Board of Directors

Nelson Brooke, President

NelsonBrooke_gasppic Nelson Brooke, inspired to protect the river he fished and hunted since childhood, is the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. He is an Eagle Scout and outdoor enthusiast. A Birmingham native, Nelson graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in anthropology. Nelson was named “2010 Alabama River Hero” by the Alabama Rivers Alliance for his work on behalf of the Black Warrior and the people who depend on it.Keenly aware of the bad air quality in the greater Birmingham area, Nelson envisions an Alabama where future generations won’t have to worry about the air they breathe.


Rev. Mark Johnston, Vice-President

MarkJohnston_gasppicRev. Mark Johnston is a priest in the Episcopal Church and the executive director of Camp McDowell. Mark actively pursues social justice issues in Alabama. In Winston County he has worked to stop pollution from coal mining and illegal dumping of toxic waste in the Clear Creek watershed. At the state level, he served as president of the Alabama Rivers Alliance and treasurer of the Alabama Environmental Council. Mark founded the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) Reform Coalition. Nationally, he was on the board of directors of the Institute for Conservation Leadership and American Rivers. Mark has received numerous awards and recognitions for his work including Alabama’s Outstanding Young Religious Leader, The James Dockery Southern Environmental Leadership Award, River Hero by the Alabama Rivers Alliance and the Sierra Club Environmentalist of the Year.


Erin Thacker, Treasurer

ErinThacker_gasppic Erin Thacker, Ph.D., is a professional freelance medical and science writer. She holds a doctorate in cell biology and has published research articles in the fields of neurobiology and cancer gene therapy. Her research into treatments for breast cancer and melanoma brought the harmful effects of air pollution to her attention. She was alarmed to find that air pollution is likely contributing to the ever-increasing risk for many diseases, including cancer.Being a parent, Erin is particularly concerned about the long-term effects on brain development. This concern, and the knowledge that her children are growing up in one of the most polluted cities in the U.S., led her to Gasp. Her goal is to make others aware of the health risks associated with air pollution and most importantly, how to act to improve the air we breathe in Alabama.


William Blackerby, Secretary

WilliamBlackerby_gasppic William Blackerby is Youth Ministry Coordinator at Church of the Nativity, Episcopal in Huntsville, Ala. He learned to love Alabama’s natural beauty on his journey to Eagle Scout and through summers spent at Camp McDowell, Camp Sequoyah and Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. After college, William returned to Birmingham to work as the Faith in Community Organizer at Greater Birmingham Ministries, where he learned not only the value of working together with people across race, class, gender, economic status, language, sexual orientation and religious belief, but also how real grassroots change is accomplished. William believes Birmingham should be a world-class city and that clean and healthy air is essential to that goal.


Karen Shepard, At Large

Writer Karen Shepard has an A.B. in English from Harvard University and an M.A. in Film Production from the University of Southern California. She is an avid advocate for equitable climate change solutions.