Some special people were recognized as coastal champions at the Littoral Society's Members Day event on Saturday, June 25. Among the honorees were our own Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe, who received the Graham Macmillan Award for his lifetime of work in advocating for and protecting Jamaica Bay, and Cameron Williams, who received the R-Corps Intern Achievement Award for years of work and commitment to the Jamaica Bay Restoration Corps program.
Others awards recipients were:
Read on to learn more about each coastal champion.
Coastal Educator Award
Michelle Williams has been teaching science in New Jersey public schools for 23 years. For the last 14 years, she has been teaching Environmental Science at Woodstown High School.
Michelle immerses her students in complex environmental and coastal issues both in and out of the classroom, including stream biodiversity assessments behind the high school, seining in Delaware Bay, and horseshoe crab tagging with the Society. She was named the Woodstown High School teacher of the year in 2019-2020 and the Salem County teacher of the year in 2020-2021.
Her passion as an environmental educator extends beyond the school, Michelle is also the leader of a Girl Scout troop and an Assistant Scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop. Her dedication to environmental and coastal education has been influential for decades of students and youth.
R-Corps Intern Achievement Award
Cameron Williams came to the Littoral Society as a summer intern when he was just 14 years old. In those early years, the Jamaica Bay R-Corps program was just getting started restoring Jamaica Bay Marsh Islands.
Cameron has been with us ever since and has put a solid 8 years’ worth of summers on our program. He has been our strong-man, first mate on the Jamaica Bay Guardian boat, ambassador on our public programs, an excellent team leader and booster of morale, and planting expert.
He has developed a wealth of skills and experiences while working with us, including a hefty repertoire of plant identification knowledge. We are so proud of him and are honored to recognize him for his demonstration of outstanding commitment, dedication and effort to stewardship of the Coast as a team member of the Restoration Intern Program with the American Littoral Society’s Northeast Chapter.
Graham Macmillan Award
Don Riepe has a lifetime of experience defending New York City's Jamaica Bay and protecting nature in the state of New York. In addition to 25 years experience as a naturalist and manager of the National Park Service's Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, he has been with the Littoral Society in one capacity or another for 40 years (from volunteer to Director of the Northeast Chapter).
During his tenure with the Littoral Society he led the effort to coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup for the state of New York and initiated the derelict boat removal program known as Jamaica Bay Clean Sweep. In 2004, he assumed the role of the Littoral Society's Jamaica Bay Guardian.
Don has written many articles on natural history subjects and his photographs have been published in many journals including Scientific American, National Wildlife, Audubon, Defenders, Underwater Naturalist, Parade and The New York Times.
He holds a Master of Science in Natural Resource Management from the University of New Hampshire and has taught a course in Wildlife Management at St. John’s University. Currently, he serves as an advisory board member for NYC Audubon, Co-Chair, Jamaica Bay Task Force; and Chair, Wildlife Hazard Task Force, JFK Airport.
Coastal Business Champion Award
Pinelands Nursery has been such an incredible partner to the Littoral Society and is always there for us when we need quality native plants. From helping out with our work through the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, to helping to educate our constituents at Native Plant Workshops – Pinelands Nursery is an essential partner in our work. Their quality plants are the only ones that are New York tough enough to survive out in the marsh islands of Jamaica Bay and throughout New Jersey, too.
Community Partner Award
Karl Brown is the principal at Indian Avenue Elementary School in Bridgeton, NJ. He and his team have worked with the Society to design and install a campus-wide stormwater masterplan. As part of that plan, Karl supported the planting of over 400 native trees and three rain gardens that work to protect Indian Run, a tributary to the Cohansey River that flows just off campus.
He has also worked with our Water Champions Program, which empowers students to conserve water in their school and at home. Karl advocates for the Society at the school board level and has help us connect the Littoral Society with his extremely engaged staff. As a result, we have provided meaningful, hands on experiences to over 300 students at Indian Avenue Elementary School.
Conservation Practice Partner Award
Steve Hafner, the Assistant Director of Stockton University’s Coastal Research Center, and his staff have been an integral part of our habitat restoration work since Hurricane Sandy.
Steve has been with the CRC for 35 years, partnering with federal agencies, coastal municipalities, local businesses, and NGO’s, including the Littoral Society, on coastal zone management issues.
Steve and his crew have helped shape, implement, and monitor over a dozen projects with the Society along New Jersey’s coast. These projects have improved habitat for spawning horseshoe crabs and foraging shorebirds, and have created a more resilient shoreline for coastal communities that face the ongoing threat of sea level rise.
Coastal Community Stewardship Award
Esaul Martin is a highly engaged resident and partner to own work in Bridgeton, NJ. Leveraging his position as a coordinator for Gateway Community Action Partnership, Esaul has worked with the Littoral Society to organize multiple city-wide cleanups.
Esaul not only organizes community events, but has donated an hour of his time every Friday to help maintain and keep clean the stormwater projects in his neighborhood.