Aaron Floyd - Executive Director
A native of Grayson County, Virginia, Aaron Floyd spent much of his youth exploring the ridges, valleys, and streams of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His lifelong love of the Blue Ridge and its unique ecosystem motivated him to become a founding member of BRDC in 2007. He helped formulate BRDC’s aim of exploring, discovering, and sharing the natural history of the mountains while also encouraging innovative strategies to tap the area’s vast potential for educational, cultural, and economic growth.
Aaron earned a Bachelor of Architecture with a Minor in Studio Art from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 2004, where he was a recipient of the Olivio Ferrari Scholarship and other honors. He pursued additional studies at the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center, the James Madison Archaeological Field School, and international study at Riva San Vitale, Switzerland through the Virginia Tech Center for European Studies.
Prior to becoming the BRDC Executive Director, he worked in the architecture field for 10 years, including a period in Tucson, Arizona. It was here that he connected the early development of BRDC with the key model of the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. His studies of desert ecology through the Tucson Audubon Society and ASDM gave him a great passion for Southeast Arizona. While exploring the Southwest, he cofounded AviAtlas and pushed the first innovative digital wave of user-formulated map-driven databases, allowing for the global exchange of information among birders. Ultimately the draw of these rolling hills brought him back to the Blue Ridge Mountains to put his creative mind to work in his homeland.
Aaron combines a highly entrepreneurial outlook with technical proficiency, balanced by creative capacities in art, illustration, and design. Since 2014 he has led Blue Ridge Discovery Center as Executive Director, expanding our impact and capacity by over 300%. Through a series of strategic exercises, he has honed our mission to "inspire curiosity, discovery, and stewardship through the wonders of the Blue Ridge" and has put us on a track to achieve regional impact through the acquisition of our first ever property and future center in Konnarock, Virginia.
Lisa Benish - Program Director
Long involved in area youth programming and volunteer activities, Lisa Benish brings a strong background in business administration and faith-based community activities to her role as Program Coordinator for the Blue Ridge Discovery Center. In 1991, after graduating from East Carolina University and becoming a Registered Dietitian, Lisa moved to Grayson County to be closer to the Blue Ridge Mountains that she loves. After working in that profession for a number of years, she became the manager of a medical practice while raising three sons. She has been a scout leader for 14 years, is certified in CPR and Wilderness First Aid, is a Virginia Master Naturalist and an active member of her church. Her interests include fly fishing, hiking and exploration of just about any kind. She brings her passion and enthusiasm for the Blue Ridge to BRDC and the youth of our community.
Jay Martin - Naturalist/Educator
First and foremost, Jay is a naturalist. Quiet by nature, he is the quintessential observer, examining subtle detail that others may not have the time to find. Jay studies and shares those observations through his passion for photography and art. He comes to BRDC from a twenty year career as a Wildlife Biologist with the USFS where he managed and studied song birds, amphibians, and mammals of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Jay also serves as co-chair of the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (SASRI). Although Jay gets into the fine detail of nature, you will have a hard time keeping up with his speed bushwhacking from A to B.