Meet The Team
Our Alliance is coordinated by a group of community members located all along the Mystic River Watershed
Maggie Favretti, First Chair Director
Co-founder Maggie Favretti grew up in the woods in Storrs (her parents are Rudy and Joy), and fell in love with the Mystic River as a child visiting her Nonna in the house her grandfather built on Bruggeman Place. Now she thinks the best way to start the day is with a row on the river. There is no more beautiful sound than the wetland peepers heralding spring, but Maggie still enjoys a good startle at the drawbridge warning. Maggie is a lifelong learner and educator, with specialties in holistic wellbeing through nature-aligned pedagogy, in food systems, in cultural history, and in whole community resilience and disaster readiness & recovery. She has recently published Learning in the Age of Climate Disasters : Empowering Teachers and Students Beyond Futurephobia. Maggie's website is here.
Rahiem Eleazer, Director
I am a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, with additional Mohegan, Narragansett, & Shinnecock ancestry. I have lived in southeastern Connecticut my entire life and feel a deep connection to the land, animals, plants, and, of course, water. My work revolves around improving environmental health (from individual species to overall ecosystems), informing and educating the public, and improving human-environment interaction. I have a relatively brief professional background in environmental sciences (roughly 5 years), however, I have always been a nature lover and am raising the next generation to be the same. Whether it is to go for a hike, rock climb, swim, kayak, or just sit, my wife and I will go outside every chance we get, bringing our excited two- and four-legged babies with us.
Betsy Graham, Director
Greetings from Long Pond, nestled in the serene Lantern Hill Valley! My name is Betsy Graham, and I have been a Ledyard resident for over forty years. As companion animal veterinarian and former RN, I am deeply committed to the well-being of human and animal life and the environment we call home. It is my pleasure to be associated with the Alliance for the Mystic River Watershed, with its mission to protect and preserve our precious natural resources. I am grateful for the opportunity to have lived in Lantern Hill Valley, with its picturesque lakes of Long Pond, Bush Pond, and Lantern Hill Pond. Watching the seasonal changes in and around these lakes has made me appreciate the resilience of nature even more. The Mystic River relies heavily on the water supply from the Lantern Hill Valley, which includes lakes, streams, and wetlands that are vital water sources. This diverse ecosystem is a critical ecological resource for all living beings in the watershed, including humans, plants, and animals that call it home. Advocating for the preservation of the waters of Mystic River Watershed has been a passion of mine, to ensure healthy waters for future generations to come. With our climate emergency posing environmental threats, all SE Connecticut residents need to think ahead and take action to help our region adapt to these challenges. As a member of the Alliance for the Mystic River Watershed, the Lantern Hill Valley Association, and the Ledyard Conservation Commission, I am confident we can work together to safeguard and maintain our environment so that we leave behind a healthy watershed for future generations to cherish.
Tara King Clark, Director, Treasurer
Tara King Clark brings over 20 years of not-for-profit communications, marketing, and fundraising experience to the Board. A lifelong resident of the Mystic area, she is passionate about preserving the river for her children, who love exploring along its banks. An avid rower, she is often on the Mystic River by 5am witnessing the majesty of the sunrise and wildlife.
Ethan King, Director
I've grown up in Stonington, CT, and I've come to love the area around it. With family land in upstate New York and being a hunter, I know firsthand how important it is to care for the environment around us. In recent years, I've found a place on Stonington High School's crew team, which in turn made the river a second home to me. You'll see me rowing on the river all year round before or after school and oftentimes in the morning. "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks" - John Muir
Brenda Geer, Director
I’m currently a Case Manager for the CT Indian Council where “Natives are serving Natives.” Our Agency is an Employment & Training Workforce Innovations Opportunity Act (WIOA) Agency that serves unemployed & underemployed Natives. Our funding comes from DOL (Department of Labor). We are the largest Native American WIOA program in the Nation. In this position, I meet with potential Clients and verify first if they are eligible to be enrolled, and then together we assess what the employment or training needs are and create a career path for the Client. Each Client is required to successfully complete our Work Readiness online course which I am proctored to administer. This gives each Client a nationally recognized Certification. We also assist with résumé writing, financial literacy training, CPR/First Aid training, interviewing, how to dress for success, effective communication, promoting longevity in employment, interpersonal skills, job skills, and more. I’m also the Vice-Chairwoman for the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation. This position I have held for 9 years. I have held a position on our Tribal Council for the past 32 years. In this position, I assist the Chairperson, write correspondence, serve as Liaison to several tribal committees, record minutes, attend meetings & events, network, and assist in writing policies & procedures. I also serve as Chairperson of NAHAC (Native American Heritage Advisory Council), a position I have held for the past 10+ years. This is a state-appointed Agency where all 5 Tribes are represented. We work closely with the CT SHPO office (State Historical Preservation Office) & NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) Office of Archeology at UCONN. We also work with the State’s Archeologist and many other Agencies. We are responsible for ensuring that Native artifacts, Native bones and the like are taken care of in a culturally respectful way. We are tasked with determining which Tribe the above-mentioned belong to and reaching out to the appropriate Tribe to make the necessary arrangements to transfer the artifacts so that Native American ancestors and belongings can be returned to their communities. In 2014 I was appointed by the Tribal Council to be the Tribes Historical Preservation Officer, a position I still hold today.
