LiKEN incorporated as a non-profit in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1990 (under the name Kentucky Environmental Foundation).  We are partners and members of various networks for collaborative, multistakeholder, policy-relevant, knowledge exchange and translation: Kentucky Nonprofit Network, National Rural Assembly, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Association, Rising Voices: Collaborative Science with Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Solutions, National Climate Assessment, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Betsy Taylor
Executive Director

Betsy Taylor is LiKEN founding director and a cultural anthropologist.  Over the past 20 years, she has worked for community-driven development in Appalachia and South Asia to integrate issues of health, agriculture, forestry, culture and environmental stewardship.  In popular and scholarly venues, she writes about environmental and social justice movements, democratic planning and participatory research, women’s issues, the commons, democratic reclamation of academe / professions.  She co-authored, with Herbert Reid, the book, Recovering the Commons: Democracy, Place, and Global Justice (University of Illinois Press, 2010). At the University of Kentucky, she served as Co‐Director of Environmental Studies, Research Director for the Appalachian Center and on the faculty of the Social Theory program, and during her years at Virginia Tech, she was a research faculty member in the Appalachian Studies program.  She was appointed to the steering committee of the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in 2013 by the Secretary of the US Department of Interior. She just stepped down as chair of the Human Rights / Social Justice Committee of the Society for Applied Anthropology.  Many of her writings can be found on her website.  She blogs under “Betsy M. Taylor” for Huffington Post.

Betsy Taylor’s CV is available here.

Mary Hufford
Associate Director

Folklorist Mary Hufford who grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Allegheny foothills, has worked over the past three decades in government, academic, and local community settings. As folklife specialist at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress (1982‐2002) she led regional team fieldwork projects in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and the southern West Virginia coalfields. From 2002‐2012, she served on the graduate faculty of folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania, directing the Center for Folklore and Ethnography from 2002 to 2008. As adjunct faculty with the Master’s Programs in Cultural Sustainability and Environmental Studies, she offers a summer seminar in Environmental Justice.   Her seminars and field practica engage students in exploring how folk arts and humanities, grounded in ordinary settings and daily lives of Central Appalachian communities, and neighborhoods of Philadelphia and East Baltimore, are crucial to the work of environmental justice.  A Guggenheim Fellow, she has published dozens of articles and reviews in both public and academic venues, including Orion Magazine, Gastronomica, the Journal of American Folklore, Southern Quarterly, Cahiers de Litterature Orale, Cornbread Nation, Social Identities, Western Folklore, the Journal of Appalachian Studies, and the Proceedings of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration. For a more complete list of her downloadable publications go to her website.

Mary Hufford’s CV is available here.

Julie Maldonado
Associate Director

Julie Maldonado, PhD, anthropology, is LiKEN’s Director of Research. As part of this role, she is Co-Director of Rising Voices: Climate Resilience through Indigenous and Earth Sciences, in joint partnership with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR/NCAR), and is the lead for LiKEN’s Protect: Indigenous Communities on the Frontlines of Fossil Fuel Extraction project, which includes the release of the Protect film in Fall 2018. Julie is a lecturer in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is a consultant with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, to support tribes’ climate change adaptation planning. Previously, Julie worked for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, was the lead author on the 3rd U.S. National Climate Assessment’s (NCA) Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources Chapter, and was the lead editor and organizer for the Special Issue of Climatic Change and book, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences and Actions. She is a lead author on the 4th NCA’s Southwest Chapter and a technical contributor to the Southeast Chapter. Julie has consulted for the United Nations Development Programme and World Bank on displacement and resettlement, post-disaster needs assessments, and climate change. She has been a fellow with the United Nations Institute for Environment and Human Security and Munich Re Foundation’s academies on social vulnerability and climate change. Her doctorate in anthropology (American University) focused on the social and cultural impacts of environmental change in coastal Louisiana. Julie has written numerous book chapters and articles published by the Journal of Refugee Studies, the Journal of Political Ecology, and Climatic Change, among others. She has served as an expert presenter to Congressional committees and staff on climate change, indigenous peoples, displacement, and relocation. Her book Seeking Justice in an Energy Sacrifice Zone: Standing on Vanishing Land in Coastal Louisiana, and her co-edited volume, Challenging the Prevailing Paradigm of Displacement and Resettlement: Risks, Impoverishment, Legacies, Solutions, were both released in 2018.

