amy johnson headshot

AMY E.M. JOHNSON, PhD, Program Director (She/Her)

As Program Director, Amy leads a team that cultivates a dynamic network of private landowners, citizen scientists, NGO’s, state agencies and research scientists to collectively investigate the impacts of conservation management and land use on biodiversity. In addition to research, she is committed to developing a strong outreach program that communicates research findings to inform best management practices for regional conservation partners and the community.

A former Smithsonian-Mason Research Fellow, Amy’s Ph.D. research focused on the impacts of conservation and land management on breeding and over-wintering grassland bird communities in Virginia. In her role as Program Director, she continues to explore knowledge gaps pertaining to grassland bird ecology by facilitating collaborative conservation and research efforts with Smithsonian scientists and local partners. Her current research projects focus on full annual cycle modeling of grassland birds and exploring best management practices for optimizing reproductive success in species that nest in working grasslands.

Amy received her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy from George Mason University.

Erin headshot staff profile

ERIN SHIBLEY, M.S., Survey & Volunteer Coordinator (She/Her)

As Survey Coordinator, Erin supports VWL’s research-based program by managing the collection of standardized inventory and long-term ecological data with the purpose of informing conservation approaches for native biodiversity in the Northern Virginia Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley region. She coordinates and promotes ecological monitoring activities and serves as a key liaison between SCBI, citizen scientists, landowners, research collaborators, and agency/NGO partners. Erin conducts field surveys, implements internal and external research projects, and summarizes research results to share with resource specialists and land managers. Additionally, Erin manages the recruitment, training, and site assignments for VWL’s community science network.

Erin received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from James Madison University and her Master’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from Frostburg State University. Her career experience has involved surveying various wildlife populations, evaluating human impacts to the landscape, promoting human-wildlife coexistence measures, and leading conservation-focused outreach and education initiatives. Erin’s interest in wildlife conservation and sustainable land use led her to the Smithsonian where she enjoys engaging the community in ecological research and conservation initiatives.

Justin headshot staff profile

JUSTIN PROCTOR, M.S., Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative Coordinator (He/Him)

Justin grew up on a hay and cattle farm in Western NY, and then went off to earn a B.Sc. in Marine Biology from the University of Maine at Machias and a M.Sc. in Natural Resources from Cornell University. He has a long and geographically scattered background of working in the fields of science, education, and conservation, including interpretation with the National Park Service, underwater research with lobsters and shellfish in the Bay of Fundy, youth adventure tourism in St. Martin and Costa Rica, and teaching high school Environmental Science.

Justin’s work with birds began with coordinating a hemisphere-wide study on Tachycineta swallows, followed by an extensive research and conservation project working with the endemic, endangered Golden Swallows of Hispaniola. He went on to work for the nonprofit, BirdsCaribbean, as the Managing Editor of their peer-reviewed publication, the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology. Justin has served two terms on their Board of Directors as Vice-President. Justin currently resides in Front Royal, VA, and coordinates the Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative launched by Smithsonian’s Virginia Working Landscapes and the Piedmont Environmental Council, an effort to bring grassland bird conservation practices onto agricultural landscapes.   

Natalie headshot staff field work

NATALIE IZLAR, Botany Technician (She/Her)

Virginia Working Landscapes’ Botany Technician, Natalie Izlar, supports the program’s annual grassland biodiversity surveys, which are primarily conducted on private working lands in the Northern Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley regions of Virginia. Natalie oversees grassland vegetation surveys, trains and recruits new program volunteers, and promotes native plant conservation through various outreach events and plant consultations. 

Natalie supports plant community data analysis and interpretation, helping to inform best land management strategies and engage the local community in grassland conservation efforts. Natalie received her Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Studies-Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She has experience working in Midwestern Prairie plant communities and the mountains of Southern Appalachia.


Virginia Working Landscapes hosts a competitive fellowship & internship program. For more information, visit our Jobs and Internships page.


The VWL Steering Committee was formed to ensure that Virginia Working Landscapes maintains a strong presence in the local conservation community while promoting collaboration between partners and Smithsonian science. Roles of the Steering Committee include:

  • Provide strategic direction, which includes regular reviews of VWL’s mission, vision and values
  • Active maintenance and delivery on strategic plans
  • Advocate for and promote VWL
  • Provide direction on VWL science and messaging
  • Contribute ideas for the fundraising and development efforts of VWL

2022 VWL Steering Committee:

  • Beatrice Von Gontard, Chair
  • George Ohrstrom II, Vice Chair
  • Cary Ridder, Treasurer
  • John Beardsley
  • Jonathan Duffy
  • John Jacquemin
  • Stephanie Ridder
  • Michael Sands
  • Kate Wofford
  • Will Pitt, SCBI
  • Peter Leimgruber, SCBI


VWL is supported 100% by grants and donations and our work is made possible by the generous contributions from our community.

The Smithsonian Institution is a 501(c)(3). All contributions are tax-deductible.


Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Road, MRC 5537
Front Royal, Virginia 22630