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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.