New Sea Grant specialists in NY and CT help expand LI Sound Study’s basin-wide Sustainable and Resilient Communities initiative

This news release originally appeared on the NY Sea Grant Website on March 25, 2022.


A handful of new Sea Grant specialists — in both New York and Connecticut — help expand Long Island Sound Study efforts throughout the Sound’s basin

— By Chris Gonzales, Freelance Science Writer, New York Sea Grant


Robert Burg, Communications Coordinator, Long Island Sound Study,
E: [email protected]

Paul C. Focazio, Communications Manager, New York Sea Grant,
E: [email protected], P: 631-632-6910

Kathy Bunting-Howarth, NYSG’s Associate Director,
E: [email protected], P: 607-255-2832

Stony Brook, NY, March 25, 2022 — What is “resilience” and what does it mean for your community?

New York Sea Grant (NYSG) has announced the hiring of a team of new professionals dedicated to protecting the communities, economy, and environment of Long Island Sound. This new work stems from a partnership with the Long Island Sound Study (LISS). Federal LISS funding supports the new team members.

Three Sustainable and Resilient Communities (SRC) extension professionals have begun working to strengthen the network of sustainable and resilient communities along the Long Island Sound in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. Additionally, a new outreach coordinator has been hired to work in Long Island Sound’s Western Basin, covering New York City and Westchester County, supplementing an existing position in Stony Brook.

The Plan for Resilience in the Sound

The Long Island Sound Study focuses on four main themes: Clean Waters and Healthy Watersheds, Thriving Habitats and Abundant Wildlife, Sustainable and Resilient Communities, and Sound Science and Inclusive Management. These four new positions in New York, plus two new SRC extension professionals in Connecticut, mark the growth of the program in both states, on either side of the Sound. This team represents a commitment to prepare for and mitigate the effects of environmental and economic challenges posed by the effects of climate change and to expand community engagement along the Long Island Sound.

Elizabeth Hornstein conducts surface elevation table readings of a salt marsh and is pictured smiling in another photo. Sara Powell is pictured in a selfie during a site visit to Manor Park, overlooking Long Island Sound in Larchmont, NY. Sarah Schaefer-Brown is pictured in a headshot.

(l-r) Elizabeth Hornstein (also inset, lower left) conducts surface elevation table readings of a salt marsh. This helps assess if the marsh is keeping pace with sea level rise; Sara Powell snapped this selfie during a site visit to Manor Park, overlooking Long Island Sound in Larchmont, NY; Sarah Schaefer-Brown (inset, upper right).

Meet the SRC Extension Professionals

Sara Powell, Westchester County, based at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester County, Elmsford, New York
Powell has more than a decade of experience working as a science communicator with expertise in partnership building, environmental planning, and urban water resource management. She has a master’s degree in environmental health sciences from the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining NYSG, she most recently worked in New York City as the Ambassador for the Bronx & Harlem Rivers Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

Elizabeth Hornstein, Suffolk County, based at Stony Brook University
Hornstein has a master’s degree in marine science from Stony Brook University and over ten years of experience working in the marine and environmental conservation fields. Before coming to NYSG, she was state coordinator for the Peconic Estuary Partnership (PEP), collaborating with government organizations, academic institutions, environmental groups, and community members to protect and restore the Peconic Estuary.

Sarah Schaefer-Brown, Nassau County, based at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County, East Meadow, New York
Schaefer-Brown has years of experience leading a range of projects with a focus on water quality improvement, habitat restoration, climate change planning, and community outreach. Prior to her role at NYSG she was the program coordinator for the Peconic Estuary Partnership, where she worked to facilitate ecosystem-based management of the Peconic Estuary watershed. She holds a master’s degree in marine conservation and policy from Stony Brook University. 

