Damon Mullis

Ogeechee Riverkeeper/Executive Director

Damon grew up in rural south Georgia where he spent his free time outdoors fishing and exploring local rivers and streams. His time in the great outdoors led to an appreciation of the natural world and a passion for understanding how it works, a quest that led him to Georgia Southern University where he earned bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in biology.

His research has focused on how physical and chemical changes in freshwater ecosystems affect their biological communities with projects, including studies on the connectivity between rivers and floodplains, the effects of beaver dams on freshwater invertebrate communities, secondary production of macroinvertebrates, nutrient monitoring, and water quality monitoring in rivers and streams. Before pursuing a career in science, Damon managed small businesses for over 13 years.

When time permits, the Mullis clan, which also includes his wife, daughter, and a rambunctious canine, enjoys boating, fishing, hiking, birding, camping, and just generally being outside.

Email: damon(at)ogeecheeriverkeeper(dot)org
Phone: 866-942-6222 x4

Meaghan Walsh Gerard

Communications and Administrative Director

Meaghan was born in Illinois, then grew up along the east coast. Skiing in New England, hiking in Yellowstone, kayaking in Maine, and exploring Viking settlements in Newfoundland were all part of a childhood filled with outdoor adventures.

After graduating from college in New Hampshire with a bachelor’s degree in English, she moved to a much less snowy Savannah. While managing a performing arts and historic site nonprofit, she earned a master’s degree in cinema studies. Her research included genre evolution, Southern architecture in film, Gothic structures, and iconography.

Meaghan enjoys reading, writing, and traveling. She has snorkeled at Dry Tortugas, the most remote location in the National Park System; explored the streets of Old Havana, Cuba; hiked 84 miles across Northern England along Hadrian’s Wall; floated down the Snake River in the Grand Tetons; walked across a volcano caldera in Hawaii; and climbed to the underground city beneath Edinburgh, Scotland.

Email: meaghan(at)ogeecheeriverkeeper(dot)org
Phone: 866-942-6222 x3

Melanie Sparrow

Education and Outreach Coordinator

Mel was raised in Athens, Georgia, (still a local at heart!) with roots in the north Atlanta area as well. She spent much of her childhood doing outdoor activities such as gardening, small-scale farming, fishing, spending time in the North Georgia rivers and lakes, hiking and more–a pastime that has carried into her adult life and career.

She received her bachelor’s degree from UGA in anthropology/archaeology and went on to do field work in Belize. During this time, she was based out of the West Coast between the Redwoods of California to Orcas Island, Washington, where she did a mixture of work with local food movements, archaeology research and a YMCA summer camp. Her work with local food movements through the WWOOF program led her to travel internationally.

After several years of national and international travel, both personally and professionally, she found her way back to Georgia to work as an environmental educator at Rock Eagle 4-H Center. Eventually she moved to Statesboro, where she earned her master’s degree in social sciences with a focus in environmental anthropology. Her time in the Coastal Plain has been intertwined with environmental education, events management, sustainability, community outreach and local food movements.

Her other passions include music, art, teaching yoga (RYT 200, Yin 50) and spending time with friends & family.

Email: melanie(at)ogeecheeriverkeeper(dot)org
Phone: 866-942-6222 x5

Kris Howard

Science and Policy Manager

Kris is a native of Augusta, Georgia, who spent most of his youth fishing, kayaking, and camping whenever the opportunity presented itself. The time he spent outdoors fostered a natural curiosity that led him pursuing a career in science.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in marine science from Thomas More University in Kentucky. After graduation he accepted a position as a biologist for a pollution control agency in Ohio. He also spent some time in the Bering Sea as a fisheries observer in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. 

After taking time away from school he returned to Georgia where he earned his master’s degree in marine sciences from Savannah State University. His research focused on the effect terrapin excluders have on the commercial and recreational blue crab fishery.

Kris and his wife enjoy boating, fishing, and enjoying all of the restaurants and breweries Savannah has to offer.

Email: kris(at)ogeecheeriverkeeper(dot)org
Phone: 866-942-6222 x6

Carly Nielsen

Upper Watershed Representative

Carly is a South Florida native who was raised in Georgia, and was taught a love for the outdoors and exploring new places from her parents and grandparents.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science with minors in Spanish and geology from Georgia College. She then returned to school to earn a master’s degree in forest resources and conservation with a concentration in ecological restoration at the University of Florida.

Throughout this time, she gained experience in the environmental field working as a soil conservationist for NRCS in Americus, Georgia, a natural resources intern with National Park Service at Fort Pulaski in Savannah, Georgia, and an oyster conservation coordinator with the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida.

Carly loves traveling the world and visiting different places. Some of her favorite destinations are Costa Rica, Greece, Italy, and Croatia. At home, she enjoys skating, swimming, and gardening.

Email: carly(at)ogeecheeriverkeeper(dot)org
Phone: 866-942-6222 x7

Ben Kirsch

Legal Director

Ben is a proud Clevelander with roots in southwest Ohio, spending lots of time throughout the state. Growing up near Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River made a big impression on his early awareness of the importance of our shared waters. These waters’ resilience and the decades of advocacy efforts around them continue to inspire his work.

After graduating from Case Western Reserve University, Ben served in the Peace Corps, teaching English in a remote Mongolian village. Living so close to wilderness and seeing the environment’s central role in the community further deepened his appreciation for the natural world. His time on the Mongolian steppe cemented his plans to become an environmental advocate.

