Meet the Trainers

The League hosted a Save Our Streams Train-the-Trainer Workshop at our national headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in November 2018. Five experienced stream monitors (all IWLA members) spent the weekend on field work, teaching practice, and sharing monitoring experiences. Now they’re ready to train new stream monitors in their home states!

We asked each of our new trainers to share a few notes about themselves – some fun, some practical. Ready to get trained? Check our website for scheduled trainings or to request a workshop in your community. Special thanks to the Izaak Walton League of America Endowment for a grant that made this Train-the-Trainer Workshop possible.


Jennifer Cochran-Biederman

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 is 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!”


Marjorie Hamers

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.”


Susan Heathcote

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.”


Gary Lipp

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.


Jim Sweeney

Habitat: Schererville, Indiana (near Chicago, IL)

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.”

And, of course, our staff trainers!


Emily Bialowas

Emily Bialowas

Habitat: Chesapeake Watershed

Goal: To help volunteers get to know their waterways and become just as passionate about macroinvertebrates and their habitat as I am

Favorite Monitoring Moment: I love when passersby stop to see what we are doing when I’m giving a training – the new volunteers almost always jump in and do a great job explaining why we are looking for bugs and what they can tell us about the local stream!

Inner Macroinvertebrate: Midge larva. Midges are very tolerant and can be found in almost all streams, from the very polluted to the most pristine. Just like a midge, I’m also pretty adaptable and comfortable in most environments. I love to dance too and you can always identify a midge from their energetic movement! 

Special Skills: I love crosswords, crafting, playing in the water and I was on Jeopardy! 

Samantha Briggs

Samantha Briggs

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!)."

Samantha Briggs

Kira Carney

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.