Annual Environmental Awards

RECIPIENTS OF THE 2016 AWARDS

Lifetime Achievement Award 

Eugenia Marks, of Providence, and Former senior director of policy at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island

Eugenia Marks is, according to the nomination submitted by Greg Gerritt and Jana Hesser, a local environmental legend. Recently retired from a 34-year career at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island (ASRI), “there is no one more knowledgeable, effective, formidable, and respected regionally in the field of environmental advocacy.” In the 1980s, Marks was instrumental in ASRI’s effort to stop the Big River Reservoir project, protecting 500 acres of freshwater wetlands and 20 miles of active trout streams in Coventry and West Greenwich. Twenty years later, she and ASRI stood up for these lands again against a proposed State Police barracks. Under her leadership, ASRI coordinated the annual International Coastal Cleanup in Rhode Island for many years. Marks played a role in the recently passed cesspool phase-out law and wetlands protection expansion, has held the environmental advocate seat on the R.I. Water Resources board for decades, and has been involved with the Environment Council of Rhode Island and its Education Fund. She is well-known as one of the state’s leading wetlands experts and advocates. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse noted prior to Marks’ retirement last fall that, “Genie is kind, respectful, and speaks softly, but she also fights tirelessly for the causes she represents, and more often than not, she wins. Her victories have made our state a cleaner, healthier place to live, and have made her one of the most respected environmental voices in Rhode Island.”

The Environmental Achievement Award 

Julie Sharpe, of Saunderstown, and president of the Narrow River Land Trust in Saunderstown, R.I.

Julie Sharpe is president of the Narrow River Land Trust and has worked with the University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch program for the past 24 years. In the 1990s, she helped establish the Rhode Island Natural History Survey to monitor the state’s biodiversity. She has served on the boards of the Narragansett Conservation Commission, Narrow River Preservation Association, Historic New England and the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. Along with her family, Sharpe founded the Conservation Stewardship Collaborative to steward Rhode Island’s 100,000 acres of conserved land. In her nomination, Cathy Lund, DVM, wrote that Sharpe, “singlehandedly created an advocacy platform by forming Narrow River Land Trust, and has made the acquisition and conservation of that watershed a personal mission. Her work has installed conservation easements on privately-owned land, and she has spared no effort in rallying supporters and donors to provide the funds and energy to secure available land along that watershed area. This tireless and singular effort has resulted in lasting public benefit and has positively impacted the health of the Narragansett Bay ecosystem.”

The Environmental Achievement Award (posthumous)

Michael Brown, of Jamestown and founder and former president of packaging 2.0

Michael Brown, who passed away in March, founded the environmentally responsible company, Packaging 2.0 Inc., in 2002 to bridge the worlds of plastics package design and manufacture and reuse, recycling and sustainability. Mission 2.Ocean is his company’s environmental initiative to help fund local and global programs that seek to reduce levels of plastic pollution in the world’s waters and on its shores. With more than 20 years of experience in the plastic packaging industry, Brown’s goal in forming Packaging 2.0 was to raise levels of awareness about plastic packing pollution, increase recycling rates, and connect activists, educators and scientists to the plastics industry and end users. In nominating Brown, Aidan and Kate Petrie and Victoria Valentine said that Brown “aligned his packaging business with a deep sense of accountability for how we treat our planet and its stewardship, and with his passion for the ocean, sailing and boating.” Brown was a long-time Save The Bay advocate and supporter, an active conservationist in Jamestown and led many beach cleanups before losing his battle with cancer.

The Alison J. Walsh Award for Outstanding Environmental Advocacy 

Bob Aldrich, of Bristol, and president of Save Bristol Harbor

Bob Aldrich is president of Save Bristol Harbor, a non-profit organization that has been actively protecting Bristol Harbor, Narragansett Bay and Mt. Hope Bay for 15 years. Under Aldrich’s leadership, Save Bristol Harbor has maintained numerous all-volunteer programs focused on educating the public and enlisting the help of community members in protecting these natural waterways. Also under his leadership, the organization built a predictive habitat model, in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography, that is recognized and used by the Bristol Harbor Commission to predict waterfront development impacts on the harbor. The former Raytheon executive also has participated in the URI Watershed Watch Program for seven years, leads a group of volunteers who teach fourth-graders in the Bristol Warren Regional School District about the Narragansett Bay watershed, and continues to teach local high school students about the watershed and how to protect it through Save The Bay’s field studies program with Mount Hope High School. In his nomination of Aldrich, Keith Maloney said Aldrich “is a most deserving individual who deserves recognition for all he has done and is doing to protect our local waters.”

Volunteer of The Year

Fran Pijar, of Mystic, Conn., and retired aerospace engineer and recording secretary for Clean Up Sound and harbors, Inc.

Fran Pijar has been a dedicated water quality volunteer in Westerly since 2012, and a significant asset to Save The Bay’s water quality advocacy and outreach in Little Narragansett Bay and along the South Coast. Every two weeks from May through October, he accompanies South County Coastkeeper Dave Prescott out onto the lower Pawcatuck River and Little Narragansett Bay to help with testing of these local waters. He organizes, enters, and quality-checks all data collected and has helped with species collection and scallop restoration.

Bay Educator of The Year

Lynn Dambruch, of Narragansett, and director of elementary education for the City of Warwick

Lynn Dambruch has been a champion of Save The Bay’s education programs for more than eight years and was a key player in a new partnership that takes Save The Bay marine science and environmental education programs to all Warwick School District fourth graders. In 2008, when The Defenders of Greenwich Bay offered to fund educational experiences for students from a local Warwick School to learn about and make a connection with Narragansett Bay, Dambruch jumped at the opportunity for her Robertson Elementary class to be the beneficiaries of in-class and field-based Save The Bay marine science programs. By the time funding for that program dissolved in 2015, Dambruch was director of elementary education for the City of Warwick and paved the way to bring Save The Bay’s education program to the entire fourth grade in a partnership that began this year.

Bay Student of the year

Joel Blanco, of Providence, and a seventh-grader at Gilbert Stuart Middle School

Joel Blanco stepped out of his comfort zone three years ago when he signed up for Save The Bay’s afterschool program through the Providence After School Alliance. Exploring the shoreline on the hunt for critters, hauling in the trawl net full of creatures and dissecting squid made him very uncomfortable, so he let the other students handle those pieces. Much has changed for Blanco since then. He has participated in Save The Bay’s afterschool program for the past two years, and has chosen Save The Bay’s summer program over other options for two summers as well. He has overcome his apprehension of touching and feeling critters so much that he often takes the lead in helping newer students warm up to the hands-on aspect of the program.  The evolution in his learning style and love of nature and the marine environment has been a joy for the education staff to help foster over the years. When asked what he wants to be later in life, Blanco says “a marine biologist with Save The Bay.”

Read about our 2015 award winners