Archive for Staff Profiles

My summer at EDF: An intern’s take on Mississippi River Delta restoration

July 26, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Economics, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Staff Profiles, Wildlife tourism

By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund

Will Lindsey, Policy and Partnerships Intern, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund.

As my first summer internship as a Tulane University Law School student comes to an end, I am grateful to have been so involved in work that directly relates to the place where I live and attend school. My work as a policy and partnerships intern with the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has ensured that I will never look at the Gulf Coast in quite the same fashion again.

Upon arriving at EDF, I knew I would be working on the RESTORE Act. Generally, I knew the RESTORE Act was significant because it would dedicate a large majority of the Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to the Gulf Coast states for restoration. What I didn't know was what this meant, practically speaking, for the Gulf Coast and for coastal Louisiana, specifically.

I quickly realized that the RESTORE Act has the potential to fund significant restoration projects that the Gulf Coast has desperately needed for a long time. It also became clear that if used wisely, this funding could vastly improve and protect the long-term ecological and economic stability of the Gulf Coast. It also became clear that if used unwisely, there was a possibility of wasting an unprecedented funding opportunity and the chance to make a real difference in the Gulf.

What this means on the ground is using funding from the RESTORE Act, as well other funding streams stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, to implement projects that will both restore the natural environment as well as combat the loss of coastal wetlands that the Gulf Coast has been experiencing for several decades. These projects have long been recognized as needs in the Gulf Coast and have been outlined in many state plans, including Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan. These projects not only present the opportunity to protect and restore wildlife habitat, but many of these projects would create and/or restore coastal wetlands which ultimately serve as a natural storm surge buffers for populated areas.

Finally, I realized that the Gulf Coast economy was inescapably intertwined with the Gulf ecosystem. Wildlife tourism, including wildlife watching, recreational fishing and hunting, generates substantial revenue in the five Gulf Coast states and would not exist without a healthy ecosystem. Additionally, the Gulf Coast economy stands to grow as coastal restoration projects are initiated as new funding becomes available. Many businesses throughout the U.S. have recognized the economic opportunities that coastal restoration can provide and thus have begun to include coastal restoration-related services in their repertoires.

With good forethought and cooperation, it seems clear that these funding streams, which resulted from a terrible disaster, can ultimately serve to reverse much of the degradation that the Gulf Coast has seen in the past. In turn, this will strengthen the Gulf Coast economy, protect Louisianans and other Gulf Coast residents from natural disasters and improve, as well as safeguard, natural wildlife habitat.

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Meet Alisha Renfro

August 8, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Staff Profiles

Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation

Alisha Renfro is the staff scientist for the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Mississippi River Delta Restoration program. Based in New Orleans, she provides accurate scientific information to help advocate for the best coastal restoration projects for Louisiana. She also helps translate scientific information for the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign’s public outreach and communication efforts.

Prior to joining NWF, Alisha had been actively involved in research examining beach erosion in South Carolina, sediment transport in tidal riverine marshes  and swamps in North Carolina, and sediment transport and deposition in coastal marshes in New York. For her doctoral work, she used naturally occurring radioactive forms of elements to trace sediment transport and deposition in the bay and the deteriorating wetlands of the Jamaica Bay Gateway National Recreation Area near New York. She holds a B.S. in marine science from Coastal Carolina University, an M.S. in marine science from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a Ph.D. in marine and atmospheric science from Stony Brook University.

“Although I grew up in land-locked central Indiana, I always loved the coast,” said Alisha. “Going to school in South Carolina gave me an opportunity to do coastal research, but I also found that I was really interested in coastal management. My work at NWF has given me the opportunity to combine my interests in coastal management and science and to do something I’m really passionate about — using the best science available to build a better future for coastal Louisiana.”

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Meet Shannon Cunniff

May 3, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in Staff Profiles

Shannon is the deputy director for the Mississippi River Delta Restoration and Resilience Project at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Working closely with the senior director, Shannon focuses on improving strategic and tactical effectiveness of the EDF team. She works on setting team goals, objectives and strategies; translating those into work plans; and evaluating progress to ensure timely, high-quality products. She manages staff scientists, policy analysts and consultants to solve complex problems and execute tasks.

Shannon is no stranger to flood risk reduction and environmental restoration. Much of her 27 years experience, including 11 years as a senior executive, involved developing and implementing national policy, managing federal water and environmental programs, and solving multifaceted issues.

"Throughout my federal career, I have worked at the intersection of water resources and environmental protection. I joined EDF to address these issues from another perspective and to use my skills, knowledge, contacts and creativity to secure a robust future for the Mississippi River Delta," said Shannon. "This region is so important to the cultural, biological and economic integrity of our nation. We need to implement wiser approaches now to ensure the delta continues to provide diverse, valuable services for generations well into the future."

