Meet the 2019 Stewards

Nick Aiezza is a cup of coffee paid for with exact change; the feeling of moving to a new state with an old dog and perfect credit; and a meander through a home improvement retailer that takes no more than ten minutes and the necessary purchases fit snugly in the trunk of your sedan. He is an autographed rookie card of your favorite baseball player, kept in a plastic case and given away; a new leaf turned over; the pop of ice cubes dropped in sweet tea under cracking sun in July. Nick Aiezza is a crepuscular ocean wind turning grains of sand into somnambulists. He is out there, mowing his lawn in the rain.

Nick lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. The lucky ones find their way here. They stay for a while. They carry shale stone in their pockets. They are reminded of a lightning-scarred sycamore every time coyotes call in the dark. The lucky ones land a job in the writing center at Finger Lakes Community College for eight months out of the year, and they spend another three months at the Finger Lakes Institute in the Watercraft Steward Program—encouraging the health and maintenance of the region’s genius. By these standards, Nick is pretty lucky, all right.

This is also his second season as a watercraft steward.

Lindsey Ayers is completing a Masters degree in Environmental Science at SUNY ESF in Syracuse and will graduate this fall. She found out about the Watercraft Steward program through her internship at the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association. She is very excited to have the opportunity to work at the Finger Lakes Institute and help to preserve the beauty and health of the Finger Lakes by preventing the spread of invasive species.

Lindsey grew up near Canandaigua lake and it has always held a special place in her heart. She loves spending time with her beautiful daughter Ayana, husky Leo, husband Marcus, other family and friends. She loves to hike, travel, garden, kayak, practice yoga, camp, read, create, adventure, learn, and just enjoy life to the fullest!

Nico Bersani was born and raised in Geneva, NY. He is a rising junior at Cornell University, studying economics and psychology. Since a young age, he has had a passion for animals and the outdoors, which has fomented in him a deep concern for the environment and its current threats. Growing up, Nico spent much of his time at a family cabin on Skaneateles Lake, enjoying swimming and sailing with friends and family. As a result, he has grown very attached to the Finger Lakes and strives to keep them environmentally sound. This passion influenced him to apply for the Watercraft Steward position at the Finger Lakes Institute. This job continues Nico’s work on environmental issues. Last summer, Nico worked at the Cornell Experiment Station in Geneva in an entomology lab helping conduct research on the ecology of insects that spread viruses to vegetable crops. Nico hopes, through his work at Cayuga and Seneca Lake as a steward, to help mitigate the spread of invasive species in the Finger Lakes region, and to generate more public knowledge about these environmental problems. Nico hopes to attend law school after undergraduate school, potentially focusing on environmental law, aspiring to further his role in addressing environmental pollution and climate change.

Garrett Boleslav is from Syracuse, NY. Growing up surrounded by the outdoors made him realize how much he wanted to protect our ecosystems. He graduated from Ithaca College this spring with a degree in Environmental Science with a Biology minor. His interests and hobbies include tennis, hiking, boating, and scuba diving. Garrett joined the Watercraft Steward Program because he wanted a chance to explore his interests in aquatic invasive species before trying to go to grad school. He has worked primarily with terrestrial invasive species up to this point.

Wijitra Burapan, nickname Earnie, is from Hilton NY and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering as a junior at the University at Buffalo. She is also a part of the Division I track and field program, spending much of her time outside the classroom pole vaulting at practices and competitions, while getting involved in Engineer’s for a Sustainable World. ESW is a club that focuses on designing and building environmentally sustainable projects that are developed by students. This past year, Earnie cooperated on a solar-powered boat that would run tests on UB’s Lake Lasalle to determine its pH, depths, and other physical properties that will aid in research. Her interests in the environmental field stemmed from when she and her family would vacation to the Adirondacks and go fishing and canoeing. Ever since she was little, she has always been a big advocate for conservation and leaving a very small footprint on the environment. Her father’s equal love for the environment is how she’d learned about invasive species and the negative impact they can have on ecosystems. As a watercraft steward, Earnie hopes to educate her community about the harmful effects invasive species can have and ways to prevent and control their impact in large water bodies.

Alex Casper is a rising senior at Hobart and William Smith Colleges from Auburn, NY. He is a double major in Political Science and History. He is also doing a year of graduate school here at HWS for a Master of Arts in Teaching. Alex is very interested in local politics and city planning. He is spending this summer interning at the New York State Assembly as well as working as a watercraft steward. What drew him to become a steward was his background in fishing and his ambitions to learn more about the environment. A very crucial aspect of local government in the Finger Lakes Region is contributing to the preservation of the Finger Lakes. Alex believes there is no better way to understand this process than by gaining practical experience as a steward. Alex looks forward to working outside and preserving our lakes this summer.

