Wetland Institute Volunteers Receive Disney Conservation Hero Award

Stone Harbor, NJ, November 6, 2014 – The Wetlands Institute is thrilled to announce that Joe Grottola, and Steve and Susan Ahern – part of the Storm Drain Terrapin Rescue Team – have been honored with a Disney Conservation Heroes Award from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). The award recognizes local citizens for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats, and educate communities. There were 19 Conservation Heroes selected from around the globe this year. Recipients were nominated by non-profit environmental organizations, and each honoree and their nominating organization will share a $1,500 award from DWCF.

“I’ve always found great satisfaction working with Diamondback Terrapins as they are such an interesting species,” stated Joe Grottola. “After 25 years I still get excited every time we pull a terrapin hatchling from a storm drain.  Being named a Disney Conservation Hero Award recipient is an honor that can only help to increase awareness of the challenges facing the Diamondback Terrapin. Many local people, even those who’ve lived here for years, don’t realize we have these very unique terrapins living in the saltmarsh.”

In 1990, Joe Grottola, first noticed the issue of diamondback terrapin hatchlings becoming trapped in storm drains and developed a method to retrieve these hatchlings. Joe then involved students and educators from Lower Cape May Regional High School in the rescue, care and release of these threatened creatures. In 2010, Steve and Susan Ahern were trained to join him in this work, expanding the project to other New Jersey barrier islands. These three individuals, along with several others, took action to reduce the potential impacts, working on a volunteer basis to rescue terrapins, raise money for terrapin conservation, and engage other volunteers at The Wetlands Institute and students from local schools each year to rescue terrapin hatchlings from storm drains throughout southern New Jersey.

“Little did we know that rescuing these hatchlings would be such a rewarding experience,” commented Susan and Steve Ahern, who have engaged elementary school students from Sea Isle to help with various projects. “In addition to giving them a second chance, it has given us the opportunity to interact and share information with so many residents living near the salt marsh in Sea Isle City, who do important things every day to protect terrapins in our community. Our efforts have been supported not only by The Wetlands Institute but by our local Environmental Commission, who has partnered with us in several other terrapin protection activities. We are very proud to be part of The Wetlands Institute’s Terrapin Conservation Programs and honored to be recognized by Disney as Conservation Heroes.”

Their efforts have been inspiring, and have attracted numerous volunteers to get involved in this community-based conservation project organized by The Wetlands Institute. To date, the project has rescued over 5,000 terrapins from storm drains and released them back into the marsh.

In addition to their efforts to rescue terrapins trapped in storm drains, the team has contributed extensively to terrapin conservation efforts in their communities and to the continued success of the terrapin conservation program at The Wetlands Institute.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund focuses on protecting wildlife and connecting kids and families with nature. Since 2004, Disney has honored more than 100 leaders around the world for their extraordinary conservation efforts.

For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of 2014 Conservation Hero Award recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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About The Wetlands Institute:

The Wetlands Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting appreciation, understanding and stewardship of wetlands and coastal ecosystems through our programs in research, conservation and education. We inspire visitors of all ages to appreciate and steward wetlands and coastal ecosystems by teaching them the importance of those systems and how they relate to their own lives and well-being. Visit our website at wetlandsinstitute.org to find out more about our programs and mission.

Wetlands Institute Named Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Grants Recipient



Stone Harbor, NJ, November 10, 2014 – The Wetlands Institute has been awarded a $24,900 grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). The conservation grant recognizes The Wetlands Institute’s many diamondback terrapin research and conservation projects.

“We are incredibly grateful to have received the support of Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to help us in our education, research, and conservation efforts.” stated Dr. Lisa Ferguson, Director of Research and Conservation.

Projects facilitated by this grant include our road patrols during the nesting season, our storm drain rescue project, terrapin barrier fence installation and maintenance, as well as bycatch reduction device (BRD) distribution. The grant also provides resources to continue and expand our ghost trap removal program, which will allow us to further reduce the threats derelict crab traps pose to terrapins in the salt marsh. To further our goal of educating the public on local conservation issues, The Wetlands Institute will work closely with local teachers to develop comprehensive terrapin-based learning modules that will be available on our website and also be distributed at various meetings and workshops.

Fencing4_26_14-1The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund focuses on protecting wildlife and connecting kids and families with nature. Since its founding in 1995, DWCF has provided more than $25 million to support conservation programs in 114 countries. Projects were selected to receive awards based upon their efforts to study wildlife, protect habitats and develop community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems.

