Graduate Student Photos

2023 Cohort

Andrew Nunns

Andrew Nunns

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Bunn

Undergraduate Degree: Abilene Christian University, B.S. in Environmental Science

Research Interest: There are many fields that interested me in my undergrad, from nuclear chemistry to agricultural sciences, but I was always led back to my foundations of environmental science. Within this field, I am particularly interested in soil health and ecology. Coming from North Texas, where our rich, almost completely black soil, is taken for granted, I made it my personal mission to try and help conserve the precious little topsoil we have left to keep our surrounding ecosphere healthy for the future. I found that mycorrhizae in particular are the main key to ensuring this goal, which is what led me to Dr. Bunn and her project.

About/Hobbies: Western was a great choice for me mainly because of Dr. Bunn and her project, but also because of the proximity to the Cascades and major rivers of Washington. I love hiking, biking, backpacking, hunting, and whatever else involves the outdoors. The area around Western is such a stark contrast to Texas, which gives me more exposure to different ecologies and allows me the opportunity to learn about another state. While I’m a prairie boy at heart, the mountains and forests of Washington are an absolute joy to experience and allow me to grow closer in my faith through the nature that God created and allowed to evolve.

Anthony Tulloch

Anthony Tulloch

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science – Marine and Estuarine Science 

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Kathryn Sobocinski and Dr. Aquila Flower 

Undergraduate Degree: WWU, B.S Environmental Science – Freshwater and Terrestrial Ecology 

Research Interest: My interests are in studying habitat changes and impacts on native and invasive species, adaptations of species to a changing environment, ecosystem modeling, as well as utilizing GIS to analyze both large- and small-scale environmental topics such as species recovery and reintroduction. My research project will be assessing habitat change with respect to juvenile salmon within the Whidbey basin using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The goal of this project is to examine the effectiveness of habitat restoration within estuaries and river deltas of the Whidbey basin, specifically focusing on the improvement of critical habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon through habitat restoration projects over the last 25 years. 

About Me/Hobbies: I am very excited to return to Western to complete my graduate degree, and to help further my experiences studying and working within the Salish Sea region. I can’t wait to explore the intersection of fish ecology and GIS, and to help assist in the understanding of how to preserve our state’s salmon stocks for future generations. Outside of school I’m often spending time with friends and family, reading, exploring new topics like paleontology, or hanging out in the outdoors. 

Ashlyn Lee

Ashlyn Lee


Degree Pursuing: M.S. Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Ruth Sofield

Undergraduate Degree: B.Sc Environmental Science- Toxicology Emphasis, WWU

Research Interest: My primary research interest is studying the effects of contaminants of emerging concern (CEC’s) in surface waters and their effects on marine and freshwater organisms. With a focus on pesticides, antibiotics, phthalates, and perfluorinated alkyl substances.

About Me/ Hobbies: I grew up in Washington and I’ve lived in Bellingham for the last few years. I have a little tiny kitten named Kitten Girl. My favorite activities include swimming, walking on the beach, making jewelry, and painting my nails. I am so excited to continue at Western pursuing my masters.

Austin Valenti

Austin Valenti

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Erika McPhee-Shaw

Undergraduate Degree: WWU B.S. in Environmental Science – Marine Science Emphasis

Research Interest: My academic interests are in marine heat wave events and physical oceanography. I will be looking at the effects these heat waves have on the Salish Sea, and its physical properties. Utilizing current modeling and the NANOOS network, I hope to test a few hypotheses on the marine heat wave event that occurred in 2021 while also looking at trends and future predictions. Specifically looking at how/if the warmer water influences estuarine exchange within the Salish Sea.

About/Hobbies: I am a big nerd that loves board games, D&D, video games, and miniature figurine painting. I am originally from Phoenix, Arizona where I spent most of my life until I moved up to Washington in 2019. Since moving up here I have fallen in love with the PNW and the water. Being from a desert, I have found it challenging at times studying Marine Science. I do enjoy the challenge though and I am excited to see what I will learn throughout this program.

Bo MacArthur

Bo MacArthur

Degree Pursuing: M.A. in Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Gigi Berardi

Undergraduate Degree: University of California Santa Cruz, B.S. in Geology

Research interests: In broad terms, I am academically interested in sustainable food systems, agroecology, and land use. The way we grow, produce, and distribute our food has an enormous impact on our environment and personal health. I am interested in studying how agricultural practices contribute to or mitigate the effects of climate change, affect food resilience, and provide nutritious food for a growing population.

About me / Hobbies: I completed my undergraduate degree in 2015 and am now excited to start a new chapter by returning to graduate school. I moved to Bellingham in the summer of 2020 with my wife. We chose Bellingham primarily for the amazing access to world-class outdoor recreation. I spend much of my free time mountain biking, hiking, running, paddling, and growing food in my newly planted home garden. I have two border collies, ages 4 months and 2 years, and I started doing agility competitions with my older dog this summer, which has quickly become my newest passion.

Chloe Cason

Chloe Cason

Degree Seeking: MS, Marine & Estuarine Science (Environmental Science)

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sam Kastner

Undergraduate Degree: WWU BS Marine and Coastal Science, 2023

Research Interest: I am passionate about connecting physical sciences with the ways we interact with the environment both in the past and present to better inform the future. In particular I am interested in observing and quantifying the physical processes within clam gardens that create bivalve favorable habitat. Combining indigenous knowledge with marine science will not only deepen my understanding of the unique nearshore ecology, but also my appreciation of the Salish Sea’s services to us.

