Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Rutgers Environmental Stewards]

Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards 2014

Certified Rutgers Environmental Steward
Intern Projects and Impacts - 2014

The following projects were completed in fulfillment of the internship requirement of the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program. Graduates of the 60 hour lecture portion of the program are required to complete an approved intern project of 60 hours or more to become Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards.


Carl Andres                Califon, NJ                               Duke 2006
Carl participated in establishing  1 ½ miles of trails with markers and trail guides at Hoffman Farm Preserve in Union Township in coordination with Hunterdon Parks and the Master Gardeners. The park is over 400 acres with numerous ponds and 1 or 2 private roads.

He initially did an in depth plant inventory as part of a team.  The team was considering use of gps on a smart phone to be used instead of markers and plastic guide sheets.
At Round Valley Reservoir he participated in establishing a trail with markers and trail guides for 1 mile loop. Existing plants, both invasive and native, were identified and cataloged over each season. The Round Valley Reservoir Park in Clinton Township is managed in coordination with New Jersey State Park and Forestry Department.
On a typical day boaters there were about 30 cars in the lots near he trail and at least 12 walkers used the trail.

Keara R. Giannotti     Collingswood, NJ         ACUA 2011
On cooperation with a Town Commissioner, Joan Leonard, Keara started a nature club in her hometown of Collingswood. This was the first non-sports related program offered by the town. The “Collingswood Roots and Shoots Nature Club” was modeled on Jane Goodall’s International Roots and Shoots program. The componenets of the program are compassion, knowledge and action. The club focuses on people, animals and the environment giving the members a chance to learn about issues in their communities and take action for positive change. In the Collingwood Club high school students mentor K-8 members in study groups, park exploration and gardening. 

Activities have included birding, park and lake clean-up, stream and pond surveys, insect study and eco-crafts.  A curriculum of 5-7 classes are run each season and children register through the Collingswood Recreation program. Weekly meetings are held with adult leaders to explore area parks.

Over a 2 year period 111 children have participated in 5 cycles of programming. The program has established its own Facebook page and is on-going.

Rhea Landig              Annandale, NJ              Belvidere 2012
As the newly appointed Executive Director for Species Alliance, the first organization to bring public awareness to the current 6th mass extinction crisis, Rhea worked to introduce the organization as well as design and implement the Call of Life program to the New Jersey area for her certification.   The program includes the Call of Life film, which is an award winning, internationally acclaimed film, produced by Species Alliance and the first feature length film to address the mass extinction crisis; also included is a discussion segment, facilitated by Rhea that explores what can be done to further engage on a personal, group and systemic level.  Further assistance in promoting the program was also provided through social media and marketing materials.

Creating and conducting a survey, preliminary results showed that even though the audience members were often a group with an environmental background, the majority in attendance, were still unaware of the mass extinction crisis that is occurring and its implications.

 Working together with many communities and their environmental commissions, The Call of Life Program was delivered to the communities of: Emerson, Montclair, Flemington and Bernardsville. 

This issue is starting to be taken on by religious groups accepting stewardship of the earth as a privileged responsibility and The Unitarian Universalists brought the program to their congregation and community in Lincroft and Red Bank.

Environmental groups that participated in the program are:  The Musconetcong Watershed Association, The Native Plant Society of New Jersey, the Monmouth County Chapter of New Jersey Audubon and the Sierra Club Singles.

Rhea also helped coordinate efforts with The Acme Screening Room in Lambertville, where Rutgers Environmental Stewardship leader, Bruce Barbour joined in the discussion segment.   The Princeton Environmental Film Festival made Call of Life an official judge’s selection and also had an encore screening with Species Alliance founder, Professor David Ulansey leading the discussion.

Marking the event of Endangered Species Day at The Hunterdon Wellness Center Theater, Species Alliance, along with fellow Rutgers Environmental Steward, Susan Schirmer and the Northern Chapter of the Sierra Club, produced a fundraiser that included the program and items from local merchants for a bake sale and a silent auction.
Not all aspects of the project were always successful.  A call to action event was created and planned, joining forces with a couple of leading environmentally focused organizations that would engage environmental, academic and political leaders.  Unfortunately, the entities involved were not ready for an event of this nature and issues were unable to be resolved at the time, resulting in the cancellation of the event.

Despite the challenges of such a serious subject matter, Rhea still wanted to create an event with a large impact to reach out and show the enormous opportunity and urgency of the situation. Developing a partnership with Free Speech Television, that carries a potential reach of 37 million viewers, as well as live online streaming, Rhea directed and produced a two hour television broadcast airing on the Day of International Biological Diversity, as well as a one minute spot promoting the broadcast.  The broadcast included the Call of Life film, along with new interviews and updates from scientists featured in the film.  Rhea interviewed Stuart Pimm, who is the Chair of Conservation Ecology at Duke University and founder of Saving Species. Environmental journalist and Species Alliance board member, Betsy Rosenberg, interviewed Peter Roopnarine, Curator of Geology from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. 

