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Education Program News

The latest news on AWRA Florida's Rosanne Clementi Education Program is below. For information on scholarships and grants awarded by AWRA Florida and the application process, click here.
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  • 19 Sep 2022 5:40 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)

    Amanda Chappel, University of Florida. Amanda has eight years of experience in environmental systems and biological research with a focus on coastal water chemistry and wetland soil biogeochemistry. Amanda is a Certified Ecologist and received her Bachelor and Master of Science from the University of South Florida in Environmental Science. Her research background includes quantifying carbon burial and accumulation rates as a proxy for sea-level rise and historic ecosystem dynamics in mangrove forests. Additionally, Amanda has studied nutrient cycling and sequestration in estuarine and coastal habitats and performed extensive mapping and monitoring of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as a Scientific Technician with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Research Institute. Amanda's current research focus with the University of Florida's Environmental Engineering Sciences department is studying the ecosystem effects of coastal eutrophication in estuarine systems with the goal of supporting effective management strategies that will advance solutions to minimize anthropogenic impacts on coastal waters. This research also seeks to better understand the influence anthropogenic nutrients have on habitats that are an ecological and economic necessity like mangrove, marsh, seagrass, and phytoplankton communities.

  • 19 Sep 2022 5:35 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)

    Osamah Tarabih, University of South Florida. Osamah is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Florida (USF) where he is interested in hydrology, ecology, and the ecological responses of altered hydrology. With the objective of mitigating environmental impacts on South Florida ecosystems, Osama is conducting his doctoral research optimizing Lake Okeechobee’s outflow regimes to the St. Lucie Canal, the Caloosahatchee River and the Everglades for the benefit of societal water needs (water supply and flood control) and water quality (nutrient pollution). Osamah obtained his master’s degree from Cairo University studying the impacts of upstream dams on the Nile flows and hydropower in Egypt. Osamah is an active student member of the Florida Section of AWRA, as well as the Vice President and one of the founders of the AWRA student chapter at USF. Osamah wishes to pursue an academic career upon graduating with his Ph.D. degree in water resources engineering.

    Estenia Ortiz, University of South Florida. Estenia is a Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida with research interests in water quality improvement, nature-based solutions, and healthy sustainable and equitable infrastructure. She obtained a BS in Environmental Engineering from the University of Florida in the spring of 2018 and a Master of Environmental Engineering from the University of South Florida in the summer of 2020. Estenia is a Community Science Fellow with AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange program and is working with the lead community organization in San Ysidro, California - Casa Familiar - to design public green spaces for carbon sequestration and environmental justice. She is also a National Research Traineeship STRONG Coasts Fellow, U.S. Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Redesigning Resilient Transportation and Water Critical Infrastructures Fellow, WEF INFLOW participant and Alfred P. Sloan Scholar. Estenia has interned with the NASA DEVELOP program gaining skillsets with NASA Earth Observations for monitoring water quality along Florida’s coast. She has also interned with the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) program at the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) acquiring knowledge on local water quality improvement and habitat restoration projects. Through her dissertation work, Estenia seeks to understand the synergies and tradeoffs to the colocation of stormwater ponds and community gardens in order to promote food security, economic opportunity, and clean and resilient watersheds. Overall, Estenia wants to co-create with communities, especially those underrepresented in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and environmental decision-making, equitable and sustainable solutions to challenges at the Food Energy Water Systems nexus.

    Alex Orfinger, Florida A&M University / University of Florida. Alex is a 31-year-old from Ormond Beach currently completing his Ph.D. in aquatic entomology at the University of Florida and Florida A&M University. He previously earned BS and MS degrees in biology from the University of Central Florida. His doctoral research revolves around the phylogenetic systematics of Trichoptera, or caddisflies, important water quality indicators. Alex also has broad interest and expertise in natural history, taxonomy, ecology, evolutionary biology, and invasion biology of a wide range of taxa, but especially aquatic insects and fishes. When he's not working, Alex enjoys hiking, eating new foods, and traveling with his wife Aileen, dachshund Hopper, and pit bull Blue.

    Megan Kramer, University of South Florida. Megan is a Ph.D. student pursuing a degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida. Originally from Washington State, she completed her BS in Civil Engineering from Gonzaga University in 2018. Following her undergraduate studies, she served for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania, teaching secondary school mathematics. Her experiences abroad inspired her to pursue graduate studies in international development and coastal sustainability. As a current NSF-NRT STRONG Coasts Fellow and member of the Watershed Sustainability Lab at USF, she is currently investigating interdisciplinary approaches to improving coastal resilience by harnessing the ecosystem services of mangroves and coral reefs.

  • 19 Sep 2022 5:30 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)

    Lillian Maxwell, University of Florida. Lillian is a junior majoring in wildlife ecology and conservation, as well as microbiology. Since the beginning of 2022, Lillian has been working for the U.S. Geological Survey at the Wetland and Aquatic Research Center in Gainesville, Florida, under the supervision of Dr. Jason A. Ferrante. Their work has focused on using genetic techniques to address the challenges that face the manatee population of Florida. The work that Lillian has done has solidified her plans to enter a graduate program and pursue a combined PhD and DVM program. In her work, she hopes to continue to conserve the life blood of Florida, its water, and to educate others on how they can protect it.

  • 19 Sep 2022 1:00 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)
    Big Cypress National Preserve (Ochopee) - Lisa Andrews
    Starkey Environmental Education Center (New Port Richey) - Rebekah Jenkins
    Buckhorn Elementary School (Valrico) - Jennifer Bachtel
      Friends of Lover’s Key, Inc. (Ft. Myers Beach) - Louise Kowitch

  • 09 Aug 2021 10:30 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)

    Taylor Hancock, University of South Florida. Taylor is is a Geography, Environmental Science, & Policy PhD student in a joint program between the University of South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University. (FGCU) His dissertation research primarily examines anthropogenic disturbances and primary production, with a specific focus on the toxic bloom forming Microcystis aeruginosa and other freshwater cyanobacteria. He started his journey into the field of ecology at FGCU, completing a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2016 and a Masters in Environmental Science in 2019, earning the title of FGCU’s 2019 ‘Graduate Student of the Year’. While at FGCU, Taylor immersed himself in sustainability, environmental education, and research as the university’s first senior naturalist, a member of various research laboratories studying everything from microbes to megafauna, and co-author of a book chapter on the use of university conservation areas as a living laboratory. Taylor also loves to share his love of the environment and wildlife with his inquisitive five-year-old Leo. Taylor plans to enter academia to fulfill his dream of teaching and encouraging the next generation of scientists while continuing to research issues of disturbance ecology, wetlands, and conservation.

  • 09 Aug 2021 10:25 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)

    James Javaruski, Florida Gulf Coast University. James is pursuing his master’s degree in environmental studies. Having lived in Fort Myers for the past 13 years, James has had a front seat to the consistent and widespread development of the area. Wanting to help gather more information on the environmental impacts of this development, he has gotten involved in a variety of projects ranging from tracking the flow of nutrients and pesticides through the Caloosahatchee-Estero Bay watershed to microplastic distributions in Lee and Charlotte County waterways. James’ thesis work focuses on the preservation and potential remobilization of red tide toxins deposited in shallow Southwest Florida coastal sediments. Upon completion of his master’s degree, James intends to earn a PhD in chemical oceanography with a focus on organic toxins.


    Ahmed Nasr, University of Central Florida. Ahmed is a PhD student in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering and is interested in hydrology, coastal engineering, and flood risk management. For his PhD dissertation, Ahmed is researching the broad topic of compound flooding where different flooding drivers (coastal, fluvial, and/or pluvial) occur concurrently or in close succession and thus exacerbating impacts. Ahmed is studying the dependence between those flooding drivers at various coastal locations around the U.S. coastline with several communities in Florida. This will lead to improved understanding and increase resilience in coastal communities. Ahmed obtained his master’s degree in flood risk management from IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands and his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (with honors) from Cairo University in Egypt. Ahmed is interested in applied research that can benefit the scientific and engineering communities and wishes to pursue a career as an academic and consultant in flood risk management.


    Cierra Braga, Florida Institute of Technology. Cierra is a PhD student at the Florida Institute of Technology studying Oceanography. As someone who has grown up in Florida, the impacts of invasive species on the environment in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats has been a notable topic discussed throughout her entire life. Cierra is currently researching more environmentally friendly applications for biofouling prevention in our marine environment compared to the common chemical-based paints which can leach into the surrounding water column. Invasive species can be transported from one location to another via ship hulls and ballast water, and as such, biofouling is a concern in ports all over the world that have sensitive ecosystems and have the potential to be significantly altered due to the introduction of a non-native organism that lacks local predators. One of these more environmentally friendly biofouling prevention methods that is currently being investigated as a viable application is ultraviolet C light (UVC). Cierra’s dissertation research focuses on using UVC light as a biofouling prevention method and will investigate the impacts of UVC exposure on both target and non-target organisms. In addition to her studies, Cierra has worked as an environmental scientist and as an education program staff member at a zoological facility. Future career goals are to teach and perform research in academia.


