A mentor, by definition, is an experienced and trusted advisor. ECO Mentors serve a critical support role in members' service. They are volunteers who are predominantly employed at the Agency of Natural Resources and conservation themed non-profits throughout the state. Mentors help fill a very important role in service experiences. They provide networking and professional development guidance. Mentors are encouraged to augment the support provided by ECO Program Staff and Service Site Supervisors.
Meet 2019-2020 ECO Mentors:
Jamie Bates – Environmental Analyst, VT DEC Stormwater Program
Jamie Bates here, focused on compliance tracking for both industrial and municipal stormwater permitting. Alumnus of Clarkson University, with a background in Biology, and Environmental Science and Policy. For my entire professional career, I have worked with Stormwater and water quality policies on a state or municipal level. I have experience with grant writing and review, risk management, geographical information systems (GIS) mapping, and evaluating biogeochemical cycles for nutrient management.
Anne Bijur- Environmental Analyst, VT DEC Waste Management and Prevention Division
I majored in European studies in college but spent a lot of time working for the Outdoor Education Program and probably should have switched my major. After a stint as a ski instructor and elementary school teacher, I found my way to UVM and received an MS in Natural Resource Planning. I then worked for Shelburne Farms on different education for sustainability projects before moving to AllEarth Renewables to promote solar energy installations. I now work with a team to implement Vermont’s waste reduction, recycling, and composting initiatives. Always an educator, I am responsible for outreach about the Universal Recycling law with businesses, schools, and the general public. My focus areas are communications, media relations, food waste reduction and food donation. I love that my work helps to preserve the environment for this and future generations.
Caitlin Cusack – Forester, Vermont Land Trust
I spent most of my youth building forts and exploring the woods behind my home in eastern Massachusetts. During high school I worked in community gardens in inner city and an organic farm in the suburbs of Boston. These experiences led me to pursue a B.A. in Environmental Studies from The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and a Masters of Forestry in 2008 from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in New Haven, CT. Prior to graduate school, I spent three years wandering around the woods of Ohio, West Virginia and New England working on projects involving non-timber forest products and native plant conservation. During that time I served two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Rural Action’s Forestry Program in Glouster, Ohio. Following graduate school, I accepted my boyfriend’s invitation to move to Vermont to live in a yurt with him. That experiment worked out and we were married in May of 2014. Since moving to Vermont, I have coordinated the Starksboro Art and Soul Project, was an Americorps Stewardship Assistant with The Nature Conservancy and worked as a consulting forester and state lands forester. The last three years prior to joining VLT’s stewardship team, I served as an Urban and Community Forestry Extension Educator for the University of Vermont Extension. I coordinated the Vermont Forest Pest First Detector Program and assisted communities with the management of their urban and community forests, with specific focus on forest health. In my current role as forester I manage VLT properties, steward conservation easements and support conserved landowners and staff with forest management. As a lover of the understory and the overstory I enjoy botanizing, hiking, trail running, skiing, and dancing in my spare time. I live in Bristol with my husband and daughter and am co-owner of our sugaring business, Little Hogback Farm.
Elle O’Casey – Director of Communications and Outreach, VT Agency of Natural Resources
I found my way to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources by following my curiosity. Growing up next to a national park and surrounded by miles of state lands, I wanted to figure out ways the government could work with the public on land management issues in a more constructive way. I spent time during my undergrad and masters programs in California and Oregon studying federal land management policies. While in Thailand with the Peace Corps, I developed an interest in community-based land management after working with villagers on community forestry projects. When I returned to the US, I got an internship (which turned into a job) with the National Park Service in Vermont to develop and launch public outreach campaigns about America’s 100+ urban national parks. Today, I help ANR staff communicate science and environmental policies with Vermonters.
Theresa Petzoldt – Business Process Analyst, VT DEC
I earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Colby College, and I’ve been with DEC for about 3 years. I’m currently working as a Business Process Analyst, which means that I work with programs who have identified an opportunity to make changes to their workflow create a plan to get there. Currently, I’m working on a couple of Department-wide IT projects related to permitting – one is the public-facing Environmental Notice Bulletin, which makes permit application information available to the public and simplifies public participation throughout the review process (you should check it out!), and the other is an internal dashboard to help the Department track permit information in a single place. I love that these Department-wide projects give me the opportunity to get to know the work and people of each of the DEC permitting programs, and in general I like that my work combines analytical skills with interpersonal skills – I’m constantly shifting between distilling information into discrete causes or requirements, and talking to program staff about their experiences. It’s a tough switch to be making all the time, and I’m always trying to improve how I communicate because it’s so important to me to be able to connect with the people my work is intended to serve. So much of what goes on in this world seems detached from why it matters, and I think the best antidote to that inertia is reminding myself throughout the day of who will be using these solutions, why they need them, and how it will improve their experience.
Chris Rottler – Grants Management Specialist & Onsite Loan Program Manager, VT DEC Wasterwater Initiative
In my first job out of law school, I moved to Texas, where I worked as a policy analyst for Texas A&M on agricultural water policy and TMDLs. It was a great job, but I didn’t really want to be in Texas, so I moved to Colorado, where I sat for the bar exam and practiced law in a medium sized general practice firm focused on real estate. I was involved with zoning, land use, and real property matters, working at a firm in Boulder for three years. I was at a point in my career where I needed to decide if I was going to commit myself to Boulder and my law practice there, or move back to Vermont when my mom started having memory problems. As an only child, the choice was easy – I moved back to Vermont to be with my parents and grow my career here. I worked in community and economic development, as well as teaching college courses before I landed at the State. I also was able to care for my parents and spend time with them before they passed away. I always wanted to work on community development and environmental issues, which I am able to do in my current position, where I am involved in the Village Wastewater Initiative, water infrastructure finance, and will soon be involved in a yet to be defined role assisting with implementation of Act 76. While my path has meandered a bit, there is certainly a logic behind all of it and I am happy to talk to anyone who is interested.
Emma Stuhl - Environmental Analyst, VT DEC Solid Waste Program’s Materials Management Section
Emma studied history and environmental science as an undergraduate and earned her Masters of Science from the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Program. She spent the four years in between schooling as an environmental and outdoor educator (and farmed a bit). She’s also worked as an ecologist/data manager, special educator, researcher, and outfitter. In her current role, Emma works on outreach, communications, and analysis projects that aim to reduce and better manage Vermont’s waste. She loves getting people excited to be more sustainable on personal and societal levels and connecting with a wide range of audiences.