Also included in the broadcast, were the latest video campaigns from organizations that are working to prevent extinction.  Five national organizations co sponsored the event:  The Center for Biological Diversity, The Endangered Species Coalition, Rainforest Action Network, Saving Species and Voices for Biodiversity.

Also promoting the Free Speech Television broadcast event was radio station W.N.T.I. from Centenary College, where scientist Karl Hricko interviewed Rhea for the Contours Radio Show.

One of the most important areas of outreach of the project was reaching audiences at the university level. Now joining the likes of Stanford University, Duke University, University of Vermont and Drew University is The Rutgers Environmental Stewardship program.  Of note, fellow 2012 steward Anjanette Vaidya, brought the film and it’s discussion guide to Phenom Penh, Cambodia where it is now part of the Masters Program in Biodiversity Conservation at the Royal Academy.

While the project is officially over, the work is just beginning as this issue is emerging into the consciousness of the general public.  For more information on the organization and the film, go to and the film’s website,    Species Alliance and Call of Life, also have a Facebook page with up to date information.

Gabriele Schmitt      Bergenfield, NJ           Duke 2012
Gabriele became an active member of Bergenfield's EC and GT, and on several sections of the Sustainable Jersey certification for her Boro. They were awarded Bronze certification this year. She focused on was the High School's rain garden project donating time and a Rain Garden Manual and  helping to source some funding from the Boro and from Bergen County Utilities Authority.

She conducted several clean-ups including one of Coopers Pond and one of the downtown shopping area (about a one-mile strip) and coordinated paper shredding events. The EC also worked with the DPW and high school students to re-vitalize Bergenfield's Community Garden. She helped to coordinate and judge the environmental poster (elementary schools) and media (middle and high schools) contests. Participation in 2014 nearly doubled, with over 400 entries.

Their team is presently in the planning process for advancing the Boro's certification to Silver. She will be coordinating Green Tea efforts for the Healthy Communities/Mayor's Wellness Campaign, working with the Health Dept. on activities for all ages and a repeat of the successful 2013 Weight Loss Program.

With the Borough of Allendale, Fyke Nature Association (FNA) co-manages the 107 acre nature preserve: The Celery Farm (CF). She joined in 2012 and participated in clean-ups; poison ivy pulls and spreading woodchips on trails... and began her birding "career". In 2013, Gabriele was invited to join the Board as a trustee; responsibilities included helping with events and publicity. She coordinated Stepping Up for Lorrimer in May of 2013 and 2014; the event raised about $1700 and $2000, respectively. It's an annual fundraiser for Audubon's Lorrimer Sanctuary in Franklin Lakes, supporting their children's nature/wildlife education programs. It also helps raise awareness of  both Lorrimer and the Celery Farm. She regularly post Celery Farm events on The Record's site and in the local community newspapers. Working with Boro staff and the FNA board, she was able to get FNA and CF listed on the Boro's website, complete with links to their website:, in order to raise the local profile. Most Sunday mornings - from 8-9am – she participates in Hour on the Tower, helping (and always learning) to identify bird species and, sometimes, encouraging walkers to stop and enjoy the view.

She volunteers as a transporter for birds and wildlife that have been rescued and brought to Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital for first aid and who need a "taxi" to The Raptor Trust or to Woodlands Wildlife Refuge, where they, hopefully, can be rehabilitated and returned to the wild. She have made one trip to Woodlands - with 6 baby possums, a baby squirrel and baby raccoons and about 8-10 trips to RT with about 35-40 birds, including a Coopers hawk, a baby screech owl, woodpeckers, sparrows, doves, pigeons, a female scarlet tanager, a dozen wood ducklings, and a blue jay.

Brenda Taube                        Margate, NJ     ACUA 2013
As an Environmental Steward student, Brenda learned her city needed a “green team” so when the Stewardship Program was over, she started one where she serves as a City Commissioner. 

At one of our first green team meetings, she suggested hosting a “Stormwater Management Workshop.”   She suggested this workshop after listening to Dr. Chris Obropta and Dr. Ken Miller lecture during the Rutgers Environmental Stewards Class.   Margate is on a barrier island and she felt this information was important for everyone to know, especially those involved in planning. 

The workshop hosted over 100 people on Thursday, July 17th at the Margate Performing Arts Center.  The attendees represented the whole Absecon Island (Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate and Longport) and elsewhere including Hammonton, Brigantine Dennis Township, Somers Point and Stone Harbor. Municipal planners, administrators, engineers, planning board members, zoning officers, green teams, elected officials and general members of the public attended representing the previously mentioned municipalities. 
Dr. Ken Miller, Dr. Chris Obropta and Lisa Auermuller were our presenters.  They all spoke very knowledgeably to an enthusiastic audience, ready to learn how to become more sustainable and more flood resilient communities.