What the SRC Extension Professionals Are Doing

The three SRC extension professionals are working with their respective coastal communities to advance the Sustainable and Resilient Communities goals of the Long Island Sound Study. The SRC extension professionals will be focusing on providing support, training, and tools for the entire Long Island Sound coastal community with the goal of building a coordinated regional response to current and future climate change impacts, empowering better trained and informed community decision makers, and increasing implementation of resilience projects. Specific projects might include using natural features, like oyster castles or native salt marsh plants, to enhance protection of the shoreline, or conducting outreach with coastal residents about actions that can make them more resilient in the face of severe weather and more frequent flooding.

This team is part of a larger initiative led by both New York and Connecticut Sea Grants and guided by a five-year plan that increases the capacity of both Sea Grant programs to create a sustainable and resilient regional framework to strengthen the social, environmental, and economic well-being of Long Island Sound communities. The two programs are working together to respond to infrastructure and environmental vulnerabilities brought about by our changing climate.

Two additional SRC extension professionals have been hired in Connecticut via Connecticut Sea Grant at UConn. They are Deborah Visco Abibou (based out of the New Haven County Extension Center in North Haven, primarily serving western Connecticut) and Alicia Tyson (working out of the UConn Avery Point campus in Groton, primarily serving eastern Connecticut.)

NYSG's Long Island Sound Study Outreach Coordinator Lillit Genovesiat is pictured holding a Sea Grant 50 year anniversary poster in front of the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary.

NYSG’s Long Island Sound Study Outreach Coordinator Lillit Genovesiat at the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary in Rye, NY. Credit: Ludmilar Mesidor / Long Island Sound Study.

Long Island Sound Outreach Coordinator

Lillit “Lilli” Genovesi is the new Long Island Sound Study outreach coordinator for New York City and Westchester County. Based in the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) office in Queens, Lilli is working alongside the Stony Brook University–based outreach coordinator, Jimena Perez-Viscasillas, to engage communities in LISS programs, activities, and resources. Perez-Viscasillas has been with NYSG since 2019.

Before joining NYSG, Genovesi worked with Trout Unlimited, where she managed the statewide Trout in the Classroom program alongside the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Lilli holds a master’s degree in Environmental Science from the City University of New York and an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from UCLA. 

The outreach coordinators are tasked with addressing climate change impacts on the Sound with focus on environmental justice—practices that ensure that all people enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and are given equal access to the decision-making that affects the environments in which they live, learn, and work.1

“Addressing climate-change impacts as well as water-quality and habitat challenges while ensuring that all people, especially communities suffering disproportionately from environmental threats, are engaged in the solutions requires professionals in the field, building relationships and working through partnerships,” said NYSG’s Associate Director Kathy Bunting-Howarth. “These new positions will enhance the LISS and NYSG’s ability to learn what our communities need and provide them with assistance tailored to those needs.”


1 Retrieved February 8, 2022.

More Info: Long Island Sound Study

Long Island Sound is one of the 28 nationally designated estuaries under the National Estuary Program (NEP), which was established by Congress in 1987 to improve the quality of Long Island Sound and other places where rivers meet the sea. 

The Long Island Sound Study is a cooperative effort involving researchers, regulators, user groups and other concerned organizations and individuals, and is led by the Environmental Protection Agency and the states of New York and Connecticut. 

In recent years, LISS has experienced a period of rapid expansion attributed to the increased federal funding for the program, and to implement actions, objectives, and goals established under a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. The increase is grounded in the CCMP’s four overarching themes: Clean Waters and Healthy Watersheds, Thriving Habitats and Abundant Wildlife, Sustainable and Resilient Communities, and Sound Science and Inclusive Management.  Resilience to climate change, long-term sustainability, and environmental justice, are principles that connect to all four of the themes.

For more on what you can do to make a difference, click over to the “Get Involved” or “Stewardship” sections of the Long Island Sound Study’s website. News on the Long Island Sound Study can also be found in New York Sea Grant’s related archives.

If you would like to receive Long Island Sound Study’s newsletter, please visit their site’s homepage and sign up for the “e-news/print newsletter” under the “Stay Connected” box.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

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