Cornell Enviro-Mentors

The Cornell Enviro-Mentor Program began in 2010 to foster relationships between undergraduate and graduate students interested in environmental science. It was initiated by the Biogeochemistry and Environmental Biocomplexity (BEB) Graduate Student Association (GSA) and coincided with the National Science Foundation Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (NSF IGERT) in BEB, which ran through 2011. The program was reinstated during Fall 2013 by the Biogeochemistry, Environmental Science, and Sustainability (BESS) GSA and is supported by the NSF Cross-Scale Biogeochemistry and Climate (CSBC IGERT) along with Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

  • Introduce students to available research and professional development opportunities
  • Assist students in constructing a plan to achieve their career and academic goals
  • Discuss research/academic interests and help students reach a deeper understanding and appreciation for science
  • Offer academic counseling and support
  • Increase student retention in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields


✓Are you an undergraduate student interested in biogeochemistry, environmental science, or sustainability?
✓Do you have questions about research opportunities, graduate school, or how to get the most out of your scientific training at Cornell?
Graduate students from fields related to the environmental sciences are available to connect with you and answer your questions!
Enviro-Mentors are graduate students from: BEE, CEE, CS, CSS, EAS, EEB, HORT, MICROBIO, & NTRES
Interested? To become a graduate mentor or undergraduate mentee, please fill out the survey:
Coordinators: Andrés Aguirre (aaa222), Nikki Hill (nbp32), & Lily Twining (cwt52)



Arnulfo “Andrés” Aguirre, PhD Candidate
Concentrations/Department: Geochemistry/Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
Research Interests: Weathering processes and concentration-discharge patters of weathering products. Also interested in applying hydrologic tracers to understand environmental processes.
Research Techniques: Trace element analysis using the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) for water, soil and rock samples. Also conduct speciation studies for metalloids that are of environmental concern. Field sites include Southern Sierra, CA, Boulder, CO, Luquillo, PR and Santa Catalina Mountains, AZ (Critical Zone Observatories). Field work includes basic soil and water sampling techniques. My work is mainly laboratory but I am hoping to develop models in the future.
Education: B.S. in Geography-Environmental Sciences, Texas State University-San Marcos
Other Interests: I am very interested in music and art. I am currently learning how to play the piano and I enjoy painting at home. Also, I enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and playing sports.
Advice for Undergraduates: Learn how to manage your time wisely. As and undergraduate student, it is important to do well in your coursework but it is also just as important to get involved in extracurricular activities that will make college a very memorable experience. College is so much more than just showing up to class, try to get involved in different academic and non-academic experiences that will make you a more well rounded person.


Bridget Darby, PhD Candidate
Concentrations/Department: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Research Interests: Biogeochemistry, soil nitrogen cycling, forest ecology, microbial ecology
Research Techniques: I combine models with field data to scale up soil processes from a single sample to the ecosystem or even entire globe.
Education: BA in Biology, Boston University
Other Interests: Bikes, yoga, knitting/sewing
Advice for Undergraduates: Make sure you go out and do! It’s important to gain real experience (not just classroom hours) in the types of work you think you want to do. And talk to lots of people who are doing these things.



Amy Hetherington, PhD Candidate
Concentrations/Department: Natural Resources
Research Interests: Ecology, limnology, hydrology
Research Techniques: field monitoring, experiments, modeling, extension/local to global/Oneida Lake
Education: BS, Cornell University; MS, Cornell University
Other Interests: Cycling and skiing
Advice for Undergraduates: Dream Big and Make it Happen



Nikki Hill, PhD Candidate
Concentrations/Department: Environmental Information Science/Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
Research Interests: Biogeochemistry, Climate Change, Ecohydrology, Remote Sensing
Research Techniques: field and modeling
Education: BS Civil Engineering, UMass Amherst
Other Interests: Running, hiking, painting, & reading
Advice for Undergraduates: I’ve met many graduate students who have taken wildly different paths to arrive at Cornell. Keep in mind there is not only one route from point A to point B. Forge your own unique path and enjoy the scenery along the way!



Liz Kreitinger, MS/PhD Student
Concentrations/Department: Natural Resources
Research Interests: Watershed management, water quality, ecohydrology
Research Techniques: laboratory and fieldwork; GIS modeling
Education: BS, Cornell University
Other Interests: Cooking, hiking, biking, skiing, reading
Advice for Undergraduates: Be sure to develop a few technical skills during your undergrad years. Remember the big picture and find out what motives you!