Craig Williams
Kentucky Environmental Foundation Program Director

Craig is a founding member of the grassroots community group Common Ground and of Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF), and served as Director of KEF till January 2008. Craig maintains his position as Director of the CWWG, of which KEF is the lead organization. He is a charter member of the Kentucky Governor’s Chemical Material Demilitarization Citizen’s Advisory Commission, and currently serves as co-chair of the Kentucky Chemical Destruction Advisory Board.

Craig also has extensive community organizing experience related to veterans’ programs. He is the co-founder and secretary of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize). He has received several tributes in the U.S. Congress and was presented the John O‘Connor Citizens Achievement Award in 2003.

In addition, Craig is a board member of Blue Grass Tomorrow, a consultant for the Blue Grass Area Development District, a member of the PRISM Editorial Board for Eastern Kentucky University, and the coach of the Madison United Soccer Association and the Berea Youth Baseball League.

In April 2006 Craig was North American recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Craig received a BA in Philosophy from Eastern Kentucky University, and in May 2008 was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree in Humanities from the University. Craig lives in Berea, Kentucky with his wife and near his two children and two grandchildren.

Deborah Thompson
Senior Social Scientist — On Sabbatical, Summer and Fall of 2019 —

Deborah Thompson is a creative educator, networker, musician, and dancer promoting participatory arts and sustainable development, particularly focused on the Appalachian region and its people. Finding a home and passion in Appalachia both for personal and scholarly pursuits has meant that all of her university degrees were based in Appalachian Studies, including her Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Kentucky. She currently coordinates Country Dance Programs at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, also teaching Appalachian Studies and General Studies. While working on her dissertation from 2006-2009, she served as programming director of the Appalachian Center, where one of her special projects was coordinating the Celebration of Traditional Music.

As director of the Appalachian Semester and assistant professor of Appalachian Studies at Union College in Barbourville, KY from 1991-2001, Deborah loved bringing Appalachia alive for  undergraduate students, especially bringing them together with community folks through travel and internships. At this time, she also was a founding member of Just Connections, a community-faculty partnership whose ultimate goal is to help achieve social justice in the Appalachian Region through service-learning projects and community-based research.

Deborah collaborated and published in two cooperative projects, A Handbook to Appalachia and the Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Other writing relates to her dissertation, Performing Communities: The Place of Music, Race and Gender in Producing Appalachian Space and is documented on her curriculum vitae. She learned to play banjo, guitar, and dulcimer during the folk revival of the 1970s and has repertoire from living and playing in Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and New England. Since 1976, she has performed both solo and with various groups, currently with the old time and Americana band, Skipjack. She has taught classes and workshops in Appalachian music and dance for all ages since 1984. Other meaningful work Deborah has enjoyed includes executive director of a local arts council, principal investigator for historic architecture surveys, and resident director for the National Collegiate Honors Council’s cultural study program in Appalachia, Mexico, and the Texas-Mexico border. She and her husband have spent two decades together living on 85 wooded acres in eastern Kentucky, raising animals and a garden and pursuing a more sustainable living.

Wayne Coombs
Community Well-being Coordinator

Wayne Coombs is a native of West Virginia and was trained as a psychologist at West Virginia University. He has been in the mental health field for over 35 years. He has worked as an individual and group therapist in addictions and developed an addiction specialty for the Master’s Counseling Program at West Virginia Graduate College (later merged with Marshall University.) He founded and built the West Virginia Prevention Resource Center which contractually ran the substance abuse prevention system for the State of West Virginia. Wayne established and secured funding for the Applied Community Evaluation Program as well as the Prevention As Community Development Masters’ Degree Program through Marshall University Graduate College. He was a Founding Board Member of the Coalition on Appalachian Substance Abuse Policy and the principle author of “The Governor’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan to Address Substance Abuse in West Virginia” – (November, 2009.) He is the author of “The Pharmaceutical Colonization of Appalachia“, published in February 2018, in the Daily Yonder.  He currently lives in Johnson City, Tennessee and has an Adjunct Faculty appointment at East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health.

