Dennis is a nationally recognized expert in science education with a passion for helping diverse audiences to engage in scientific inquiry and thinking. Dennis is Vice President of Education for the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and the Half-Earth Project. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dennis directed the production of educational media at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for two decades. In his role as Executive Director of HHMI’s Tangled Bank Studios, he was executive producer and editorial advisor on over a dozen film projects for theatre, broadcast television, Large Screen, and digital science programs aimed at the general public. He understands the creative drive and teamwork it takes to make great media. He’s passionate about the power of diverse media to stir emotions, inspire fresh thinking, and rally action. Although his formal scientific training is in neuroscience and genetics, he is keenly interested in biodiversity, ecology, and conservation. Most recently he’s been engaged in following turtles and dragonflies, diverse creatures that can be found in similar places.
Photo credit: Olivia Liu
Carolyn Ruos Thomas, Vice President
Carolyn is a retired science teacher and an active member of the community. A recipient of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, Carolyn cares deeply about clean water, brook trout, the natural world, and community engagement.
Carolyn grew up in northern Minnesota and Howard County, Maryland, attending the University of Maryland and the University of Montana. She and her husband Bruce have two adult sons and enjoy spending time hiking and fishing.
Chrissy is a Shepherdstown native whose day job is as a family nurse practitioner in Shepherdstown, WV. Before a career in nursing, she was an oceanographer who worked with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, Bermuda Biological Research Station, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and conducted research in Peru, Bermuda, Antarctica and many other far off locations. She has always loved the outdoors and sees the intersection of health and the environment as a way to encourage people to get outside and experience the natural world around us. She is particularly motivated to inspire young people to get engaged in conservation.
Mark Burgess, CPA, Treasurer
Mark grew up outside of Hamilton, Virginia where he currently lives with his wife, Erin. He is a Not-for-Profit Section Member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and a member of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants. Mark gained a lifelong interest in cultural ecology while studying history and anthropology at James Madison University.
Elise Baach has worked in Washington, D.C. as an attorney in private practice, in the federal government and in the nonprofit sector. In addition to her legal work, Elise has served as a board member of nonprofit organizations in a variety of fields, including disability advocacy and educational opportunity. Raised in the San Joaquin Valley in California, Elise has a particular interest in issues related to water and agriculture.
Mary Wells Ball, Board Member
Sarah Gulick, Board Member
Sarah is a filmmaker who lives in Jefferson County. She is currently a film producer for the National Park Service. She previously ran a design studio focused on educational and non-profit organizations and taught at a local university. She was a Center for Environmental Filmmaking scholar and has an MFA in Film and Electronic Media from American University. When not on a film shoot, Sarah has assisted with ACFF’s Conservation Filmmaker Workshop. Sarah grew up on a farm in Virginia and enjoys paddling and climbing.
Dan Trezise, Board Member
Mr. Trezise loves all aspects of filmmaking and empowering the next generations of filmmakers. With 30+ years of experience in Hollywood, Mr. Trezise has an extensive understanding of the technical sides of film production, i.e., editing, animation, 3-D, visual effects, etc. Mr. Trezise has worn many hats, but most often he has served as a visual effects supervisor or digital compositor on many tentpole productions such as Spider-Man, Man of Steel, The Matrix, Star Trek and Moon Knight.
As a recognized expert in the craft of visual effects, Mr. Trezise was nominated for a Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Mr. Trezise has also been a director, producer and collaborator on independent projects. He wrote and directed Outsource, a sci-fi short film that explores the value of individual life in a caged world, which won several awards on the international film festival circuit for animation and visual effects, most notably Best of Show at the Accolade Competition. Mr. Trezise continues to stay current in the industry and contracts on visual effects productions with several leading visual effects studios.
Mr. Trezise also took a position at Houston Christian University as an Assistant Professor of Cinema and New Media Arts. With his vision for expanding the academic programs and commitment to preparing students, Professor Trezise is credited for designing and revising several courses for the university to make them more current and relevant to the ever-shifting trends of the film industry. He also launched several Game Design courses and laid the groundwork for a new degree program in that discipline. To support all these new, challenging and varied courses, he lobbied for and assembled a state-of-the-art computer lab for the University that provided the the necessary technologies and infrastructure for them to succeed.
Mr. Trezise grew up in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State adjacent to hundreds of acres of state reserve land. His family grew to love the wilderness and wonders of nature and took numerous trips to the Adirondack Mountains and out West to hike and camp in some of the most beautiful places in America. He continued this passion into his early 20s when he climbed 23 Alps in Europe in 50 days. These days, when he’s not working on film projects or mentoring students, he enjoys hiking his land with his wife, son and 5 dogs.
Mr. Trezise is excited to unite his passion for nature and the outdoors with his filmmaking experience by joining the ACFF Board and seeing how he can serve.
