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Women's History Month

DEC joins the nation in celebrating the accomplishments of women throughout the month of March during Women's History Month. Whether through internal initiatives designed to advance professional growth for staff or opportunities for women across New York to sharpen outdoor recreation skills and knowledge, DEC is highlighting some of the remarkable women who make the agency's work possible.

A Testimony in Determination - DEC's Women's Initiative

In 2018, DEC launched the Women's Professional Development Initiative in response to women looking for opportunities for professional growth and career development. The Initiative is led by a Steering Committee, which focuses on cultivating an empowering environment for all women at DEC.

Throughout the year, the Women's Initiative organizes several events, including a Speakers Series for employees to interact, learn, and engage with fellow DEC employees. Past presentations included Planning a Family, which provided information about various types of leaves and DEC's Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program.
The Steering Committee works closely with DEC's Diversity, Mentoring, Sustainability, and Training Initiatives.

Women and Outdoor Recreation

woman holding a fish

In 2018, DEC hosted the first-ever WomenHuntFishNY Photo Contest and in 2019 hosted the first-ever Women's Fishing Expo. A partnership with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks), the Fishing Expo was held at Belmont Lake State Park and led primarily by female anglers, deckhands, fisheries scientists, women-owned businesses, and fishing clubs. In DEC's first-ever statewide photo contest to celebrate women who hunt and fish in New York, DEC received an overwhelmingly positive response from women across the state and received more than 2,000 photo entries, accompanied by hundreds of inspiring stories.

According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, women now make up more than 25 percent of all anglers, and the number of female hunters in New York State is the fastest growing segment of hunters, with nearly 50,000 women licensed to hunt.

In 1994, sponsored by DEC and other organizations, New York became one of 14 states to hold a "Becoming an Outdoors-Woman" (BOW) workshop. These programs provide women with information, encouragement, and hands-on instruction in outdoor skills such as fishing, archery, hunting, map and compass, survival, camping, canoeing, outdoor cooking, and more. Simply put, the BOW program empowers women to take on a challenge that they may have been intimidated to take on their own.

Testimonials from previous BOW participants:


"This is an extremely wonderful program that brings women together-all ages, all walks of life, with similar interests. It empowers women to take on a challenge that they may have been intimidated to take on their own."

"I came here feeling a little out of place and intimidated and am leaving feeling very comfortable and excited about trying some of my new found fishing and hiking skills."

"Great instructors, every single one was high quality: knowledgeable, practical and kind."

"I had a great time, I learned a lot and really enjoyed myself. I would highly recommend this program to any woman interested in learning more about our great outdoors. I'm looking forward to going again next year, there are so many other things I would love to try. Without these workshops I would never be able to try out so many new things. I also really enjoyed being with other women that would like to fish & hunt."

DEC Women Making History Today

Thousands of DEC experts, from Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police to engineers, biologists, and more, are working on innovative and groundbreaking projects to protect New York's environment for future generations. We will feature just a few of these trailblazers on this page during Women's History Month.

Dr. Emmeline Moore


Dr. Emmeline Moore was the first woman scientist hired by the New York State Conservation Commission in 1920, and the first woman elected President of the American Fisheries Society. She received her PhD in biology from Cornell in 1916. Dr. Moore served as chief aquatic biologist and director of the New York State Biological Survey, where she produced some of the best early state surveys of aquatic resources, many of which are still used today. She studied water pollution and fish diseases while working for the New York State Conservation Commission/Department for 24 years. She also published technical papers on fish culture and fish diseases, discovering several fish diseases and parasites. Dr. Moore was twice honored with the Walker Prize from the Boston Society of Natural History.

Women's History Month Profiles

Women have a long history of advancing the work of DEC and the New York State Conservation Commission before that. Here are profiles of some of the women making history at DEC today.

Catherine Dickert
woman in safety gear in the woods

Catherine Dickert oversees DEC's Division of Mineral Resources where as Director she manages day-to-day operations of a statewide program charged with the regulation of oil, gas, and solution salt mining wells, geothermal and stratigraphic wells deeper than 500 feet. She also represents New York State on the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Dickert is also involved in reshaping DMR policies to meet the goals of Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act through the development of emerging technologies that can help more efficiently detect potential pollution sources.

Catherine hails from Saratoga Springs and holds a B.A. from Bard College and a Master of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from the University of Vermont. She has been with DEC for five years.

Theresa Draves
woman in protective hardhat

As DEC plans future efforts on state lands in Western New York to help balance resource management with public use, Theresa Draves is on the front lines working with stakeholders to bring diverse user groups together. Draves says her work as a forester is less about managing state forests and more about working with communities to ensure people of all ages, races, and backgrounds can enjoy the many natural wonders New York has to offer. Over the course of her career, she has also worked on various timber sale operations in DEC's Region 9, from marking and scaling timber to monitoring the harvest process. In addition, Draves works closely with DEC's stewards, aiding them in State Forest trail development, trail improvement and maintenance, and hosting volunteer opportunities. She is a Forester, Division of Lands and Forests, Region 9 and has been with DEC for 16 years.

Nasibah Elmi

Nasibah Elmi works on education and outreach to reduce food waste and keep organic waste, including food scraps, out of landfills. She manages municipal contracts for food donation and food scraps recycling projects, helps implement NY's Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law, and leads DEC sustainability projects involving waste reduction and recycling. Elmi is a key member of the team working on the NYS Solid Waste Management Plan, working to achieve the state's ambitious waste reduction and recycling goals. She is Environmental Program Specialist, Bureau of Waste Reduction and Recycling in the Division of Materials Management and has been with DEC for three years.

