Connecticut Chapter

About Us

Our Mission

Our mission is to restore the American Chestnut to the forests and woodlands of Connecticut (25 – 40% of the trees were American chestnuts in CT forests).

The Connecticut Chapter of TACF is a Chartered State Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation with its own Bylaws, Constitution and Treasury. It is organized as a tax-exempt non-profit foundation under the US Tax Code 501(c)3.

There is a Board of Directors – real people, your neighbors in Connecticut – who determine strategic direction, make decisions about application of resources, and are there when the rubber hits the road to install fences, plant trees and perform all the functions necessary to achieve our goals

Board of Directors

CT chapter board in 2024

Executive Committee

President – Jack Swatt – Colchester

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Jack Swatt has been a member of The American Chestnut Foundation since 1993.  He received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from UConn in 1983, an M.S. in Chemistry from CCSU in 1992 and graduated from the Albany Medical College Physician Assistant Program in 1996.  He is currently retired but was previously employed by The Hospital of Central Connecticut as a Physician Assistant in Hospitalist Medicine.  He is also an active volunteer for the CT DEEP (monitoring wintering eagles and Whip-poor-wills),  Audubon CT, CT Audubon, NH Audubon, the Loon Preservation Committee and the Society to Protect New Hampshire Forests (aka the Forest Society). He is also a life member of the Wolcott Fire Dept. Co. #2 and the New Haven Bird Club.

Vice President – Fred Behringer – Old Lyme

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Fred followed the American chestnut story for many years and joined the CT chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation in 2021.  Trained as a biologist with a focus on plants (BS Biology, Bates College; PhD Plant Physiology, Cornell University; 7 years postdoctoral research in plant development and molecular biology), he is particularly excited about blight resistant Darling 58.  The TACF has put great effort into maintaining native American chestnut germplasm and providing advanced backcross lines with Chinese chestnut. The resistance Darling 58 confers opens up an exciting new chapter in efforts to restore the American chestnut as a keystone species.  A CT native, Fred lived for 20 years in various parts of the US. He returned to CT in 2018 and has resided in Old Lyme since then.  After moving back to CT, he worked as an analytical chemist and operated an analytical lab in Old Lyme from 2007 – 2021. Fred serves on several boards/commissions in Old Lyme involved with the environment and is active in a variety of community activities.  He is passionate about environmental stewardship and science literacy.

Treasurer – Dr. Jack Ostroff – Old Lyme

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

JackOstroffDr. Ostroff has been a member of TACF since 2000, joining after having been intrigued by a display at one of our local agricultural fairs. He received his BS from Yale University, MD from Rutgers Medical School, and MS in Computer Science from Rutgers University. Dr. Ostroff has attempted to use his medical knowledge to make better use of computers in the pharmaceutical industry and has leveraged his expertise as the chief architect of DentataBase, the American Chestnut Foundation’s Breeding Database. He has lived in Connecticut since 1994 and is a member of a number of environmental groups. He has served as a Board Member since 2009 and, from 2014 to 2020, as Chapter Vice-President.

Secretary & Research Coordinator – Dr. Florian Carle – New Haven

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

After spending his childhood in southern France harvesting and eating chestnuts at every occasion, Florian moved to New Haven for work in 2014 and realized American chestnuts are not as ubiquitous than their European counterpart. He is delighted to join the CT Chapter to help restore this amazing tree. Florian earned a M.Eng and a PhD from Aix Marseille University in France for his experimental work on droplets evaporation under microgravity for space applications. He is currently the manager of the Yale Quantum Institute where he creates programing to promote research and teaching of quantum science on the Yale campus, curates several series of talks and workshops, and facilitates scientific collaboration by hosting leading scientists from around the world. Outside of science, Florian likes to row and scull on the Housatonic River and he enjoys theater, rollerskating, and spending time with his cat Raccoon. He is also amused to live on Chestnut Street!

Board Members

Renée Allen – Guilford 

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Renee Allen

Renée is Adjunct Faculty at the Hospitality & Tourism Management Department of the New Haven University. She share a passion for chestnut trees, mushroom foraging, and wine. Renée is Certified Specialist of Wine and writes a monthly Wine Column for the Connecticut Magazine. She holds a JD from Boston University.

Dr. Phil Arnold

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Phil ArnoldDr. Arnold was a Board Certified Physician for 38 years specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, retired in 2004. He received a BA from Yale University and M.D. from Tufts. Philip is active as a Director of the Woodbridge Land Trust and as a member of the American Chestnut Foundation. He feels a synergy between the goals of the organizations and is committed to the goals of restoration of a resistant American Chestnut. Dr. Arnold has served as the Woodbridge Orchard Manager, and served several years as Chapter Vice-President and subsequently Secretary, retiring from the Executive Committee in 2013.

