Current Students

Undergraduate Students

Jessica Balerna, BS Environmental Science 2017

Jessica Balerna is in her final year of undergraduate studies at American University. As a member of the Knee Lab, she has helped work on a number of projects involving impacted stream health due to urbanization and hydraulic fracturing. This past year, Jessica received funding from the College of Arts and Sciences at American University to research groundwater-surface water interactions on three streams in the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area owned by the BLM in Lorton, VA. Next year, she hopes to pursue an M.S. degree in stream ecology.

In her free time, Jessica plays for the AU Club Volleyball Team, works at the on-campus fitness center, and helps educate her peers on living a more sustainable lifestyle through the Office of Sustainability.


Jesse Weinstein, BS Environmental Science 2016


Harrison (Mac) Hyde, BS Environmental Science

Mac Hyde is a junior at American University hailing from sunny California. As a new member of the Knee lab he has assisted with sampling at Meadowood and looks forward to working on more projects in the future and staying dry while doing so. This past summer Mac worked at a hazardous waste management firm in San Francisco, learning about remediation and disposal of contaminated soils and materials.

In his free time, Mac likes to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, work on Bull Moose, a start-up company, and attempt to order every avocado based dish he can find in the District.


Melanie (Mel) Friedel, BA Environmental Studies

Mel is new to the team this semester and has been participating in fieldwork and learning the ropes from Jessica in the lab. Her favorite part about her research experience so far has been sampling in the beautiful and sunny (but bittersweet) February weather and loves spending time outdoors.

She is a sophomore from Philly majoring in Environmental Science, and she plans to study abroad to study French in Paris in the fall! She likes to ski and is on the Ultimate Frisbee club team at AU and loves anything and everything Ultimate, from tossing a disc on the quad to spending weekends at away tournaments. When Mel isn’t sampling at Meadowood, texting Jessica in a frenzy, or playing Ultimate, she can be found doing arts and crafts and DIY projects, discovering new parts of DC, and making summer travel plans, but is usually doing homework.

This summer, Mel will be continuing her research participation at Meadowood and in the lab, as well as interning at American Forests, an environmental non-profit based in downtown DC.


Graduate Students

Colin Casey, MS Environmental Science 2017

Colin Casey is a Graduate Research Assistant in the Knee lab. His project focuses on better understanding the potential contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing technology (fracking) in the Potomac River watershed. Fracking has been connected to a number of environmental issues such as trace metal contamination, radiation release, and salinity changes. The work undertaken seeks to assess any such impact at sites downstream of existing wells, compared to areas without the technology, across three states.

Colin completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Science specializing in biology with a second major in Political Science at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida. His previous work included examining restored mangrove swamps around the Tampa Bay area. Colin can often be found running experiments in the Beeghley building, exploring Washington with his fiancé Tyler, or yelling at a hockey game on television.


William Wong, MS Environmental Science

William Wong moved to Washington, DC from Las Vegas, Nevada. He received his BS in Environmental & Resource Science with a Law Enforcement minor from Nevada State College (NSC). His interest spans across multiple disciplines which include subjects such as space science, terrorism, and global issues. One of his best work came from his Environmental Law & Regulation course. The project paper he spent researching for half a semester was noticed by the local Las Vegas Fire Department Hazmat Coordinator. A year later he was notified that improvements in local emergency responses took place due to his research paper. Given a taste of achievement and contributing to society before obtaining his BS motivated him to continue his higher education after graduation.

William is currently volunteering for Dr. Knee and Jessica in hunting for radon particles in streams near urbanized areas of Mason Neck, Virginia. He looks forward to designing his own project soon and utilizing his 3-credit research project in a contributable fashion like his environmental law project.



Anna Spiller, MS in Agricultural Sciences & Resource Management

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Emil Bayramov, Fulbright Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar in Geospatial and Remote Sensing technologies


Dr. Emil Bayramov holds 17 years of professional and scientific experience in Geospatial and Remote Sensing technologies applied for marine and onshore petroleum and gas industry, environmental monitoring and management, quantitative and qualitative geospatial risk assessment, geohazards risk assessment, planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of marine and onshore petroleum and gas assets, oil spill response and crisis management in the marine and onshore environments, assessment and geospatial mapping of social and environmental sensitivities, defense and cybersecurity, spatial planning, land-use management, coastal management and landscape planning. Since 2008, Dr. Emil Bayramov works for BP (Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey Region) and his current professional position is the Geospatial Data Specialist at Survey Operations – Reservoir Development.

Dr. Emil Bayramov holds PhD in Natural Sciences (Specialization: Geospatial and Remote Sensing Technologies) from Dresden University of Technology in Germany, Master’s Degree in Geographical Information Science from Lund University in Sweden, second Master’s Degree (Honor) in Landscape Studies, Bachelor’s Degree (Honor) in Physical Geography. Dr. Emil Bayramov is the Chartered Geographer (GIS) from the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in UK. Dr. Bayramov was also a winner of the US Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program 2007-2008 and spent one year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in the United States of America for the professional and academic leadership development in Geospatial and Remote Sensing Technologies and was awarded with the leadership certificates from the President of the United States and the President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds a number of scientific and professional publications in the high-rank peer-reviewed international journals and conference proceedings. He is also the author of the peer-reviewed international book. Dr. Bayramov was an invited speaker to a number of petroleum and gas conferences. Starting from the 1st of September 2016, Dr. Bayramov is the Fulbright Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar in Geospatial and Remote Sensing technologies at American University Washington DC in the US and his research interests are focused on the role of satellite earth observation technologies in the sustainable, environmentally clean and socially safe functioning of onshore and marine petroleum and gas industry in the Caspian Sea Region.