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2021 BIMI Staff

Valerie Preler
BIMI  Director

This is Valerie’s sixth year with BIMI. Over the past five years, she has developed a strong appreciation for both the natural environment and community of block Island. She is looking forward to welcoming visitors to BIMI this summer and hopes that through her role as Program Director that she can encourage others to appreciate and care for both the unique ecosystem of Block Island as well as the world at large. Valerie has a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of Rhode Island (URI) along with graduate certificates in Hydrology and Remote Sensing and GIS. She previously earned a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from URI and worked for over twenty years in social services before pursuing environmental studies. She believes strongly in the benefits of science education and the positive impacts of being outdoors.

The BIMI Board

Doug MacDougall – BIMI President, Board Member since 2018
John Lehman – BIMI Vice President, Board Member since 2014
Henry Hill – BIMI Vice President, Secretary, Board Member since 2009
Susie Weissman – BIMI Treasurer, Board Member since 2012
Tony Pappas – Emeritus. Board Member since 2016
Mike Brownell – Board Member since 2018
George Davis – Board Member since 2018
Steve Draper – In Memoriam. Board Member 1999 – 2019
Pamela Gelsomini – Board Member since 2018
Judy Gray – Emeritus. Board Member since 2014
Bruce Johnson – Board Member since 2009
Don McCluskey– In memoriam. Founding Board Member-1998
Dan McLaughlin – Board Member since 2015
George Mellor – Emeritus. Board Member since 2009
Nancy Ruddle– Board Member since 2015
Norm Richter– Board Member since 2021
Susan AvernaBoard Member since 2021
Maura Cousins
Board Member since 2021
Meghan McLellan
– Board Member since 2021
Craig Fontaine– Board Member since 2021

2021 BIMI Staff

Ken Lacoste

Alyssa Giordano
Aquarist Intern

Alyssa recently graduated from UMass Dartmouth with her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in Marine Biology. Her recent adventures include helping out at Save The Bay, New England Aquarium, and Buttonwood Park Zoo! She is fascinated by many branches of wildlife and aspires to pass this knowledge on to others to help inspire passion for the environment.

Avery Gress
Marine Science Educator

This will be Avery’s first summer working for BIMI, but has volunteered for the past two
summers. Her family has been coming to the island since the 1920s and she has been
coming here ever since she was born. She is an undergraduate at the University of Rhode
Island getting her Bachelor’s in Marine Biology. She has always had a passion for the ocean
and all the creatures that inhabit it. When she is not working, she enjoys going to the beach,
paddle boarding, boogie boarding, surfing, playing volleyball, and hanging out with friends.

Briana Zaffiro
Marine Science Educator

Briana is a junior at Nova Southeastern University studying Marine Biology. Originally from Pennsylvania, Briana is passionate about marine life and the ocean. In her free time she enjoys swimming and going to the beach. She is very excited to be out on the Island this summer interning with BIMI.

Chloe Melillo
Aquarist Intern

Chloe is going into her Senior year at the University of Rhode Island studying Aquaculture and
Fisheries and minoring in Marine Biology. She is planning on studying in Hawaii for her fall
semester and then graduating in the spring of 2023. Chloe is from a small town Connecticut by
the water, where she grew up. Chloe is very excited to take the next step in her Marine Science
career by joining the team and interning at BIMI.

John Dionis
Marine Science Educator

John is a junior at the University of New Hampshire where he is studying environmental science with a concentration in ecosystems. John is from Wrentham Massachusetts, but he has been visiting the island for most of his life. John enjoys hiking, swimming, and both freshwater and saltwater fishing on the island.

Monica Rao
Marine Science Educator and Public Outreach Coordinator

Monica Rao is an international student from Mumbai, India with a Master’s in Environmental Science and Management from the University of Rhode Island. She was awarded the Rhode Island Sea Grant Fellow 2021, and did her fellowship at the Coastal Resources Center working on Blue economy, and Sustainable seafood and aquaculture initiatives. Along with excellent research skills, her expertise also lies in translating scientific jargon into content understandable to a diverse group of stakeholders. Monica specialized in Conservation biology with a focus on marine and coastal sciences, and someday hopes to go to law school to continue her passion of being a maritime lawyer.