Sarah Belfer was born in Paris, France, and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from Florida International University with a certificate in Agroecology in December 2019. As an undergraduate, she was a member of FIU’s Honors College, Vice President of the FIU Organic Garden Club and part of the Tropical Conservation Internship Fall 2019 cohort. During that time she interned with Montgomery Botanical Center studying the reproductive biology of Roystoneas as well as the chemical composition of their floral scent volatiles and briefly worked with Foodscapes Design, a landscape design company. She is currently working with Dr. Amir and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on a research project focusing on endangered ferns and cryopreservation of their spores. Sarah plans to pursue a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture in order to design beautiful and sustainable cities.
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, María-José Ayuso is a recent FIU alumna with an impressive academic career, having graduated from the Honors College with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, a Minor in Art, and an Honors Service-Research Certificate. During her undergraduate studies, María-José conducted interdisciplinary research through the Advanced Research and Creativity in Honors (ARCH) program. She launched Palate Magazine which highlighted the multifaceted approach of FIU students pursuing a non-arts major while also possessing an artistic talent. Her poster, also titled “Palate Magazine,” was recognized by a panel of Conference for Undergraduate Research at FIU (CURFIU) judges, distinguishing her as an ARCH scholar. After completing upper-division biology courses, María-José became fascinated with microbial interactions and their effect on the environment. In spring, 2018, she joined the FIU Agroecology Program as an Undergraduate Research Assistant under the BASE grant and, since graduating, has continued her work as a Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistant under the START NOW grant. Under the mentorship of Dr. Kateel Shetty and Graduate Research Assistant, Jessica Dominguez, María-José performed research focusing on the potential antimicrobial properties of dodder (Cuscuta sp.) and curry leaf tree (M. koenigii) against Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (Las), the causal agent of citrus greening disease. More recently, María-José has conducted research aimed at developing methods for the positive selection of antibiotic producing endophytes from medicinal and native plant species under the mentorship of Dr. Kateel Shetty and Graduate Teaching Assistant, Ganesh Khadka. María-José soon plans to continue her higher education in pursuit of a doctoral degree in microbiology.
Clara Riquelme is a senior seeking a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Natural Resources. She is also completing two certificates, one in Agroecology and another one in Biodiversity Conservation Management. During the spring of 2018, she did an internship with the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation under the supervision of Dr. Paul Reillo and Ms. Eva Sjodin where she learned about the identification and documenting process of the Mountain Bongo Antelope. In the Fall of 2018, she was trained by PhD student Mary Tiedeman to participate in the Region IV Collegiate Soil Judging Contest in Stillwater, Oklahoma as part of the USDA-HSI funded START-NOW program. Currently, she is working on a Biochar study lead by PhD student Shagufta Gaffar. Upon graduating, she is planning to continue graduate school to become a soil scientist since she is interested in soil resources and its conservation, she wants to learn how to categorize them for its various purposes as they greatly contribute to agricultural production, and how it could affect the environment.
Shelby is a senior pursing a degree in Environmental Sciences with a track in Agricultural Sciences and two minors, one in statistics and one in physics. She is also enrolled in the Agroecology Certificate Program and performs research under the guidance of Amir Khoddamzadeh in seed technologies of orchids at Fairchild Botanic Gardens. She also works as the Garden Club President. After graduation, Shelby wants to pursue a degree in tissue culture or sees technologies and hopes to get a masters in Biophysics so she can create artificial seeds with nanotechnology that are viable.
Lucia Bayley Bustamante
Lucia Bayley was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and moved to the US after graduating from High School in 2015. She is a junior seeking a Bachelor in Sustainability and the Environment with a certificate in Agroecology at FIU. She is an ICATCH scholar at the Agroecology program at FIU. During her first semester at FIU she interned with Scapefoods, a landscape architecture company, where she found out how passionate she was about agriculture and gardening. She is currently performing research for the Agroecology Certificate Program under the mentorship of Graduate Student, Claudia Garcia. Lucia is looking forward to continuing her studies in Landscape Architecture and Agriculture once she graduates from FIU.
Marco Alvarez graduated in Fall 2019 from FIU, earning a B.S in Environmental Studies with a minor in economics. During his time with the agroecology program, he was able to obtain an internship with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York where he studied herbivory constraints of speckled alder in different soil nitrogen levels. He also interned at Zoo Miami and studied gopher tortoise thermal ecology with the FIU Tropics program. Currently, he is applying to graduate schools to study ecology, and his interests include water resources, soil science, and restoration ecology. He hopes to work as a researcher that contributes to new findings that lead to sound polices in Congress about protecting the environment and managing the Earth's natural resources.
Stephanie Torres is of Puerto Rican descent and grew up in Cutler Bay, Florida. Stephanie started her undergraduate college career at Miami Dade College Homestead Campus and transferred to Florida International University. She is now a graduating senior working on a Bachelor of Arts in sustainability and the environment. She has a passion for sustainability and the environment issues lie in discovering means to promote the importance of accountable agriculture practices, natural ecosystems, and urban development to ensure future generations can work and eat in the face of climate and logistical challenges using ethically responsible management. She believes that a positive change can start by implementing small-scale seed banks at my university, organizing a seed swap program with other partners, and continuing outreach to promote more grassroots seed bank operations. Her vision for the future is to continue into graduate school at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. So far, her science background includes fieldwork inspecting for invasive agricultural pest the giant African land snail working for the State of Florida. She has worked as a research laboratory assistant at five different instances. Her work on includes maintaining seedlings of rare and endangered orchid species at Fairchild Botanical, aiding in a Laurel Wilt Disease susceptibility study and the soils and hydrology lab at University of Florida Tropical Research Educational Center, a cover crop research assistant in Beltsville, Maryland at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Her most recent work has been at Zoo Miami working with Koalas to solve economical and sustainable nutritional issues and provided alternative longstanding solutions for the koalas at the Miami Zoo location and research using endophytes as an antifungal using isolated fungus from the FIU’s organic garden. Stephanie is also interning with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through FIU Tropics surveying threatened Stock island tree snails.
