Our team of environmental advocates powers our mission and vision to protect Missouri’s people and their environment. We wouldn’t be able to hold governmental officials and polluters accountable without their energy, dedication, talent, and love of nature.

Learn more about the people behind our organization.

Christen Commuso

Community Outreach Specialist – St. Louisccommuso@moenvironment.org314-727-0600 x116

Christen joins MCE with nearly a decade of experience advocating for the cleanup of Manhattan Project radioactive waste in St. Louis. She served as Communications Coordinator for Just Moms STL and was a member of the West Lake Landfill Steering Committee. Additionally, she is the creator of the social media project, Humans of West Lake Landfill, developed to raise awareness of the human cost of exposure to radioactive waste and document the efforts to restore our communities. She also has eleven years of experience as a Purchaser and Bookkeeper for a busy E-Commerce store. She is excited to be a part of the MCE team and continue following her passion to protect our natural spaces and human health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and kayaking with her family, nature photography, and traveling.

Carmen Harris

Membership and Volunteer Managercharris@moenvironment.org314-727-0600 x112

Carmen is a graduate of University of Missouri – St. Louis and brings experience in nonprofit fundraising as well as membership sales experience with national retail businesses such as Cole Haan and Warby Parker. She is extremely excited to be working with a mission-driven organization once again. Carmen is looking forward to applying her knowledge of customer service and relationship management to foster impactful relationships within her community and beyond. Carmen also has developed a love for houseplants, and she loves the classic Mickey Mouse cartoons. Keep your eyes peeled when you meet her because you can find her wearing at least one item with Mickey on it every day!

Jim Karpowicz

Community Outreach Specialist – Mid Missourijkarpowicz@moenvironment.org314-727-0600 x114

For the past thirty years, Jim has combined his passion for wildlife, wild places and environmental issues with high quality video production. Transforming complex scientific concepts into compelling stories has become his hallmark, and the numerous awards and honors his work has received speak to the popularity of his programs with the general public. For over 20 years, Jim was a lead producer for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Missouri Outdoors program. With over 100 story segments in the can, Jim evolved into long-form production, not only for the Missouri Department of Conservation, but other state and federal resource agencies as well. Jim has produced dozens of award winning documentary films concerning a wide range of natural history and environmental issues. In 2001, Jim stepped from behind the camera to found Missouri River Relief, a hands-on, on-the-river advocacy group devoted to physically cleaning up the wide Missouri. Thousands of volunteers have picked up hundreds of tons of trash on the lower Missouri as a result of this organization. Jim’s river-adjacent Boone County property has served as the organizations boatyard and equipment headquarters for nearly 20 years.

Rae Miller

Known & Grown Managerrmiller@moenvironment.org314-727-0600 x118

Rae brings many years of experience working on sustainable farms, with local nonprofits, and as an environmental compliance project manager. Rae oversees MCE’s Known & Grown program to both promote and develop sustainable farms in our state. Originally from St. Louis, Rae enjoys outdoor activities with her family, especially gardening.

Makenna Nickens

Community Outreach Specialist – Kansas Citymnickens@moenvironment.org314-727-0600 x115

Makenna is a Kansas City native with a passion for the city’s people, pride, and history. After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2020, she returned to Kansas City to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she graduated in 2022. Makenna has experience working and volunteering with many agencies that provide services in the mid-Missouri and Kansas City regions.

Makenna has always felt strongly about social and environmental justice and looks forward to working with MCE in the Kansas City region to achieve progress in those areas and give back to the community. 

In her free time, Makenna enjoys trying out new restaurants, hiking, yoga, going to concerts, and enjoying art.

Jared Opsal

Executive Directorjopsal@moenvironment.org314-727-0600 x110

Jared began his professional career in web development handling the online advertising efforts of Fortune 500 companies. After 5 years in this field, he decided to return to school to start a new career in public service. Jared earned a B.S. in Health Education at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a Masters in Public Administration at Saint Louis University.

