Land to Sea Speaker Series

Our Land to Sea Speaker Series is back for an expanded second season! The Land to Sea Speaker Series and associated events are meant to foster a multi-generational conversation and sense of collaboration regarding watershed stewardship. Including evening outreach presentations for adults, morning education workshops at schools for children, and outdoor, place-based programs for all ages, these events will connect learning with the primary goals of increasing community and family engagement, the potential for stewardship action, and promoting an understanding of where our communities exist within our fragile watershed.

2021-2022 Land to Sea Series

Over the next 5 months, we will focus on 5 different themes important to our mission. Each month will feature a 3 part series: a virtual presentation, a community field visit and an in-classroom learning opportunity for Aquidneck Island schools! A huge thank you to our funders, The Island Foundation and the Southern New England Program for making this possible.

We spent the morning at the Barrington Farm School on 11/13 at 10:30 AM for a look into innovative agricultural practices.  This workshop complements our Land to Sea Speaker presentation (November 16th @ 6:30pm) featuring another community-based farm in Rhode Island, the AgInnovation Farm in Portsmouth. Tim Faulkner is an environmental writer and founder of Barrington Farm School. He was a reporter for ecoRI News for 10 years covering energy, climate change, and the State House. Tim wrote for several newspapers and periodicals in southern New England. He was cofounder of the Farm School's Community Compost program, which offers education, food scrap collection and composting for residents, businesses, and schools.He currently serves as president of the board of directors of Barrington Farm School. Tim holds a BA from Hobart & William Smith Colleges and an MA in writing and publishing from Emerson College. Barrington Farm School was founded in 2015 to teach students of all ages about food, farming, and the environment. The mission is to grow food, promote equitable food justice, build community, and foster connection to the land with the support of volunteers. In addition to the compost program, BFS grows produce, flowers, and runs a beekeeping program. Food is sold at the farm stand and donated to food pantries and community service groups.
Our first talk was on Tuesday, November 16 by speakers Sara Churgin of the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District and Margie Brennan of the Portsmouth School District. The two spoke about the Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm, its success so far and the vision for the future. The AgInnovation Farm, located at Cloverbud Ranch in Portsmouth, is a student volunteer-run farm where kids learn about sustainable agriculture with hands-on problem-solving experiences. Watch the recording of the talk here. Sara Churgin is the district manager for the Eastern RI Conservation District (ERICD) which provides direct assistance to individual Newport and Bristol County landowners and municipalities on natural-resource issues of concern.  ERICD is an environmental/conservation 501c3, quasi-public entity.  Sara is also the co-chair of the RI Green Infrastructure Coalition (GIC) leadership committee which addresses both water quality and flooding, while enhancing resilience to climate impacts. A large area of her organizational concentration is outreach and education to the agricultural community, storm water management/climate resiliency/sustainability, design and implementation of storm water mitigation projects, and non-point-source pollution reduction.  She also works on Environmental Justice projects, such as the stormwater mitigation program in Newport’s North end, which will culminate with a stormwater runoff mitigation installation at the Met School.  Sara graduated with a BS from Northwestern University and a JD from the University of San Francisco, School of Law.   Margie Brennan is the Science Instructional Coach for the Portsmouth School Department. She works with both elementary schools and the middle school with science education, STEAM programs, and agriculture. With 20 years of teaching, this will be her 3rd year in this position but has also worked in Newport and Tiverton. Margie and Sara Churgin co-founded the concept of AgInnovation. Margie is the lead teacher in the afterschool and summer programs on the farm. She has a Bachelor in Science and Masters in Elementary Education with a middle school endorsement from URI. Most notably, she is a certified National Geographic Educator for the state of RI. Recently, Margie received the Department of Education Green Ribbon Award on behalf of the Portsmouth School Department. Margie has always been passionate about the environment and enjoys educating our youth. Watch this season's kickoff talk at this link!