John Baker – Litchfield

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

John BakerJohn Baker was (for 18 years or so) Treasurer of the Litchfield Hills Audubon Society (LHAS) and was instrumental in the acquisition of the property, now known as the Wigwam Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, on which the Society’s chestnut plantation is located. He has been a member of The American Chestnut Foundation since 1998. Born in New York City, but raised on a farm in Goshen, CT, John received his B.S. from Cornell University in 1956 and joined Cargill, Inc. After serving his country for three years in the U.S. Air Force as a navigator, he spent 37 years with Cargill as the country manager in the Philippines and in Thailand. Upon retiring to Litchfield with his wife Janet, he started beekeeping and joined the LHAS (in 1993). Then, after building their retirement home, John joined the Litchfield Housing Trust where he shepherded their affordable home building program. He is also President of the C.B. Ripley Land Trust, the CT Director of the Eastern Apiculture Society and is also a member of the Litchfield Conservation Commission. Needless to say, John has a great affection for the outdoors and the beauty of nature.

Dr. David Bingham – Salem

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

David BinghamDavid Bingham is a retired OB-GYN. He has been active with numerous conservation organizations, currently serving on the boards of the Salem Land Trust, Audubon Connecticut and the CT Land Conservation Coalition, and as co-chair of the CT League of Conservation Voters. David is a life member of TACF and manages a mother tree orchard located on his land in Salem, which includes young trees from 4th backcross nuts obtained from 3 native trees in CT. These trees were pollinated, by CT volunteers, with research pollen from The American Chestnut Foundation’s Meadowview Farm. One of the 3 parent CT American Chestnut mother trees has been nurtured by David in Salem for 20 years, and may now be one of the largest native trees in the State. Nuts from the Salem orchard are anticipated to be produced in the next year or two, to be grown in the seed orchards scheduled for the next phase of the restoration project. The Salem Land Trust has a test planting of “restoration trees” (from B3F3 nuts), planted in a deer exclosure at the Zemko Sawmill Preserve.

Michael Gaffey – Old Lyme

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

Married 42 yrs Marcia Prior Gaffey, father of Evan ( lawyer, Marine Lt);  Morgan (Chinese linguist, Army Ranger Capt);Allison (Dr. Psychology-Yale, West Haven Vets.).  23 yrs. Civil construction Superintendent ($1/2 billion), 14 yrs.-7 time award winning secondary economics teacher.  Tree Warden certified, Twice elected Old Lyme Board of Finance (coendorsed second six yr. term), Active member Old Lyme Tree Commission, and Grandfather of Two+.

Jim Gage – Ellington

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Jim Gage has been a Director and Treasurer of the Northern Connecticut Land Trust and was a preserve monitor for The Nature Conservancy (Poquetanuck Cove) for approximately 8 years. A member of long-standing in the American Chestnut Foundation, he has served as the Chapter’s Treasurer and NCLT Orchard Manager for the greater part of a decade. He also served on the Ellington Conservation Commission, and was Director and Treasurer of the Scantic River Watershed Association. Jim retired from Pratt & Whitney Division of United Technologies in 1993. Jim has an MBA from Harvard University.


David Liedlich – Southbury

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

David has been a member of the American Chestnut Foundation since 2010.  He received an M.S. in Wildlife Science from New Mexico State University in 1991, and a B.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries Biology, with a Forestry minor from the University of Massachusetts in 1987.  He has been employed with the state of Connecticut, Department of Developmental Services since 1998 as both an Adult Services Instructor and as a Case Manager.  He is certified to teach life sciences/biology and Earth Science. David volunteers with the Southbury Land Trust, was a Commissioner on the Southbury Inland Wetlands Commission for 16 years, past Master of King Solomon’s Masonic Lodge, a member of the Connecticut Botanical Society, and is a life member of the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society.  David’s interests include gardening, hunting, edible wild mushrooms, and beekeeping.  He recently co-edited (2021) “The Beeing: Life Inside a Honeybee Colony” by Eric Tourneret, Sylla de Saint Pierre, and Jurgen Tautz.  “The Beeing” is the English language version of the French book on honeybees “Le Genie Des Abeilles” (2017).”