Lynne Marshall, Co-founder, Director
Lynne is also a rower and has lived in the Mystic River Watershed (in Noank) for 25 years and in Connecticut for 39 years. She walks around Noank and sculls in the Mystic River nearly every day, weather permitting. Lynne followed undergraduate studies in French horn (Manhattan School of Music, NYC; Carnegie- Mellon University, Pittsburgh) with advanced degrees in speech and hearing science (U. of Kansas) and post-doctoral training at Upstate Medical Center (Syracuse) and Boys Town National Research Hospital (Omaha). Her training as a scientist eventually segued into a career focus in the Navy that included critical analysis and synthesis of data to inform practical solutions, with an emphasis on advocacy through improved training, screening, diagnostics, modeling, and programmatic tools to prevent military hearing damage. Her professional commitment to scientific rigor paired with advocacy led to her volunteering as a community advocate, which continued after her retirement from the Navy (civil service). Being on the Noank Zoning Commission for many years taught Lynne how poorly-thought-out plans could quickly result in permanent, detrimental changes to a community. She is a member of Groton Open Space Association (because Groton’s development historically has focused on concrete and strip malls, which is not comfortable, inviting, or restorative for people); Groton Conservation Advocates (because she believes that smart development can only occur if it is not injurious to people and the environment – most recently she advocated for strict noise controls for Data Centers, a good example of how important public input is to highlight areas of potential harm to a community); and is a founding member of the Alliance for the Mystic River Watershed (because she deeply cares about the fate of the Mystic River and its watershed). She gratefully serves on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for the MRW as her appreciation of what makes up the Watershed and how to protect it grows, and as she realizes that there is a large community in this area who care about it just as much as she does. Her favorite saying is one recently introduced to her by Maggie Favretti. “Nothing is more powerful than a community that knows what it wants,” (Meg Wheatley). The river and its watershed need a community of strong advocates, and that is what this Alliance, with its partners, is creating.
Millie Njeri White, Arts Director
Millie Njeri is a self-taught photographer with backgrounds in pharmacy and analytics which allows her to combine her love of the technical with her love of the outdoors. Her art explores the themes of nature as central to human physical and emotional wellbeing, human interactions in and with nature and most recently the incorporation of nature in resistance and activism work. She has exhibited her work in several local group shows at The Mystic Museum of Art and the Hygienic gallery and most recently curated and exhibited her art in a two-person show titled Local Scenes featuring images captured in Rhode Island and Southeastern Connecticut. Some of her work has been featured in the 2023 South County Health Calendar and placed in the 2022 Habitat Category of the National Wildlife Refuges of RI Photo Contest. Millie is a recipient of the 2023 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Make Art Grant. In the summer of 2022, Millie created a series of images while on her morning rows on the Mystic River to capture the essence, beauty and wonder of the river. These images are featured on her website at https://www.millienjeriphotography.com/. It is her hope that the river can be the source of beauty, nourishment and wonder for future generations as it has been and continues to be for her.
Beth Kirmmse, Director
Beth is a Landscape Architect and Project Manager in Fuss & O’Neill’s Community Development arm in Rhode Island and Southeastern Connecticut. Beth lives in North Stonington with her husband and three boys and defines a good day as one spent on the water. A Noank native, Beth holds degrees from Smith College, the Rhode Island School of Design and Harvard Extension School. As a landscape architect, she has worked in many arenas from high-end design to institutional work to municipal planning, and brings expertise in climate resiliency and sustainability to every project. Throughout her career she has managed projects as a designer, client rep, and contractor, and her focus is always on understanding everyone’s perspectives. Her thinking and work is multi-disciplinary, and she regularly works with teams of scientists, engineers, planners, regulators, and local residents. Since ecosystems and climate impacts don't follow jurisdicational lines, Beth sees great community benefit and opportunity in joining together in an Alliance such as this.