We led a water retention experiment with sixth grade students at Portsmouth Middle School. Merit Shalom worked with 6 science classes over the course of two mornings. After establishing that soil is a mixture of different organic and inorganic materials, she asked the students what the connection was between soil composition and ocean health. The lessons emphasized the importance of recognizing how soil can help mitigate stormwater runoff by helping to absorb some rainwater. Merit then walked students through the lab procedure and instructed them on how to collect data after testing their three samples. Students tested for the water retention capacity of three soil components and recorded their results. Merit asked each group for their numbers in order to generate a quick bar graph to summarize the class data. Students reflected on their results, as well as other interesting things they observed during the course of the experiment! Merit concluded by reminding students of the important connection between healthy soils and healthy seas.                
The second talk in our Land to Sea Speaker Series was brought to us by Kate Masury of Eating with the Ecosystem on December 1. She shared a place-based approach to sustaining New England's wild seafood. During this talk, Kate discussed Eating with the Ecosystem's views on seafood sustainability, how we as seafood lovers can support healthy ecosystems, fisheries, and communities, and introduced guests to the wide diversity of delicious local fish and shellfish that are part of a sustainable local seafood diet. Watch the recording for the event here. Kate Masury is the program director at Eating with the Ecosystem. As the organization’s only full time staff member, Kate performs many roles from organizing and running educational and outreach events, to conducting research, building relationships with and coordinating with partners such as chefs, fishermen, scientists, economists, seafood businesses, and citizen scientists, to communications and graphic design. Kate is also coauthor of the cookbook, Simmering the Sea: Diversifying Cookery to Sustain Our Fisheries, as well as the report, Eat Like a Fish: Diversifying New England's Seafood Marketplace. A life long seafood lover, Kate’s enthusiasm for the marine environment stemmed from her upbringing on the coast of Maine. She earned a Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Studies from College of the Holy Cross before spending five years in the non-profit world teaching marine science to students of all ages on both the east and west coast. She then decided to pursue a career that combined her passion for marine science with her love for seafood and returned to school and received her Masters of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institute of Oceanography where she focused on sustainable seafood and fisheries. While lobster will always be her favorite food, she enjoys exploring the wide variety of seafood that comes out of our New England waters. Register now to join us for her talk at 6:30pm on December 1. 
We led a marine debris degradation program with two classes of 5th grade students at Thompson Middle School. Merit Shalom met the students in their classroom and introduced herself, asking the students if they were familiar with our mission. Then they discussed the definition of marine debris and its possible effect on marine wildlife. Merit walked around the room with the “Mystery Marine Debris” grab bag and students closed their eyes and chose one piece of debris gathered from our beach cleanups or the marina trash skimmer (washed, of course!). Students were challenged to identify their item and come up with a realistic story of how it ended up in the water or on the beach. After some brainstorming, some students volunteered to share their ideas with the class. Merit pointed out that if COA volunteers hadn’t removed this debris, it would still be in the water. Then she facilitated a discussion about different materials and how they don’t all decompose at the same rate, if they do at all. Students brainstormed reasons that plastic debris might break down or break apart. After that, Merit demonstrated how the students would test the degradation of different materials in a jar full of salt water. Each student chose six materials, such as plastic beads or napkin pieces, to add to their jar. They filled their jars with salt water and completed a worksheet to predict the fate of each material. Then they placed their jars on a window sill to commence the multi-week experiment. When we return, we will see what happens to the marine debris over the course of a few weeks in their jars!

