Science Mentors


Want to meet a real scientist? Our Science Mentors are accomplished in their fields and will be available to meet ecoEXPLORERS during our seasonal events.


Botany Science Mentor: Dr. Joe-Ann McCoy, The North Carolina Arboretum’s Germplasm Repository


Dr. McCoy currently serves as the Director and founder of The North Carolina Arboretum Germplasm Repository, a research institute focused on collecting and maintaining a comprehensive seedbank for the long-term conservation of North Carolina's native, medicinal and traditional food species. She also serves on advisory boards for the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, American Botanical Council and the Ardeal Research institute.

Dr. McCoy holds a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from Clemson University and has been published in over a dozen journals related to plant sciences, including the International Journal of Medicinal Plants and the American Journal of Plant Sciences.


Herpetology Science Mentor: Ann Somers, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Mrs. Somers’ work centers on the biology and conservation of some small turtles found in North Carolina. Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina), are North Carolina’s only fully terrestrial turtle and are believed to be in serious decline due to habitat fragmentation (roads, railroads, etc.) and destruction (residential and industrial development). She chairs a Citizen Science effort called The Box Turtle Connection which gathers data on these turtles, once common throughout our state, in hopes guiding conservation efforts.

Bog Turtles (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), found in the western part of the state, are studied using mark-and-recapture, radio telemetry and trapping methods. Mrs. Somers is one of the directors of the Project Bog Turtle, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve habitat and advise state and federal agencies on the conservation of turtles. Additionally, she is a Principal Investigator working with a multi-disciplinary team working on an informal science education project called The HERP Project, funded by National Science Foundation.


Entomology Science Mentor: Chris Goforth, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences


Chris Goforth is the Head of Citizen Science at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and works to get people throughout NC involved in authentic scientific research.  She currently heads several citizen science projects, including the Dragonfly Swarm Project and Dragonfly Detectives, both of which focus on observing and reporting dragonfly behaviors. 

Chris holds a master’s degree in entomology from the University of Arizona and has published her work with dragonfly flight behaviors and giant water bug parental care.  She also has extensive experience using aquatic insects to study water quality and co-authored several reports for the EPA and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality about the impacts of impaired habitats on aquatic insect populations throughout Arizona. 





Ornithology Science Mentor: Aimee Tomcho, Audubon North Carolina


Aimee Tomcho has worked as Audubon North Carolina’s Conservation Biologist since 2013. Working with private landowners to manage their habitat in ways that benefit birds, her focal species in the mountains has been the golden-winged warbler. Recently, her work with this species has taken her to Nicaragua where she spent time studying its wintering grounds.

Aimee began her career working in the longleaf pine ecosystem studying the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Prior to joining Audubon, Aimee worked with the US Forest Service studying disturbance ecology in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Aimee earned her education from Virginia Tech (BS, ’98) and Clemson University (MS, ’04).

Having spent some time in her career focused on environmental education, Aimee has seen nature reconnect people to intrinsic wellness; she can often be found sharing her knowledge of birds with people of all ages.