NYSG, Cornell Climate Smart Solutions Program Develop Climate Stewards Volunteer Program
Hudson River Estuary - Press Release

New York Sea Grant Hudson Estuary Specialist Jessica Kuonen (at left), with geography students (at right) in Susan Hereth’s senior seminar at SUNY New Paltz. Credit: Jared Van Houten, marketing intern at Cornell Cooperative Extension and senior at SUNY New Paltz 


Jessica A. Kuonen, Hudson Estuary Resilience Specialist, NYSG E: jak546@cornell.edu, P: (845) 340-3990 x323

Tara Kleinhans, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County, E: tdk36@cornell.edu, P: 845-340-3990 x321
Kingston, New York, March 9, 2020 – Climate change is affecting communities across New York State, yet many communities lack the resources needed to adequately prepare for climate change even if they have the knowledge of what they should do. To address this need, New York Sea Grant is partnering with The Cornell Climate Smart Solutions Program to develop a Climate Stewards volunteer program modeled after the successful Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program.
Efforts are underway to develop the Climate Stewards curriculum with continued input from relevant stakeholders. Jessica Kuonen, Hudson Estuary Specialist for New York Sea Grant based in the Cornell Extension office in Ulster County, is currently working on a portion of the curriculum that teaches the basics of climate science and impacts. “I’m most excited to help bring together a network of volunteers that are passionate about helping their communities, and that we’ll be addressing a real need when it comes to climate action,” said Kuonen.

Jim O'Connell, Senior Agriculture Resource Educator for Cornell Extension of Ulster County, is a member of the Cornell Climate Smart Farming Team and the team tasked with reviewing the curriculum. Previously, he had worked with Susan Hereth, an Adjunct Professor of Geography at SUNY New Paltz and Education Director of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, seeking input from her students on climate change. O’Connell suggested that Kuonen reach out to the class to do the same. 
On March 2, Kuonen visited Hereth’s class at SUNY New Paltz to receive preliminary feedback. “When communicating new information to diverse audiences it’s always important to test your messaging”, says Kuonen. “I’m hoping to gain feedback from the students about whether the content is clear, interesting, and engaging.” Kuonen anticipates that many of the future Climate Steward volunteers may not have a background in science. “It will be important for them to learn the basics so they can understand how the actions they are taking will benefit their communities.”
The class is a senior seminar for geography students who are working as interns throughout the county. The students are interning for municipalities and organizations such as the Kingston Land Trust, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Mohonk Preserve, Department of Environmental Protection, City of Kingston, and the Ulster County Planning Department.
The students were asked to share why they had decided to go pursue environmentally conscious careers. Most students said that they wanted to feel like they are making an impact. Greg, a student from Rockland County who’s interning with the Ulster County Long Range Planning Committee responded, “because it’s economically viable (laughs). But really… working with the County feels like I’m in charge of something that could potentially help the area and that’s important to me. It’s not robots or going to the moon but it’s still changing things for the better.”
The goal of Climate Stewards volunteers is to support their communities in planning and implementing climate change adaptation, education, and mitigation projects at the local level.  Climate Stewards volunteers will complete a 12-week course through their local Cornell Cooperative Extension office, implement a project in their community, and serve as outreach to the general public.
The first cohort of Climate Stewards training is planned for Spring 2021.
For more information on the Climate Stewards program, contact Jessica Kuonen at jak546@cornell.edu or (845) 340–3983.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly. Our program also produces an occasional e-newsletter,"NOAA Sea Grant's Social Media Review," via its blog, www.nyseagrant.org/blog.

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