Lieutenant Nancy Ganswindt

Nancy Ganswindt knew she wanted to be a Forest Ranger after meeting a Ranger at DEC's Camp Pack Forest in Warrensburg when she was 15. Nancy began her DEC career at the camp and worked her way up to Lieutenant, supervising Rangers in Saratoga and Washington counties. In 2017, she traveled to California as a Squad Boss on a western wildfire assignment where she provided relief to residents who lost homes in the fires. Lt. Ganswindt helps New Yorkers every day, whether she's responding to a search and rescue, wildland firefighting, or supporting the State's response to COVID-19. Ganswindt, a DEC Forest Ranger, is a Lieutenant and has been with DEC for seven years.

Merlange Genece
woman sitting at desk

From entry-level engineer to Acting Director of DEC's Region 1, Merlange Genece has held several positions in different DEC environmental quality programs. One of her major accomplishments was developing a process that gave DEC's Division of Materials Management a bigger role in permitting dredging projects, ensuring the proper disposal and/or reuse of dredged materials. Genece became an engineer because she excelled at math and science and learned early in her career that she also had a love for civil service. After experiencing the satisfaction of helping others, she knew DEC would be a great fit. As a female engineer and Haitian American immigrant, Genece recalls being the only woman in a meeting and people assuming a male colleague was her supervisor before discovering it was the other way around. While she says things have gotten better over the years, she recognizes there is still work to be done and continues to play an active role in promoting equality in her profession. She is Acting Regional Director, Region 1, and has been with DEC for more than 30 years.

Mikaela J. Hameline
headshot of woman

Mikaela oversees DEC's professional development training and helped to create and launch the agency's Mentoring Program, which pairs experienced staff with staff looking to enhance their skills. To date, 215 DEC staff from every division and region have participated in the program, which is helping staff learn from one another, building a more knowledgeable workforce, and raising the level of professional performance at the agency. She is a Training Specialist 2 in the Office of Management and Budget Services, Bureau of Training and Organization Development. She has been with DEC for six years.

Cathleen Shigo Kittle
headshot of woman

Cathy Kittle began her DEC career at the agency's Long Island regional office working in public outreach, coordinating public meetings and media contacts, including the 1995 Long Island wildfires. When she moved north, Kittle worked at DEC's Five Rivers Environmental Education Center as an environmental educator. Now she heads up DEC's Digital Services bureau and oversees the website, social media, and electronic newsletters. In 2019, Kittle helped launch the groundbreaking DECinfo Locator, an interactive mapper with more than 70 data layers, increasing public access to DEC data and information. Cathy has been with DEC for 27 years and is Director, Digital Services Bureau with DEC's Office Of Communication Services.

Maureen Leddy
women in front of wall of glass blocks

DEC Office of Climate Change Director Maureen Leddy was part of an historic effort to track, report, and offset carbon emissions from the 2010 Winter Olympics Games in Vancouver where she was part of a team that worked to reduce emissions and secured 268,000 tons of offsets to make the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games the first-ever Carbon Neutral Games. Today, Leddy is helping to advance and implement measures to achieve New York's nation-leading greenhouse gas reduction goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). She has been with DEC 1.5 years.

Jacqueline Lendrum
Jacqueline Lendrum headshot

Jackie Lendrum is one of the nation's foremost water quality experts. She and her team are responsible for monitoring and assessing water quality of all of New York's 7,000+ lakes and 87,000+ miles of streams, and are the front lines of challenges presented by emerging contaminants and harmful algal blooms. She helps lead DEC's innovative Water Quality Improvement Project program that focuses on acquiring land near drinking water sources to ensure long-term protection. She is currently helping advance the development of new technologies to combat HABs. She has been with DEC for 16 years and works as a Research Scientist 5, Director of the Division of Water's Bureau of Water Assessment and Management.

Jane O'Connell
woman in front of mountains

Jane O'Connell credits her high school Earth Science teacher with getting her excited about geology and natural sciences, ultimately leading her to a career with DEC's Division of Environmental Remediation. As the Regional Remediation Engineer for DEC's Region 2, she oversees Bulk Storage, Spill Response, Brownfield Cleanup, and Superfund programs for the NYC metro area. She is playing a key role in helping update remediation program policy and regulations that will assist in guiding the future of cleaning up contaminated sites in New York State. And for the past year, O'Connell has been working at the State's COVID-19 testing sites in New York City and Long Island. She has been with DEC for 29 years and is a Regional Remediation Engineer, Division of Environmental Remediation.

Sergeant Kati Reynolds

Helping to shape the minds and sharpen the skills of the newest members of DEC's Division of Law Enforcement, Sergeant Kati Reynolds spends a lot of time at DEC's Training Academy in Pulaski working with aspiring officers when training is in session. She is responsible for daily scheduling at the academy for the Divisions of Law Enforcement and Forest Protection and instructs specialty courses during Basic School and other times of the year. Sgt. Reynolds also oversees programs such as the Intranasal Naloxone and First Aid Programs. Reynolds, a DEC ECO, is a Technical Sergeant and has been with DEC for seven years.

Kelly Turturro
woman at podium

Kelly Turturro began her DEC career as an Assistant Regional Attorney in Region 3 before becoming lead Regional Attorney. In 2017, Turturro was appointed Regional Director. She is committed to equal opportunity, diversity, and creating a culture where employees work together to innovate and resolve issues effecting the residents of the Hudson Valley and the state. As Committee Chair of DEC Women's Initiative, she is helping spearhead programs that cultivate an empowering environment for all women at DEC. Turturro and her regional team work tirelessly to implement the State's Adventure NY Initiative to connect underrepresented communities to the natural resources in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, and manages a portfolio of critically important environmental initiatives that works with partners throughout the region to protect our air, water, and communities. She has been with DEC 15 years and is Regional Director for DEC's Region 3 (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties).