Water Justice Lab – Year One

The Water Justice Lab (WJL) launched in the midst of the pandemic in June, 2020. This three-year collaboration between Riverkeeper and Media Sanctuary will establish a water quality sampling lab in the NATURE Lab Environmental Education Center. WJL will educate diverse communities about water justice and how to make a difference, develop the advocacy capacity of the North Troy area, and strengthen a network of environmental justice advocates focused on water issues in the Hudson River Watershed.

The first year of Water Justice Lab culminates with a virtual gathering of advocates from Hudson River Watershed communities to strengthen a network of environmental justice advocates including youth, focused on water issues:

  • Dec. 11, 2020 // 7-9pm 
    Water Justice Confluence:
    Echoes from Lock One Sneak Preview & Youth Media
  • Dec. 12, 2020 // 1-3pm 
    Water Justice Confluence

WJL Youth Scientist Fellows participate in monthly sessions, including water testing, research, and radio production.  Youth Scientist Fellows will develop science and media skills to communicate activities for outreach and education. Youth Scientist Fellows work with co-fellows under the supervision of the WJL Scientist Mentor, as well as interact with staff from Media Sanctuary and Riverkeeper. WJL Crew will:

  1. Process water samples for Riverkeeper’s Upper Hudson water quality monitoring project under Riverkeeper staff mentors; 
  2. Create audio content for the Hudson-Mohawk Magazine radio broadcast/podcast focused on water literacy, water civics and relevant Riverkeeper projects; 
  3. In Fall 2020 (Dec. 11 & Dec. 12), organize a virtual gathering of advocates from Hudson River Watershed communities to strengthen a network of environmental justice advocates including youth, focused on water issues; 
  4. Mentor North Troy youth and provide workforce development training in job skills such as laboratory procedures, media creation and event organizing. 

Note: In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Media Sanctuary staff and youth will not engage directly in water sample processing, except through training and audio storytelling.

MEET THE WATER JUSTICE LAB FELLOWS

Genesis Cooper, a student at Lansingburgh High School, is in advanced math and science programs, and has been a high honors student since elementary school. Genesis is in various school clubs, and works to help other organizations in her community.Working in WJL, Genesis hopes to help her community understand more things about their own home that they don’t really know about, like local economics, environmental racism, and local politics.

Genesis Cooper’s main focus is to help and educate those around her by volunteering her time. She helps run the Justice4Dahmeek organization that was started by her father, Massiah Cooper. They go around the city and hold events to educate the community on police brutality and inequality in America. Genesis has also volunteered her time at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, and has been an Uptown Summer leader for the summers of 2019 and 2020. In 2019, she ran the face painting table at the Spirit of the Suffragettes concert series and community resource fair at Freedom Square. She is thinking about attending Howard University and possibly becoming a teacher. Genesis has interests in many subjects including science and hope to educate the youth on many different topics about the world around them.


Gabby Espada is a ninth grader at Lansingburgh High School. She is in advanced science and top of her math class as well. Gabby enjoys hands-on activities in science, and she’s a very social and outgoing person. She strives for the best and is an extremely determined teen. Gabby likes having her voice heard and making a change. She does as much as possible in school such as: drama club, soccer, volleyball, track and field, basketball, student council, and tutoring. Gabby is a determined teen ready to take on anything that comes her way.

Gabby Espada has been involved in many movements including: Justice for Dahmeek, suicide prevention movements, and Dance for Donations, She’s also worked with kids and animals. Gabby attends the STEP program at R.P.I. and takes architecture and coding there. In Dance for Donations she danced and taught others dances for donations for leukemia. She has experience working with people of all ages.


Shansanique Pollack is currently attending Lansingburgh High School and just graduated 9th grade year with high honors. She is also involved in her school’s advanced programs including advanced science, advanced math, and both Pre AP history and ELA.  As a WJL Fellow, Shansanique is excited to deal with science that could also help the community learn more about what’s around them and help educate the community on what it can do to improve.