Prior to EDF, Shannon worked at the Department of Defense, guiding development and implementation of its Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. Most relevant to her Mississippi River Delta work, Shannon worked at the Bureau of Reclamation, managing research and policy programs addressing environmental, water supply and energy challenges, and for several years, she worked on the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration. Shannon served as the deputy director of the Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee, formed by the White House in the wake of the 1993 Midwest floods, to address national policy and program implementation issues related to flooding and flood risk management. Before that, Shannon served as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s national expert on federal water resources programs, served as EPA’s liaison to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and Federal Emergency Management Agency, and led EPA’s oversight of National Environmental Policy Act compliance by federal water and energy agencies. Early in her career, Shannon worked on coastal and water resource projects as a district ecologist for the Corps. Not one for idle hands, Shannon also chairs the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission for Arlington County, Va.

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Meet Brian Moore

March 5, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Staff Profiles

Brian Moore is legislative director of the National Audubon Society (Audubon). Based in Washington, he oversees the legislative operations of Audubon, focusing on ecosystem restoration, agriculture, budget, and appropriations legislation.

Before joining Audubon, Brian was legislative director of the Alaska Wilderness League, where he helped spearhead the conservation community's efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development. Prior to that, Brian spent two years at the Brookings Institution, focusing his attention on Congress and its relationship with other branches of government and lobbying institutions, as well as the federal budget and appropriations processes.

Brian served in the Clinton administration from 1998-2001 in the Office of Legislative Affairs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service, representing the USDA's conservation programs with Congress.

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Meet Doug Meffert

February 28, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Staff Profiles

The National Audubon Society welcomes Dr. Doug Meffert as vice president and executive director for the state of Louisiana.

Doug joins a strong Audubon Louisiana team focused on the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign and the protection of many globally significant Important Bird Areas, including Audubon’s work in the Rainey Conservation Alliance and coastal waterbird conservation efforts.

He has a long history in the state, most recently as director of project development and associate professor at Tulane University’s Payson Center for International Development and as the executive director of RiverSphere, an initiative to develop a new campus for the university oriented to water resources and renewable energy.

Prior to those posts, Doug was deputy director of the Center for Bioenvironmental Research, a joint project of Tulane and Xavier Universities. In addition, Doug has served as Tulane’s representative on a range of coastal research and policy committees, including the Framework Development Team for Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan and the Deepwater Horizon Science and Engineering Review Team.

As a teacher, Doug focuses on sustainable development and climate change. He has run his own consulting firm specializing in urban park habitat creation for birding and other recreational services, coastal adaptation, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness. He is widely published and is a sought-after international speaker.

Doug received a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and is a research fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass. He holds Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Tulane University and a doctorate in environmental science and engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Meet Morgan Crutcher

January 19, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in Staff Profiles

As the technical and policy assistant at the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), Morgan provides staff with accurate and reliable scientific, technical, and policy information for the purpose of establishing CRCL’s advocacy positions. Her broad range of previous work includes lobbying D.C. congressional staff for passage of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act for Ducks Unlimited, building nutria captivity pens in a flotant marsh for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Louisiana, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to analyze changes in wetland vegetation in relation to Great Lake levels for the USGS Great Lakes Science Center in Michigan, interviewing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer residents along the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a Columbia University study on the health needs of this population, fenceline monitoring of an oil refinery in St. Bernard Parish for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and much, much more!

She credits her current position at CRCL to two life-altering decisions. The first was in 2000, when Morgan transferred from the University of Tennessee to Loyola University in New Orleans, where she still lives today. The second was her decision to take Bob Thomas’ class on Mississippi River Delta ecology. From then on, Morgan was forever attuned to all things coastal Louisiana. In 2006, she showed up on CRCL’s doorstep with a passion for visioning the future of coastal Louisiana and a request for a summer internship. They offered her the position, and four years later, she answered their call for a full time position. Along with Communications Director Scott Madere, Morgan provides the office with eternal optimism, a smiling face, and on occasion, donuts.

A third culture kid, Morgan has lived in eight different states and passed her senior year of high school in French-speaking Belgium. She never says no to an opportunity to travel, and in addition to visiting many countries across Europe and the Americas for fun, she has volunteered in both Africa and Central America.

“For me, the common, defining element of all the places I’ve lived or visited has been water,” says Morgan. “How we access it, allocate it, use it, treat it, manage its flow across the landscape, desire to live next to it as a feature of that landscape, and value it as a resource are all important questions when considering settling an area. Therefore, coastal Louisiana is naturally a fascinating and unique place to me, both culturally and physically. I am personally and professionally committed to its future.”

