TACF’s 2022 American Chestnut Symposium, Asheville, NC

Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1, 2022
Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, 1 Resort Drive, Asheville, NC 28806

Click here to register for the event before September 26, 2022

2022 Keynote Speakers

Friday, September 30: Volunteer Service Awards Dinner

Victor Harris
Publisher and Editor of Minority Landowners Magazine

Topic: Finding Your Jurassic Park Moment

Victor L. Harris is a native of Athens, Georgia. The seventh born of 10 children, he spent his childhood exploring the forest surrounding the housing project where he grew up. That’s where he gained his appreciation for nature and his love of the outdoors. After high school, he became the first in his family to attend college when he was accepted into the forestry program at Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University. Harris completed the program at Tuskegee and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in forestry at North Carolina State University with a concentration in economics. Harris has over 35 years of experience in forest management and urban natural resource management. After graduation from NC State, he accepted the position of area forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry, becoming the first Black forester in the history of the agency.

As area forester, Harris served Henrico County and the City of Richmond. He worked one-on-one with private landowners preparing forest management plans; providing assistance on timber harvesting, reforestation, managing wildlife, and recreational opportunities; protecting and improving water quality; and improving forest aesthetics. Harris was also responsible for managing the forest fire control, insect and disease control, and the urban and community forestry programs within his work areas.  Read more about Victor Harris here.


Saturday, October 1:  Chestnut Celebration Dinner

Michael Mehta Webster
Professor of Practice at New York University Department of Environmental Studies, Author of The Rescue Effect: The Key to Saving Life on Earth

Topic: The Rescue Effect: How Nature Can Rescue Species From Extinction and How We Can Help

Michael Mehta Webster is an expert in ecology, conservation, and philanthropy, as well as an ardent nature enthusiast. Webster is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University and author of the forthcoming book, The Rescue Effect: The Key to Saving Life on Earth. He has also led efforts to connect cutting-edge science to protecting species and ecosystems in the wild as the Executive Director of the Coral Reef Alliance, a Program Officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and an academic scientist at Cornell University and Oregon State University. Webster earned a Ph.D. in zoology at Oregon State University, and a B.S. in zoology from the University of Wisconsin.

2022 Chestnut Symposium Schedule

Friday, September 30

9:00 AM | Poster Set-Up Begins | Mitchell Ballroom

1:45 PM | Symposium Registration | Laurel Foyer

1:45 – 3:00 PM | Free Time

3:00 – 3:15 PM | Welcome to TACF’s American Chestnut Symposium | Pisgah/Pilot
William (Jay) Cude, III, The American Chestnut Foundation Board of Directors Chair

3:15 – 5:15 PM | Science Status Update – Panel | Pisgah/Pilot
Moderator: Deborah (Debby) Delmer, Ph.D., TACF Board of Directors Science & Technology Chair
Jared Westbrook, Ph.D., TACF Director of Science
Sara Fitzsimmons, TACF Director of Restoration
Vasiliy Lakoba, Ph.D., TACF Director of Research, Meadowview Research Farms
Andy Newhouse, Ph.D., SUNY-ESF – EFB Plant Science & Biotechnology

5:30 – 6:30 PM | Social Hour | Expo Center
Complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres

6:30 – 9:30 PM | Volunteer Service Awards Dinner | Expo Center
Welcome: Lisa Thomson, President and CEO, The American Chestnut Foundation
Keynote Speaker: Victor Harris, Publisher/Editor, “Minority Landowners” Magazine
Volunteer Service Award Presentations: Hill Craddock, Ph.D., TACF Board of Directors, TN Chapter President
Chestnut Conservation Champion Award Video Presentation – Presented to Dolly Parton on July 11th, 2022 in honor of Dolly’s uncle, Bill Owens
Closing Remarks/Goodnight

Saturday, October 1
Snacks and drinks are available all day 

7:00 AM – 4:00 PM | Poster Session Viewing | Mitchell Ballroom

7:30 – 8:45 AM | Breakfast | Expo Center

8:00 AM – 4:00 PM | Symposium Registration | Laurel Foyer   

8:30 – 8:45 AM | Welcome | Expo Center
Speakers: Lisa Thomson, President and CEO, The American Chestnut Foundation
Katie McKeever, Ph.D., Director of USFS Bent Creek Resistance Screening Center

9:00 – 10:00 AM | Opening Morning Session | Pisgah/Pilot
Speaker: Tommy Cabe, Tribal Forest Resource Specialist, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians 

Topic: Working to Re-establish Trust in our Traditional Forested Communities

Tommy is a Tribal member from the Birdtown Community. He is a senior employee to the newly evolved Agricultural & Natural Resource Department. He studied environmental & natural sciences at several higher education institutions before discovering his interest in forestry. During his completion of the forestry program at Haywood Community College in 2000, he was employed by the EBCI Environmental Department as an Air Quality Technician where he had field and technical responsibilities. He later advanced to the evolving Water Quality Program as the Non-Point Source Coordinator, where he managed several projects on Tribal lands to minimize pollution in the Tribal watersheds. Tommy then became the Tribal Environmental Planner. In this position, he oversaw both the Air Quality Program and the Non-Point Source program.

