Meet our Graduate Teaching Fellows 2009-10 | ESF Science Corps | Experiential Learning & Outreach | SUNY ESF
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Meet our Graduate Teaching Fellows 2009-10ESF Science Corps


Keith Bowman

My name is Keith Bowman. I was born and raised in Minnesota and even after living elsewhere for over twelve years I still consider myself a Minnesotan. Growing up in the countryside of Minnesota I developed a curiosity about plants and when I began my undergraduate studies at Connecticut College in New London, CT, I declared my major to be botany almost immediately and have not looked back. While at Connecticut College I was given the opportunity to work in the College’s Arboretum and Greenhouses and also as an undergraduate Teaching Assistant in Botany. During my Junior year I studied abroad in Costa Rica in a program focused on sustainable development. During the summers I carried out research as part of a team studying salt marsh health following the application of various vegetation control methods and independently studying the role of substrates and bryophytes on forest regeneration as part of my honors study. While at Connecticut College I was introduced to a group of plants called bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts), which piqued my interest.

From Connecticut I moved to Tennessee to earn my Master’s in botany from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. My research focused bryophyte diversity and resulted in a floristic analysis of the 22,000 acre Fall Creek Falls State Park, providing the park managers with an inventory of their bryological resources. Beyond my research I invested much time in developing my teaching skills serving 3 years as a Teaching Assistant for introductory biology; adding coursework focused on science education; and participating in many summer workshops for primary, middle, and secondary science and math teachers.

I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Forest Ecology at SUNY ESF where I am using my interest in bryophyte floristics to understand bryophyte community structure in conifer swamps that are influenced by agriculture, with the hopes of better understanding how to preserve unique plant communities. Though I am a researcher, it is teaching that is my real passion. Much of my teaching experiences have focused on labs for general courses and therefore, I have worked closely with small groups of incoming students. I have also developed and taught General Botany at ESF with an enrollment of about 120 and at Le Moyne College with an enrollment of 16. Both opportunities have strengthened my desire to teach. Last year I served as an NSF GK12 Fellow working with the Global Environment Course at Henninger High School. I hope to bring my passion and all of my experience to the NSF GK12 program to make it an amazing experience for the students, teachers, and the other fellows.


Shannon Buckley

I grew up in a small town in western NY and, from an early age, knew that I wanted to work with the environment. My grandfather, an ESF alum, used to take a car load of my cousins and siblings out around the area and teach us anything from catching fish with homemade fishing poles to tree identification and meteorology. My fascination with the natural world around me hasn’t stopped since. I received my BS from the University of New Hampshire in Environmental Conservation (with a dual major in International Relations). The greatest part of my undergraduate experience was working with the Climate Change Research Group and AIRMAP program, where I was exposed for the first time to issues of air quality and climate change and put in a research environment. I continued to explore climate change during my Master’s at Columbia University in the Climate and Society program; a one year intensive program focusing on climate science and how changes in climate will impact human populations. I then went to work for NYS DEC for a brief period, helping out with the NY’s participation in the RGGI program. I am beginning my second year in the EFB department pursuing my PhD. My research is looking at spatial and temporal variations in CO2 levels in urban and residential areas of Syracuse. I eventually hope to incorporate urban forestry and public outreach into my work. I am very excited to be part of the NSF GK12 program because I feel it is essential to get young people educated on and involved with environmental issues.


Emily Byrne

My name is Emily Byrne and I am excited to be a part of the NSF GK12 program. I am a native of Central New York and graduated from Fayetteville-Manlius High School in 2004. From F-M, I headed for the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I graduated with a BA in economics and international studies. At ESF, I will be pursuing a MS degree in Forest and Natural Resources Policy. I aim to do research on the role of economics as a tool for creating successful environmental policy.

My teaching experience as well as my appreciation of the environment comes primarily from my time at a summer camp in the Adirondacks. As a kid attending camp, I went on several wilderness trips and saw the high peaks, lakes and rivers of the Adirondacks and developed an appreciation for the fragility and beauty of the environment. As a counselor I was able to lead the wilderness trips and to share my knowledge and passion of the environment. I taught children how to respect and understand the wilderness while giving them the opportunity to enjoy it. I am particularly looking forward to sharing environmental policy with our students in an approachable and engaging manner.