Emily Herrera started her higher education at Miami-Dade College where she graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Environmental Studies during the fall of 2014. Since being admitted into FIU, she has been working on a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies as well as a Certificate in Agroecology. Emily currently works as an undergraduate research assistant in the soil/sediment biogeochemistry laboratory at FIU. She is also interning at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden working on the Million Orchid Project under the supervision of Dr. Jason Downing. As an iCATCH scholar, she has worked on research testing the level of phosphorous in soil to determine whether Stormwater Treatment Areas are functioning to properly serve and protect the Everglades under the mentorship of Dr. Leonard Scinto and Diana Johnson. Emily hopes that her time with the Agroecology Program will help to build the skills necessary to acquire a career with an agency under the USDA.
He graduated from FIU in 2018 with a bachelor's in Environmental Studies and Sustainability and a certificate in Agroecology, and I also became a certified beekeeper. Since then, he has assisted in over 15 colony rescues and swarm relocations. He hopes to develop a small piece of land in homestead into an agroecological educational farm. During his time at FIU, he served in the three agricultural clubs (Organic Garden Club, MANRRS, and the South Florida Beekeeping Association) and was the Treasurer and Manager of the Organic Garden (2017-2018). He also interned at the USDA ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Coral Gables, Florida. Currently, he is working for UF/IFAS at the Tropical REC in Homestead, Florida as a Biological Scientist within the Agroecology lab. He has begun the UF Master Beekeeper Program and hopes to start a Graduate program at UF in 2021, focusing on Agronomy and Data Science.
Douglas De Stefano
Douglas De Stefano is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Agri-Science at FIU. Currently, Douglas is interning at the Micropropagation Laboratory at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden where he is working on the Million Orchid Project under the supervision of Dr. Jason Downing. The ultimate goal of the project is to propagate millions of South Florida native orchids for reintroduction into urban landscapes. As an iCATCH scholar, Douglas is also working on a research project in which various propagation media are being used to germinate threatened Florida native orchids. The research objective is to determine the optimal media for threatened orchid species by looking at germination rate and percentage, protocorm formation, and cell differentiation. After graduating, he plans to continue his education and possibly apply for graduate school.
Sheila Lopez graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Certificate in Agroecology. She was a highly active member of the Organic Garden Club, MANRRS, and the South Florida Beekeeping Association. She also completed an internship with the USDA ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Coral Gables, Florida under the supervision of Dr. David Kuhn and Barbara Freeman.
Jonathan Rivera is a senior at FIU seeking a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Certificate in Agroecology. He is currently interning at Casaplanta Garden Center where he assists in planting and organic upkeep of several different kinds of vegetables including but not limited to eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, sweet basil, carrots, and radishes. By the end of the internship, over one thousand individual plants will have been grown from seeds. As an iCATCH scholar, his research will focus on determining the optimal growing conditions for radishes using various companion plants and growing mediums. After he graduates, Jonathan hopes to eventually own a nursery or possibly pursue nature photography.
Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, Alexander Arbelaez is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus in Agri-Science as well as a Certificate in Agroecology at Florida International University. During the summer months of 2014, he had the opportunity to start a fruit grove on land owned by his family in Puerto Rico, thereafter inspiring his interest in agriculture. Two years later, he spent time volunteering at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden under Peter Vrotsos, working on conservation of native plant species in their nursery. He joined the FIU Agroecology Program as an Undergraduate Research Assistant under the START NOW grant in the spring of 2017. That summer, he and two other FIU students were sent to Costa Rica for two weeks of training in sustainable agriculture, soil, and water conservation practices. He then interned at the USDA ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Coral Gables, Florida, collecting and evaluating mango and jack fruit phenotype data under the supervision of Dr. David Kuhn and Barbara Freeman. He also assisted with the research project, “Poinsettia fertilizer management: Application of optical sensor technology,” conducted by Alana Rodriguez under research mentors Dr. Amir Khoddamzadeh and Ariel Freidenreich. Since February 2018, he has been employed as a Biological Scientist in the Plant Diagnostic Clinic at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center where he conducts his own research, “Grafting ‘Tahiti’ lime and three lime-hybrid scions to five citrus rootstocks to screen for the presence of citrus greening (Liberibacter asiaticus),” under Dr. Romina Gazis. After his upcoming graduation, Alexander plans to continue researching interactions between plant systems to contribute towards more sustainable food production and better soil health in tropical environments. He seeks to apply his knowledge to spread sustainable agriculture practices to local communities, strengthening local social interactions, food production, and food security.
Andres Sosa is a senior at FIU seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies following the Local and Global Environments track. He is also pursuing a Certificate in Agroecology and a Certificate in Marketing for Social Media and E-Marketing Analytics. During the summer of 2017, he will be completing an internship with the USDA ARS Subtropical Horticultural Research Station in Coral Gables, Florida under the supervision of Dr. David Kuhn and Barbara Freeman. As a START NOW scholar, Andres hopes to perform research on more economically viable alternatives to vertical gardening systems currently on the market under the mentorship of Agroecology Farm Education and Outreach Coordinator, David Riera.
