Meet Our Communications & Development Manager: Gloria Kostadinova

As a storyteller and science communicator it is my obligation to give our ocean a voice.

For Gloria Kostadinova, storytelling is second nature. As a passionate environmental advocate, she is keen on communicating science stories that captivate, inform and inspire audiences. Gloria comes to Clean Ocean Access with five years of strategic communications and public relations experience. She’s worked in communications departments across multiple sectors including nonprofit, federal, private, and higher education.

Most recently. Gloria worked as a graduate communications fellow for the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, where she honed her science communications skills under the mentorship of skilled professionals at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting.

Previously, Gloria worked in Washington, DC at two strategic communications firms and served as a communications intern at the White House Council on Environmental Quality during the Obama Administration.

A proud Rhode Islander, Gloria knew she wanted to use her experience and expertise to give back to her community and advance environmental stewardship in the Ocean State.  As the communications and development manager at Clean Ocean Access she hopes to captivate audiences through stories of the seas, inform readers about the many challenges of ocean pollution, and inspire communities to act and stand up for a healthy ocean for generations to come.

Gloria also sits on the board of directors of ecoRI News, a local environmental news group dedicated to reporting on environmental and social justice issues in southern New England. She holds a master’s in environmental science and management from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor’s in English from Boston College.


Where did you grow up?

I was born in Bulgaria and moved to the United States when I was three years old. I’ve lived in many places including Ohio, New York, Indiana, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, and Spain. The Ocean State is where I call home.

What is your first memory of the ocean?

When I was in elementary school I lived on Long Island. My family and I used to picnic on Long Beach. It was my favorite place to visit and walk along the seemingly endless coastline. My memories of the ocean are tied with memories of being surrounded by family and friends.

What is your favorite ocean activity?

I really enjoy walking on the beach. I love the serenity of listening to the waves crashing, the feeling of sand beneath my feet, the ebb and flow of the tides. Walking along the shoreline gives me a time to think, a time to reflect and a time when I can be just one of the billions of grains of sand on the beach.

What motivates you to work in ocean conservation?

The ocean covers about 71% of the earth’s surface – it sustains life on earth, provides us with food, drives global currents and influences our climate. The ocean is a mysterious and magnificent place yet, like many natural resources, it cannot protest or speak to its needs and grievances. As a storyteller and science communicator it is my obligation to give our ocean a voice.

Press Release: Clean Ocean Access Receives Grant from BankNewport 200th Anniversary Giving Program

NEWPORT – Clean Ocean Access (COA) is proud to have the support of BankNewport as a local business supporter on Aquidneck Island. At the end of fiscal year 2018, BankNewport contributed a total of $2,000 in support of COA’s mission to take action today so future generations can enjoy ocean activities. The generous corporate contributions will help advance COA projects and programming that aim to eliminate marine debris, improve coastal water quality, and preserve and protect shoreline access across Aquidneck Island. 

In celebration of two centuries of philanthropic commitment to Rhode Island, BankNewport launched a special “We’re All In” giving program that extends 200 ‘hyper-local’ donations, each in the amount of $1,000, in support of community projects geared toward making a positive impact in the lives of residents. COA is honored to have been selected as one of the 200 recipients of the “We’re All In” giving program.

“Thanks to the generosity and philanthropic spirit of local businesses like BankNewport, Clean Ocean Access can fulfill its mission and protect the coastal waters we love here in the Ocean State,” said Dave McLaughlin, COA executive director. “We look forward to strengthening mutually-beneficial relationships with the business community in 2019 and beyond.”

The $1,000 donation from BankNewport directly helps fund COA’s “Blue Access for All (BAFA)” grant project that connects underserved youth on Aquidneck Island to the coastline. Funded initially by Rhode Island Foundation, with additional support from The North Family Trust, BAFA seeks to inspire and motivate youth to get outside in nature, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and connect with their local marine environment. BankNewport’s contributions will help fund supplies for youth participating in BAFA, including reusable water bottles, team t-shirts, healthy snacks, backpacks, and journals.

“BAFA engages youth in ‘hands-on and minds-on’ activities that help build a sense of confidence and accomplishment in students, as well as a belief that healthy living is possible right here in Newport,” said Eva Touhey, COA program manager. “We are grateful to have BankNewport’s support to make this project possible and inspire the next generation of ocean stewards.”  

Additionally, employees at the BankNewport Administration & Operations Center, located at John Clarke Road in Middletown, organized a dress-down day on September 24th, 2018 that raised $1,000. COA is thrilled to have been chosen as the recipient of the casual-day fundraiser and looks forward to using the contributions to advance its mission for the betterment of all Aquidneck Island residents.

