Water Justice Lab (WJL)

2022 WJL Fellows with Riverkeeper community science coordinator Pillitteri at a North Troy sampling site in May 2022.

2024 Youth Scientist applications are open! Learn more here.

Launched in 2020, Water Justice Lab is a collaboration between Riverkeeper and The Sanctuary for Independent Media. Through our water quality monitoring program and related programming, WJL educates communities about water justice, aides in developing the advocacy capacity of North-Central Troy, and strengthens a network of environmental justice advocates focused on water issues within the Hudson River (Mahicannituck) Watershed.

Check out each year of Water Justice Lab at the links below.

Water Justice Lab by Year

WJL Youth Scientist Fellows participate in monthly sessions, including water testing, research, and radio production.  Youth Scientist Fellows 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 fellows and staff engage in a range of activities:

  • Process water samples for Riverkeeper’s Upper Hudson water quality monitoring project under Riverkeeper staff mentors; 
  • Create audio content for the Hudson-Mohawk Magazine radio broadcast/podcast focused on water literacy, water civics and relevant Riverkeeper projects; 
  • Organize virtual gatherings of advocates from Hudson River Watershed communities to strengthen a network of environmental justice advocates including youth, focused on water issues; 
  • Mentor North Troy youth and provide workforce development training in job skills such as laboratory procedures, media creation and event organizing. 

Meet the Fellows:

A Black teenage boy in a grey T-shirt stands at the edge of a river with his arms crossed.

Muzzamil Moate (year 3-4) attends Troy High School. Muzzamil’s voice is the one you’ll hear on many of our Source to Estuary radio interviews, from macroinvertebrate sampling with Doug Reed to water treatment with Charles Remington. In addition to his enthusiasm for talking with and learning from water experts of all kinds, he brings an interest in science and biology to his work at Water Justice Lab. Currently Muzzamil is learning a lot about chemistry through his chemistry class at Troy High, information that relates to his work at Water Justice Lab. He feels water equity is important and everyone should have access to clean, unpolluted water.

An Indigenous teenage girl wearing a T-shirt, leggings, and sneakers smiles at the camera with two young men.

Gracie Spencer (year 4) is visiting her ancestral homelands as a part of the Alliance for a Viable Future Ancestral Healing Fellowship with her mother, Wanonah. In addition to Water Justice Lab, Gracie is also working with Flying Deer Nature Center to counsel visiting Mohican youth. For their six month fellowship, Gracie and Wanonah are living in Richmond, Massachusetts and spending time throughout Mohican lands, from current-day Troy and the Capital Region to the Berkshires. They are visiting from current-day Green Bay, Wisconsin, and are members of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians. In addition to learning more about water through work with the Water Justice Lab, Gracie enjoys taking photos and looking at art. She’s eager to get out in the field and learn and share her knowledge!

A Black teenage boy, wearing white vinyl gloves, examines a water sample in the NATURE Lab.

Traleck Dickson (year 4) is a 2023 Water Justice Lab Youth Fellow. He comes to Water Justice Lab from Troy High School. Traleck (aka Trey) is interested in nature and science, and particularly likes hands-on science, including lab work and fieldwork. He hopes to make a difference by getting involved in water issues at Water Justice Lab. He is an alumni of the Rensselaer Youth Outdoors program, where he spent summer 2022 learning outdoor skills and caring for our local parks and trails. When he’s not at Water Justice Lab or at school, Trey can be found enjoying music.

A Black teenage girl, wearing a T-shirt and head wrap, smiles at the camera in the Sanctuary's community garden.

Genesis Cooper (year 1-3), 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.

A brown-skinned teenage girl, standing in the Collard City Growers garden, smiles proudly with her hand in a thoughtful position on her chin.

Gabby Espada (year 1) 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.

A Black teenage girl with glasses poses next to a sunflower with her hand making a peace sign.

