2017-2018 AmeriCorps Members

Learn more about the NESS SEA AmeriCorps Program

Meet our 2016-2017 NESS SEA AmeriCorps Alumni

Erin Christiansen, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Manager

Erin graduated from the University of Kansas with her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and minors in French and German language. Erin moved to the Connecticut coast to combine both her passion of working with students with her love and fascination of the ocean. Serving as a NESS SEA AmeriCorps member for two years allowed her to take advantage of the perfect opportunity to get her hands wet in the field of environmental education. Erin has enjoyed moving to New England and exploring all this area has to offer. She continues to enjoy working with the students across NESS programs in New London and helping AmeriCorps members in the NESS SEA AmeriCorps program.

Lauren Chacho, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Lauren is from the land-locked state of Colorado, but has always been fascinated by the ocean and its creatures. She recently graduated from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL with a degree in Marine Science-Biology Tract and a minor in Spanish. While in college, she studied abroad in El Salvador building a community center, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands studying natural history and ecology, and Costa Rica and Panama studying tropical ecology and biodiversity. Lauren has most recently spent the summer exploring Belize coral reefs through scuba diving the Great Blue Hole and studying the marine ecosystems of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia. She has research experience at Eckerd College analyzing marine sediment samples from the BP oil spill, studying the nervous system of cuttlefish and squid at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, and exploring the marine ecology and conservation of mussels at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is so excited about teaching marine science to students and sharing her love for the ocean! In her spare time she loves to go skiing, biking, scuba diving, and playing tennis. Her passions for science, adventure sports and experiential education conveniently collide with the NESS SEA AmeriCorps program and she is excited to serve the New London community this year.

Anna Crouser, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Anna grew up in Northeast 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 and participated in the Soil Judging Team. During her junior year, she spent most of the year in Juneau, Alaska chasing whales and ice climbing with the University of Alaska Southeast. She worked with the Forest Service in the Tongass and has her Wilderness First Aid certification. Her affinity towards the ocean and the natural world stems from her father and his love and curiosity of the land. Her favorite album is Blonde on Blonde, and she spends a lot of time laughing.

Kathy DeChesser, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Kathy grew up in Mystic, Connecticut. This is where she developed her love for the ocean and all of the sea life within it. Many of her summers consisted of exploring the coastline and boating with her family. She spent her early 20’s creating her own vintage clothing business but decided to go back to college at Eastern Connecticut State University where she received a bachelor’s degree that focused in another thing she loves: psychology. She has volunteered as classroom support in a local elementary school and also currently volunteers as a crisis text counselor. Her strong interest for helping others has led her to serve as an AmeriCorps member. She looks forward to supporting the youth of New London as they grow and learn in the exciting STEM-based educational programs that NESS has to offer.

Erika Edmiston, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Erika is from New Britain, Connecticut. She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with concentrations in Biology and Global Change. During her time at UConn, she was a member of the Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society, as well as a member of the UConn CHAARG chapter. Her passion for marine science first sparked in middle school after attending several summers of marine science camp in Groton. Erika is excited to be part of the NESS SEA AmeriCorps team and to be given the opportunity to share her passion and knowledge of marine science and outdoor adventure with the New London community. She loves going to UConn Women's Basketball games (GO HUSKIES!!!), hiking, and going on other spontaneous adventures.

Rachel Ferdinandi, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Rachel grew up in Rhode Island, where she learned about the environment, and the world’s oceans by experiencing the Narragansett Bay as well as about the local ponds and lakes through sailing and swimming in them every summer. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in December of 2016 with a Bachelors of Science in Marine Affairs. Rachel spent 2 months in Fiji on a Marine Conservation Expedition with Global Visions International, where she spent her time on a remote island. During her time in Fiji, Rachel learned to dive so she could collect fisheries data to be relayed back to the local population. She worked at the URI Coastal Resources Center, where she learned administrative techniques while helping on projects that furthered conservation policy. Some of the projects she worked with included development of Green Infrastructure and the Deepwater Wind Farm on Block Island, RI where she studied the opinions on the project of the local inhabitants. Rachel spent last summer in Nevada as an AmeriCorps member with The Great Basin Institute, where she worked at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area while performing outreach about the invasive quagga mussels in Lakes Mead and Mohave. After her year with NESS, Rachel plans to go to graduate school for conservation policy or education.

James Harrington, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

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, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

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.

Danielle Joerger, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Danielle grew up west of Chicago, IL. She completed a double major in Biology and Environmental Studies, and a minor in Geography at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. Afterwards, she worked as a naturalist teaching students and the general public about the local animals and habitats, as well as a job surveying for bees and aquatic turtles in Missouri. Though never having lived along the coast, a love of the ocean had developed over the years via family vacations to Florida and Connecticut. Her enthusiasm for sharing her knowledge of nature and her love of marine habitats motivated her to become a NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member. Her favorite things about the ocean are kayaking and all the unique creatures to see in and/or near the water. She is most looking forward to inspiring a sense of adventure and curiosity in students when it comes to marine life and habitats during her time here at NESS.

