’s rivers. I also manage our Advocate Program and coordinate our efforts to gain strong protections for Georgia’s rivers. I serve on the Leadership Team and chair the Communications Committee of the Georgia Water Coalition, a coalition of 180+ environmental and sportsmen's organizations, homeowners' and neighborhood associations, faith-based groups and businesses who share the common goal of protecting and caring for Georgia’s water resources for current and future generations. I monitor and lobby the state legislature and participate and comment on policy-making decisions within various state and federal agencies. The biggest bonus of my job: the scouting trips Joe Cook and I take to plan out each year’s Paddle Georgia adventure – I have had the opportunity to paddle over 600 miles of 6 different Georgia Rivers on these scouting trips alone, and camp on some fantastic sandbars.
When I’m not working, I enjoy cooking and baking, hiking and camping, running, hula-hooping, knitting, and most of all spending time with my friends, family, 2 cats and dog. And – I love to paddle, and am lucky to have spent time on most of Georgia’s rivers and plenty of others in different states, including a week in the Boundary Waters in 2008
Chris Manganiello - Policy Director
I am the GRN Policy Director, and my job is to serve as a voice for people who believe in maintaining high water quality standards, smart water supply solutions, and healthy rivers. I work to engage and empower citizens, river groups, and other partners in promoting local, state and federal river protections. My path to GRN has been defined by my personal, non-profit, and academic experiences.
As a middle-schooler, my sixteen year old neighbor’s freshly laminated drivers’ license was my ticket to the river. From suburban Maryland parking lots, we crossed footbridges spanning the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park – a transportation artery dreamed-up by President George Washington and completed in 1850 – to reach a recreational paradise on public land in the heart of a major metropolitan region.
I love many things about the Potomac’s waterscape. Young explorers could always find animal tracks in the mud, rocks to boulder-hop, and river pollution to dodge. The rapids – particularly during flood stages – can drown out jumbo jets preparing to land at National Airport. You know spring has arrived when the shad fishermen line up across the river. As a young adult I clambered over vertical rock slabs as whitewater boaters shot through Great Falls. But the Potomac’s human and environmental characteristics were not alone in influencing my life.
I graduated from Eckerd College – wedged between Tampa Bay and Gulf of Mexico – with a B.A. in history and political science. Then I moved to the French Broad (Tennessee River) watershed in western North Carolina where I worked for multiple experiential education organizations and non-profits. For about four years, I spent as many months guiding adventure trips as I did teaching basic stream and forest ecology to students in Pisgah National Forest, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and DuPont State Forest.
My travels, teaching, and conversations with others have informed my understanding of our region’s complex human and natural past. These experiences inspired me to enter graduate school to study environmental history at Western Carolina University (Tuckaseege River valley) and the University of Georgia (Altamaha). My research has interpreted the policy implications of endangered species management in peopled landscapes as well as how a “green-conservative” coalition fought the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1970s. But it was the crystal clear waters and artificial reservoirs I encountered in the southern Appalachians that led me to study water management in the American South. I am currently working on a book about the region’s water history, tentatively titled Southern Water, Southern Power.
Today, I live within a stones-throw of the North Oconee River in Athens where I can walk the Greenway with my wife and our dog. I enjoy mountain biking at Georgia’s state parks and backpacking in Georgia’s national forests. But my introduction to adventure, wonder and public resources all started in the Potomac River’s watershed which I continue to remember for its urban character, swirling currents and inherent wildness.
Gwyneth Moody - Community Programs Coordinator
Born and raised in Athens, Georgia, I have always been passionate about the outdoors whether hiking,bicycling, birding, camping, horseback riding, or scuba diving, however I have a special place in my heart for paddling down a river. I received my first kayak with a wooden paddle wrapped in a blue ribbon at the age of 6 and have been a river rat ever since. With my father owning the Broad River Outpost, a canoe and kayak business, I spent many a vacation growing up paddling and camping along Georgia rivers, which in turn gave a me strong sense of admiration, respect, and sense of responsibility towards these ecosystems that we depend so much upon.
Although Georgia is where my heart will always remain, my B.A. degrees in Geography and Anthropology from the University of Georgia with certificates in Global Studies and Environmental Ethics peeked my curiosity about other cultures and landscapes and sent me on adventures to over 30 countries around the world. It was through these travel explorations both at home and abroad that I came to realize that a career that focused on environmental education and outreach by spreading knowledge and enthusiasm about the importance of our natural resources was and still is where I feel I have the greatest strengths and can be the most instrumental in making the largest contribution.