Albert Craig is from Canadice, New York and is currently attending Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. This fall he will be a senior, and will hopefully graduate in May with a degree in environmental science. In his free time in Montana Albert likes to ski, fish, hike, or do anything that will get him outdoors. There are a few things that brought Albert  to the watercraft steward position. The first is his love and appreciation for the Finger Lakes. Albert was lucky to grow up next to Canadice Lake, and has always enjoyed kayaking and fishing on the lake, and hiking alongside it. The second reason that he was attracted to this position is the unique role it plays in preserving the health of the Finger Lakes. Albert believes that having watercraft stewards is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species throughout the Finger Lakes. Not only are we directly removing invasive species from boats, but we are educating people so that they have the knowledge to prevent the spread of invasive species on their own.

Genevieve Dallmeyer-Drennan will be a sophomore at Haverford College, where she is majoring in Biology and minoring in Environmental Studies. She is from Canandaigua, NY and grew up summering on the lake. Her love for the outdoors and the water have inspired her to become a watercraft steward, and she hopes to do her part to protect the beautiful Finger Lakes from invasive species. In the future, Genevieve hopes to study the resilience of oceanic ecosystems in the face of climate change.

Jonathan Francois recently graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He finished college with a degree in Environmental Studies and Geoscience. Jon was born in Texas before he moved to and grew up in Upstate New York. Growing up Jon started playing ice hockey and lacrosse in second grade. He graduated from Waterloo High School in 2015. His favorite NHL team is the Anaheim Ducks. Jon spent many of his summers boating and kayaking on Seneca Lake. These summers have peaked his interest in the Environmental Studies field. During his undergraduate studies he worked for Professor John Halfman of Hobart College as he studied the recent blue-green algae blooms throughout the Finger Lakes. As a Watercraft Steward Jon looks forward to gaining more experience in the field as well as helping protect the Finger Lakes.

Alexandria Gardener is from Watkins Glen, NY and will be finishing her Bachelors degree in Biology at SUNY Binghamton University this year. Growing up in the Finger Lakes, she would often hike, camp, and go kayaking with my family, something she still enjoys doing when she can. With an interest in ecology and conservation, the FLI and the Watercraft Steward Program provides a unique opportunity to work in a field that she loves while helping to preserve our local area for people to enjoy.

Spencer George has been living on Otisco Lake since he was 5 years old. This fall he will be a senior at the University of Buffalo, and will graduate in May 2020 with a bachelor’s in Environmental Geoscience and a minor in GIS. His dream career is to become an environmental consultant and eventually open his own firm. In the spring of 2019, Spencer created a vulnerability analysis of Otisco Lake to Eurasian Watermilfoil. Through collecting data and speaking with professionals he stumbled upon the watercraft steward position. Fishing and swimming in Otisco Lake were Spencer’s favorite memories as a child, but over the years he has noticed how the Zebra Mussels and invasive vegetation have impeded the recreation of the lake. This summer he is excited to be working for the Finger Lakes Institute where he can protect the lake he loves, while educating his local community on the threat of aquatic invasive species.

Emma Harling will be a junior at SUNY Geneseo, where she is a member of the track and field team and currently majoring in Communications. She is from Geneva, NY and grew up visiting Seneca Lake. Emma hopes to reach a variety of people to educate them on how their actions impact our beautiful Finger Lakes!

Spencer Jones is entering his junior year at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. He is majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Business. Spencer is from Pittsford, NY, and graduated from Pittsford Sutherland High School. During his time at Sutherland, he took AP Environmental Science, to which he contributes his interest in and subsequent choice of major in college. He attributes his lifelong appreciation of the natural world to his time in Boy Scouts growing up, where he did a lot of camping and eventually earned his Eagle Scout award. Spencer’s primary interests in the field are water quality, terrestrial ecology, and ornithology. He grew up vacationing in Maine on the Atlantic Ocean and in Henderson, New York on Lake Ontario. After taking courses dealing with water quality and environmental policy in college, Spencer wanted to find a job that would allow him to interact with both in a field setting. This is what led him to the Watercraft Steward Program at the Finger Lakes Institute. This summer as a watercraft steward, Spencer hopes to advance his knowledge of aquatic invasive species and prevention measures that can be taken to avoid their spread. He is excited to be taking part in a project that is protecting the very important water resources in his home state!

Jenna Moore is entering her final year at SUNY Geneseo as a biochemistry undergraduate. Growing up on Cayuga Lake and becoming scuba diver certified enhanced her interest in the conservation of the Finger Lakes and surrounding gorges. While Jenna’s focus is more on neurobiology, she hopes to share what she knows and learn more along the way. Jenna’s really excited for the opportunity to connect and enlighten people on simple things they can do towards conserving ecosystems and the natural beauty of New York State.

Josh Neff grew up in Caledonia, NY and continued his education at SUNY Brockport where he majored in Environmental Science and Ecology, with a concentration in aquatic ecology. Growing up near the Finger Lakes, his passion for the outdoors caused him to aspire to work in a field in which he can actively participate in the protection and preservation of the important Finger Lakes. For two summers, Josh spent his time as a watercraft steward at the Honeoye Lake State Park boat launch where he was able to create various relationships with the recurring boaters and learn valuable information about the history of Honeoye Lake. After two great years of watercraft steward experience, Josh decided to increase his involvement in watercraft steward programs and applied to be one of the program coordinators for the 2019 season.  He is excited to be working with the Finger Lakes Institute to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and continue educating the public about the threats invasive species pose to our economy, environment and health.

