The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2015. We protect and promote the Susquehanna River, its tributaries and the aquatic ecosystem it supports across an 11,000-square-mile watershed represented as the Middle Susquehanna river basin. For our association, this is all the land across more than 20 counties in central, northcentral and northeast Pennsylvania that eventually drains into the North and West branches of the Susquehanna River and the upper main stem down to where the Penns Creek enters below Selinsgrove:
Riverkeeper & Executive Director John Zaktansky
John Zaktansky grew up on a small farm in northern Northumberland County, savoring outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, camping while working his way up the Scouting ranks to Eagle.
He brings nearly 18 years of award-winning local journalism and eight years experience as a counselor for troubled adolescents to the position, striving to protect and promote our river-based resources.
John and his family currently live along the banks of the Penns Creek in Snyder County. He and his wife are youth group leaders at Port Ann Wesleyan Church and the family enjoys every chance it gets to camp, fish, kayak and cherish the beauty and therapy of the region's outdoor resources.
You can email John at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 570.768.6300
Regional Director (Northern Tier): Emily Shosh
Emily Shosh grew up in Northumberland, PA and later in Hamburg, PA, but found her ultimate home in the northcentral region of the state during college. Emily attended Mansfield University, majoring in Environmental Science and Vocal Music, and worked two seasons with the region's state parks including Hills Creek, Leaonard Harrison, and Cherry Springs. After graduating in 2016 she had the opportunity to work one year in Finland, Minnesota, at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning center as a naturalist. Since 2018, Emily has worked full time as the Communications and Outreach Advisor for the Potter County Conservation District. She also obtained her Master's of Education in Environmental Education from Slippery Rock University in 2021.
Emily's environmental education philosophy is centered around stewardship opportunities and improving environmental self-efficacy through citizen science, place-based environmental education, sound science and data interpretation, and helping others better connect with their local landscape.
In her spare time, Emily loves hiking, backpacking, fly fishing, cross country skiing, biking, gardening and canning, baking/cooking, and learning about native plants. She also volunteers with the PA Chapter of Native Fish Coalition (for which she is secretary), Monarch Watch, PA Trout Unlimited (as a member of the Women and Diversity Committee), and her local Trout Unlimited Chapter.
You can contact her at MSRKANorthernTier@gmail.com
Regional Director (West Branch): Andrew Bechdel
A native of central Pennsylvania, Andrew Bechdel is currently a ‘Susquehanna Sentinel’ for Centre County where he resides. Andrew earned his B.S degree in Recreation Management (Outdoor Track) with a minor in Environmental Studies from Lock Haven University. As an undergraduate, he studied the impacts of degraded riparian vegetation and nonpoint and point source pollution on the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay watershed.
In his free time, he is a nature nerd and avid outdoorsman who enjoys studying forest ecology, hunting mushrooms, bird watching, hiking and backpacking, fishing and rock climbing among other outdoor pursuits.
Andrew is passionate about representing the western end of the watershed, encouraging partners in this area to reach out to him.
Vernal School Program Supervisor Marissa Crames
Marissa Crames is a passionate advocate for outdoor resources, spending her free time hiking, camping and exploring all facets of nature with her son, Liam, and volunteering her time at multiple levels in the local Scout council and Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association.
She helps coordinate programming, schedule events and secure funding for long-term stability of the Vernal School Environmental Education Partnership, which offers programming at the Montour Preserve in Montour County via more than 20 partners while supporting the Montour Area Recreation Commission's maintenance of the property.
Learn more about the initiative at www.VernalSchool.org. Contact Marissa at email@example.com or 570.850.1166.
Board of Directors
President Michael Kinney
A resident of the Williamsport area, Michael Kinney is an avid nature photographer and videographer dedicated to connecting people with our outdoor resources in new and meaningful ways. You can learn more about him and his work at his website.
"Ever since I was approached by a wild hellbender in 2017, I felt connected to the creatures in my local watershed because as a photographer, I was somewhat representing these aquatic creatures to the community I was active in. Serving in this role helps my opportunity to protect and improve the watershed we live in, providing a better habitat for the creatures I represent."
You can contact Michael directly via email by clicking here.
Vice President Dr. Joseph Simons III
Joseph Simons III is a father of three amazing young men. He has a bachelor of Science degree from Wilkes University and a Doctor of Optometry degree from Salus University. He is an avid outdoorsman who loves fly-fishing, camping, kayaking, hiking, scuba diving, nature photography and writing electronic music and soundtracks on keyboards/synthesizers under the name HOLOMIND.