And so I set out to accomplish these goals, first through earning a Master’s degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development from the University of Georgia and then becoming more familiar with the state of Georgia through a Naturalist position for Sea Island Company on the Georgia coast and subsequently as the Ecology Manager for North Georgia Canopy Tours, a zip line company in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. These experiences gave me a greater appreciation for and understanding of the awe-inspiring natural diversity of the beautiful state of Georgia. I am now the Community Programs Coordinator for the Georgia River Network and can enthusiastically say – here I am, where my heart and soul belongs, promoting the health of rivers from mountain to sea!
I also have a creative side that has always been encouraged by my mother, a local glass artist with Blue Heron Glass Art, which has led to my love of arts and crafts, and Afro-Haitian and aerial (silks) dancing. I am also a Salsa dance instructor with SALSAthens.
Jesslyn Shields - Watershed Support Coordinator
I grew up mainly in Rome and Athens, Georgia and graduated from Prescott College in 2000 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Creative Writing. I learned to kayak during college thanks to a wonderful nonprofit field school called Wild Rockies Field Institute (WRFI), and through their courses, I was lucky to paddle some amazing rivers all over the western United States, Alaska and Canada.
After college, I accidentally learned some things. While teaching creative writing and plant identification for WRFI, I accidentally learned a lot about what it takes to run a nonprofit organization. I also spent a few years working as a field assistant in a stream ecology lab at the University of Georgia, where I accidentally learned to love the back roads and hidden streams of my home state. Eventually, I went back to school for my Master’s in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. In 2006, armed with an advanced degree, a thorough appreciation for the subtropical climate of home, and a bunch of good tips for how to run an environmental nonprofit, I started working at Georgia River Network. As Watershed Support Coordinator, I now work alongside Georgia’s river advocates to figure out the best way of building and maintaining effective and sustainable river protection groups. I also plan our annual Weekend for Rivers event, manage volunteers for Paddle Georgia and write most of the copy for this website.
When I’m not at work, I spend a lot of time being entertained my husband Bryan (who is a founding member of the Georgia River Survey) and three-year-old daughter Odessa (who likes puddles). I also love yoga, writing things for fun, reading, going on leisurely walks in the woods, laughing, and floating down a river.
Dana Skelton - Director of Administration & Outreach
I have been the Director of Administration and Outreach for Georgia River Network since 2002. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of rivers. We lived on the Susquehanna and my family often made excursions in a heavy, powder-blue canoe. It was me, my mom, dad, brother and our St. Bernard, Max. Staying upright in a canoe with a large dog standing in the boat was my first lesson in balance – in a physical sense. When we weren’t using the canoe, it was tied to the tree next to our rope swing. Hugger, the cat, would jump in when it drifted close to shore and bask in the sun like cats do. I would sit and watch cat and canoe sway with the currents. The river consumed this house twice in the early 70’s when the hurricanes came and the river rose way out of the banks. My brother and I made a jungle gym out of the stacks of furniture that made it out of the house in time. The table in my dining room bears scars from the water damage from 40 years ago.
Growing up in Roswell, I played in the streams and rivers close to home, watching them slowly become less accessible as development consumed the area. I got involved in river work as a volunteer after seeing Joe Cook’s inspirational slide show on his trip down the Chattahoochee River at an Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper event. The next week I started as a volunteer for Riverkeeper. I eventually left my job in the Zoo Atlanta Wildlife Show Theatre and became Director of Education and Monitoring for UCR. I also became involved with Georgia Adopt-A-Stream and Rivers Alive. I later served as the coordinator of the Georgia Stream Buffer Initiative and volunteer president of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, learning the ins and outs of a small volunteer organization. I feel lucky to have meandered down this career path.
When I graduated from Clemson University with a B.A. in Spanish and International Trade and a Masters in Parks, Recreation and Tourism, I knew two things for sure - I liked the outdoors and I didn’t want to get stuck in a job where I had to sell anyone anything they didn’t need. Things have a way of working out. I enjoy handling the accounting and databases for Georgia River Network, and many of you know me from learning about GRN’s Water Trails Project or from Paddle Georgia. Paddle GA participants, please don’t fret that you don’t see me on the river each day. My first love is hiking. Or is it dancing with Canopy Studio Aerial Arts Repertory Company? Or is it playing with my cats, cooking, reading and knitting? I am a daily practitioner of balance as I manage a full time job, indulge my many hobbies, and try to lavish enough attention on a husband and two relentless cats.