Morgan has a bachelor’s in environmental studies from Loyola University New Orleans and a master’s in natural resource policy from the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan. A proud wolverine and “SNERD,” she loudly cheered Michigan to victory at the 2012 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and dreams of the day when the Wolverines and Louisiana State University Tigers meet in the Rose Bowl.

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Meet Kevin Chandler

January 5, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Staff Profiles

Kevin visiting the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentine Patagonia.

Kevin is the new communications coordinator for the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign, a joint collaboration by Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. In this role, Kevin serves as part of the coalition’s central coordination team, overseeing the campaign website, contributing to campaign media and coordinating joint communications efforts.

Kevin arrives at the campaign via the Armed Forces Foundation, a Washington, DC-based military service nonprofit where he served as public affairs director, managing all aspects of the foundation’s communications efforts and working on the group’s military outreach programs. He has also taught high school literature in North Carolina and worked on children’s educational and poverty programs in Argentina. He holds both a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina. As a master’s student, he concentrated on climate change and renewable energy policy.

“Growing up in eastern North Carolina, I spent nearly my entire childhood on the water and know well the crucial role wetlands play in the overall health of coastal ecosystems,” says Kevin. “Nowhere is this more evident than the Mississippi River Delta, and at the same time, nowhere are wetlands more under threat. I am honored to have the opportunity to work for positive change on one of the most far-reaching ecological issues of our time.”

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Meet Elizabeth Skree

December 27, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Staff Profiles

Liz Skree is the communications manager for the Mississippi River Delta Restoration project at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Working as part of the broader Restore the Mississippi River Delta Campaign, Liz manages Delta Dispatches, the campaign’s blog and e-newsletter publication about national and local efforts to restore the Mississippi River Delta. Liz also manages EDF’s Restoration and Resilience blog, social media strategy and web presence. She is based in Washington, DC.

Prior to coming to EDF, Liz worked as a forest policy intern at American Forests, a national nonprofit conservation organization working to protect and restore forests around the world. She also interned with the International Programs section of the U.S. Forest Service, working on policy and outreach.

“I’ve always loved the outdoors. My family is really into camping, and when I was a kid, I wanted to be a park ranger when I grew up!” says Liz. “This interest in the natural world continued in college, where my environmental studies classes taught me the many reasons why we need to protect the environment. I am thankful to work at an organization like EDF—working every day to defend and restore important ecosystems and helping others learn about what we do and how they can get involved.”

Liz holds a B.A. in Political Science from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

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Meet Jim Wyerman

November 7, 2011 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in People, Staff Profiles

Jim Wyerman joined the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign in April as Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications for Environmental Defense Fund. His role is to provide strategic direction in developing communications plans, engaging high-influence individuals to support the RESTORE Act and building long-term support for coastal restoration from key business sectors. He is currently leading a project to inform and engage the navigation sector in long-term solutions.

Jim brings 25 years experience in senior leadership at national conservation organizations, where he has led campaigns and managed multi-disciplinary teams. Most recently, he was Chief Program Officer at and VP of Communications for the American Forest Foundation. Previously, he directed development and communications for the Land Trust Alliance and was VP of Programs at Defenders of Wildlife. He also served as Executive Director of Maryland PIRG and the grassroots group 2020 Vision.

"What attracted me to Environmental Defense Fund was their reputation for achieving large-scale structural change through market-driven solutions," said Jim. "While grassroots, communications and policy advocacy are all essential parts of a successful campaign, the missing piece is often the economic one: How do we shape the conservation goal as a smart business goal?" That is what the Partnerships Committee of the Campaign is working to do. "We want to make it a little easier for businesses to do the right thing for the wetlands and communities that depend on a healthy Gulf ecosystem."

Since he first went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 30 years ago, Jim says he fell in love with the culture, food, music and people of Southern Louisiana. If he's in town on a Thursday night, look for Jim at Rock 'n' Bowl for a zydeco dance.

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Meet Dr. Paul Kemp

October 22, 2011 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in People, Staff Profiles

G. Paul Kemp, Ph.D., brings an extensive background in coastal restoration and policy to Audubon’s Louisiana Coastal Initiative office in Baton Rouge. Before coming to Audubon in January 2007, Dr. Kemp was an associate research professor in Louisiana State University’s School of the Coast and Environment. He also has been affiliated with the school’s Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes.

In the early 1990s, he served as the first executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to returning Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta to environmental and economic sustainability.

Among other activities, Dr. Kemp led a multidisciplinary effort to characterize Louisiana’s Barataria and Terrebonne estuaries, worked with the Louisiana Governor’s Office to help shape coastal restoration policy and served as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fellow on the staff of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

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