For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of 2014 grant recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

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About The Wetlands Institute:

The Wetlands Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting appreciation, understanding and stewardship of wetlands and coastal ecosystems through our programs in research, conservation and education. We inspire visitors of all ages to appreciate and steward wetlands and coastal ecosystems by teaching them the importance of those systems and how they relate to their own lives. Visit our website at wetlandsinstitute.org to find out more about our programs and mission.

The Wetlands Institute Receives Conservation Award

Conservation Award 1

Stone Harbor, NJ —  The Wetlands Institute received the 2013 Cape May County Chamber of Commerce Conservation Award. Dr. Lenore Tedesco accepted the award on behalf of the Institute at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting and Installation Dinner October 16, 2014.

Along with the award, the Institute received Special Recognition from Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi and from Congressman Frank LoBiondo.  This honor came as a result of a nomination made on behalf of the Institute for Sustainable Construction of a new Elevated Marsh Walkway.

Executive Director Dr. Lenore Tedesco reported that “the elevated marsh walkway is a great example of using environmentally friendly practices. It also serves to educate visitors about the environment. The walkway is constructed using state-of-the-art methods, is sustainably constructed and utilized local contractors and locally sourced material to the extent possible.  The walkway utilizes a steel helical pile construction.  Piles were cork-screwed into the marsh and extend on average 30 feet below the marsh surface until they reached a lower compact sand layer.  The main walkway structure was locally fabricated and is aluminum.  The grated surface is polycarbonate and is specially designed to allow sunlight and rainwater to reach the plants and animals below and reduce the overall impact to the marsh.  Since water can flow through this surface, the walkway has a better chance at surviving major flooding events and storms. Because the entire structure is metal with polycarbonate, there is no lift associated with flooding, making likelihood of damage during rising water levels in storms less.  The entire structure can be recycled – if ever necessary.  The project was designed and executed to impose minimal impact to the salt marsh.  All work on the marsh required the use of matting to distribute the weight of heavy equipment and prevent rutting.  Decking was installed in 40 ft’ prefabricated sections to increase the speed of installation and decrease time on the marsh. Nearly 90 – 2 7/8” helical steel pilings were installed for a small footprint and strong hold in the marsh. Surveys and boring tests of the marsh were conducted in advance to determine piling locations and elevations.”

The Board and Staff of The Wetlands Institute is grateful for this honor and wishes to thank the committee responsible for acknowledging our conservation efforts.

The Wetlands Institute Appoints Director of Development

Heather-GeeStone Harbor, NJ — The Wetlands Institute is pleased to announce the appointment of Heather Gee as Director of Development. Heather will be responsible for all phases of fundraising and donor stewardship programs in support of the mission of The Wetlands Institute.

Heather has dedicated her entire career to philanthropy, most recently in the Philadelphia and tri-state area. She is a dynamic professional with an extensive background in nearly all aspects of advancement. She has served in leadership positions in a wide variety of nonprofit organizations including health and human services, performing arts, higher education and philanthropic and professional services.

Throughout her career Heather has participated in ongoing educational training both as a student and as a presenter. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP). She regularly presents to various audiences and has been a leader in the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Philadelphia Chapter (AFP, GPC) where she has also served as President of the Board.

Heather joins The Wetlands Institute at a time of major growth and rededication of the organization as it becomes a center of excellence in coastal and wetland research, conservation and education. Heather joins a dynamic leadership team charged with diversifying and enhancing all aspects of the Institute.

“The addition of Heather to the Institute leadership team provides the final piece in our restructuring and programmatic enhancement,” stated Executive Director Dr. Lenore Tedesco. “The Institute has undergone tremendous growth in the past 3 years and we are extremely excited to add her skills to the organization as we plan for the future.  All of us are pleased to have her join us.”

Chairman of the Board Ray Burke commented: “The Board has undertaken an aggressive agenda designed to make the Wetlands Institute a leader in coastal research, conservation and education. Under Dr. Tedesco’s leadership we are assembling a first rate team of professionals to move the mission forward. Heather will occupy a critical position on the Team. The Board is not only excited about the scientific possibilities. The organization is focused on becoming a significant source of professional employment opportunity for Cape May County.”

“I am so excited to be joining The Wetlands Institute, especially at this exhilarating time.” said Heather Gee, “With new leadership staff, committed board members and such a strong visionary leader, the Institute is poised to reach new heights and I am honored to join such a talented team. In the coming months, I hope to meet the many donors, friends and volunteers whose support is so vital to advancing the mission of the Institute.”

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Stranding Volunteer Workshop




SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2014 at 9:00AM




Registration Required


Sarah Miele, Education Coordinator

(609) 266-0538



Microplastics Study at 7 Mile Island

Sample of microplastics collected from the ocean environment.

