Our Staff

Mekayle Houghton

Mekayle Houghton

Executive Director

Mekayle began with the Compact in 2005 as Stream Restoration Manager for the Building Outside the Box’s Antioch site. Prior to joining the Compact, she worked as a consultant to YMCA of the USA, program manager for projects in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa in the International Division of the YMCA of the USA. With Hull House Association in Chicago, she launched refugee economic development programs. Mekayle is from Sarasota, Florida and earned an interdisciplinary M.A. in Social Science and a B.A. in Anthropology both from the University of Chicago. When not at work, Mekayle can be found spending time with her husband, four sons, and two dogs, probably adventuring in Richland Creek (her favorite urban stream).

Contact Mekayle with inquiries related to:

The Compact’s programs and events
Environmental concerns of the region
Rain gardens
Starting a downtown Nashville Cumberland River swim club (Two Bridges Swim)

Eleanore Barbee

Eleanore Barbee

River Center and Operations Coordinator

Eleanor joined the Compact in November 2015 to manage the Lucius E. Burch III River Center and the Annual Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival. A native Nashvillian, Eleanor returned home after living in Chicago for seven years, where she worked in marketing and sales for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Grant Park Music Festival. She received her B.A. in Music Theory and Literature from Miami University in Oxford, OH. Thrilled to be back in Nashville, Eleanor can be found sailing on Percy Priest Lake, reading, traveling, and entertaining with friends and family. Her favorite spot in the watershed is Percy Warner Park.

Contact Eleanor with inquiries related to:

Booking an event in The Lucius E. Burch III River Center Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival
Tailgating at the Iroquois Steeplechase

Will Caplenor

Will Caplenor

Project Manager

Will Caplenor joined the Compact in April of 2016 as a Program Manager. Will graduated from MTSU with his B.S.in Geoscience and is currently enrolled at Lipscomb University where he will graduate with an M.S. in Sustainability in 2017. Before joining the Compact, Will worked for the Tennessee Environmental Council, leading their Stream Restoration program. Will is a native Middle Tennessean, growing up in Lebanon and experienced some of his fondest memories wading through Spring Creek. When not working, Will can be found reading, hiking or attempting to train/control his dogs.

Contact Will with inquires related to:

Stream Restoration Projects Water Quality Issues
Rain Gardens
Tree Plantings

Gwen Griffifth

Gwen Griffifth

Program Director

Gwen Griffifth is a veterinarian turned conservationist, who applies her science and health training to promoting ecosystem health at the landscape level. Gwen serves as the Curriculum Director for the Climate Solutions University: Forest and Water Strategies (CSU) program. The focus of her work is education and demonstration of the many ways that good planning, policy, and practices lead to enjoyment of healthy and resilient watersheds. Gwen’s background includes 20 years of veterinary practice followed by several positions related to conservation and environmental policy, including with the U.S. Senate Environment Committee, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Tennessee Environmental Council. Gwen is from Birmingham, Alabama and her favorite spot in the watershed is the greenway along Richland Creek and Radnor Lake. When not at work, Gwen can be found exploring the great outdoors, reading, gardening and trying out new recipes.

Contact Gwen with inquiries related to:

Climate change planning, policies, and practices Sustainable development and green building practices Water and energy conservation
One Health Initiatives
Local, organic, and gluten-free eating

Nicholle Gerde

Nicholle Gerde

Project Manager

Nicholle joined the Compact in September of 2016. She came to Nashville in 2015 from Upstate New York to enjoy the warmer weather and explore careers in the environmental field. Nicholle graduated from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry with a B.S. in Environmental Communications. She is now working with partner conservation groups to deliver a campaign to raise awareness about water quality in Nashville. Shes also runs the Compact’s Adopt-A-Stream program.

While Nicholle continues to explore the Cumberland Basin, her favorite place is the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. 

Contact Nicholle with inquiries related to:

Adopt-A-Stream

Jed Grubbs

Jed Grubbs

Program Manager of Watershed Planning and Restoration

Jed joined the Compact in July of 2013 to provide strategic leadership, coordination, and support for the Compact’s and The Nature Conservancy’s partnership to develop and implement watershed restoration, protection, and management planning throughout the Cumberland River Basin. Jed earned a B.A. in Religion from the University of Richmond and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech. He grew up in Chattanooga, TN, but has also lived in Richmond, VA, Portland, OR, Blacksburg, VA, and Charlottesville, VA. Jed’s favorite spot in the watershed is Radnor Lake. When not at work, Jed can be found exploring the watershed and Nashville, studying area trees and birds, making music, watching movies, reading, or playing soccer.

