RECCS Student Researchers 2024

Generic placeholder image

Mentors: Alex Hewett and Laura Melling

Bio: Leah is a first generation, first year community college student. She is currently pursuing an associate of science degree with computer science designation, and plans to transfer to a four year university to complete a bachelor of science degree. Leah has always had a love for science, especially astronomy and atmospheric science. During her high school years, she was a member of a local astronomical society and often used their dark sky site’s 10-inch reflector telescope to observe the night sky, and read many books about science. While Leah is not yet decided on a career, her favorite aspects of computer science include the ability to apply those skills to a wide range of fields, and the constantly changing nature of advancing technology. Leah’s values include resourcefulness, fairness, and creativity. In her free time, Leah enjoys studying maps, hiking, traveling, and watching Star Wars

Generic placeholder image
Anacarina Acuna

Mentors: Aditi Bhaskar and Santiago Ramirez Nunez

Bio: 26 years old, originally from Houston Texas, and have lived in Colorado for three years. Pursuing Environmental Engineering and a minor in an undecided humanities. I’ve had work experience in customer service and retail. I enjoy reading (topics such as philosophy), solitude, making music, and have a deep respect for nature. I have a strong interest in the earth and geoscience, as well as helping others. I love learning about plants and animals. I have been vegan for eight years. I care about family, continued learning, mental health, and physical health. Excited and appreciative of being a part of this program.

Generic placeholder image
Kayla Foster

Mentors: Sarah Elizabeth. Katharine Suding, and Amy Dunbar-Wallis

Bio: Kayla Foster recently graduated from San Juan College with an associate in Pre-Pharmacy and is currently returning in the spring to complete her associate in chemistry. She plans to transfer into the Pharmacy program at the University of New Mexico to receive her PharmD degree and a minor in chemistry. Kayla is also interested in oncology research due to her personal experience with her mother’s battle with cancer. Kayla plans to use her degree to give back to her community by working as a pharmacist at an Indian Health Services hospital on or off the reservation. She grew up in the small town of Shiprock, New Mexico on the Navajo Nation Reservation and places emphasis on her family and heritage. Kayla helps her family during the summer with farming and in the winter selling at various bazaars. During her free time, she enjoys reading, cross-stitch, and spending time in nature.

Generic placeholder image
Juan Garcia

Mentors:  Chris Ray and Rachel Billings

Bio: Juan Garcia recently completed his studies in Biology at the Community College of Denver and is set to join the Ecology and Evolutionary Science program at CU Boulder this fall! His aspiration is to contribute to Conservation Ecology, whether in a lab setting or out in the field.

Beyond academics, Juan finds joy in long thru-hikes, bouldering, and any outdoor pursuit. His relocation from Austin to Denver was driven by a desire to be closer to the mountains.

As a first-generation college student, Juan grappled with uncertainty regarding his career path. However, his passion for outdoor activities ultimately steered him towards an environmental career. This passion has instilled in him a profound sense of responsibility towards safeguarding the planet, a commitment he carries with him every day.


Generic placeholder image
Keith Huckleby

Mentors: Kristy Tiampo and Ryan Cassotto

Bio: Keith Huckleby is a Mississippi native graduating with an Associate degree in Physics. He will transfer to pursue his Bachelors of Physics at Colorado University of Boulder. His main fields of interest include Quantum mechanics (QM), and General Relativity (GR). Keith’s passion for science began when he was 5 years after seeing the moon through a telescope for the first time. It was not until his first year of middle school when he was introduced to the realm of physics and astronomy by a show titled “How the Universe Works”. Ever since then his passion and curiosity for physics inspired him to pursue a higher education and academic career in the field of physics. In his spare time Keith enjoys journaling about his ideas and research. He also enjoys hiking and learning new things which he has never heard of.

Generic placeholder image
Faith Myers

Mentors: Paul Ziemann, Emmy Longnecker, and Andre Schaum

Bio: Faith recently graduated from San Juan College with a biology associate's degree, and she will be pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in the fall. She was raised in Dove Creek CO, and was involved in FFA and 4-H growing up which made her appreciate science in the natural world. During 4-H she focused on the mechanisms behind scrapies and copper toxicity in sheep. She also spoke through her FFA chapter about how advances in science have allowed for increased food production on less land. She would like to work in the field of bioremediation, and is excited to work in a laboratory setting sampling air pollutants. Instrumentation in particular seems intriguing and useful in her future career. Being able to observe the difference in air pollution between rural and urban areas will be interesting as well as applicable to the community where she lives.

Generic placeholder image
Noah Mendez

Mentors: Nicholas Dragone and Noah Fierer

Bio: Noah Mendez is a Colorado native who recently acquired both an Associate of Science and an Associate of Art from Red Rocks Community College. The next part of their journey will take place at CU Denver where they hope to acquire a Bachelor of Biology to ultimately work in either research or education. His interest in biology was piqued after taking a class in high school but wasn’t explored until arriving at RRCC. While at RRCC, they took a Gen I Biology course in the Spring of 2023, and then a microbiology course in the Fall of 2023 which cemented their interest in biological sciences. This interest has led him to become a lab assistant at RRCC for the biology department, working closely with the lab material and assisting students through the lab portion of their courses. In addition to his interest in science, Noah has a background in art through which they function as jack-of-all-trades. In his well-rounded studies, he has found that his art background allows for creative solutions in the lab and classes, while his scientific studies elevate his artistic expression. He hopes to continue using both to bring his creative point of view to his scientific studies and an organic lens to his art.