M. Aaron Guest

M. Aaron Guest plays a lead role in designing and developing LiKEN’s data and analytic infrastructures.  He listens to LiKEN’s project teams to develop good research systems to serve diverse needs. He handles project management software, and supports project directors as they design and implement work plans (digital tools for timelines, monitoring benchmarks, forms and platforms for reporting and data management). He in our in-house specialist in statistical and social network methods.  Aaron is a PhD Candidate in Gerontology at the University of Kentucky with plans to graduate in August 2019. He obtained a Master of Public Health and a Master of Social Work from the University of South Carolina. The emphasis throughout his career been on translational community-engaged participatory health equity research. His research specializes in aging among rural marginalized populations, health equity, environmental gerontology, and social network/placed based community-engaged mixed method research. Specifically, his research centers on how marginalized older adults’ social networks affect their health and quality of life.  He focuses on the interrelationship between identity, place, networks, and health. He applies his interdisciplinary background as a community-based scholar to address health inequities, improve health equity, and improve health outcomes through decreasing disparities. Aaron lives in Lexington, KY with his three cats: Miss Kitty, Pemberton, and Momo.

Rachel Eppley
Office Manager

Rachel Eppley brings deep values of service and community to the work of LiKEN.  While she was a chaplain at the Nashville Rescue Mission in TN in the early 2000s, she assisted homeless women with a variety of needs including counseling, housing, and social security. In recent years, she developed a unique ability to integrate care-work with practical problem-solving while home-schooling her children and working in a family business. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Lipscomb University in TN where she specialized in theology. Her family has deep, multi-generational roots in eastern Kentucky. Rachel coordinates core systems in the day-to-day functioning of LiKEN and supports the administrative work of the Executive Director.  She ensures the smooth running of the office and helps to improve company procedures and day-to-day operation. She oversees central office functions, supplies, equipment, and maintenance.  She schedules meetings and manages accommodations for lodgers and visitors while they are in the LiKEN House in Lexington, Kentucky. She handles our weekly news bulletins and blogs. Her empathic gifts are helping us to listen to, and to communicate, the diversity of unique and rich stories emerging from our projects.


Vera Petrovic
Research Assistant

Vera Petrovic is a junior at Lawrence High School, in Lawrence, Kansas. She has previously been involved with the Rising Voices Youth Climate Initiative, and has fostered a love for environmental preservation and social justice since a young age. Outside of her environmental engagement, Vera participates in debate, student council, and Habitat for Humanity. In the future, she hopes to study environmental sociology and psychology, with a focus in the historical trauma that has impacted indigenous communities.

Amanda Pantoja
Research Assistant

Amanda Pantoja is a fourth year Environmental Studies and Chicana/o Studies major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was born and raised in Southeast Los Angeles where her love for building strong communities and helping others first ignited. Growing up surrounded by polluting industrial facilities also made her cognizant of the environmental injustices imposed on communities of color. As a young adult, Amanda was a youth organizer with Communities for a Better Environment and actively worked to empower her community. Amanda has continued to join groups and organizations that fight for the wellbeing of people and the environment. She currently works with Food and Water Watch as a student organizer on a campaign to ban new oil wells in Santa Barbara County. She feels strongly about promoting a holistic relationship with the Earth so that we have clean air, clean water, and clean soil for generations to come.

Hannah Ornellas
Research Assistant

I am a fourth-year environmental studies major at UCSB. I am currently the Community Resident Director for Isla Vista Tenants Unit a grassroots organization that works on educating the diverse community of Isla Vista to ensure that tenants know their rights. I work on community outreach programs and make sure all groups of the community are included by ensuring that necessary services are provided such as translation services.  I am really interested in changing how we develop our cities. I want to work in Urban Planning, and help to build more resilient, sustainable, and humane communities. I’m interested in learning more about fighting climate change on a local, city-wide level. Moving forward, our development needs to be more inclusive and actively fight to slow down the progression of climate change.

Danyelle Mason
Research Assistant

Danyelle Mason is an environmental studies major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After working in the hospitality industry, she has developed a passion for people. This combined with her education at UCSB has created an interest in the intersection between environmental justice and social justice issues. She is driven to foster synergistic relationships between people and their environments, creating a new perception of Earth as something to take care of, rather than something to master. Danyelle hopes to increase awareness of the issues we face as a global society and play a role in crafting innovative solutions to solve them. In the future, she aspires to travel and work on sustainability projects that empower local communities.

Julia Feldman
Research Assistant

Julia Feldman is a fourth year Environmental Studies major at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She is a Dean’s Honors student and also working towards a certificate in Technology Management. After working for UCSB Adventure Programs and Health and Wellness for two years, she began working with UCSB Sustainability on programs such as PACES Green Certification and the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference. She is fascinated by the concepts of industrial ecology and circular economies, and hopes to combine her passion of protecting the environment to industries such as fashion to help clean up their practices. Her goal is to one day start her own line of sustainable clothing and make conscious consumerism accessible for all. In the meantime, she works closely with an organization called the Isla Vista Trading Post (IVTP) to recycle clothes, extending their lifetimes, and providing free pop up thrift shops in her college community. In her free time, Julia loves to write music and is the lead singer of a band in LA called BNTLY. After graduation, Julia hopes to obtain her masters in Sustainable Business Management.