Dr. Ken Miller’s information on sea-level rise is now on the town website.  Municipal officials and planners, as well as residents, want to know what sea-level expectations are so appropriate action can be implemented to protect public and private property.  This information is especially topical for Margate as they are debating the somewhat controversial state and federally funded Shore Protection Project. 

Dr. Chris Obropta’s presentation on implementing resilience activities was helpful because attendees learned how important it is to have permeable surfaces.  In fact, as a result of the information shared by Dr. Obropta, the City of Margate will be paving its new parking lot adjoining City Hall with permeable asphalt.   In Margate, we are also considering rain gardens in our “parkway section” of the City as well.  It’s highly unlikely that either of these projects would have been considered prior to Dr. Obropta’s presentation.   

Lisa Auermuller of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve offers assistance to municipalities free of charge with planning for resilience.  Her group is currently assisting Margate, Brigantine and Longport with resiliency planning.  These three municipalities are working with Ms. Aurermuller’s group as a direct result of her presentation in the workshop.

The workshop garnered significant media attention.  There was coverage in two local papers, “Downbeach Current” and the “Press of Atlantic City” and air time on the local television station NBC 40 during both evening news programs and again the next morning. 

The  green team, its highly competent leader, Chairperson Monica  Coffey, also learned that they  had just been approved for a bronze level certification through “Sustainable Jersey.” 

Mary Catherine Sudiak         Cranford, NJ                Middlesex 2014
Mary Catherine worked for Sustainable Jersey for Schools researching information for, and writing, a number of actions including: Enrichment Programs through Partnership, Community Education and Outreach, Green Fairs, “Green” your Green Fair or School Event, Community Asset Mapping, School District Foundations, Accessible Communications, Diversity on District Task Forces and Committees, District Sustainability Policy, Professional Development, and Curriculum Mapping.  She worked on 11 of the 87 total actions that are part of the program in its first year or12% of the total project.  She worked with a number of staff members, interns and committee members that contributed to the writing of the actions, devoting over 111 hours to the project.  She  did a fair amount of writing for an initial review, or even a secondary review of an action, that there was a great deal of editing to some of the actions and for the most part input for the actions came from a number of individuals.

The Sustainable Jersey for Schools program is being kicked-off at the New Jersey School Boards Convention during its annual Workshop this October, is designed to facilitate schools in their initiation and maintenance of sustainable practices and programs.  It is modeled after the Sustainable Jersey program, which started in 2009 and is designed to complement and to work in concert with the Sustainable Jersey program.  Currently over 70% of the municipalities in the state have voluntarily joined the Sustainable Jersey program.   With 1.36 million enrolled in the public schools in New Jersey in the 2012 – 2013 school year, if the same level of participation holds true for schools it would mean that in five years over 950,000 public school children will be in schools participating in the program.  A conclusion from a study in the Seychelles regarding environmental education (P Damerell, 2014)  was that “Children are learning about their environment and are passing this information on to their parents, influencing household behaviors.”   Having children learn about the environment and then passing that information on to their parents can have a substantial impact on sustainable practices in our local communities and the state as a whole. 

The program consists of seventeen action categories grouped under three primary areas:  Prosperity, Planet and People.  These are the actions for each area.   Prosperity: Student Learning, Energy Efficiency, Leadership and Planning, Learning Environment and Innovation Projects.  Planet: Climate Mitigation and Renewable Energy, Green Cleaning, Green Design, Green Purchasing, School Grounds and Waste Management and Recycling.  People: Diversity and Equity, Food and Nutrition, Healthy School Environments, Student Safety, Student and Community Outreach, Student and Staff Wellness.
Her project supervisor was Heather McCall, Director, Sustainable Jersey for Schools.

Stephen Jasiecki        Margate, NJ                 ACUA 2014
Steven conducted a fleet summary report for the City of Margate as part of the effort to get the town certified in the Sustainable Jersey program. The baseline year for his report is 2013.  At this time the city fleet is composed of 87 vehicles.  47 light duty and 40 heavy-duty vehicles, which are itemized on the inventory sheet.

            The city of Margate is a shore town that has a small full time population during the winter season and large summer season population.  Being a seasonal community the vehicle usage varies throughout the year.  Margate has a beach to maintain requiring specialized equipment for that purpose.  The city has recently received large military type troop carriers for emergency evacuations in case of a natural disaster. The public works department maintains the city fleet for general maintenance with the exception of specialized needs. The Fire Department has a comprehensive Driver Training Program.  This includes all members of each platoon.  The police are trained through the Police academy. Public works trains its own operators.