Larry Cumbo, Board Member
Lawrence Cumbo is most widely known for the Emmy-nominated film he made for National Geographic, Search for the Afghan Girl. The headline-making story, chronicling the discovery of Afghan refugee, Sharbat Gula, whose photograph first appeared on the cover of the National Geographic magazine in 1985.
In 2000, Cumbo accepted a staff producer position with National Geographic Television and Film. His films for National Geographic have taken him many places around the world, including war-torn Afghanistan, the rim of an active volcano in Guatemala, inside a tornado in Texas, the world’s largest prison in India, and he hiked with two eye surgeons through Maoist Rebel controlled territory in Nepal to the Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang in the Tibetan Plateau for his award-winning film, Miracle Doctors. Other films he made for National Geographic EXPLORER include Arkansas Anaconda, Through These Eyes, BioBlitz!, Special Forces: On the Frontlines, Mothers Behind Bars and One Wild Ride: Yukon to Yellowstone.
Beginning in 2006, Cumbo served as an Executive Producer for overseas giants Tiger Aspect Productions and Natural History New Zealand LTD. Some titles he oversaw during his time abroad include I Survived, Orangutan Island, Jurassic CSI, Celebrating the American Woman, Dark Days in Monkey City, Ms. Adventure, Rookies, Expedition Antarctica and Tornado Chasers.
In 2010, Cumbo returned to the US and bought the historic Shepherdstown Opera House, creating a multi-use live entertainment venue, where he promoted and produced hundreds of live events each year. Combining his filmmaking career with his entrepreneurship, Cumbo joined forces with the Smithsonian Channel to create Rocking the Opera House: Dr. John.
Today, he lives in the Shenandoah Valley, and continues making documentary films focusing on people and environmental issues so often ignored by mainstream media.
Alex Goetz, Board Member
Alex Goetz is a wildlife filmmaker and photographer, and co-founder of Running Wild Media, a film production company specializing in stories of wildlife and conservation. He has contributed to outlets such as National Geographic, BBC, PBS, CNN, CBS and was a winner of the National Geographic WILD “Wild to Inspire” film competition.
An Ohio native, some of his extensive travels have taken him from the countryside of Tasmania filming Tasmanian devils, to boating throughout the vibrant Marshall Islands, and road-tripping around four amazing African countries filming wildlife and conservation efforts.
Alex is a 2019 Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leader, 2019 NAAEE 30 under 30, TEDxToledo 2017 speaker, and a 2013 graduate from Bowling Green State University, with a degree in Film Production and Environmental Science
Hilary Lo, Festival Director
Hilary joined ACFF as festival operations manager in early 2015 and has seen the organization through inspiring years of growth. Her professional background prior to ACFF includes nonprofit development, community outreach and public education. Her work has led her to serve young students, adults with a disability, and seniors. A lifelong interest in environmental and cultural conservation began on a small farm in the West Virginia hills. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in Education at WVU. Always engaged in community activism and continuing education, Hilary has served on the Shepherdstown Public Library Board, the PTO and volunteers at local schools.
Jennifer Lee, Executive Director (2014-2022)
Note from Jennifer – September 2, 2022
It has been my honor and pleasure to have been part of the ACFF Team for the last eight and a half years. I started in April 2014 as the Communications and Development Director and was appointed Executive Director in January 2018.
In that time, the organization has stretched and grown, we’ve welcomed many new partners, audience members, and contributors, and have shared hundreds of stunning conservation-focused films and dozens of captivating programs.
I have learned so much and established many wonderful relationships during this time. I am especially grateful to my team of colleagues over the years, most notably Hilary Lo, Kristy Cherry, Molly Bloom, Jen Rolston, and Jeff Feldman. Volunteers and donors have been so generous. Board members have been instructive and supportive. Audience and community members have inspired and delighted.
And to the filmmakers and all who are on the frontlines doing the courageous, hard, and often thankless work of protecting and celebrating our precious planet, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please keep on.
Thank you, ALL, for allowing me to serve this small but mighty organization.
It’s been a wonderful time and I will be forever inspired by it.
Past ACFF Board Members
Keith Alexander, Lauren Ames, Amy Mathews Amos, Alice Barkus, Janna Bond, Sue Caperton, Steve Chase, Lawrence Cumbo, Chuck Dunkerly, Jeff Feldman, John Grabowska, Jeff Groff, Jeffrey Gustafson, Thomas Harding, Alix Hazel, Don Henry, Michael Hobert, Chris Hoelzl, Catherine Irwin, Judy Katz-Leavy, Alex Kemnitzer, Karen Kinnett, Dave Kirkwood, Edward Leavy, David Lillard, Mark Madison, Farzad Mahootian, Bill McShea, Rachel Dorsey McGowen, John McGrath, Stan Mopsik, Wendy Mopsik, Sue Pellish, Stephen Pettler, Dave Pugh, Anne Sechler, Vanessa Serrao, Thomas “Topper” Sherwood, Michael Spensley, Nick Snow, Barbara Spicher, Susan Walter, Ann Watson, Lisa Welch, Susan Womeldorf, Lynn Yellott