Hailing from the great state of Iowa, corn-fed Bill Flynn found his love of nature during camping trips to the Boundary Water of Minnesota and Canada. He attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, and in 2007 he graduated with a B.S. in Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology and Pre-medicine. He then worked as a Naturalist in middle Ohio and Southern California before heading out to Connecticut to work at the New Canaan Nature Center. Formerly the Director of Animal Care, Bill currently serves as the Executive Director. He resides at the New Canaan Nature Center with his wife Anna, and son Henry.
Executive Director, Green LEAF Schools Chair
Abby’s passion is experiential, place-based learning. She has many years of experience as an informal educator, program manager and administrator. Abby currently serves as the Director of Interdistrict Grants and Programs at EdAdvance in Litchfield. She is a successful grant writer and has created many innovative outdoor environmental science programs for K-12 students, working with grant funding from the Connecticut State Department of Education, NOAA and EPA. Abby has an undergraduate degree from Muhlenberg College and an MA in Education and Human Development from The George Washington University. She was the recipient of COEEA’s 2013 Environmental Administrator of the Year Award. Abby lives in a renovated mill in Woodbury with her environmentally conscious husband, adolescent son and lovable rescue dogs.
Gustavo Requena Santos
President-Elect, Membership Chair
Gustavo grew up in close contact with the Brazilian Rainforest, a fascination that years later motivated him to become a field biologist by the Universidade Estadual de Campinas. His passion for nature and science compelled him to do fieldwork in the familiar forests around his hometown, and also in the Brazilian savannah, in the Amazon, and in the Tropical Forests of Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica. In 2012, he obtained his PhD in Ecology from the Universidade de São Paulo. As an academic, Gustavo strongly advocates for the importance of science literacy and critical thinking for advancements in education and social transformation. In 2017, he moved to Connecticut and decided to transition from academia to the non-profit sector, particularly using outdoor education to promote science literacy, where audiences of all ages and backgrounds experience the scientific method by doing science themselves. He has worked with the non-profits New Haven Land Trust and Solar Youth. Gustavo and his partner Stephen live in Hamden, love hiking and camping, and have been exploring CT outdoors on weekend trips across the state.
Love of nature started at an early age for this native New Yorker with family camping and Kayak trips across New England. Her love of nature guided her to SUNY Morrisville where she earned her AAS in Natural Resource Conservation. After graduation she transitioned to administrative work in the non-profit sector, where, for the past 23 years, she has worked in different areas of the Finance Department for multiple non-profits. Chelsey holds a BA in Business Management with a minor in HR from Post University. She currently serves as the Director of Finance and HR at the New Canaan Nature Center. In her spare time you can find her camping, kayaking, canoeing and hiking across NY State with her daughter, Scarlet.
Heather is currently the Education Program Manager for the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center in Old Lyme. She has worked as an intern for Rhode Island Audubon before moving to Connecticut to work for several years as an environmental program educator and field trip coordinator for Common Ground High School, Urban Farm and Environmental Education Center in New Haven. Heather has also previously worked as a pre-k teacher and for two summers as an education coordinator for the Yale Peabody Museum. She holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science.
Listserv Chair, Conference Co-Chair
Laura Cisneros an Assistant Extension Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment & Institute of the Environment at UConn. Laura is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan. She received a B.S. in Zoology at Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. Laura’s Ph.D. research explored how human land use and forest fragmentation affect bat communities in Costa Rica. Currently, Laura works with UConn’s Natural Resources Conservation Academy to develop and implement place-based, environmental action programs that integrate technology used by professionals and support intergenerational (e.g., teen & adult teams) community conservation projects. Her integrated research efforts center on understanding how environmental action programs and citizen science impact capacity to address environmental issues. In Laura’s spare time, she enjoys being on the move, whether it be long distant running, biking, hiking or camping.
Awards and Mini Grants Chair
Sarah is the head of the new Bio-Science and Environmental Technology Department at A. I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford. Prior to becoming a classroom teacher, Sarah was the Animal Program Curator at the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Vermont. Sarah is serving her third term on the COEEA Board and also served two terms on the NEEEA Board. She has served as Awards Chair for both organizations.
Francesca Cristofaro Williams
Francesca, Curriculum and Evaluation Consultant for Conservation Education programs, is a dynamic conservation education professional who applies research to practice. She is an experienced curriculum writer, professional development facilitator, onsite and online course instructor, and program evaluator. Francesca has worked for Audubon Connecticut’s Schoolyard Habitat Program and for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in the Bronx Zoo’s Professional Development Department. She holds a Master’s Degree from Columbia University in Conservation Biology, where she studied ecology, evolution, environmental biology, and conservation education, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behavior from Bucknell University. Francesca was the 2015 recipient of COEEA’s Excellence in Environmental Education Award. She can be found exploring local parks with her husband, son, and rescue dog.
Nicole Freidenfelds is a Visiting Assistant Extension Educator in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at UConn. She earned a B.S. in Biology at Eastern Connecticut State University and a M.S. in Natural Resources at the University of New Hampshire. In her previous role as a professional scientist, Nicole’s research mainly focused on studying the behavior, ecology and evolution of amphibians and reptiles. Later, while teaching public high school science for several years, she developed a genuine joy of working with youth. Currently, as program coordinator for UConn’s Natural Resources Conservation Academy, Nicole oversees a wide range of unique and exciting local environmental projects being conducted by teen-adult teams throughout the state. She tries to spend as much of her free time outdoors as possible – hiking, fishing, hunting, and exploring.
Victoria “Torey” Dake
Torey, is a blossoming naturalist and environmental educator. Many trips to museums and parks as a child inspired her to pursue a career in public education and animal care. She graduated from Colby-Sawyer College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Sciences, with her focus on terrestrial ecology, animal behavior, and sustainability. After graduation, she discovered her passion for volunteering and has made it a core part of her life. She has volunteered at Camp Care Therapeutic Riding, Mystic Aquarium, and (most recently) The Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY. She is a member of IMATA and NAI and a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG). In her spare time, Torey can be found walking trails with her dog, Riker, taking in the scenery while snowshoeing or paddle boarding, or researching new recipe ideas to test out.
After graduating from Fairfield University, Kristia spent the early part of her career teaching at environmental education centers on both the east and west coasts, including three tall ships, two islands, and one national forest. While in CT, she helped launch and scale a wildlife education company that has served the tri-state area for over a decade. As the founding employee, Kristia was instrumental in driving institutional development to increase stakeholder engagement and value. Her passion is educating and inspiring students of all ages to become leaders, stewards, and advocates for a brighter and sustainable future through both knowledge and experience. She currently works as an environmental and sustainability education consultant sits on the Board of Conscious Capitalism CT Chapter, where she works with the Young Mentors Group and serves as the Co-Lead for the International Society of Sustainability Professionals’ New York City Chapter. Kristia believes that the path for future generations to have place-based education is through the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.