The School of Conservation is fortunate to have two Graduate Assistants in residence each year. These graduate students spend four semesters at MSU/NJSOC working on their MA/MS degree in Environmental Studies or Biology. Graduate Assistants have all earned high honors as undergraduates and have chosen to participate in the unique graduate learning experience at the New Jersey School of Conservation. These students bring commitment, enthusiasm, and expertise to our campus.
Veronica Puza is from Point Pleasant, NJ and resides there when not calling the School of Conservation home. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst with a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation and upon completion of her degree she has held several naturalist positions throughout the state. Her past places of work include the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, The Watershed Institute, and Kateri Environmental Center. Beginning her journey at the School of Conservation as an AmeriCorps member she has since transitioned to one of the two Graduate Assistantship positions at the SOC. Working towards a degree of a Master of Science in Ecology and Evolution she has chosen the world of herpetology to further explore. In her free time she enjoys hiking, spending time with loved ones, and soaking in all that nature has to offer.
Rita Isabel Matos
Rita Isabel Matos was raised in the largest city in New Jersey, Newark. She attended Rutgers University-Newark and earned her B.A in Biology. During her studies at Rutgers, Rita became interested in conservation research and volunteered in an ornithology lab where she assisted PhD candidates with their various research obtaining multiple field work skillsets. She was awarded a graduate assistantship at the NJSOC and will be working on our bobcat conservation project by mapping their movements across Northern New Jersey to assess the activity patterns of these elusive cats.
Graduate Students in the Recent Past…
Elizabeth Grietzer was born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania where she participated in Girl Scouts and attended camp every summer, falling in love with the outdoors. Her interests in the natural world were nurtured through her family’s travels and her volunteer experiences at Wildlands Conservancy. Elizabeth graduated from Delaware Valley University in 2016 with a degree in Biology and a specialization in Zoology. During her studies at DelVal, Elizabeth became interested in field work and research. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys hiking, fishing, reading and spending time with her dog.
Amanda attended Delaware Valley University where she earned a B.S. in Biology, majoring in Wildlife Management and Conservation. After spending two years in the AmeriCorps program at the NJSOC, teaching EE classes and working on the woodrat conservation project, she was awarded a graduate assistantship to continue her academic studies while contributing to the conservation effort to save the last remaining population of woodrats in New Jersey.
George was born way down south in Augusta, Georgia, and since has lived in seven different states, until his family finally settled down in Bridgewater, New Jersey when he was eight. 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 six more years. After high school, George attended Delaware Valley College and earned a B.S. 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, New Jersey, helping to teach environmentally themed lessons in their Eco-Explorers program for children ages seven to nine. In September 2012, he was accepted into the EECO Americorps program at the School Of Conservation and served for two consecutive years. George is currently a graduate assistant and is taking night classes at Montclair State University where he is working on completing his master’s degree in Ecology and Evolution.
Stephanie Sherman was born and raised in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Steph is an only child and would often pass the time exploring the forests and the dirt-lane 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 (APO), taking on leadership roles such as Secretary, Vice President of Membership and finally President. Through APO, 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 as a Naturalist during the school year and in summer camps. Over the winter, Steph has a continued passion for ski instructing at Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Mountain Creek Resort. In 2013, Steph joined the New Jersey School of Conservation’s EECO AmeriCorps members and spent a year serving the school as an environmental educator. Currently, she is one of NJSOC’s newest Graduate Assistants earning her master’s degree in Environmental Education from Montclair State University. She looks forward to her continued service with NJSOC, developing new curriculum as well as growing her naturalist abilities.
Brittany is a native of Marlton, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia. She attended the University of Rhode Island, completing her B.S. in Marine Biology in 2011. As a URI student, Brittany was able to work with a PhD student on bamboo shark and spiny dogfish research and to study abroad in Bermuda, focusing on its coral reef ecosystems. Brittany worked in the Chemistry Department at URI throughout her undergraduate career, preparing chemicals and lab equipment for graduate and teaching labs. During the summers of 2010 and 2011, Brittany interned and was later employed at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, NJ.
