Alumni 2015


Laura Figueroa

Laura Figueroa cropped

I am a first year Ph.D. student studying bumble bee disease transmission. I joined Naturalist Outreach because I love sharing my passion for biology and conservation with children! Most of my previous outreach background is with land snails. It has been so rewarding to watch children change their idea of snails as something “gross” to something fascinating that they can’t wait to look for in their yards. Helping children to develop a sense of wonder and excitement for natural systems makes outreach worth all of the effort. Being from one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world (Colombia!!), I have had the opportunity to see nature pristine and destroyed. The stark contrast has instilled in me the drive to understand biological systems and find evidence-based strategies to conserve them.

Presentation Topic: Insect Pollination



Erica Forstater

Erica Forstater Outside cropped
Hello! My name is Erica Forstater. I am a senior majoring in Environmental Science and Sustainability, with a minor in Education. I decided to pursue a career in environmental science as a freshman in high school, when I started working with the Student Conservation Association. I spent 4 summers working with this program, removing invasive species, creating trails, and cleaning up garbage around and in natural areas. I realized early on in my summers with SCA that I enjoyed working with and educating my fellow crew members and the public on conservation issues. I continued pursuing this passion this summer while researching endangered species for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service‘s new database, which will be available to the public. I hope to use the skills and experience gained in this course to continue working in and educating about environmental conservation!


Presentation Topic
: Wetlands: A Critical Ecosystem



Sierra Helmann

Sierra Lobster

My name is Sierra Helmann and I am currently a senior majoring in Environmental Science and Sustainability and minoring in Marine Biology. Growing up in Ithaca, NY gave me the opportunity to work at Earth Arts teaching nature-based mentoring programs in the local gorges and to volunteer at Expanding your Horizons, Judy’s Day, and the Ithaca Sciencenter. Although I grew up around lakes and gorges, my true passion is the ocean. My affinity for the ocean led me to pursue the field of marine biology and opened opportunities for me to intern at the Cornell Biological Field Station and volunteer at Shoals Marine Laboratories.  I love to share my passion for the ocean with others. I have developed food-web based lesson plans and helped with water quality monitoring for both Ithaca’s Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom and the Nature Conservancy’s Hawaii program. In the future, I hope to continue to advocate for ocean conservation and environmental stewardship by integrating education and outreach with the marine research I conduct.

Presentation Topic: Whales!



Nicholas Karavolias
Nick croppedHello! My name is Nicholas Karavolias and I am a sophomore in the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences studying Agricultural Sciences. I am from Suffolk County, Long Island, NY. From a young age, I was captivated by the natural world around me especially the edible parts! Backyard gardens became a favorite hobby of mine, and before long I found myself loving agriculture.  I have worked for Cornell Cooperative Extension assisting growers with pest and disease identification. I aspire to pursue a career in plant breeding and genetics that also includes outreach in some form. I am eager to share my passions and help young scientists identify their own!


Presentation Topic: The Plants We Eat & Where They Come From





Phoebe Koenig
Phoebe croppedMy love for nature started when I was a kid, growing up on a 2,000 acre nature reserve in California, where I learned to explore all the little worlds of life outside my door. I am now studying entomology at Cornell. I do research with honey bees, one of my favorite organisms and a fascinating example of extreme cooperation. I love hearing the ideas of kids because they often have such a natural curiosity about the world, so I’m really excited to share what I know about insects and their behaviors!



Presentation Topic: Social Insects & Why They’re Amazing!





Tessa Lessord

I’m in my second year of my Master’s program in the Cornell Entomology Department. I’ve always been interested in all aspects of nature, but chose to study insects in college because there’s just so much to learn about! I always enjoy doing outreach events and getting kids engaged in my little-studied field. My main career goals include agricultural extension or consulting, while one of my hobby goals is to educate children and the general public in good agricultural practices. My interest in food webs and food sources fueled the development of my Naturalist Outreach talk: How Insects Feed the World. It’s always important to know how our food is made!

Presentation Topic: How Insects Feed the World: Animals that Eat Insects.




Marina Mann
Marina Mann croppedMy name is Marina Mann, I am from northern Maine, and I am a senior entomology major. From the age of about 10, I was known as the “bug girl” because I always had some sort of insect hanging off of me. I began outreach just as early, but the unintentional kind, as I was simply sharing my joy and amazement with anyone and everyone around me. Today, I am still avidly sharing my love of outreach and insects through my position as president of the Cornell Undergraduate Entomology Club, “Snodgrass and Wigglesworth”, where I organize and participate in outreach events such as the Caterpillar Birthday party this past summer at the Ithaca Children’s Garden. I have also had the pleasure of volunteering multiple times at Insectapalooza and the NY State Fair, and more recently I’ve gained teaching experience as a TA in the introductory entomology course at Cornell. I believe that outreach is more than organized events, it’s a lifestyle. When you find a “bug”, you stop and tell everyone who will listen to come check it out and together you learn to be more aware of whom you share the planet with!

