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Leah Anderson

Graduate Research Assistant

Leah, one of the first interns for the CCESN in 2018, is excited to be returning as the graduate research assistant. She is a GVSU alumna with a dual degree in Geography and Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resiliency Planning. During her time at GVSU, she was actively engaged with the GR Citizens Climate Lobby, studied renewable energy in Iceland, was President of the Geography Club, and completed multiple internships pertaining to climate change resiliency. After graduation, she served two AmeriCorps terms in Salida, CO and will be returning to CO in the fall to pursue her Masters of Environmental Policy at the University of Denver.

Email: [email protected] 

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Samuel Bonser

Science Education Specialist

Sam Bonser is majoring in elementary education and integrated in his final year at Grand Valley State University. As a member of the MiRCLE project, his role is to develop and edit lesson plans that connect students to meet the education standards while also incorporating the discussion of climate and climate change within the classroom. Within the lessons are tools developed by NASA which help students visualize, problem solve, and collect data to help develop the students knowledge of climate and climate patterns around them.

Email[email protected]

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Deirdre Courtney

Ph.D. Fellow, West Michigan University

Deirdre Courtney is a part-time instructor and Ph.D. Interdisciplinary Studies student at Western Michigan University, and environmental justice professional. Her research centers on understanding the complexities and intersectionality between climate change displacement, marginalized populations, and environmental justice as a continuation of her work exploring CO2 impacts on the carnivorous Purple Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia Purpurea, and ethnographic fieldwork on flooded impacted vulnerable Frist Nations communities. We have a moral obligation to protect our planet, educate and leave a habitable planet for those that follow us. As an environmental justice advocate, and social scientist I recognize the need to center the voices of those who are most impacted by this crisis. We must stand for the human rights of all people equally.  

Quote: “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change … I’m changing the things I cannot accept.” — Ms. Angela Davis

Email[email protected]

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Kristin Davis


Kristin takes part in recording and editing CCESN and MiRACLE videos and content. She is a Film & Video major and is apart of many clubs such as GVTV, GVFA, Cinespace, and Cinesthesia. In the future, Kristin hopes to be a writer and director of her own films, while at the moment her main skill is cinematography. While being apart of CCESN and MiRACLE she hopes to create inspirational and informational videos for all to enjoy and learn from.

Email: [email protected]

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Elena Lioubimtseva, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Lioubimtseva's research interests include human vulnerability and adaptations to climate change, food security, climate change scenarios, and applications of geospatial technologies for understanding climate change impacts. Elena has extensive field research experience in Russia, France, Belgium, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. She is currently conducting research on the climate change adaptation planning by the local governments in the United States and in France and is actively involved in collaboration with the University of Versailles in France. Locally, she is active in her research on adaptation and resiliency planning in West Michigan. She was a special contributor to Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report and is a member on West Michigan Climate Adaptation Council.

Email[email protected]

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Amanda Reader

Project Administrator and Professional Support Staff, Geography and Sustainable Planning, GVSU

Amanda provides administrative support to the office of Geography and Sustainable Planning at GVSU, as well as MiRCLE. Amanda has worked at Grand Valley State University for over 20 years in various support roles. Amanda has a BS in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Grand Valley State University.

Email[email protected]

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Kurt Rizley

MiRCLE Advisory Board member, Science teacher teaching Earth/Physical Science and Environmental System and Societies courses at GRPS City High Middle School

My name is Kurt Rizley, I currently teach Earth/Physical Science and Environmental System and Societies at City High Middle School in Grand Rapids, Mi. I work hard to engage students to the joys of learning and interacting with the natural world through outdoor education and a focus on community.  

Email[email protected]

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Trisha Smrecak, PhD

Education Coordinator for Inland Seas Education Program, MIRCLE Advisory Board member

Trisha Smrecak has a long track record of breaking down complex science for all audiences through work in museum settings, college classrooms, and environmental education programs. She is currently the Education Coordinator for Inland Seas Education Association, whose mission is to create Great Lakes stewards. Trisha's climate expertise comes from a deep time perspective. As a paleontologist, she connects ancient organisms to the habitats in which they lived - primarily oceans - and how changes in those habitats impact the creatures who live there. The Great Lakes are just one of the many invaluable systems being altered by climate change, and she looks forward to helping others make connections between the water in their backyard and global climate changes. When she's not out on a 78' schooner teaching folks about the Great Lakes, Trisha is hiking through the woods with her toddler, dog, and spouse.

Email: [email protected]

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Cody Thammavongsa


Cody Thammavongsa is responsible for editing video and audio recordings from the CCESS & MiRCLE events. He is a double major in Film & Video and Geography with an emphasis in Urban and Regional Planning. Cody is a full time student and becoming a boom operator in the sound department. 

Quote: “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” — Paulo Coelho

Email: [email protected]

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Janet Vail, Ph.D.

Project Curriculum Development Adviser and Climate Change Science Education Mentor

Dr. Janet Vail will serve as a project curriculum development adviser and climate change science education mentor for the project team. Janet is a research scientist emerita at the Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute (GVSU-AWRI). She holds a Ph.D. in Science Education with a specialization in environmental education. Dr. Vail has served as the coordinator of the GVSU Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) partnership. She is a co-author on the Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum Support Climate Change Unit, which consists of lessons for middle through high school students. Her areas of expertise include curriculum development, educator professional development facilitation, and teaching.

Email: [email protected]

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Christine Webster

MiRCLE Advisory Board Member and Science Teacher at Hudsonville High School

Over the past 28 years of teaching at Hudsonville High School, I have taught AP Environmental Science, BIology, Earth Science and Chemistry and Physical Science at the high school level.  I love to travel, read, hike and meet new people!  Teaching and learning new things is a lifelong passion that has led me to work with some amazing students and colleagues. 

Email[email protected]

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Karina White

MiRCLE Advisory Board Member and Biology and AP Environmental Science Teacher at Jenison High School.

I have been teaching at Jenison High School for 17 years. I love my content area, but most of all, I love the students and staff that I get to interact with on a daily basis. In the crazy world of the past few years, my classroom is one of the places that gives me the most hope.  I have the privilege of teaching biology to freshmen and AP environmental science to sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Email[email protected]

Page last modified July 15, 2022