The Environment, Education, and Community Outreach (EECO) project is a collaboration of Montclair State University's New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC), Service-Learning and Community Engagement Program, and the Center for Student Involvement. One component of EECO involves the creation of a conservation corps that will support the education and conservation mission of the School of Conservation. Currently, the project supports 4 full-time AmeriCorps members at the NJSOC. These AmeriCorps members develop valuable skills to support their professional and personal development while helping NJSOC in its conservation efforts. EECO is funded by a $260,000 grant from the New Jersey Commission on National and Community Service. At this time, we are fortunate to have Olivia Hathaway, Kate Hausman, Amanda Menasion and Rachel Yerkes join our Americorps team.
Olivia, a native Long Islander, is a recent graduate from Boston University, where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Biology with specialization in Ecology and Conservation Biology. During her time at BU, Olivia studied abroad in Ecuador for a semester and had the opportunity to visit and conduct field research in Andean cloud forest, the coast, the Galapagos Islands, and the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (located in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest and where she lived for a month of the program). She also worked as a program assistant with the Nature and Me:Explorations in Ecology program, which connects Boston-area public school students with nature through field trips and hands-on classroom activities. As a child, Olivia cultivated her interest in nature through family trips to the Bronx Zoo, walks through the local nature preserve, and grossing her parents out with the insects she found in the backyard. Although unsure of where she will be headed following her time with the NJSOC, she hopes to be emulating the Lorax in speaking up for the conservation and restoration of the environment in some way.
I've lived at the Jersey shore for 12 years now, but I grew up in Milford PA (and was born in Burlington VT). I spent the vast majority of my childhood outdoors—playing in the woods, camping with my family, and attending environmental day camps at PEEC during the summer. I earned my BA in Environmental Studies from Ursinus College in 2012. While in school, I spent a semester abroad studying Environmental Science in Brisbane, Australia. I've interned/worked with the National Audubon Society (as a curatorial assistant), the US Forest Service (as a tour guide at a National Historic Site), and the YMCA (as a Naturalist/Educator). I spend most of my free time taking pictures or riding my bike. I have a cat named Liz Lemon. I am also a twin, and my brother and I have different birthdays (born over midnight). This year I am looking forward to learning and growing as an educator here at the SOC.
Amanda Menasion has lived in New Jersey for most of her life, and as a kid she always had animals growing up whether it be a dog or a goat. Amanda also enjoyed nature and just being outdoors whether it was exploring near and in a pond or playing in a field. When it came time for college, Amanda decided on Delaware Valley College where she majored in Wildlife Management and Conservation and minored in Large Animal Science. Throughout her time in college she also volunteered and interned with different organizations, such as AARK a wildlife rehabilitation center and Conservator’s Center Inc. One of the most influential places she volunteered was John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge because while volunteering it was made obvious to her that people are willing to learn and appreciate nature and animals if given the knowledge. The last semester of college, Amanda spent in Queensland, Australia where she was able to learn about Australia’s environmental issues and see how they try to overcome them. After coming back to the states, Amanda moved to Maryland where she stayed for about two years before moving back to New Jersey, where she began working at a preschool. While working at the preschool Amanda realized that education is a great way to help the youth realize how cool the environment is! She is happy to begin her year at the School of Conservation to teach youth about the awesomeness of being outdoors!
Rachel grew up in Greene, a small town in rural Iowa that is located somewhere between blue and yellow! Most of her childhood was spent exploring at her Grandpa’s pond and garden. She found her love for nature and the great outdoors there. Rachel loves to explore, travel, laugh, hike, and drink coffee. She graduated in 2013 from the University of Iowa, earning a degree in Biology. Throughout college, Rachel had the opportunity to work with children of all ages while traveling the world. She spent time in Hawaii and Germany working with both infants and school age children. Rachel moved to New Jersey shortly after graduation. She began working as a seasonal Outdoor Education Naturalist at YMCA Camp Mason, teaching a variety of fun and engaging outdoor recreation and education classes. When Rachel isn’t going on a new adventure, she can be found in the kitchen cooking something delicious!
