Founders Fund Scholars


Nicholas McCloskey is the 2016 Founders Fund Scholar. Mr. McCloskey is entering his senior year at Siena College majoring in Environmental Science. He is a member of the Dean’s list and a Siena College Presidential Scholar. Mr. McCloskey has done field research on issues of water quality and quantity in his local urban watershed. He has contributed research to several scientific manuscripts and participated as a co-author on two publications, one of which is being submitted to the Journal of the American Water Resources Association. An avid fisherman, Mr. McCloskey hopes to attend graduate school and eventually work with fish populations and human communities within a watershed to promote the protection of aquatic species and water quality through the use of technologies and environmental remediation techniques.


Charles Robinson is the 2015 recipient of the $3,500 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship for his exceptional achievements that exemplify the mission of TGF. Mr. Robinson is in the M.S. program in Conservation Biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. A member of Beta Beta Beta Biology Honor Society, he has served as a DEC seasonal field technician and is considered one of the top ever field people for his work. His graduate research will measure the dispersion of pathogen levels across the Hudson River watershed. His findings will be published in peer review journals and presented nationally. Upon completion of his degree, Mr. Robinson intends to pursue a career in wetland ecology/management in New York State and aid in the restoration and protection of compromised wetland habitats.


Maija Niemisto is the 2014 recipient of the $3,500 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship for her exceptional achievements that exemplify the mission of TGF.  Ms. Niemisto will be beginning the M.S. program in Marine Sciences at SUNY Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in the fall. She has dedicated her academic and professional life to knowledge in the environmental and conservation sciences. Those that know her have been witness to her “incredibly strong work ethic and unrivaled positive outlook.” Her graduate research using an echosounder in collaboration with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater will directly impact our understanding of the ecosystem dynamics of the historic river. Ms. Niemisto tells us that she has chosen to spend her life learning and teaching about water; “what lives below the surface of it, what threatens it, and how to protect it.”


Stefan Karkuff is the 2013 recipient of the $3,500 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship. He is currently working toward his Masters of Science degree in Conservation Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He will use his entire award to fund his thesis project research on terrestrial plant controls on vernal pool food webs in the Northeastern United States. In selecting Stefan, the Founders Fund scholarship committee was extremely impressed with him as a superior scholar and athelete, the breadth of his capacity for scientific analysis and his dedication to the environmental field. He holds an overall 4.0 GPA and is a member of the New York Omicron Athlete Honor Society. Stefan regards his Masters project as an introduction to a career as a biologist or ecologist. It will allow him to provide information to both public and private agencies on the ideal placement of mitigated vernal pools within the forest landscape. According to Stefan, “the impact of research based science is greatest when discoveries become known to the public. I hope to interact with the public, to teach them the importance of systems ecology and environmental conservation.”


Elizabeth Murphy has been selected as the 2012 TGF Founders Fund Scholar. She is currently earning her Masters of Science degree in Climate Science and Policy as well as an MBA in Sustainability at Bard College Center for Environmental Policy. After graduating from Vassar College, Elizabeth was awarded the highly prestigious Compton Mentor Fellowship, one of only 10 awarded nationally, to study the resource and policy aspects of tidal power. Elizabeth also serves on the Town of New Paltz’s Environmental Conservation Board, which is attempting to reduce pollution and runoff on the Wallkill River and improve the wastewater treatment facility there. Ultimately, Elizabeth aspires to create her own business in the Hudson Valley, which will affect positive exchange between business and the field of clean energy technology and environmental sustainability.


Sean Fitzgerald is the 2011 recipient of the $3,500 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship. He is currently working toward earning his Bachelor degree in Marine Vertebrate Biology and Environmental Science from Stony Brook University. Sean holds a 4.0 GPA in the Honors College in a highly competitive program. He is an inductee in the Golden Key Honor Society and National Society of Collegiate Scholars. An exceptional student with the potential to become a top notch scientist, Sean plans to continue his studies in a PhD program after graduation. It is his long term goal to devote his professional life to the conservation and restoration of biodiversity through any and all appropriate means. “I feel that I personally owe it to our own generation, generations to come, and most importantly the species that cohabitate the globe with us, to devote my career to saving and restoring as much of the natural world as I can.”


Laura Bendernagel is the 2010 recipient of the $3,500 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship. She is currently working towards earning her Bachelor degree in Earth and Environmental Engineering from Columbia University with plans to continue her education post-graduation. It is Ms. Bendernagel’s career goal to use her professional skills to work with fellow engineers and governing policymakers to develop and implement clean, sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels on a large scale. “I hope my efforts will encourage others to realize that their actions, however small they may seem, have environmental consequences and that living more sustainably does not mean a decrease in the joy of life today, only a brighter tomorrow.”


Meredith Van Horn is the 2009 recipient of the $3,500 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship. She received her BA in Political Science from Boston College in 2003, and went on to earn her MA in Global Environmental Policy from American University in 2007. Ms. Van Horn’s goal is to “educate the public and encourage legislation to mitigate the impacts of climate change and create solutions to adapt to the changes it will bring.” Van Horn has had many years of experience in pursuing her career in environmental law, and works tirelessly to achieve her goal of working as a lawyer for the environment. “For me, protecting the environment is not just a career path; it is a way of life, a moral choice.” Ms. Van Horn is currently working towards earning her JD and Certificate in Environmental Law from Pace University School of Law.


Andrea Caruso is the 2008 recipient of the $2,000 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship. Ms. Caruso earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Binghamton University, and continued her education at Purchase College. A native New Yorker, Ms. Caruso, studies watershed land, particularly biotic and abiotic factors and their interaction and effect on invasive organisms, and the impacts on the health of the land and water. “Without sound land use practices, threats of decreased primary production, as well as erosion, runoff and nutrient loading are likely to increase.” Her goal is to develop strategies for the prevention and management of invasive organisms. Ms. Caruso is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree in Biological Studies at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


Jessica Rogers is the 2007 recipient of the $2,000 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship. Ms. Rogers is pursuing her Ph.D. in Columbia University’s E3B program (Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology). Her work has spanned the globe pursuing her research. In addition to using GIS technology, field visits, and plant species composition analyses, Ms. Rogers has worked to engage local landowners and local governments to cooperate on conservation as a united front. According to Ms. Rogers, “conservation should be experienced as well as understood, and combining both in any project has been my goal.” She is currently defending her PH.D, thesis at Columbia.


Jessica Steinberg Albin is the 2006 recipient of the $2,000 Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship. She is a graduate of the joint degree program between Bard College and Pace Law School, where she earned her Master in Science and Juris Doctor degrees. While at Pace Law School she was the Vice Chair of the Grading Committee for the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. Ms. Steinberg has said that with her joint degrees, she will “be equipped to encourage sound environmental policies and fight for stricter conservation regulations, which in turn will ultimately benefit the tri-state region.” Ms. Albin is currently Assistant Counsel at NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and was an Associate at Sive Paget & Riesel.