After graduating from URI, Brittany served as an AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassador for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. During her term, she was hosted by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance in Southampton, New Jersey. Brittany went to schools and local events to give presentations on the importance of water and our watersheds. She served in the Rancocas Creek Watershed, monitoring the local streams through visual and biological assessments. She also held multiple rain barrel workshops and cleanups in her watershed. In her free time, Brittany enjoys hiking, live music, and attending sporting events in Philadelphia.
Kelly Triece grew up in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, spending many afternoons exploring the woods behind her house and at the local Environmental Education Center. She graduated from University of Delaware in 2010 with a BA in Biological Sciences. While at the University of Delaware, she was involved in sorority life as well as Wildlife Society and Students for the Environment. She also interned at Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge conducting research on wood turtles, Indiana bats and bluebirds.
After graduating from the University of Delaware, Kelly traveled while working in Environmental Education. She interned at Penn State’s Environmental Center, Shaver’s Creek, where she taught natural history lessons to public and school groups, organized seasonal festivals and conducted animal care for the raptor center. This past year she was a Naturalist at Arrowhead Ranch Outdoor Science School in Lake Arrowhead, California. At Arrowhead Ranch she led fifth through eighth graders on daily hikes teaching about ecology, geology and conservation. The summer of 2012 she worked for Yellowstone Association, Yellowstone National Park’s official non-profit. There she led multi-day educational family programs throughout the park. Kelly is currently a graduate student in the MS Ecology and Evolution program at Montclair State University. She will be focusing on wildlife research and resource conservation. In her spare time, she loves hiking, birding, photography and spending times with friends and family.
Lindsay is a native of Monmouth County, New Jersey, where she spent many summers enjoying the Jersey Shore. She attended Rutgers University-Cook College for her undergraduate degree earning a B.S. in Ecology and Natural Resources in 2009. As a student at Rutgers, Lindsay had the opportunity to participate in several research projects, including studies focusing on climate change and soil hydrology. She also worked at the Rutgers’ Chrysler Herbarium cataloging and identifying endangered New Jersey plant species.
After graduating from Rutgers, Lindsay served as a New Jersey Americorps Watershed Ambassador for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. While serving her term, she worked closely with the New Jersey Forest Service at the Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson, New Jersey. Lindsay reached out to the Barnegat Bay Watershed students through environmental presentations and field studies. She assessed the streams of the Barnegat Bay Watershed for impairment through biological and visual assessments. Lindsay also benefited her community by initiating a cleanup of her local wildlife management area. When she had time to spare from Americorps, Lindsay spent many hours working at the bug museum, Insectropolis, in Toms River, New Jersey. In her free time Lindsay enjoys traveling to new places, photography, hiking and eating good food!
Graduate Teaching Assistants and Interns in the recent past…
Kristen is originally from the small town of Harrison, New Jersey. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Montclair State University. As an undergraduate student, she worked with Dr. Feng in the Earth and Environmental Studies Department and collected data for his ongoing Lower Passaic River Study and the Metal Contaminations of NJ Watersheds research. She also edited a few of his manuscripts for publishing.
During her last two years as an undergraduate at Montclair State, she worked with Dr. Lisa Hazard on a research project, “The effects of road deicers on the survival and behavior of larval and adult wood frogs.” She presented this research at two conferences, MACUB and SICB, and was awarded the Faculty/Student Margaret and Herman Sokol Award and The Bonnie Lustigman Research Award, both in 2009.
As a graduate student, she continues to work with Dr. Hazard on past undergraduate work as well as thesis development. Her love for conservation and the outdoors and her outstanding academic record landed her a teaching assistantship at the School of Conservation. She also enjoys live music, hiking, reading, figure skating, entomology and zoology.
Joe is a native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. From six to sixteen, Joe was a child actor appearing in over 20 national commercials, so the teaching stage comes naturally to him. As an undergrad, he studied business management at the University of Phoenix. After completion of his degree, he wanted to incorporate his business background, his love for the outdoors and passion for teaching into a satisfying career. That’s when he started to investigate graduate programs in environmental studies and found the program at Montclair State University.
