About Us

Rochester Ecology Partners serves members of the Greater Rochester community who need opportunities to learn about nature, connect with their community, and join the movement for a sustainable, just, and hopeful future. Our nature based programs and partnerships lead to improved individual, community, and environmental health.

Our Story

Rochester Ecology Partners had its first board meeting in February of 2020. Our second meeting was put on hold by COVID-19 and we picked back up again in July. We filed articles of incorporation in fall of 2020 and adopted our bylaws before the new year. Developing an organization during the pandemic was a challenge but we were encouraged by the success of our pilot programs in the summer of 2021.

January 1, 2022, served as the public launch of our organization as we organized a first-day hike that drew 70 participants from throughout the community. In 2022 we built on our successful pilots, developed our organization’s operations, and launched additional programming.

In 2023 we engaged over 8000 community members, employed twenty two full and part-time staff members, and have further developed our Nature-based Learning with Schools and Neighborhood Nature programs.

In March of 2024 we moved into our office at 224 Mt Hope with plans to further develop our organizational systems and staff members so that we can provide high quality programming well into the future.

Our Mission and Vision

Our mission is to help everyone find nature where they live, work, and play. We envision a network of places and programs that lead to an urban community that is connected to their environment and each other in ways that lead to sustainable and equitable economic opportunity, stewardship of our natural ecosystems and community well-being.

How we meet the needs of our community

  • Develop nature-based learning programs for young people and families in Greater Rochester
  • Create opportunities for community building in nature
  • Elevate and connect efforts to do the same

 

Our Values

Rochester Ecology seeks to be

  • creative
  • collaborative
  • diverse
  • just

We firmly believe that the active inclusion of people from varying identities, backgrounds, and perspectives is essential to creating equitable access to holistic and affirming nature-based experiences.

Staff

Chris Widmaier - Executive Director

Chris Widmaier is an educator, social entrepreneur, and enthusiastic Rochesterian who served as an instructional coach and science educator in the Rochester City School District before moving on to the next stage of his career, launching the Rochester Ecology Partners. He is committed to the development of a sustainable, resilient community that offers equal opportunity for all people to live healthy, happy lives.

Lindsay Clark - Program Development Manager

Lindsay Clark has her Master’s in Environmental Conservation Education from NYU, and prior experience working for Rainforest Alliance managing their US school partnership program. As our Program Development Manager, she hopes to bring nature-based learning to children throughout the Greater Rochester region, inspiring the next generation of concerned citizens and preparing them to lead us to a more sustainable and equitable future. Her two kids will tell you “let’s go play outside” is one of her favorite and most used phrases at home!

Timmi Okung - Neighborhood Nature Program Manager

As a former student of Chris, Timmi first-hand experienced the positive impact nature-based activities have on a young person typically not afforded those opportunities. This passion for getting people outdoors and reconnected with nature is what drives their efforts with the Neighborhood Nature Program. Timmi works with REP  “ [because] as an organization we understand the importance of helping people reconnect with their own environments as opposed to solely finding those connections in far away places. We actively seek to uplift our community and bridge any gaps we are capable of. REP believes in Rochester.”

Loretta Hauslauer (She/her) - Nature-based Learning Educator

Loretta’s goal to help others find that feeling is what brought her to the field of outdoor education and ultimately, Rochester Ecology Partners. Loretta grew up on a family farm in rural Western N.Y before moving to Rochester in 2020. Prior to discovering nature-based learning, she worked in education as a TESOL/TEFL teacher both locally and abroad.

Erin “E” Turpin (She/her) - Community Development Specialist

E is driven to create a more healthy and equitable world for all. Leveraging her B.A. in Sustainability and Sociology, she works with REP to connect people to environmental resources in our community.

Thomas Minahan - Assistant NBL Educator

Thomas recently graduated with a double Sustainability and Biology major at St. John Fisher University. His major hobbies include Dungeons and dragons, video games and, hiking.

“As a Rochester Transplant giving back to the city that know call home is incredibly Important. REP allows me to do that. Connecting people and especially youths, who often feel so disconnected, to nature is incredibly fulfilling.”

Alyssa Karsten - Assistant NBL Educator

Katie Tokaryk - Assistant NBL Educator

Katie is working towards a degree in Inclusive Childhood Education from St. John Fisher University and has maintained a place on the Dean’s List each semester. Katie says, “I am passionate about working with REP because I deeply value social-emotional education, which I believe goes hand-in-hand with nature-based learning. Involving children in nature is an amazing way to help them learn about self-regulation, resilience, and community.”

Sarah Allee - Assistant NBL Educator

Jay Wickard - Assistant NBL Educator

Board of Directors

Kathryn Walker - Board President

Project Director, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry

Neha Sood - Treasurer

Assistant Director for Campus Sustainability, Rochester Institute of Technology

Michael Boller - Secretary

Associate Professor of Biology, Center for Sustainability Director, Sustainability Program Director, St. John Fisher College

Chelsea Ammerman

Operations Manager, Student Affairs, Outdoor Education, RIT

Erin Thompson

Finance and Operations Manager, MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence

Seeking Board Members

Our organization is growing and we are seeking people who would like to play a role in the development of the Rochester Ecology Partners. Please reach out if you are interested.
contact@rocecology.org

 

Learn More about Getting Involved

Our organization is growing quickly and we are looking for people who would like to join us. Click the button to learn more.