NESS SEA Americorps Program Members
Kelsey grew up in Gilford, New Hampshire right next to Lake Winnipesauke. Growing up on the lake, she spent a lot of time in and around the water in the summer, eventually working as a lifeguard in high school and college. Kelsey attended Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts majoring in environmental science with minors in animal behavior and journalism. Some highlights from her studies were taking a travel course where she got to spend two weeks in Costa Rica and Belize and spending her junior spring studying abroad in Australia at James Cook University. While abroad, Kelsey received an SSI open water diver certification and achieved one of her life long dreams of diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Kelsey became interested in marine and environmental education through her summer internships with the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance based out of Middleborough, MA and the Squam Lake Science Center in Plymouth, NH. She spent these summers conducting research with the South Coast Terrapin Project, colleting data on whale watches, and planning and conducting nature education programs at schools and camps. Kelsey is excited to continue working in environmental and nature education with NESS this coming year and serving in New London Public Schools.
Meridan grew up in Texas. Although she was initially far from the ocean, she just couldn’t be kept away. From a young age, she swam as much as she could, obsessively collected shells, and learned about her favorite aquatic creatures (loggerhead sea turtles are the best!). As soon as she was old enough, she got her PADI Open Water Diver certification, followed shortly by Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver certifications, and has been diving ever since. An avid musician as well, she loves to play bass, piano, and ukulele in her free time, in addition to knitting way too many hats and searching for local karaoke nights. Meridan graduated from Connecticut College with a bachelor’s degree in Classics. During her time there, she had the opportunity to teach Latin to elementary school students in New London and developed a passion for education and working with children. She is excited to bring her learning, experience, and love for the ocean and its inhabitants to the kids in New London schools this year. She hopes to share and spread her enthusiasm for learning, exploration, and engagement with the natural world, and help the next generation of marine scientists and explorers start their journeys.
Anna grew up east of Cleveland, Ohio and attended The Ohio State University for Environmental Science with a specialization in Ecosystem Restoration. During school, she took a special interest in avian ecology and soil science, participating in the Soil Judging Team. During her junior year at OSU, she spent most of the year in Juneau, Alaska, chasing whales and ice climbing with the University of Alaska Southeast. In Juneau she volunteered and worked with the USFS in the Tongass National Forest on young-growth forest studies and gained her Wilderness First Aid certification. Other prior experiences include working as a GIS Technician for the Terrestrial Wildlife Ecology Lab at Ohio State and working with Common Terns as a Wildlife Biology intern for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Her affinity towards the ocean and the natural world stems from her father and his love and curiosity of the land. As a returning NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member, Anna is thrilled to remain a part of the New London community. This past year she gained her Level 1 Sailing Certification and is looking forward to growing in her sailing abilities. She is super excited to continue experiencing the east coast and support New London youth in their ocean adventures. Outside of work you will usually find her listening to music or laughing at her own jokes.
Kirsten grew up in Tolland, Connecticut and attended The University of Rhode Island for Marine Biology. While in college, she researched shark movement by tagging and tracking Mako sharks off Block Island. She also researched growth and development by feeding and caring for Little Skates and counting growth rings on their vertebrae. In addition to research, she was a teaching assistant for introductory statistics and introductory biology labs. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, scuba diving, ballroom dancing, and participating in multiple coed sports teams. Kirsten volunteered and studied in Australia on two separate occasions. She assisted with habitat restoration in the Wild Mountains and learned about the history and ecology of the Great Barrier Reef at James Cook University. She is elated to be able to work with the next generation of New London and share her love of the ocean and its creatures with them.
Dylan Gardner a.k.a. “Jaws” grew up in the frigid waters of Northern California. He came to New England to serve aboard a Nuclear Submarine at the Submarine Base in Groton. Upon completion of his Navy commitment, he attended the University of Connecticut and received a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Jaws is happiest in the water; swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing or just splashing in the waves. However, he also enjoys many other physical activities, such as yoga, mountain biking, motorcycle riding, backcountry skiing, hiking and Aikido. He loves spending time in nature with his family. He is very excited to get a chance to spend time with the New London students and share his passion for adventure with them. He is looking forward to motivating and raising the self-confidence of these children. He also can’t wait to make new friends and lasting memories during the year with AmeriCorps!
Tiffany grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut and graduated from Southeastern University in Florida. She has loved growing up near the ocean and taking trips along the Atlantic Coast. After working in Washington D.C., she decided to pursue a different path to serve others. This led to serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Hawaii as a Life Skills Specialist for a local community center. Being on the island also cultivated a love for the ocean and sailing. She is excited to combine these passions in her current service year with NESS. Tiffany is eager to learn about the New London community by working with kids to help them cultivate their own passion for the ocean and using the ocean to help them improve their skills and confidence.
