Welcome to the Watershed, Education, Science and Policy Lab in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont! Get to know who we are below.



Kristine Stepenuck (she/her) is Extension Assistant Professor of Watershed Science, Policy and Education in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, and Extension Program Leader for Lake Champlain Sea Grant (LCSG). She leads the Watershed, Education, Science and Policy (WESP) Lab at UVM. For more than 20 years, Kris has focused her career to build community connections to and understanding of the impact our actions have on the health of streams, rivers and lakes. Her research focuses on assessing impacts of land use on water quality, understanding target audiences and their motivations or barriers to adopting certain land use practices and evaluating outcomes of community-based social marketing campaigns on attitudes and behaviors, and understanding outcomes of programs that engage the public in scientific research. Kris holds a Ph.D. in Environment and Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A native of New Hampshire and long-time Wisconsin resident, Kris moved back east in 2015. She is a year ‘round bike commuter, and enjoys hiking, whitewater kayaking, and skiing. You can find her on Twitter @kstepenu and @volmonitor.

Current Graduate Students

Stever Bartlett, MS Candidate (expected Spring/Summer 2023)
Thesis title: Riparian Buffer Establishment Using Various Management Techniques

Stever is a first-year Master’s student in the Rubenstein School’s Natural Resources program. As a child Stever spent hours fishing and playing in and around rivers and streams.  His undergraduate degree from St. Lawrence University followed that interest as he majored in Environmental Biology with a focus on freshwater ecology.  In 1998 Stever started his own Fly Fishing guiding and instructional business in the Killington Vermont area, and split the other half of the year as a coach in the sport of alpine ski racing.  Coaching is where Stever landed for a profession, and is starting his 24th  year as a coach.  Four of those years he served as a coach for the U.S. Ski Team and is starting his 16th season this fall as the head coach of the Middlebury College Ski Team. 

Following years of volunteering with the White River Partnership and New Haven River Anglers Association conducting tree plantings and river restoration projects, he started taking classes at UVM as a continuing education student.   Realizing that this was his passion, Stever pursued his interests and following acceptance, started with at the Rubenstein School in May of 2020.  His master’s thesis focuses on how to effectively plant and establish riparian buffer corridors in river floodplains that are dominated by Reed Canary Grass. 

In his spare time, Stever enjoys fly fishing, canoeing and camping with his wife and young daughter. And gardening if it doesn’t involve weeding! 

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Rachel Pierson, MS Candidate (expected Spring 2020)
Thesis title: The Role of Place Attachment in Volunteer Monitoring: A Transnational Pilot Study of Engaging and Retaining Volunteers

Rachel recently defended her Master’s degree in the Rubenstein School’s Natural Resources, and is completing final edits and developing summary reports for partners and peer-reviewed papers in the fall of 2020. She grew up on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and moved up to Vermont to study volunteer water monitoring programs with Dr. Kris Stepenuck. Her master’s thesis focuses on what motivates people to volunteer for stream-based water monitoring programs and actions taken by volunteers, studying monitoring groups in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand. Rachel holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a B.S. in Geography from Salisbury University and is interested in community outreach and environmental education. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys yoga, reading, and hiking. While she lived in Burlington, she especially enjoyed sitting down by the waterfront, as it reminded her of a little piece of home.

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Kristin Raub, PhD Candidate (expected Fall 2020)
Thesis title: Coastal resilience at the nexus of food, energy, and water: An interdisciplinary perspective for resilience planning

Kristin is a Ph.D Candidate in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. As an NSF IGERT Smart Grid Trainee, she studies coastal resilience at the nexus of food, energy, and water systems. She is an interdisciplinary scientist with a background including a B.A. from Boston University in Marine Science, dual Master’s from the University of Connecticut in Oceanography and Applied & Resource Economics, a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Complex Systems (UVM), and a year working in marine policy in D.C. (2016 Knauss Fellow). Kristin is from Burlington, VT and outside of school she enjoys sailing and podcast listening.

Current Undergraduate Students


Kristen Livingstone (BS Environmental Studies and Sustainable Landscape Horticulture (minor) expected Spring 2021)

Kristen is an undergrad student at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, majoring in Environmental Studies, minoring in Sustainable Landscape Horticulture, and working towards certificate completion in Integrative Health. She’s interested in exploring beneficial plant-human interactions and working in/with nature to promote health and well-being through practices such as healing gardens, nature therapy, Shinrin Yoku, etc.She’s been working with Dr. Stepenuck and the Lake Champlain Sea Grant since 2017 as their student assistant helping with everything from administrative tasks to research and outreach.Kristen’s originally from Massachusettes and when she’s not working with Sea Grant and the WESP lab you can find her practicing yoga or hooping with the campus dance and hula hoop troupe.


Erin O’Mara (BS Environmental Science and Biology minor, expected May 2023)

Erin is an undergraduate student in the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources studying Environmental Science with a minor in Biology. She has been working with Dr. Kris Stepenuck as a student assistant since Fall of 2020, helping out with any and all projects from administrative work to research projects. This past summer Erin worked with Dr. Kristin Raub to study the inclusion of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the climate resiliency plans of U.S. coastal cities, and hopes to continue research like this in the future! Erin is from Northern New Jersey (it’s taylor ham… not pork roll) and loves to hike, swim, and read in her free time!



Holden Sparacino, MS completed December 2018
Thesis title: Characterizing the Management Practices and Decision-making Processes of Winter Maintenance Companies in the Lake Champlain Basin

Current position: Vermont Association of Conservation Districts

Holden completed an MS in Natural Resources through the Watershed, Science, Education, and Policy Lab in 2018. His thesis focused on snow removal companies in the Lake Champlain Basin. The study first examined companies’ current practices and coverage areas, then examined the barriers and motivations for these companies to adopt low-impact practices aimed at reducing road salt (sodium chloride) use on roads; a known source of rising chloride concentrations in surface waters in the Lake Champlain Basin. The findings of this study and increased input from snow removal professionals has informed outreach and trainings to these groups by UVM Extension, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, and the University of Vermont. 

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Jason Scott, MS Candidate (expected Spring 2020)
Project title: Preparedness for Oil and Hazardous Material Spills in the Lake Champlain Basin

Current position: US Coast Guard Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy (CG-MER)

Jason completed his MS project in summer 2020. His abstract summarizing his project follows: “Lake Champlain faces numerous complex environmental threats that do not have simple solutions. Oil and other types of hazardous materials spills are among those threats that continue to attract the attention of agencies and organizations trusted to protect the lake. There is significant transportation infrastructure that exists in the region that, in the event of an accident, could lead to spills and extensive damage to natural resources. This project is intended to strengthen the ability of marina owners and first responders in the Lake Champlain Basin to prepare for and respond to oil and hazardous material spills by facilitating spill response training and providing important educational resources. The project is also intended to bolster federal, state and local spill planning efforts through development of the Physical Description of the Lake, which will serve as an appendix to the Multi- Agency Contingency Plan for Emergency Environmental Incidents in the Lake Champlain Region. Finally, the project is intended to increase awareness of available scientific information and expertise for spill response professionals through the development of a database of academic and scientific resources to support readiness for environmental incidents. The products generated for this project are intended to be useful for contingency planners, response personnel and resource managers engaged in spill response. The lake crosses international, federal and state jurisdictional boundaries which complicates preparedness and response in the event of a spill. This project is intended to help to unite the scientific and spill response communities in the Champlain Valley.”