Neal Overstrom

(401) 454-6166

Focused on promoting environmental literacy through informal learning experiences, Neal previously worked in exhibit development and management at the Mystic Aquarium and was a design associate with Kent+Frost Landscape Architecture, also in Mystic, CT. He has long investigated biological influences on design, particularly the ways in which pattern, form and living elements in the built environment can promote human health and well-being. Neal holds a BS in Biology from the University of Connecticut, an MA in Zoology from Connecticut College and an MLA from the University of Massachusetts.

Jennifer Bissonnette

Biological Programs Designer
(401) 709-8548

A Rhode Island native, Jen has a passion for exploring the natural world through science and art. With a BS in Biology from Eckerd College, and a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the College of William and Mary/Virginia Institute of Marine Science, her work has focused broadly on human|nature connections, believing that a conservation ethic is best inspired by deep engagement with the natural world. Her experience includes working on Capitol Hill as a natural resources legislative assistant and teaching college level biology and marine science courses.

Betsy Sara Ruppa

Lab Coordinator
(401) 277-4951

Betsy has a BFA in Painting and Drawing with a minor in Art History from the University of Wisconsin, and an MFA in Printmaking from Washington University in St Louis. She has a lifelong interest in animals and nature in general. Before coming to the Nature Lab, Betsy worked as a Master Printer for the Charles Bevan Press, was active at the Providence Animal Rescue League where she volunteered, served on the Executive Board and was Interim Executive Director. Her specific interests include human anatomy for artists, conchology and entomology.

Benedict Gagliardi

Lab Coordinator for Imaging and Aquatics
(401) 277-4852

Benedict is an enthusiastic observer of the smaller scale natural world, and greatly enjoys introducing others to the teeming diversity that abounds under a magnifying lens. He holds a BS in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and an MS in Entomology from the University of Connecticut. His research focused on the biosystematics of smoky moths (Zygaenidae) as well as false rarity in butterflies, but teaching biology and entomology has become his greatest passion. Benedict particularly enjoys the insights, ideas, and inspiration that can be drawn from nature when viewed from unique perspectives, in differing contexts, and with dissimilar biases. Outside of nature and science, Benedict is a performing folk musician currently researching the traditional music of RI.

Dora Mugerwa

Operations and Engagement Coordinator
(401) 709-8447

As an individual interested to multiple disciplines, Dora enjoys pursuing different ways of thinking, learning, and making. She graduated from the Brown|RISD Dual Degree Program in 2015, where she studied Furniture Design at RISD and Environmental Science at Brown University. Her pursuits are drawn from her relation to the human body and nature as her sense of home. She works to capture these in her abstract vision of human and environmental conditions. She enjoys investigating and researching our existence scientifically and aesthetically, hoping to bridge the gap in our perceived differences. Through 2D and 3D material exploration, she also aims to understand and express how humans can coexist and live within the natural systems in our environments.

Lucia Monge

RISD C-AIM Coordinator and Researcher
(401) 709-8447

A recent graduate of RISD’s MFA program in Sculpture, Lucia’s work is focused on administrative operations and facilitating access to key Nature Lab services and resources. Before studying at RISD, Lucia taught K-6 science classes in Lima, Peru while maintaining a vibrant art practice and collaborating on environment and sustainability initiatives. Since 2010 she has been dedicated to the organization and realization of her “Plantón Móvil” project, a walking forest that leads to the creation of public green areas in the city of Lima. As a fine artist in the RISD community Lucia explores the way humans position themselves within the natural world and the way they relate to other living beings.

Kylie King

Graduate Research Assistant
Interior Architecture '18

Peter Lokken

Graduate Research Assistant
Furniture '18

Ann Motonaga

Graduate Research Assistant
Architecture '18

Ye Tian

Graduate Research Assistant
Landscape Architecture '18

Stewart Copeland

Graduate Research Assistant
Digital + Media '19

Grace Kim

Graduate Research Assistant
Teaching + Learning in Art + Design '18

Maria Eugenia Moya Martinez

Graduate Research Assistant
Sculpture '18

Kayla Murgo

Graduate Research Assistant
Landscape Architecture '20

Charlotte McCurdy

Graduate Research Assistant
Industrial Design '18

People from various backgrounds come together at the Nature Lab through a multitude of events relating to the natural world.

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