Presentation Topic: Insect Defenses



Erin Mattoon
Erin MattoonMy name is Erin Mattoon and I am a junior at Cornell studying Biological Science.  I grew up on a dairy farm in rural New York and I had always been fascinated by the ability to grow food.  I became particularly passionate about developing ways to feed the world sustainably, and I hope to contribute to this goal by earning a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and pursuing a career in crop development.  I think that understanding the natural world is essential to improving our agricultural system to be both highly productive and sustainable.  I also believe that the more people that understand science and the natural world, the closer we’ll get to this goal, so outreach is another passion of mine!  I am excited to spread the passion that I have for science with the young minds of the future!

Presentation Topic: Plant Defenses: Don’t Eat Me!




Tatyana Roberts
Tatyana Roberts cropped

Hi! My name is Tatyana Roberts. I’m from Westchester, NY. I am a senior Biological Science major with a concentration in Human Nutrition and a Global Health minor. Science and traveling are two of my favorite things. My love for science is in my blood. My mother was an elementary school science teacher. At an early age, she taught me that science could be cool and exciting! Through my involvement in the Naturalist Outreach program, I hope to use the skills that I learn to encourage students to expand their thinking about the world around them.


Presentation Topic: Nocturnal Animals: Creatures of the Night




Morgan Shelton

Hello! My name is Morgan Shelton. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I’m majoring in Animal Science with a minor in Biomedical Sciences in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In the future, I hope to be a mixed animal veterinarian that also does biomedical/veterinary research. While scientific outreach has been an interest to me, it wasn’t until I came to Cornell that I realized how much I would really enjoy it! There’s something to be said about the absolute joy of discovery someone has when they are taught something new and exciting. As an aspiring veterinarian, each day and every case has the possibility to be a teaching moment, so I hope to hone my outreach skills through this wonderful experience!


Presentation Topic: Reptiles: Adaptations & Diversity



Talya Shragai

Talya Shragai
I am a first year doctoral student studying the Asian Tiger Mosquito here in New York. My background is in biology and international development studies – I’ve worked on projects including climate change and chipmunk behavior research in Yosemite, CA and a study of waterbird ecology in Bahía de Kino, Mexico. I believe that to have the greatest impact, biology can’t just done by scientists: every person in the community can make a difference. I joined the Naturalist Outreach Program to engage children in exciting local research and make it personally relevant to them. I can’t wait to share what I know about the Asian Tiger Mosquito and show students how they can help; I hope that this will impassion future scientists and give them the opportunity to contribute to cutting edge research. In my free time I enjoy perfecting my chocolate chip cookie recipe, re-watching Pixar movies, and spending as much time outdoors as possible!


Presentation Topic: Buzz off! Mosquito Biology and Invasive Mosquitoes



Eric Sibbald

Eric Sibbald cropped

Hello! My name is Eric Sibbald and I am a senior double majoring in Entomology and Biology, with a concentration in Ecology and Evolution. From a fairly young age I have been interested in the natural world, which slowly developed into a passion for ornithology and birds. I have worked on a few small research projects in college, and have come to see that most of the research done by scientists is not being shared or accessed by the general populous, and that many kids today do not have a connection to nature like previous generations. I want to help make sure that there is a future generation of scientists and naturalists out there, caring about and protecting our planet for future generations.

Presentation Topic: Birds



 Zach Walton

Zach Walton croppedOne of my earliest experiences with science happened while waiting for the elementary school bus. Each morning I would sit on the rock at the end of my driveway with my dad while I pestered him with endless questions, ranging from where bugs went in the winter to how black holes formed. That childish curiosity drove me to seek answers on my own, and I quickly discovered that there were just as many unsolved mysteries in my backyard as there were deep in space. The reptiles and amphibians you might otherwise dismiss are crucial to the temperate forest ecosystems of North America. I am currently a senior working towards my degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and over the last two years I have conducted research investigating the influences of microclimate on the population distribution of the northern red backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus). After I graduate I hope to enter a graduate program where I may continue to pursue my interest in herpetology.

Presentation Topic: Exploring Local Forests: Wildlife & Ecology



 Kathleen Webster
Kathleen Webster edited
My name is Kathleen Webster, and I am a senior in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences majoring in Animal Science with a minor in Entomology. I love traveling and have performed fieldwork in Kenya, Belize, and Germany, so I enjoy every aspect of working in the field and being close to nature. I am an active member of Cornell’s Herpetological Society and Cornell’s Raptor Program—two organizations that allow me to spend a lot of my free time handling exotic animals and performing many outreach events in the Ithaca area. This gives me many opportunities to share my love of ecology and our world around us with the community. After graduating, I hope to continue on to graduate school to pursue a career in conservation biology and herpetology. Naturalist Outreach will enable me to further share my passion for some of the less loved organisms and instill the importance of conservation of all species, no matter how slippery or slimy, on the next generation of scientists.

Presentation Topic: Slithering Serpents: All About Snakes