More about me: I enjoy spending every free moment I have outside whether it be kayaking, biking or just having a beach walk. If I'm not outside I am likely to be found enjoying live music, craft nights and baking. I have always had a deeper interest in our waters and have been passionate about exploring them my whole life. Discovering connections between marine ecology, chemistry, geology and climate brought me to WWU and I am so glad to have stuck around!

Ella Hall

Ella Hall

Degree Pursuing: M.S. in Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Alia Khan

Undergraduate Degree: University of Colorado Boulder, 2021, B.A. in Environmental Studies, minor in Geology, certificate in Arctic Studies

Research Interest: Studying the impacts of light-absorbing particles such as dust, snow algae and black carbon on snow and ice-covered areas and researching the correlation between wildfires and glaciers.

About/Hobbies: In my free time, I enjoy mountain biking, backcountry skiing, sea kayaking, and otherwise spending time in the mountains. I am passionate about studying the environments that I play in because I have seen the impacts that climate change is having on them firsthand. The rate at which the climate is changing and how interconnected all of Earth’s systems are is what motivates me to research how we can better prepare to exist in a world that is continually changing.

Elle Gasperini

Elle Gasperini

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies (Policy)

Faculty Advisor: Dr Xi Wang

Undergraduate Degree: Undergraduate Degree (Degree and College): University of Puget Sound, International Political Economy with a Minor in Environmental Policy

Research Interest: My research interests lie at the intersection of community engagement and policy, especially related to climate change. I have seen that people want to engage in climate and environmental issues but often don’t know how or feel disempowered, and so there is a need for clearer pathways for policy engagement. I am also interested in best practices related to ensuring policies and plans are informed by those at the community level for the most impactful policy outcomes.

About/Hobbies: I love being outside and in community. Some hobbies are running, paddling, fishing, snowboarding, camping, reading, and spending time in good company.

Ellie Ryan

Ellie Ryan

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Alia Khan

Undergraduate Degree: Oregon State University, B.S. in Biology

Research Interest: I am interested in studying the ecology of alpine environments and the current stressors imposed on such environments by climate change. At Western, I will be studying snow algae and its influence on melting snow and icepack in montane ecosystems as a member of the WWU Cryosphere Studies and Aquatic Biogeochemistry Lab, facilitated by Dr. Khan.

About/Hobbies: I grew up recreating in the Cascade Mountains of Central Oregon, and my love for the outdoors (snow in particular) has evolved into a desire to study, understand, and protect alpine ecosystems. I am excited to visit Mt. Baker as both a destination for fieldwork and play. In my free time, I like to rip around on skis, rafts, bikes, or my own two feet. I can also be found preparing and appreciating good food with good people or haphazardly attempting an art project.

Emily Wangsness

Emily Wangsness (she/her)

Degree Pursuing: M.A. in Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Aquila Flower

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Political Science (Western Washington University, 2018)

Research Interests: I’m interested in large-scale ecosystem dynamics, particularly in montane forests and coastal marine environments. I’m particularly interested in how organisms respond to rapid changes in climate, how climate change could lead to the development of no-analog climates and the effect that will have on montane and marine ecosystems, and how shared ecosystems are managed across international and interstate boundaries.

About Me: I’ve traveled across the U.S. more times than I’d be able to count, but I’ve always thought of the Northwest – and particularly western Washington along the I-5 corridor – as my home. The geography of the region is fascinating and beautiful; and in many ways, comforting to me as well. I feel at home surrounded by mountains, evergreen trees, and the ocean. I enjoy writing, playing guitar, and playing RPGs (both in video game form and TTRPGs like D&D.)

Eve Bernhard

Eve Bernhard

Degree Seeking: M.A. in Environmental Studies 

Faculty Advisor: Steve Hollenhorst 

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Narrative Arts and Sustainable Agriculture at Hampshire College in Massachusetts (2012) 

Research Interest: Botany, environmental conservation and social justice, and ecological restoration. I am particularly interested in working on efforts to save whitebark pine – an ecological and cultural keystone tree species –lives at high elevations in the Pacific Northwest and is being deleteriously threatened by an invasive fungal pathogen as well as mountain pine beetles and climate change. 

About: I grew up among the ancient mountains and fertile river valleys of the Atlantic Northeast, and much of my childhood was spent barefoot in uncut meadows and pathless forests and devouring a wide variety of books. I’ve spent most of my life dwelling in rural spaces, surrounded by wild things. The interconnectivity of all things, both biotic and abiotic, has continually fascinated me. 

Much of my work in the world has been in the tending and studying of plants and animals. I’ve cared for and researched a menagerie of creatures ranging from subalpine butterflies to tiny, endangered cacti to herds of sheep. I have a sincere interest in all sorts of fields, forests, and waterways. Among many hats worn: farmer, goatpacker, nature mentor/outdoor educator, dog walker, seed collector, snowshoe guide, and librarian. 

I moved to the PNW in 2017 to work for the North Cascades National Park as a Biological Science Technician focusing on native plant propagation and ecological monitoring and continued for six more field seasons both there and at Mt. Rainier NP. 

