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Meet the October 2022 Cohort of Community Leads!

Nov 4, 2022 Posted by :   Blake McGhghy No Comments

Thriving Earth Exchange is pleased to announce the October 2022 cohort of Community Leads! They will work with Community Science Fellows to launch 10 community science projects across the United States and in Jamaica! Stay tuned for more information about the impactful projects to come and the communities who lead and inspire them!

Bucksport, South Carolina

Jaime McCauley lives in Bucksport, South Carolina, where she works as a sociologist at Coastal Carolina University. In addition, she serves on the board of the Association for the Betterment of Bucksport. As an organization, the Association aims to increase safety and justice for those with a limited voice in public life; promote social equality through discourse that reflects a range of values and social identities; engage community members in participatory decision-making; and advance the right of every person to live in a socially, economically and environmentally healthy community. Jaime looks forward to partnering with the Thriving Earth Exchange to examine flood mitigation efforts in Bucksport to protect its people, culture, and history.

Chapel Hill in South Decatur, Georgia

Clarence Williams is an Organizer for JusticeOnChapelHill, Inc. and the Chapel Hill Organization, Inc. The community, commonly referred to as South DeKalb County, consists primarily of the southern portion of DeKalb County Georgia. The two organizations we founded are designed to make community members more aware of issues impacting the whole community and to activate more community members to become more involved with issues impacting the community as a whole. We look forward to pursuing another project to get more community members more aware and involved in issues impacting the whole community. More importantly getting the community collectively to know one another, listen to one another, and trust one another.

The City of Nashville, Tennessee

Dr. Kendra Abkowitz joined Nashville Mayor Cooper’s Office and Metro Nashville/Davidson County in October 2021 as the city’s Chief Sustainability & Resilience Officer, working across departments and with the community on environmental, sustainability, and resilience issues. Prior to her current role, she held a variety of positions at the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation working on multidisciplinary environmental policy, sustainability, and strategic planning. She began her career at Vanderbilt University tackling operational and educational sustainability projects across campus and the medical center. Kendra has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and economics from Vanderbilt University, a Master’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago, a doctorate in environmental management and policy from Vanderbilt University, and a master’s in business administration from Middle Tennessee State University. Kendra s excited to engage with AGU and scientists to further climate action, sustainability, and resilience across Nashville.

The City of Olympia, Washington

Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim in Omaha, Nebraska

Luis Marcos is Co-Executive Director and one of the original founders of Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim, based in Omaha, Nebraska. Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim is a 501(c)(3) organization of the Maya Community in Nebraska dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the Maya people through community development programs. Luis is passionate about Maya and Indigenous agriculture sciences, which are also known as regenerative agriculture. Through his work with the Omaha Nation and Indigenous nations across borders, he has been named as Ambassador of the Q’anjob’al, Akateko, Chuj, and Popti Nations with the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska. Additionally, as a Q’anjob’al Maya cultural and spiritual leader, Luis leads Maya ceremony and maintains direct relationships with Maya ancestral authorities in Maya Territories.

Milton’s Concerned Citizens in Milton, Florida

Pam Mitchell is the chair of Milton’s Concerned Citizens in beautiful Santa Rosa County, Florida. Milton’s Concerned Citizens promotes honesty and transparency in local government and we take a keen interest in protecting the rivers, waterways, and environment of our community from unsupervised and under-regulated development. As Pam neared retirement, she realized that the beauty and magic of the river basin where she was blessed to live was being threatened. Instead of putting my feet up, she rolled up my sleeves and became an environmental activist! She looks forward to working with the October 2022 cohort to promote public awareness of the need for protecting waterways from overdevelopment and municipal encroachment.

