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
Lisa utilizes her years of volunteer experience with youth programs, extensive outdoor skills, leadership qualities, and strength in business administration, to masterfully develop, implement and manage BRDC programs, personnel, participants, and budgets. Since joining the BRDC team in 2014, she has provided the youth of our community with hands-on, experiential learning programs inside and outside the classroom and established summer camps that get youth engaged in the wonders of the Blue Ridge. A graduate of ECU Class of ‘89 and ‘91 Nutrition program, Lisa has excelled as a mother to three sons, Dietitian, medical practice manager, scout leader, and Virginia Master Naturalist. She carries certifications in CPR, Wilderness First Aid, and as a Leave No Trace Trainer. Lisa employs her natural history knowledge, outdoor skill-set, and passion and enthusiasm for the Blue Ridge to inspire both BRDC and our youth.
Jay Martin - Research Director
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.