Welcome to four new FMR staff

Julia, Leah, Carrie, Sov

Welcome to Julia, Leah, Carrie and Sovatha!

This spring, we brought on four new staff, filling out our Land Conservation and Stewardship & Education departments just in time for our busy restoration and events season. Get to know these wonderful additions to our team!

Julia Leone, FMR Pollinator Biologist

Julia Leone with bug net

Julia comes to FMR with a background in pollinator biology and restoration research — a perfect combination for her role here, a new position for us. Her work at FMR will include managing our long-term pollinator monitoring, leading our pollinator research funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and managing a number of restoration and community science projects.

Julia completed her Ph.D. in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota and has recently worked as a post-doc and lab manager studying cold tolerance in invasive insects. She has studied pollinators from Minnesota to Australia, and brings expertise in Minnesota’s native bees and butterflies, research methods and data analysis — plus a love of the outdoors.

Growing up in Wisconsin, Julia has many fond memories of living near the water. She has lived on Lake Michigan, the Beitstad Fjord, the Chesapeake Bay, the Timor Sea and the St. Croix River; she is excited to get to work along the Mississippi River.

Julia says, “I am so honored and excited to join the Friends of the Mississippi River! I look forward to working alongside our partners and volunteers to restore, protect and learn from the river, its watershed and the many life-forms it supports.”

When spring arrives, you’ll find Julia hiking and reading by the water or picnicking at local parks with her husband and toddler. Keep an eye out for opportunities to learn from Julia at our restoration events!

Leah Weston, FMR Ecologist

Leah comes to FMR with a background in botany, ecological assessment and project management. Leah has special expertise in wetland and streambank projects, as well as collaboration with diverse stakeholders. Her work at FMR will include managing a full slate of restoration projects, writing natural resource management plans, and working with partners and members of the public to accomplish our goals.

Leah obtained her master's in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology from The Ohio State University. Prior to graduate school, she was a member of the Minnesota GreenCorps program and worked at a nature center as an environmental educator. Most recently, she spent time at a local engineering firm where she served as a plant ecologist and incorporated ecological design and native plantings into development projects. She brings a wealth of knowledge in botany, restoration methods and community engagement.

Raised in Wisconsin, Leah loved tent camping with family, waking up to the sound of birds and falling asleep to the hum of hushed voices around a campfire. 

Leah says, "I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to join the Friends of the Mississippi River team. I look forward to stewarding the river and its watershed, and doing my best to make a positive impact on the land for the future."

Outside work, you'll find Leah creating custom knit and crochet garments (including the sweater she's wearing in her photo above!) or zooming down a bike path with her husband. And if you volunteer with us this year, you just might get to meet her.

Sovatha Oum, FMR Youth Program Manager

Sovatha Oum

FMR's new youth program manager Sovatha Oum brings decades of experience working with nonprofits and inspiring youth to engage in the outdoors through environmental education.

An outdoor education professional and experiential educator, Sovatha has led and developed numerous mentorship and outdoor leadership programs for youth across the Twin Cities Metro at Wilder, Voyageur Outward Bound School, YMCA Camp St. Croix and as the former Outdoor Education Manager at Tamarack Nature Center. He also founded an outdoor leadership program that supports youth in wilderness training with an intensive 11-day confidence-building outdoor experience.

At FMR, Sovatha will focus on our youth education programs, developing new curricula and building partnerships with K-12 classrooms. He will also play a bigger role in supporting FMR interns and assistants across the organization. He plans to grow opportunities for the Environmental Stewardship Institute (ESI) to develop their wilderness skills and activate community projects for the river. He hopes to take a small group of high school youth on a camping and canoeing outing at the end of the summer to build leadership skills and teamwork before launching the school-year ESI council.

Sovatha shares, "I am excited about mentorship — it's my passion — extending wilderness experience opportunities, and the benefit of teaching stewardship." 

Outside work, he is a Bushcraft survival skills practitioner and a phenomenal cook. He is also an avid sports fan (a lifelong fan of Manchester United) and has coached soccer and track programs. Sovatha likes woodworking and gardening and is creating a YouTube wilderness trip planning channel tailored toward organizations that serve inner-city youth.

Carrie Pomeroy, FMR Event Assistant

Carrie Pomeroy by the river

Carrie has a background in writing and education and has taught at the Loft Literary Center and Metropolitan State University and served as a writer-in-the-schools with the COMPAS program for many years. A graduate of the University of Arkansas's MFA program, she's published writing in the St. Paul Almanac and the anthology "Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers," among other publications.

She's also worked extensively with volunteers in a variety of community settings, including the pollinator garden at the Hamline Midway Library. Since 2020, she's been honored to facilitate restorative justice circles with St. Paul's ETHOS program.

When Carrie first moved to the Twin Cities in her twenties after living in much smaller towns in Illinois and Arkansas, she worried she would have trouble connecting with the natural world in such a big metropolitan area. When she discovered the beautiful hiking trails along the Mississippi River Gorge, she knew she was home. She has since enjoyed volunteering with her two children at FMR volunteer events such as garlic mustard pulls and native plantings. 

As the event assistant, Carrie supports FMR's wide range of volunteer events. She is deeply inspired by FMR's efforts to engage people in showing up for the river, whether it's through hands-on restoration events or invitations to contact legislators. She looks forward to meeting many of you, learning more about the river by working alongside FMR staff and volunteers, and spending lots of time outdoors at FMR stewardship and stenciling events.

Outside of work, Carrie loves writing, reading, going to plays, bicycling, hiking, camping, gardening and going dancing.

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Upcoming Events

Tuesday, June 25, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Nicollet Island, Minneapolis
New date: Saturday, August 10, 2024 at 5 p.m.
Hidden Falls Regional Park, St. Paul
Wednesday, August 14, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific & Natural Area, Inver Grove Heights