Blue Friend of the Year Finalists:
The recipient of the Blue Friend of the Year Award exemplifies significant contributions in marine conservation through work-related activities. Local and National entries recognized.
Jacquelyn holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Florida Institute of Technology and a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences from Florida Atlantic University. Her published Master’s Degree research has been incorporated into the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Conservation Handbook. She is also the permit holder for Marine Turtle Permit (MTP) #098 and has been monitoring local beaches in Palm Beach County for sea turtle nests for 18 years. Prior to obtaining her Bachelor’s degree, Jacquelyn spent five years volunteering her time at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, FL.
She also completed a summer internship with Mote Marine Laboratory’s sea turtle department in Sarasota, FL. In 2016, Jacquelyn started Sea Turtle Adventures (STA) a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The mission of STA is to conserve local populations of sea turtles, educate the public about the marine environment, and provide nature-based programs to adults with disabilities who enjoy the marine environment.
Sea turtle conservation: During her 18 years monitoring local beaches for sea turtle nests, Jacquelyn has trained and provided oversight to a group of 6 volunteers who conduct daily sea turtle monitoring activities. She is often on the beach herself conducting the monitoring and talking to beachgoers.
Artificial lighting: Jacquelyn takes time to perform night-time lighting surveys and works directly with the local municipalities to address artificial lighting to ensure that the 3-mile section of beach she is responsible for monitoring remains darks throughout nesting season.
Marine pollution: Since forming STA in September 2016, Jacquelyn has held over 30 beach cleanups in the last 22 months. Trash collected during cleanups is categorized and the data is reported to Ocean Conservancy. Plastics and rope are recycled into craft projects during outreach events.
Responsible Pier Initiative (RPI): In 2016 Jacquelyn proactively approached the Loggerhead Marinelife Center asking if her newly formed organization, STA, could implement the RPI at a very popular and highly fished inlet in southern Palm Beach County (Boynton Beach Inlet). Since that partnership was formed, STA volunteers have visited the inlet weekly to talk to fisherman, hand out circle fishing hooks, and empty and recycle monofilament canisters. As part of this program we also respond the calls about injured shorebirds and seabirds. In 2018 alone, she and other STA volunteers have rescued six injured birds and transported them to Busch Wildlife for treatment.
Education: Jacquelyn and her team provide on-demand educational presentations to school groups, community groups, and corporations who have an interest in learning more about sea turtles and marine conservation but prefer to have the presentation brought to them as opposed to visiting a local sea turtle hospital. STA has completed 11 educational presentations to date in 2018. Also in 2018, Jacquelyn developed a “ride-along” program where interested members of the public can ride-along with a sea turtle monitor on a morning sea turtle nesting survey. This program has been extremely successful and will be offered again in 2019. Jacquelyn is also passionate about helping adults with special needs. In 2017, she launched the iCARE Program through STA, which is a program she designed for adults with special needs who enjoy nature and the marine environment. The Program provides two free two hour events each month in the community, often at environmental centers, and is intended to teach this population about the marine environment and also assist with life skills training. The Program began with 7 participants in November 2017 and as of July 2019 has 29 participants with no program dropouts.
Conservation: In 2018, STA partnered with Palm Beach County to adopt the Ocean Ridge Natural Area and promote its use. Jacquelyn visited this location and found this natural area to be a hidden gem and STA is the official adopter of this natural area and tasked with helping to keep it clean and promoting its use.
Lorne, Jacquelyn K and Michael Salmon. 2007. Effects of exposure to artificial lighting on orientation of hatchling sea turtles on the beach and in the ocean. Endang Species Res. Vol. 3: 23–30
Why should Jennifer Reilly win the Blue Friend of the Year Award?
From a young age, marine life was always on Jennifer’s mind. We would go to the beach in New York and she literally became one with the water. While I wanted my big sister to kick around the sand and run back and forth to the water with me, she had other plans. She would swim out as far as she could safely, and just swim to the bottom, or stand knee deep waiting for a sign of marine life, just SOMETHING that she could analyze. Now I’m not sure if you have ever been to the “beautiful” beaches of Long Island New York but unfortunately, there is very minimal marine life in the knee deep water of our beaches. Maybe this is when her passion began to fester itself in her mind, body and soul.
