2016 Conservators Annual Dinner Meeting

Bryan Connolly:

“Invasive Plants”


Bryan Connolly, Asst. Professor of Biology, Framingham State University, was the guest speaker at the 2016 annual dinner.

Professor Connolly’s talk focused on the most common invasive plant species in Massachusetts. Topics included ecological impacts, invasive species origin and spread, species identification, common control methods, new invaders to the state, biocontrol methods, and early detection rapid response.

Dr. Bryan Connolly is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Framingham State University; he is also President of the New England Botanical Club. Bryan’s previous professional roles have included being Massachusetts State Botanist for Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, as well as being the volunteer coordinator for the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England through the New England Wild Flower Society. He is a coauthor of “The Vascular Plants of Massachusetts: A County Checklist, First Revision” and has published sixteen scientific articles.

invitation brochure

President’s 2016 Annual Report

Awards Presented

Environmentalists of the Year: The Woodcock Meadow Team

For their work to reclaim the open space of Woodcock Meadow at Nahanton Park for the annual flights of the American Woodcock

Jon Regosin, David Backer, and Bob DeRubeis
Photos by Henry Finch

The 34th annual award honored an entire flock of environmentalists for their work to reclaim the open space of Woodcock Meadow at Nahanton Park for the annual flights of the American Woodcock. Those recognized included Jon Regosin, Chief of Conservation Science at Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Bob DeRubeis, Newton Parks & Recreation Commissioner; Marc Welch, Newton’s Director of Urban Forestry; and the rest of the Woodcock Meadow Team of Suzette Barbier, Chris Hepburn, Duane Hillis, Katherine Howard, Eric Olson, Larry Smith, Bruce Wenning, Beth Wilkinson, and the members of the Forestry Team in the Parks and Recreation Department.

Woodcock Meadow is not under attack by developers but is being threatened by encroaching trees (the invasive black locust as well as a group of native white pine trees) and invasive shrubs and brambles, such as dewberry. The meadow is named for the American Woodcock, the only member of the sandpiper family that is adapted to woodlands and meadows rather than shoreline habitats. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife lists them as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). Like all meadows, Woodcock Meadow (along with all the shrubs surrounding it) has been home to migratory songbirds, wild flowers, bees and other pollinators, and many butterflies. As the grassland is diminished, so, too, will be the population of those valued inhabitants, among them the American Woodcock. But thanks to the efforts of our award winners, the Woodcocks have already found the more open meadow and are again using it this spring.

This was the 34th Environmentalist of the Year Award presented by the Newton Conservators to an individual or group who has made a distinguished environmental contribution to our community.

Charles Johnson Maynard Award: Jon Orren and Thomas Gwin

For their work at Newton North and Newton South High Schools to educate and to inspire the next generation of Newton’s conservationists and scientists

The Charles Johnson Maynard Award is given each year to recognize efforts “to improve biodiversity, habitat reclamation, and natural resource protection.” Charles Johnson Maynard was a naturalist and ornithologist who was born in Newton in 1845.

Jon Orren, board member Bill Hagar, and Tom Gwin

Jon Orren is a chef of many hats. Jon is a teacher at Newton South High School (NSHS) for more than 200 students in culinary arts, nutrition, food science, and special education life skills classes. He also directs NSHS’s Sustainable Agriculture Program and advises the students who manage the school’s 2,500 square foot organic garden and composting program. And if that’s not enough, Jon is Education Committee Chairperson for the Newton Community Farm. Jon is a certified culinary instructor and food handler with many years of experience as a personal chef, food writer, and cook in numerous Boston and New York City gourmet restaurants. As part of his culinary adventures, he also launched, owned, and managed a successful specialty pickle business in NYC for many years. Jon is a graduate of Newton North High School and Columbia University.

Tom Gwin just can’t seem to quit. Recently called out of retirement to be Newton North High School’s Interim Science Department Head, Tom had been Principal at Winchester High School for 13 years. But before that he’d influenced thousands of Newton students as he taught at NNHS from 1986 to 2003, fifteen years of those as the Science Department Head, and for nearly nine years as a science teacher at F.A. Day Junior High School. Tom is always on the lookout for new ways to engage students with conservation and science, whether it is in his role as manager of the Newton North Science Department Blog or encouraging NNHS Advanced Placement Biology students in conducting a study of salamanders in Edmands Park. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Tom has M.A. in Technical and Professional Writing from Northeastern University and an Ed.D in Educational Administration from Boston College.

Directors’ Award: Attorney Leigh Gilligan

For contributing her time and legal expertise to create the Waban Hill Reservoir conservation restriction and for her helpful guidance throughout the acquisition process.

Conservators President Beth Wilkinson with Leigh Gilligan

The Directors’ Award for 2016 recognized Attorney Leigh Gilligan, a partner at the firm of McCarter & English in their Environment and Energy practice group, for her legal expertise and guidance in creating the Conservation Restriction for the Waban Hill Reservoir. Lee was recognized as a Massachusetts SuperLawyer for 2004-2015 and is listed as a Leader in her Field by Chambers USA.

“Without a doubt, she was a super lawyer for the Newton Conservators!” enthused Conservators president Beth Wilkinson as she presented the award, going on to explain, “I first heard about Leigh when fellow NC director Willis Wang recommended her as a perfect lawyer – and pro bono at that – to help us with the conservation restriction for the Waban Hill Reservoir.”

The Conservators team, while committed, had no previous direct experience with drafting a conservation restriction. “She quickly explained what we needed to know, and talked with the City’s team on our behalf,” said Wilkinson. “She worked with Bob Waddick to produce the first draft of the conservation restriction (called a CR by those “in the know”) and then with the Conservators’ board to work on the amendments that we felt would do most to protect the land for future generations.”

But Leigh’s support doesn’t stop there. “Fortunately for us,” said Wilkinson, “she has agreed to help us again with the CR for Nahanton Park.”