Past AmeriCorps Members...
Emily Bonder grew up in Rockland County New York. When she was a child her family would vacation in Colorado where they would camp and go hiking through the mountains. Entering the University of Delaware she had no idea what to choose as a major.She excelled in science so chose biochemistry, but quickly realized it was not for her. Emily finally declared a major during her sophomore year, deciding to go with something she genuinely enjoyed, environmental science, with a concentration in ecology and organismal biology.While in college Emily has been fortunate enough to enjoy many positive experiences where her love of the natural environment grew. During breaks from college she traveled to Guatemala to work on a coffee bean farm, and Argentinato study Latin American history and the spanishlanguage. While in Argentina she met the most amazing animal in the world intheir natural habitat.... PENGUINS! Working closer to home, Emily participated in aservice project with the National Relief Network restoring homes inNew Orleans that were still damaged by Hurricane Katrina.This past summer she worked at a summer camp called The Nature Place. While there she had a thoroughly enriching experience working with children to help them gain an appreciation for nature and the environment.Emily is looking forward to the experience at the NJSOC within the AmeriCorps program where she hopes to share her love for the environment with those around her.
As a native of Denver, CO, Danny became an outdoors person almost by default. He spent most of his childhood skiing, running, cycling, and hiking, although his parents did force him to play golf occasionally, as well. In 2008, Danny left Colorado for Philadelphia, PA in order to attend Swarthmore College, where he studied history and education. He didn’t completely abandon the outdoors, however; while at Swarthmore he co-chaired the Swarthmore Outing Club, where he attempted, with some success, to lure his peers away from their studies and into the outdoors. During his junior year, he left school for one semester in order to hike the Appalachian Trail, which he completed in four months and twenty-six days. Danny returned to Swarthmore with a heightened appreciation for positive health effects of regular showering and a renewed interest in combining his experience studying education with his passion for the outdoors. He earned his undergraduate degree in history in May of 2012, and he received his certificate to teach high school Social Studies six months later. In addition to pursuing a career in classroom education, Danny spent the last two summers working as an Appalachian Trail ridgerunner – an on-site trail maintainer and environmental educator – in northern New Jersey. Danny is very excited to continue his work in outdoor education at the New Jersey School of Conservation!
George was born way down south in Augusta, Georgia, and since then has lived in 7 different states until his family finally settled down in Bridgewater, NJ when he was 8. As a child, he was a very shy individual, but he shared a great passion for the outdoors and was always out exploring. He kept this passion within himself as he grew into his high school years and it was during his junior year that he started volunteering with the North Brunswick school district on their trips to the New Jersey School of Conservation, something that continued for 6 more years. After high school, George attended Delaware Valley College and earned a BS in Conservation and Wildlife Management graduating in May 2012. Since then, George has worked as a seasonal naturalist for the Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge, NJ, helping to teach environmentally themed lessons in their Eco-Explorers program for children ages 7-9.In September of 2012 he was accepted into the EECO Americorps program at the School Of Conservation where he is learning to deliver a variety of environmentally based lessons to visiting students and their teachers.
Stephanie Sherman was born and raised in Berks County, Pennsylvania. An only child, Steph would often pass the time exploring the forests and the dirt lane, which was the driveway of her home. Even at a young age, Steph knew she loved animals and found a passion for the outdoors through Girl Scout camping, bike riding and skiing with her family in the winter. Steph graduated in 2012 from Delaware Valley College with highest honors, earning a degree in Conservation and Wildlife Management. In college, she spent her time volunteering with her co-ed, service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, taking on leadership roles such as Secretary, Vice President of Membership and finally President. Through them, she formed a partnership with the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy as a Conservation Committee member and Stream Clean-Up leader. During her undergrad years, Steph served as an Environmental Education intern at Wildlands Conservancy, a non-profit land trust in the Lehigh Valley, and found a passion for teaching younger generations. She continued to become a Naturalist with Wildlands. Her favorite programs being pond and stream studies, catching things like macroinvertebrate “bugs” and frogs, and their Bike and Boat programs on the Lehigh River. In the winters, Steph has spent the past seven years teaching her love of skiing as an instructor at Bear Creek Mountain Resort. Steph looks forward to expanding her outdoor skills at the New Jersey School of Conservation and hopes to continue her education to one day become an Environmental Education Director.