Mitch Graves

My name is Mitchell Graves and I am a native of suburban Syracuse and a graduate of East Syracuse Minoa High School. In 2001 I attended Nazareth College of Rochester where I competed in Varsity Tennis and received a B.S. in Biochemistry. After 4 years of undergraduate study I worked as an analytical chemist for Prevalere Life Sciences of Whitesboro, NY. While there I investigated properties of compounds that were of interest to various pharmaceutical companies.

I joined ESF in the fall of 2006 and am working towards a PhD in Bioprocess Engineering. My research investigates the potential use of enzyme hydrolysis in ethanol production. In the fall of 2007, I studied for 6 months at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, China. There I researched chemical means by which to degrade crystalline cellulose. In my free time I enjoy sports such as tennis, skiing, soccer, hiking, sailing and volleyball. I am extremely excited to be a second year member of the NSF GK12 program and am looking forward to sharing my experiences.


Daniel Gurdak

Daniel Gurdak was born and raised in New York City, in upper Manhattan, Washington Heights. Both his parents emigrated from Poland and he grew up speaking mainly Polish until he went to school. At an early age, Daniel became involved in scouting where he developed an interest in the environment and the natural sciences through camping and hiking. He also worked as an outdoor guide and rock climbing instructor and led youth participants on backpacking hikes and treks. Daniel enjoys sports (such as basketball and rock-climbing) and competed for eight years in track and field. He started running while he was at Brooklyn Technical High School.

Daniel attended the Macaulay Honors College at Lehman College where his simple interest in the environment and natural sciences developed into a passion for research and travel. He spent a month in Ecuador and the Galapagos studying ecology, evolution and conservation. Daniel later spent a semester at the School for Field Studies Centre for Tropical Rainforest Studies in Queensland, Australia, where he had the opportunity to learn about the tropics and conduct independent research.Daniel also worked on projects closer to home, most notably a dietary niche breadth study of tessellated darters (Etheostoma olmstedi) collected at stations along the Bronx River. He also incorporated GIS and remote sensing to explore fish distributions along the river.

To reinforce his interdisciplinary interests in conservation, Daniel spent a year at Oxford reading for an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management. His dissertation work explored components of the carbon cycle in Andean tropical forests and made predictions in light of climate change.

Daniel spent the last summer in Assam, India, working closely with members of Butterfly Northeast, a local research and butterfly interest group. This work compared the diversity and species assemblages of butterflies in a protected area to different habitat types in the surrounding landscape matrix.

Daniel is starting the first year of his PhD at SUNY ESF. His research will focus on Arapaima, the largest freshwater species of fish in South America and among the largest in the world. Daniel hopes that his broad research and academic background will bring unique elements into the classroom.


Catherine Landis

My name is Catherine Landis and I’m very excited about participating in the NSF GK12 program here at ESF. I grew up in the hills around Syracuse and have a deep appreciation for the local landscape, its lakes, streams, forests, wetlands and meadows, its glacial geology and soils. I recently finished up a Master’s degree in Forest Biology at ESF and began a doctoral program. My Master’s work focused on Onondaga Creek and ways to restore streamside (riparian) plant communities along its urban reaches. I have a keen interest in renaturalization of ageing infrastructure in cities, i.e. rethinking urban form to include natural communities and the multiple ecosystem services they provide. This interest extends from scientific research to discussion with local artists on ways to incorporate the arts in promoting ecological literacy and even ecosystem function. I recently assisted ESF Outreach office in creating a classroom module designed to teach students about native plants as well as methods to propagate and sell them to local markets.

In the past I worked as a field biologist for the Forest Service in Utah, where I tracked peregrine falcons and Mexican spotted owls in remote canyon bottoms, conducted point counts for migratory songbirds, and wrote contracts for bat surveys in abandoned uranium mines. One of my favorite jobs was a naturalist position at Clark Reservation. Currently I am helping to collect data on the ash component of riparian forests throughout New York State, in anticipation of the probable arrival of the invasive insect, emerald ash borer. I look forward to working with teachers and students in the GK12 program, sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm in whatever ways are fruitful, through the inquiry-based learning process. And learning much in turn, I’m sure!