Rena Stern is a junior at FIU pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering and a Certificate in Agroecology. Her main interests are in the fields of water treatment and sustainable design. She is currently interning at the USDA ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida contributing to research on the biologic control of invasive air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera L.) using the Asian beetle, Lilioceres egena (Weise). As an MSP scholar, Rena plans to develop an irrigation project for the FIU Organic Garden shadehouse under the mentorship of Dr. Amir Khoddamzadeh.
A senior at FIU pursuing a bachelor of science in environmental studies as well as certificates in agroecology and biodiversity conservation and management. He started doing research with CREST CACHE looking at soil respiration in the Shark River Slough within the Everglades. Since his arrival into the agroecology program, his research has changed to now focus on urban agroforestry, including a project which involves the mapping of food forests within Miami-Dade County. I am currently serving as the president of the Student Beekeeping Association and wear my bee tie whenever I get the chance, never missing an opportunity to talk about bees when nobody asked. In addition to research, some of the opportunities the agroecology program have helped me experience include participating in a soil judging competition, taking a tour of local farms, and a trip to Costa Rica where I learned about tropical agriculture and practices. I hope to attend graduate school to research meliponiculture and tropical fruit production.
Nicholas Adam Charles earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science following the summer of 2016 from the University of Central Florida. During his undergraduate career, he also minored in Biology and Energy & Sustainability and participated in five environmentally focused internships with various organizations, including AmeriCorps, SeaWorld, the Seminole County Natural Lands Program, the Chelonian Research Institute, and the National Audubon Society. Nicholas chose to continue his education as a Graduate Research Assistant at Florida International University, pursuing a Master of Science in Environmental Studies, under major advisor Dr. Mahadev Bhat. His thesis research has focused on the assessment and restoration needs of rainwater harvesting ponds to meet future agricultural and household demands for water resources in a rural area of Karnataka, India. Nicholas is also nearing completion of a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). This background in GIS allows him to assist in advisement on the project, “Mapping urban food forests in Miami-Dade County schools,” being performed by undergraduate student, Alex Crow. Nicholas has a deep passion for environmental economics, water sustainability, and the interdisciplinary use of GIS and Remote Sensing. He is interested in pursuing a career specializing in environmental consulting and practical GIS work and hopes to continue acting as an advocate for the environmental field.
Growing up in Hialeah, Florida and serving in the Marine Corps throughout the U.S. and in Iraq kept David Riera close to nature his entire life. He earned two paralleled degrees, an Associates of Arts in Microbiology and an Associate of Science in Biotechnology from Miami-Dade College and was able to successfully double major at FIU to receive two Bachelor of Science degrees in Environmental Studies and Marine Biology. He continued into his graduate research, where he was able to develop a method to conserve endangered wetland orchid species using a plant biotechnological approach alongside the guidance of Dr. Amir Khoddamzadeh and was awarded his Master of Science in Environmental Studies in the Spring of 2017 as an FIU Worlds Ahead Scholar. David continuously gives back to the community, some of his efforts can be illustrated through his establishment of a summer research outreach program mentoring students K-Collegiate with the goal to pass on practical research skills. His almost three years as the President of both the South Florida Beekeeping Association and the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) chapter at FIU and continues as a graduate advisor for both professional student organization. He has also been serving as the Region II Graduate Vice President for MANRRS National since 2018 and just finished an internship with the National Park Service through the Latino Heritage Internship Program at Everglades National Park. Furthermore, David has been able to help establish a dedicated Student Section within the Society of Wetland Scientist while serving as Student Member to the Board of Directors. A section he now chairs, with desire to bridge and support students on their scholarly and professional trajectories into the field of wetland inquiry. He also works to serve as a bridge for international scholars in wetland science through his new appointment as chair of the Wetland Ambassadors Program. David is currently engaged in his 2nd year as a Doctoral student in the School of Teaching and Learning under the mentorship of Dr. James Burns were he is working toward a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM). He is driven daily to tackle various social and environmental issues (like environmental racism, urban degreening, food desertification) and fervently believes that the path to conserving and restoring our natural capital can be achieved by cultivating the next generation of advocates, innovators, and educators. We are only mentors, when our students, pupils, and apprentices make it so… until then never forget Mentorship is the process of being consistently committed to someone's success!
Brielle Murch is a junior at FIU pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability and the Environment as well as a Certificate in Agroecology and a Certificate in Conservation Biology. She is learning permaculture design as an intern at Punta Mona in Costa Rica. As an iCATCH scholar, Brielle plans to focus her research on the utilization of carbon sequestering fungi for climate change mitigation under the mentorship of Agroecology Program Coordinator, Eric Betancourt.
Anyelina Mangru is a junior at FIU pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus in Agri-Science and a Certificate in Agroecology. Since 2015, she has been interning at the USDA ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities National Internship Program. As an iCATCH scholar, Anyelina contributes to research centered around the Asian beetle, Lilioceris egena, as a biological control agent for invasive air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera L.) under the mentorship and supervision of Dr. Allen Dray. She plans to continue her education and eventually earn a master’s or doctorate degree within environmental science or an agriculture related field.
Jacquelyn Amie Esteves
Amie Esteves received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus in Agri-Science and a Certificate in Agroecology from FIU in the spring of 2017. She was both a BASE and an iCATCH scholar and served as the FIU Organic Garden Manager from the fall of 2016 until her graduation. She also maintained an active status in clubs as the Treasurer for the Organic Garden Club while harvesting and delivering fresh local organic produce to be sold at the FIU Farmers' Market and the Department of Earth and Environment. Amie is now an aspiring farmer who hopes to continue studying the ecology of farming systems and conservation biology.
