by Dr. Lenore Tedesco, Executive Director, & Elizabeth Hefner, Development Team

The Wetlands Institute (TWI) is a gateway to connections that inspire stewardship. Our mission is to promote appreciation, understanding, and stewardship of wetlands and coastal ecosystems, and for the past 55 years, we have fervently believed that the most meaningful way to fulfill our mission is to build a cadre of informed and concerned individuals to be stewards of the marshes for generations to come. It is foundational to our work that the people of Seven Mile Island and the surrounding region take action to protect the marsh and the wildlife that depend on it. We are honored to share stories, spanning generations, of a handful of individuals TWI has influenced to make stewardship a part of their lives.

Forty-two years ago, as a summer intern, John Flynn discovered the world of land preservation and it changed his life. John shared, “The summer of ‘82 exposed me to the extraordinary community of people working in science and education. I had never encountered individuals who were so completely committed to their work. I returned to Stockton with a new focus. I realized I could find a place where knowledge of the sciences could guide decision-making in policy-oriented areas.” John dedicated his career to land preservation, retiring as the State Trails Coordinator, NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), Green Acres Program. He also serves on our Board of Trustees.

Jessica Klein

Three decades later, Jessica Klein was impacted by TWI’s internship program as well. She shared, “[My time as an intern] instilled in me a lifelong love of coastal wetlands. It made me a more confident person. Having the support of my fellow interns and supervisors, getting to work with the public, learning new skills, and presenting my summer research really made me believe that I could make it in the environmental field. It helped me get my current job at NJDEP.”

As a former camp participant, seasonal staff member, and staff scientist at TWI, Katie Sellers Reynolds shared, “TWI taught me valuable lessons on teamwork and how a small team can be mighty. TWI taught me to be versatile as I practiced public speaking and pure science and blended the two with community science programming.” Katie is a regulatory affairs manager at Ocean Renewable Power Company working to advance sustainable energy practices.

Chandler Clay (right) & family

Chandler Clay grew up coming here as a child and remembers seeing hatching terrapins and migrating birds. “One thing I still love is the feeling I get when I’m driving onto Seven Mile Island for the first time in early summer, rolling the windows down and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. I’ve dedicated my career to protecting the environment – for nearly 10 years at the Environmental Defense Fund working to protect ecosystems like wetlands, grasslands, and forests, and now in a corporate sustainability role at Comcast. My childhood experiences have profoundly impacted how I choose to spend my time, both professionally and personally.”

These stories represent only a fraction of this community that cares deeply for one another and for our marshes – a critical resource. As TWI members and supporters, each of you are part of this multi-generational community of wetland stewards. We are grateful that you found your connection to the healing power of nature and count on your support as we continue to solve the complex challenges that face these marshes and our coastal communities. Together, we are a powerful force for change and for the restoration and preservation of these valuable habitats and the coastal way of life.

If you have a connection forged through a TWI program or experience, please share it.

John Flynn, right, with 2024 interns (l to r) Julia Dahms, Oliver Puckett, and Carly Shaw