Key Partner Contacts
Liz Hillard, Ph.D.
Liz helps direct and manage the study design, implementation, and analysis of Safe Passage’s road ecology research in the Pigeon River Gorge/Interstate 40 corridor. She earned her Ph.D. at Southern Illinois University and holds a masters of science in Biology from Western Carolina University. Liz serves as secretary of the North Carolina chapter of The Wildlife Society and works to build partnerships and engage the public in habitat connectivity and conservation efforts throughout the Southern Appalachian region.
Steve is a Volgenau Wildlife Research Fellow with National Parks Conservation Association and co-research lead for the Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Connectivity Study. Steve has also worked for Virginia Tech, Arizona Game & Fish Department, and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, where he studied and conserved threatened and endangered species, including red-cockaded woodpeckers, desert tortoises, black-footed ferrets, and Washington ground squirrels. Steve holds bachelors degrees in biology and finance from the University of South Florida and a masters in biology from the University of West Florida.
Christine serves on the Executive Committee of the Safe Passage Fund Coalition, helping to steer initiatives as the fiscal sponsorship liaison, and she co-leads related agency and legislative efforts. She leads Wildlands’ partnerships and advocacy work advancing connectivity conservation from Florida to Quebec. She holds an M.E.S. from Yale’s School of the Environment and has experience in private philanthropy and video production. Her volunteer work includes being an advisory board member of Western North Carolina’s only wildlife rehabilitation triage center.
Jeff spends most of his time serving as the facilitator for the Safe Passage: I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossings Project. He works primarily on projects in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, which include the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail. Prior to joining NPCA in 2015, Jeff led the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership in eastern California for two years, focusing on sage grouse habitat restoration in a high-desert environment overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
Elly manages communications, publicity and community outreach for Safe Passage. She is the president of Elly Wells Inc., a marketing communications firm based in Asheville, NC, that assists Great Smoky Mountains Association with marketing and special projects, such as Safe Passage. Her firm specializes in work for conservation and environmental organizations, nonprofit organizations in various sectors, and locally owned or family-held businesses.
Frances supports Safe Passage by writing and directing educational articles about road ecology in general and the Pigeon River Gorge study area in particular. Her networking and communications skills helped to facilitate the branding of Safe Passage: The I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project. Frances is the author of A Search for Safe Passage, geared for ages 7-13, which introduces the need for wildlife crossings and landscape connectivity to youth and their parents through a story about talking animal companions.