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.
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.
Alexander Sopilniak Mints, Ph.D. – Chemical and Microbiological Analyst
Alex carries out both chemical, microbiological and toxicological assays in the lab, and analyzes monitoring data in support of CSI’s outreach and publications.
Alex was born in Russia, but grew up in Jerusalem, Israel, where he received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in analytical environmental chemistry from the Hebrew University. During his research, Alex focused on contamination of water sources by both organic and inorganic compounds ubiquitously found in wastewater.
In 2017, Alex and his wife Noam moved to Ithaca. Not long after, Alex joined CSI, passionate about being part of the local water-loving community.
Nathaniel Launer, B. S. – Outreach Coordinator
Nathaniel 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.
Nathaniel is a native of northeast Vermont where his love of the natural world arose as an avid backpacker, paddler, hunter, and skier. He received his B. S. in Environmental Sciences at the University of Vermont with a concentration in Conservation Biology. His desire to work for wilderness led to him to study loons, bald eagles, and songbirds, offering rare up-close encounters with wildlife. This has inspired his emerging passion for wildlife photography. His interests now focus on supporting citizen science, and its role in protecting wildlife and natural resources.
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.
Claire Weston, B. A. – Networking Specialist and Correspondent
Claire continues her amazing work here at the Community Science Institute from afar. Making connections and networking with new organizations, she continues to expand the organization’s horizon and work towards furthering our mission.
Originally from Vermont, Claire studied biology and environmental studies at the College of the Holy Cross after a formative two month trip around the country sparked a passion for earth’s unique ecosystems and, specifically, how they may be affected by climate change. As a junior in college, Claire nurtured this passion while studying a diverse array of flora and fauna in South Africa. Her work included research on dung beetle activity and how photography can be used to assess crocodile population dynamics.
Claire joined CSI in 2016 as Outreach Coordinator and worked diligently to broaden CSI’s outreach and education scope. Most notably, Claire led the formation of the Cayuga Lake Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Program in collaboration with the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network and Discover Cayuga Lake. She has now left this program in the very capable hands of Nathaniel Launer.
Claire now lives in Jersey City with her partner, Andrew, and Maine Coon cat, Armsby. Claire continues to work part time for CSI and is actively exploring environmental outreach employment opportunities in the New York City and Northern New Jersey areas.
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.