Several families joined us and Save the Bay for this exciting program on December 18 from 11 am - 12 pm, with the opportunity to visit the Aquarium and Exploration Center afterward. We completed a scavenger hunt with the mission to look for what the tide left behind and explore wrack lines along the sandy beach. Sandy beaches are the most popular shoreline habitat for people to visit, but few humans ever really discover the creatures that make this habitat their home.  After our hunt was over, we marveled over rare finds and sorted the animals by type. Thank you to Save the Bay for hosting us! From the first moment Jess Bornstein, Save The Bay Outreach Coordinator and Education Specialist, went scuba diving, she knew marine biology was the path she wanted to pursue. Since then, she has earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island and continues to work to connect people with the marine habitats she loves so dearly. When she's not exploring tide pools or salt marshes in Narragansett Bay or working at Save The Bay's Exploration Center and Aquarium, you can find her foraging in Rhode Island's beautiful forests, cozying up with a good book, or teaching ceramics and two dimensional art courses.
The third talk in our Land to Sea Speaker Series was brought to us by David Bethoney, the Executive Director of the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, on January 25. Watch the recording here. Ghost gear, discarded or lost fishing gear, is a threat to ocean health and coastal communities. This gear indiscriminately continues to catch and kill animals and the negative ecological effects, as it accumulates on the seafloor, are well documented. Fishermen anecdotally report thousands of abandoned traps and piles of ghost gear near Rhode Island fishing ports and coastal waters. In this talk, the efforts of fishermen and the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation to catalyze removal of ghost gear from Rhode Island waters was presented. A map of ghost gear hot spots within Narragansett Bay was created from interviews with fishermen and selected sites were explored with live-feed underwater cameras. A plan to remove gear from these spots and Rhode Island waters in general is now under development. Watch the recording here. David Bethoney serves as the Executive Director of the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation and has been in this position since March 2020.  David graduated from Colby College in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and concentration in Environmental Science. While at Colby, David spent a semester with the Sea Education Association documenting change in the Caribbean and sailing on the SSV Corwith Cramer from St. Croix, USVI to Key West, Florida with research stops at Montserrat, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. After graduating from Colby, David moved on to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) where he earned a master’s degree in Living Marine Resource Management in 2010. His master’s thesis examined the relationship between diet and epizootic shell disease in the American lobster. David stayed at SMAST to earn his PhD in 2013 with a dissertation focused on understanding and avoiding river herring and American shad bycatch in the Atlantic herring and mackerel mid-water trawl fisheries. In the fall of 2014, David became a Research Assistant Professor at SMAST and developed a research program on the foundation of practical application and direct engagement with the fishing industry. This led to a diverse portfolio of research projects with study areas of meters to tens of thousands of kilometers, areas as different as mid-coast Maine and off the coast of Argentina, and topics as varied as sea cucumber survey development and the impact of offshore windfarm development. His major projects in the New England region were continuing the river herring bycatch avoidance program developed during his dissertation and conducting drop camera surveys to support Atlantic sea scallop management. 
On March 8, Wenley Ferguson of Save the Bay and Brian Janes of the Tiverton Open Space Commission presented on Improving Climate Resilience at Fogland Beach. Watch the full recording here.  Learn about collaborative efforts between the Town of Tiverton and Save The Bay to increase climate resilience at Fogland Beach by restoring coastal dunes and infiltrating stormwater to reduce flooding of roads and improve coastal habitats. Efforts include restoring the connectivity between a salt marsh and freshwater wetland and improving conditions for salt marsh migration to accommodate for sea level rise. Watch the full recording here.   Brian Janes, with an undergraduate degree in Natural Resource Studies, has worked as a high school science teacher and in higher education administration for more than 35 years. Upon moving to Tiverton 25 years ago, Brian joined the Tiverton Open Space Commission for the opportunity to continue to work on the conservation of natural resources, an area of life-long interest. The Commission is tasked with the acquisition, management, and protection of open space areas in town for passive recreation, natural habitat protection, and community resiliency. Brian succeeded in securing numerous grants for Tiverton, to expand the protected forests and wetlands of Weetamoo Woods by hundreds of acres, as well as the expansion and restoration of Grinnell’s Beach. Most recently, he worked on the project to improve the natural systems and resiliency of Fogland Beach and the adjacent Fogland Conservation Area. The Commission works closely with RI State and regional partners such as RI DEM, CRMC, Save The Bay, SNEP, The Nature Conservancy, and the RI Infrastructure Bank, as well as various town boards and the local, private, Tiverton Land Trust to advance its agenda.  Wenley Ferguson is Save The Bay’s Director of Restoration. She has worked at Save The Bay since 1990 on a variety of habitat and water quality assessment and restoration projects throughout Narragansett Bay and its watershed. In recent years, her focus has been on assessing the impacts of accelerated sea level rise on salt marshes through a statewide assessment. This assessment documented region wide impacts of sea level rise including interior ponding, die off areas and subsiding marshes. With partners from CRMC, DEM, USFWS, towns, and land trusts, she has conducted an adaptive management technique through shallow creek excavation to improve marsh health and function as sea level rises. Wenley is also working on strategies to protect marsh migration corridors through easements and removal of barriers to migration. She has implemented a number of coastal adaptation projects including regrading of eroding banks and removal of infrastructure vulnerable to flooding and erosion to enhance coastal habitats and public access. Additionally, she works with municipal partners on the design, implementation and maintenance of stormwater infiltration practices. With the help of student and adult volunteers, Wenley involves community stewards in all phases of the restoration projects from monitoring and planting to long-term maintenance.
We led a plastic pollution program with 3rd grade students at Forest Avenue Elementary School. Merit Shalom met the students in the cafeteria and asked them to each share their name and one thing in their life that is made of plastic. This led to a discussion about how plastic does not break down as natural materials do and can lead to plastic marine debris being present in the ocean for many years. Merit asked the students what harmful effects the marine debris might have on marine wildlife. Then the group played two games to simulate the experience of entanglement in plastic, first with rubber bands on their arms, and then by playing a food collection game. After playing several rounds of the feeding game with different scenarios and forms of entanglement, Merit led a reflection and encouraged students to brainstorm ways to reduce plastic pollution in order to protect wildlife. She also invited the third graders and their families to join COA for our Land to Sea field visit on April 30th with local fishermen who will discuss ghost gear, how it can affect marine wildlife, and what we can do about it.