He is a conservationist and a champion of our most precious commodity; cold, clean, clear water. This is a cause he holds dear to his heart. Water is Life and water that supports native brook trout, he considers as holy water. Dr Simons also serves on the Stanley Cooper Trout Unlimited Board and EPCAMR Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandon Mine Reclamation Board. Email Dr. Simons directly by clicking here.
Treasurer Kelly Caudle
Kelly Caudle is a native of Allentown, PA. While growing up she loved being outdoors and exploring local creeks and lakes with friends and family. She spent 27 years living in the Charlotte, NC, area and always missed the natural beauty of her home state. After visiting relatives in the Susquehanna River Valley, she and her family decided to return to Pennsylvania and moved to Winfield, PA in 2019.
She is currently a member of the R.B. Winter Chapter of Trout Unlimited and is a former member of the Rocky River Trout Unlimited Chapter based in Charlotte, NC. While living in North Carolina, she volunteered with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and participated in Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom program. Kelly is looking forward to actively participating in the MSRKA’s goal of providing clean water for everyone. She is also eager to learn more about the environmental issues impacting water quality and aquatic life.
Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Gettysburg College and a Master of Arts degree in Clinical/Community Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She currently works part-time in retail. In her spare time she enjoys admiring and exploring the natural beauty of the area and honing her nature photography skills.
Co-Secretary Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas is a senior at Susquehanna University majoring in Ecology and Environmental Science. She became involved with the MSRKA this past summer through an internship and continues to be engaged with the association as a student board member. In the future, she hopes to work in environmental conservation and/or education and is very excited to explore that field further through her work with the MSRKA. Outside of the classroom, Morgan is on her school's swim team and also enjoys gardening and art. You can email her directly by clicking here.
Co-Secretary Danielle Tryon
Danielle Tryon is a senior Earth & Environmental Science and Biology double major at Susquehanna University. She became involved with MSRKA as an intern this past summer and continues to be involved as a student board member. In the future, Danielle hopes to pursue a career doing research and environmental education. Aside from her academics Danielle also is a sustainability project leader, rides on Susquehanna's English Equestrian team and enjoys traveling. You can email her directly by clicking here.
Douglas Fessler is father, husband, IT professional and environmentalist residing in Sunbury, PA. He has an Associate’s Degree in Information Technology coupled with a plethora of industry certifications that he has acquired over his 20 years in the Information Technology sector. With this repository of knowledge, he strives to find new ways to use technology to help and monitor the environment.
Douglas was born and raised in central Pennsylvania where he spent his life fishing, hiking and exploring. Over the years he has developed a deep appreciation for the natural world and advocates for clean water for all living things. He is currently a member of the Susquehanna River Cleanup Project committee. He has actively participated in various environmental initiatives ranging from waterway cleanups along the Susquehanna River to cave rehabilitation projects in the hopes of restoring some of the unique ecosystems native to central Pennsylvania. In his free time, Doug enjoys exploring National and State Parks and other natural locations with his family.
Cheryl is a native of Moosic, Pennsylvania where she first learned to fish with her family at local lakes and streams. She earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Biology and Master's degree in Biochemistry from the University of Scranton. After finishing her studies, she moved to Central New Jersey where she lived for 14 years. During that time, she enjoyed hiking and fishing throughout the state with her husband (and eventually her two children).
In 2012, Cheryl and her family had the opportunity to move to Williamsport, Pennsylvania where she currently resides. She and her family quickly fell in love with the local lakes, rivers, streams and hiking trails. She and her family especially enjoy visiting different Pennsylvania State Parks to hike and fish.
Cheryl works as an Environmental Manager for a local organization. She is excited to combine her love of the outdoors with the knowledge she has gained in her current job as a volunteer for the MSRKA. She believes that education is the key to achieving clean waterways both locally and throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. You can contact her directly via email by clicking here.
An avid outdoorsman, Walt Bingman has been an instrumental part of our HERYN (Helping Engage our River's Youth with Nature) kayaking and fishing day programs since they began in the summer of 2021.
He volunteers with numerous programs and initiatives, has a longstanding history with the National Wild Turkey Federation and brings his experiences in organizing events, fundraising and advocating for our natural resources to our board. He and his wife, Sherry, live in rural Shamokin Dam.
You can contact him via email by clicking here.
