(l-r) Honoree Carol Giles, FIConservancy President Tom Sargent and Honoree Ellie Kelly at award ceremony. Jane Crary Photo
The Fishers Island Conservancy honored two outstanding women, Ellen “Ellie” H. Kelly and Carol Giles, at FIConservancy’s annual event, Sunset on the Beach July 16 at the Big Club Beach.
Mrs. Kelly, the second president of FIConservancy, has dedicated her life to environmental causes both on and off Fishers Island. Carol Giles, who retired in June after 33 years as science teacher at Fishers Island School, has motivated countless students to become thoughtful and creative problem solvers in the field of science.
ELLEN H. KELLY
Mrs. Kelly was FIConservancy President from 2002-2006, but her dedication to preserving Fishers Island’s natural environment began in the 1970s before FIConservancy existed. Mrs. Kelly reflected on her early involvement with FIConservancy:
“Every Saturday in the 1970s, a little truck from Southold would spew out a cloud of DDT, spraying up and down every road, every driveway on the Island. Inspired by the groundbreaking environmentalist, Rachel Carson, Cherry Rafferty called together a small group: Mary Wood, Serge Doyen, John Thatcher, me and a few others. We wrestled with the problem of how to stop Southold’s mandated spraying of DDT on Fishers Island.
“Mary, Cherry and I would traverse Southold in Cherry’s old overheating Island clunker to attend meetings about banning the spraying of DDT. We were successful, and our indomitable first president John Thatcher organized organic mosquito control on Fishers Island.
“Our next problem was the dumping of toxic dredge spoil from the Thames River to a dump site two miles off the coast of Fishers Island. The fledgling FIConservancy sued the Navy. We were awarded a stipend, which became our little nest egg.
“As president, my aim was to broaden the scope of involvement in the Conservancy, establishing working committees, for example, to address mosquito control and the cleanup of West Harbor by pumping out waste from boats in the harbor.”
Off-Island, Mrs. Kelly impacted all of the boards on which she served, including the Rachel Carson Council, National Parks Conservancy and the Garden Club of America Conservation Group, which she started.
She has been acknowledged nationally for her work on the Alaska Lands bill by Jimmy Carter and influential with other bills such as the Clean Water Act as well as local laws protecting water and open space in the state of Maryland. Starting at the grassroots level, Mrs. Kelly always expanded to align herself with the larger public.
FIConservancy has developed a special relationship with Carol Giles through FIConservancy grants awarded to the school for specific science projects. Mrs. Giles speaks with pride about her students and their achievements:
“Maddie Hatfield’s four-month science project studying ocean acidification on a specific marine sponge species would not have been possible without FIConservancy’s grant to purchase two tank coolers and two filtration systems. Maddie’s research took one of the top prizes at the 2022 Long Island Youth Summit.
“Lili Kane received a grant to purchase a vernier oxygen and carbon dioxide probe to conduct research on, “The Effect of Earthworms Lumbricus Terristris on Climate Change: Carbon Source or Sink?” Two years of research won Lili 1st Honors and Special Awards, including being a finalist for PepsiCo/Pfizer life Sciences, Petit Family Foundation Women in Science and Engineering, and Future Sustainability Awards at the 2021 Connecticut State Science Fair, and Best Research Paper on Climate Change for the 2021 Long Island Youth Summit.
“Arabella Hatfield used the fluorometer, provided through a FIConservancy grant, to conduct research on, “Ocean Acidification: How it Effects the Phytoplankton Species Nannochloropsis oculata”. Her project earned State Finalist status in the CT State Science Fair and was selected Outstanding Climate Change Research Project in the Long Island Youth Summit.
“FIConservancy has purchased binoculars for the school used by both elementary and high school students, especially for our seal counts, and also has supported the ongoing Biorock Project: Low voltage electricity is sent to a steel geodesic dome that causes the reduction of calcium carbonate causing the formation of an artificial reef.”