Throughout her life, Shansanique has always tried to improve the lives around me in any way possible and to help spread useful information. When she’s older Shansanique wants to be able to use her career to help people in any way possible. She’s hoping to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology for college and go into computer science, hopefully using computers in new and exciting ways to change communities and people for the better.

Water Justice Lab Team

Kathy High is an interdisciplinary artist / educator who collaborates with scientists and activists, and considers living systems, animal sentience, and ethical dilemmas of biotechnology and medical industries. She is Head of department and Professor of Video and New Media in the Department of Arts and has a laboratory in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. She is a supporter of community DIY science and ecological art practices. She is the Project Coordinator for the NATURE Lab Urban Environmental Education Center with The Sanctuary. She is committed to queer and feminist approaches to reshaping ecological bio-science research and learning, and to collaborations with our local communities.

Maine-born Rebecca Martin is the Acting Director for Community Partnerships at Riverkeeper. She is one of the collaborators of the Water Justice Lab, a new three-year program established by Riverkeeper and Media Sanctuary. Rebecca is passionate about her work in helping local communities develop strategic and creative campaigns to solve complicated issues. She is dedicated to providing a sustainable program for the Water Justice Lab which provides the youth of Troy the opportunity to develop their love of the Hudson River through water science, education and advocacy.

Branda Miller is media artist, activist and educator, dedicated to explore new visions, use media as an organizing too for social and environmental justice, and support independent voices. She is the Arts and Education Coordinator at The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY a tenured Professor of Media Arts at Rensselaer. Professor Miller brings three decades of experience in youth media, community media, media arts and education to the Water Justice Lab project. She is committed to this powerful opportunity for youth to use science, media and art as environmental stewards to protect the Hudson River and the health of their communities.

Sebastian Pillitteri is the Community Science Coordinator for Riverkeeper. He got there after growing up in Littleton, Massachusetts and going to school at Umass Amherst and Bard College, and working in Oaxaca, Mexico on watershed management. Currently he coordinates a network of samplers in the Mid Hudson and Upper Hudson parts of the Hudson River watershed, and is excited to work with the Water Justice Lab on sampling projects in 2021 and beyond. He hates capitalism, believes a better world is possible, and loves tinkering with and riding bikes.

Catherine Rafferty is a freelance photojournalist and documentary filmmaker from upstate New York whose work explores intimate, complex themes with concern for social justice. She recently worked in Phoenix, AZ at The Arizona Republic, part of the USA Today network, as a Pulliam Fellow covering the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for racial justice. She’s previously interned at the Times Union in Albany, NY and The Sanctuary, where she documented Uptown Summer in the Roots for Resilience solo exhibition. She graduated with a BFA in photojournalism from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2020. Rafferty produces the “Birth Justice” podcast on WOOC 105.3 FM and is currently media mentor to the Water Justice Lab Fellows at The Sanctuary. She’s excited to continue working with the fellows to tell the story of their community and its relationship to the river.

Jared Wesley Singer dedicated year one to help and learn from others as the Water Justice Lab Scientist Mentor. His education in chemistry was redirected by a love of nature and desire for a sustainable and equitable society: Circa year 2002 at University of Utah, classwork on global resource limitations yanked him off the standard industrial chemistry track towards an environmental/analytical perspective. The climate change dialogue fired up his passion and he set to work on environmental research projects as an undergraduate, including a research fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in 2006. Also while at Utah he forged connections of art, nature, science, and fire in the department of ceramic arts. This led fortuitously to the New York College of Ceramics at Alfred University, where he studied for his Ph.D. in Material Science and continued his art practice in ceramics (2010 to 2013). At RPI since 2013 Jared has honed his analytical science skills, executed practical maintenance of lab facilities, and collaborated with diverse people and projects in Earth Science and Engineering.

Jared Wesley Singer continues a personal art practice, and engages in wilderness adventures and food preservation as a hobby/lifestyle. The opportunity for NATURE lab collaborations binds together his loves of science, art, and nature; meanwhile the opportunity brings new challenges to teach, mentor, and guide youth North Troy. 

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