Erin Menzies, MS/PhD Student
Concentrations/Department: Biological & Environmental Engineering
Research Interests: Watershed scale modeling of sediment and phosphorus transport in the Cayuga Lake Watershed
Research Techniques: Computer modeling
Education: B.S. Environmental Engineering, University of Vermont
Other Interests: Traveling, camping, canoeing, skiing
Advice for Undergraduates: Have a little fun every once in a while. Get outside and play!



Morse_MentorsNatalie Morse, PhD Student
Concentrations/Department: Biological & Environmental Engineering
Research Interests: Urban water pollution
Research Techniques: field and lab
Education: B.S. Michigan State University; M.S. North Carolina State University
Other Interests: Mountain biking
Advice for Undergraduates: You can’t plan everything, set yourself up for success by working hard but remember that life always takes little twists and turns.




Juana Munoz Ucros, PhD Student
Concentrations/Department: Horticulture, School of Integrative Plant Science
Research Interests: Create rhizosphere microbiomes through selection, using Illumina sequencing to characterize them, and Arabidopsis thaliana as a reporter to induce phenotypes.
Research Techniques: All this happens in a growth chamber, in a basement, in a lab with no windows.
Education: BS Biology & BS Microbiology, Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia; MS Microbial ecology, University of Minnesota.
Other Interests: On most afternoons you can catch me hiking around Six Mile creek with my furry companion, cross-country skiing when the weather permits, or cooking. As a decent Ithaca foodie, I can obsess over academic and non academic discussions about food.
Advice for Undergraduates: Take full advantage of being a student: enjoy all opportunities to meet new people, learn new things, and don’t limit yourself to your comfort zone. And take a break every now and then.


Will Pluer, PhD Student
Concentrations/Department: Biological & Environmental Engineering
Research Interests: Biological nutrient remediation, Denitrifying bioreactors
Research Techniques: Lab and field scale, nutrients, hydrological properties, dissolved gases
Education: BS Biological Engineering, North Carolina State; MS Water Resources Engineering, Cornell University
Other Interests: Volleyball, basketball, gardening, cooking
Advice for Undergraduates: Take every opportunity you get and do lots of different things. The coursework will not be as important for your future all the other people and activities.



Grant Thompson, PhD Student
Concentrations/Department: Horticulture
Research Interests: Ecosystem functions in urban environments, soil organic matter dynamics, microbial ecology, biodiversity effects on function, and the intersection of landscape architecture and landscape function.
Research Techniques: Molecular laboratory techniques for microbial community analysis; soil sampling and laboratory analysis; field and greenhouse ecology experiments; research sites in Baltimore, MD.
Education: MS Horticulture, Cornell University, BS Horticulture and B Landscape Architecture, Iowa State University
Other Interests: Landscape architecture, urban design and planning, and hikes with my dog.
Advice for Undergraduates: Ask lots of questions; don’t let pride or embarrassment stop you ­– just make sure to try to find answers yourself first. Seek opportunities to challenge yourself



Lily Twining, PhD Candidate
Concentrations/Department: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Research Interests: aquatic and riparian ecosystems, resource subsidies, nutritional ecology
Research Techniques: local fieldwork, lab work, stable isotopes, fatty acids
Education: BA and MESc, Yale University
Other Interests: figure skating, barre, dance, running
Advice for Undergraduates: Ask for help and advice early and often.





Lisa Watkins, MS/PhD Student
Concentrations/Department: Soil and Water Lab/Biological & Environmental Engineering
Research Interests: stream flow and behavior, microplastic pollution
Research Techniques: primarily field-based
Education: B.S., Clemson University
Other Interests: hiking, biking, backpacking, exploring pretty places, learning from passionate people
Advice for Undergraduates: Use this time in a supportive, opportunity-filled environment to engage in the community, grow relationships with mentors and peers, and figure out what makes you happy.




Michelle Wong, PhD Candidate
Concentrations/Department: Biogeochemistry, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Research Interests: tropical forest ecology, soil chemistry, biogeochemistry, sustainability
Research Techniques: lab, field
Education: B.S. Molecular Environmental Biology, B.A. Sociology UC Berkeley
Other Interests: photography, running, climbing, painting
Advice for Undergraduates: Be proactive and seek opportunities in college that excite you! Stay curious. Don’t feel intimidated by pursuing what interests you.