Concurrently with graduate studies at WWU, I will be serving my second year with the San Juan Islands Conservation District’s Islands Conservation Corps (ICC) – implementing restoration and conservation projects throughout the archipelago. 

Hobbies: Writing, gardening, creative cooking, and frolicking in wild spaces with my partner Miles - a bryologist - and sweet hound Nootka. 

Fred Engelfried

Fred Engelfried

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies - Urban Planning and Sustainable Development

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Miller

Undergraduate Degree: University of Michigan, BA in Psychology

Research Interest: I strive to utilize sustainable development to nurture humans' bond to the land and validate human belonging to the land wherever and however possible through design and the conscious restraint of design. I seek to change or work outside of the current establishment, as future development should follow decolonized strategies, community-centered design, action to preserve land-based frameworks, and a movement to guide future generations to regain indigenous knowledge.

About/Hobbies: I moved to Bellingham in 2022 with my wife, three-year old son, and two dogs. Some of my hobbies include: Flamenco guitar, Nordic Skiing, paddling, foraging and growing food.

Gabrielle Lund

Gabrielle Lund

Degree Pursuing: M.A. in Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Grace Wang

Undergraduate Degrees: B.S. in Environmental Science, B.A. in Political Science (WSU)

Research Interest: As someone interested in human-environment dimensions, I believe ecological problems do not operate in a social vacuum. To achieve lasting and positive environmental change, we must embrace increased collaboration with policymakers, stakeholders, and the community at large. My undergraduate research at Washington State University (WSU) explored the importance of environmental storytelling in science communication, and its implications for community education. Through this experience, I discovered the ever-prevalent importance of increasing science accessibility for non-academic audiences via narrative storytelling. At WWU, I am thrilled to continue this research in science communication and community outreach.

About/Hobbies: When I’m not studying, I enjoy getting coffee with friends, working out, and spending time with my partner. In particular, I love boxing, gardening, and catching up on my favorite TV/movies. I also enjoy being involved with various leadership organizations in my community, and look forward to the many opportunities available in Bellingham.

Jessie Bell

Jessie Bell

Degree Pursuing: M.S. Environmental Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robin Kodner

Undergraduate Degree: BSU B.S. in biology

Research Interest:

My main research goals are to study the phytoplankton, Halosphaera sp., by describing its life cycle, investigating its potential connection to the fossil record, and identifying which species is present in Bellingham Bay. Additionally, I am pursuing a GIS certification to combine algal research with remote sensing techniques to gain better understanding of our marine ecosystem.


I enjoy walking my doggos, running with my boo, birding, baking, and plankton microscopy.

Jessica Scotten

Jessica Scotten

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science (Marine & Estuarine Science) 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. David Shull 

Undergraduate Degree: BS in Microbiology, Oregon State University 

Research Interest: My research interests are how the flux of nutrients in environmental compartments impacts ecosystems, on both a chemical and biological scale. I am interested about how different environmental sampling techniques can lead to more informed modeling. I will be working with Dr. Shull on nitrogen cycling and sources in Bellingham Bay. 

About/Hobbies: In my free time, I can usually be found recreating in the wilderness, including running, biking, kayaking, mushroom hunting, and backpacking. This summer, I completed a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, hiking from my home state of California to my new home in Washington. I also enjoy scuba diving, cooking, photography, painting, and trying to find the limit of my border collie’s energy (hint: the limit does not exist). 

Jonathan McLean

Jonathan McLean

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science, Marine and Estuarine Science

Faculty Advisor: Dr Kathryn Sobocinski

Undergraduate degree: BS, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington

Research Interest: My research interest focuses on salmonid food-web ecology and survival in marine and freshwater environments. More specifically, I’m interested in how growth in juvenile anadromous salmon influence their odds of surviving and returning to their natal streams to reproduce. Identifying these ecological bottlenecks is necessary for making informed management and restoration decisions.

About me/hobbies: I moved to Washington in 2014 to attend the University of Washington and became completely enamored by the Pacific Northwest. My time in UW’s Aquatic and Fishery Sciences program sparked my interest in Pacific Salmon and their role in our ecosystems. I am eager to spend time in the Bellingham area and learn more about its ecology and culture. Some of my hobbies include videogames, model building, paddleboarding, and most recently DJing.

Joyce Block

Joyce Block

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Sciences-MESP

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Brian Bingham

Undergraduate Degree: BA Biology University of Idaho

Research Interest: I will be Investigating the effects of temperature on the invasive European Green Crab Carcinus maenas larval growth, development, and survivability in the Salish Sea. Ultimately, my goal is better data to inform models and accurately predict the spread of risk throughout the Salish Sea region and support more effective control efforts.

About You/Hobbies: I am happily married to a consummate outdoorsman named Robert. We alpine and Nordic ski, hike, bike, paddleboard, kayak, whitewater raft, fish and travel the world when we are not taking our two Brittany spaniels-Rumi and Tika, camping in our 17-foot travel trailer.

Juniper Deitering

Juniper Deitering

Degree Pursing: MA, Environmental Studies with a focus in Environmental Policy.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Steve Hollenhorst.