Our Education & Outreach Manager, Merit Shalom, led a water purifier program with eight 7th grade classes over the course of two weeks at Gaudet Middle School. During each program, Merit Shalom greeted the students and led a group icebreaker, asking students to introduce themselves and name one of their favorite rainy day activities. Then she facilitated a discussion about how water behaves within the environment when it rains and how this can be affected by green infrastructure. She asked the students what they need water for and where their water comes from to use in our homes. Then she demonstrated how water travels through the watershed to get to those locations, possibly picking up pollution on the way. Merit had the group brainstorm what types of contaminants might get into our water. Then she showed the students a container full of dirty water. She asked students to pretend that this was the only water available to them—how would they clean it in order to make sure it was safe to drink? She had them speak with a partner to brainstorm methods of purification. This segued to discussing the project for today: to build a water purifier with various layers and components. Students planned the design of their purifiers and brainstormed the purpose behind each component. After each group assembled their purifier, they poured dirty water through and observed how they worked. They brainstormed how they might modify the purifiers to improve their filtration. Finally, they reflected on how important it is to be aware of water pollution, especially after rain events, and how to increase water quality with green infrastructure. All students and their families are invited to join COA on a Land to Sea field trip on 4/9/22 to see green infrastructure in action in Roger Williams Park.

On April 5, Amelia Rose of Groundwork Rhode Island presented as part of our ongoing series. Watch the recording here. Groundwork Rhode Island is a community-based organization that helps make Rhode Island’s urban communities healthier and more resilient places to live by improving the physical environment and creating economic opportunities for local residents through job training, employment, and social venture programs. Amelia Rose, Groundwork RI's Executive Director, shared the organization's efforts to create employment opportunities for local residents through a variety of environmental projects, including its GroundCorp Landscape service, Harvest Cycle composting service, and Green Team youth employment program. Projects including urban tree planting, green stormwater infrastructure installations in Providence and Newport, food scrap collection, and more were discussed, as well as examples and opportunities for residents to learn about installing green stormwater retrofits at their own homes. Watch the recording here.