Shansanique Pollack (year 1-3) is currently attending Lansingburgh High School and is going to be a graduate of the 2023 class. She is also involved in her school’s advanced programs including advanced science, advanced math, and both 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 her 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. Her dream school is Massachusetts Institute of Technology for college. She’d like to go into statistics and data analysis, hopefully using computers in new and exciting ways to change communities and people for the better.

A white teenage boy, wearing an N95 mask, holds a microphone and makes a thumbs-up at the camera.

Henry G. Kimball (year 3) attends Troy High School and will graduate with the class of 2023. He is interested in environmental conservation, which he has researched on his own and learned about in his classes various biology classes at Troy High. As a Water Justice Fellow, he hopes to develop his resume for future jobs and college applications, and learn lab skills that will be useful later in life. He is interested in a wide range of STEM fields, and is a member of the Troy High Robotics Club. He hopes to study conservation biology at the college level. He was born in Philadelphia and has lived in the Capital Region for the past seven years, where he is enjoying learning more about water systems in this region. 

Meet the Team:

A brown-skinned woman with locs smiles at the camera.

Alÿcia Bacon (year 4) is our 2023 Water Justice Lab Media Mentor. Alÿcia lives life as a testament to resilience, courage, and steadfast commitment to personal and societal growth. Born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, she embarked on a journey of self-discovery and growth, relocating to Schenectady, New York at 21 with a few possessions, a dream, and an unwavering spirit.

Her academic journey took her to the University at Albany where she embraced Philosophy and later, Africana Studies, obtaining a master’s degree. This academic exploration gave her profound insights into African American history, underscoring the need for a more inclusive narrative and greater social justice.

Alÿcia’s journey has also been marked by her dedication to advocacy. She honed her skills with internships at Goldman Sachs and the Advocacy Council, and currently works as an organizer for a Mothers Out Front NY, fighting for climate justice. These experiences have provided her with valuable insights into societal structures and the power of change, strengthening her abilities as an advocate for justice.

Bringing her unique blend of experiences, Alÿcia now steps into her role as Water Justice Mentor at the Nature Lab, a project of the Sanctuary for Independent Media. She aims to leverage her journey, educational background, and advocacy experience to provide creative and journalistic mentorship. Her mission is to empower storytelling around water justice in North Troy, helping to amplify voices and stories that often go unheard.

As a mentor, Alÿcia’s profound academic insights, leadership skills, advocacy work, and personal resilience converge to inspire and guide those exploring their own narratives. She embodies the spirit of the NATURE Lab, combining artistry, advocacy, and storytelling to create a compelling narrative of resilience, growth, and justice. Alÿcia Bacon as an advocate for justice, hopes to be a beacon of empowerment and inspiration, fueling the fight for a more equitable and sustainable future.

A Black teenage boy with glasses, standing in a low-flowing stream, smiles as he lifts a piece of film out of the stream with a stick.

Aljahraun Wright (year 4) is our 2023 Water Justice Lab Media Intern. He is a resident of North Central Troy, attended Green Tech High School in Albany, and studied biochemistry at Hudson Valley Community College. He’s been developing his interest in science since it first caught his attention in 7th grade, and has always enjoyed and excelled in it more than any other subject. His interest in journalism developed more recently, as he came to understand how his interest in stories and storytelling related to that field. He is particularly interested in the overlap of science and journalism, and science communication, and started at the Sanctuary by volunteering as a radio correspondent for Hudson Mohawk Magazine. In June 2023 he joined the Water Justice Lab team as our is Water Justice Lab media intern, working with media Alÿcia Bacon. He finds working with Water Justice Lab compelling because he wants to develop a deeper background understanding of where he lives, and learn about the natural resources we have and need to live sustainably, to get a broader view of how those resources and systems are being maintained locally. He will be work with Alÿcia and our Youth Science Fellows to tell stories of water justice based on what we lean in the lab and the field. When he’s working at Water Justice Lab or volunteering with the Sanctuary, he can be founding reading, practicing meditation, and playing video games. 