Undergrad Degree: I received my Bachelor of Arts in Physics at Ohio Wesleyan University. (It’s

a tiny liberal arts school north of Columbus, Ohio.)

Research Interests:

I am interested in the intersection between city planning, renewable energy, and politics. While pursuing my degree, I plan to research methods by which the transition to 100% renewable energy can be accelerated through policy that accounts for renewable energy industry issues such as supply-demand imbalance, as well as the needs of local communities.

Hobbies/About Me:

I chose to move from Ohio, to Bellingham, for Western Washington University’s varied and unique collection of upper level environmental classes. The interdisciplinary nature of the Environmental Studies Master’s program was also a strong draw for me, because my interests don’t align exactly with traditional program guidelines.

Because I spent the last few years living in a big city, Columbus, I’m excited to take advantage of all the amazing nature Bellingham has to offer. In addition to exploring nature, some of my favorite activities include reading (mostly science fiction or fantasy), and making art.

Maggie Long

Maggie Long

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Steve Hollenhorst

Undergraduate Degree: Santa Clara University, BS in Economics

Research Interest: My academic interests are focused on land restoration and conservation practices, particularly the intersection between agriculture and restoration. I will be exploring different methods of restoring active farmland in ways that increase agricultural viability in the San Juan Islands while also improving habitat connectivity, water quality, biodiversity, and climate resiliency at the watershed scale.

About/Hobbies: I serve with the Islands Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps program based out of the San Juan Islands to implement conservation projects on public and private lands in the San Juan Islands with a focus on forest and riparian habitats. I also work with the Conservation District on the county’s Voluntary Stewardship Program which provides technical and financial assistance to farmers to implement conservation practices on agricultural lands in the county.

Beyond conservation interests, I am currently training for the 2024 World Championships in Bern, Switzerland in the sport of Equestrian Vaulting, a mix of dance and gymnastics on horseback. I am also an avid cook and baker, and an aspiring gardener.

Maia Heffernan

Maia Heffernan

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Sciences (Marine and Estuarine Science)

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sam Kastner

Undergraduate Degree: WWU, B.S. in Marine and Coastal Science

Research Interest: Throughout my undergraduate degree, I realized that I wanted to pursue research that lies at the nexus of marine science, sustainability, and social justice. I was so excited when I realized that my master’s project will fulfill that wish. I will be working with my advisor, Dr. Sam Kastner, as well as Dr. Marco Hatch and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to assess the state of their new clam garden. Clam gardens are an ancestral practice of many indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest. They are used to increase the yield of shellfish collection in order to feed community members. My project will focus on assessing water movement and properties within the clam garden to aid the Swinomish in their pursuit of a scientific understanding of the garden. The work will also include education to the public about this ancestral practice and how oceanographic work can tie in to social and sustainable issues.  

About/Hobbies: I chose Western Washington University's master’s program in Marine and Estuarine Science because of the amazing project I will be pursuing. Having completed my undergraduate degree at Western, I am so happy I will have the ability to continue my education while also giving back to local communities. I grew up in Seattle, so most of my hobbies consist of different ways to enjoy the beauty of this region. They include skiing, biking, hiking, and more recently wing foiling. Besides outdoor recreation, I like to cook, read, and paint.

Nichole Ring

Nichole Ring

Degree Pursuing: MS in Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Leo Bodensteiner and Jim Helfield

Undergraduate Degree: University of Massachusetts Amherst - BS with individual concentration in Fisheries Science and Media Production

Research Interests: I’m especially interested in aquatic ecosystems in glacial rivers. Bull trout, a federally listed species, utilizes this complex coldwater habitat, and climate change and encroachment from non-native brook trout threaten their continued survival in this area. My research will use environmental DNA to look at species distribution by temperature in the headwaters of the White River at Mount Rainier National Park in order to determine where species overlap may occur.

About/Hobbies: As a native New Jerseyian I grew up catching fish in culverts dreaming of the day I could explore bigger rivers. My passion for aquatic science grew when I studied fisheries science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Before pursuing my masters, I worked all around the intermountain west and the pacific northwest as an aquatic scientist for various government and non-profit agencies collecting data and creating content for science communication. For the past three years I’ve called western Washington home and worked for the National Park Service at Mount Rainier National Park as an aquatic science technician.

My hobbies include hiking, splitboarding, or making art with friends. I especially love spending time by the water with my 110 pound great pyrenees, Nola.

Oliver Simic

Oliver Simic

Degree Pursuing: Masters in Environmental Studies-GIS Focus

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Michael Medler

Undergraduate Degree: Horticulture

Research Interests: The application of Geospatial Information Systems to natural disaster risk mitigation and wildland fire prevention and mapping.

About: I’ve been a jack-of-all trades throughout my life; working as a farm hand, carpenter, soil scientist, arborist, emergency manager, and most recently as a wildland firefighter for the US Forest Service and the National Park Service. I’ve had an amateur boxing and Thai boxing career, and lived in several South American countries. I’ve been a fortunate soul to travel and adventure widely and learn deeply from a plethora of incredible individuals. I always enjoy a strong challenge and quality discourse with other curiously-minded people.

Hobbies: I’m an avid competitor and student of Brazilian Jiujitsu and Folkstyle wrestling. I am also a long-term practitioner of Vipassana Meditation and consider my practice integral to the quality of my life. I enjoy spending my free time weightlifting with my wife, reading political and social history books, and listening to podcasts or audiobooks.