Contact Jed with inquiries related to:

Our watershed planning and restoration e orts If you are interested in exploring the basin
GIS and mapping
The Thai Pooket Restaurant Menu

Alec Norman

Alec Norman

Stream Restoration Coordinator

Alec joined the Compact in November 2013 to provide additional support for the Compact’s scienti c and restoration objectives. Alec received a B.S. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia, and an M.S in Geology from the University of Texas. Before joining the Compact, Alec spent time conducting research on stream and groundwater contaminants. Alec is originally from Texas, and moved to Nashville in 2012. His favorite spot in the watershed so far is Savage Gulf. When not at work Alec can be found hiking, rock climbing, or browsing the web.

Contact Alec with inquiries related to:

Water Quality Maps
Rain Barrels
Water for Schools
Stream Restoration Projects
How to do just about anything in Google Earth!

Gray Perry

Gray Perry

Volunteer Coordinator

Gray joined the Compact as an Americorps Volunteer in January 2017 to assist with the Compact’s volunteer opportunities, coordinate the dam inventory program, and help residents within the Cumberland River Watershed connect with outdoor recreation opportunities.

In 2016, Gray received his B.S. in Geology and Environmental Studies from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Before joining the Compact, Gray worked as a facility supervisor at Williamson County Parks and Recreation, where he had many opportunities to help with various recreation activities. His favorite spot in the watershed is the Harpeth River State Park, especially the Hidden Lake section. When not at work, Gray can be found recording music with his band, hiking, perusing McKay’s, and microwaving various soups.

Contact Gray with inquiries related to:  Volunteer Opportunities, Dam Inventory, Streamwalks

Wendy Smith

Wendy Smith

Wendy rejoined the Cumberland River Compact in 2014, to work on dam removals and in-stream ow projects. Prior to joining the Compact she founded and directed World Wildlife Fund’s Southeast Rivers and Streams Program and previous to that she was one of the original co-directors of the Compact in the late 1990’s. Wendy received her BS and MS from the University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources a long time ago and has worked in conservation of natural resources since – in the Great Smoky Mountains, in State Government, in the private sector and with non-pro ts. When not working you can nd Wendy gardening, traveling and hanging out in and by rivers. Her favorite spot in the watershed is the Upper Cumberland Basin.

Contact Wendy with inquiries related to:

In-stream ow and dam removal information
Aquatic species and systems
Great places to hike and paddle in the southeastern U.S. Organic gardening

Harriet Warner

Harriet Warner

Philanthropy Coordinator

Harriet joined the Compact Board in 2011 and became a full-time member of sta in April 2015, managing philanthropic giving and membership programs. A Nashville native, she returned to the city in 2011 after more than thirty years in London, where she worked as an academic and writer, and served on a number of non-pro t boards. Her love for inland waterways comes from her experience living aboard and skippering an antique Dutch barge on the river Thames, and she is happiest when she is in the wheelhouse on the river. When she is not at work, Harriet fantasizes about how great it would be for downtown Nashville to have a houseboat community, and looks after a menagerie of rescue animals.

Contact Harriet with inquiries related to:

Becoming a member Donations
Planned Giving Events

Samantha Winningham

Samantha Winningham

Program Manager

Samantha manages the Compact’s River Talks program, rain garden program, and annual Waterfest. She also coordinates and oversees various volunteer projects, including tree plantings. Samantha received her B.A. from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to joining the Compact in 2013, Samantha served in the Ohio Army National Guard, with a tour to Al Basrah, Iraq in 2010. When not at work, Samantha can be found hiking, hanging in her hammock, and/or fermenting things. Samantha’s favorite spot in the watershed is the Volunteer Day Loop trail at Long Hunter State Park.

Contact Samantha with inquiries related to:

River Talks
Waterfest
Rain gardens
Volunteer opportunities
Tree plantings and riparian buffers
General life questions (she gives great advice!)