Jill Bieri brings extensive experience in marine science and environmental education to her new role as director of the Virginia Coast Reserve. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Jill was the founder and director of the nonprofit organization Chesapeake Experience, working with teachers to integrate the Chesapeake Bay.
Jill on Why Her Work is Rewarding
"I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Over the last 10-15 years, I’ve spent a lot of time on the Virginia end working with partners, including the Conservancy. I’ve seen firsthand how wild and natural the barrier islands are, and the Conservancy had such foresight in the 1970s to protect them. It’s led to a lot more conservation, great new partnerships, and the success we’re seeing now restoring eelgrass and oysters."
The Nature Conservancy owns 14 of the 18 barrier islands and 90 percent of the Atlantic Ocean coastline in the area. This work serves as a model for how conservation can help a landscape to adapt and become more resilient in the face of a changing climate. Highlights of the work include:
- Protect and restore migratory bird habitats
- Re-establish historic sea grass beds, oyster reefs and bay scallop populations
- Control predators to enhance beach nesting bird productivity
- Conduct research on red knot stopovers on barrier island beaches
- Utilize satellite telemetry to determine migratory connectivity of whimbrels
- Promote stewardship on private lands
- Eradicate invasive species
- Coordinate with Conservancy programs and partners throughout the East Coast on marine conservation initiatives related to the Mid-Atlantic Seascape, which encompasses the Northwest Atlantic continental shelf from Cape Hatteras to the Hudson Canyon
- Initiate climate adaptation planning and implementation strategies that protect people and preserve natural resiliency in the face of coastal flooding and other climate change impacts
Program Milestones and Achievements
- U.S. Department of the Interior National Natural Landmark
- National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research Site
- Western Hemisphere International Shorebird Reserve Network Site
- Ownership of some 40,000 acres of barrier islands, marshes and uplands
- Protection, with partners, of over 115,000 acres on Virginia’s Eastern Shore
- Partnership approaches to restoring more than 50 acres of oyster reefs; the management and monitoring of over 100 acres of oyster reefs; and the restoration of over 4,500 acres of seagrass and the re-introduction of bay scallops in the coastal bays
- Numerous contract awards for a ground-breaking conservation and restoration projects.
Hopes for Next 3-5 Years
"We need financial support to maintain our successful conservation programs while also forging new partnerships to move us forward. We’re also working through how climate change will affect habitat and communities here.
And I’m always thinking about ways to communicate better and engage more people in the great work we’re doing — and still need to do — on the Eastern Shore."
- University of Virginia
- College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)
- Marine Science Consortium
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- Virginia’s Departments of Environmental Quality
- Game and Inland Fisheries and Conservation and Recreation
- local government and private landowners
- MS in Marine Sciences from The College of William and Mary
- BS in Biology from Salisbury University