Paula Burt was born and raised in Bergen County, NJ. As a child, she would always be outside discovering different plants, rocks and trees when she was not spending time practicing music. Paula graduated with honors from the University of Michigan earning both a BA in Anthropology and BMA in Music. During the time outside of her studies, she spent many moments outdoors exploring natural parks on the Michigan Peninsula, completing a geology field camp in the Rocky Mountains and also participating in an archaeology internship with BLM in northern Arizona. After graduating from college, Paula worked at the non-profit Project USE in northwestern NJ where she led hikes, backcountry camping, outdoor initiatives and canoe trips with inner-city youth from the tri-state area. Following a season at Project USE, Paula packed her bags and headed towards Guatemala to work for several months at a nutrition center and afterwards, she completed a field season with US Fish and Wildlife Service in King Salmon, Alaska. After returning from Alaska, Paula became an EECO Americorps member in addition to starting graduate studies in Environmental Management at Montclair State University. She looks forward to working with the School of Conservation this year in the breathtaking outdoor classroom of Stokes Forest.
Bobby was born and raised in Northport, New York and lived there for 17 years before moving to Binghamton, NY in 2008 to attend college. He spent his childhood hiking, camping, backpacking, and becoming acquainted with the natural world with the Boyscouts of America. With the scouts, he had the opportunity to hike at Philmount Scout Camp in New Mexico, sail throughout the Florida Keys at Sea Base, and go canoeing and mountain biking in Northern Maine.In 2012, he completed his degree within the Environmental Studies department at Binghamton University, where he received a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a specialization in Environmental Sociology and Natural Philosophy. While studying in the Environmental Studies Department, he was able to spend many hours hiking, exploring, and maintaining the 500-acre nature preserve on Binghamton’s campus, the largest natural preserve on a state college’s campus in the Northeast. While in college, Bobby traveled to different rural towns in Nicaragua (Chacaraseca and Nuevo Amanacer) to work on biointensive farming projects that were planned and funded through a student group, which he helped create, the Binghamton Nicaragua Initiative. Bobby is very grateful for the opportunity to live and teach at the New Jersey School of Conservation this year and is looking forward to spending many hours exploring Stokes and High Point State Parks, practicing archery, boating, and carving wizard staffs with colonial woodworking tools.
Arielle Simonis was born and raised in Sussex County, NJ. Her parents, avid birders and outdoor enthusiasts, fostered in her an appreciation and respect for her natural surroundings. She graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2011 with an interdisciplinary Bachelor’s degree in English, Environmental Studies, and Gender Studies. During her undergraduate career, Arielle served on the cabinet of her student government and was a member of Water Watch, a campus environmental organization focused on preserving the campus watershed. She also had the opportunity to work with a pioneering student group to develop, build, and support the college’s first sustainable garden.After spending a year teaching at a non-profit preschool, Arielle is excited to join the team of environmental educators at The School of Conservation. She firmly believes in Rachel Carson’s idea of ‘The Sense of Wonder’ that is inherent in nature and looks forward to beginning a life-long career in environmental education. After her AmeriCorps term, Arielle hopes to continue her education, focusing on environmental literature and the role of gender in environmental education.In her free time, Arielle enjoys running, yoga, hiking, cooking, and a good book
Jenna Gersie was born and raised in Sussex County, NJ, and her love of nature was inspired by day-trips to places such as Stokes State Forest and the Delaware River. In 2010, she graduated magna cum laude from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. During her undergraduate career, Jenna studied tropical ecology abroad in both Cairns, Australia and Monteverde, Costa Rica. At Skidmore, Jenna completed two senior projects: one on bird imagery in environmental literature and the other on a history of the Native Americans of the Saratoga Springs region. She was also the Media Liaison for the Environmental Action Club and a member of the swim team. Jenna completed an environmental communications internship at Skidmore in 2008, where she developed the Environmental Studies webpage and wrote a newsletter for the Environmental Studies Program. In 2010, she interned for the Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Project at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL. She has also volunteered with Yayasan Pulau Banyak, a sea turtle conservation program in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Samantha Mass grew up in Red Bank, NJ. From a young age she can remember having a passion for nature and the outdoors. She pursed this passion at the University of Vermont where she graduated in 2011 with a degree in Environmental Studies. While in college, Sam spent her summers as a National Park Ranger in Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook interpreting historic and natural areas as well as designing programs such as Junior Ranger.