Amelia Rose has been the Executive Director of Groundwork Rhode Island since 2014, overseeing programs related to environmental job training and employment, brownfields redevelopment, stormwater management, composting, and youth engagement. She has been a member of the City of Providence's Sustainability Commission since 2012, helping create Providence’s first Sustainability Action Plan. Originally from Northern Virginia, Amelia has worked in a variety of roles in the nonprofit advocacy, community organizing, and environmental sector for almost 20 years. Amelia has a B.A. in Anthropology from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Register here to join us for this talk at 630pm on April 5 via Zoom.
On April 9, our group headed to the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center in Roger Williams Park to learn about stormwater, where it comes from, what’s in it, and how it affects our local rivers and streams. We heard from Will Helt about eutrophication and tracking cyanobacteria in pond water. We also toured some of the green infrastructure projects that capture and treat stormwater runoff before it enters Roger Williams Park ponds. Ryan Kopp explained how these are constructed, maintained, and help support the health of the park. We also heard input from Lee Ann Freitas on which plants thrive in green infrastructure practices, how to create a healthy ecosystem within a project and how to create a beautiful rain garden at home.  Ryan Kopp has been a coordinator for the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center for the past 2 years, helping launch the Center with initiatives related to stormwater and green infrastructure training, monitoring and public outreach. Prior to working with the Innovation Center, he worked for 15 years on water resources and data projects with the US Geological Survey and tribal government in Colorado and Washington State. He holds a B.S. degree in Environmental and Engineering Geology. Will Helt is the Coast Restoration Scientist for the Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island. He works to design, implement, monitor, and analyze results of coastal habitat restoration programs and projects focused on marine fisheries and shellfish research and restoration efforts in Rhode Island and southern New England. He also works with the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center’s volunteer cyanobacteria monitoring program to document the occurrence and timing of Harmful Algal Blooms, the spatial distribution of toxin producing cyanobacteria and to raise awareness about blooms within the community. Will holds a MS degree in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography. Lee Ann Freitas is the Director of the RWP Botanical Center. Lee Ann's love of microscopic ecosystems began with graduate work focused on invasive plant species and their interactions within soil ecosystems. That love of ecosystems drives how she maintains 44 stormwater sites in RWP for ecosystem and time efficiency, while ensuring BMP performance.  
We organized an outdoor educational program for the general public with three local fishermen at the Newport fishing docks. This was be the field visit component of our Land to Sea series on the topic of ghost gear, which started back in January with a webinar by David Bethoney of the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation. The participants met three fishermen, and after an initial welcome and introduction by Merit Shalom of COA, the group split into three sub-groups in order to visit with each fisherman in turn. The fishermen provided some perspective on their day-to-day routine, as well as shared their personal experiences with ghost gear. Participants thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the fishermen’s experiences, seeing some of the catches up close, and asking them questions ranging from how early they wake up to how they work towards preventing issues related to ghost gear. It was a great opportunity to bridge the gap between fisher and consumer, and the fishermen invited us to return to the docks any time to keep the conversation going!  

About the 2020-2021 Series

Graphic listing tips for improving water quality by taking responsible care of your lawnBelow is the information for each installment, with a link to the recording and additional resources concerning the topic. 

Environmental Protection Agency:

    • Christine Beling, Team Leader for Sustainable Materials Management (SMM)
Christine joined the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA New England) in 1994, after serving with the EPA in Region 2 and Headquarters, and with a private consulting firm and the Department of Energy in Washington D.C. She is the Team Leader for the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) program and a member of the Land, Chemicals and Redevelopment Division. Chris provides technical assistance and outreach on SMM priorities to New England State and local governments, businesses and institutions. Chris currently manages over $2 Million in grants for New England stakeholders in a variety of programs including Healthy Communities, Anaerobic Digestion Capacity Building, Pollution Prevention and Brownfields. Chris holds a B.S in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University. About Their Talk Christine is the EPA Team Leader for Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire life cycles, spoke about her work with the RI Food Policy Council, Newport Housing Authority and other RI Stakeholders to create a social marketing campaign about the benefits of saving food and composting true food waste. The goal of the project was to grow empower the local community by focusing on food waste reduction, while engaging households in data collection and using tools from EPA’s Food Too Good To Waste program to better understand their waste footprints. Christine also discussed waste management and recycling issues at large and the EPA's priorities for addressing these issues.
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management:
    • Jenny Paquet, Senior Environmental Planner, RIDEM Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program

Jennifer Paquet is a senior environmental planner with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (RIDEM) Office of Water Resources. She is in the Nonpoint Source Pollution Program where she focuses on watershed planning and policies and regulations pertaining to low-impact development. Prior to joining RIDEM, she was the town planner for the rural town of West Greenwich for 15 years where, among many other things, she reviewed site plans, visited construction sites to see the plans come to fruition, managed the MS4 Stormwater Program, and worked with the planning board on various updates to the land development regulations. Paquet holds a B.A. in geology from Mount Holyoke College and a master of community planning with a concentration in environmental and land use planning from the University of Rhode Island.