Leonardo Alfonso-Galtes is a junior at FIU seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability and the Environment. In addition, Leonardo is interning with the Arctic Science Section of the Office of Polar Programs at the Arlington, Virginia National Science Foundation office under Dr. Anna Kerttula de Echave. During this internship, he hopes to complete research focused on assessing agricultural aspects of archaeology projects funded by the Arctic Social Sciences Program. As a BASE scholar, he is performing research assessing community gardening under the mentorship of Dr. Mahadev Bhat. Leonardo strives to obtain a plethora of knowledge in all things related to the natural environment and therefore desires to continue his studies into graduate school in the near future.
Joelle Sasson is a junior at FIU seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with a minor in Environmental Studies as well as a Certificate in Agroecology. For the summer of 2017, she obtained an internship at Les Granges in Italy where she will be learning to grow native vine species used in the production of wine, preserve produce, and raise farm animals under the supervision of Beatrice Crea. As a BASE scholar, Joelle intends to perform research comparing soil characteristics of South Florida pine rockland and hardwood hammock ecosystems under the guidance of Graduate Research Assistant, Mary Tiedeman.
Gabriel Barraza is senior at FIU seeking a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus in Agri-Science and a minor in chemistry. During the summer of 2017, he will be interning with the USDA Economic Research Service in Washington D.C. As a BASE scholar, he conducted research focusing on sustainable nursery practices for ornamental plant production using non-destructive optical sensors. This research took place under the guidance of Dr. Amir Khoddamzadeh and Graduate Research Assistant, Ariel Freidenreich. After graduating, Gabriel plans to pursue higher education in graduate school where he would like to focus his studies in the field of food security.
Alana Rodriguez earned her first bachelor’s degree from New York University: a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She is currently a senior at FIU pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus on Agri-Science as well as a Certificate in Agroecology. During the spring of 2017, she also served as the President of the Garden Club. She is currently interning in Jamaica with Yerba Buena distilling essential oils from medicinal plants under the supervision of Agape Adams. As a scholar in the BASE program, Alana performed research on the application of optical sensor technology to poinsettias in order to advise on better fertilizer management regimes under the mentorship of Dr. Amir Khoddamzadeh and Graduate Research Assistant, Ariel Freidenreich.
Eric Antoine Gonzalez is a Cuban-American of French descent who was raised in Miami, Florida. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability and the Environment and a Certificate in Agroecology at Florida International University. During his undergraduate career, Eric has gained a wealth of experience in the field of sustainability, starting with an internship he completed with Wildwood Harvest Permaculture Farm in 2015. Shortly thereafter, he began working as a Permaculturalist for Muni Farms, during which time he was awarded a Permaculture Design Certificate from Permaculture Miami. He was concurrently employed as a subcontractor for Foodscape Designs under Graduate Research Assistant, Thais Thiesen, where his responsibilities included managing an inner-city elementary school garden and educating students in gardening concepts and techniques. After discovering a passion for food forestry and, with encouragement from Thais, Eric joined the FIU Agroecology Program as an Undergraduate Research Assistant under the Multicultural Scholarship Program in fall, 2016. The next summer, Eric completed an internship with La Petite Pepiniere Fleurir nursery in Homestead, Florida. He also began interning with the Education Fund, quickly being promoted to senior intern in the fall then taking over as supervisor the following year. With the Education Fund, Eric helps to build and maintain food forests in Miami-Dade County elementary schools and underprivileged neighborhoods, guiding students in gardening practices and assisting in the coordination of events and workshops. In the summer of 2018, Eric completed yet another internship, this time at the USDA ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Coral Gables, Florida, collecting and evaluating mango and jack fruit phenotype data under the supervision of Dr. David Kuhn and Barbara Freeman. Since then, Eric has poured a great amount of time into his research and is nearing completion of the project, “Phosphorous removal from waters by bioremediation with Florida native aquatic macrophytes: Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), duckweed (Lemna minor), and coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum),” under the mentorship of Agroecology Program Coordinator, Eric Betancourt. Eric Gonzalez is passionate about environmental and socioeconomic issues and hopes to continue serving as a beacon of change in the field of sustainability.
Christina Estela Brown is a doctoral candidate in Earth Systems Science with a concentration in Natural Resource Science and Management under advisor Dr. Mahadev Bhat. Her work focuses on valuation of water resources under the risks of climate change and accelerated sea level rise, and the related management and policy responses. Her research interests lie at the interface of economics and the environment.
Jennifer Gil-Acevedo was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Although from a small island, she always dreamed big. Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Science from the University of Puerto Rico in 2015. As an undergraduate, she assisted in conducting research sponsored by the NASA Space Grant in a Nanotechnology Research Laboratory. She also presented research at several conferences and earned multiple awards, including "Best Undergraduate Oral Presentation" at the Ana G. Mendez University System Symposium and won the 2015 National Nanotechnology Initiative Student Video Contest. Upon earning her bachelor's degree, she was awarded a fellowship under the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program. In fall, 2016, Jennifer joined the FIU Agroecology Program as a Graduate Research Assistant, pursuing a Master of Science in Environmental Studies. She completed the thesis project, "Sensitivity of marine cyanobacteria and green microalgae to nano and bulk zinc oxides," under major advisor, Dr. Kateel Shetty, and graduated in the fall of 2018. During her time at FIU, she served as a research mentor to several undergraduate students who assisted with her thesis research, including Myles Covington, María-José Ayuso, and Ana Malagon. Additionally, Jennifer was awarded a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship and she is currently conducting research at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. She aspires to be a great communicator of science to the general population and, particularly, the Latin community.