During the spring semester of her Junior year, Sam had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand where she studied the local ecology, policy, and was involved in a directed research project with the local primary school. She and three other students developed a 10-week environmental curriculum to teach students about biodiversity and invasive species.
Thanks to her work with the NPS and her studies in NZ, Sam has decided to pursue Environmental Education for Sustainability and is excited to spend a year with the EECO program at the NJSOC!
Danielle Odom was born and raised in Sussex County, NJ in Hampton Township where several visits to Stokes State Forest would foster her love for the outdoors from an early age. She actually attended the New Jersey School of Conservation as a child in 1998 with her sixth grade class.
In 2008 she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Sciencecum laudeat Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU). Her undergraduate independent study focused on studying the southern pine beetle,Dendroctonus frontalis, and its deleterious effects in the New Jersey Pinelands. She did another independent group study on the production of biodiesel from used vegetable oil. During her time at FDU she co-founded the Green Club in order to initiate and promote a campus-wide recycling program. Similarly, she was a founding member of the Green Day Committee, a campus-wide event promoting sustainability and environmental-conscientiousness. Danielle had the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica for her Field Study of Business, Culture and Global Sustainability course. She was a member and co-captain of the FDU Cross Country team. In the summers in between attending college she often worked or volunteer with several local veterinary hospitals in Sussex County.
After graduating Danielle was seasonally employed by the Mercer County Mosquito Control as a vector ecologist. She soon after became gainfully employed as a senior laboratory assistant in the molecular science department at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Danielle is currently attending the online-based Master’s of Science in Environmental Studies graduate program at Green Mountain College. She has completed all major course work and is currently working on setting up her thesis project – another entomological study – which she plans on completing here at the NJSOC, concurrently with her AmeriCorps Service term and AmeriCorps Service Project – a three sisters teaching garden.
After AmeriCorps she plans on earning her PhD and dividing her time between research and teaching as a professor. She enjoys mountain biking, running, Frisbee, tennis, photography, reading, music, hiking, camping, trekking, and so much more.
Timothy J. Palla was born on the island of Oahu. He lived there for three years before his family moved to a small agricultural town in Nebraska, where his father was raised. Timothy cultivated a deep respect for the environment due to the interconnectedness of his community with the natural environment.
Timothy moved to New Jersey in 2006 to attend the County College of Morris. There, he was co-founder of their first environmental club, while pursuing a degree in biology in the environmental field. Upon graduation, he transferred to Rutgers, Cook College where he was part of the campus environmental organization and helped assess and clean local waterways. He received his Bachelor Degree in Mayof 2010. He just recently returned from a three month trip to hawaii where he lived in an Eco-village. Timothy is very excited for his opportunity with the EECO where he will have the opportunity to teach and be out in nature - something he has always wanted.