Rosa Nelson (she/ella)

Rosa Nelson (she/ella)

Degree: MA, Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Troy Abel

Undergraduate Degree: BA, Environmental Studies from Saint Mary’s College of California

Research Interest: I am interested in working with the South Seattle community on environmental policy that centers community voices. I will be looking at ways that environmental justice concerns in South Seattle can be addressed in an equitable and sustainable way. I am specifically interested in incorporating community based science in environmental policy.

About me: I was raised in Northern California, which instilled a deep love and respect for the natural world. I currently work for an environmental non-profit which allows me to merge my love for natural resources with community engagement and advocacy building. In my free time, I love being on any body of water and have recently taken up dragon boating.

Ryan Bottem

Ryan Bottem

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Dr Charles Barnhart

Undergraduate Degree: WWU B.S. in Energy Science & Technology

Research Interest: I will be applying my background in energy science to the broader systems of indoor and outdoor agriculture the with a life cycle assessment of regional cannabis cultivation carbon intensities as a long-term objective. The industry has a broad range of standard practices, which I hope to clarify with my energy/environmental assessment.

About/Hobbies: My time with the Institute for Energy Studies here at WWU was formative and provided me many opportunities, the relationships I have with my peers have inspired me to carry on here in Bellingham, I’m deeply excited to be broadening my scope to Environmental Science.

I find myself most often crafting with my partner or outside with friends. I’ve recently been working on miniature dioramas of various themes, which I hope will roll into some architectural model creations.

Sean Grealish

Sean Grealish

Degree pursuing: MS, Environmental Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kathryn Sobocinski

Undergraduate Degree: University of Puget Sound, BS Biology

Your Research Interest: The impacts of warming temperatures and habitat destruction on coastal ecosystem cycles and population dynamics are my research interest along with the changes in species survival and adaptation within estuary systems that will result from those shifts. In Prof. Sobocinski’s lab I look forward to studying juvenile salmonid prey in both natural and restored sections of the Snohomish river basin to better understand caloric availability and the potential importance of restoration work in conserving vital food sources for at-risk Chinook populations.

About You/Hobbies: Even while still completing my undergraduate degree down in Tacoma I knew that Washington would be my preferred location to continue my studies. So, being able to stay on the shores of the Salish Sea at Western felt like a perfect fit especially since my research interests lie in the Marine and Estuary Sciences program. I am very much looking forward to enjoying all the outdoor opportunities Bellingham has to offer since I enjoy gravel and mountain biking, downhill and xc skiing, disc golf, camping and sailing during my free time.

Ty Stephenson sits outside on a grassy hill

Ty Stephenson

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Angela Strecker 

Education: Virginia Tech, B.S. Fish and Wildlife Conservation 

Research Interests: During my time at Virginia Tech, I worked on projects studying the effects of coal mining contaminants on freshwater mussels, the distribution of the threatened bog turtle, community and behavioral ecology of bluehead chubs and their nesting associates, and the long-term changes in the fish community in Blacksburg’s local streams. I have worked for trout unlimited studying how native trout populations respond to habitat enhancement projects, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Aquatic Assessment Crew studying fish, toad, and snake populations across Wyoming. Most recently I spent time working for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Watershed Assessment Branch. I am motivated by learning about how environmental changes, anthropogenic or otherwise affect aquatic environments and their biotic communities. I hope to continue to utilize my skills to study our aquatic ecosystems so that we may better understand and manage our freshwater resources. 

At WWU I will be working in the Strecker lab examining spatial and temporal trends in macroinvertebrate communities and water quality in aquatic ecosystems in the North Coast and Cascades Network, including mountain lakes and streams in North Cascades, Mount Rainier, and Olympic National Park. 

About/hobbies: I love being outside and spend my time running in the woods, biking, kayaking and snorkeling. I also enjoy learning about the natural world, playing guitar, and reading a good book. I am excited to explore Bellingham and the surrounding area! 

2022 Cohort


Anne Wilce wearing a red cap throws a snowball at the camera

Anne Wilce

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Alia Khan

Undergraduate Degree: BS in Geophysics, Western Washington University

Research Interest: My research interests are broad, but all relate to the effects of climate change and feedback processes in the cryosphere. This includes reduction in snow cover, changes in snow albedo, mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers, and glacial hydrology. Polar landscapes have always magnetized me, and this has steered my educational path. I am honored to return to WWU to work under Dr. Alia Khan on her snow algae and albedo research.

April Reed stands in a yellow field.

April Reed

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science; Certificate, Data Science for Environmental Applications

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Wayne Landis

Undergraduate Degree: WWU, B.S. in Environmental Science - Toxicology Emphasis

Research Interest: For someone who loves the methodology and application of science, I have recently become very passionate about the relatable communication of science and the collaborative work that goes into equitably reaching environmental stewardship and management goals. For my graduate work, I plan to propose a thesis that will provide me opportunities to work hand-in-hand with scientific experts, government agencies, and various stakeholders to develop a comprehensive environmental risk or natural resource damage assessment model that is meaningful and useful to all parties involved. It will most definitely involve a Bayesian Network.