Park County Environmental Council in Livingston, Montana

Sarah Stands grew up in Livingston, Montana, within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. She is the Director of Community Resilience with Park County Environmental Council which works with the community to safeguard the land, water, wildlife, and people of Yellowstone’s Northern gateway through grassroots organizing and community advocacy. Park County is experiencing rapid change, including increasing development and growing wealth inequality. And these changes to the communities are further challenged by a warming climate, expanding droughts, floods, fire, and invasive species.  Most recently, the community is rebuilding from the June 2022 national flooding disaster of the Yellowstone River. The community is looking for ways to convene across silos, to consolidate learning of this flood and historical flooding events, with the hopes of being more resilient and prepared for the next natural disaster; be it forest fires, earthquakes, another flood, extreme drought, etc.

Socially Responsible Agriculture Project in the Southern United States

Sherri Dugger is the executive director of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP). SRAP protects communities from industrial livestock operations. With nearly two decades of experience editing magazines and books, Sherri Dugger now puts her media and public relations experience to work in the agriculture field. A supporter of local and regional food systems, environmental sustainability, humane animal agriculture, and diversified, regenerative farming, Sherri advocates for rural communities at the Indiana Statehouse and on Capitol Hill. She enjoys life on a small farm in Spencer, Indiana, with her husband, Randy, and their dogs, cats, donkeys, goats, alpacas, chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, and honeybees. Sherri is grateful for the opportunity to work with Thriving Earth Exchange to advance research that supports SRAP’s newly launched Contract Grower Transition Program. Her hope is that, through this partnership, SRAP will be able to advocate for agriculture policy and resources to better support small, sustainably focused farms and networks of producers.

Talent Urban Forestry Committee – The City of Talent, Oregon

Mike Oxendine is the Chair of the Talent Urban Forestry Committee, which was formed in 2019 with the vision to create a healthy sustainable and ever-expanding urban forest in a community that values trees and fosters their stewardship. Talent suffered a catastrophic wildfire on September 8th, 2020, that devastated hundreds of homes and a huge proportion of our urban forest. The Talent Urban Forestry Committee is dedicated to reforesting Talent and helping the community to recover. The committee has been tasked with creating an urban forestry master plan to aid in the recovery and future of Talent’s urban forest. Mike is excited to be a part of the AGU Thriving Earth Exchange program as there are so many opportunities for science projects including GIS mapping, LiDAR, and community engagement.

Trelawny, Jamaica

Meet Our April 2022 Cohort of Community Leads in Wisconsin

Apr 18, 2022 Posted by :   mgoodwin No Comments

AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s UniverCity Alliance and Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N), will support 14 projects across the state of Wisconsin. As participants in the first state-based cohort of Thriving Earth projects, the community leads in the April 2022 cohort will work with Community Science Fellows to launch impactful community science projects while building connections across the state around shared priorities. From Sustainability Coordinators to Town Supervisors and grassroots advocates, stay tuned for more information about the impactful projects that will come from this cohort launch and the communities who lead and inspire them!


Beloit, Wisconsin

 Dr. Brittany Keyes is a physical therapist and civically involved environmental advocate from Beloit, Wisconsin. She recently completed her term on Beloit’s City Council, serving as Vice President this past year. During her term as Vice President of Beloit’s City Council, Brittany championed a carbon neutrality proclamation, PFAS testing, timely allocation of ARPA funding to those experiencing greatest need, and local partnerships to complete independent air monitoring after learning about the stark increase of local air pollution following the build out of a large, natural gas energy plant. In addition, Brittany is an active board member with the Rotary Club of Beloit and Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action. She enjoys turning grass into native plant gardens, exploring and experiencing nature with her family, and leading a local Plogging (jogging and picking up litter) group. Brittany is excited for the opportunity to partner with Thriving Earth Exchange. 





The City of Abbotsford, Wisconsin 

Andrew Aslesen has been a Source Water Specialist with the Wisconsin Rural Water Association since March 2010. Mr. Aslesen works with community water systems to solve groundwater quality and quantity issues, including the development and implementation of wellhead protection plans. Previously Mr. Aslesen worked as a project assistant with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey from 2008 to 2010. Mr. Aslesen has a M.S degree in Water Resources Management with an emphasis in Hydrogeology from UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies and a B.S in Geography with a Geology emphasis from UW-Whitewater. 