Ashley Schmid was born in Bergen County, New Jersey, where she was raised in the close-knit and supportive community of Harrington Park. Her childhood time spent in the outdoors and exploring the woods around her house has helped to foster an ingrained love and respect for the natural environment.
Ashley graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Special Education. During her undergraduate career she spent much of her time studying at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center and volunteering for their Outdoor School program. Since Penn State, Ashley has received a Graduate Certificate from Rutgers University. She has also taken two Outdoor Educator courses with the National Outdoor Leadership School for the past two summers.
Ashley came to the NJ School of Conservation during sixth grade with the Harrington Park Elementary School. After two full years of teaching in the classroom and working part time at a local nature center, Ashley is happy to focus her attention on residential environmental education at the NJSOC, back where the experience first began.
Karen was born and raised in the illustrious suburban town of West Chester, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Penn State in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in History. She decided to continue her education at graduate school, and recently received her Master’s Degree in Environmental Geography from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. During her time at Shippensburg, Karen focused her studies on land use planning, water resources management and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). She also worked as a floodplain management intern for the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.
Karen is now enjoying the opportunity to apply her environmental knowledge as an educator at the School of Conservation during her year-long AmeriCorps term. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, reading and gardening.
Andrea Zasoski grew up in Ewing, NJ which is located just outside of historical Trenton. She received her BS in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA. During her undergraduate career, Andrea was highly involved in the biology department. During her senior year, she was vice president of Beta Beta Beta, the national biological honor society, and was president of the Conservation Club. For her senior thesis, she designed an experiment to determine the optimal size restriction for harvesting queen conch in Belize. Andrea also studied abroad in Arizona and Belize. In Arizona, she did several studies on the native vegetation found in the American Southwest, including the famous saguaros. While in Belize, she had the chance to go snorkeling and conduct research on the state of the coral reefs and survey populations of queen conch.
During the summer of her sophomore year, Andrea participated in an internship at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Her research focused on the foraging behaviors of the green crab. She designed an experiment to determine if green crabs followed the optimal foraging theory when foraging in a rippled bed habitat. After graduating with honors in May 2010, Andrea enrolled in AmeriCorps and became a part of the EECO program at NJSOC. In her free time, Andrea enjoys baking, crafts, and eating desserts.
Dan is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he spent most of his time outside playing sports such as basketball, football, and baseball. Dan attended Rider University and received his BS in Marine Science. He has been fascinated with marine life, particularly sharks, since the age of four. As a Rider student, Dan had the opportunity to work with students on the collegiate level through his experience in Greek Life and Residence Life. He also had the opportunity to work with high school and grade school students via various community service projects he was involved in with his fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp). He also had the opportunity to work on research projects such as tagging and releasing fish in a marsh and a field study conducted in the Florida Keys.
Dan is currently a member of the Environment Education Community Outreach (EECO) program for AmeriCorps at the New Jersey School of Conservation. This program allows him to still perform one of his passions, community service, while teaching students who visit the school about environmental science, outdoor pursuits, social sciences and the humanities. In Dan’s free time, he likes to play sports, volunteer his time and efforts for community service projects, attend social events SigEp hosts, spend time with family and friends, visit the aquariums and zoos, and attend sporting events in Philadelphia.
Jim is a native of Maplewood, New Jersey. He has been an avid outdoorsman since his youth, rock climbing, hiking, camping, and boating whenever the occasion presented. Jim developed his love of the outdoors during the years in the Boy Scouts working toward and attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.
Jim is a graduate of the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania. While there, he studied History, English, and Political Science, earning his bachelor’s degree in History. Since graduating, Jim has pursued a career in education working as a tutor, a substitute teacher, and a teacher at a learning academy. While studying for his master’s degree in education at Montclair State University, Jim was offered the chance to join the AmeriCorps team working at the NJSOC and jumped at the opportunity. After he completes his AmeriCorps commitment, Jim would like to continue his career in education, teaching either Outdoor Skills and Conservation at an institution similar to the NJSOC or History or English in the classroom.