In 2005 he became the Tribal Forest Resource Specialist where he is responsible for Forest Management Plan Development on the Trust Lands and on the forested Tribal acres. Cabe serves as a liaison in the “agency to agency” relationships with the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service for collaboration on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and traditional gathering of certain resources within these adjacent landscapes. He represents the Tribe locally and nationally on natural resource issues that impact Indian country, both positively and negatively.

Tommy is an avid outdoorsman who thoroughly enjoys hunting, fishing, and hiking. In doing so he is constantly aware of traditional ceremonies that need to be practiced for a more definitive connection to the land.

One of his favorite quotes is: “Bear in mind that every oak tree started out as a nut that stood its ground”

10:10 AM – 12:20 PM | Morning Sessions 1 & 2 | Pisgah/Pilot

  • 10:10 – 11:10 AM – Session 1 |  Topic: Discovery of Candidate Genes for Blight and Root Rot Resistance in Castanea 
    by Jason Holliday, Ph.D., Virginia Tech

Jason Holliday received his B.S. in biology from the University of Victoria and his Ph.D. in forestry from the University of British Columbia. Following graduate school, Jason joined the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation where he is currently Professor of Forest Genetics & Biotechnology. The Holliday Lab uses genome sequencing to characterize the evolutionary processes that gave rise to contemporary patterns of genetic diversity across a variety of forest tree species. For the past eight years, a major focus of the Holliday Lab has been the application of genomics to accelerate chestnut backcross breeding, to understand diversity in remnant wild American chestnut populations, and to identify the genes underlying resistance in Asian Castanea species.



  • 11:20 AM – 12:20 PM – Session 2Topic: Into the Wild: How Landscape Genomics Can Inform American Chestnut Reintroduction Efforts
    by Alex Sandercock

Alexander Sandercock is a Ph.D. student and Doctoral Scholar at Virginia Tech in the Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology program, with Dr. Jason Holliday as his advisor. He was previously at Millersville University where he completed a B.S. in biology. His research interests are in the population genomics of species of conservation concern and understanding how climate change impacts these species. His current dissertation work focuses on describing the landscape genomics of American chestnut.

12:30 – 1:30 PM | Lunch | Expo Center

1:40 – 2:40 PM | Afternoon Session 3 | Pisgah/Pilot

  • 1:40 – 2:40 PM – Session 3 | Topic: Restoring the Passenger Pigeon, the Primary Ecosystem Engineer of Eastern American Disturbance Forest Regimes
    by Ben Novak, Revive and Restore

Ben Novak was born in western North Dakota, near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It was witnessing reintroduced bison, elk, and bighorn sheep herds in the park and a passion for biological science that inspired his dreams to recreate and restore extinct species. Since 2012 Ben has led Revive & Restore’s flagship de-extinction project, the Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback – the world’s first initiated effort to use modern biotechnology to recreate an extinct species. Ben’s mission in leading the Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback is to set the standard for de-extinction protocols and considerations in the lab, field, as well as sociopolitical and cultural spheres.

While passenger pigeons are Ben’s passion and specialty, the conceptualization and advocation of biotech-based genetic rescue solutions for all organisms have been a lifelong pursuit. He earned a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolution from Montana State University and a Masters of Arts in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of California Santa Cruz.

3:00 – 4:00 PM | Student Flash Talks | Pisgah/Pilot
Moderator: Kendra Collins, TACF RSC Manager/New Englad RSC
Student Presenters:
Trish Nguyen, “A Small Stem Assay Using Hypovirulent Cryphonectria parasitica to Screen Castanea dentata Bacross F2 Families May Set the Stage for Long-Term Survival”
Yohtaro Kobayashi, “Applying Remote-Sensing Techniques for PHenotyping Chestnut Trees”
Cassius Guthrie, “Assessing Population Dynamics of the Lesser Chestnut Weevil in the Northeastern United States”
Christopher Johnston, “A Cryptic Invader: An Updated Look at the Range of the Asian Chestnut Gall Wasp with the Use of Citizen Science.”

4:00 – 5:00 PM | Student Poster Judging (closed session) | Mitchell Ballroom

5:00 – 6:00 PM | Poster Session Social Hour | Laurel Foyer
Complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres

6:30 – 9:30 PM | Chestnut Celebration Dinner | Expo Center
Welcome: Lisa Thomson, President and CEO, The American Chestnut Foundation
TACF Documentary Trailer Introduction and Viewing
Keynote Speaker: Michael Webster, New York University, Author of  The Rescue Effect: How Nature Can Rescue Species from Extinction and How We Can Help
Poster Winner Awards Presentation: Hill Craddock, Ph.D., TACF Board of Directors, TN Chapter President

Chestnut Entryway Table Raffle Drawing
Goodnight and Thank You for Coming – See you next year at TACF’s 40th Anniversary American Chestnut Symposium!!