“Being active in our community and giving back has served as the foundation of BankNewport since our founding two-hundred years ago,” said Sandra J. Pattie, President and CEO, BankNewport. “Our employees selected Clean Ocean Access as the beneficiary of their $1,000 casual day donations, and the Bank was equally pleased to extend a $1,000 grant through our special 200th Anniversary ‘We’re All In” giving program – all in support of the important work by Clean Ocean Access to protect, preserve and improve shoreline access for our residents and visitors to enjoy.

Book-of-the-Month: Ocean Country

Book review contribution by COA volunteer Kathleen Weathers

“We are all connected, and all have a social responsibility to not only educate ourselves, but to act.”

Kathy Weathers

Liz Cunningham’s part environmental exposé, adventure story, and memoir reads like a great letter to a friend. Carl Safina, noted conservationist and author, wrote the introduction. The book’s subtitle, “One Woman’s Voyage from Peril to Hope in her Quest to Save the Seas,” is the nutshell summary of in-depth explorations into ocean health. Cunningham illustrates five areas around the world that share the same problems and solutions, transcending national borders, hence Cunningham’s word choice of “country” in the title. She takes the reader on a journey from the Islands of Turks and Caicos, the California coast and the Coral Triangle, which include thousands of Pacific islands stretching from Indonesia to East Timor. The expedition continues on to the Mediterranean and the Silver Bank, known for its breeding ground of humpback whales, just north of the Dominican Republic.

Three simple questions guide Cunningham’s interactions with fishermen, policy-makers, conservationists, sea nomads, scientists, and yes, Parisian chefs:

  1. Why is the ocean so important?
  2. How can we live without leaving a trail of destruction behind us?
  3. Given our interconnected destiny with other creatures, how do our lives need to change?

You’ll learn how Coral Triangle fishermen were supported in changing their harvesting practices from using dynamite (with obvious catastrophic long-term consequences) to sustainable methods, by gaining appreciation of an ecosystem, and creating a forum where all members agree to abide by the “new” approach. This new approach often resembles traditional methods that have been once abandoned. Cunningham’s interview with one of the forum members makes all the difference in how we learn about the process of change. We hear directly from active fishermen faced with problems that threaten their livelihoods and food sources, problems with which our own Ocean State fisherman can identify.

We read other stories of turtle poachers becoming eco-tourism guides, and the creation of SeaWeb Seafood Summit, the world’s premier conference on seafood sustainability (Seafood Summit June ’19 in Bangkok). We learn fascinating facts about how Manta rays have the largest brain-to-body ratio of any fish, how the size of the Tokyo fish market is equal to 43 football fields, and how 2.6 billion people depend on fish not just as a protein source, but as their sole (pun intended) food.

Cunningham’s consistent discovery and message throughout the book is that every human being has a role to play. We are all connected, and all have a social responsibility to not only educate ourselves, but to act. Volunteering with Clean Ocean Access (COA) is a great way for citizens of the Ocean State to become one with our “ocean country” and to be part of the global effort.

Get Involved with COA

Ocean Country is a highly recommended read if you: breathe, eat, enjoy water in its various forms; if you are concerned about the degradation of our environment and need shoring up (pun intended), or if you are new to the issues. Bring your curiosity about world cultures and read how seemingly big systemic issues enmeshed in economies can be tackled by small connective actions. Check out the “Resources” section at the back of the book. Cunningham gives a shout out to volunteering “for an organization you feel passionate about.” Chances are if you are reading this, you are connected to COA in a meaningful way. Think about who else might benefit from this connection and bring them aboard.

For more information on ocean science issues and topics discussed in the book visit:

Liz Cunningham’s Website

College of the Atlantic

SeaWeb – A project of The Ocean Foundation

Meet Our Environmental Science Intern: Emma Gettman

When it comes to water quality monitoring, no one knows the waterscape better than Emma Gettman. As an environmental science intern at Clean Ocean Access (COA) this fall semester, Emma has helped to improve coastal water quality on Aquidneck Island through the water quality monitoring and beach cleanup programs.

Emma is an Ocean State native and loves exploring the underwater world day and night. Growing up in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, she remembers making sand castles with her dad and loves night swimming.

“I’ve always loved the ocean and wanted to work at an organization where I can help make a difference,” says Emma, who is senior at the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, pursuing a degree in environmental economics with a minor in sustainability.  

Emma spent a semester studying abroad half way around the world at Lincoln University in New Zealand, where she worked alongside PhD students researching genetic changes in soil microbes as a result of invasive species. Her genuine curiosity and scientific research skills led her to pursue an internship with COA in September 2018. In addition to monitoring water quality and helping run beach cleanups, Emma has also helped write reports, enter data, and track marine debris collected in the marina trash skimmers.

