Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Our organization would not be what it is without the hard-working people who have committed themselves to our cause.
Thomas H. Culhane, Ph.D.
Thomas Henry Taha Rassam Culhane, often called “T.H.” is a passionate educator specializing in renewable energy technology. Currently a professor at University of South Florida and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. As a father and teacher, he is passionate about creating solutions to world challenges, wanting to leave a better world for his children. He was first introduced to biogas in Egypt in 2003. It wasn’t until 2009 that T.H. developed urban home-scale biogas, that biogas education became his mission. As an individual, or as part of a team, T.H. sparks that same passion in others, to be as inspired as he is, to leave a better world for all.
Dr. Culhane is an urban planner who trains people from all over the world to build and install biodigesters and other renewable energy, water, and waste management systems. A visiting faculty researcher at Mercy College and recipient of two National Geographic Blackstone Innovation Challenge Grants, Dr. Culhane is working with fellow explorers to apply these technologies to tackle deforestation and indoor air pollution in rural areas and to help provide energy and promote health and food security in urban slums.
Graduating with honors from Harvard in Biological Anthropology, Dr. Culhane held a Rockefeller Fellowship, working in the primary rainforests of Borneo. In the jungle Dr. Culhane found that most organisms in environments with large biodiversity and cultural diversity quotients adopted “evolutionarily stable strategies” that led to long-term sustainability. This experience led Dr. Culhane into inner-city education in deprived and underserved communities in Los Angeles. He spent a decade working with at-risk youth, focused on common urban environmental challenges and their technological solutions.
In the late 1990s, Dr. Culhane conducted field work in rural rain forest villages in Guatemala, earning a Master’s in Regional and International Development from UCLA. He then entered a Ph.D. program in Environmental Analysis and Policy to explore how recent immigrants from rural areas to the inner-city could transform their adaptive knowledgebase to facilitate survival in degraded urban environments. Simultaneously, Dr. Culhane performed urban ecology experiments of his own in waste recycling, water and energy management and self-provisioning, living among the poor at the Los Angeles Eco-Village.
Dr. Culhane believes that these home biogas and solar energy systems are the easiest and most logical first steps toward creating sustainable grass-roots industrial ecology systems, something that he feels could unite people of all faiths toward a common goal. He believes, in true circus fashion, that though things may get tough, “the show must go on.”
Janice has a background in alternative education and a career in vertical aeroponics. With an interest in finding a more sensible and natural alternative to the minerals currently used in hydroponics and aeroponics, Janice is one of the founding members of Solar CITIES. She has been active in several youth organizations and volunteers her time in support of refugee efforts in the U.S. and abroad. Janice enjoys teaching people of all ages how to combine old world skills with modern simple technologies. Her passion is in helping people to help themselves.
Janice’s educational background is in Psychology, and Visual & Performing Arts, which she has applied to her career in education – both traditional and alternative.
Partnering with former Congressman Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War veteran, in 2006, she co-founded an organization to help Iraqi interpreters continue their education in the US. As the Iraqi refugee crisis grew, merged her efforts with that of The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies.
Currently, Janice focuses on vertical aeroponic food growing and food security with Juice Plus Tower Garden and with Adragone Aeroponics in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania.
She has been an active volunteer in Girl Scouts, Boys Scouts, Venture Crew, and 4-H and is a former member of the Chester County Women’s Commission and a current member of the Chester County China Initiative.
Known for her ability to bring diverse stakeholders together, Janice has built a strong network of environmentally and socially conscious individuals. She earned her certification in International Permaculture Design, choosing to specialize in small-scale biodigestion.
As part of her educational outreach with Solar CITIES, Janice offers hands-on presentations and workshops in aeroponics, biogas, and a variety of other topics.
As the owner of Adragone Aeroponics, located in Gap, PA, Jody currently manages a 10,000 square foot vertical aeroponic greenhouse farm. She has a passionate desire to leave a better world that was instilled by a childhood spent on the family farm.
Receiving the 1st Solar CITIES Puxin 10 cu. meter concrete biodigester in North America on her homestead in Glenmoore in 2014 was the catalyst for being a co-founder of Solar CITIES. Using the biodigester for manure management for her Miniature Jersey Cows seemed a natural extension of her “leave it better” philosophy – keeping the closed loop system at work on the homestead farm.
Jody and her family use the fertilizer from the biodigester to amend and rejuvenate the soil in the fields used to create the hay eaten by the cows. Welcoming visitors to the farm to visit the “baby dragon”, pet the cows and learn some gardening tips.
