Who: High school Juniors and Seniors who live in the city of Rochester

What: A youth employment program that builds a group of youth who are environmental stewards, advocates, and prepared for the workforce

Where: The city is our office. Although we are a program of the zoo, we spend time and work in parks, public buildings, and our own backyards. We are currently looking for a permeant home base for our program.

Why: Youth are the future. We have the power to connect our community to the natural world in a more sustainable way and this progran gives us the tools to do so.

Meet the Urban Ecologists

Program Coordinator

Naaman Jones

Neighborhood: 19th Ward

Favorite Park: Genesee Valley Park

School: Monroe Community College

Bio: My name is Naaman Jones, I am a transfer student at Monroe Community College. In my free time, I enjoy writing music, going on bike rides, and skateboarding through the city. My aspirations are to obtain my associate’s degree in Cinema and Film Studies. Being an Urban Ecologist has helped me realize how important it is to learn and care about the environment.

Interesting Facts:

  1. If I was an animal, I would be a shark because of how they look. I wouldn’t enjoy eating fish though because I’m not a big fan of eating fish.
  2. An interesting thing that I’ve learned about ecology is the importance of bees.
  3. The most memorable experience as an Urban Ecologist so far was when we’d go in kayaks and canoes in the Genesee River and the many hikes that we’ve led.

Senior Urban Ecologists:

Name: Linden Burack

Neighborhood: Corn Hill

Favorite Park: Abraham Lincoln Park

School: School of the Arts

Bio: Linden Burack is a rising 11th grader at the School of the Arts who majors in Creative Writing. He is passionate about climate action and environmental advocacy, and enjoys cross country skiing, biking, and hiking around his neighborhood in his freetime. 

Interesting Facts:

  1. If I were a plant I would be a linden tree because… well… 

2. One interesting thing I have learned about the environment is that, as a general rule, only ten percent of the energy in a food source is transferred when it is consumed. 

Jr. Urban Ecologists:

Former Urban Ecologists:

Name: Wesley Bruce

Neighborhood: Maplewood

Favorite Park: Maplewood Park

School: School of the Arts

Bio: My name is Wesley Bruce and I attend School of the Arts, finishing up my junior year of highschool. I enjoy competitive games, and exploring with friends. I aspire to continue to excel in my academics as well as connect with my city as an urban ecologist. What makes being an urban ecologist valuable to me, is the fact that it is a relatively new study and we are some of the first to help develop, and teach it.

Interesting Facts:

  1. if I could be any animal, I’d pick an orangutan because they are intelligent, gentle and stay high in the trees. 
  2. One thing I have learned about in the Urban Ecologist program is how vast urban biodiversity really is, from dominant humans to minuscule insects.
  3. My most memorable experience in this program would have to be the 2 days of learning about and handling the lake sturgeon. 
Landscape of Rochester from water tower hike

Name: Maya Waller

Neighborhood: Maplewood

Favorite Park: Washington Grove

School: World of Inquiry

Bio:  My name is Maya Waller and I have just completed my junior year at World of Inquiry High School. I like to read, laugh with my family, and soak up the rare sunshine in Rochester. I don’t know exactly what I want to do in my life, but I know my career will be built around fighting for justice. Once I graduate college I am going to join the Peace Corps. Being an Urban ecologist has helped me to connect to the nature that is right in our city. I have made connections with community members, and have been exposed to what a field in Environmental justice could look like. I get paid to be outside, beautify my community, and teach about the natural world, all of which are some of my favorite things.

Interesting Facts:

  1. I have always wanted to be a Dolphin because they are sleek and graceful. I’ve always been fascinated by water and always wanted to be able to hold my breath for longer than humanly possible. They are also incredibly intelligent and have a sense of family.
  2. In this program, I have learned how to identify multiple species of trees, and I can tell the difference between the different kinds of oak trees.
  3. My favorite experience of being an Urban Ecologist is either the entire process of transforming the backyard at 540 West Main especially laying bricks, or Kayaking on the Genesee River.
Removing invasive plants at Washington Grove after a hike.

Name: Virginia Max-Dixon

Neighborhood: 14621

Favorite Park: Seneca Park

School: Brockport High School

Bio: My name is Virginia and I’m finishing my junior year at Brockport High School as an Urban-Suburban student. I love to draw and create art, especially using pencil, charcoal, and watercolor. I play the violin, participate in many clubs, and occasionally run on the track team. I also enjoy trying new activities. In the future I want to become an architect, but I’m not sure exactly what kind I want to be. Being an Urban Ecologist is probably one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences that I’ve had so far. I get the chance to meet other people and learn from their experiences and see how my interests can relate to nature.

Interesting Facts:

  1. If I had to choose an animal to be, I would be a lynx because they have odd features that actually give them an advantage in the wild.
  2. One thing I have learned by being in this program is that everyone experiences nature differently, especially depending on your background.
  3. My most memorable experience as an Urban Ecologist is when we released baby sturgeons into the Genesee River.
Finally managing to get a picture of a butterfly getting nectar from a flower

This is an interesting bubbly mass that I found on multiple plants at the Brookdale Preserve.