Peter Song

My name is Peter Song. I am thrilled to be a GK-12 Fellow this year. I grew up in New York City and attended Brooklyn Technical High School. My interest in environmental studies started with participations in the city and statewide Envirothons, an environmental science competition. I subsequently, graduated from ESF with a B.S. in Environmental Resource Engineering.

As an undergraduate, I was invited into ESF’s honors program, but ultimately decided to focus my research interests in statistics outside of the program with Dr. Chuck Kroll. Currently, I am a Master’s Student under Dr. Kroll in investigating hydrologic regression techniques under low flow conditions. We hope to compare techniques that best handles hydrologic conditions of smaller datasets and multicollinearity.

In the past, I have worked in agencies like NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection to nonprofit organizations including NYPIRG. I believe my experiences will guide me to a scope that reaches beyond engineering. Playing music is my passion outside of academics and any conversation touching blues is a personal favorite. I look forward to working with teachers and students in a conducive and productive learning experience.


Jessica Spiese

A native of Syracuse, NY Jessica is starting her first year as a Fellow in the NSF GK12 program. She graduated in 2004 with a B. S. in Chemistry and a minor in Biology from Alvernia University (Reading, PA). In 2005 Jessica entered the SB3 (Structural Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics) program and is currently working towards completing her PhD in Polymer Chemistry in ESF’s Chemistry Department. Her thesis research involves the study the structure and morphology of cellulose, the largest biopolymer produced on the planet, and its relationship with enzymatic digestion as well as lignocellulosic ethanol production. She hopes to better understand the underlying structural features of cellulose. Other interests include wood products, X-ray diffraction, microscopy, biodegradable polymers, energy, and public policy.

In her free time Jessica loves spending time with family and enjoying the outdoors. Jessica has a great deal of interest in undergraduate and high school level science education, and is very excited to spend her year with GK12. She hopes to help students enjoy studying scientific topics and also hopes to learn a great deal from them as well.


David Taylor

My name is David Taylor. Even as a small child I was fascinated by the natural world and have fond memories of finding newts in the fields and forests of Germany and Switzerland. This passion continued after my family moved to the States and I enrolled at Ohio Northern University in the fall of 2000 as an environmental studies major. While there, I threw myself into the opportunities afforded a biology major---overnight trips to Ohio Northern’s nature preserve, a summer marine biology class on the Gulf of Mexico, research with willing faculty---and completed my undergraduate thesis analyzing an aspect of phytoremediation: the use of plants to clean polluted areas. Most importantly, over my four years in college, I developed a fervent passion for the study and conservation of amphibians.

I moved from northwest Ohio to New York to complete a master’s degree studying amphibian behavior in response to the presence of predators at Binghamton University. The most rewarding part of my experience there was the opportunity teach laboratories and the occasional lecture as a teaching assistant. It came as a big surprise when I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed the role of a teacher, and when I realized that often good teachers can much more of a positive impact that anyone else can. When I left Binghamton with my Master’s degree I accepted a 7 month position at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park working with the conservation of endangered sea turtles and the education of a public who often (ignorantly) threatens their survival. Following my return to the mainland, I was offered an adjunct teaching position at Binghamton University, followed by a 2-year Visiting Assistant Professor position at my undergraduate alma mater, Ohio Northern University. Both posts were teaching positions; I enjoyed them very much and relished the opportunity to strengthen my teaching skills interact with young students in the classroom.

I will be starting work on my Ph.D. in ecology this fall with Dr. James Gibbs, a renowned conservation biologist here at SUNY ESF. We have been awarded a generous grant from the Upper Susquehanna Coalition to construct upwards of 75 artificial ponds near the town of Tully, NY. The importance of small woodland pools and the plants and animals (such as amphibians) that use them is slowly gaining recognition. As a result many state and local agencies are attempting to offset the loss of natural wetlands with artificial ones such as the ones we will construct. I will be studying how the reproductive success of amphibians in these pools is affected by various parameter of the pool, such as size, shape, depth, etc.... I am very excited about this project and my role as a GK12 Fellow; I will be aiming to bring my knowledge of, passion for, and experiences with the natural world into the classroom with me.