Leonel is the Acting Academic Coordinator, SES at Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture, Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment in Brooklyn, NY. He brings his well-honed professional skills in sustainable planning, design, and architecture. He is committed to participatory, environmentally, and socially sustainable processes, particularly toward resilient and decentralized infrastructure solutions.
Passionate, idealistic, and dedicated, he is always willing to learn from a variety of stakeholders and environments. He believes in the power of architecture, design, and planning as a social and cultural instigator. As Leonel says, “Architects and planners should be agents of progress and enhancement. We are all in this together, so we need to start acting and working like it!”
We met Deepak Chaudhari at the International Day of Peace back in 2015. We all knew we would meet again. Since then, Deepak has worn many hats. He has been a Student Intern during his undergraduate work at Boricua College, he went on to be Solar CITIES’ Cultural Advisor and Liaison to the Government of Nepal, and he has been an active volunteer at our presentations and workshops. Deepak graduated in 2022 with his master’s degree in Public Policy and Non-Profit Administration from New York University and currently holds the position of Chief Operations Officer of Solar CITIES.
John started out his career in municipal scale anaerobic digestion in his home country of Nigeria, where his skills in environmental auditing and risk assessment were directed toward water and wastewater. He came to the United States to continue his education and started with Solar CITIES as a Student Intern. He has since earned his Master of Engineering in Environmental Engineering at Penn State.
John has been with Solar CITIES since 2018 as a permanent International Team Member. He is currently working for the City of Philadelphia in the Department of Public Health. John plans to continue his education toward an advanced degree in Analytics and hopes to bring the Solar CITIES Biogas Education Program to Nigeria by creating a Biogas Education Hub in his home community.
Liara Hensley started as a High School Student Intern back in 2014. Artistic talents led to them becoming the illustrator for our educational resources. Liara officially joined our headquarters in Chester County, PA in early 2022.
They are nonbinary, queer, and a self-taught independent artist in their own time. They love to bring creative and innovative solutions to everyday problems, both out of necessity to overcome their own disabilities, or out of a desire to improve their surroundings.
Stephen B. Smith
Stephen most recently served as Director of Business Development at RideCell, a car and ridesharing software platform. He brings 33 years of Silicon Valley tech sales and business development expertise and has built and managed teams evangelizing new technologies across both the consumer and enterprise marketplace. He has been a contributor and manager of emerging technologies on teams that introduced the Apple Macintosh, Apple Laserwriters, Wireless data devices (with Novatel Wireless), in car GPS Navigation systems (with Magellan) and Navigation and Advertising Saas solutions for mobile devices (with Nokia.). Stephen has a proven track record of building channels and leveraging partnerships internally and externally to generate significant partnership and revenue opportunities.
Sharon Whiteside is an International Sales Associate at Green Magic Homes in Toronto, Canada and Panama. Not only does she bring her years of experience in sales and marketing, but as an experienced board member and Fundraising Chair of both the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Sharon brings her skills and knowledge for successful fundraising with a focus on good governance needed to build a strong financial foundation for any organization.
Jason Mesiarik is a Commercial Learning Leader with DLL, a Certified Carnegie Trainer, and owner of Four Sisters Farm in Chester County. He describes himself as a “grower” planting the seeds that feed and empower the world one person at a time. Jason has a background in telecommunications with AT&T, MCI, and Verizon and brings a wealth of knowledge and training in all aspects of social media marketing and sales.
He believes in the power of trusting relationships, sustainability, and collective communities partnering together to create a better future. He enjoys bringing people together for a cause.
Brian Falcon is a registered Project Architect with ARCUS Design Group who has a passion for regenerative design. A Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED®AP), and a Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC), as certified through the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), he focuses on sustainability and energy efficiency within the built environment. Brian is married with four children.
At home Brian leads the family in exploring the world of permaculture to learn how to live more holistically by designing and building fun and multi-functional projects on their property which provide food, energy, aesthetics and natural habitat for beneficial animals.
Christopher Rockefeller Lindstrom
Christopher Lindstrom is committed to his work to help transition the economy from a paradigm of extraction to one of regeneration. He has had an interest in and passion for the area of alternative monetary systems and local currencies since 2002. In 2003, he became a volunteer staff member at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics which led to his co-founding BerkShares in 2006, a local currency for use in the southern Berkshires of western Massachusetts, which continues to receive international media attention and has served as a model for other communities interested in creating their own locally circulating currency.
Chris has been active in the bioenergy sector as an investor and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of Catalyst Bioenergy Group, has served on the Board of Directors of the Slow Money Institute, and currently serves as a director of the David Rockefeller Fund. He is also the co-founder of CyclEffect, a new model of cooperative investing and business incubation that enables companies in their early stages to own a stake in a growing ecosystem of mission-aligned businesses.