Sample of microplastics collected from the ocean environment.

Students preparing to collect sand and water samples.

Students preparing to collect sand and water samples.

Did you know that microplastics (small plastic particles) are floating around in the ocean and posing a physical and toxicological threat to marine animals? An increasingly large amount of microplastic pieces are found in our oceans and consumed by marine animals who mistake them for food.

The Wetlands Institute is partnering with Clean Ocean Action’s new Microplastics Study to help locate and quantify microplastics present in both sediment and water samples taken from 7 Mile Island beaches.  Visit the following links for More information on microplastics:


Sand and water samples will be sent to Clean Ocean Action for microplastic analyses.

Sand and water samples will be sent to Clean Ocean Action for microplastic analyses.




Microplastics Study at 7 Mile Island

New Turtle-Safe Lighting Installed at The Wetlands Institute

Stone Harbor, NJ – September 2014.  As part of continuing efforts to build a center of excellence in research, education, and conservation, The Wetlands Institute has implemented new energy efficiency practices that include lighting technology specifically designed to be environmentally compatible with turtles and other sensitive wildlife.

The first phase of the conversion consists of illumination on The Wetlands Institute’s newly designed sign which was built to replace the one destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. Two 60-watt Port-Bright™ magnetic induction fixtures from Ultra-Tech™ Lighting, LLC, a New Jersey lighting firm, were installed in this summer.  Based upon technology invented by Nikola Tesla in 1891, the lights are replacing 200-watt metal halide lamps resulting in up to 70% reduction in electricity consumption.  The new lighting is being evaluated for its efficiency and stability and for its effectiveness for wildlife protection. If it proves to meet expectations, additional lighting on The Wetlands Institute property will be replaced with wildlife-friendly lighting.

The lights are said to have an operating lifecycle of 100,000 hours (11 years at 24 hours by 365 days).  Most importantly, the lighting spectrum is designed to have minimal impact on turtles and other wildlife that may be disturbed by traditional types of artificial light.  Dr. Lenore Tedesco, Executive Director of The Wetlands Institute, spearheaded the initiative to find a sustainable artificial lighting solution that would also be wildlife-friendly.  “We happened upon Ultra-Tech™ Lighting from an article in The Denver Post that highlighted environmentally friendly Snow-Bright™ lights deployed at the Steamboat Springs Ski Resort.  The lights were said to be Dark Sky compliant and to use silent ballasts and bulbs designed to minimize impact on bats and other sound-sensitive wildlife.  We wanted to lower our carbon footprint but were concerned with the visual sensitivities of turtles, birds, and other wildlife” said Dr. Tedesco.

“We were thrilled to get the call about using our lights in our home state of New Jersey,” stated Philip Gotthelf, Ultra-Tech’s Managing Director.  “Our Turtle-Safe™ lighting project has been in development for almost five years and we believe The Wetlands Institute is the perfect organization to further test and verify our technology,” he continued.  Port-Bright™ lighting was designed to meet stringent OSHA and Coast Guard lighting regulations for ports, harbors, and marine terminals while also complying with Dark Sky ordinances and environmental concerns specific to aquatic habitats.  “We are hopeful that our Turtle-Safe™ lighting will become the standard for replacing all artificial lighting in and around aquatic habitats,” says Gotthelf.


DEP Works to Restore NJ Wetlands

Volunteers Needed

native-plantsWe are in need of volunteers to help plant native plants for habitat in the exterior gardens at the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary on Friday June 20th – 9am to 12pm.

Other tasks will include light weeding, and shrub pruning. Bring gloves and shovels if you have them.

Volunteer should dress to garden and wear closed toed shoes. Must be able to do manual labor.

Meet at the bird sanctuary 2nd ave entrance.

RSVP at 609-368-1211 or email cfaulk@wetlandsinstitute.org

Help us Restore the Marsh

Salt Marsh Planting Day

Tuesday, June 3 •  9am to 2pm

grass-plugsHelp The Wetlands Institute’s staff replant areas of the marsh impacted by the construction of the new walkway.

Join us June 3 and help us as we plant 1,500 plugs of Smooth Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) in damaged areas.

Although most of the marsh vegetation is growing back very well, a few areas will benefit from the planting of native marsh vegetation in the damaged areas.

Plan to get muddy and be prepared for sun, wind, and bugs.  9 am – 2 pm.  Wear rubber boots or closed water shoes.  No flip flops.  We’ll supply the tools, instructions and have staff and interns on hand to help as well.

To register, please email cfaulk@wetlandsinstitute.org.

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