Emmanuel Duarte graduated from FIU with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus in Agri-Science as well as a Certificate in Agroecology in the spring of 2017. As an MSP scholar, he served as the FIU Organic Garden Manager during the summer of 2016. During the spring of 2017, he interned at Fruit & Spice Park where he helped to update mapping of plants currently growing in the park. He also worked on a project assessing the anti-microbial properties of medicinal plants under the guidance of Dr. Amir Khoddamzadah. Emmanuel currently plans to apply to graduate school with the hopes of studying Plant Chemistry.
Leandra Gonzalez is a junior at FIU pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus in Agri-Science. As an FCCAgE student, she contributed to research on the parasitoid relationships of beneficial caterpillars at FIU as well as coffee berry bower behavior at the USDA ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltville, Maryland. She is currently an iCATCH scholar and is working on developing a research project to look at the impact of climate change on bee pollination at the Rocky Mountain Biological Station in Colorado under the advisement of Dr. Berry Brosi. As she furthers her career, Leandra wishes to delve into climate change issues and understand what kind of environmental repercussions may take place in terms of plant development as well as what growers can do to prepare themselves.
I am currently in The School of International Public Affairs working towards two bachelor’s degrees; one in Anthropology and the other in Geography with a certificate in Agroecology. I am interested in Food Security/Food Sovereignty in the Caribbean, specifically in my country of heritage, The Bahamas. Through the MSP program I plan to thoroughly obtain historic and present information as well as future possibilities within the agricultural realm in The Bahamas. With this information I desire to publish a book on this topic. The amount of material out there in relation to Bahamian agricultural practices/food security is very limited and of the few found they are all outdated. Throughout my life, academia, volunteer and/or my career work I will dedicate my best effort in this area.
Monica is pursuing a double major in Anthropology and Geography in the Global Sociocultural Studies Department. Her interest in environmental justice is what drove her to enroll in the Agroecology certificate program. Agriculture is the second most environmentally impactful human activity (only after mining and the extraction industries.) Through this program, and her mixed methods research on Miami-Dade County's local food system, Monica hopes to better understand the dynamics that govern and influence a society's relationship to the production, distribution and consumption of food, and thus the environment. She plans to further her education and obtain a PhD in food systems studies so as to bring about more sustainable processes in the production and consumption food.
Chinya Bully is a senior seeking a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus on Agri-Science at FIU. She is also progressing towards the completion of a Certificate in Agroecology. During the summer of 2017, she is interning at the USDA ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Coral Gables, Florida under the supervision of Dr. David Kuhn and Barbara Freeman. As an MSP scholar, she is working on a research project developing recruitment strategies for high school and post-secondary Horticulture program throughout Miami-Dade County with guidance from Graduate Research Assistant, James Erich Dautel.
Nyala Bully is a senior graduating in the Fall 2019 with a bachelor’s in Biology and Agricultural Science majors. She is also minoring in Chemistry, and will be receiving a certificate under the Agroecology program. During my time in the program, she worked under Ariel Freidenrich, assisting in her “Comparison of Synthetic Versus Organic Herbicides/Insecticides on Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi” thesis. Subsequently, she worked under James Dautel in doing research on how educators’ knowledge and personal practices influence how they teach their agricultural students. Currently, she is researching three leafy plants (Cilantro, Arugula, Oregano); in seeing how the leaf surface bacteria of those plants interact with E. coli and whether there are trends of inhibition that can be studied and quantified. She has a strong interest in how plant-based diets affect the human microbiome and its optimal regulation. Eventually, she would like to earn a PhD in a Naturopathic program in aim of becoming somewhat of a holistic specialist and even creating my own non-profit to help those suffering from food mal-nourishment in undeveloped countries. Besides science, she hopes to be a well-diversed author and just a giving person all around.
Major: Environmental Studies, BA Certificate: Agroecology Rank: Senior
Career Experience/Location: I currently work as an intern with Broward County, Solid Waste and Recycling Services Department. I help manage the Household Hazardous Waste Program that the county offers to different cities. This past summer, I was able to complete an internship with U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Natural Resources Conservation Services in Defiance, Ohio. During my internship, I was able to assist on various projects, including develop, implement and maintain conservation plans to landowners. I have also volunteered at U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Agricultural Research Station located in Coral Gables, FL assisting on the fruit characterization program, including mangos and avocados, and collaborating on outreach events. Additionally, I have completed different internships and projects relating to the importance on biodiversity conservation and community engagement.
Description of Career Experience (What I Learned): My career experience has helped me not only apply my knowledge in the environmental field but also broadened my knowledge by attending different trainings and experiential learning trips. During these different events, I was able to study the different agricultural systems in California and Milan, Italy, learned from the administrative component, different research skills to the customer service to various landowner and private contractors. These experiences have helped find my passion towards the environment and agriculture.
What is your perception of agriculture now: Agriculture has been and still is the fundamental key to sustain human life and the future. Although for the past years, humans have been exploiting nature’s resources. The relationship between organisms and their environment or Sustainable agriculture grow is the main key to our future.
How has this career experience broadened your employment opportunities? Due to my previous volunteer experience at the USDA at ARS and my persistence passion and motivation towards the environment, I was able to obtain the internship with NRCS this previous summer. Additionally, I was sponsored to travel to California to learn its advance agricultural system and Milan, Italy to attend to the world’s fair, EXPO 2015 Milano focused on Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, and European Food Safety Authority’s 2nd Scientific Conference.
Career and Research Aspirations: My career aspiration is to combine my educational and experiential experiences to make a change in today’s society. I believe that the balance from our past experiences and our current technology is the solution to our current and future’s agricultural and environmental issues. Also, I would like to educate others on the importance of conserving the environment and possibly assist others on conservation practices.