He gained a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, with certificates in Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Energy, Innovation, and Sustainability Law. Ben was also awarded the law school’s Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Leadership Award in 2019. During school, he gained practical experience with numerous legal clinics, environmental non-profits, and community groups in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes regions. Before joining the Ogeechee Riverkeeper team, Ben worked to protect and restore the lower Deschutes River in Central Oregon.

In his free time, Ben loves to get out camping and hiking whenever he can. He also enjoys live music, a good book, great trivia and board game competition, and trying to keep up with his dog.

Email: ben(at)ogeecheeriverkeeper(dot)org
Phone: 866-942-6222 x9


Molly McKeon

The 2023 ORK Research Fellow is Molly McKean, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University (Statesboro campus), pursuing a master’s degree in biology. She works in the lab of Dr. Checo Colón-Gaud. She worked as a research assistant under a National Science Foundation Research Experience for post-baccalaureate grant for a year prior to joining the master’s program in August 2022.

McKeon will conduct a year-long monitoring project focused on an upstream site at Rocky Ford, a site at the soon-to-be closed textile plant, and a site where Black Creek meets the Ogeechee River downstream of the new EV plant development.

McKeon is a first-generation college student from the Metro Detroit area in Michigan. She started out her higher education journey slightly later in life. She first started attending community college courses, as well as working full time, in 2017. Her bachelor of science degree in biological science, with a minor in environmental science, was earned in August of 2021 from Wayne State University.


Sydney Glenn

Sydney is a third-year student attending Savannah State University, choosing to study marine sciences. She has always had an interest in teaching others about the environment and learning about how to take better care of it. Her passion for outreach within the community led her to helping with community outreach programs with the OGK and volunteer cleanups. She also has an ear for music and performs with Savannah State’s Powerhouse of the South marching band as a cymbal player.

Ndidi Mason

Ndidi is in her final year of undergraduate studies at Savannah State University, majoring in marine sciences. Her passion became marine biology after studying in Key West, Florida. Her passion for scuba diving, hiking, swimming, and art. Ndidi is looking forward to working with ORK and Savannah community focusing on the physical and chemical changes of the waterways.

John Hendrix

John is a Statesboro native that just finished his final year at Colorado State University. He studied human dimensions of natural resources with a minor in conservation biology. His upbringing in south Georgia fostered his passion for conservation and community outreach. He is excited to work with ORK and apply his experiences and knowledge to real world situations in the Coastal Empire where he grew up. During his internship, he will be working on various projects including the Don’t Litter Lotts Initiative and Protect the Vernon.

Chloe Hodges

Chloe is a homeschooled high school student currently in her senior year. She enjoys many outdoor activities and is a competitive swimmer. Chloe plans on studying mechanical engineering in college. She has spent many hours on the rivers fishing and kayaking in Georgia, which sparked her interest to intern with ORK. She is a certified Adopt-a-Stream monitor which will be a part of her internship. She is excited to work with ORK and learn more about the rivers in Georgia and use that knowledge to grow as an individual.

Lead Volunteers

Michael and Kelly Brand

Michael and Kelly Brand enjoy the Ogeechee watershed by conducting water analysis in two locations, participating in ORK fundraisers and activities to improve the watershed such as clean ups, and paddling in the watershed with the RiverKeeper organization and on their own.  Michael and Kelly look forward to being more involved and meeting more ORK members.

Victoria Clower

Victoria is a first-year doctoral student attending Georgia Southern University and is studying Community Health. She is an avid Adopt-A-Stream volunteer and assists with many outreach events and other ORK educational opportunities. In her free time she enjoys walking with her dog and spending time with friends.

Hannah Dugan

Hannah was raised in the north Atlanta area and moved to Statesboro in 2019 to complete her undergraduate degree at Georgia Southern University. She is in the midst of her biology program, with a focus in environmental science and involved in the Tri Beta organization. While with ORK, she has worked on the Don’t Litter Lotts project, Adopt-a-Landing program, water quality monitoring and education and outreach. She successfully completed her sustainability practicum project to implement trash cans at four boat landings in Bulloch county.

She grew up hiking and exploring the outdoors that led to a love for nature. In her free time, she enjoys camping, reading, caring for stray animals, and spending time with friends and family.

Lauren Porter

Lauren is a Statesboro native with a lifelong devotion to the Ogeechee River. Lauren’s passion for the river has nurtured a sense of respect that reaches into all areas of the environment. As a citizen scientist, Lauren assists ORK with the Georgia-Adopt-A-Stream program, litter cleanups, and outreach initiatives. When she isn’t on a sandbar at the river, Lauren enjoys writing and gardening.


Board of Directors

Executive Officers

Clay Mobley, Chair
Regional sales manager for Optimum Water

Ann Hartzell, Vice Chair
Community activist in Savannah, Ga.

Katherine Cummings, Secretary
Community organizer, member, Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment

Michael Dayoub, Treasurer
Owner and president of Alpha Financial Management in Savannah, Ga.


Rhoda Allen, MBA
Retired international project manager, IBM

Carolyn Altman
Director of Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University

Checo Colón-Gaud, Ph.D.
Professor & associate dean of Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies at Georgia Southern University

Bobby Davenport
Real estate agent and principal, Bay Street Realty Group; Ten Foot Properties, LLC; Founding trustee of the Lula Lake Land Trust

Sue Ebanks, Ph.D.
Associate professor of marine and environmental sciences at Savannah State University

Mark Lebos, M.S.
Exercise physiologist, owner of Strong Gym in Savannah, Ga.

Carla Mayes

Will Monroe
Retired businessman and property owner

Jody Slater
Riverfront landowner, retired teacher, and business owner