Meet the Trainers

Save Our Streams trainers are able to train and certify new SOS volunteers in their area. These trainers receive extra training and serve as local points of contact and knowledge for new monitors.

Trainers are assigned to workshops based on geographical area and availability. But no matter who leads your field training, we're sure you won't be disappointed!


Samantha BriggsSamantha Briggs (Izaak Walton League staff)

Habitat: Nationwide

Goal: To help volunteers nationwide monitor and have an impact in their region... and of course, to have fun in the stream!

Favorite Monitoring Moment: "I love watching new monitors see the bugs on the net for the first time – it is a combination of shock, awe, and a newfound sense of curiosity that we don’t often find in adulthood."

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Damselfly larva. Damselflies are swimming predators, and use their big eyes to observe when seeking out their prey. "I connect with this because I am often a quiet observer while taking in my surroundings. Adults are also found close to water sources. (I have always been drawn to water in every phase of my life.)"

Special Skills: "When I am not working or spending time outside, I love doing crafts (like crochet or sewing), and fermenting (kombucha, pickles, tepache, you name it!)."


GaryLippGary Lipp (Volunteer)

Habitat: Liverpool, New York (a suburb of Syracuse)

Goal: To promote citizen science and help reach the goals of the League’s Clean Water Challenge.

Favorite Monitoring Moment: Seeing kids get excited when they’re monitoring streams. “They are amazed by all the little critters that live in the streams.”

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Caddisfly larva. “I’m just a common man, so something in the middle of the [pollution] tolerance scale.” Gary also enjoys carpentry and building. Many caddisfly larvae build cases around themselves out of twigs, leaves, rocks, sand, and other debris in the stream.

Special Skills: Puzzles and games, especially chess and card games.


Kira CarneyKira Carney (Izaak Walton League staff)

Habitat: Mid-Atlantic

Goal: To help people connect to local natural resources and take action to protect them!

Favorite Monitoring Moment: I love the moment when a new monitor gets the hang of identifying the macroinvertebrates. You can see it click and they are so excited to mark down what specimens they are finding!

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Scud. Scuds (or side-swimmers) are adaptable macroinvertebrates that can be found in aquatic habitats of many shapes and sizes. They can be found in streams, rivers, ponds or lakes in the spaces between stones, roots and vegetation. “I relate to the scud because I am also not picky about what habitat I am in. From exploring the mountains, to laying on beaches, to biking rail trails – as long as I am outside I am happy!”

Special Skills: On any given day off you can find me hammocking, baking, or singing (badly) in the car.

Meet more Mid-Atlantic trainers on the Virginia Save Our Streams website

Great Lakes

Marjorie HamersMarjorie Hamers (Volunteer)

Habitat: Wayne County, Ohio (near Cleveland)

Goal: “To be the difference I want to see in the world.”

Favorite Monitoring Moment: “Working with people who are eager to be a part of something bigger. (And playing in the water.)”

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Water snipe fly larva. “At first glance, it’s just a plain creature that blends into its surroundings. Upon closer inspection, the intricate, feathery gills of my beliefs are visible. Even though they often seem to clash with the rest of me, they will always be present and integral to my well-being and purpose. As my daughter says, ‘You’re never afraid to show your butt feathers, Mama!’”

Special Skills: “Making people laugh and impersonating goats and sheep.”

Jim SweeneyJim Sweeney (Volunteer)

Habitat: Schererville, Indiana (near Chicago, Illinois)

Goal: To get more volunteers doing stream monitoring and “show people the benefits of living critters in our streams and waterways.”

Favorite Monitoring Moment: “The bugs. Watching kids (and parents) go from repulsed to fascinated.”

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Stonefly larva. One of the most pollution-sensitive macroinvertebrates, stonefly larvae are found in cool, clean streams with high levels of dissolved oxygen. Stonefly larvae love clean water — just like Jim!

Special Skills: Public speaking and a passion for nature and the outdoors. “I take pride in communicating facts to people in a personal way.”


Heather WilsonHeather Wilson (Izaak Walton League staff)

Habitat: Midwest

Goal: To foster a connection between people and nature, and to help them make a difference for their local waterways!

Favorite Monitoring Moment: I love the realization – especially with kiddos – that there are so many critters to be found in the water. It is an amazing realization that the stream is ALIVE!

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Caddisfly larva. Many caddisflies create elaborate casings from pebbles, sand, or other items from their surroundings. “I admire the resourcefulness of caddisflies, and I feel like we have that in common! Just like the caddisfly, I’ve taken in bits and pieces based on where I am and where I’ve been, and I carry it with me as I journey along.”

Special Skills: In my spare time, I’m most likely playing a board game, riding my bike, working on a puzzle, or enjoying the great outdoors.

Leah BaethkeLeah Baethke (Staff for Green Iowa AmeriCorps)

Habitat: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Goal: To increase awareness of water quality issues and help provide solutions through the service work of Green Iowa AmeriCorps members across the state of Iowa.

Favorite Monitoring Moment: Working with new groups of monitors who are just beginning to learn that there's a lot more than just fish and frogs in the streams!

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Water Penny. "Find a penny, pick it up, all day long, you'll have good luck (or at least some good clean water)!"

Special Skills: I have a passion for helping others learn and I am also a frog magnet. If there's a frog nearby, you can bet I'll find it!

SusanHeathcoateSusan Heathcote (Volunteer)

Habitat: Des Moines, Iowa (the state capital)

Goal: “To provide training and support for Iowans interested in adopting local streams to learn about water quality, and to effectively advocate for state and local action to improve water quality in Iowa.”