Originally from New York City, New York, William Scally is a junior at FIU seeking a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering and a Certificate in Agroecology. As an FCCAgE student, he conducted the experiment: "Capturing methane gas from agricultural waste to power a one-cylinder combustion engine." He also interned at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University working on the project: "Quantifying urban storm-water flow" under Dr. Walter McDonald and Dr. Vinod Lohani. William is currently a START NOW scholar working on a research project with Dr. Kateel Shetty, Dr. Krishnaswamy Jayachandran, and Dr. Arvind Agarwal focusing on biomaterials. In the future, he aspires to contribute towards research on methods to minimize waste pollutants in agricultural sites.
My name is Jevon Saunders a senior majoring in sustainability and the environment at Florida international university. During my time at this institution I was able to become apart of the Argroecology Program as a multicultural scholar. Being in the program have taught me so much since I first decided to join. My aspiration is to be a part of the USDA water management facility where I will further my knowledge in an agricultural manner. My dream is to see someday where the world will stay on a path of sustainability and healthy living.
Mariah became an FCCAgE scholar in 2013. She is graduating from FIU in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry with Environmental Focus and her certificate in Agroecology
Research Experience: Redmond conducted a 10-week research study at Virginia Tech during summer 2014. The National Science Foundation sponsored her fellowship in its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program: Interdisciplinary Water Sciences and Engineering. Mariah helped to develop a phosphorus (P) fractionation procedure, which was used to extract P from reservoir sediment. She observed the bioavailability and mobility of different forms of P in reservoir sediment. The study was particularly interesting because the field site (Falling Creek Reservoir in Bedford County, Virginia) has an oxygenation system installed. Redmond was able to determine that the oxygenation system is effective at mitigating P release into the water column from sediment.
Community Engagement: Last year Mariah served as a team leader with Urban Paradise Guild, working biweekly with the nonprofit organization. She helped to construct community gardens and biological habitats at several locations in South Florida, including Oleta River State Park, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, and Lemon City in Little Haiti. Seed bombing remains one of her hobbies, and her pollinator-loving flower of choice is native blanket flower.
“The FCCAgE grant and Agroecology program at FIU have turned my love for nature into hands-on career development. My advisors work closely with me to find lab projects relevant to my personal interests in biogeochemistry. I am also engaged in gardening projects on campus; learning to grow vegetables and herbs has been exciting and rewarding. My favorite thing to harvest is moringa leaves, which I use in my homemade organic tea blends.”
Current Perception of Agriculture: “The United States faces a severe and multifaceted crisis, but I believe in a brighter tomorrow. The socio-economic impacts of sustainable agriculture gleam brightly with abundant hope. With my sweat, I vote for a sustainable future. With the help of FCCAgE, I dedicate my career to solving the problems of today.”
Career & Research Aspirations: Mariah aspires to be an industry analytical chemist, focusing on quality assurance.
Hometown: Miami, FL
Major: Environmental Studies, BS
Career experience/location: I am currently interning at LNB Farms in Homestead, FL as a student and researcher of Vermiculture Systems Design and Organic Fruit Tree Management.
Description of career experience: This career experience has offered me the unique and challenging experience to successfully design a large Vermiculture System for a fruit tree farm with the materials available on site which led to efficient improvisation and creativity. I have had the opportunity to make connections with farmers and specialists that share my common goals and interests.
What is your perception of agriculture now: Agriculture is, and should be, respected as the central pillar of society and systems as it forever holds its place under the most important activity we partake in three times a day – eating, a title that few other pillars can claim.
How has this career experience broadened your employment opportunities: This career experience has opened the doors to the field of Vermiculture which is relatively new and is increasingly growing in demand as farmers and entrepreneurs realize the value of vermicompost and the quicker production time of vermiculture as opposed to traditional composting methods. I believe this experience will demonstrate that I am ready and up-to-date with the quickly changing field of Agriculture.
Career and research aspirations: My career aspirations include running a Community Supported Agriculture farm, designing food forest landscapes, empowering communities with size-efficient gardens, and entering academia as an updated professor in Agriculture. My research aspirations include tropical systems composting, tropical agroforestry for small farms, vermiculture methods, soil conservation and regeneration of soil microbial life. In 5 years I see myself working for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in any of their many engaging sections. In 10 years I see myself running a farm and empowering incoming farmers to farm in a closed-loop system without the need for chemical inputs through proper management of natural resources.
Career experience/location: As an FCCAgE student I had the opportunity to intern and maintain ongoing research with the Center for Renewable Carbon (CRC) in the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.
Description of career experience (what I learned): During the two-month summer internship with the CRC I participated in innovative biofuels research having to do with the genetic improvement of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) for increased lignocellulosic ethanol yield. I learned how to perform impact resistance tests, using a pendulum-style impact tester, to determine the effects to plant physical properties of switchgrass that was genetically modified to reduce the lignin content and improve saccharification efficiency for better ethanol production.
David Laws was the Garden Manager at Florida International University's Organic Garden. David is a senior finishing his BA in Environmental Studies with a certificate in Agroecology. He has been farming since 2008, getting his start at the Diamond X Ranch in Madras, OR. Since then he's farmed at Paradise Farms in Homestead, FL, Hey Bayles! Farm in Lorane, OR and Verde Gardens in Homestead. Organic Farming and Permaculture are his life's calling and he has just begun a life long dream, living on and developing a five acre farm and ecovillage in Davie, FL.
Major: Sustainability and the Environment, BA
Career Experience/Location: After recently completing a summer internship with the USDA- Natural Resource Conservation Service, I was able to gain hands on experience working in partnership with government officials and the American people. Prior to this I have been working as a Veterinary assistant for the past 8 years in Miramar, FL. Currently, I sell honey out of my apiary as I strive to complete my B.A.