Born on the banks of the Red River in Fargo, North Dakota, and raised just outside of the Twin Cities, Braxton has long had a love for the great outdoors. His earliest childhood memories are of chasing turtles and frogs in the swamps of Northern Minnesota, where he and his dad would often go exploring. Graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2018 with degrees in history and political science, he found his second passion in education policy. Although he’s never lived on the coast, Braxton is excited to combine his affinity for education with his appreciation of the natural world. He’s also looking forward to learning more about the ocean alongside the students of New London. In his free time, he enjoys playing the electric guitar, going out to the movies, and antiquing. His favorite band is The Beatles, and his favorite marine animal is the Giant Squid.
James started his life on the water at the age of three weeks old playing in the sand and salt of southern New Jersey. Once he hit the age of three he began fishing with his uncle and never looked back. James has fished across the country and been a part of numerous tournaments and fishing organizations. Though fishing is his primary passion, many other sports such as boating, sailing, and surfing added their way into his repertoire. He graduated from the University of Connecticut at Avery Point with a dual degree in Maritime Studies and Marine Fisheries Management and Policy. While in college he sailed competitively for three years during frostbite seasons, and also served as Co-Commodore for the Avery Point sailing club while helping with two fishing clubs/teams. Throughout his life, James has been passionate about teaching fishing and sailing, as well as educating others about marine biomes/sports and hopes to continue to educate through his career in fisheries and ocean management.
Haley Herring-Sylvestre graduated from University of Connecticut in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She has lived her whole life in Connecticut and would spend summers going to the beach to collect shells and trying to find new life forms. Her goals are to do research involving botany, but is excited to work with NESS for this year. When not talking about algae’s evolutionary history at the beach, Haley can be found reading under trees while trying to avoid ants falling on her.
Laura grew up in New York City and graduated from Carleton College in 2013 with a BA in Geology. She was a deckhand and educator on tall ships in New York, Washington, Maine, and the Caribbean. She taught science and leadership to middle and high school students at two residential programs in Maine. During her time in Maine, she was also a substitute teacher in several public schools and led a science-based after-school program. She is so excited to build on her past experiences and learn more while spending a year with the students in New London. In her free time, you may find Laura biking, rock-climbing, or playing ultimate frisbee.
Kathryn is an ocean adventurer from New Britain, Connecticut. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies from Salve Regina University. She further channeled her passion for conservation and traveled to the land down under for her Master’s in Protected Area Management from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. Kathryn loves travelling the world and diving whenever she can. She has travelled to Thailand, Australia, South Africa, and most recently the Bahamas. Before her time at NESS, she was an Environmental Educator teaching students about the biodiversity of the Bahamas which really sparked her interest in education about marine life and conservation! At NESS, Kathryn hopes to spread her love and passion for the ocean to young students of Connecticut and also inspire them to think outside the box and get creative!
Emily is from East Haddam, Connecticut. She attended Eastern Connecticut State University where she received her undergraduate degree in Biology and her graduate degree in Secondary Education. For the past 2 years, Emily and her husband have been English teachers and teacher trainers in Indonesia with the Peace Corps. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling, running, kayaking, biking, and rock climbing. She is always reading a book and can make a mean lemon meringue pie. For this next year, Emily is excited to get back to her biology roots and help instill a love for science and learning in the New London youth. She is also quite excited to add some water sports into her vast repertoire of hobbies.
A New England native, Katie is from Haverhill, Massachusetts. Katie recently graduated from Gettysburg College where she pursed a double major in Environmental Studies and Public Policy with a minor in Classics. In her junior year, she studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she developed her passion for sustainable development policy. Combining her passion for policy with hands on experience, Katie is excited to educate the public about the marine environment and why it is so critical to our planet’s health. Katie is excited to be a part of the NESS SEA AmeriCorps team and can’t wait to get involved with the New London community, learn more about marine science, and get students out on the water!
Sam was born and raised on the coast of Massachusetts. He spent his early life in the water and on boats through the summer and stomping through the woods in the winter. He has had the opportunity to study and explore the Atlantic Coast, both academically and personally, and has had the opportunity to experience many other parts of the U.S. and some places abroad as well, such as Ecuador, Belize, and Scotland. He recently graduated from Clark University with a degree in Environmental Science and Conservation Biology. Sam is passionate about all living things and wild places. In his spare time, he likes to exercise, hike, read, and sleep. He is looking forward to sharing his knowledge and passion about the marine ecosystems of New England with students in New London. Moreover, he is excited to explore, work with, and be a part of the New London community.
Raina grew up in Westfield, Massachusetts. Although she didn’t grow up by the water, she found her love for the ocean on her yearly trips to Cape Cod with her family. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and a minor in Spanish at Roger Williams University (RWU) in Bristol, RI. During her time at RWU, she spent a semester abroad in Bermuda, at Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), where she received her Advanced, Rescue, and Science diver certifications for SCUBA. She also completed her own research project where she studied a local coral species. Raina is an animal lover, so for fun she volunteers for the Animal Rescue program at Mystic Aquarium and the Bristol Animal Shelter in RI, where she gets to spend time with many different animals. She looks forward to spending the year by the ocean with NESS and educating students on all there is to know about the ocean.