Dr. Bert Malkus – Woodbridge

Bert Malkus

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Dr. Malkus is an Associate Director of Clinical Chemistry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, and a Director of Qualigen, Inc. Dr. Malkus holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Iowa State University and conducted NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship Research Studies at Yale University and the University of Florida. Dr. Malkus has been very involved with the Woodbridge Land Trust and is one of the key contacts for the Land Trust’s Backcross Chestnut Orchard.

Jack Morris – Glastonbury

Jack Morris

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Jack is a retired engineer with an interest in science, mathematics and the great outdoors. Born in Utah, Jack received a BSEE in Computer Science from the University of Utah and began a career with Pratt and Whitney in 1970 as a Research Scientist. He became interested in the American Chestnut after numerous hikes in Connecticut where he realized that the species still existed in a diminished shrub-like or juvenile form and on rare occasions, finding a tree bearing fruit. Learning the story of the blight, he joined TACF about 15 years ago. As a member of a hiking club, his interest continues in locating these rare examples of fruiting trees. Membership in CT-TACF has provided an opportunity to assist local programs and to share with Nutmeggers the ultimate goal of reintroduction of the species in mature form back into our forests.


Ginny Patsun – Somers

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Ginny Patsun

Ginny Patsun is a graduate student in environmental studies at Antioch University New England. Her concentration is in Sustainable Development and Climate Change and plans to complete her studies in December 2019. Ginny works as a park interpreter for the Department of Conservation and Recreation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Ginny’s career in natural and cultural history interpretation spans over two decades working and volunteering at museums, nature centers, and for land conservation organizations. After raising her family, Ginny served in Peace Corps from 2014-2016 as a forestry extension agent in Northwestern Province, Zambia. During her time there she worked with farmers integrating agroforestry methods to help increase crop yields and improve food security. Ginny currently resides in Stafford Springs, CT. She is the manager of Norcross Chestnut Seed Orchard.


Dr. Lindsay Rush – East Lyme

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

Lindsay grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where she first became interested in ecology and native plants. She has a background in biology (BA, Franklin and Marshall College) and genetics (PhD, Yale University). Lindsay is currently an Assistant Professor at Mitchell College in New London and teaches broadly in the sciences, including biology, genetics, evolution of food, and scientific communication courses. In addition to thinking about how to get young people excited about science, she enjoys exploring the local trails in southeastern Connecticut.

Mark Vollaro – Shelton

Board Term Expires Spring 2026

Woods “Ellery” Sinclair – Falls Village

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

Woods SinclairEllery has lived in Falls Village for sixty-two years and is a retired English teacher of the Housatonic Valley Regional High School where he became Department Chairman. Presently he is Chairman of the Inland Wetlands/ Conserva-tion Commission, past-president on the library board, Housatonic River Commissioner, Zoning Board of Appeals member, and HVRHS Arboretum Committee member. For the past two years he has helped establish and manages the Canaan Mountain TACF Chestnut Orchard of about 250 backcross trees in Falls Village. He has engaged the Vocational Agricultural Education students from HVRHS as partners through their curriculum, and helped implement a chapter summer-internship. Grateful to be re-nominated, Woods looks forward to serving another term with the dedicated folks on the Connecticut Chapter Board.


If you are interested in becoming a board member, please contact one of the members of the nomination committee: John Baker, Jane Harris & Ginny Patsun

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Where did the names Cassie & Denny come from? Mommy chestnut and Daddy chestnut picked them out of a baby names book. Or you can find out the true origin story by watching this episode. ... See MoreSee Less

Georgia friends, join the GA Chapter of TACF for a screening of our documentary Clear Day Thunder: Rescuing the American Chestnut.

This event takes places Thursday, May 30 at 7:00PM at the historic DeSoto Theatre in Rome, GA. Visit for more details or to get free tickets to this screening.
... See MoreSee Less

Georgia friends, join the GA Chapter of TACF for a screening of our documentary Clear Day Thunder: Rescuing the American Chestnut. 

This event takes places Thursday, May 30 at 7:00PM at the historic DeSoto Theatre in Rome, GA. Visit for more details or to get free tickets to this screening.

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Gay Ziska:)

Don't worry, if you were already following us before, you still are! This new handle allows us to stay consistent across platforms. ... See MoreSee Less

Dont worry, if you were already following us before, you still are! This new handle allows us to stay consistent across platforms.

Denny's are still hanging on, but Cassie has already dropped them. What could it be? Learn a bit of tree anatomy and discover a new trick to identify chestnut tree species in this week's Cassie & Denny.

And be sure to tune in next week when we explain the origin of the names Cassie & Denny!
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