Hike Leaders

Leon Bates (1941-2024)
We are saddened by the loss of Leon Bates on April 18, 2024.  Leon was one of the founding members of the Tennessee Valley Chapter of Wild Ones and a beloved and treasured hike leader for the chapter.

Leon Bates was a descendent of Scotch-Irish-English mountaineers.  He lived with his wife Pat on his ancestral home place in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains.  Leon was an avid hiker, naturalist and photographer.

After retiring from TVA as a botanist/biologist for almost 30 years, he managed a municipal Urban Forestry/Horticulture Department for seven years.  He earned a B.S. Degree in Forestry (UGA) and a M.S. Degree in Botany (UTK), and then devoted more time to the study and enjoyment of local flora and fauna.

Since the early 70s, he was a member and officer of various wildflower, native plant, invasive plant and conservation organizations.  He was an honorary Master Gardener in Alabama.  A frequent hike leader, he conducted guided hikes for numerous groups and was a guide for the Smoky Mountain Wildflower Pilgrimage for 25+ years.  Leon participated in Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge and served as a guide at Snowbird Mountain Lodge.  He presented programs for outdoor enthusiasts for more than 50 years.

________________________________________

Mabry Biggs
Mabry Biggs is a nature interpreter and conservationist based out of Franklin, TN with a degree in wildlife biology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After graduating, she decided to use her passions to inspire others to enjoy nature in Tennessee State Parks, working as an Interpretive Ranger at Cove Lake State Park near Knoxville, and Harrison Bay State Park in Chattanooga. She has volunteered at Happinest Wildlife Rehabilitation and earned her Tennessee Naturalist certificate. She is also a certified Interpretive Guide and enjoys hiking and identifying new plants in her spare time.

________________________________________

Hill Craddock
Dr. Craddock is a Professor in Biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  He received his Dottorato di Ricerca in Colture Arboree in Pomology at the University of Torino (Turin, Italy), his M.S. (Horticulture) from Oregon State University, and his B.A. (Fine Arts and Biology) from Indiana University.  His current research is focused on the restoration of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) to the Southern Appalachian hardwood forest.

To read more about Dr. Craddock, click HERE.

________________________________________

Stephan Eselgroth
Within the Tennessee Valley Wild Ones, Dr. Eselgroth has been an active volunteer for many years and served on the board for two years.  An avid hiker, he is our current hike manager and has organized and led many wildflower walks and hikes for the Wild Ones, his family, and other groups over the years.  He hopes to encourage enthusiasm in preserving natural areas and bring attention to the native plants and habitats of our region and inspire our plans in the landscape.

Dr. Eselgroth earned a B.S., Summa Cum Laude, in extended chemistry from Northern Arizona University. He earned his medical degree from the University of Arizona, and completed his internship and specialty residency in PM&R at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and University of Louisville.  As a physician, he has been caring for neuromusculoskeletal, trauma and post operative patients for over 25 years.

With additional passions for nature and science, along with a strong belief in autodidactism, he has practiced over 20 years of natural and sustainable habitat gardening and obtained local and national certifications for these efforts, including “Rain Smart Yard” and “Wildlife Habit” at his home, which was featured in the Wild Ones Landscapes in Progress program and nominated for a Habitat Hero award.  These efforts at home grew out of lifelong interests in ornithology, biology, botany, gardening, medicinal and edible native plants, and watershed and soil conservation.  Prior to moving to the Chattanooga area in 1998, he spent his formative years as a hiker, birder, aviculturist, and learning to be an amateur naturalist in the desert Southwest, and in the Pacific Northwest as well.

________________________________________

Dennis Horn
Dennis Horn is an engineer, naturalist, amateur botanist, and wildflower photographer. He is a charter member and currently a director in the Tennessee Native Plant Society (TNPS) and, for the past 25 years, a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Rare Plants in Tennessee. For over 50 years, Dennis has traveled from the Mississippi River to the Blue Ridge Mountains studying and photographing Tennessee wildflowers. He is the co-editor of Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians and has presented numerous wildflower programs for garden clubs, civic groups, and plant conferences. Dennis was awarded a Certificate of Merit in 2003 by the State of Tennessee for his conservation efforts. In 2020 Dennis received the Lifetime Conservation Award and was inducted into the Tennessee Botanists Hall of Fame by TNPS.

________________________________________

Zach Irick
Zach Irick is the Southern Appalachian Grasslands Ecologist for the Southeastern Grasslands Institute.  Zach has broad experience in field botany, plant taxonomy, plant community ecology, and restoration ecology throughout the interior southeast. Through his affiliation with SGI, he has worked with federal, state, private, and non-profit entities to lead research and restoration projects in the Southern Appalachian region. In his spare time, he likes to study the plants of the southern Table Plateaus (Lookout and Sand Mountain), southern Ridge and Valley (Coosa valley area), northern Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee (Big South Fork and Obed), and anywhere else really. He also enjoys drinking coffee all day every day.

________________________________________

Alaina Krakowiak
Alaina Krakowiak recently completed her Master’s degree at Colorado State University, where she studied the conservation genetics and phylogeography of Clematis fremontii. This project was inspired by her undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she completed a floristic inventory of Orchard Knob Reservation and conducted a demographic study of the two known C. fremontii populations in Tennessee. Alaina has also worked as a wetland-focused botanist and ecologist for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, and is currently working as a contractor for the Southeastern Grasslands Institute. In her spare time, she loves birding, reading books, rock climbing, riding her bike, and hanging out with her dog, Banjo.

________________________________________

Chet Perry
Chet Perry is a naturalist, chef, volunteer for several sustainable/outdoor organizations and avid gardener.  He has been creating native habitat in urban spaces for over 20 years.  He is passionate about gardening with and use of wild edibles and medicinal plants.

________________________________________

Larry Pounds
Dr. Larry Pounds earned his doctorate in plant ecology from the University of Tennessee. Since then he has been fortunate enough to make a living mostly surveying for rare plants. He has worked as a botanical consultant for several organizations, currently TVA and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He serves on the boards of the Tennessee Native Plant Society, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning and Cumberland Trails Conference. He often leads wildflower walks for the public. With his recent semi-retirement Larry has discovered the joy of writing. He is co-author of Wildly Strolling Along about the Cumberland Trail and is currently writing a novel, Family Scent.

________________________________________

Joey Shaw
Dr. Joey Shaw is a Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

He received his Ph.D. in Botany (Molecular Systematics and Chloroplast Evolution) from University of Tennessee, Knoxville; his M.S. in Botany (Floristics, Herbarium Curation, Biodiversty Inventories) from University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and his B.S. (Biology) from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

To read more about Dr. Shaw, click HERE.

________________________________________