Oyster Bay ‘friend’ Christine Suter takes helm of local environmental nonprofit



Kristin Suter said she didn’t go to church, at least not a traditional church, growing up.

“My mother was a really natural person. So instead of going to church on Sunday, she would take us on nature walks,” Suter said in an interview recently. “She called it the Church of Nature.”

Those morning walks were the beginning of a passion for the environment that led Suter, 40, to a new role as executive director of Friends of the Bay, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting Oyster Bay’s waters.

The organization began its search for a new executive director last month after Heather Johnson, who previously held that position, accepted a new executive director role at Hallockville Museum Farm in Riverhead.

Suter, an Oyster Bay resident, joined Friends of the Bay in 2021 as assistant director and served as interim executive director following Johnson’s departure. She previously worked as the Outreach She Coordinator at Huntington’s Long Island She Violin Shop.

Eric Swenson, secretary of Friends of the Bay and a member of the hiring committee, said Souter was appointed Feb. 13 and was chosen for his combination of passion and experience. .

“I think these two are a great combination to lead the organization for years to come,” Swenson added.

The nonprofit organization has an annual budget of about $210,000 and has a 16-member volunteer board of directors, the organization said.

Souter recently spoke to Newsday about his journey as an environmental activist. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

How did you become interested in environmental protection activities?

While growing up in Huntington, I became more involved in civic affairs, especially when it came to advocating for green and sustainable development. It awakened something in me.

What did you study at school?

I completed my master’s degree in marine conservation and policy in 2020 from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. As part of my degree, I took part in an internship project at the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, analyzing data on litter ingestion and entanglement among sea turtles. In New York. They perform dissections on animals that wash up in the area. I analyzed three years of their data.

What kind of work have you been involved in with Friends of the Bay so far?

I was responsible for most of the management of a large volunteer base. I also played a major role in coordinating our efforts in the Unified Water Study last year. This is a program run by Save the Sound of Connecticut. Basically, we have a bunch of different organizations surrounding Long Island Sound all taking water quality measurements and nutrient samples in the same way, and all of that data is sent back to us in bi-annual report cards.

What opportunities do you see ahead?

Last year, we participated in a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. We’re working with two different professors of his at Adelphi to monitor Oyster Bay habitat suitability and recruitment sites, which are basically where oysters settle and reproduce. We are also working on a large grant to Stony Brook over the next few years to rebuild Oyster Bay’s oyster population.

What challenges do you want to address at Oyster Bay?

The challenge so far has been to re-establish a healthy stock of oysters in Oyster Bay. Because there are very few oysters left in Oyster Bay. Rebuilding a healthy oyster stock in the bay is really exciting. Especially since this is Oyster Bay, which is where our name comes from.

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