“As a kid, I was struck by the iconic scene from Back to the Future where Doc Brown shows up out of nowhere in his updated time machine and frantically stuffs garbage into its fuel intake. Perhaps this was some kind of subliminal message for our modern era. Perhaps, the future will require going back to our past for solutions to the present crisis. As it turns out, there have been two basic technologies from the 1800’s (if not earlier) that can sustainably generate energy from waste: anaerobic digestion and gasification. But up until now, they have been seriously marginalized. Whether it be intentional marginalization by fossil fuel interests or complexities in maintaining a consistent output from a complex process, anaerobic digestion and gasification are barely included in the lexicon of sustainability. However, they both generate renewable fuel while recycling waste resources. This gas can be used as fuel for transportation or for generating electricity. But more importantly, they also produce valuable soil by-products. And this is a key carbon mitigating aspect. While aerobic digestion produces a bio-fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, gasification produces a char that is a very stable form of carbon, which, if placed in the ground, can store that carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years.”
Chris received an A.A. from Bard College at Simon’s Rock in 2001 and a B.A. in Integral Economics from Goddard College in 2009.
A former student and protégé of Dr. Thomas H. Culhane at the University of South Florida, Li Zhu continued his applied learning in small-scale biodigestion through Optional Practical Training with Solar CITIES and with SoMax Circular Solutions, both in Southeastern Pennsylvania. His skills as a sustainability specialist makes him adept at successfully promoting and directing green business initiatives while building positive relationships with project partners, federal agencies, and other non-profits.
Kayle joined us in 2017 as a student intern from Elizabeth College working on a project in her Fluid Dynamics class. She has remained with our team ever since and has continued to work on design improvements. Working together with Solar CITIES and their project partners, she hopes to fulfill her passion in developing innovative designs and solutions to many engineering and environmental issues. Her environmental awareness drives her interest in using energy efficient solutions to lower emissions and decrease concerns about climate change and carbon emissions.
Kaylee believes the more we educate ourselves and others about the latest research and innovations, the closer we come to creating a healthier and more vibrant world. Kaylee says, “As a student intern turned volunteer for Solar CITIES, I know I am making a difference in the bioenergy field and creating a better future.”
Being a 2015 undergraduate from Mercy College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy, Martha has a long history with Solar CITIES and small-scale biogas technology. As a former student of Dr. Thomas H. Culhane’s, Martha was a member of ENVISAJ, the Environmental Sustainability and Justice Club and participated in a number of biodigester builds, including the two IBC tank biodigesters at Solar CITIES headquarters and the 10m3 concrete biodigester at Adragone Aeroponics, both in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Martha also spear-headed a student led renewable energy project to the Dominican Republic in 2015. Being a natural born leader with exceptional organizational skills, Martha built upon her knowledge base by earning a master’s degree in International/Global Studies.
Jilianne started with Solar CITIES as a college bound Downingtown High School student with exceptionally diverse tech and organizational skills. During her student internship, she worked part-time on website content, video production, transitioning our team over to Microsoft 365, and assisting with IT issues.
With her passionate interest in space exploration, she is currently attending Embree-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. She is working toward her degree in Aeronautical Engineering with her eyes on a career with NASA, SpaceX, or Space Force. As part of our curriculum development team, Jilianne continues to create digital learning tools for use in Solar CITIES’ Biogas Education Programs.
Vanessa found Solar CITIES by chance while shopping for a table for her dorm room. We had a table for sale and when she showed up to pick it up one of our team members noticed her college sweatshirt. As serendipity would have it, it turned out that she was an Environmental Sciences major in need of an internship!
Biogas Education Hubs
A “Biogas Education Hub” is a term that our Solar CITIES Team coined for farms, companies, or organizations that have trained with, or who share similar education programs as, Solar CITIES, Inc. We list them here to make you aware of resources that may be closer to your own location where you can learn and/or share your own knowledge while also supporting the efforts of your own communities.
Glenmoore, PA, USA
Sonny & Marianne Bishop
Land O’ Lakes, FL, USA
Boma Mohammed Chi
Farming & Health Education
Kakuma Refugee Camp
Tillson, NY, USA
Herry Charles & Isabel Galiano
Biogas Education Hub Iraq
Taha Majeed Al-Muwali
Thomas H. Culhane | Janice Kelsey | Jody Spangler
Rebecca Tobias | Kathy Puffer | Shivani Mistry