A native of Pittsburgh, I am a recent transplant to Hampton Roads, yet our world – plants, animals, and humans alike – are all interconnected like Jenga blocks. The issues of the Chesapeake Bay watershed transcend the region and cross political jurisdictions. For this reason, the necessity of healthy wetlands in our community cannot be underestimated. We are in this together. Habitats for species. Improvement of water quality. Adaptation to the impact of climate change and the consequence of sea level rise. As an educator, I challenge my students to consider the value of such ecosystems and advocate for environmental stewardship today, tomorrow, and into the future. Wetlands Watch provides me with an opportunity to engage with community stakeholders and work together through grassroots activism to address the importance of wetlands.
Dr. Michael Allen is an Assistant Professor of Geography in the Department of Political Science and Geographer at Old Dominion University. Michael holds a B.S. in Earth Science – Meteorology from California University of Pennsylvania and advanced degrees (M.A. and Ph.D.) in Geography from Kent State University. His research focuses on bioclimatology, climate change, and the societal impacts of weather and climate.
My first encounter with a salt marsh was on a field trip with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Having grown up in the city of Baltimore and learning to sail in the Inner Harbor, I was more familiar with concrete and urban riparian pocket parks than the marsh fringes of the Chesapeake Bay, but I was drawn to the landscape- the soft mud and life within. As a student of biology and geology, I studied coastal environments of the past in the rocks of New York and Pennsylvania, coral reefs in St. Croix, USVI and two years on Sapelo Island, Georgia studying salt marsh ecology. Family took me to Normal, Illinois, where I taught college classes in biology and environmental science, and served as the executive director of a not-for-profit environmental education organization for nine years. After returning to the east coast, the past seven years I have been working to combine my experience in natural sciences with new skills in social sciences and apply those to climate adaptation and sea level rise challenges. Serving on the Wetlands Watch board provides an opportunity to assist the ongoing excellent work that the organization is doing in wetlands protection and sea level rise adaptation advocacy.
Michelle Covi is an assistant professor of practice in the Ocean, Earth And Atmospheric Sciences Department at Old Dominion University and part of the Virginia Sea Grant extension, addressing climate change and sea level rise adaptation through research and outreach. She has a PhD in Coastal Resources Management from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in Zoology (Marine Science) from University of Georgia.
My day job is seeing patients as a clinical psychologist in private practice. I also administer this group practice of 15 clinicians. While that’s been very challenging and gratifying, my work with Wetlands Watch has tested me just as much. I feel passionate about Wetlands Watch, which I helped to found. I’ve served as its president and am now its treasurer.
My involvement in Wetlands Watch grew out of a “backyard issue,” the dredging of Crab Creek, a tributary of the Elizabeth River in Norfolk. I grew up sailing and crabbing on this creek, where my grandparents built their home in 1929. For over 20 years I have lived there with my family, as its tides gently rise and fall. I am rooted to this place and I love it dearly.
At first, I felt violated and desperate to stop the dredging. As I grappled with the problem, though, I learned to be thoughtful as well as passionate about environmental advocacy. Wetlands Watch has taught me to use my head, as well as my heart, to educate the public, challenge the regulators and push for improvement in wetlands protection policy. I’ve learned that two heads are always better than one and that words more softly spoken are usually better heard.
Jay is a clinical psychologist, and is owner/director of Hampton Roads Behavioral Health Services. He was the 2004 recipient of Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s William H. Savedge III Environmental award.