Debra Tate - Administrative Assistant
I grew up on a forty-acre farm just outside of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Blue Ridge is in Fannin County where over 40 percent is national forest land. Surrounded by The Cohuttas and The Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as several waterways, I naturally grew to love the outdoors. Much of my family owned property along the Hemptown, Rock, Star and Hot House Creeks while growing up. Therefore, there was never a shortage of water to play in or fish from! Some of my best childhood memories are of rafting down the Ocoee River and camping on Lake Blue Ridge, Toccoa River, and Coopers Creek.
After earning a B.S. in Psychology from The University of Georgia, I traveled and hiked extensively throughout the US and the Dominican Republic before settling in Durango, Colorado where I worked as a hiking guide for Colorado Trails Ranch. I later returned to Georgia to live closer to family and work as a Case Manager at TenderCare Clinic, a non-profit community healthcare center. While employed at TenderCare Clinic, I developed a skill and passion for helping others create better systems by which to work more efficiently. After a few years, I moved on to work as an independent professional organizer providing organizing services to small businesses and private individuals throughout the Lake Oconee and Athens areas. I also became a long-time volunteer of Georgia Nature Center around that same time.
In 2007, I was hired by Smart Business Services to provide organizing services to its clients while also serving as its administrative assistant. During my employment there, I lead a successful green initiative to go paperless throughout the company and assisted many companies with their needs. Incidentally, I also gained a wealth of knowledge in payroll services, eventually becoming a payroll specialist at the firm. After working at Smart Business Services for almost four years, I decided to return to my love of non-profit work while maintaining my love for organizing. I knew I wanted to work for an organization where I would be able to contribute toward something bigger than myself in an area I was passionate. Hence, I am now the administrative assistant for Georgia River Network! The outdoors has been a loyal friend of mine over the years, and I am so pleased to be part of a network of people who work so diligently to preserve and protect this vital and wonderful thing called water. When I’m not working, I enjoy cooking with my husband, hiking with our dog, having coffee with a friend, running, or making jewelry.
Davin Welter - Development Director
I grew up in Augusta, Georgia and spent many a day as a child playing in Rae’s Creek near our home. On several occasions, I watched raw sewage spill into the creek from a sewer line that ran parallel. This was probably the beginning of my desire to protect our waterways. Alongside that experience, I spent a lot of time on the family farm in Statesboro, Georgia during the summers and holidays. My grandmother had a small lot on the Ogeechee River where my father and I would fish and the family would gather to celebrate special occasions. The wildness and beauty of the Ogeechee which brought so much peace as well as adventure also fueled my passion to preserve our rivers.
After graduation from Furman University with a degree in Political Science, I went to Washington, DC to work for the United States Supreme Court and for Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA). I continued my career after leaving DC working in higher education fundraising for the Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Southern University, Furman University, and the University of Georgia. I also spent about five years as the Station Manager of WUGA, 91.7 and 97.9 FM in Athens.
I reconnected with my love of rivers as an adult while working at Georgia Southern University. We started with a group that included a former Marine, a former candidate for Congress, and an associate alumni director for Georgia Southern. Our first canoe trip as a bunch of greenhorns was down the Ogeechee. The water was high and the weather was cold during the dead of winter. This motley crew grew a little or maybe ebbed and flowed and our activities changed through the years but we have covered a number of rivers including the Ohoopee, the Altamaha, the Oconee, the Flint, the Chattahoochee, and the Edisto in SC. It has long been a desire of this group to paddle the entire Ogeechee and to paddle all the rivers in Georgia.
Service to community and others is something that is important to me. Currently, I serve as the Treasurer of the Oconee River Land Trust and as a deacon at Milledge Avenue Baptist Church. I am actively involved with Leadership Georgia and was a member of the 2006 class. I have also served as the President of the Foundation for Excellence in Public Education in Clarke County and of the Kiwanis Club of Athens. I was on the board of Georgia Options in Community Living and the Furman University Alumni Association Board of Directors and was a member of the 2000 class of Leadership Athens. I also participated in a Rotary Group Study Exchange Program to Switzerland and have traveled to Haiti with Bethlehem Ministries.
At GRN, I am responsible for raising the funds necessary to continue our day to day mission and maybe more importantly, to find the resources to realize our vision of an informed and inspired public that not only recognizes the importance of protecting our rivers but also actively engages in some type of activity on our waterways. I believe strongly that fundraising is not twisting someone’s arm to simply write a check, instead it is to encourage those who have a passion for rivers in the state of Georgia to find a way to support that desire.