A white woman with glasses and short grey hair smiles with her head resting in her hands.

Kathy High (year 1-4) 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.

A bearded white man wearing a red bandanna stands on the edge of a river, holding a water sample.

Sebastian Pillitteri (year 1-4) 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.

A white woman wearing a bucket hat examines a plant in a field.

Ellie Irons (year 3-4) is the NATURE Lab community science educator and lab manager at Media Sanctuary, and a Water Justice Lab mentor for the 2022 season. As an artist and educator, she specializes in socially engaged art, urban ecology, and embodied learning. From foraged watercolor paintings to un-lawning sculptures, she works across media to reveal and strengthen connections between humans, plants, and land. Ellie completed her PhD in arts practice Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2021, researching forms of artistic practice that cultivate plant-human solidarity and ecosocial justice on land impacted by extraction, industrialization, and urbanization. She is committed to deepening engagement between urban-dwelling humans and the air, water, soil, and living beings who sustain us.

Maine-born Rebecca Martin (year 1-2) 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.

A white woman in a light blue T-shirt smiles in front of an abstract mosaic.

Branda Miller (year 1-3) 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.

Jared Wesley Singer (year 1) 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. 

Visiting Mentors and Guests:

Megan Lung (year 3) is NEIWPCC Environmental Analyst for the Hudson River Estuary Program Stream Restoration and Conservation at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

A Black woman stands at a microphone, smiling at the camera.

Emilly Obuya, Ph.D (year 3) is an Associate Professor and Chair of the chemistry department at Russell Sage College. Her research work involves the use of nanostructured materials for environmental remediation, particularly water sanitation. Emilly’s passion is  working with the youth on using STEM and design-thinking principles to solve local and global challenges. She has led and co-led several service-learning and outreach initiatives at the NATURE Lab, where she worked with the students on hands-on, authentic and real-world scenarios. She is currently working with the team at NATURE Lab to design an environmental justice curriculum that will be used by the youth for project-based learning and civic engagement. She is committed to developing a STEM ecosystem that will involve authentic community engagement with all stakeholders, and that will impart the much needed 21st century skills to our youth. 

Catherine Rafferty (year 2) 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.

A white man with short grey hair smiles at the camera.

Doug Reed (year 3-4) has been exploring and teaching about the Hudson River watershed for over thirty years. His curiosity about the ecosystem of mountains and rivers from the Adirondacks and Catskills to New York Harbor has taken him on a lifelong journey of advocating for clean water policies and practice. He was founder and director of Hudson Basin River Watch, Inc. In partnership with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River Estuary Program, the Hudson River Foundation, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the group has engaged over 50,000 participants in “A Day in the Life of the Hudson River,” an annual snapshot of river health.

A bearded white man wearing glasses, a baseball hat, and a grey button-up shirt smiles at the camera.

Dan Shapley is Co-Director of Science and Patrol at Riverkeeper. He leads Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Program, a community science project that engages volunteers to gather water samples from hundreds of locations in the Hudson River and its tributaries, primarily to show when and where water is safe for swimming. The data gathered is the basis for advocacy to stop water pollution by catalyzing investments in water infrastructure and watershed management, including drinking water source protection. Dan is a lifelong Hudson Valley resident, and joined Riverkeeper in October 2011. He serves as a technical adviser to the Hudson River Drinking Water Intermunicipal Council (the “Hudson 7”), which he helped local municipal leaders to launch in 2018. He serves as Riverkeeper’s representative on the Hudson River Estuary Management Advisory Committee, and as a board member of the Hudson River Watershed Alliance. He volunteers to support various initiatives in his community. He started his career as a newspaper reporter covering environmental issues for the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Stay Informed

Sign up with your e-mail address to keep up to date with events, workshops and other announcements from The Sanctuary.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Don’t worry, we ❤️ privacy and won’t sell your information, ever—and you may unsubscribe at any time.

About The Sanctuary

We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.

Learn More