Born and raised in a riverfront community along the West Branch of the Susquehanna, Katie developed her love for the river as a little girl-- spending summers enjoying all the benefits the river has to offer.
These early experiences led her to launch Roambler.com, a web-based marketplace platform designed to connect adventure seekers with local guides and mentors in Pennsylvania. Katie believes that providing better access to positive experiences in the outdoors can lead people to love the places they live while building a foundation for environmental stewardship. She is passionate about working to protect the Susquehanna River so it can be enjoyed for generations to come.
You can contact her via email by clicking here
David Elton moved to Lewisburg after retiring as Professor of Civil Engineering at Auburn University (Alabama). Dave is an expert in geosynthetics for retaining walls, landfills, slopes and earth dams, as well as building and bridge foundations. He is well published, has received many professional awards, is a Professional Engineer (AL), and a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. His interests in environmental projects include stream bank stabilization, erosion control, and surface water quality.
Ann Fisher (Ph.D., University of Connecticut) retired from Penn State University, where she taught environmental economics and conducted research on people’s perceptions of water quality, their willingness to pay for environmental improvements, and the potential impacts of climate change on the mid-Atlantic region.
Earlier, she worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, developing methods to estimate the value of environmental improvements and how to communicate effectively about the risks of pollutants. Her work experience reflects her passion for a clean environment--especially clean water because it is crucial for healthy ecosystems and for healthy people. She is a long-time member of Trout Unlimited and enjoys fishing in the Susquehanna watershed and elsewhere.
John Levitsky, watershed specialist for the Luzerne County Conservation District, tackles a wide assortment of water quality issues throughout the northeast section of the state, including Abandoned Mine Drainage concerns at places such as the Plainsville Borehole Discharge. Check out a podcast interview with him about a solution he has for this specific issue and the help he needs to make it realistic.
Peter Petokas is a renowned expert researcher on the hellbender, working with the Lycoming College Clean Water Institute to study the hellbender and other species while instituting programs to help offset the drastic decline of the hellbender throughout the Susquehanna River watershed. He has served in an advisory role for the US Fish & Wildlife Service on its last assessment of hellbender protections. Hear more about his experiences in this podcast episode.
Jeffery Sock received his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Penn State in May 1992. He has since worked 11 years in public accounting firms in the area and also worked another 19 years for private business in the area. He is an Enrolled Agent with the IRS and currently is a partner in Lee A Viard & Associates in Williamsport. His years of experience enable him to not only advise businesses on tax planning but also on ways to improve profit margins.
Matt Wilson is director of the Freshwater Research Institute and Center for Environmental Education and Research at Susquehanna University. He is a stream and restoration ecologist focused on understanding the processes that drive patterns we see in nature, and how to mimic those processes in restoration. His graduate work focused on insect communities in the West Branch Susquehanna River and how they interact with each other, spending many hours snorkeling the West Branch. Since then, he has led large-scale riparian restoration programs and his research has focused on food webs of small streams, quantifying restoration effectiveness, and using social media and surveys to identify successful approaches to science communication with different audiences.
What is a Riverkeeper?
A Riverkeeper is part of the ‘Keeper family of river-, coast-, channel-, bay-, lake-, harbor-, creek-, sound-, and water-keepers licensed by Waterkeeper Alliance to be the eyes, ears, and voice of a particular waterbody. Each member of the Waterkeeper family has local roots with a global reach that connects them to more than 340 other Waterkeepers around the world on six continents in more than 40 countries.
What do you do as a RIVERKEEPER® ?
This section of the Susquehanna River is “my river.” I am responsible for her. I monitor the work of government agencies, communities, and industry. My work is based on the Clean Water Act , which, in 1972, established water quality standards for surface waters, such as the Susquehanna River. It is my job to be the voice for the river and speak up on her behalf to assure that she is protected at all times in order to provide swimmable, drinkable, and fishable waters for her communities.
How do you monitor the activities within the watershed?
The most important thing I do every day is be aware. I listen to you – the residents of the Susquehanna River Valley. I learn as much as I can about our current issues, challenges, and concerns. I attend meetings, reach out to environmental partners, connect with river experts and colleagues, and read articles and updates. I ask many questions and I seek out answers and solutions. I am keenly observant as I travel throughout the watershed by truck, boat and kayak.
A look back at some of our key foundational pieces:
Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper groups around the world, focusing citizen action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. The Waterkeeper movement patrols and protects over 2.75 million square miles of rivers, lakes, and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. For more information, please visit waterkeeper.org.