Josh Soyk has worked for the City of Abbotsford since 2009. He originally worked on a pilot study to treat effluent wastewater into potable drinking water. The pilot study was successful, however the City of Abbotsford decided to go a different route to get more water supply. In 2010 the City of Abbotsford constructed 12 new wells along with a new water treatment plant. Soyk was the main operator for the new treatment plant and 12 wells. In 2019 he was promoted to Water/Wastewater Manager for the City of Abbotsford. Along with his duties as Water/Wastewater Manager, Soyk accepted the position of City Administrator in January of 2022. 





The City of Ashland, Wisconsin



Sara Hudson has been working for the City of Ashland since 2006 and in the Parks and Recreation Director role since 2010. She has holds Bachelor of Science degree in Resource Management from UW-Stevens Point. Her husband, two daughters and pet dog love living and playing on the southern shores of Lake Superior.







The City of La Crosse, Wisconsin

Lewis Kuhlman received a Masters Degree in Urban and Regional Planning with a focus on Environmental Planning from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He has worked for the City of La Crosse Planning and Development Department for nearly ten years, first as an associate planner and later as an environmental sustainability planner.  Lewis’s main accomplishments include the implementation of La Crosse’s strategic plan for sustainability, managing a performance contract for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, and leading La Crosse’s climate action planning process.




The City of Madison, Wisconsin

Dr. Jessica Price is Sustainability and Resilience Manger for the City of Madison, where she works to develop and implement policies, programs, and strategies that advance climate resilience, sustainability and environmental justice. With an interdisciplinary background, Jessica has extensive experience leading collaborative efforts to create innovative and equitable solutions to large-scale challenges affecting both people and the environment. Prior to joining the Mayor’s Office, Jessica served as Renewable Energy Strategy Lead for the Nature Conservancy in New York. Jessica has a PhD in Landscape Ecology and an MS in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Fellow and a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow.


Stacie Reece is the sustainability program coordinator for The City of Madison. Prior to working for the City, she was the sustainability coordinator for the City of Middleton as well as the director of sustainable business initiative for the nonprofit Sustain Dane. She has been a resident member of the Sustainable Madison Committee where the Resolution for 100% Renewable Energy and Zero Net Carbon was drafted. The Resolution was then adopted by the City of Madison in 2017. Now as a City staff, her role will be to help the City achieve these goals to build a more sustainable and resilient community.




The City of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

Scott Semroc is the Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Sun Prairie WI. Scott graduated from The Ohio State University in 2015 with a BS in Sustainable Business, and has also received his LEED AP O+M certification. Previously, Scott has worked for the City of Columbus, Ohio as Assistant Energy Manager, and the non-profit VEIC for over five years supporting several energy efficiency and sustainability-related programs across the country, the most recent of which was WI Focus on Energy, supporting emerging technology development, research and pilot administration, and program design innovations.




Dane County, Wisconsin


Melanie Askay is passionate about finding ways for people and nature to peacefully coexist and mutually thrive. In her role as Climate Specialist, she is focused on implementing the recommendations set forth in the Climate Action Plan. She has over ten years of experience facilitating global and regional natural resource management across nonprofit, government, and business. Prior to joining Dane County Melanie was in California where she focused her efforts on land and water conservation statewide through grants and policymaking. Melanie has a Master of Science from Illinois State University and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Delaware. In her free time Melanie loves exploring Madison and nature walks with her two kids and her dog Pita.




Matt Noone is the GIS Specialist with the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC). He received his BS in Forest Ecosystem Science and MS in Natural Resource Management from the University of Maine. Matt spent several years working for the US Forest Service in Montana and Washington and was a Remote Sensing Specialist at The Institute of Natural Resources at Oregon State University. Prior to working for CARPC Matt was the GIS Scientist at the Forest Landscape and Ecology Lab at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In his free time Matt enjoys beekeeping, woodworking and gardening.




