Submitted by: Lesley Francis PR
Director of Operations & Special Projects
Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) has announced staff changes, including the appointment of a new Riverkeeper/Executive Director. The nonprofit’s Board of Directors and current team members are excited to welcome Dr. Simona Perry as the organization’s new leader.
Before being named Riverkeeper and Executive Director, Perry led ORK’s Oral History Project in 2016. Perry, a Savannah native, earned her bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, her master’s in Marine Policy from the University of Washington, and her doctorate in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Conservation from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Before returning home to Savannah, Perry worked seven years as a marine fisheries biologist with NOAA, three years as director of an environmental education non-profit, and twelve years studying and writing about the cultural and political ecology of various rivers in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York.
As the new Riverkeeper, Perry’s duties will include encouraging partnerships throughout the Ogeechee River basin, increasing membership, strengthening the donor base, building the organization’s Watershed Watch, Healthy Waters, and Hometown Waters programs, and serving as the “go-to” person for environmental issues across the river basin.
“I hope to continue to empower river landowners, as well as current and future river users, to become more directly engaged in Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s mission of protecting, preserving, and improving the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin,” Perry said.
Assisting her in this mission will be Director of Operations and Special Projects Jenn West and Outreach and Water Quality Specialist Luke Roberson. Since former Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn Kurilla left the organization earlier this year, West and Roberson have kept the nonprofit running by planning and orchestrating special events, leading already-implemented programs, continuing with community outreach and education efforts, working in conjunction with ORK’s board, and focusing on fundraising and support initiatives.
Now that their team is complete, Ogeechee Riverkeeper staffers and the board are looking forward to continuing their work in the community with a strong emphasis on upholding the health and vitality of the river and its surrounding watersheds.
“My personal vision/mission in this new role is empowering and providing on-going support to local residents in their efforts to protect and monitor the ecological health of the Ogeechee, Canoochee, and the other rivers and headwaters in the watershed for future generations of all Georgians. As one of Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s long-term supporters recently put it: The Ogeechee Forever!” Perry said.
The Ogeechee River is a coastal plain river with unique fish and wildlife. The watershed is home to over 500,000 people and covers portions of 22 counties. Planted pine forest, coastal sands and clays, and wetlands are major features of the landscape. Environmental concerns include impacts to fish, wildlife, public health, wetlands, tidal marshes, river water quantity and water quality from activities such as titanium and zirconium sand mining, forestry practices, paper mills, solid and hazardous waste disposal sites, residential and industrial development, sea level rise, and invasions by exotic animals and plants.
The mission of Ogeechee Riverkeeper is to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin. The nonprofit organization, licensed by the Waterkeeper Alliance, receives its operating budget from donations, grants and proceeds from various fundraising events.
“The relationships we build and maintain with landowners, recreational boaters, fishermen and hunters, farmers, foresters, and local governments is, in the end, what will ensure these local and regional places of ecological, cultural, and economic importance are protected for everyone,” said Perry. “This means building a network of individuals and organizations who no matter how diverse their perspectives can share a vision of drinkable, swimmable, and fishable waterways for their children’s children.”
For more information about Ogeechee Riverkeeper, please visit www.ogeecheeriverkeeper.org or call 866-942-6222.