About/Hobbies: I am an expert seamstress, an intermediate ukulele player, and a novice hiker. I grew up in Arizona, but I call the Pacific Northwest my home. I love Washington State and all that it has to offer from mountains to sea, but I also love to travel. Any chance I get, I hit the road or hop on a plane. I absolutely adore new places - not just for the change of environment, but for the discovery of new people, unique cultures, and... of course, delicious foods.

Ariel Shiley stands in front of a huge tree

Ariel Shiley

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Brooke Love

Undergraduate Degree: BS in Environmental Science, Geology Major, WWU

Research Interest: My research interest is in the effect climate change and water quality has on wildlife. I am working with Brooke Love on a project about herring adaptability to current climate change trends. I am also in the GIS Masters Certificate program, and plan on continuing GIS work after graduation.

Baleigh Rumsey poses on a sunny day on top of a mountain

Baleigh Rumsey

Degree Pursuing: M.A. Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Grace Wang

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. Secondary English/Language Arts Education, Central Washington University

About/Hobbies: My spare time is often full of activities and escapades that get me outside, including Chanterelle picking in the fall, swimming in the Stilliguamish River, willing the vegetables and fruits in my garden to grow, and backpacking in the Darrington Ranger District. Having just finished a backcountry ranger gig with Olympic National Park, I am looking forward to learning how to play the banjo (optimistically) and climbing at the local gyms.

Brandon McWilliams stands in front of a green shrub with red berries

Brandon McWilliams

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr. David Rossiter

Undergraduate Degree: BA Environmental Studies and BA English Creative Writing from Seattle University

Research Interest: I am interested in how we talk about and make sense of the environment, particularly how people use stories to understand the large and hard-to-grasp realities of climate change and environmental damage. I hope to explore what strategies work when discussing environmental topics, and how we might apply those strategies to new mediums to encourage increased levels of positive environmental action. I am also interested in continuing to explore topics ranging from place-based education to solarpunk literature to mycology.

Colby Rand

Colby Rand

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Alia Khan

Undergraduate Degree: BS in Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Maine
Research Interest: My research focuses on using drones and satellite imagery to remotely sense snow algae in alpine and glaciated environments. Snow algae reduces the albedo of snow and ice, thus causing it to absorb more energy from the Sun. This results in increased snowmelt, which I am hoping to help quantify. I am conducting much of my fieldwork here in the Cascade Range, where I am helping to collect snow algae samples and record their GPS locations.

About/Hobbies: I was drawn to Western Washington University because of the opportunity to conduct research in the beautiful Cascade mountains and to experiment with how we can use drones and satellites to monitor changes to our cryosphere. Bellingham is the perfect place for many of my interests, including hiking, alpine and Nordic skiing, biking, camping, and visiting the local breweries and events. Having lived in Maine for much of my life, this was a great opportunity to try out West coast living and explore the PNW.

Colter Lemons holds a pickaxe on top of a snowy mountain.

Colter Lemons

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies - Geography

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Andy Bach

Undergraduate Degree: WWU B.S. in Environmental Science - Terrestrial and Freshwater Ecology; B.A. Geography; Geographic Information Science Certification; & Mountain Research Skills Certification

Research Interest: My research will focus on mapping glacial moraines deposited during the Little Ice Age in the Mt. Baker area. I have performed my own research in Huascaran National Park in the Peruvian Andes, studying environmental factors related to the parasitic fungi, Leptosphaeria polylepidis, and its impact on Polylepis groves. I have also performed research on fungi recolonization in the Elwha Restoration Ecosystem in the Olympic National Park.

About/Hobbies: Western Washington University's graduate program was perfect for me! With a passion for exploring all forms of topography and environments, WWU is situated in a location proximate to Mt. Baker, where I desired to perform research as well as providing access to the Puget Sound, Canada, and the wonders of the greater Bellingham area. As an avid hiker, backpacker, and mountaineer WWU was the best combination of recreational access and educational opportunity for me.

Cris Paradis

Cris Paradis

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Manuel Montaño

Undergraduate Degree: WWU B.S. in Environmental Science freshwater and terrestrial ecology

Research Interest: Since I will be helping with a grant I am extremely excited about the fate and transport of neonicotinoid insecticides through riparian zones. I also find great interest in microplastics and their movement through the NW food web specifically focusing on the build up in Orcas through their food source of Salmon.

About/Hobbies: I am originally from Portland Maine and moved out here for college. While I enjoy my fair share of outdoor actives like climbing, I also enjoy time spent inside working on computers or doing some creative writing. I also really like film and tv and any pop culture trivia that might go along with that.

Dana Bronstein gives a thumbs-up, wearing cold weather gear in a snowy landscape.

Dana Bronstein (pronounced Dah Nah)

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr Kate Darby

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Anthropology and Ecological Ag, University of Vermont

Research Interest: Connection between Environmental Justice, climate change mitigation, and food access. As an undergraduate student I focused much of my studies and research on ecological agriculture and migrant justice while interning for Huertas, a non-profit organization that explored the impact of home gardens and the ways in which they exponentially increased access to fresh and culturally appropriate food for food insecure migrant farmworkers throughout rural Vermont. This experience taught me a tremendous amount about working with vulnerable populations and led me to my most recent position as Health Educator for Sea Mar Community Health Center here in Bellingham and then to pursue this master's degree with Western. For a research topic or thesis, I am most curious about government action and policy programs which aim to address issues surrounding Environmental Justice. I hope to use my experience working with Sea Mar to attempt to understand how we as social scientists can bridge this gap between funding, access and interest while also looking at the environmental impact that a healthier connection to fresh foods can have on the environment via supporting more diversified small farms and subsidized food education programs.