Jessica Clegg
Research Assistant

My name is Jessica Rose Clegg and I am a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of California Santa Barbara. I am working towards an environmental studies Bachelor of Arts degree, with an emphasis in anthropology. After I graduate, I am interested in pursuing a master’s in public health degree. I am interested in environmental justice, climate justice, and food justice. I recently finished my Division I collegiate soccer career after 17 years of playing. I was born and raised in San Diego, California along with my five brothers and sisters, and I recently became an aunt of two beautiful baby girls. Some of my interests include: running, hiking, traveling, swimming in the ocean, beach volleyball, reading, art, and cooking.

Sarah Billings
Research Assistant

Hi! My name is Sarah Billings and I’m a fourth year undergraduate student at UCSB. I’m originally from the South Bay Area and I love currently living in Isla Vista, CA! I am double majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies and planning to graduate this year. I hope to combine my love of the outdoors with my love of current events and policy in the field of environmental law and/or nonprofit work in the field. I am most passionate about making a difference in any way I can, which is why I’m so excited to be a part of this organization! Also, in my free time I enjoy snowboarding, basketball, stand up paddle boarding, and cooking with friends.

Paige Atkinson
Research Assistant

Paige Atkinson is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara majoring in Environmental Studies with a certificate in Peace Corp Prep. When she’s not in class, Paige spends time working with the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration on native habitat preservation and education. She is also a student facilitator with the Kids in Nature program, which brings ecological and environmental education to local schools. Paige is passionate about understanding and cultivating connections between people and the environment, while striving for a more environmentally conscious society. She is excited to be a member of the LiKEN team to help promote a more socially and environmentally sustainable future.


Shaunna Scott, Professor, Sociology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky

Dr. Shaunna Scott is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Kentucky. She is the Past President of the Appalachian Studies Association. Her interests center upon social inequality, gender, the politics of identity and commemoration, theory, qualitative methods, participatory action research and social movements in Appalachia and Northern Ireland. Dr. Scott’s work appears in Rural Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, Qualitative Sociology, Journal of Appalachian Studies, Appalachian Journal, and Action Research. Dr. Scott is an affiliate of the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center, Center for Poverty Research, Social Theory Committee, and Gender Women Studies. Dr. Scott’s ethnographic and interview research takes a feminist critical theoretical approach to understanding politics, commemoration, community and economic development and planning, identity construction and community dynamics. She is particularly interested in understanding and promoting democratic practices and social justice projects in conflictual, stratified, rural contexts. Her work focuses primarily upon Central Appalachia, although she has done research in Northern Ireland and New Zealand.

Linda Kaboolian, Lecturer, School of Public Health, Harvard University

Dr. Kaboolian’s professional experience, research and teaching focus on multi-stakeholder problem solving processes around workplace and public policy issues. She works with labor, management and community groups around improved organizational performance and service to diverse communities. Labor Management Relations and Win-Win Labor-Management Collaboration are topics on which she has published books, chapters and articles. She has conducted years of fieldwork on organizations that bridge racial, ethnic, and class divides. She co-authoredWorking Better Together: A Practical Guide for Union Leaders, Elected Officials and Managers and The Concord Handbook.  These works distill several years of fieldwork about organizations that bridge racial, ethnic, and class divides. While she now serves as a neutral mediator, she was an elected officer and chief bargainer of a union, and a senior manager in the federal government. She has also served in the state and local and non-profit sectors. Kaboolian received her PhD from the University of Michigan.

Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight

Since 1993, Danielle Brian has been the Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). She frequently testifies before Congress and regularly meets with Members of Congress and officials at the White House and federal agencies to discuss how to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.  Ms. Brian was appointed by the Secretary of the Interior to serve on the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Federal Advisory Committee in 2012. In 2013, she was elected chair of the civil society organizations on the Federal Advisory Committee. In 2015, Ms. Brian was elected to the Board of the D.C. Open Government Coalition. Ms. Brian serves on the board of Taxpayers for Common Sense, and is the chair of the Steering Committee for OpenTheGovernment.org. Ms. Brian was inducted into the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, was ranked by Ethisphere magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in business ethics, and received the Smith College Medal.