The GNA Staff

In 1971, West Chester University established the Gordon Natural Area.  But, for the next thirty-five years there were no staff positions assigned to the Gordon, although the Grounds Department took responsibility for keeping the road and trails cleared of downed trees.  In 2007, the University appointed Dr. Gerry Hertel as the first Stewardship Manager (a half-time position).  Gerry continued in this capacity until his retirement in 2014.  At that point, long-time GNA intern Kendra McMillin was appointed as Interim Stewardship Manager.  Subsequently, in 2016 Dr. Nur Ritter became the new Stewardship Manager.  In 2017, this position became full-time.

From 2007 onwards, numerous WCU students have been employed as Student Interns at the GNA and have contributed tremendously to the work at the Gordon.  Below, are brief biographies of the current staff and interns.  We're hoping to add data from former staff and interns, so please check back as we continue to update it.

Current Staff

Nur Ritter

 

Nur Ritter hunting for Ents in the Gordon

About Nur

Nur Ritter became the second Stewardship Manager of the GNA in January 2016.   Nur received a B.S. in Botany from the University of New Hampshire in 1993 and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of New Hampshire in 2000. His doctoral research entailed a country-wide survey of aquatic vegetation and habitats in Bolivia, and focused on evaluating plant species diversity and phytogeographic relationships in a wide range of wetland types. 

Before attending university, he worked for 20+ years as a carpenter and contractor.  After earning his degrees, he worked as a restoration practitioner for the CSU Stanislaus, Endangered Species Recovery Program (ESRP) for seven years.  During this time, he participated in all aspects of the design and implementation of a large-scale habitat restoration study on retired agricultural land in the San Joaquin Valley (California).  Subsequently, he returned to New Hampshire where he was employed as a Restoration Ecologist by the New Hampshire chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  Nur has also worked as a Contract Botanist and as a self-employed Database Developer.

The Thing(s) I Like Most About the Gordon

  • One of the things that I really love about the Gordon is that, despite being a forest fragment in a highly developed area, the forest has been able to persist for at least a couple hundred of years.  Looking at aerial imagery from the 1930s, it's obvious just how isolated the forest has been.  Yet, despite this isolation, and a seemingly endless incursion of invasive plants from the surrounding landscape, the Gordon continues to be home to in impressive number of species.  So, I guess that part of what I really love about the Gordon is the diversity of organisms.  During the past couple of years, I've been 'bewitched' by the fungi and myxomycetes (slime molds) at the GNA, but really, I'm still excited by many of the species that I encounter there (including some of the invasives).
  • Another thing that I love about the Gordon is that it exists as a protected area primarily through the efforts of two undergraduate students back in the late 1960s and early 70s (see the GNA History).  It's amazing to me that local activism could have such a profound and long-lasting effect.

Paige Vermeulen

 

GNA Intern Paige Vermeulen in a meadow

About Paige

Paige is a WCU senior, double-majoring in geoscience and ecology. She has been an intern at the Gordon since February 2018. While she has been at WCU, she has also had experience as the president of the on-campus E.A.R.T.H Club, and as an intern for the local environmental group Don’t Spray Me.  After graduating, Paige hopes to work as a natural park geobiologist while remaining active in the sustainability community.

The Thing(s) I Like Most About the Gordon

  • Learning new fungi
  • Flipping over logs to find salamanders, slugs, and other slimy creatures
  • Befriending the regular patrons of the Gordon, especially the dogs
  • Learning how to practice forest stewardship, including managing erosion and invasive species

Noah Long

 

GNA Intern Noah Long standing on an 'erosion break' that he just installed

About Noah

Noah is a Junior Biology Major concentrating in Ecology and Conservation with a minor in Geography and Planning. He began working at the Gordon in the summer of 2019. In addition to interning here at the GNA, Noah works at the Learning Assistance and Resource Center (LARC) as a BIO 100 and MAT Q20 tutor and plays Lead Trumpet in the WCU Incomparable Golden Rams Marching Band. Noah enjoys reading and taking care of his ferns during his free moments. When Noah graduates, he hopes his experiences at the GNA will prepare him for a career in restoration ecology.

The Thing(s) I Like Most About the Gordon

  • Finding Eastern Box Turtles and giving them names
  • Finding new fungi and learning their names
  • Learning how to improve habitats and plant trees
  • Being surrounded by ferns

Rachael Resuta

 

 Rachel Resuta examining logs that had been inoculated with fungal spawn (Oyster mushrooms)

About Rachael

Rachael is currently a junior studying ecology and conservation biology. She began work at the GNA in the spring of 2020. She also spends time volunteering at Bowman’s Hill, a native plant nursery, and caring for her own dozens of plants. She is excited to continue work at the GNA, gaining knowledge about forest restoration and management to prepare her for a future career in the field of conservation biology.

The Thing(s) I Like Most About the Gordon

  • Working around others that care a lot about environmental protection

  • Learning about the plants and fungi growing in the GNA

 Former Staff

Maribeth Beatty

 

GNA Intern Maribeth Beatty checking out some Dryad's Saddle fungus  (Cerioporus squamosus)Maribeth's fungi-themed hand lens

About Maribeth

Maribeth Beatty first worked at the Gordon as a volunteer on Arbor Day/Earth Day 2017.  She became a Student Intern in February of 2018 and continued working at the GNA through the Spring of 2020.  At that time, Maribeth obtained her B.S. in Biology with a focus on ecology and conservation biology.

Maribeth will always strive to be a well-rounded naturalist, but has dreams of specifically working with and/or studying trees in the future.  During her college career, Maribeth also spent time interning at Tyler Arboretum (Summer 2018), and with WCU Professor Jen Chandler surveying rare plants in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and researching the Spotted Lanternfly in Pennsylvania (Summer 2019).

The Thing(s) I Like Most About the Gordon

  • Every time I work, I learn something new about nature
  • Tamping dirt
  • Giving names to fungi that have no known common names (e.g., Flagstone Slime Mold)
  • Leading tours and teaching others about the natural world
  • Spring ephemerals!
  • Pondering the mysteries of nature with snacky cakes in hand
  • CoCo, CoOc, OcOc, RatCo, MyCo Scott... I’m forgetting a few I’m sure

Ariana Rivellini

 

GNA Intern Ariana Rivellini posing with some Golden Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus citrinopileatus)

 

About Ariana

Ariana was a Student Intern at the Gordon Natural from the summer of 2019 through December of that year, at which time she graduated with a B.S. in Biology, with a concentration in ecology and conservation.  She is hoping that her experience working in the GNA will better prepare her for a career in conservation or park services.  In her free time, Ariana can be found trotting around the GNA and other local parks, or going on rock climbing trips to various places along the east coast.  

In addition to the many tasks that Ariana took on at the Gordon, she also achieved lasting fame for portraying (and creating the costume for) the fearsome Giant Spotted Lanternfly (see video below).

The Thing(s) I Like Most About the Gordon

  • Finding flatworms (Bipalium spp.)
  • Photographing flatworms
  • Taking videos of flatworms
  • Poking flatworms
  • 'Dog's Nose Fungus' (Camarops petersii)

 

Ariana on the front of a golf cart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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