Know CAFOs, Inc.

KnowCAFOs, Inc. is a non-profit educational corporation that is concerned about water, air, and rural quality of life. KnowCAFOs has worked diligently to inform the governments, residents, visitors and property owners in the Trade River and St. Croix watersheds of the dangers inherent in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Through the support and development of Moratoria and Operations Ordinances and by attending and speaking out at county and local town meetings, KnowCAFOs has assumed a leadership role in the greater community. KnowCAFOs has sponsored and attended numerous rallies at both the Burnett and Polk County Government Centers, town halls, and lake landings. The distribution of hundreds of yard signs and four commercial billboards have made the local population and tourists very aware of the situation. Generous donors have made it all possible. KnowCAFOs intends to continue its fight for environmental integrity and thanks AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange for the opportunity to continue providing accurate information to decision-makers and the community at large.


La Crosse, Wisconsin

Jamie O’Neill believes strongly in the health and wellness of our community. She has been a part of projects such as the YMCA Community Food Forest Committee, the county board, the Sustainability Institute and the Rotary Downtown Environmental Committee and worked on many projects involving community health. She came to La Crosse in 2008 to pursue a masters in Community Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Since completing her masters, she has worked for GROW, a non-profit organization that organizes school garden and farm experiences and currently works for Viterbo University as a STEM Event Planner and Outreach Coordinator where she plans a yearly science-based symposium and does outreach with high schools. Her hobbies include running, biking and being outside with family and friends.



The Town of Campbell, Wisconsin

Lee Donahue was raised in Miami, Florida where her family’s business relied on the health of the environment. She has led work in County, State, Federal and local governments for 22 years. In each position, Lee’s work relied on community collaboration and support of other agencies. Lee is a 15-year Army combat veteran who served in 20 countries, Fort Bragg and the Pentagon. She worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Headquarters for the Upper Mississippi River Refuge where she facilitated meetings for the Comprehensive Conservation Plan. In addition, Lee was a decades long caregiver for her elderly parents. As an 18-year Town of Campbell resident, Lee regards the Town of Campell as her cherished home where she proudly raised her family. Lee has devoted thousands of hours to community, education, environmental improvement, safety, health and leadership opportunities for youth. She has served as the Town of Campbell Supervisor 2 for Health, Education and Welfare for two years. her primary focus is PFAS water contamination. When she was originally told that the Town of Campbell’s PFAS contamination was “only a pencil thin plume”, she actively sought additional private well testing proving our PFAS contamination is widespread. She continues to work with residents, government organizations, scientific entities and environmental groups to research/develop short- and long-term safe water options, to protect residents.



The Town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin

Cindy Boyle is the 29-year owner of Boyle Design Group, a marketing/sign business. Married for 27 years, Cindy and he husband own multiple small businesses and rental properties, have three sons and two grandchildren. For more than 4 years, Cindy has been organizing, educating and advocating for State and Federal standards for PFAS groundwater and surface water. She is a founding member of SOH2O, a PFAS awareness advocacy group, and have served as the Town of Peshtigo Chairperson for the past year.





Jeffery Lamont worked for CH2M HILL as a Project Manager and Hydrogeologist for 28 years where he was involved in the investigation, design and implementation of a wide array of remedial actions for contaminated sites throughout North America. In addition, he has led the sediment remediation and demolition practices for over 15 years and has been advocating for the last 5 years for State and Federal numerical standards for PFAS compounds.






Kayla Furton is an educator by training and profession, an environmental advocate through interest and priority, a clean water PFAS advocate with a local advocacy group by necessity, and Town Board Supervisor through a commitment to working for change at all levels.






