Staff

Betsy Aiken – Executive Director

Betsy studied at the University of Pittsburgh for a B.A. in English Literature and an M.B.A. in Operations Research.  Betsy’s experience includes managing Quality Assurance for a precision manufacturer, serving as Chief Administrator for the Municipality of Murrysville, and work at a strategic planning consulting practice.

Betsy has served on Murrysville’s Parks & Recreation Commission, the PA Trails Advisory Committee, the boards of the Westmoreland Conservancy and the Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County, and as a founding member of Friends of Murrysville Parks and the Murrysville Trail Alliance.  She serves on WeConservePA’s Policy Advisory Committee and the Citizen’s Advisory Board for Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation.  Betsy and her husband Arvind Paranjpe live in Murrysville.  In her free time she enjoys travel, gardening, hobby farming, and spending time outdoors.


Karen Rose Cercone
– Operations Assistant

Karen Rose joined the Westmoreland Land Trust after teaching geology for many years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is a native of Westmoreland County and a graduate of Penn-Trafford High School.  Karen Rose received her AB from Bryn Mawr College and her PhD from the University of Michigan, and later went on to earn an MFA in Fiction from the University of Pittsburgh.  She brings experience in citizen science, volunteer tracking, relational databases, and accreditation to the land trust along with a life-long zeal for organization.

Karen Rose is working toward certification as a Penn State Master Watershed Steward.  She is also a member of the Westmoreland Bird and Nature Club, the Turtle Creek Watershed Association, and the Westmoreland Heritage Trail.  When she is not doing citizen science projects such as Stream Team, Salt Watch, Firefly Watch, and the Christmas Bird Count, Karen Rose spends her time training her border collies Mica and Lena for obedience and agility trials.


Paula Purnell
– Coordinator of Educational Programming

Paula Purnell, D. Ed., brings years of experience in educational research, project development and assessment, environmental education, and arts integration to the Westmoreland Land Trust.  Dr. Purnell maintains Sense of Place Learning, LLC to raise awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the unique ecology, history, heritage and artistic works of the places in which we live.  Paula served as an Assistant Professor in the Professional Studies in Education Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Paula is also an accomplished musician who has released eight albums of original music, including three Parent’s Choice award-winning children’s albums. With her band The NewLanders, Paula researches, records, and performs roots music of western Pennsylvania. She lives in Greensburg with her husband Bruce Adamson.


Chris Reed
– Facilities and Land Manager

Chris loves the Laurel Highlands. Born and raised in Westmoreland County, Chris began working with the Westmoreland Land Trust as a volunteer in 2023. He is a graduate of Hempfield Area Senior High School and received a BS in Physics and BA in Philosophy at Saint Vincent College. He later earned an MS in Sustainable Systems at Slippery Rock University and an MA in Environmental Philosophy at the University of Montana. He is currently a Pennsylvania Master Naturalist.

Chris prefers to engage with the community and contribute to the vitality and well-being of the place we live, work and call home. He has worked on vegetable and dairy farms in Westmoreland County. He also instructed at the high school and college levels and is an environmental educator for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Since 2017, Chris has guided on rivers, roads, and trails in the region. In his free time Chris enjoys foraging, making buckskin, riding his bicycle, and submerging in natural bodies of water.


Dominic Demangone
– AmeriCorps Service Member

Dominic Demangone joined the WLT on December 11, 2023, as an AmeriCorps Service Member. Dominic retired in 2021 after serving 50 years in education as a teacher/principal in the Diocese of Greensburg and a Special Education Supervisor with the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit. Dominic is based at Bellbrook in the St. Xavier Nature Preserve. He will assist with environmental stewardship, building and maintaining trails, and conducting research into the rich history of St. Xavier Academy and Convent.  Dominic attended St. Vincent College and Duquesne University, and earned Superintendent’s Papers at Westminster College. Dominic lives in Latrobe.

 

Sarah Poklembo – AmeriCorps Service Member

From September 5th 2023, Sarah Poklembo has assisted the WLT as an AmeriCorps Service Member.  Sarah is a graduate of Juniata College with a B.A. in Environmental Advocacy. Sarah previously served as a member of the Loyalhanna Watershed Youth Conservation Corps and comes to WLT from Westmoreland Cleanways and Recycling.  Sarah lives in Derry and brings experience in field work, environmental education, and nonprofit administration.