Jennifer went on to have a very high GPA throughout high school, however still needed more marine in her life. At the young age of 18-20 Jennifer volunteered at the Riverhead Aquarium almost every weekend. She did so well for them, they eventually asked her to continue her volunteer work but take her talents to a local Whale and Seal tour out of Freeport, Long Island tracking and marking their findings. The crew and staff loved her so much. She applied endlessly to open job positions however. She surpassed every single requirement listed. Except one- the most important one- able to clearly communicate with visitors. Jennifer was deaf and although can understand a conversation solely on reading lips, I guess it wasn’t good enough for employers. Well, did she show them!
Jennifer went on to take 2 internships for Marine Conservation, one in Hawaii and the other in the Caribbean. In between, she took odd end jobs just so she could support her desire to continue to volunteer. Yes, she needed to make money so she could still immerse herself in her unconditional love of Marine Conservation. Jennifer Reilly was the first DEAF person to attend Duke Marine Lab. Jennifer also has her Master’s Degree in Marine Conservation. She worked as a seasonal tech for the beautiful and upcoming Loggerhead Marine Center, again starting as a volunteer. She would go to FL for the Sea Turtle season and return to New York when she was no longer needed. Again working and saving on the off-season so she was financially able to travel back and forth.
Did I mention she was deaf? NOTHING WOULD STOP HER FROM HER BEING ABLE TO MAKE A CHANGE IN THE MARINE WORLD.
In February of this year, Jennifer was offered a full position at Loggerhead Marine Center. You would have thought she won millions when she got the call that she was HIRED. Her 38 years of adversity made her exactly the person she needed to be.
In June of 2018, Jennifer was out on the beach working, when she received a call from the LMC office that a group of deaf visitors were at the Center and wanted a tour. Everything Jennifer in her past 38 years, led to this moment. She was elevated- she was finally given a platform to educate and spread the knowledge and understanding to a group of humans who otherwise would have walked through the center, only interacting with each other. NOW LMC OFFERS TOURS OF THEIR BEAUTIFUL CENTER FOR THE DEAF POPULATION and will be doing this both in person and virtually which increases the Center’s ability to educate and inspire another important audience segment.
I can’t imagine Jennifer stopping there- she is going to continue to push. Marine Life and Marine Conservation are in her blood, soul, mind and body. She has already contributed so much of her time and life to perusing her passion, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Thank you for your consideration of my big sister, Jennifer Reilly, for the Blue Friend of the Year Award.
A motto of the environmental movement is “think global, act local.” Rich Walesky has done just that. Throughout his long career, Rich has acted to conserve Palm Beach County’s marine heritage.
To appreciate his lifetime contributions, one must think back to the mid-80s. Conservation initiatives we take for granted today were nascent or non-existent. In 1987, Rich was tapped by the Palm Beach County Commission to become the Director of a newly formed entity: the PBC Department of Environmental Resources (ERM). Lauded as a visionary who could get things done, Rich held the post for 24 years, retiring in 2011.
As ERM Director, he created a muscular agency that set conservation standards, promoted sustainability engaged citizens, and drew support from legislators.
He created and implemented policies and programs that were ahead of their time, built a top-notch department that remains a civic model today and oversaw myriad projects— from beach restoration for sea turtle nesting and artificial reef installations, to cleaning up waterways.
Rich Walesky, more than any other person, defined and institutionalized stewardship for Palm Beach County’s unique environmental assets.
He educated the public, persuaded politicians, and provided expert leadership for a new generation of conservationists in the County. This highly experienced and extremely personable man used his deep knowledge, drive, persuasiveness, and ability to see future challenges to get things done.
In doing so, he created an agency within Palm Beach County that others in the state and across the nation admire and copy.
How Rich created a County model for marine conservation:
Rich was a tenacious and daring Director who put in place many of the policies and programs that make Palm Beach County a model in marine conservation. Thanks to Rich’s leadership, PBC has hundreds of acres of restored mangroves and seagrasses, improved water quality in the Lagoon, thriving artificial reef systems and effectively managed shorelines.
Key areas of marine conservation impact during Rich’s ERM tenure:
• Established model shoreline protection program, integrating beach and dune restoration with inlet management to maintain critical sea turtle nesting habitat and recreational beaches.
• Implemented marine sea turtle monitoring and data collection programs designed to protect and enhance turtle populations.
• Created programs to protect and monitor natural reef systems; provided funding and organizational support for the Palm Beach County Reef Research Team.
• Established artificial reef program to create additional marine habitat, relieve pressure on natural coral reefs, and provide unique diving and fishing opportunities. Forty-five vessels, 82,000 tons of concrete and 130,000 tons of limestone boulders have been placed under Rich’s program.