A typical Thursday morning for Emma entails waking up in the early morning and driving out to different access points across Aquidneck Island, where she then collects water samples. These samples are then delivered to the Rhode Island Department of Health for further analysis and testing of Enterococci, bacteria found in human and animal intestines that indicate the presence of fecal matter and potential risk of harmful diseases in water systems.

COA has been monitoring water quality year-round since 2006, helping to improve water quality in our favorite swimming spots around Aquidneck Island. In fact, COA volunteers and environmental science interns, like Emma, continue to monitor water quality September through May, when state-wide monitoring is not performed.

“I’m interested in advancing a sustainable and healthy environment, and I enjoy learning about different conservation strategies,” says Emma, who will be graduating from URI this December. After graduation she hopes to do more traveling and engage in environmental work that allows her to continue educating the public about environmental sustainability.

Press Release: Report finds single-use plastic makes up 70 percent of debris in marina trash skimmers

Clean Ocean Access recently released its annual Marina Trash Skimmer Report detailing the success of the Marina Trash Skimmer (MTS) program over the past three years, as well as the development and expansion of the program in southern New England, which will include the installation of new MTS units in Providence, Rhode Island and New Bedford, Massachusetts this coming spring.

In 2018, the four MTS units on Aquidneck Island successfully removed 5,885 pounds of marine debris from coastal waters, including 4,223 individual items of debris. That is equivalent to nearly three tons of debris ranging from material related to shoreline and recreational activities to smoking and medical/personal hygiene activities.

“As our staff empties the skimmers, it is eye opening to see the amount of trash removed from the harbor, as well as the different types of items,” says Sara Mariani with the City of Newport’s Harbormaster Office, one of the program partners for the MTS unit located at Perotti Park in downtown Newport. “The program is a daily reminder that we must change our behavior to improve the health of Newport Harbor, as well as the Narragansett Bay and beyond.”

Between April and October of this year, COA conducted 36 site visits of the four MTS units located across Aquidneck Island, and performed detailed data collection at each location. Itemized debris counts indicate that single-use plastic makes up 70 percent of material collected in the MTS units. This low-to-no-value material includes items, such as plastic food wrappers, plastic water bottles, plastic caps, lids and straws. The remaining 30 percent of materials collected in the MTS units include materials related to smoking and tobacco use, such as cigarette butts, tobacco packaging, filters and lighters.

The MTS program launched in 2016 when COA received grant funding from 11th Hour Racing to install the first two MTS units on the East Coast. The following year, COA expanded the MTS program with the installation of two more units on Aquidneck Island. Since the launch of the program, COA-operated MTS units have removed a total of 20,615 pounds and over 27,000 individual items of debris from our coastline.

“The trash skimmers provide us with important data about the pollution that ends up as marine debris in our coastal waterways,” says Max Kraimer, marine debris specialist at COA. Kraimer works to leverage, facilitate, and establish MTS technology and research on the East Coast. He also leads trainings and educational outreach events with local schools and community groups.

Over the past three years, the MTS program has educated and engaged 959 individuals, including elementary school students, college graduates and senior-level scientists studying marine debris.“We’re able to use the technology to educate the public about ocean pollution, bringing visibility to the problem of marine debris and inspiring communities to make environmentally-responsible decisions on land that improve the health of our ocean,” Kraimer adds.  

The success of the MTS program, made possible by 11th Hour Racing, has led to increased growth and awareness of the technology throughout southern New England. In spring 2019, COA plans to launch two more MTS units in Providence, Rhode Island and New Bedford, Massachusetts. COA will install an MTS unit in partnership with the City of Providence and the waterfront bar, Hot Club, helping to improve water quality in the Providence River and educate Providence public school students on the issue of marine debris. The second MTS unit is in partnership with New Bedford Community Boating Center overlooking Clark’s Cove in New Bedford harbor.

“By partnering with Clean Ocean Access and the New Bedford Port Authority on the installation of a trash skimmer, we will not only be helping to clean our local waterway, but we’ll be helping to raise awareness of the marine debris issue and encourage everyone to engage in positive change,” says Andy Herlihy, executive director of New Bedford Community Boating Center, an 11th Hour Racing grantee and community outreach center that teaches positive life values to Greater New Bedford’s at-risk youth through boating.

“The skimmer will be front and center on our waterfront, where it will be highly visible to tourists and residents alike. The ocean has historically and continues to be one of our city’s greatest assets and we all need to do our part for its health,” adds Herlihy.
COA extends its sincere appreciation to the MTS program partners and sponsors, including 11th Hour Racing, The City of Newport, New England Boatworks, Sail Newport, Bioprocess H2O, as well as to the volunteers and citizen scientists who help make the program successful.