Description of Career Experience (What I Learned): Through my work experience I have learned how to effectively engage clients, and conduct business in an equitable and just fashion while maintaining the values of the company. My career experience has shown me how to love the work you do. In today’s society job possibilities are diverse and it takes courage to take step out of your comfort zone in order to find out where you can excel.
What is your perception of agriculture now: Agriculture is today’s system of hunting and gathering. Societies are dependent on our agricultural system and we need new innovative minds in order to ensure that this system will remain strong for centuries to come. The potential our agricultural system holds is very promising and I feel this should be a top priority for our generation.
Career and Research Aspirations: My career aspirations are to enjoy and be proud of the work I accomplish. To work with the environment to discover and provide scientific data that can be utilized for the benefit of our planet and its inhabitants. I hope to spend more time researching honey bees to benefit the species as well as discover new benefits that they provide for us.
Education: Chemistry, B.S. and Certificate in Agroecology
Major: Environmental Studies
Research Interests: Quantitative analysis of compounds that defend against anthracnose development in mangoes (Mangifera indica L.)
My name is Rosario Vidales, and I am a junior in the Environmental Studies B.S. major and the Agroecology certificate program. My interests include sustainable food production, gardening and entomology, which I have developed through my related experiences in plant-animal interactions and entomology lab-work. I have completed three entomology related internships with the United States Department of Agriculture under the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, and Agricultural Research Service agencies. My current undergraduate research involves the introduced Euglossa viridissima species (which has been detected in Southern Florida) and the possible economic effects of its pollination of androeuglossophilous orchids (perfume orchids) due to the possibility of petal withering or abscission.
My name is Luis Garbinski and I am a second-semester freshman who recently became part of the Agroecology program at FIU. I am doing a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies and I joined the program not only to graduate with the certificate, but to also gain useful experience in the different fields of my major. I am hoping that soon I will find a career path through the research opportunities the program offers.
I am majoring in Environmental Studies B.S. with certificates in Agroecology, Horticulture and Biodiversity Conservation. I am interested in research supporting and combining sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation. I have a strong interest in tropical agriculture and its impact on creating sustainable livelihoods. Other interests include ethnobotany and environmental education. As an undergraduate researcher at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, I am currently evaluating sapodilla (Manilkara zapota) cultivars by looking at their morphological and horticultural characteristics. I am also assisting in creating a database for the in situ collections at Miami-Dade County’s Fruit and Spice Park.
BS Environmental Studies, Certificate Agroecology, Certificate Conservation Biology, Minor in Biology.
My main interests are in restoration ecology, conservation biology, and plant-animal interactions. I have worked under Dr. Suzanne Koptur looking at Florida native bees pollinating crops at FIU's Organic Garden on Campus. Currently, I am working with Dr. Hong Liu, looking at varying fruit set of wild orchids in the Yachang Orchid Nature Reserve in the North-West Guanxi province in China.
Major/Education Background: Environmental Science/Agro-ecology Specification in Soil Conservation
Research Interests: I am interested in the study and conservation of soils. I have completed an Internship term with the USDA/NRCS and have obtained many skills in the field of Soil Conservation, including ArcGIS Mapping, Conservation plans, Tool Kit, Contract Builder. I’m also interested in new more innovative ways of farming. Therefore I’m currently working on an independent study project that focuses on Aquaponics. Aquaponics is the research and study mixture of an Aquaculture and Hydroponics.
Education Background: Master of Science in Environmental Studies graduate
My graduate studies were funded by the National Needs Fellowship with my thesis project involving evaluation of the effectiveness of several alternative techniques for controlling the troublesome weed purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus). Concentration treatment effects for the allelopathic seed powders of watercress and turnip were tested in a field trial while seed powders of yellow mustard and sunflower were tested in a potted trial. The allelopathic amendments were found to significantly delay weed emergence but long-term effectiveness was hindered by several factors while Roundup provided the best season long control of the weed. I currently work as the lab manager of the Agroecology, Soil-Plant-Microbiology, and Soil-Plant Analytical laboratories at Florida International University.
Currently, I am at the Vegetable and Forage Crop Research unit located in Prosser, Washington assisting Dr. Hal Collins on his research concerning the carbon sequestration potential of different varieties of switchgrass intercropped with poplar trees. Not only will the study evaluate the ability of switchgrass to mitigate climate change, but it will also examine how soil conditions are affected by the intercropping of two perennial species.
My own research back home deals with the installation of a biodigester at FIU’s Organic Garden. The system, known as Sistema Biobolsa, was designed in Mexico and has been used extensively by farmers to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. The biodigester will convert waste, in this case goat manure, into methane gas that can be used for cooking and heating. This conversion is made possible by anaerobic digestion; a process in which microorganisms break down organic matter in the absence of oxygen. In addition to creating a sustainable fuel source, this process also eliminates the need for additional landfill space by reducing the amount of waste left over from agricultural production. Also, the methane emitted by animal waste warms the Earth far more than carbon dioxide emissions.
Arturo Daniel Castellon
Career experience/location: I have done two internships with the USDA. The first internship was with APHIS PPQ at Miami international Airport working on nematodes and plant fungi. The second internship was with the ARS were I worked with mango, avocado and sugarcane.
Description of career experience (what I learned): With APHIS PPQ I learned how to extract nematodes from soil samples so that they could be identified. I also learned how to isolate plant fungi and identify with high power microscopes. I learned how to photograph nematodes and fungi with microscope cameras. With the ARS I learned about tropical fruit trees and their genetics.
