Working for you, working for the forest. Our employees are based out of our office near the historic Dahlonega Square in Georgia. They administer our programs and are the point of contact for the general public. You are welcome to stop in and visit with us, shop our merchandise, process your membership, or just say hello.

Georgia ForestWatch Staff

Mary Topa picture

Mary Topa, Executive Director
Mary Topa is currently Executive Director of GFW and has been their ED for over five years. Mary is passionate about conserving native forest diversity and health through ecologically-appropriate forest management practices, minimizing forest fragmentation, and taking a pro-active approach towards invasion of non-native exotic organisms. With over 25 years of research in forest ecology, her expertise includes how trees and forests respond to air pollution, soil disturbances, forest management practices and invasive organisms; she tends to look at forest health holistically, from a watershed standpoint.

Mary is a native of Cleveland, OH, she has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, and a Ph.D. in Forest Ecology from Duke University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Prior to coming to Georgia ForestWatch, Mary was faculty at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University for 13 years. She then became Director of Research at The Holden Arboretum in Ohio, where she was brought in to reinvigorate the research program and add a forest ecology focus. While there, she helped integrate research with conservation, education and land management activities.

Old growth survey - Jess Riddle

Jess Riddle, Forest Ecologist

Jess grew up hiking in the Chattahoochee National Forest where he developed an interest in everything in the forest that didn’t run away from him. He earned his MS from the SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry by studying how climate influences tree growth and how that influence varies depending on whether a tree is growing at the southern or northern edge of its range. Since then he has participated in investigations of riparian forests along the Missouri and Sacramento Rivers. He also conducts research on maximum tree sizes, and led Georgia ForestWatch’s old-growth project.

Lyn Hopper Office Manager

Lyn Hopper, Office Manager

Lyn is retired from a 30-year public library career, including service as an independent consultant for libraries and nonprofits, Georgia’s Assistant State Librarian for Library Development, and Director of the Chestatee Regional Library System. She holds post-graduate degrees from Emory University and Florida State University. Lyn lives north of Dahlonega and enjoys a view of the national forest from her front deck.


JOB Opportunities at Georgia ForestWatch: 

Mary Topa has announced her retirement!  The ForestWatch Board of Directors has initiated a search for a new Executive Director. If you or someone you know might be interested in the position, click here to see the job announcement.