Steve Penningroth, Ph.D. – Executive Director, Technical Director, Board Member
Steve Penningroth founded the not-for-profit Community Science Institute with a group of friends in 2000, following up with 501(c)3 tax-exempt status from the IRS in 2002 and certification for CSI’s water quality testing lab in 2003. Long before there was CSI, Steve enjoyed an extended education, going from a B.A. in German Literature to a B.S. in Biology and finally a Ph.D. in Biochemical Sciences in 1977, squeezing in a stint in Army Military Intelligence on the German-Czech border from 1968-1969 where he watched history unfold as Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia and crushed the Prague Spring.
He was an assistant and associate professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey from 1978-1993, conducting basic research on the role of the dynein ATPase in flagellar motility in sea urchin spermatozoa and teaching pharmacology to medical students. A 1987-8 sabbatical at Cornell University with Professor James Gillett awakened an interest in environmental toxicology and extension work, and in 1993 Steve resigned his faculty position in New Jersey and moved to Ithaca.
As a Senior Lecturer at Cornell for seven years before starting CSI, he developed and taught several undergraduate toxicology courses, served as a technical advisor for community groups at Superfund sites in New York and New Jersey, and conceived the idea of an introductory textbook for non-toxicologists, which was published in 2010 under the title “Essentials of Toxic Chemical Risk: Science and Society.”
The father of two grown children and grandfather of two small boys, Steve shares a home a mile from Cayuga Lake with his wife, Judy, and their three gorgeous German shepherd dogs, all trained by Judy and veteran competitors in agility and obedience. He is grateful for the support, public and private, that has allowed CSI to contribute to the growing movement for greater local stewardship of natural resources.
Michi Schulenberg, B.S. – Microbiological and Chemical Analyst
Michi has been a lab technician at CSI since August 2008. She started doing microbiology and then learned BMI (benthic macroinvertebrate) surveys to initiate the expansion of CSI’s BMI program. In recent years, she has taken on CSI’s suite of chemical assays and has become the lab’s Quality Assurance Officer.
Michi was born in Vietnam, lived in India and France before moving to the suburbs of Washington D.C. at the age of 8. She got a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maryland. Then life took some interesting turns. She moved to Chicago, became a stay-at-home mom, and wound up working at the Field Museum of Natural History as a specimen preparator in the Division of Mammals.
Laura Dwyer, B. S. – Chemical and Microbiological Analyst
Laura received a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Notre Dame in 2011 and has been an analyst at CSI since June 2014. She does chemical and microbiological assays and conspires with Michi to update and reorganize the lab.
Born and raised in western PA, she became interested in water quality because of the lingering effects of generations of coal mining in the valley where she (and her father and grandfather and dozens of other relatives) grew up. She observed a noticeable improvement in water quality after the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) instituted better mining reclamation practices in the area.
She lives in Ithaca with her husband and a very lively cat.
Noah Mark, M.S. – Chemical and Microbiological Analyst
Noah performs chemical and microbiological assays, helps manage the lab, and analyzes monitoring data in support of CSI’s outreach and publications. He received his B.A. in Environmental Studies from Ithaca College and a M.S. in Soil, Water and Environmental Science from the University of Arizona. Originally from Livingston County, where his family has been farming for generations, Noah carries on his family’s tradition with a small farm that he co-owns and operates in Trumansburg.
Claire Weston, B. A. – Outreach Coordinator
Claire provides technical and logistical support to the dozens of volunteer stream monitoring teams, is responsible for recruiting new volunteers, and helps educate the general public and local governments on the meaning of water quality data being collected by volunteer monitoring partnerships.
A native to northern Vermont, Claire recently moved to Ithaca after receiving her B.A. in biology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. She enjoys frequenting the Ithaca farmers market and local cideries with her boyfriend, Andrew, and playing with their devious cat, Armsby.
Adrianna Hirtler, M.S. – BMI Program Coordinator
Adrianna Hirtler has been doing BMI work with the Community Science Institute since the summer of 2011. She has been a water-loving naturalist for about 15 years, primarily in the Finger Lakes Region and Yosemite National Park but also in the Cascade Range of Oregon, the Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park. She received a B.S. degree in Natural Resources from Cornell University in 1999 and an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon in 2004. She is also a volunteer water monitor with the Cayuga Inlet group.
Bill George, B.S. – Data Entry Specialist
Bill’s association with the Community Science Institute began as a stream monitoring volunteer water sampler in the spring of 2009. He was the founding member of Team Enfield sampling Enfield and Coy Glen Creeks. In the later part of 2009 Bill joined the CSI staff team. His primary function is entering the test results from the Cayuga Lake and the Inlet streams sampling into CSI’s online database. He is still at it as the database enters its second major upgrade!
Bill received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1970. After a stint in an air pollution control graduate program he embarked on a short career in the nuclear power industry followed by a turn as an air pollution stack-testing engineer. In December (what planning!) of 1979 he relocated to Burdett, NY in a quality of life move, and began searching for work in the Southern Tier (again what planning) with eventual success. He worked for a series of industries in Big Flats, Cortland and Ithaca, none of which failed to close during his tenure. He has a widely varied background in safety and environmental compliance and engineering, training, project management, facilities and production engineering, as well as house restoration and remodeling more recently. Aside from his work for CSI he is also currently available for contract work.
Bill lives in Trumansburg with his wife, Nancy Young (who is a talented, licensed massage therapist working in several healing modalities, with an office in Trumansburg), and two exceptional (aren’t they all) cats. He has a daughter dancing, singing, living and working in Toronto. He also has a step-son, and step-daughter and her 5+ year old son who is a great delight in his life. He enjoys practicing Qi Gong and karate, swing dancing, attempting gardening and fixing things.
Matt Yarrow, Ph.D. – GIS Specialist
Matt Yarrow began making maps while in a Ph.D. program at the University of Chile in Santiago in 2005. He continued learning about geography and cartography in a year-long professional certificate program in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) at the University of Washington. The world of GIS attracted him, because there are different levels on which one can interact with the technology. First, designing colorful and readily interpretable custom maps can be seen as an artistic endeavor. Second, GIS can be used as a scientific tool to analyze processes that occur across landscapes.
At CSI, Matt is able work on both levels – something that makes him happy. He has helped create maps for the CSI website and is working to analyze CSI’s large chemical water quality dataset with an eye toward spatial patterns. Matt finally finished his Ph.D. in 2010 with a dissertation on the spatial aspects of nutrient cycles in terrestrial landscapes. He thinks that understanding how water, nutrients and contaminants move in the landscape and the interactions between these processes and human activities is key in managing our water resources sustainably. Matt grew up in Ithaca and returned in 2010 with a wife and daughter. His long-term goal is to contribute to sustainable natural resource management and sustainable communities in the region.
Abner X. Figueroa – Senior Web Developer
Abner contributes extensive experience with relational database technologies to the development and design of the Community Science Institute website and its database web application. Abner relies primarily on the Ruby on Rails platform and his experience with server-side programming languages to create back-ends to support rich internet experiences.
Abner is a skilled web applications engineer with a love of clean code and strong fundamentals in object-oriented programming. His passion is to make beautiful products and to bring critical thinking to real challenges. His love of technology comes from his considerable experience as a polyglot programmer; his palette is forever expanding with newer, cleaner, and more efficient coding techniques. Abner also possess a knack for describing complex concepts in a way that non-technical audiences can easily grasp.
The Community Science Institute is proud to be a Living Wage Employer.