About Their Talk Clean water is the most important natural resource to the future of Rhode Island, and everyone shares in the responsibility to protect it.  Taking actions to protect and restore our water resources has many other benefits.  Ms. Paquet gave a presentation about the Aquidneck Island Watershed Plan, which she is currently drafting. This plan will tie together existing efforts and prioritize important actions to protect and restore water quality and aquatic habitats on the Island.  In her talk, she discussed some local water quality conditions, the relationship between land use activities and water quality, the co-benefits of water quality protection, as well as what is being done by government and non-governmental organizations.  She highlighted what you can do to prevent water pollution—because it is all connected!
Aquidneck Land Trust:
    • Chuck Allott, Executive Director 
Charles “Chuck” Allott, Esq. is the Executive Director of the Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”). ALT has conserved and permanently protected over 2600 acres of land on Aquidneck Island with high conservation values (farmland, watershed protection land, wetlands and wildlife habitat, recreation lands, cultural landscapes, and scenic corridors). ALT became the first nationally accredited land trust in Rhode Island in 2009. Chuck was one of the founding members of ALT in 1990 when a group of civic-minded island residents came together with the vision of saving some of the last great open spaces on the island. Prior to becoming Executive Director of ALT, Chuck was a real estate, land use and conservation attorney at Hinckley Allen in Providence. Chuck has resided in every community on Aquidneck Island and currently resides in Newport with his life partner, Ellen and two dogs, Hatchet and Penny. Chuck is an avid outdoorsman. Elizabeth Scott Consulting:
    • Elizabeth Scott, Owner of Elizabeth Scott Consulting
Elizabeth is owner of Elizabeth Scott Consulting, and currently works with the Southeast New England Program Network, a partnership of 15 environmental organizations, academic institutions, and consultants who work collaboratively to provide stormwater and watershed management, ecological restoration, and financing expertise to communities and organizations across Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She has over 30 years’ experience as a water resources professional, previously serving as Deputy Chief in the RI Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Water Resources.  Elizabeth received a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources from Cornell University, and Master of Arts in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. About Their Talk In this presentation, the speakers explained how the Aquidneck Land Trust, the SNEP Network, and their partners are working to repair damage, improve water quality, and protect our valuable water resources. Presenters, Chuck Allott and Elizabeth Scott, shared details of current projects along the Maidford River, Almy Pond, and other areas. They also provided tips on how every landowner can become a better steward of their property, showing how small actions taken by many can create notable improvements.
Rhode Island Department of Transportation:
    • Brian Moore, Administrator - Office of Stormwater Management
Brian Moore currently works as the Administrator for the Environmental Division of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) where he oversees the Office of Stormwater Management, Natural Resources Unit and RIDOT MS4 Program. Leading up to his current role with RIDOT, Brian spent 22 years as the Supervising Sanitary Engineer with the Office of Water Resources, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and then worked for two years as the Chief of Groundwater and Wetland Protection within the Office of Water Resources, RIDEM. Throughout his career, he has served on several boards and committees, most recently with RIEMA Disaster Housing Committee and RI Board of Registration for Professional Engineers. About Their Talk Have you ever considered how our roadways contribute to the health of our local waterways and water systems? The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) plays a big role in maintaining state roadways and managing their storm water systems on Aquidneck Island. This is important because they border the island’s drinking water supply, Newport Harbor and freshwater streams that drain into coastal waterways. During this talk, Brian Moore, Administrator for the Environmental Division of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), discussed the plans in place to monitor and improve stormwater pollution control in coordination with an EPA consent decree for the Clean Water Act, as well as, how the agency partners with municipalities and nonprofit organizations to implement strategies and infrastructure for stormwater remediation, and shared stormwater control plans currently implemented on Aquidneck Island.
Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants
    • Thomas Ardito, Southeast New England Watershed Grant Program Director
Tom Ardito has worked in environmental restoration, non-profit management, fundraising and grant-making for more than 20 years, including work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, Center for Ecosystem Restoration, Aquidneck Island Planning Commission and Restore America's Estuaries. About their Talk: Tom Ardito is the Southeast New England Watershed Grant Program Director, and has worked in environmental restoration, non-profit management, fundraising and grant-making for more than 20 years. in his talk, Tom discussed the Southeast New England Watershed Grants program, and explained how the organization is working to deter watershed pollution. In addition, Tom also spoke about the work that SNEP has funded to date, and the upcoming grant round.
  • Watch a recording of the event here.