    Daniel Schroeder, Florida Gulf Coast University. Daniel was born in and has resided in Fort Myers for the past 33 years. His education, work-life, and residence have been within the same 15 square miles, which has allowed him to become greatly invested in the engineering challenges of the southwest Florida area. He is passionate about the sustainable growth of Lee County and is honored to be working in a profession that is a part of influencing and solving the associated challenges. He leads the civil engineering group at a firm that focuses mostly on water resources projects in southwest Florida. A recent project included a Lee County flood mitigation plan, which entailed the largest regional surface and groundwater modeling effort conducted in Lee County over the past 25 years. Other recent projects include hydrologic and ecosystem restoration, weir and water control structure design, and stormwater management projects. His career aspirations include contributing to sustainable development and management of southwest Florida water resources. He is currently enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) seeking a Master of Science in Engineering with a concentration in Sustainable Water Engineering. He has completed research on a brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO) plants in the City of Clearwater, the Town of Jupiter and the City of Clewiston with the purpose of assessing if the water quality changes at the BWRO facility necessitate design modifications before the anticipated design life span is realized. Other research efforts involve analysis of a GIS and ICPR4-Based Approach in Typical Development Analysis for Sustainable Urban Drainage to study the design of an infiltration-based stormwater management option that satisfies land development permit requirements and estimates the associated groundwater recharge benefits.

  • 09 Aug 2021 10:20 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)

    Farah Aryan, University of Florida. Farah is currently an Environmental Engineering undergraduate student and plans to pursue a master’s degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering upon her graduation. Farah has conducted research on marsh response to sea-level rise as well as mercury concentration data for fish and humans along the Amazon River in effort to find a causality between human health and mercury concentration. Farah’s current research focus involves environmental justice and water quality in indigenous populations in the Middle East. During her undergraduate career, Farah has worked at the Packaging Corporation of America and General Motors, both as an environmental engineering intern.

      Jenna Brooks, University of South Florida. Jenna is a second-year student in Civil Engineering with a concentration in Water Resources and Environmental Systems. Her research is focused on plastic pollution in stormwater ponds and she is investigating how plastic properties, such as size, shape, and settling velocity, as well as pond characteristics, such as hydraulic loading and retention time, influence the accumulation of microplastics in these systems. Jenna hopes to continue doing research and plans to earn a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering.

    Madison Mullen, Florida Gulf Coast University. Madison graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and a minor in Climate Change at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in the Spring of 2021. In Fall 2021, she will start her Master of Science in Environmental Science at FGCU working with Dr. Jo Muller. After joining the FGCU Chapter of AWRA in her junior year, she was appointed President by Dr. Don Duke. During her undergraduate research, Madison analyzed how ponds and wetlands work together to provide flood mitigation at the FGCU campus and concluded that wetlands are primarily responsible for flood mitigation, particularly in the wet weather season. Currently, Madison is working as a co-researcher to investigate how groundwater and water table levels are related to pond and wetland storage capacity for stormwater runoff. The goal for her graduate research is to develop a better understanding of paleotempestology and how it relates to hurricane-like storm events. After graduate school, Madison is interested in working at the intersection of climatology and water resources.

  • 09 Aug 2021 10:15 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)

    Leonardo Torrico, Jupiter High School. Leonardo graduated from Jupiter High School in June 2021 and will be attending Palm Beach State College to study pre-engineering. Leonardo plans to transfer to a public university in 2 years to study Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical engineering to further his goals of developing new and better environmental and water resources instrumentation in the future.

  • 09 Aug 2021 10:10 PM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)
      Forest Hill Community High School (West Palm Beach) - Allison Mesang and Erin Nocera
      PSI High at Seminole High School (Sanford) - Matthew Tye
      Independence Classical Academy (Fort Pierce) - Rita Velasquez

  • 01 Feb 2021 9:15 AM | Jeremy McBryan (Administrator)
    AWRA Florida awards scholarships and grants to pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, environmental education centers, high school seniors, and undergraduate and graduate college or university students in Florida. 2021 Applications are now being accepted.
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