Vernon County, Wisconsin

Ben Wojahn is the County Conservationist for Vernon County Land & Water Conservation Department. Ben is a Certified Crop Advisor and Certified Grazing Planner. Ben utilizes his personal and grant writing skills to manage Vernon County Parks, Forests, Dams, Land Conservation, Land Information, Watershed Planning, Invasive Species, and Wildlife Habitat programs.  Perhaps Ben’s greatest skill is his ability to be a collaborator and facilitator.  This, combined with his strong relationships with the farmers and this community, make him a critical partner to this project. In his free time, Ben enjoys gardening, planting trees and perennials, and forestry management. Ben is also an avid wild rice harvester, which he does every year across beautiful lakes and rivers in northern Wisconsin.


Dr. Monique Hassman holds a shared Watershed Planner position between Vernon County Land & Water Conservation Department and Valley Stewardship Network. She is also an adjunct professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Youth Initiative High School teacher. Monique is a lifelong resident of Wisconsin and has spent the past couple decades in the Driftless “living on the edge” (a.k.a. the Crawford and Vernon County line). Her background in cultural anthropology and cartography (Geographic Information Systems) informs her mapping, modeling, and efforts developing collaborative partnerships, rooted in mutuality and empowerment, to address land and water resource concerns and opportunities.



The Village of Norwalk, Wisconsin

Jen Schmitz is a lifelong resident of Cashton, Wisconsin, so the 54619 zip code and Monroe County have always been home for Jen. Growing up on a dairy farm taught Jen how to love animals and the land. With a love for cows, Jen pursued a Dairy Science degree at UW-Madison, adding a second degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics also highlighted the emerging space of sustainable agriculture which the world-over was digging into in 19998 to 2002. At the end of 2019, Jen made a bold decision to run for Monroe County Board so that she could be part of the work to operate Monroe County and influence long-term planning and sustainability for the people, land and water of our portion of Wisconsin. She was fortunate enough to be elected and since April of 2020, and has been active in the committees that she was appointed to, which include:  Natural Resources and Extension, Solid Waste, and Health and Human Services. In addition, she is active with the River to Ridge Disaster Resilience group (, which is a long-term recovery group for those in the Monroe, La Crosse, Vernon and Crawford counties that have survived local disasters such as the flash floods of 2018. Jen sees great opportunities to work with the village of Norwalk to expand their rain and stream monitoring system so that we can better alert the residents of Norwalk when flash flooding is imminent  and likely to cause damage, jeopardizing safety. As the home of her neighbors, coworkers and important local businesses, Jen believes that by working with scientists and other thought-leaders, they can help Norwalk create a plan for community resilience in 2022!


Bob Micheel is the Monroe County Land Conservation Department (LCD)–Director, where he previously served as a Soil & Water Conservationist in Sparta, Wisconsin, since 1989. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Resource Management and Soil Science from UW-Stevens Point. Over the course of 30 plus years he has served on many federal, state and local committees influencing conservation policy. Program highlights include: the stream restoration/fishing easement program, phosphorous trading with municipalities, and development of the Climate Change Task Force along with creating the first land use planner position in Monroe County. Currently serves as the Wisconsin Land & Water Association – President. Bob grew up in a small community called the Arches, in Winona County MN.





The Village of Port Edwards, Wisconsin

Raymond “Boz” Bossert Jr., Colonel (Retired), serves as the Village Administrator for the Village of Port Edwards. In this role, he is responsible for 37 Village employees, 15 square miles of Village limits, 50 miles of Village roadway, and 5 Village wells that provide over 600,000 gallons of water a month. Colonel Bossert’s 36 year Army Combat Engineer career in commanding troops in austere environments and establishing many large base camps gives him a unique perspective on water quality and its importance.  He also has expertise and experience in Joint, Coalition, Inter-agency and Multi-National commands and over 14 combat deployments and assignments. Colonel Bossert most recently served as the Senior Advisor on Engineering, Infrastructure and Economic Stabilization at the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. He feels that this partnership with Thriving Earth Exchange will energize this important project to provide Village residents a product that captures the true water quality of Wood County’s water sources.  Ray’s Goal is to  create a model for any community to  provide a tangible “dashboard”  style  water quality tool  for  citizens, investors and developers in any City, Town or County.