Favorite Monitoring Moment: “I love getting outside and meeting new people who share my love of rivers and streams. I particularly like sampling for bugs and learning about the diversity of life in even the smallest streams.”

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Aquatic worm. “While I prefer clean water, I do like mud.” (Aquatic worms are usually found in streams that contain a lot of silt and organic debris.)

Special Skills: Susan cites her scientific mind and policy experience. “I am a problem solver and I love a challenge. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge of water quality and empowering Iowans to be problem solvers for the betterment of Iowa waters.”

Sara CarmichaelSara Carmichael (Staff for Story County Conservation)

Habitat: Des Moines, Iowa (I'm originally from Florida but have lived up and down the East Coast, including in the Chesapeake Bay region)

Goal: To get more volunteers trained in water quality monitoring – both chemical and macros – for Story County, Iowa

Favorite Monitoring Moment: Any time there is a unique specimen that we don't usually see and need to bring out educational materials or a phone to identify.

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Crawfish – there are many ways to say their name, but they are always fun to find in waterways. Another fun fact: if they lose a limb due to fighting or getting caught, they are able to grow it back. Crawfish boils are a great way to spend a warm summer evening with friends and family.

Special Skills: I can touch my tongue to my nose. When I’m not doing that “special skill,” I enjoy many outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and exploring new areas of the Midwest. My partner Scott is an avid cook and mixologist, and I gladly consume while assisting him in sous chef-like tasks. We have a black cat named Zachary Binks that enjoys going on walks and bike rides.

Ginny MalcomsonGinny Malcomson (Staff for Polk County Conservation)

Habitat: Polk County, Iowa

Goal: To help the citizens of Polk County understand the complexities of water quality and encourage them to just get out there: play, explore and experience. When I was a Polk County Conservation naturalist, I always said to those I was exploring with, “You didn’t have any fun if you didn’t get dirty.” My new motto is “Get out there. You didn’t have any fun if you didn’t get dirty AND wet!”

Favorite Monitoring Moment: As awe-inspiring as it is to see wildlife in a creek, my favorite moment is an experience a field monitor shared. While he was volunteering, a very protective mother bird dive-bombed him. He captured the attack on video, and when he shared it with me, it made me laugh aloud (while in a very quiet office). Field monitors share vacation photos to watery destinations, suggestions of books and podcasts, and updates on their families. I treasure these connections with our world and our volunteer field monitors. This is the good stuff of life.

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Riffle beetle. These benthic macroinvertebrates are not terribly large, and being of small stature myself, I can identify. Found in riffles, they have special adaptations that allow them to hold on amid turbulent waters. I can appreciate their struggles, as what human isn’t faced with some turbulent waters from time to time? They are sensitive to pollutants and environmental changes. As the Water Quality Coordinator, making note of water quality trends and things of concern are among the goals of our program.

Special Skills: I’m drawn to all types of waterbodies. Any ocean, lake, stream, waterfall, hot spring or even a hot tub or pool will do. When not seeking out water, I enjoy creating props for the local theater, traveling to all types of watery or mountainous destinations, organizing (closets, garages, kitchen pantries, the messier the better), reading, playing ball with our golden retriever pup Lincoln, and hiking with my family.

Taylor SchaefersTaylor Schaefers (Staff for Dubuque County Conservation)

Habitat: Dubuque County, Iowa (Driftless Area!)

Goal: To teach others the importance of our waterways and give them a hands-on experience while also making a difference!

Favorite Monitoring Moment: Every time a kid catches a crawdad and has to show it off to everyone else in the group and repeat all the cool facts they learned about crawdads on the trip.

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Scud! They are small but mighty and they are constantly on the move!

Special Skills: I love spending time in nature through mountain biking, kayaking, running, skiing, trout fishing, and wandering through new places! My ultimate special skill I like to show kids is that I can name a dinosaur for every letter of the alphabet.

Jennifer MeyerJennifer Meyer (Staff for Jackson County Conservation)

Habitat: Jackson County, Iowa

Goal: Make everyone I work with feel a bit more connected to the natural world.

Favorite Monitoring Moment: When people make the connection between this weird little bug in the water and the beautiful dragonfly they see.

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Case Maker Caddisfly Larva – I love the feel of a good current.

Special Skills: Unabashed enthusiasm for all things wild.

Jenny BiedermanJennifer Cochran-Biederman (Volunteer)

Habitat: Stockton, Minnesota (just west of the Mississippi River)

Goal: “To expand the protection, appreciation, and understanding of freshwater ecosystems by helping connect people who love the outdoors with Save Our Streams –  an amazing citizen program.”

Favorite Monitoring Moment: “I adore aquatic macroinvertebrates, and I’m always amazed (but not really surprised) when first-time stream monitors fall in love with them too after an afternoon of bug sampling and identification.”

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Mayfly. “At the moment, my life mirrors that of a mama mayfly, who amidst successfully producing offspring doesn’t even have time to eat!” (Adult mayflies don’t have functioning mouths or digestive systems! The macroinvertebrate you’ll find in streams is the mayfly larva. Most mayfly larvae are sensitive to pollution and indicate good water quality when you find them.)

Special Skills: Jennifer embodies the old adage that if you want something to get done, ask the busy person to do it. “My life is pretty packed with trying to keep up with my three little girls, a 6-year-old lab mix, and my husband. I spend a lot of time dragging my husband off the beautiful little trout stream that flows behind our old farmhouse (he loves to fly fish) while trying to keep the rest of the family from falling in it!”