Jared’s public service career began with Tobacco Free St. Louis where he worked on updating tobacco policies to improve public health. He later worked for PreventEd organizing a region-wide campaign to educate and mobilize people about the opioid epidemic and advocate for public policy changes. Later, Jared helped found the St. Louis Downtown Neighborhood Association and became its first Executive Director. Prior to joining MCE, he was the Executive Director of Givable – a philanthropic catalyst for St. Louis area nonprofits.

Jared and his family enjoy taking trips to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and hiking and camping at many other beautiful parks and conservation areas throughout Missouri.

Melissa Vatterott

Policy Directormvatterott@moenvironment.org314-727-0600 x111

Melissa came to MCE first as a legal intern, reviewing agricultural permits and also researching and writing about the state of our food system. From there, she was hooked on MCE! Melissa brings her law degree, her B.S. in environmental science, and her minor in agricultural economics to the MCE table to lead our policy department in its work with federal, state, and local elected officials as well as government agencies to address environmental issues with community input at the forefront. In her spare time, Melissa loves weight lifting, rollerblading, biking, and refurbishing furniture!

Jaelithe Virgin-Downey

Policy Coordinatorjvirgindowney@moenvironment.org314-727-0600 x113

Jaelithe was born and raised in St. Louis. She focused her undergraduate studies on the intersection of environmental science and public health and graduated in 2020 from Harvard University with a B.A. in Environmental Science and Public Policy. After college she returned to St. Louis, where she began working as a barn manager for Equine Assisted Therapy and as an intern at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. 

Jaelithe hopes to be a part of protecting both the health of Missouri’s people and its environment. She is excited to join MCE’s team as Policy Coordinator. In her spare time, she enjoys horseback riding and crocheting. 

Chris Wimmer

Sustainable Farming Specialistcwimmer@moenvironment.org314-727-0600

Chris Wimmer joined the Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s Food & Farm team as the Known & Grown Farm Specialist in July of 2019. Chris was born and raised in St. Louis and always dreamed of becoming a farmer. He received his BS in Agronomy from University of Missouri Columbia. Eager to combine his passion for environmental stewardship and growing food Chris founded The Farm at Kraut Run in 1995. The farm produced organic vegetables and meat sold locally through a Community Supported Agriculture program, farmers markets, and local restaurants. The farm’s hands-on educational field trips were designed to impress on visitors the importance of enhancing nature while producing food responsibly. In 2017 MCE sponsored a trip to the farm that introduced Chris to the effective environmental work they have been doing for the last 50 years. He is excited to join the newly formed Known and Grown Team, and to share his desire to expand the availability of locally grown, organic and humanely raised food.

Interns

Our college interns are an important part of the work we are able to undertake at MCE. They perform research, communications, and outreach duties among many other tasks.

Maggy Boly

Communications Intern mboly@moenvironment.org

Maggy is a student at Lindenwood University majoring in Advertising and Strategic Communications with a minor in Digital Marketing. She started running her dog’s Instagram in 2020 and found her love for social media. She is passionate about animals and their wellbeing. She is excited to learn about how the environment impacts our livelihood and how we can treat it better for our future generations.

Sumbal Haseeb

Policy Intern shaseeb@moenvironment.org314-484-8259

Sumbal is a 4th year criminology major and political science minor studying pre-law at Maryville University. She previously interned at O’ Connell and Crosby LLC, now known as Law Offices of David M O’Connell LLC in St. Charles, MO. She has experience working on criminal and civil cases and now is excited to learn about environmental law. She is looking forward to working with the MCE team on environmental policies to protect the people and the environment of Missouri. 

Audrey Friesen

Community & Membership Outreach Intern afriesen@moenvironment.org

Audrey is a St.Louis native who recently graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics focusing her study on the impact of media on international and domestic issues. After some-post grad travel, Audrey gained experience as an intake specialist for a local law firm. She has ample customer service experience and is thrilled to play an active role in the fight for climate security with MCE.