Mark Lossavio, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Mark grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. Being landlocked, his main outlet to study marine science was working at his local exotic pet store in the fish section. The academic common market allowed him to attend the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC where he majored in Marine Science and minored in Chinese Studies. During his time at USC he was lucky enough to participate in an internship in Mossel Bay, South Africa doing research on white sharks and performing scientific outreach with the local community. After graduating, he worked as an intern for the Maria Mitchell Association in Nantucket, MA running the Maria Mitchell Aquarium with four other interns doing tasks ranging from animal collection and display to leading beachside collection field-trips. Since then, he worked as the lab tech for the Meiobenthic Ecology and Estuarine Ecotoxicology laboratory at USC before joining NESS to further his passion for science communication and outreach. He is an SSI Rescue Diver, and enjoys traveling to different countries and eating their tastiest dishes. He is excited about the opportunity to make the world of ocean science fun and exciting to as many kids as possible (and hopefully their teachers and parents too!)

Theresa Mackey, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Theresa grew up in the Fairfield County area of Connecticut where she frequently spent time in her backyard stream attempting to identify all the animals that she could. Fast forward years later and her passion for the ocean and the marine sciences continues to thrive. She attended the University of Miami majoring in Marine Science and Biology with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. After spending four years in Florida, she decided to spend a fifth year there working for Walt Disney World as an Aquatic and Behavior/Technology Researcher. Thanks to her time spent at Project Oceanology as a high schooler, Theresa pursued many research areas while in undergraduate and during her year at Disney. This year she hopes to take all that she has learned from her various endeavors to teach and aid students in learning about the marine science environment and foster that passion that started in her as a youth living in Connecticut

Matt Michalek, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Matt was born in Willimantic, CT and has lived in the neighboring town of Columbia his entire life. He attended the University of Delaware and received degrees in English and Criminal Justice on a law-school pathway. Matt is also an alumnus of the United States’ largest and oldest social-professional fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho. In college, Matt developed a passion for agriculture, environmental policy, and education through course-work and experience as a peer mentor. During the 2016 school year, Matt worked as substitute teacher and paraprofessional for grades K-12th in the Windham School District. In his free time, Matt volunteers with a dog rescue organization called Rescue Road Trips that has travelled over a million miles around the country and saved over 30,000 dogs. Matt is currently the vocalist and rhythm guitarist of a band and has been playing music for the last 10 years. While he does not live close to the ocean, Matt grew up fishing and boating with his grandfather in Stratford, CT and has always had a fascination and appreciation of the ocean and aquatic life. Matt is beyond excited to be teaching STEM based education for NESS AmeriCorps this year and is thrilled to be able to experience the wonders of the ocean with the students in the New London school district.

Megan Murray, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Megan is from Needham, Massachusetts and attended Connecticut College where she majored in Environmental Studies and minored in Psychology. Her love for animals, specifically marine mammals, triggered her passion for the marine environment. During her time at Connecticut College she conducted research on Beluga Whale reproduction at the Mystic Aquarium. She also completed two marine mammal and ocean conservation related internships throughout her college career, one at The New England Aquarium and the other at The Marine Mammal Center. These two internships honed her research skills and allowed her to gain more knowledge of how pollution and global warming are influencing marine ecosystems and thus marine organisms. It also confirmed her love for the ocean, the environment and the field of marine science. She is particularly interested in plastic pollution and how that is directly affecting the health of the global oceans. Through her experiences, Megan found her passion in educating the public about the marine environment and why it is so crucial to protect it. She is very excited to be an AmeriCorps Member for NESS and to continue learning and educating others about marine science!

Kaitlyn Theberge, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Kaitlyn Theberge is from Maine and majored in Environmental Studies and French at Bowdoin College. During her junior year, she studied abroad in Madagascar to study biodiversity and natural resource management, and in France where she also spent a year teaching English after graduating. She enjoys travelling to new countries, especially where she can visit coastal places to explore different cultures’ relationships with the ocean. This could be anything between studying a reef fishery in Madagascar to visiting fish markets along Europe’s coastline. Back in the US, she also volunteers at Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program. Since her interests lie in sustainable fisheries and marine conservation, she is excited to share what she knows and learn even more over the course of her time with NESS AmeriCorps!

Lilia Trissler, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

Lilia is from Rhode Island and grew up exploring the Ocean State’s marine environments, therefore fostering a love of the sea and everything in it. She graduated from Wheaton College in Norton, MA in 2016 with a B.A. in Biology and a minor in Animal Behavior. During summers between school, Lilia interned at the Southwick's Zoo, was a research assistant studying and protecting Diamondback Terrapins on Cape Cod, volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation center working with howler monkeys and manatees in Belize, and worked as an educator at the Potter League for Animals. Through her experiences and education, Lilia has decided to focus on educating the public about the importance of marine and animal conservation as a career goal. This past year, she served another AmeriCorps term with the Providence Children's Museum providing STEM-based programming to the Southside Boys & Girls Club centered around the museum's philosophy focused on play. This year, Lilia looks forward to continuing her development as a STEM educator and is excited to return to her interests by teaching marine environmental education and helping students get out on the water with NESS!

Raina Wesson, NESS SEA AmeriCorps Member

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.