Alex Parry is a graduate of Millersville University where he majored in marine biology and a minor in biochemistry. In the Fall he will attend the graduate school at the College of Charleston for a masters degree in marine biology, where he will study how changing environmental conditions in the arctic will alter phytoplankton populations. He is from Victor, NY. Growing up in the Finger Lakes region encouraged Alex to study aquatic organisms especially plants and invertebrates. As the education steward for the Watercraft Steward Program, he hopes to help identify waterbodies in the region that are threatened by invasive species and whether watercraft stewards would be useful for those locations in the future. Additionally, Alex will be ensuring his fellow stewards and the public are well informed on known and potential invasive species in the Finger Lakes region and all of NY.

Collin Quinter is a graduate from Finger Lakes Community College with an associates in Fish and Wildlife Technologies with a focus on fisheries. He graduated in May of 2018. He worked a six-month seasonal position with the DEC at the Salmon River State Fish Hatchery. He will be attending SUNY Cobleskill in the fall to pursue his bachelor’s in Fisheries and Aquaculture. He comes to the Finger Lakes Institute as a watercraft steward to educate the public about invasive species. He believes it’s important to help conserve and protect fisheries and aquatic ecosystems so future generations can enjoy recreation.

Rose Richelsen will be a junior at SUNY University at Buffalo, where she is majoring in Environmental Engineering. Her hometown is Canandaigua, NY and she works at the Canandaigua Marine State Park as an FLI watercraft steward. Some of her interests include photography, hiking, and of course, picking up garbage. Ever since she was a child, she has been passionate about the environment. Rose keeps up to date on all environmental issues, and she cannot wait to start making an actual difference. She was first introduced to FLI when she attended a field trip in high school that was hosted by FLI. On this trip, she rode on a boat across Seneca lake and learned how to identify macroinvertebrates and how to monitor water quality. She came across the opportunity to become a watercraft steward when a family friend sent her the application. Rose applied for the position because she thought there was no better way to spend her summer. Last summer she spent her time walking along Canandaigua Lake picking up garbage, and now she will have an even bigger impact on the lake that she grew up on. Rose is excited to educate her community about the danger of invasive species and to protect her lake, and to spend her days in the warm sunshine.

Jarod Ruffle is going into his junior year at SUNY Brockport. He is pursuing a degree in environmental science with a focus in aquatic and terrestrial ecology. He grew up in Rochester and would spend most of his summers boating on nearby Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario. Since spending a lot of time on these waters he has developed a love of them that lead him to want to be a watercraft steward for the Finger Lakes Institute. He is a steward at the Port of Rochester, but due to rising waters closing the launch he has been at various launches. He hopes to gain knowledge and experience through this program, while also educating the public about invasive species.

Nicole Smeenk is one of the Watercraft Steward Program Coordinators for the 2019 season. She graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2017 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Natural Sciences, and a minor in Economics. Growing up in Alaska gave her a great appreciation for wild spaces, as well as the importance of protecting the places we go to play, just like the Finger Lakes. Nicole worked for the Alaska Division of Agriculture for two years, and knows that community outreach is how we raise community awareness about important issues like the spread of aquatic invasive species. She is excited to play outdoors this summer and introduce new people to something she feels passionately about!

Huntter Smith graduated from Lake Superior State University in April, 2019 with a bachelor’s in Conservation Biology and a minor in ArcGIS. He is from Duncannon, Pennsylvania and is stationed at the Union Springs boat launch. Huntter loves being outdoors whether it’s hiking, fishing, or hunting. His interest in ecology and invasive species dynamics led him to the Finger Lakes region to work with the Finger Lakes Institute. He hopes to make a difference by reducing the spread of invasive species and educating the public on aquatic invasive species.

Sara Wasserman is from Wethersfield, a small town in Connecticut. She is now a senior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY. She is majoring in Natural Resource Management. She wanted to work with the FLI to help protect our earth, and to start her career in environmental education and management, as she is passionate about sharing her love and knowledge for it. There are lots of different ways Sara likes to spend her free time. She loves training and playing with her pup Ollie, who comes to work with her. She enjoys taking him to the dog parks and meeting new people along the way. Sara really likes cooking and creating art, as well as hiking and traveling to see as much of this beautiful planet as possible. She believes everyone should get out into nature more often to feel connected to the environment and to foster more of a personal responsibility to help take care of it.   

Christen Wise is a graduate of Finger Lakes Community College. She majored in Fish and Wildlife and just graduated in May 2019. In her last semester she took a botany class, so the information on aquatic plants is fresh in her head. In the fall of 2019 Christen will be attending SUNY Cobleskill for a Bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture. While attending Cobleskill, she hopes to be on the equestrian team and join several clubs relating to the outdoors and fisheries. Christen comes from a small town called Avoca, NY, where she graduated high school with only 32 kids. She grew up playing outdoors and doing sports. She also was an avid 4-H member for 13 years, where she showed rabbits, poultry, and beef. She is excited to see what the summer brings and what the future has in store.