Gianna Petito, District Manager

Gianna joined the WNRCD as District Manager in September, 2018, eager to spearhead programs that foster effective resource management in Vermont. She holds a Master of Science degree in Conservation Ecology and Environmental Planning from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment where she focused on  collaborative landscape management and conservation finance, exploring how to integrate the value of nature into established decision-making contexts. Gianna has worked for several environmental non-profit groups including the Huron River Watershed Council and the Friends of the Winooski River and she has a strong background in water quality assessments and habitat restoration. Prior to graduate school, she was youth program coordinator for the Montana Conservation Corps, where she gained experience in invasive species control, streambank stabilization, and volunteer management. Off the clock you can find Gianna running, cross country skiing, gardening, or acting with a community theatre troupe.


Kristen Balschunat,  Conservation Specialist                                                                                                                                                             

Kristen joined the WNRCD team in June 2018. Kristen grew up in the Lake Champlain Basin, in Glens Falls, NY.  After earning a B.A. in Geography from SUNY Geneseo, she worked as an environmental educator for four years. She taught experiential science curriculum to students of all ages with The Wild Center, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, The Appalachian Mountain Club and The Ecology School. Kristen completed hydrology research with the National Science Foundation REU program, where she investigated the impact of urbanization on stream stability. Kristen has worked for multiple farms in the Northeast, including Foggy Meadow Farm in Benson, VT. She is committed to maintaining Vermont’s rural landscape in balance with the health of the watershed. Finally, Kristen is an active citizen scientist, involved in projects like eBird, iNaturalist, spotted salamander research and bird banding. In her free time Kristen enjoys hiking, birding, painting, gardening and canoeing.



Cherie Staples, Bookkeeper

Cherie spent eleven years with the Vermont Land Trust, after six years at Vermont Natural ResourcesCherie Council, and then moved to Colorado for six years, where she helped care for her first granddaughter and then managed the Denver office of The Wilderness Society.  Along the way, a camera has been a steady companion and she has quite a raft of photos. Returning to Vermont in 2003, she’s become a part-time bookkeeper for several businesses in the central Vermont area. She is a member of the Onion River Chorus and sings in the Old Meeting House Choir, and participates on an East Montpelier community committee. Cherie has two children and three grandchildren.


Kelly Rapacki,  Agriculture & Outreach Intern   

Kelly joined the WNRCD in October 2018 as an Agriculture and Outreach intern.  In this role she is helping WNRCD expanding their outreach capacity in agricultural efforts. In her final semester at Community College of Vermont, she is studying Environmental Science with a focus on Natural Resource Management. This past summer Kelly worked with Jacob Springs Farm in Boulder, Colorado, where she helped set up their rotational grazing program. She also works as a barista at The Skinny Pancake; a Burlington restaurant focused on sourcing most of their food from the local community. In her free time, she enjoys identifying and foraging for wild edibles, snowboarding, kayaking, and making pottery.


Caitlin Maloney, Communications Intern

Currently, Caitlin is working at the University of Vermont as a grants and manuscript manager for the biochemistry department. Before moving to Vermont, she got her master’s degree in Ohio studying soil bugs and gaining a passion for science communication. She then went on to take a science communication internship with the Morton Arboretum near Chicago. For her internship, Caitlin is helping WNRCD develop outreach and communication materials for their 2019 Tree and Trout Sale. During her free time, Caitlin enjoys co-hosting a podcast (Bugs&Stuff), cross country skiing, cooking for her family, and enjoying the mountains of Vermont. 

Lauren Jenness, Septic Outreach Assistant

Lauren is partnering with WNRCD this winter to help organize a septic conference funded through a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. This conference will target those who install, inspect, regulate and have concerns about onsite septic systems to reduce excessive nutrient impacts from under functioning and failing systems to local waterbodies.  Lauren moved to Vermont from Rhode Island in the fall of 2012 to attend UVM, where she discovered new passions which include working with volunteers and collecting and analyzing natural resource-related data. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies in 2016 and has worked for VTDEC’s Watershed Management Division since then in different capacities. Most recently she worked with the Vermont Lake Wise Program, which promotes lake-friendly practices for homeowners. Lauren enjoys communicating water-quality issues with others and loves conducting field work where she can move dirt around, plant native species, and make a difference. While not at work you many find Lauren in a garden, traveling (most recently to Spain and South Korea), cooking, or crafting.