            The city intends to improve the efficiency of its fleet by replacing their older vehicles with more efficient ones. 

            Because of Super-storm Sandy, property assessments, rebuilding, flood mitigation and other problems caused by the storm have pulled the attention and resources of the municipal government and public works.  Immediate plans for improving the fleet are on hold until the city can resolve these challenges.  Margate’s Green Team is working with city administrators to improve the efficiency of the fleet.  Our city manager attends our green team meeting and is an active participant.  We are currently working on a “Safe routs to school” program to encourage walking and biking therefore reducing traffic and car idling at the school locations.

            Emergency vehicles, Police cruisers, fire trucks have to calculate there fuel usage differently.  These vehicles need to remain running while stationary to supply power for lights, pumps and other devices.  This will give a false reading of the miles per gallon rate and will throw off the efficiency rating of the vehicle.

            Consideration for smaller police vehicles has been taken into account.  There appears to be a warranty issue with using smaller vehicles for police work.  The extra equipment and upgraded package needed for police work would void the warranty of a smaller compact car.  Also space for equipment, for example, on board computer, presents a spatial problem for the police officers to comfortably operate in their patrol vehicle.  During the summer season, bicycle patrols and motorcycles are used more frequently. Two Golf carts are used to patrol for parking violations as well as bicycles.   Foot patrols are not feasible for this community

            The heavy equipment, backhoes, front end loaders are calculated on an hourly rate rather then a miles per gallon, since their work is performed in a limited working area and not over distance.  For example a backhoe may run for an hour digging and remain within a 200-foot radius.  The front-end loaders are primarily used for snow removal, sand redistribution and trash removal.  In this report miles traveled is in hours of operation.

            At this time Margate doesn’t have a computerized filing system but is currently working on one.

            Because of the immediate need to rebuild the city, priority was based on reconstruction and logs were not accurately kept.  As much accurate information was gathered from the different departments to complete this report.  Reasonable estimates based on use and past performance were used to fill in the unknown fields.

Ila Vassallo                Marlton, NJ                  ACUA 2013
Ila’s participation in the Rutgers Environmental Steward program led her to an internship with Organic Diversion, a food and organics recycling company. Her efforts resulted in diversion of 2,919 tons of food waste from the waste stream and subsequent conversion of that waste to compost. 

Over the period of the internship, she was responsible, on a weekly basis, for visiting customer sites and preparing visit reports.  As a coach, her primary goal was to improve or sustain the organic waste program on the accounts which she visited.  This required a training period in which she learned the proper way to monitor the performance of the generator’s organic waste recycling program.  Following each visit, she was responsible for generating a report which summarized the results of the coaching visit.  In addition, at the end of each visit, feedback was provided to the customer to highlight excellent performance and identify opportunities for process improvements, as needed.

Accounts which she coached included supermarkets, hospitals, schools, and restaurants.  Over the course of the internship, she made 47 coaching visits, generated 40 visit reports, and contributed to two quarterly account summary reports.

Gail Rosati of Organic Diversion reprted that Ila’s  Accounts remained comparable from year to year in terms of volume but the quality of sorce separated food waste was significantly improved.   The Reporting Scores for your Accounts rose from a score in the 60’s to a score in the 80’s and 90’s. She also added, “Quality of source separated food waste is actually more important than volume.  Correctly separated food waste has a much higher value for anaerobic digestion, composting, and animal feed.

Rosati went on to state, “Most of her accounts were mature in their composting program but had contamination issues and required clarification in all recycling.  Therefore, they needed the detailed training and monitoring you provided them to increase their recycling and properly sort separate food waste.  Evesham School District also greatly benefited by your student education and ideas.  Educating students greatly improves recycling in the entire community. Ila was extremely organized, personable, enthusiastic and most importantly impacted a positive change in the behavior of recycling throughout the accounts.”

For the schools under her Ila developed an Earth Day Certificate which was shared with the schools.  The certificate could be used by a teacher or lunch aide to acknowledge a student as “Being a Star Participant in our School’s Compost Program.”  She also manned a station called “Scrappy Nutrients” at one school’s Earth Day event.  The purpose was to teach children about what happens with the food scraps they divert into their school’s compost bin.  She also played a sorting game in which students could put pictures of various items (food scraps, straws, plastic bottles, etc.) into one of three cups labeled, Compost, Recycling and Landfill.  [See photos below.]

To round out her internship, Ila was able to attend a recycling coordinators’ meeting for municipalities, and participate in the kick-off / training for a high school starting in Organic Diversion’s food and organics recycling program.


Earth Day Certificate to support schools and students in their Organic Waste Recycling program


Participation in an Earth Day event at a school – students learned what happened to the food scraps they put into their cafeteria’s compost bins and also played a sorting game to celebrate their recycling skills