Generic placeholder image
Michaela Perez

Mentor: Emily Beam

Bio: Michaela grew up in Boulder, and has seen a lot of changes on the front range in a short time. She took the meandering road to college after a 16 year break and spent time running her own housecleaning business, working as a master cannabis grower for 8 years, fire mitigation, land management, as a caregiver for people with developmental disabilities, for nonprofits and more. Growing up, school was very challenging due to an undiagnosed learning disability, but with support from TRIO, mentors, scholarships and tutors she has been nominated as a 2024 Colorado All-Academic Team member and is succeeding in college by going part-time. Learning about the near extinction that Mexican gray wolves face, and the conservation efforts in place inspired her to return to school to best support conservation, biodiversity, and ecosystem rehabilitation. 

Michaela is finishing all core credits at Front Range Community College, then transferring to Colorado State University to pursue a degree in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. Outside of school, Michaela volunteers at Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation, practices Balasaraswati lineage Bharatanatyam, gardens, plays guitar, and enjoys traveling.


Generic placeholder image
Valerie Ramirez

Mentor: Sammy Yevak

Bio: Valerie is from Colorado Springs. She has lived there for her entire life and has always felt a deep appreciation for our beautiful state. Growing up near the magnificent mountains and wondrous wilderness cultivated Valerie’s love for nature and all of its fascinating living parts. She has been a student at Pikes Peak State College studying environmental science and will continue her education at Fort Lewis College. Valerie is extremely interested in watershed science and water resource management. When she is not studying or learning new things about science, you can find Valerie reading a good book, writing poetry, or taking a long walk outside. She hopes to explore and learn more about the natural world from a scientific perspective during the RECCS program and in her future career.


Generic placeholder image
Alex Shinn

Mentors: Susannah Morey and Greg Tucker

Bio: Alex Shinn is getting his Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Geospatial Information Systems in the Fall 2025 at Front Range Community College. He is interested in working for the government as a cartographer or a geospatial technician. He currently has 4 certificates from Front Range: Foundations of Geospatial Information Systems, Geospatial Information Systems, Natural Resources, Geospatial Information Systems, and Environmental Education.

Outside of school, he enjoys hiking, long walks with his 2 dogs, and camping. He is an Eagle Scout and has been active in scouts since the First Grade. As of this year, Alex is a member of Front Range’s Alpha Phi Theta Honer Society and Gamma Sigma Theta (Honor Society for Geospatial Technology) He has been creating maps since 2012, at first using Google My Maps. He started making maps using GIS software in 2021 when he switched to Natural Resources during his time at Front Range.


Generic placeholder image
Caelan Sullivan

Mentors: Jonathan Henn, Adam Mahood, and Alison Post

Bio: Caelan Sullivan recently graduated from Front Range Community College with an Associates of Applied Science that focused in horticulture and landscape technologies. Before pursuing their interests in natural sciences, they attended FRCC as an art student and spent most of their time capturing the intricacies of the human form. At their core, the one thing that Caelan increasingly strives to understand is the interconnectedness of all living systems; as pieces and on a larger scale. Inevitably this curiosity, and an inspiring professor, led them to phytology where they feel they’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. 

In truth, should you ask Caelan what their plans in life are and which pursuits they wish to chase, you may find that they don’t have a very thorough answer. When they spend their free time listening to the life stories of esteemed academics or captivating neophytes, there is one trait which they all seem to share. They are simply intrinsically motivated and carried by their passions. 


Generic placeholder image
Anna Zerkle

Mentor: Marianne Davenport

Bio: Anna Zerkle, a passionate advocate for environmental conservation and animal ecology, is currently in her final year of the Environmental Science program at the Community College of Denver. With a deep-rooted love for animals and nature cultivated in the scenic landscapes of Los Alamos, New Mexico, Anna found inspiration from her upbringing in a family of scientists. Surrounded by the innovative environment of Los Alamos National Laboratory, where both her father and sister work, Anna developed a strong affinity for scientific inquiry and a keen interest in understanding and preserving the natural world. From a young age, she immersed herself in the beauty of nature, fostering a lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship.

Driven by a desire to combat the pressing challenges posed by the climate crisis, Anna Zerkle is dedicated to pursuing a higher education, aiming to transfer to a four-year university to further their studies in environmental science and eventually pursue a graduate degree. Beyond her academic pursuits, Anna possesses a remarkable proficiency in mathematics, a skill she plans to utilize to analyze complex environmental data and contribute meaningfully to scientific research. Anna’s unwavering work ethic and determination underscore her commitment to achieving her goals. With a firm belief in the interconnectedness of all life forms, Anna is driven by a sense of purpose to safeguard the planet and its inhabitants for future generations.


Illustration of two people high-fiving in a work environment

Get involved and stay up-to-date with CIRES CEEE.

CEEE Contact
Phone: 303-492-5670
Fax: 303-735-3644


CIRES Center for Education, Engagement and Evaluation
University of Colorado Boulder
488 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0449

CEEE Office Hours

8:00 am to 5:00 pm MT -- fall and spring semesters