  • Click here to view the presentation slides.
Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District:
    • Sara Churgin, District Manager
Sara received her BS and Education Degrees from Northwestern University. She received her JD from USF, School of Law. She worked as a litigator, was in-house counsel for Blue Cross and did transactional work for a small startup company in the technical industry.  She also worked for Warner Home Video in Hamburg, Germany in the Licensing Department. She is presently the District Manager for the Eastern RI Conservation District and Project Coordinator for the. She brings her legal, financial, and networking expertise to educate people in the state, municipal and private sectors about the work the Conservation District does, and how it can service them. As a leadership member of the RI Green Infrastructure Coalition, she is very involved in programs involving stormwater management and the implementation of green infrastructure in order to mitigate stormwater runoff.  She is also the chair for the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission. Aquidneck Island Planning Commission:
    • Allison McNally, Program Director
About their talk: Allison McNally is Program Manager for Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) and Sara Churgin is District Manager for Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District (ERICD). In this talk, they discussed a recently completed green stormwater infrastructure project at Hoogendoorn Nurseries in Middletown as part of AIPC’s Island Waters Project. They covered the scope and impact of the project, how an array of partners pulled together to make the project a reality, and the opportunities for farmers to benefit from collaborations with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Save the Bay:
    • Jed Thorp, Advocacy Coordinator
Jed Thorp is the Advocacy Coordinator for Save The Bay where he represents Save The Bay before the General Assembly and helps to engage members and supporters in grassroots advocacy efforts. A native of Ohio, Jed has nearly 20 years of experience in environmental policy and advocacy, and has worked for Ohio Citizen Action, Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Jed holds a BA and MA in political science and resides near the upper Bay in Cranston.
  • Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management:
          • Ann Battersby, Senior Environmental Scientist
    Ann Battersby is a Senior Environmental Scientist at RIDEM with the Office of Customer and Technical Assistance. Ann has a bachelor’s degree in Plant and Soil Sciences from UMASS Amherst and a master’s degree in Environmental Science & Policy from Clark University. Ann has experience managing Pollution Prevention (P2) grant programs as evident by the award of the FY 2014, FY 2018, and FY 2020 grant cycles and subsequent on-time completion and delivery of required material.  She manages the following programs at RIDEM: P2 Grant Programs, RI Green Golf Course Certification program, Mercury in Products regulatory program, Clean Marina program, Toxics in Packaging (TIP) regulatory program, and Green Hospitality Programs. She has also been an adjunct faculty member at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson, CT since 2011 teaching introductory college courses in Biology, Environmental Science, and Ecology.  
About Their Talk: Stormwater is often cited as one of the biggest sources of pollution to Narragansett Bay and the ocean. However, stormwater is simply a delivery mechanism; the pollutants carried by stormwater come from human activities and development. In this talk, Jed and Ann will discuss one of the biggest contributors to stormwater pollution - fertilizers - and what can be done to reduce the problem. From best management practices for individual homeowners, to policy solutions for local governments, we'll explore how we can begin to get a handle on this growing challenge.
Useful links from this installment: Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation:
        • Madison Burke, Education and Outreach Manager
Madison is the Education and Outreach Manager at Rhode Island Resource Recovery where she develops public programs in support of waste reduction, recycling, composting, and proper waste disposal for the state of Rhode Island. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and a dual master’s degree in Regional Planning and Sustainability Science from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. About their talk: When you put your trash and recycling out at the curb, do you know where it goes? Does it all just seem to go “away”? The thing is, “away” is a real place - it’s RI Resource Recovery located in Johnston. Madison Burke joined us to find out more about where your trash and recycling goes and how you can do the right thing with all your stuff when you are done with it. During this presentation, she reviewed the five operations at Resource Recovery, what Rhode Islanders are throwing away that could be diverted through composting or special programs, the basic guidelines for recycling right, and small behavior changes that can make a big impact.
Useful links from this installment: RIDOH Beaches Program

Sherry Poucher, RI Department of Health Recreational Waters Manager  About their talk: The final installment of our Land to Sea Speaker Series! Sherry Poucher is the Recreational Waters Manager at the RI DOH and oversees the Beach Management Program. On May 11, Sherry discussed this program and how beach closures are decided, as well as the impact of water quality on public health. As we head into the summer season, water quality at beaches becomes increasingly relevant in our daily lives. Watch this talk to learn more about our Rhode Island beaches and how water quality at recreational sites is monitored.

Speaker Organization Affiliations


The 2021-2022 Land to Sea Speaker Series is Made Possible By: