Our Team

Sara Shipley Hiles

Associate Professor, Executive Director

Hiles manages grant operations. She is an award-winning journalist and journalism educator with almost 30 years’ experience in the field. She specializes in environmental and investigative reporting and is a recognized journalism teacher and editor with a dozen years of teaching experience. She has won awards and recognition for teaching, feature writing, digital journalism and investigative reporting. Hiles also directs the Smith/Patterson Science Journalism Fellowship and Lecture Series and serves on the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Dr. Earnest Perry

Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research

Dr. Perry serves as a project advisor. He served as coordinator of the School’s doctoral teaching program for six years and as chair of journalism studies from 2005-2011 and again during the 2013-14 academic year. He worked for nearly 10 years as a journalist for newspapers in Illinois, Connecticut and Texas. He currently serves as chair of the Publications Committee for the Association on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Tegan Wendland

Tegan Wendland

Editorial Director

Wendland has more than a decade of experience reporting on issues in the Mississippi River Basin, from the shores of Lake Superior to the Louisiana Delta. Her work has aired nationally and internationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Planet Money, Reveal, BBC and CBC and has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal, Cap Times and The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, among other print and radio outlets. Wendland brings an in-depth knowledge of the environmental, agricultural and economic issues in the Basin, informed by her rural upbringing in Wisconsin and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Communication from UW-Madison. She has led multimedia collaborations and has experience editing print and radio, managing a daily newsroom, and teaching undergraduate journalism courses. For seven years before joining the Desk, she reported on Louisiana’s disappearing coast for NPR station WWNO in New Orleans, where she covered the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change.

Dr. Kate Rose

Research Faculty

Dr. Rose works on the research side of the Ag & Water desk’s grant. She is an assistant professor of strategic communication and science communication in the Missouri School of Journalism. Rose’s research focuses on science and risk communication, addressing the intersection between science, media, and the public. Her work investigates both scientists’ public engagement efforts and public attitudes and understanding of science with respect to controversial scientific and environmental issues.

Annie Ropeik

Assistant Director

Ropeik is an independent environmental journalist based in Maine. She contributes reporting to The Maine Monitor, Energy News Network and other outlets, and serves on the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Ropeik brings a decade of climate, energy and environmental reporting experience at public radio stations and regional collaboratives across the country. Originally from Maryland, she has reported for NPR, the CBC, BBC and podcasts such as Outside/In and How to Save a Planet.

Kae Petrin

Data Journalist

Petrin works with the Desk’s reporters on data-driven projects, graphics and investigations. They have covered environmental issues in the Mississippi River Basin at Missouri-based radio and print publications. There, they created graphics, built newsroom-wide tools, and produced investigative reporting. Petrin is also a data & graphics reporter on Chalkbeat’s data visuals team, where they collaborate with local reporters to tell data-driven stories about education. Petrin co-founded the Trans Journalists Association in 2020 with a collective of transgender and nonbinary media-makers.

Senior Advisors and Expert Journalists

Ag & Water Desk Expert Journalists and Senior Advisors bring decades of experience covering agriculture, policy, land and water use, energy, industry, and coastal issues. They have won some of the highest awards in the field, including the Pulitzer Prize and the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism.

Our experts serve as mentors and project leaders for our Report for America corps members and help determine the editorial direction of the Desk.

Mark Schleifstein

Senior Advisor

Mark Schleifstein is an environment reporter for The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com, and a member of its four-person environment reporting team. Schleifstein contributed to the award-winning “Polluter’s Paradise” series on the state’s petrochemical industry, published in the paper and online on NOLA.com and ProPublica. His stories on Hurricane Katrina were among the Times-Picayune’s stories honored with 2006 Pulitzer Prizes for Public Service and Breaking News Reporting. He’s the co-author of the 2006 book Path of Destruction: The Devastation of New Orleans and the Coming Age of Superstorms,” about Katrina.

Erin Jordan

Senior Advisor

Erin Jordan is an award-winning investigative reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa, where she covers topics that include water quality, agriculture, state government spending and gender equity in sports. She was a 2018-19 O’Brien Fellow In Public Service Journalism at Marquette University with a project focused on water quality in the Mississippi River watershed. Before joining The Gazette, Erin was the Iowa City Bureau reporter for the Des Moines Register from 2003 to 2009.

Georgina Gustin

Expert Journalist

Georgina Gustin covers climate change and food systems for Inside Climate News, based in Washington D.C. Previously she wrote about Congressional and regulatory actions on food and agriculture for CQ Roll Call, and the biotech and farming industries for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Her work has won numerous awards, including the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, and has been published in The New York Times and National Geographic’s The Plate, among others.


Bryce Gray

Expert Journalist

Bryce Gray is the energy and environment reporter for The St. Louis Post Dispatch. Since taking the position in 2016, highlights of his work include coverage of more frequent flooding, disputes over controversial herbicides, and examining why Missouri’s electric grid still burns so much coal — more than any state except Texas. Before coming to the Post-Dispatch, he worked at High Country News and at a weekly newspaper in Polson, Montana.

DTN/The Progressive Farmer

Chris Clayton

Expert Journalist

Chris Clayton is the policy editor for DTN/The Progressive Farmer, an agricultural news organization offering daily markets, weather and news reports, as well as analysis for commodity farmers in the United States and other major export countries. Chris worked for newspapers and business journals in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska before joining DTN in 2005.

Halle Parker

Expert Journalist

Halle Parker is an environment reporter for WWNO, New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans Public Radio, she covered Louisiana’s environment for the Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate and down the bayou for the Houma Courier. She also worked for the National Audubon Society. Some of her past reporting has centered on environmental justice issues and the state’s coastal land loss crisis.


Our partner newsrooms have hired reporters to cover regional and national projects about agriculture and water issues as part of the Desk. The journalists are corps members with our partner, Report for America, a national journalism service program.

Reporters receive ongoing training, mentorship, and expenses-paid travel to the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, in addition to other benefits.

Bennet Goldstein

Wisconsin Watch, Madison, Wis.

Goldstein has worked for the Omaha World Herald in Nebraska and daily papers in Iowa, including the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Goldstein’s work has garnered awards including the Associated Press Media Editors award and an Iowa Newspaper Association award. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mónica Cordero Sancho

Investigate Midwest, Champaign, Ill.

Cordero’s work has been published by Univision, Bloomberg Businessweek, La Noticia, Radio Ambulante, NPR, openDemocracy and The New York Times. Born in Costa Rica, she is a graduate of the University of Costa Rica and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. Cordero was part of a team that won the 2020 Ortega y Gasset Journalism Award, the most prestigious journalism prize in the Spanish-speaking world, for best investigative reporting.

Connor Giffin

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.

While earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Giffin contributed to “Lost on the Frontline,” an award-winning collaborative project from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian documenting the deaths of frontline health care workers during the pandemic. He also reported on state government and the environment for the Columbia Missourian.

Madeline Heim

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis.

Heim previously reported on health and science for the Appleton Post-Crescent and the USA Today network in Wisconsin. Her coverage of the pandemic earned top honors from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. She holds degrees in journalism and creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was editor-in-chief of The Daily Cardinal. Heim has interned at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and reported for the Winona Daily News in Winona, Minnesota.

Keely Brewer

Daily Memphian, Memphis, Tenn.

Brewer is a recent graduate of The University of Alabama, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in news media and served as editor-in-chief of The Crimson White. While there, Brewer launched a campus investigation into COVID-19 reporting tools in partnership with the Poynter Institute. She interned at The Tuscaloosa News and has reported on the impact of faith-based diabetes programs at the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.

Chloe Johnson

Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minn.

Previously, Johnson reported on the environment and climate change for The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. She started her career at The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and holds a journalism degree from American University. Her work has been recognized by the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Society for Features Journalism and she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Eva Tesfaye

Harvest Public Media, Kansas City, Mo.

Tesfaye was a producer at NPR’s daily science podcast “Short Wave.” As an NPR Kroc fellow, she produced for “Weekend Edition,” reported for NPR’s national desk, helped start a podcast about the federal executions carried out under the Trump administration for NPR member station WFIU, and reported from Birmingham, Alabama, for the Gulf States Newsroom. Tesfaye joined NPR after graduating from Columbia University with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in French and Francophone studies.

Delaney Dryfoos

The Lens, New Orleans, La.

Dryfoos previously reported on climate change resiliency in New York City for Inside Climate News. She holds a master’s degree in science, health and environmental journalism from New York University, where she worked as the managing editor for Scienceline and an editorial intern at Living on Earth. She studied biology, global health, policy journalism and media studies at Duke University.

Brittney Miller

The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Miller earned a master’s degree in science writing and communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, she wrote about science for Nature, Knowable Magazine and the Monterey Herald, and she was named a fellow at The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Miller holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and journalism from the University of Florida.