Ecological Management and Research at Little St. Simons Island
Little St. Simons Island stands out from other Georgia barrier islands in its relatively undisturbed character. The island has not experienced the farming, timber industry and building that most others have. There are very few places in the Southeast, and the entire east coast, where such an opportunity exists to encourage, with light-handed management, a matrix of natural communities typical of coastal barrier islands.
In 2007, Little St. Simons Island hired a full time ecological manager and established an Ecological Advisory Council to guide the implementation of an ecological and conservation management and research program. To date, a long-term ecological management plan has been developed and conservation practices have been implemented to protect the island’s plant communities and wildlife species. Additional projects include the construction of a living shoreline and on-island research of threatened wildlife species including rare bats, shorebirds and sea turtles.
The island’s applied research program provides an opportunity for LSSI to collaborate with conservation partners and educational institutions to contribute to a better understanding of the islands’ ecological processes, natural communities and rare species. Data gathered through research conducted on LSSI is aiding in developing further management guidelines and practices on the island and in the region. The island serves at times as an important reference site for research projects, as its matrix of intact natural communities are nearly unparalleled along the Southeastern coast. Visit our Ecological Projects page to learn more about some of the specific ecological management and research projects
Through the ecological management and research program, LSSI has worked to build and strengthen its conservation partnerships with The Nature Conservancy, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and other organizations working on the Georgia coast. With these collaborations, we plan to maintain and restore, as needed, the health of the island’s ecosystems and to establish the island as a model for thoughtful conservation management and education. To learn more about our conservation partners, visit our Ecological Resources page.
Ecological Manager, Scott Coleman
Scott is originally from Fort Gaines, Georgia and is a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Warnell School for Forestry and Natural Resources, with a degree in Wildlife. Scott began working at LSSI as a naturalist in early 2006 and his position evolved to ecological manager in late 2007. In his current role Scott works to maintain, enhance and restore the natural ecological communities and wildlife populations on the island. Working closely with the island’s Ecological Advisory Council, he has led the development of a 50-year conservation plan for Little St. Simons Island and is leading the transition of the island into a model for conservation management. His responsibilities include coordinating the island’s research, monitoring, restoration and natural resource management working with a wide range of public and private conservation partner organizations.
Scott is actively involved in the Georgia coastal conservation community serving on the boards of directors for One Hundred Miles, the St. Simons Land Trust and Coastal WildScapes, the steering committee for the Coastal Georgia Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, as the management coordinator for the Georgia Shorebird Alliance and on the Blue Crab and Shrimp Advisory Panels for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Scott lives on St. Simons Island with his wife Ann and their two year-old son Daniel.
Ecological Technician, Lauren Gingerella
Lauren grew up along coastal Rhode Island, and received a B.S. in Wildlife and Conservation Biology from the University of Rhode Island. She has worked on a variety of projects including shorebird interpretation, conservation and management in New Jersey and Cape Cod, Saltmarsh Sparrow research in Rhode Island, sloth rehabilitation in Costa Rica, and invasive plant management in Death Valley National Park.
Lauren originally joined the Island team in the summer of 2013 as a naturalist. In her
current position, Lauren will work on a wide range of projects including monitoring the Island’s rare species, coordinating with on-Island researchers and working with our naturalist staff to ensure that our guest program has a minimal impact on the Island’s important natural features.
Lauren especially enjoys working on wading bird surveys at Myrtle Pond and monitoring the many pairs of American oystercatchers that nest on the Island’s beaches. In her free time, Lauren enjoys kayaking, birding, and surfing.
Sea Turtle Technician, Elise Diehl
Elise grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and moved to Georgia when she was 16. She has always loved being outside and wanted to find a job that reflected that. Her passion for turtles started at an early age and after the move, she began to gain interest in sea turtles. She received her B.S in Wildlife Sciences from the University of Georgia. Right out of college she was fortunate enough to land a job working on Ossabaw Island doing sea turtle conservation work for Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). She spent a few months working at the Georgia Aquarium before coming back to the coast to do more sea turtle conservation work.
From May until October Elise will be stationed on Little St. Simons Island as the island’s sea turtle technician, a position through Georgia DNR’s nongame conservation program. Elise’s daily routine includes biking the island’s 7 miles of beach in search of sea turtle nests and covering nests with protective screening. As the nests hatch, Elise will excavate them to determine and record the number of eggs laid and the hatching success.
Shorebird Technician, Abby Sterling
Abby is originally from a small town outside Rochester, NY and received her B.S. from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She started working on Little St Simons in 2007 when she was hired as the seasonal sea turtle technician. Shortly after that, she worked on St Catherine’s Island, before returning to Little St. Simons as a naturalist. She loved getting to explore and learn about the island with guests, and was a naturalist for five years. In March of 2012, she began field work for her graduate degree working with Dr. Bob Cooper at the Warnell School at the University of Georgia. The project focuses on how habitat features can be used to predict where shorebirds will nest, and predict where they will be successful. Read more about the shorebird research project by clicking here.
After spending the nesting season of 2012 and 2013 on the island, this is her third and final field season. She expects to graduate with her PhD in August 2016. Abby spends most of her time out on the beach looking for nests and trying to resight banded chicks, but also loves biking and kayaking on the island.