In 2008 Joe entered the master’s program of Environmental Management at Montclair State University. There he has studied under longtime professor of natural sciences, Harab Singh and EPA employee and professor Eric Stern. By the summer of 2008, Joe had discovered a piece of Montclair State that was off in Stokes forest and jumped at the opportunity to become part of the family at the School of Conservation. He has been with the school since September of 2008 and will finish his master’s program at the end of 2009.
Rebecca is originally from Point Pleasant at the Jersey Shore. In May 2007, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, in suburban Philadelphia, with a B.A. in Biology just one course shy of an environmental studies concentration. Rebecca was a recycling representative for four years and worked as a teaching assistant in the “Fridays in the Lab” program which was designed to provide students with a college-level ecology experience. While at Bryn Mawr, Rebecca was extremely active in residential life and served as a resource and mentor for other students in her dormitory for two years as a hall advisor and one year as a freshmen orientation leader. In her senior year, Rebecca served as a “Safe Space” representative providing a confidential space for students with questions of sexual identity to go and talk. Currently, Rebecca’s career goals lie within the field of environmental education. In her free time, she enjoys scrapbooking, lying on the beach and learning how to play the piano!
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lindsey received a B.A. in Biology in May 2007 from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. While in college, she was co-chair of the Science Ambassadors, a group that leads science outreach programs for area middle-school students. Lindsey was also a teaching assistant, a retreat leader, an undergraduate research assistant in a cell biology lab and a member of the college ski team. This past summer, she held an internship at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC where she was a laboratory assistant in the nutrition lab. While at the National Zoo, she was also a behavioral monitor and exhibit interpreter for the zoo’s Golden Lion Tamarin Free-Range Program. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys training for marathons, writing and photography. Her educational goals center around a career in environmental journalism.
Amy grew up in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, and graduated from Rutgers University (Cook College) last spring with a B.S. in Ecology and Natural Resources. Prior to working at SOC, she had a number of environmental and outdoor education jobs, including five consecutive summers spent teaching wilderness survival and nature awareness. Amy plans to pursue a career in education. Amy has way too many hobbies to list, but most of them involve either playing outside, making things or both. Some of her favorite things to do include knitting, bird watching, investigating ethnobotany and developing primitive skills.
Elyssa grew up in central New Jersey and attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick. After two years of study in Chemistry and Linguistics, she decided to leave school to pursue a year of environmental service learning in the AmeriCorps/NJDEP Watershed Ambassador Program. That year proved to be a turning point in her career, as she discovered the fun and impact of environmental science, outdoor education and community service. She returned to Rutgers the following year to continue her studies, earning a B.A. in Linguistics with a minor in Environmental Science in 2004.
After college, Elyssa worked for four months in NJDEP’s Green Acres Program monitoring publicly funded parkland for proper use and maintenance, a position which took her hiking around some of the most beautiful places in central and north Jersey. Her next job was as the Environmental Crew Chief of the NJ Youth Corps of Newark, a welfare-to-work program for out-of-school youth aged 16-25. In this position, Elyssa led work teams in service projects like tree planting, clean up and community outreach, and endeavored to instill a love of the environment and sound employability skills. She worked with NJYC for two and a half years, carrying out program development and fundraising.
Elyssa is a two-time AmeriCorps alumna, a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School’s Rocky Mountain Educator Course, and a former summer intern at Rancho Mastatal, a sustainable living and education center in the Costa Rica rainforest. She is currently a graduate student at Montclair State University pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Education and an intern at the NJ School of Conservation, Montclair State’s field school. Her research projects consist of the Justification and Design of NJ Youth Corps Biodiesel Worksite and Service Learning for Sustainable Redevelopment at NW NJ’s Outdoor Ed. Centers. In her free time, Elyssa enjoys team sports like soccer and ultimate frisbee, outdoor pursuits like backpacking, paddling, rock climbing and going to the beach, and delving into sustainable living skills.