Who We Are

Linda Rohleder, PhD. – Director, President

Dr. Linda Rohleder recently ended a position as Director of Land Stewardship at the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference where she built the Trail Conference’s Invasives Strike Force volunteer program starting in 2011. By 2021, the program had trained over 400 invasives-mapping volunteers who collectively surveyed more than 1,500 miles of hiking trails for invasive plants. She organized more than 100 invasives-removal workdays and ran a seasonal conservation corps crew for seven years to remove invasive plants in parks across southern New York and northern New Jersey. Dr. Rohleder was also the founding coordinator of the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) in New York leading it for almost ten years. She grew the partnership to over 50 organizations and agencies, and led the development and implementation of regional strategy for invasive species management in the Lower Hudson. In addition, Dr. Rohleder led a volunteer group to create and maintain the Trail Conference’s native plant gardens from 2016 through 2021 and conduct restoration projects at sites on New York and New Jersey state park lands.

In 2013, Dr. Rohleder received her PhD in Ecology from Rutgers University, where she studied the effects of deer on forest understories. While attending graduate school she worked as a park ranger in Monmouth County, NJ, and taught beginning Biology labs at Rutgers and Wetland Plant ID for Rutgers’ Wetland Delineation certification series. Dr. Rohleder has also spent more than 20 years creating native plant wildlife habitat on her own properties both in New Jersey and New York.

Joyce Tomaselli – Director, Secretary

Joyce deVries Tomaselli is currently Community Horticulture Resource Educator at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County (CCEDC). She brings a unique combination of experience in corporate marketing management and non-profit program management, a life-long love of gardening, and many years as a CCEDC Master Gardener volunteer.

In 2013 Joyce joined CCEDC to lead its Community Horticulture and Master Gardener Volunteer Program. She has led local and regional education initiatives on many gardening topics including home composting and recycling, the benefit of compost in soil, invasive species and their ornamental alternatives, sustainable home gardening, ticks, and new forest pests including Spotted lanternfly, Beech Leaf Disease and Jumping Worms. The initiatives raise awareness, ensure correct identification, discourage spread and encourage data collection mapping by homeowners, environmental organization partners and “green industry” professionals. Projects focus on training and encouraging a cadre of volunteers to be “boots on the ground” by delivering education followed by regular reminders.

Joyce has been a leader in raising awareness of Jumping Worms in local communities and Cornell University’s research community including The New York Invasive Species Research Institute JWorm project. In 2019 Cornell’s Toward Sustainability Foundation awarded her a research grant “Stop the Spread of Jumping Worms by Eliminating Cocoons on Shared Plants”.

Steve Young – Director

Steve is a botanist who recently retired from 31 years as the chief botanist for the New York Natural Heritage Program where he explored natural areas all over New York state inventorying and studying its rare plants. He is an author of the online New York Rare Plant Conservation Guides and the New York Rare Plant Status Lists. He is the founder of the Adirondack Botanical Society, coordinator of the Adirondack Orchid Survey, and served for 30 years on the board and executive committee of the New York Flora Association where he led workshops and field trips. He was the coordinator of LIISMA, the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area, for six years and continues to assist iMap, the DEC invasive species program, and the statewide PRISMs, with botanical expertise. He has a bachelor’s degree in forestry from SUNY ESF and a master’s degree in plant taxonomy from the University of Florida where he became internationally known for his work on the American bamboo genus Guadua.

After a few years as a plant explorer and curatorial assistant at the Smithsonian Institution botany department, he was the botanist and assistant director of the Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens near Houston, Texas where he began a rare plant program under the auspices of the Center for Plant Conservation. That experience with rare plants led him to the job of chief botanist position in New York. He continues to study New York’s flora from his home in Schenectady County.

Sona Mason – Director

Sona Mason has been involved with native plants for over two decades, beginning in her home country of South Africa, where she discovered the undervalued beauty of indigenous plants, and began incorporating local flora into her private gardens, both there and later in the USA. She has promoted and championed the appreciation of native plants in numerous presentations, workshops and excursions over 20 years, and currently is restoring native habitat at a 150-acre private property in Putnam county New York. She holds Bachelor degree from Columbia University and a Masters degree in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University.

Mei Wu – Director

Mei Wu, currently a licensed Landscape Architect in New York, received her Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania where she studied ecological design in the tradition of Ian McHarg. Mei has a diverse experience developing and implementing designs for projects in Massachusetts, New York, Texas, California, Florida and Switzerland and working in a variety of ecological communities including conradina/sabal, black dirt, superfund/heavy metals, and alpine. For the past ten years she has been working in the Hudson valley ecosystem rehabilitating a degraded suburban forest remnant. She has also taught graduate design studios at UPenn.

Richard L. Pillar – Advisor

Rich is a retired Landscape Architect. He received his degree in Landscape Architecture from Rutgers University. He began his professional career at a civil engineering firm where he gained significant knowledge of site planning, environmental assessment, and site feasibility analysis for a variety of land use projects.

In the middle of his landscape design career, he took a different route for a while. He became interested in native plants during the early years of the movement. He established Wild Earth Native Plant Nursery in Jackson, NJ and ran it for approximately thirteen years. During this time, he learned from experience how to germinate and grow over 300 species of native plants – wildflowers, ferns, grasses, shrubs and trees. His customers included homeowners, regional parks and preserves and environmental restoration projects.

After closing his nursery, Rich worked for more than a dozen years in the design department of Monmouth County Park System in New Jersey as the Chief Landscape Architect. He co-led several volunteer work days for the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference to lay out and install native plantings at the Trail Conference’s headquarters and state parks restoration sites.

Rich continues to periodically conduct various consultations with clients regarding landscape design, natural restoration, environmental quality assessment and natural playgrounds. In his spare time, Rich enjoys making rustic garden structures, and dabbling in archaeology, genealogy, and geology.