Cultural Learning Advisors
The cultural ecology of our watershed is intertwined with its natural ecology. Cultural Learning Advisors help the Alliance to keep learning more about how our past is still present, and how understanding the meaning of our relationships and values here and now shapes our future. We are honored by the generosity of Farrah Garland (Inclusivity, Disability and Gender Rights), Derrick Strong (EPTN), Regina Mosley (EPTN), and the gifts of time from Joshua Carter (Dir., Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Museum) and Michael Thomas (MPTN, Dir. Yootay Singers, Educator)
We are fortunate to have in our community many people who are sharing their expertise. Here are just a few who have guided us already: Carl Kaufmann, Block Island Conservation Pete Tebeau, Marine Water and Policy Pieter Visscher, Water Quality Lydia Pan, Invasive and Native Species Maggie Jones, Ecology Chris Gasiorek, Mystic Seaport, Eco-Tourism Tiffany Smythe, Coastal Resilience And our stance is that everyone is an expert in their own experience and we remain open to your particular wisdom.
Albany Raquel, Creative Marketing Advisor
Albany is a freelance Digital Marketer with a passion for small businesses and nonprofits, also serving on the Board of Directors for Wings of Freedom Animal Rescue, a local non-profit dog rescue. Her love for animals fuels her commitment to preserving the environment and advocating for those affected by climate change who can't do so for themselves. Her marketing approach is both creative and strategic. She loves learning about the passions and goals of businesses and helping them share their stories authentically. Albany has called Groton, CT, home for ten years and originally pursued a career as a Paralegal. She considers the community that has come from her work with nonprofits and small businesses a cherry on top of her career change.
Christopher Fan, UConn Climate Corps
The Climate Corps is an academic program at UConn that is centered on workforce development and service learning connected to climate change adaptation at the local, community level. Students like me took part in a conventional, one-semester academic course in the fall that addresses Connecticut's climate adaption problems and solutions. After that, they have the option to collaborate on a climate adaptation project alongside municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and other parties for a semester as an independent study. Hello everyone! My name is Christopher Fan and I am a junior at the University of Connecticut majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Geographic Information Science (GIS). I am a part of UConn’s Spring 2024 Climate Corps cohort. As a part of the Climate Corps, my involvement with the Alliance for the Mystic River Watershed is driven by a shared commitment and passion towards environmental stewardship and the preservation of water resources as well as an opportunity to learn and improve on my data analysis, community engagement, and writing skills. The primary goal of my project is to perform a thorough study of the relationship between water quality and land use within the Mystic River Watershed using UConn CLEAR's new watershed assessment tool. I plan to identify areas for improvement and support well-informed decision-making for water quality management. In the end, I hope to provide valuable, data-driven answers to this project in order to support the organization’s overarching goals of protecting and improving the ecological health of the Mystic River Watershed.
Paige Booth, UConn Climate Corps
Paige Is junior environmental science student from UCONN. At school, she works as a CAHNR ambassador, a Difference Maker Mentor for the NRCA, and is the treasurer of Rubyfruit acapella. She wanted to work with the Alliance because it hits close to home for her as she grew up in Ledyard and works in Mystic. Paige would love to do anything to help these communities in the midst of the climate crisis.
Erin Heslop, UConn Climate Corps
Hello everyone! My name is Erin Heslop and I am a junior at UConn. I'm originally from South Burlington, Vermont, which is where my love for the environment comes from. I grew up on Lake Champlain which holds so many memories for me, and I want to preserve the world and the environment as much as I can so others can experience the same joy I did. I am extremely thrilled to be a part of Climate Corp this semester. Last semester I took a class on climate adaptation issues and solutions in Connecticut. This semester I get the chance to take that knowledge and work with a community on a project of their choice. I am so excited to be working with The Alliance to work on an App that takes stories and observations into consideration, not just numbers. It is the people in communities who experience the hardships of climate change, and those are the people who should be making changes and decisions on how to adapt. I can't wait to meet you all!