District professionals in STEM careers

The St. Johns River Water Management District is all about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as our staff work in these fields and many others each day to preserve and protect Florida’s water resources. These dedicated staff members are passionate about their work on behalf of the state’s residents and share their experiences and inspirations here in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards.

Portrait of Michelle Brown working at computer

Michelle Brown

Love of nature, problem solving focused staffer on engineering career

Michelle Brown is a senior project manager in the district’s Bureau of Watershed Management and Modeling. She’s a problem-solver, a professional engineer and a steward of Florida’s water all rolled into one. But she’s also an eternal student, relentless in her quest for knowledge.

Portrait of Amy Copeland standing next to a truck

Amy Copeland

Land manager’s work is rooted in her passion for the outdoors

It’s her passion and excitement for the outdoors that fuels Amy Copeland’s career as a land manager, and while each day is very different, her work is focused on one specific region — the Upper St. Johns River Basin, an area that gives life to the river’s headwaters.

Portait of Mark Crosby

Mark Crosby

Helping solve problems drives engineer’s passion for his work

Growing up and working on a cattle ranch gave Mark Crosby first-hand experience of large drainage systems and how they function.

Portrail of Melissa Diolosa working outside

Melisa Diolosa

Great respect for natural world drives regulatory scientist

Melisa Diolosa was a Michigan transplant attending Florida Institute of Technology in the 1990s when she first learned about the nearby Indian River Lagoon, the 156-mile-long estuary covering 40 percent of Florida’s east coast. See the video interview with Melisa and her work in STEM.

Portrait of Sara-Driggers working at a computer

Sara Driggers

Staffer helps keep information flowing smoothly and efficiently

It’s up to Sara Driggers to help capture that information and ensure it’s delivered to the correct area.

Portrait of Kendall Fioravante with a drone controller

Kendall Fioravante

Her career drive is to be a good steward of the environment

A love of science and being outdoors fueled Kendall Fioravante’s passion for conservation and preservation. With her sights set on an environmental career from an early age, Fioravante pursued a combination of coursework and work experience that directed her toward water resource management.

Portrait of Nathaniel Gargasz

Nate Gargasz

A love of the outdoors drew environmental scientist to his work

Following his childhood passion for the outdoors, Nate Gargasz pursued studies that appealed to his interest in the natural world.

Portrait of Fatih Gordu

Fatih Gordu

Engineer embraces challenges of environmental work using the best available data and science

Inspired by his father, who worked for a water agency in Turkey, Fatih Gordu is a Senior Professional Engineer working in the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Palatka headquarters who leads hydrologic analysis and modeling of minimum flows and levels program.

Lauren Hall looking at seagrass

Lauren Hall

Biologist enjoys challenges of field work

Plying the waters of the Indian River Lagoon in a research vessel is a dream job for St. Johns River Water Management District biologist Lauren Hall. See the video interview with Lauren and her work in STEM.

Portrait of Stephen Jennewein with a soil auger

Stephen Jennewein

Science and science fiction sparked this environmental scientist’s interest in the STEM field

Can a fascination with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” have anything to do with Florida’s sugar cane fields? It can if you’re Stephen Jennewein, whose curiosity of the natural world spanned from watching nature documentaries to attending summer camps to finding inspiration in Gene Rodenberry’s portrayal of science as creator of the Star Trek Universe.

Lori Morris steching out a tape measure in the Mosquito Lagoon

Lori Morris

Career path was a calling at an early age

Some people are fortunate to realize at an early age the career path they’ll choose. It’s almost as if the career has chosen them, a phenomenon often described as a calling. Lori Morris falls into this category.

Christine Mundy reviewing a printout of a map

Christine Mundy

City kid’s love of nature started with TV’s Wild Kingdom

As a teenager growing up in the middle of Chicago, Christine Mundy was fascinated with the natural world as it was depicted in television shows like Wild Kingdom. Her love for and fascination with the complexity and beauty of the natural world inspired her pursuit of a degree in environmental science.

Portrait of CJ Myers in a server room with racks behind him

CJ Myers

Staffer finds job satisfaction in overcoming technology challenges

Technology plays a big role in the work of water managers, and CJ Myers is there to help make sure everyone stays connected.

Portrait of Kim Ponzio

Kim Ponzio

Free time spent along the Peace River inspired wetland science

Kim Ponzio’s interest in the outdoors started as a child, when she would spend time hiking, swimming and canoeing Florida’s many natural wonders. But her career as a wetland scientist didn’t start until 1987 when she was inspired by a college class that changed the direction of her studies.

Outdoor portrait of Callie Register

Callie Register

Hydrologist’s job offers variety

Callie Register’s interest in engineering evolved over time, shaped by internships, professors and a love of math and the outdoors. But it was a college professor who encouraged her passion for hydrology and pursuit of a Master’s degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering with a Hydrologic Sciences Certificate.

Portrait of Courtney Rickett

Courtney Rickett

Chemist is excited by the story that data has to tell about Florida’s water resources

Courtney Rickett confesses that she’s always been interested in nature, science and biology, but became keenly interested in a STEM career around age 13. It was then that a childhood friend too her to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.

Portrait of Dr. Ann Shortelle

Dr. Ann Shortelle

Passion for science began as a child

As a girl growing up in Oklahoma, Dr. Ann Shortelle recalls the daily walk to her elementary school and the footbridge that crossed the creek where she collected tiny fish and tadpoles in a mason jar. See the video interview with Dr. Shortelle and her work in STEM.

Portrait of Ali Simpson

Ali Simpson

Carrying on a family tradition by working in nature

Ali Simpson was destined to work in a career that melds his love of science with the outdoors. His father was a forester and he spent his happiest times with him in camping or simply spending time outdoors.

Portrait of Sandy Smith working out in the field

Sandy Smith

Scientist’s work allows growth while protecting wetlands

As Florida’s population grows exponentially, so do its highways and byways. Sandy Smith’s job is to find a balance between infrastructure expansion and protecting the state’s wetlands.

Portrait of Bill VanSickle

Bill VanSickle

A career that combines a love of geography and technology

Bill VanSickle became fascinated with computer-aided design (CAD) in high school in the 1980s. Little did he realize that his passion for, as he tells it, “drawing with computers” would lead to a career in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Portrait of Emily Wakley

Emily Wakley

Interests in water, the outdoors and the environment guide career path

It’s another hot Florida afternoon when Emily Wakley steps out of her truck to visit a local plant nursery in central Florida. The trip is to review compliance with a consumptive use permit, part of her responsibilities as a hydrologist with the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Portrait of Christine Wentzel working outside

Christine Wentzel

College course, site visit opened door to career

A lifelong love of nature and the outdoors led Christine Wentzel down a path to her 22-year career as an environmental scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District.