• Established environmental restoration programs within Lake Worth Lagoon, a 20-mile long estuary in Palm Beach County that provides critical habitat for marine fisheries and many endangered species including Florida manatees, green sea turtles, and Johnson’s seagrass.
• Acquired and preserved over 31,000 acres of conservation lands including wetlands and uplands that provide significant water retention and storage benefits, reducing excessive fresh water surges to brackish estuaries and reducing pollutant loading associated with storm-water runoff.
• Built public advocacy for marine resources through extensive outreach and education programs.
During my 28-year tenure as County Commissioner, I worked closely with Rich. No one has done more for marine conservation in Palm Beach County day in day out in the last three decades than Rich Walesky.
Since his retirement, Rich continues to advocate and act. He teaches students of all ages, models’ best practices, and serves on the Board of Sustainable Palm Beach County, where he brings his considerable energy and knowledge to bear on our marine conservation efforts.
Thanks to Rich’s tireless efforts, Palm Beach County residents and visitors can enjoy our green space, natural areas, clean waters, sand and sea. And several species of the world’s sea turtles can return to nest on the PBC beaches where they were hatched.
Karen Marcus, Former Palm Beach County Commissioner; Founder and President, Sustainable Palm Beach County; Board Member: Loggerhead Marinelife Center; Friends of MacArthur Beach; Maltz Theater
Richard Walesky, Director (Ret) Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources
October 1987 to October 2016
Director, PBC Department of Environmental Resources Administered PBC Environmental programs with a staff of 170 plus. Managed $50 million annual operating budget and $75 million capital budget to restore, enhance and maintain the land and water resources of PBC; programs include:
• Shoreline Restoration (beaches, dunes, artificial reefs, sea turtle nesting protections, and sand transfer plants)
• Environmental Restoration and Enhancement: (Mangrove, seagrass, oyster habitat and water quality within Lake Worth Lagoon and freshwater restoration within Chain of Lakes.
• Acquisition, restoration and management of native habitats and construction of public use family for passive preservation with the 30,000 acres of PBC’s Natural Area at 35+ locations
August 1985 to October 1987
Environmental Manager, State of Florida Department of Environmental Regulation
Administered State enforcement program over a six-county area with a staff of 21. Developed enforcement and compliance strategies, reviewed technical and legal enforcement issues and negotiated case settlements. Programs administered included: dredge and fill, industrial waste, hazardous waste, solid waste, potable water, domestic waste; above and underground petroleum tanks.
July 1982 to July 1992
President and Senior Scientist, Tropical Ecosystems, Inc. Supervised biologists in the design, collection and analysis of biological and water quality data for Planning Board of Palm Beach County, Broward County Environmental Quality Control Board, Dade County ERM and National Marine Fisheries Service.
August 1978 to July 1985
Environmental Specialist, State of Florida Department of Environmental Regulation Wide-ranging responsibilities including evaluation of projects with regard to degradation of water quality, wildlife habitat useful as nursery and breeding grounds, and recreational and commercial fisheries. Prepared environmental assessments on proposed construction projects in freshwater, estuarine and marine wetlands areas.
November 1976 to November 1978
Biologist State of Florida Department of Environmental Regulation Collected and analyzed freshwater and marine macroinvertebrates, periphyton and plankton with EPA water monitoring system.
August 1978 to April 1983
Adjunct Faculty Palm Beach Junior College (environmental conservation and principles of biology)
2008 Department of Interior Cooperative Conservation Award, presented by Secretary of Interior
2011 Director’s Award for Leadership, Florida Association of Environmental Professionals
2015 Environmental Leadership Award, Florida Environmental Resource Agencies
Member, Sustainable Palm Beach County Board of Directors; Member, Loxahatchee River Management Coordinating Council and Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative
Education: B.S. Cornell University MS Florida Atlantic University
Kathy is the President and Executive Director of the National Marine Life Center in Bourne. Previously, she worked at The Marine Mammal Center in California and the Georgia Coastal Management Program. Kathy has volunteered for a variety of marine mammal projects in California, Hawaii, North Carolina, Georgia, and Massachusetts.
She graduated magna cum laude from Augustana College, and received her master’s degree from Duke University. She is a member of the Society of Marine Mammalogy and the Massachusetts Marine Educators’ Association. An alumna of the Cape Leadership Institute of Cape Cod and the Islands, Kathy serves on the boards of the Bourne Financial Development Corporation, the Massachusetts Marine Educators’ Association, and the Philanthropy Partners of the Cape and Islands.
Additionally, she is on the advisory committee of the Environmental Technology Program at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School.