About/Hobbies: As someone who grew up in New York City, the beauty in and around Bellingham never ceases to amaze me. I am always impressed by the natural landscapes, the wildflowers and the beautiful creatures and critters all around. I am always trying to learn about the forests and rivers around me, and am usually running around outside, hiking, biking, surfing, climbing, snowboarding, or just sitting and watching in awe and trying to learn. I hope to keep growing more of my naturalist knowledge and skills and continue my passion for playing and protecting this area.

Dana Flerchinger squats down, posing with a dog with large ears

Dana Flerchinger

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Ruth Sofield

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. Environmental and Ocean Sciences from the University of San Diego

Research Interest: My research interests aim to further understand how anthropogenically generated contaminants impact the marine environment and to determine potential solutions for mitigating these impacts. Specifically, I am interested in the toxicology and chemistry of microplastics and tire wear particles on marine organisms.

About/Hobbies: I chose WWU for my master's program due to its plethora of disciplines within the environmental science program and because of its incredible location nestled between the Cascade mountains and the Salish Sea. I grew up visiting the Salish Sea and surrounding areas and
have only become more passionate about protecting and preserving this amazing marine environment! I am an avid hiker and whenever I have free time, you will find me hiking in the mountains. I also have a passion for being out on the water and educating others about marine wildlife.

Gary Boba looks up while holding a camera

Gary Boba

Degree Pursuing: Environmental Science MS

Advisor: Dr Aquila Flower

Undergraduate Degree: Environmental Science BS, GIS Certificate, College of the Environment

Research Interest: During my undergraduate study, I developed my skills as a Geographic Information Science expert and applied those skills to many basic ecological analyses. My goal with this program is to refine that skillet and knowledge in order to study the effects of Climate Change on certain high-profile species. In particular, my project concerns the historical current, and potential future ranges of the Western Spruce Budworm in response to rapidly changing climate variables.

About Me: I loved my time in undergrad at the WWU College of the Environment, and in particular the passion and camaraderie of the faculty. When I decided to pursue a master's degree, Western stood out as a place with a teaching environment where I could develop my skills and my passion at the same time, through the care and support of my past and future professors. And of course, I love and miss Bellingham dearly. I'm looking forward to returning both for my education, and to continue practicing my favorite hobbies, such as birding, photography, and climbing. No doubt you'll find me in the Arboretum all the time!

Henry Fisher

Henry Fisher

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr Kate Darby

Undergraduate Degree: BA Environmental Studies, Colorado College

Research Interest: I am interested in the impact of community-based and participatory agriculture on community well being, as well as on large-scale socio-environmental goals. Especially, how local food producers, community gardens, and grassroots organizations working together under an Environmental Justice framework can promote community resilience, health, and equity, while reducing waste and carbon intensivity. I am passionate about this focus because it addresses social and environmental goals simultaneously, ensuring that environmental solutions are also equitable.

About/Hobbies: Outside of work and/or school I love to play my flute and guitar, rock climb, create tempeh (and many other fermented foods), cultivate mushrooms, and spend time practicing meditation. I am also very excited about composting, and maintain a Bokashi compost system and worm bin. Finally, I'll be moving to Bellingham with my partner and their springer spaniel, the two loves of my life! I am highly passionate about the topics I'll be studying, and about taking action to make my community (at various scales) a better place - so I'm beyond pleased to be attending this fall!

Jenna Schroeder wearing floral garment poses in front of a flowering shrub.

Jenna Schroeder

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Dr. John Rybczyk

Undergraduate Degree: BS, Environmental Science, WSU-Pullman

Research Interest: I am interested in assisting restoration efforts, particularly for estuaries. I will be studying estuaries within Washington to determine the effectiveness of current restoration efforts. With time I hope to also help guide future efforts to further maximize the impact to the ecosystems.

About/Hobbies: I am from Eastern Washington and love going on hikes and spending time outdoors. I'm excited to get over to the west side of the state and have some lush forests to explore and some new organisms to identify along the way. I like to also spend my free time continually improving on my garden that I have curated for our local pollinators and birds.

Kaitlin Macaranas

Kaitlin Macaranas

Degree Pursuing: M.S. in Environmental Science, Marine and Estuarine Science

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Brian Bingham

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Biology at California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB)

Research Interest: I am broadly interested in studying how altered environmental conditions via anthropogenic pollution, climate change, and invasive species influence marine invertebrate species interaction, community structure, and biodiversity in critical coastal wetland habitats. As a 2022 NSF Graduate Research Fellow, I will investigate the ecological impacts of an invasive polychaete worm (Clymenella torquata) on the vital eelgrass habitats in Padilla Bay, WA.

About/Hobbies: I am a first-generation, Filipino-American graduate student born and raised in the arid Central Valley of California. While at CUB, I participated in the 2021 Shannon Point Marine Center REU program and developed a project establishing the benthic macroinvertebrate communities throughout Padilla Bay. My excitement to continue and expand this project and to explore the breathtaking state of Washington collectively inspired my decision to attend WWU!

