Staff


Molly Kerker

Molly Kerker

Director of Education & Public Programs

Molly’s lifelong reverence for Earth’s wondrous creatures began in her childhood, where she nurtured butterflies, ants, and worms in her Buffalo, NY, backyard (and bedroom). After earning her B.A. in English from SUNY Geneseo and M.A. in Public Humanities from Brown University, she was inspired to channel her love of storytelling, community, and ecology into botanical education. As Manager of Continuing Education at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, she led community classes and certificate programs for home gardeners and landscape professionals, and launched the Urban Greenscaping workforce development program for young adults whose educational or financial status would otherwise be a barrier to entering the field. In her most recent role as Director of Continuing Education at Central Park, Molly led the Institute for Urban Parks’ educational programming, overseeing workforce development programs for park stewards around the world. She currently serves on the Ecological Landscape Alliance's board of directors as Secretary. Molly lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her tuxedo cat and partner. In her free time, you can find her volunteering with her local community composting group, birding in her neighborhood park, experimenting with foraged food recipes, and playing music.



Michele Schrougham

Michele Schrougham

Executive Assistant

Michele Schrougham is enthusiastic about our world and loves to see and experience as much of it—from beautiful fields and tropical flowers to sandy beaches and snow-capped mountains—as possible. Michele has an M.A. in Social Work from the University of Tennessee and has spent the majority of her professional life working as an advocate for others. Most of her time was spent working alongside refugees to the United States. One highlight was developing a community garden where refugees could come together. The garden brought purpose to each day and also brought their community together in an indescribable way. Michele lives in Westfield, Indiana, with her husband, daughter, two dogs Macy and Murphy, and bunny Kevin.



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Whitney Beaman

Director of Operations

Whitney fell in love with birds, bees, and butterflies while working harvests in New York's wine industry. Connecting with the earth through vineyard work inspired her to combine her B.S. in Viticulture and Enology from Cornell University and M.S. in Sustainability Management from Columbia University to pursue a career in environmentalism as the Program Manager of Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, the first environmental certification for East Coast wine. She later expanded her reach to include farmers of all kinds as the Organic Transition Educator for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) where she launched a flagship Organic Transition Program aimed at removing barriers to organic certification and supporting farmers as they adopt organic practices. Most recently, she served as the Sustainability Program Manager of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation where she launched and directed a statewide grower education and vineyard certification program. She is excited to further promote nature-based land care and climate smart growing practices among landscape professionals as the Director of Operations for the Perfect Earth Project.



Toshi Yano

Toshi Yano

Director

Before receiving his degree in Ornamental Horticulture from The City University of New York and embarking on his gardening career at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY, Toshi studied philosophy at The New School for Social Research, and for two decades thereafter was a Dabbler in Many Things, working in various capacities in music, film, retail, and supply chain management.

Toshi comes to Perfect Earth Project from Wethersfield Estate and Gardens, a 1,000-acre landscape in New York's Hudson Valley, where he was the Director of Horticulture. He is a Director At Large at the American Public Gardens Association, where he chairs the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility Committee; a co-founder of BIPOC Hort, an advocacy group for people of color working in designed landscapes; and a member of the Design Council at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.

Toshi enjoys spending his spare time searching the woods around his home in Putnam County, NY, for the smallest, most secret plants, and is the proud father of a 12-year old girl who helps him find the especially small, especially secret plants that elude his aging eyes. He's grateful to his grandmothers for the deeply etched memories of dappled light, dirt under foot, and the dizzying perfume of Rosaceae in the air.



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Melissa Ozawa

Director of Content & Communications

Melissa Ozawa’s love for gardens and nature began when she was a small child in Tokyo, playing among the cherry blossoms in Aoyama cemetery and irises at the Nezu museum garden. She has been writing and editing stories about gardening and sustainability for two decades and was recently the features and garden editor at Martha Stewart Living, where she traveled around the country to create and write stories for more than 10 years. She has also held editorial roles at House & Garden and Country Living magazines, and worked at the Garden Conservancy, planning garden tours and lecture series. She got her start at the Academy of American Poets, where she was editor of the journal American Poet and helped to promote a slate of national literary programs. She lives in New York City and works in her garden in New York’s Columbia County every chance she can. Photo by Joanna Garcia.