Bachelor on Art in Environmental studies with certificate in Agroecology and Resource Management-policy. Her background in Architecture opened the doors of important Landscape Architecture firms in Miami. After working for a couple of years, she learned about native plants, their use, installation and maintenance in the Miami landscape. As she was getting involved with south Florida natives and its environment, she got various certifications from The University of Florida – Miami Dade County extension, The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and Miami Dade College, to name just a few. Her education includes trainings in plant identification, safety equipment, pesticide applications, soil moisture, and horticulture in general. She is working towards a Horticulture Specialist and Horticulture Professional Certificate at the Landscape Technology Program from MDC. In addition, she is currently pursuing a Bachelor in Art in Environmental Studies with a certificate on Agroecology and a specialization on Resource Management-policy at FIU.
Major/Education Background: Biology with certificate in Agroecology
Environmental Studies (major) + Agroecology (Certificate)
International Relations (major) + National Security (Certificate)
Preferences: Water and Species Conservation. Ecosystems are deeply connected, no single element could be preserved unless it is planned from many sources of knowledge and from a large frame of space and time. Economy is among other socio-political aspects (including sciences) the global measurement of development, and indeed there is not prosperous economy without healthy natural resources. Citizens and policymakers should understand that preserving the balance and health of our Earth is more important than any short term profit. It is time to think globally, beyond geographic and religious boundaries, as everyone and every act is important towards a common goal of a harmless habitation of our planet. The love for our planet should be bigger than the love to ourselves, as we exist through nature, we are never alone, we are a product of evolution and the only species that carries on preservation as an option, not as an instinct. I am in the pursuit of internships, projects and community engagement experiences.
B.S degree in environmental studies with a specialization in environmental biology. Under my degree, I am also pursuing certificates in both agroecology and conservation biology. Currently my area of focus is biodiesel production, where I am converting the waste vegetable oil that is produced on campus into useable biodiesel.
Major/Education Background: Geosciences- atmospheric sciences track
Since I am studying atmospheric science, I wanted to find a project which can connect the climate and agriculture. With the help of Dr. Robert Burgman, I formulated a project aimed at understanding the relationship between land use changes and climate. In this project I am using GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to create maps which will tell me information regarding changes in land to cropland and how that affects the climate in the area. It may affect it temporarily, permanently if large enough, or possibly not at all, it all depends on the original ecosystem or land type originally there and the type of cropland.
Nall I. Moonilall
Major: B.S. in Environmental Studies Minor: Biology Certificates: Agroecology Biodiversity and Conservation Management
My research interest lies within the field of agronomy (crops and soil) with an emphasis on agroecology. My previous research focused on alternative growing media for plants. I conducted a study looking at the effects of composted insect rearing waste (from fruit fly rearing) on ornamental plants. My next research will be focus on the effects of sun/shade on growth of young palm trees. These studies would help me understand plant production and soil conservation. It will also give me an insight on how we could better protect our environment.
David was brought on to the program through a USDA/FIU high school internship where he conducted research under graduate student supervision in the field of Agroecology. Once enrolled at FIU, David was awarded a four year USDA Multicultural Scholars Program Scholarship of $24k. During this time he assisted in the development of the FIU Organic Garden, now awarded USDA’s “People’s Garden”. He also contributed his time on several topics such as Horticultural Therapy, Native Buffers, Agro-Forestry, Organic Agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture but he is best known for his work in the fields of Urban Agriculture and Spirituality.
David majored in Environmental Studies with a second major in Religious Studies. Under the MSP grant he created a community garden in Pembroke Pines, FL at Medicine Signs Spiritual Center, a Universalist Church where he was later ordained as Reverend. On campus he created a Meditation garden where he would invite various student clubs to enjoy and relax while practicing agro ecological techniques. The connection between spirituality, agriculture and ecology really motivates him to create projects focused on Food Security while taking into account social dynamics and economic sustainability.
David participated in local projects such as assisting in the creation of a community garden at a North Miami nursing home through Catholic Health Services. David also contributed time towards budgeting and initial garden plans for the Education Effect, a $1 Million Grant from CHASE Bank given to FIU towards curriculum development and creation of an Organic Garden and Aquaculture Lab at Miami Northwestern Senior High School. David was hired as head grower at Roots in the City in Overtown Fl. He also helped create UrbanGro INC a green space designing company. David incorporated his own company, Farmer Dave CORP, dedicated to sustainable urban agriculture.
Outside of Florida, David was selected for two Summer HACU Internships with the USDA Forest Service. First internship was with the Forest Service RMRS Albuquerque lab in New Mexico, where he assisted various researchers on topics ranging from climate change, post fire studies, reintroduction of endangered species and sociology. On his second internship he worked with the Forest Service Washington office with the Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air and Rare Plants Staff Area.
Currently David is a CHLI Global Leaders intern with the US House of Representatives, working with Rep. Henry Cuellar from the 28th district of Texas at his Washington Office. During this time he will be studying at George Washington University as part of the Semester in Washington Politics Program. In efforts to expand his skills and experience abroad, he is a Fulbright Research Candidate planning on researching Urban Agriculture in the Western Hemisphere. David plans on going onto graduate school for a career in Agronomy, Horticulture, Agroforestry/ecology, Agribusiness, or Agricultural Leadership. We wish him the best and are proud of his continued success in the field of Agriculture.
Nasser Brahim is a member of the first cohort of Agroecology certificate recipients. After completing his studies at FIU, he worked at the Florida Department of Transportation's planning and environmental management office in charge of infrastructure in Miami and the Florida Keys. He went on to complete his Master's in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. While at Yale, he focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation, serving a variety of clients in the public, private and non-profit sectors. He is now working in Washington DC at the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) - the largest international climate finance partnership in the world - housed in the World Bank. He helps the 49 developing countries participating in the CIF by documenting emerging knowledge and facilitating South-South exchanges on low carbon, climate resilient development.