Kara Davis poses with a dog

Kara Davis

Degree Pursuing: M.S. in Environmental Science (Energy-Environmental Systems) 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Froylan Sifuentes

Undergraduate Degree: Arizona State University B.S. in Sustainability (Sustainable Energy, Materials, and Technology); Business and Landscape Studies Minors

Research Interests: My main research interests are related to improving the environmental performance of buildings and products using life cycle analysis (LCA). LCA is a tool for evaluating the environmental impacts of a product system from cradle (resource extraction) to grave (disposal). LCA results can be used to identify key areas for improvement, facilitate choices between alternatives, and inform decision-making. I am particularly interested in learning how circular economy principles can be applied during building construction and operation and empowering users to be responsible consumers. As an undergraduate, I devoted my independent studies to exploring how built and natural environments can enhance well-being.

About/Hobbies: Having grown up in the Baltimore-Washington area and witnessing rampant consumerism and sprawl, I quickly became passionate about creating a more sustainable world. I chose to attend the College of the Environment because of its reputation for preparing professionals through its curriculum, faculty, and research opportunities; and resonate with WWU's commitment to making a positive impact and values of sustainability, equity, and justice. I am also excited to live in Bellingham and explore the exquisite nature inside and outside of the city. In addition to nerding out, you can also find me cooking up a storm, chasing waterfalls, hiking mountains, or hanging out with my dog, Odie.

Kathryn Williams poses in front of a coastal scene

Kathryn Williams

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Suzanne Strom

Undergraduate Degree/University: Western Washington University, B.S in Environmental Science with an emphasis in Marine Ecology

Research Interests: I enjoy studying broad scale environmental processes and how different environmental stressors can impact them. Dr. Strom's lab is a part of the Northern Gulf of Alaska Ecological Research program and studies planktonic communities in the Gulf of Alaska. I'm interested in conducting a project that will help answer just one of the Strom Lab's overarching questions which is: How do changes in climatology influence the planktonic communities in the Northern Gulf of Alaska?

About You/Hobbies: I've wanted to be a marine scientist since I was in the second grade. When it came time to go to college, I chose to go to Western Washington University because it was close to the ocean, provided undergraduate research opportunities, offered a degree in marine science, and ultimately because of the Marine Science Scholars Program at Shannon Point Marine Center.

Kenna Kuhn poses with a dog on top of a mountain.

Kenna Kuhn

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Aquila Flower

Undergraduate Degree: BS, Environmental Science, University of Denver

Research Interest: My research interests are concentrated in climate science, with hopeful focus on community resilience, regenerative agriculture, or coastal food systems. I am particularly passionate about applying research-based data to meaningful community-driven solutions.

About/Hobbies: When not in school: I am a farmhand, freelance graphic designer, and backpacking instructor. I work in a lot of all-female outdoor contexts, love to grow and cook good food, and cannot emphasize enough the importance of swimming in nearly every body of water that I come across. I am unfortunately recovering from ACL surgery, but otherwise spend most my free time on my mountain bike, in a boat, or on trail with my pup (Appa).

Nikhil Amin poses outdoors in front of a body of water

Nikhil Amin

Degree Pursuing: MS, Environmental Science

Faculty Advisor: Dr Leo Bodensteiner

Undergraduate Degree: BS in Geology, Western Washington University

Research Interest: My interests, stemming from my undergraduate research, revolve around salmon ecology. I will be studying the most significant river reaches/ tributaries according to size and function as fish habitats throughout the Skagit watershed using a spatially explicit array of microelemental signatures. These signatures will be obtained seasonally and analyzed using an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS).

About/Hobbies: I enjoy a healthy combination of outdoor and indoor activities. I can be easily persuaded to head up to Baker or to have a beer and play some cards (I'm a lover of cribbage and euchre). After a 3-year hiatus, I cannot wait to be back in Bellingham to continue my higher education!

Susan Ridl

Susan Ridl

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr Steve Hollenhorst

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Biology, Westminster College, SLCUT

Research Interest: GIS and Environmental Impact Assessments to better understand ecosystems and our relationships with natural resources.

About/Hobbies: The past few years I have been dividing my time between working in a hospital laboratory during the pandemic, working toward a new career in conservation, and remodeling a home with my partner. I enjoy listening to music and learning Spanish on Duolingo to one day do some traveling.

Yashel Kakavand poses in front of a pool

Yashel Kakavand

Degree Pursuing: MA, Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor: Dr Rebekah Paci-Green

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Architecture, IKIU, Iran

Graduate Degree: M.S. in Post-Disaster Reconstruction, Shahid Beheshti University, Iran

Research Interest: My research interests include disaster recovery planning, hazard mitigation, and vulnerability assessment. My research in WWU will be about disaster recovery planning, the planning for disaster recovery before disasters occur to ensure policies and procedures facilitate rapid and equitable recovery that supports communities in reducing future losses and increasing adaptation to future hazard events.

About/Hobbies: I have worked as an architect in Iran, an earthquake-prone country. After my first M.Sc. degree in Post-Disaster Reconstruction, I learned the importance of resiliency. I believe that Western Washington University provides me the opportunity to promote my knowledge in this area.