by Dr. Lenore Tedesco, Executive Director

I write to you today on the 10th Anniversary of my tenure as the Executive Director of The Wetlands Institute (TWI). It’s true that the past decade has seen unprecedented growth, and my mantra of making no small plans has been a guiding principal of the strategy that I have employed. The Institute has undergone a remarkable transformation, and research and conservation have been restored to the foundational status that this Institute deserves. Through it all, education programs and visitor services have blossomed, matured, and expanded. We’ve seen a lot of rocky roads including Sandy, an economic downturn, and now COVID, and I am proud to say we are financially strong and as the urgency of our work becomes more apparent every day, we are poised to truly make a difference as we serve our mission.

I am proud of The Wetlands Institute, our history, and our accomplishments. I also understand that perhaps my greatest achievement lies not in what I have done, but in bringing together a remarkable team to lead the way in developing excellence in each area of our work. My first move was to strengthen the financial side of the equation by completely revising Bonnie Girard’s role. Bonnie keeps the financial and administrative wheels turning. Her role has evolved constantly as grant accounting, human resources, and legal compliance efforts grow ever more complex. Bonnie has been the rock that helped build the foundation crucial to all else.

The second key decision was bringing Brooke Knapick to New Jersey. I recruited Brooke to work with me in Indiana, and as soon as I got to TWI, I knew that our education programs needed her. Brooke has an incredible ability to bring science and education together in dynamic and inspirational ways. She is driven every day to provide outstanding, impactful, and meaningful educational programming to TWI. She has transformed our programs across the board, embracing and enhancing a competitive advantage of TWI that is born from housing research, conservation, and education under one roof. Under her leadership, education and visitor programs are flourishing.

By the middle of my second year at TWI, I was able to put the last piece of the leadership puzzle in place. Dr. Lisa Ferguson joined the leadership team and undertook the daunting task of building a culture of research and conservation excellence that had faded in the intervening years following the separation from Lehigh University. Lisa possesses a rare gift. She is a talented scientist that believes in the importance of community, relishes mentoring young scientists, and values the role of applied research. She forged a path that honored the history of terrapin conservation championed by Dr. Roger Wood, added innovative new ways to understand terrapin populations, and has embedded emerging research into conservation best practices. She has done this while building a remarkable horseshoe crab conservation program, and created a coastal bird research and conservation program.

So upon reflection, my greatest accomplishments lie less in what I may have been able to achieve, but in the strength of the leadership team that has been so amazing in their excellence, vision, and commitment to ensuring that their Wetlands Institute is something we can all be proud of.